Prior to my departure from London bound for Cannes two days ago, I went to my local post office to acquire some Euros and I was inquired by the female cashier where I’m heading to. I told her about Cannes Film Festival with barely concealed excitement, to which she responded with a shrug and the stiffly proverbial “sounds lovely”. She did wish me a great holiday, bless her. So what I’m trying to say here – just in case you thought I’d run off to a tangent – is that the celebration of film in Cannes hardly matter to people who aren’t interested in film or who aren’t physically present around the Côte d’Azur vicinity. Sometimes I’d like to imagine that this website is being read by hundreds of readers, awaiting the hot-off-the-Croisette review of the latest Official Competition offering. But in reality, I reckon only about ten people who gives an actual fuck.
So, to the amazing ten people out there, I give each and everyone of you an excitable high-five and a warm big hug for not abandoning me adrift in the shores of Cannes without somebody to write to. After yesterday’s Opening Film fiasco, where Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco has been slammed to the ground by prissy critics, I duly discovered that a few of you have appreciated the fact that I didn’t ride the negative wave. I am utterly convinced that I belong in the minority who thought Grace of Monaco isn’t terrible, and that it didn’t deserve the critical stones that everyone was hurling at it. There are far worse crimes committed in the cinema than Dahan’s film. It’s not great – but it’s certainly far from the atrocity that most reviews would have you believe. Having lost hope in the future of critical consensus, I hit the beach with a bottle of champagne and drank bubbly with good company until I got tipsy while watching the sunset. Because there are some things to celebrate in life – and that includes honest critical opinions.
And then I saw these glorious sights – magnificent skies over Cannes town worthy of a Turner painting.
Which leads us to Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner, the first Competition film to screen to the world’s press at an insanely hour this morning. With only five hours sleep and still slightly groggy from last night’s champagne party, I dragged myself from my bed to the Grand Théâtre Lumière to see master Leigh’s latest. Leigh won the Palme d’Or back in 1996 with Secrets & Lies with Timothy Spall, and both are back on the Croisette as hot favourites. While it’s majestically composed with scenes that are just heart-stoppingly beautiful to behold, the film isn’t incredible and dramatically inert at times that it brings the narrative flow to a standstill (read my review here). Mr Turner may be a solid contender for some, but I reckon there will be much more compelling works as the week progresses.
After Leigh’s new one, I skipped Un Certain Regard’s opener Party Girl because I was starving and had to get a big lunch. Major rule in Cannes – never go to an art film on an empty stomach, otherwise the entire cinema will hear your innards grumbling. So I stuffed my face with linguine pasta and rushed back to queue up for the Israeli incest drama Loin de mon père (That Lovely Girl).
Nothing destroys your mood after lunch worse than watching an abusive father-daughter relationship that goes beyond mere family dynamics. There are far too much violent sex, self-mutilation, gang rape and all other miseries you can think of for an afternoon film catnip, and director Keren Yedaya barely holds anything back. I have no problem with miserablism, but this is just unrelentingly grim with very little purpose other than to portray two pathetic characters without taking a stand whether it’s right or wrong. Or at least explore the complexity of the situation.
I went back to my residence to cheer the fuck up, eat croissants and write reviews. I’m hitting the bed early, as tomorrow is a jam-packed day with Atom Egoyan, Mathieu Amalric, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Dean Deblois, whose How To Train Your Dragon 2 is sure-fire way to brighten things up amid the deluge of monumental miseries playing in the Croisette.