BBC News – Cannes 2014: Reporter’s diary

Cannes 2014 posterItalian actor Marcello Mastroianni appears on the poster for this year’s festival

A host of stars are attending the 67th Cannes Film Festival, one of the key events in the film industry calendar and a magnet for film-makers, journalists and hopefuls from across the globe.

This year’s event has a significant British presence, with films from Mike Leigh and Ken Loach in contention for the prestigious Palme d’Or award and several other titles showcased in other areas of the programme.

The BBC’s Neil Smith is on the French Riviera and will be posting regular updates on this year’s festivities.

Robert Pattinson in The RoverRobert Pattinson has put the Twilight series behind him to star in the Outback thriller The Rover

One of the quirkier attractions of Cannes is the Palm Dog, a tongue-in-cheek awards ceremony that celebrates canine performers at the festival.

Decided by a panel of UK film critics, the awards have previously recognised the likes of Uggie in The Artist, Dug from the Pixar animation Up, and the titular lead in The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby.

There are a number of mutts in The Rover, a thriller set in the Australian Outback starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson.

To be honest, though, I’m not sure if its title refers to a dog, Pearce himself or the stolen automobile his taciturn loner spends all of David Michod’s film trying to recover.

Pattinson plays a stammering, twitchy simpleton with close-cropped hair and terrible teeth who joins Pearce on his obsessive quest.

It’s a bold volte face for the British star that seems a deliberate attempt to put some distance between himself and the Twilight series for which he is best known.

The real star of The Rover, however, is the Outback itself – an arid, dusty and forbidding environment in which bad things happen constantly and no one is to be trusted.

Released in the UK this August, The Rover is playing out of competition and has its gala premiere later.

Mike Leigh at CannesMike Leigh said he was prepared for complaints about his latest film

Mike Leigh had some sharp words – and a two-fingered salute – to the “Turner-aks” who might object to how JMW Turner is portrayed in his new film about the painter.

“The real Turner nuts haven’t seen it yet,” he told an audience at the UK Film tent this afternoon. “But we’ve already ordered some protective armour.

“There are bound to be some complainers,” the director continued. “But they can [expletive] off.”

As I departed the event, who should I see but Donald Sutherland and Julianne Moore walking out of an adjacent marquee. Wherever you are, you’re never too far from a star at the Cannes Film Festival.

America FerraraSecurity were quick to intervene

Ugly Betty star America Ferrara looked radiant last night at the beach party for How to Train a Dragon 2 in a billowing, beaded white gown.

Earlier in the evening, though, she and that gown were the victims of a rather unsavoury stunt as she posed with her fellow voice stars on the Cannes red carpet.

A Ukrainian prankster thought it would be funny if he stuck his head under the 30-year-old actress’s dress while she was turned towards photographers.

The man, who apparently makes a habit of placing celebrities in awkward situations, was pounced upon by security guards and swiftly ejected.

Before the Dragon 2 event, I returned to the tent where I’d interviewed members of Spandau Ballet earlier on Friday to watch singer Tony Hadley perform a brief acoustic set with guitarist Steve Norman.

Their performance ended with a lusty rendition of the anthemic track Gold that all assembled, myself included, had great fun singing along to as the sun set.

Michael FassbenderFassbender plays the ruthless Scottish king in the new production of Macbeth

Mads Mikkelsen as a barefoot cowboy. Eva Green as a vengeful mute. Eric Cantona as a gun-toting Old West heavy.

Yes, it is fair to say Kristian Levring’s bloody western The Salvation has one of the more unusual casts to be found in this year’s festival programme.

I knew I was in for a violent morning from the first 10 minutes, during which Mads’ Danish war veteran turned frontier settler loses both his wife and young son to a couple of stagecoach-hijacking scoundrels.

Needless to say, these are far from the only corpses to be found in a beautifully shot saga of revenge and retribution that even comes with its own undertaker (Jonathan Pryce).

The Salvation is screening out of competition. Were it to be in the running, though, it would have a much better chance of taking home the Palme d’Or than, say, Atom Egoyan’s The Captive.

As it is, the film will have a “seance special” on Saturday at half past midnight. Personally, I think I’ll be tucked up in bed by then.

There was more blood and thunder this lunchtime from British stalwarts Film 4, who treated a select group of journalists to a “sizzle reel” of its upcoming projects.

It included a tantalising glimpse of Michael Fassbender in Macbeth, which on this evidence looks to be Shakespeare spliced liberally with Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.

The Fass sports a hedge of face fur and a physiognomy smeared with mud in what is shaping up to be a highly visceral and intense take on the Bard’s Scottish tragedy.

