CANNES: The Cannes curtain rises on the evening of May 11. It does so with the universal respect accorded to the diminutive, understated director Woody Allen’s ‘Café Society’, his 49th film, and his third to open the festival after ‘Hollywood Ending’ in 2002 and ‘Midnight in Paris’ in 2011.
A day prior to the grand opening, there are already hordes of hopefuls waiting in long queues thronging the main venue, the imposing Palais des Festivals. Many are from the 4,500 media coming from far and near (a few diehards arrive even earlier). After all, it is they who feed the world on Cannes’ hype and hopes. Hardly any arrive earlier to catch one's breath for the coming frenzy. Most of us are there to glean what we can and to prepare a mind set for what is on offer.
The very first destination is where the delegate badges and festival kits are handed to hundreds upon hundreds every day. The street doorway to this Accreditation office looks like a railway station on a bad day, luggage strewn everywhere and guarded by disheveled, weary travellers waiting to get in. In time, sometimes hours, because they must have the right festival papers, they grab the badge and festival kit and then head to their place of stay.
The Kit contains the superbly brought out Festival brochures on films In Competition and Un Certain Regard, as well as their screening schedules, Press Conferences, related events, and also some key Market screenings over the next two days. This information provides key ammunition for penciling the must-see films and also who to trail and target, and trying to form a roadmap of where one is headed in this particular and special Cannes. The treasure hunt begins.
Woody Allen’s film, like a few others by exceptional directors such as Jean-François Richet’s ’Blood Father’, Yeon Sang-Ho’s ‘Train To Busan’, Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Gimme Danger’, NA Hong Jin’s ‘ The Wailing’, Jonathan Jakubowicz ‘s ‘Hands of Stone’ , Jodie Foster’s ‘Money Monster’, Steven Spielberg’s ‘Le BGG – Le Bon Gros Geant’, Shane Black’s ‘The Nice Guys’ are out of competition – too famous too compete.
It came as a refreshing surprise to read about the films In Competition. They seem somewhat more select, more unusual this year. Almost all the films present human interest, everyday stories mostly on family issues in today's world. There is hardly a sign of the grand spectacle film or a special effects, science fiction one, nor the predictable large scale period piece. The films deal with disconnected people and their restless need to love or be loved, who are hemmed in by their own demons or by the fiendish twist that life can take in our times. They are stories of people living desperate or dull lives seeking escape and solace.
Toni Erdmann’s competitive entry ‘Maren Ade’, from Germany, is on a father’s eccentric ways of winning over his daughter from her high Corporate life style. Nicole Garcia’s ‘From the Land of the Moon’ (France, Belgium), is on a feisty girl from a small French village who is determined to find her true love beyond the traditional forces that constrict her.
In Andrea Arnold’s ‘American Honey’ (UK), a teenaged firebrand from a disturbed family leaves her humdrum job to seek pleasures of life on a fast lane. From Iran, Asghar Farhadi’s ‘The Salesman’ is about a forced change of apartment in an expanding city changing a couple’s life. Jeff Nichol’s ‘Loving’ (USA), is based on a true story of a couple who dare to have an inter-racial marriage and the husband’s 9-year struggle that wins over all those who oppose him.
Sean Penn’s ‘The Last Face’ (USA), is about a love affair in war-torn Liberia in which the couple do all they can to sustain their relationship against all odds. In Alain Guiraudie’s ‘Staying Vertical’ (France), a filmmaker goes on hunt and has a chance love affair with a shepherdess which leaves him stranded with their baby, and he finds that he loves the responsibility and care. Even the few period stories are ingrained with life experiences offset with surprise innuendoes and touches that bring an edge to them.
Photographs from Woody Allen’s Cafe Society:
Courtesy: http://thecitizen.in/ - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014. Reproducing Uma da Cunha's column from the first edition