Is this a hit I see before me? I wouldn’t be surprised. Lady M, for the record, is played by France’s Marion Cotillard, who will be seen later this festival in competition entry Two Days, One Night.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 How To Train Your Dragon 2 will premiere in Cannes on Saturday

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Animation has the stigma of being just for the kids”

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Dean DeBlois
Director, How To Train Your Dragon 2

Every Cannes Film Festival boasts at least one potential Hollywood blockbuster in its line-up – perhaps to prove that, for all its focus on the high-brow and art-house, it still has time for what audiences tend to spend their money on.

This year, that slot is filled by How to Train Your Dragon 2, the latest animation from the DreamWorks stable that brought the likes of Kung Fu Panda, Puss in Boots and A Shark Tale to previous events.

DreamWorks has a tradition of mounting elaborate photo opportunities to promote its wares – flanking Jack Black with an army of pandas for example, or putting Jerry Seinfeld on a zip wire in a bee costume.

This year the tradition was maintained by having the voice stars of the film pose beside a local stooge, sweltering inside an outsized dragon costume. One can only hope he was paid to scale (ho ho).

America Ferrera, Jay Baruchel and Djimon Hounsou with Toothless, the dragonAmerica Ferrera, Jay Baruchel and Djimon Hounsou with Toothless, the dragon

DreamWorks Animation will celebrate its 20th anniversary later this year – one reason why How to Train Your Dragon 2 has been invited to screen outside of competition.

According to its director and writer, however, animation has more than earned its place at this annual celebration of international auteur film-making.

“I constantly think that animation is gaining ground, not only in terms of worldwide appreciation but also within the industry itself,” Dean DeBlois told me yesterday.

“The sophisticated, film-going snobs are beginning to see some of the potential within the medium.

“Too often, particularly in north America, animation has the stigma of being just for the kids. I think it’s a medium that can speak to a much bigger audience than that.

“Hopefully that’s coming across to the film-making community at large. Just because it’s an animated film, it shouldn’t be relegated to the kiddie table.”

Ryan Reynolds and Mireille Enos in The CaptiveThe Captive – not a talking cat in sight!

The last time I saw Ryan Reynolds on screen was at the Sundance London Film Festival. It was a film called The Voices, and he was playing a schizophrenic serial killer who took orders from his speaking cat.

If anything, The Captive – the Cannes competition entry in which he appears – is even more preposterous. Reynolds plays the father of a kidnapped child who has spent eight years trying to track her down with the help of a police detective, played by Rosario Dawson.

What follows is a lurid hotchpotch of sophisticated paedophiles and hi-tech criminality that drew a jeering response at the end of this morning’s press screening.

I’d been hoping for more from Canadian director Atom Egoyan. Like many others though, I left disappointed. Here’s hoping the rest of the day pans out better.

Neil Smith in CannesA brief pause in the day’s hectic schedule

I spent part of today on the seventh floor of Cannes’ famous Carlton Hotel, doing some interviews I’ll tell you more about tomorrow …

For now, here is a snap of me hard at work on the balcony, just to prove that I’m here.

The festival is in full swing after last night’s gala opening, with no sign of the rain that put something of a dampener on things on Tuesday and Wednesday.

There’s precious little time, then, to top up one’s tan, for all the apparent evidence to the contrary.

As I write stars are arriving at the Grand Theatre Lumiere for the Mr Turner premiere, among them Julianne Moore.

The US actress will be back on the red carpet on Monday for Maps to the Stars, the David Cronenberg film in which she has a starring role.

Mr Turner Stars on the red carpet for the Mr Turner premiere (clockwise from top left): Julianne Moore, Blake Lively and admirer, Zoe Saldana, Marion Bailey, Mike Leigh, Timothy Spall and Dorothy Atkinson

“Nothing exists in isolation,” says a character in Mr Turner, Mike Leigh’s affecting portrait of the 19th century English artist Joseph Mallord William Turner.

The film takes this observation to heart, showing its subject as a gifted yet flawed man whose genius springs out of his relationship to his society, surroundings and relationships, particularly with women.

There are actually two Mister Turners here – Timothy Spall as the artist, and Paul Jesson as his father, a former barber whose decline and death foreshadows Turner’s own.

For this is a film as interested in mortality as the immortality that Turner now enjoys, through the art he bequeathed to the nation and the prize that bears his name.

Timothy Spall as JMW TurnerTimothy Spall as JMW Turner – the first British film showing in competition at Cannes 2014

Leigh shows the artist at work: Sketching obsessively, daubing feverishly and occasionally using his spittle as a paint thinner.

Yet he also depicts him as man of baser instincts, who is not above seducing a needy widow or groping his housekeeper – a shuffling, almost Dickensian dogsbody memorably portrayed by Dorothy Atkinson.

Around them circulate what seems like a who’s who of Victorian notables – artist John Constable, critic John Ruskin and even Queen Victoria herself.

Yet it is Spall who dominates as a cantankerous, grumpy curmudgeon capable of expressing a wealth of emotion in a single, exasperated grunt.

Some will find Mr Turner somewhat leisurely, if not downright slow. Like Topsy Turvy before it, though, it shows Leigh to be as adept at chronicling real lives as he is at depicting fictional ones.

Director of photography Dick Pope, meanwhile, does a grand job at recreating the images that inspired Turner, notably the Fighting Temeraire – a picture of a once great ship being towed away for scrap that recently made a cameo in the James Bond film Skyfall.

Throw a stick in Cannes and you are more than likely to hit somebody with a connection to the film industry.

A nice American woman asked me for directions to the Palais de Festivals this morning. In return, I got a five-minute pitch about the World War 2 film she has written, co-directed, starred in and in town to promote.

Oh, and the man who buttonholed me on yesterday’s flight over from Gatwick to advertise the virtues of East Grinstead as a potential movie location.

Now that’s dedication.

Tim Roth and Nicole Kidman at the Cannes Film FestivalRoth and Kidman are both in town for the opening night film premiere

The critics have not been kind to Grace of Monaco, with one British reviewer going so far as to term it “a breathtaking catastrophe”.

Having had the chance to see the film in London last week, I have to say I have a similarly low opinion of Olivier Dahan’s soapy biopic.

Little rings true in this melodramatic endeavour, least of all Sir Derek Jacobi as an expert in protocol who becomes Henry Higgins to Nicole Kidman’s fair princess.

Kidman herself does her best to put flesh on Grace’s bones. Unfortunately, she brings too much of her own celebrity baggage to convince as an icon from another era.

What can’t be faulted, though, is the film’s lavish costume and production design. It truly is a feast for the eyes with its fine gowns and expensive jewellery.

And I have to confess that I rather enjoyed Tim Roth’s turn as a largely silent, perpetually chain-smoking Prince Rainier.

When I spoke to the British actor last year, he had this to say about playing Grace’s husband:

“There’s not much out there about Rainier. People don’t have much of a perception about him, so we had a pretty free rein.

“But we wanted some toughness in him because he was known to be a very tough guy. He was very smart politically and could be very tough in a room.

“He fought in a war and was quite handy and he was a very shrewd businessman. So he was an interesting character to play, with a very funny moustache!”

The actor was somewhat bemused at the film’s press conference earlier when he was asked if he had ever been tempted to hit his co-star during shooting.

Neil SmithBBC reporter Neil Smith on the French Riviera

More than one eyebrow was raised when Grace of Monaco was chosen to be the opening night film at Cannes this year.

French director Olivier Dahan and US producer Harvey Weinstein have been at loggerheads for months over the film’s final cut, prompting the latter to remove it from its release schedule and, according to some reports, consider dumping it altogether.

Monaco’s royal family, meanwhile, has greeted the film’s dramatisation of Grace Kelly’s transition from Hollywood star to Monegasque princess with withering disdain, declaring its story to be “totally fictional“.

The film has its gala premiere later. Before that, though, the critics will have their say. The reviews are expected around noon Cannes time, once this morning’s official press screening is over.

Looking ahead, the festival’s organisers have announced this year’s event will close in 11 days with a special screening of Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars.

Quentin Tarantino will host the 24 May celebration of the 1964 classic, one of the first “spaghetti westerns” and the film that made Clint Eastwood an international star.

In the meantime, normal service has resumed on the weather front: balmy temperatures, blazing sunshine and cloudless, azure skies.

Perfect, in other words, for sitting in darkened rooms for hours on end watching one film after another.

A banner for Maleficent during preparations for the Cannes Film Festival

In my experience, sun can usually be guaranteed at the Cannes Film Festival. Yet new arrivals on the Croisette today were greeted by buffeting gusts, sharp showers and glowering clouds more reminiscent of a wet weekend in Margate.

Here’s hoping it’s just the storm before the calm.

With the festival kicking off tomorrow, the atmosphere is one of nervous excitement and frantic, last-minute preparations. I trust they’ll get round to laying a red carpet on the steps of the Grand Theatre Lumiere, which, at the moment, look rather naked without it.

Yet, they have found time to drape the usual, enormous billboards over the hotel frontages that overlook the Mediterranean. The Carlton, for example, has massive representations of Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford and other cast members from The Expendables 3 ahead of their planned visit this weekend.

Other displays bang the drum for Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent, the new Transformers film and the next entry in the Hunger Games franchise. The one that caught my eye, though, is for a film called Awol 72, an action thriller starring Luke Goss of Bros fame.

According to the poster tagline, “Running is the only option”. Well, I suppose that’s one way of putting it.

17 May 2014 | 6:29 pm – Source: bbc.co.uk
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