Tuesday, May 06, 2014

2014 Cannes Check #8: The British

A group with two well-known directors that have won the Palme d'Or and are regulars of La Croisette.

#8.1 Ken Loach

With a very particular filmmaking and storytelling style Ken Loach has been entertaining and yes, educating us with many movies that definitively are universal food for thought even if story is based on true people that lived in real cities in Britain and surroundings. Loach is recognized as one of the few filmmakers that are able to bring to life social issues very vividly, so much that audiences are moved while watching but when is over you tend to rethink what you saw, rethink it within your own experience, which I find absolutely amazing.

Ken Loach has a large filmography as large as long is his history with Cannes, a history that starts in 1970 when his second feature film, Kes, is screened in a parallel section. This year is the ninetieth time Loach is in Cannes and thirtieth time one of his films is in competition. He has won multiple awards in Cannes including the Palme d'Or in 2006 with The Wind That Shakes the Barley and three times the Jury Prize with The Angel's Share in 2012, Raining Stones in 1993, and Hidden Agenda in 1990; the list continues from winning his first FIPRESCI Prize in 1979 for Black Jack to many more. Sigh.

I have enjoyed many of his movies with some making me laugh loud while others making me shred a tear or two, but all making me think about so many social issues that seem not many care to talk about even when happen all over the world. So when he announced his retirement from feature films I was highly disappointed as believe he still has many stories to tell. To my great surprise last week Loach announced that he has another story in his mind and that he will do it. Great!

I'm not rushing to see his latest film Jimmy's Hall that is in competition this year as I know that I have to find the right time and mood to see his films so I won't suffer too much while watching whatever he is going to show us this time. Still after quite light The Angel's Share I hope this movie also has the same type of lightness while telling a sobering story. Will this film bring a second Palme d'Or to Loach? From trailer and film stills seems that film has similar style to the movie that gave him one and perhaps the eclectic jury could be prone to recognize his mastery as many directors in jury understand this cinematic language. But last week betting sites gave Loach very low odds, so maybe the odds will change during the festival and if movie is not screened towards the end of the fest.

Basic Info about Jimmy's Hall
Director: Ken Loach
Scriptwriter: Paul Laverty
Language: English
Runtime: 106 min
Production countries: UK, Ireland and France
Production companies: Sixteen Films, Element Pictures, Why Not Productions, Wild Bunch, Film4, the BFI, and Bord Scannán na hÉireann/Irish Film Board

Plot Summary
In 1921, Jimmy Gralton's sin was to build a dance hall on a rural crossroads in Ireland, where young people could come to learn, to argue, to dream... but above all to dance and have fun. Jimmy's Hall celebrates the spirit of these free-thinkers, while telling the true story of political activist Jimmy Gralton who was deported after building a dance hall on a rural crossroad.

The Trailer

#8.2 Mike Leigh

Yes, I am very familiar with Ken Loach and yes, I am not that familiar with Mike Leigh perhaps because have seen mostly his recent feature films and all his early work is unknown to me. Still his Secret & Lies, Topsy-Turvy, Vera Drake and most of all, Happy-Go-Lucky are films that I have liked quite a lot; unfortunately cannot say the same about Another Year. If you ask me for a Leigh style I will have a hard time defining one that encompasses his different films, but tends to be realistic more than anything else.

Mike Leigh already has a Palme d'Or with Secrets & Lies from 1996 and previously in 1993 won Best Director for Naked; but in general his Cannes history is short as started in 1993, then 1996, 2002 with All or Nothing, 2010 with Another Year and 2014 with Mr. Turner.

I don't have a clear idea of what to expect from biopic Mr. Turner, except for compositions that will look like Turner paintings where film is used as a canvas to represent paintings, hopefully many beautiful paintings by Turner. After all this film is commissioned by the Tate Britain in a series called Film meets Art where Chirs Nolan does Francis Bacon, Ken Loach does William Hogarth and Mike Leigh does JMW Turner. Then I am no fan of movies about painters as many have highly disappointed me but admit I'm curious to find the reason why this movie made it to Cannes competition.

Still seems that film could have an interesting story IF is about the painter's "imbecile" years, when Turner turns 60 in 1835, the age believed at the time when senility started. But will be interesting to see how Leigh tells his story as the Tate is trying to overturn "the myth his mind and hand increasingly failed" and instead reposition those late works as that of a "challenging and daring artist".

Basic Info about Mr. Turner
Director: Mike Leigh
Scriptwriter: Mike Leigh
Language: English
Runtime: 149 min
Production countries: UK
Production companies: Film4, Focus Features International (FFI), Lipsync Productions, Thin Man Films, Xofa Productions, BFI,

Plot Summary
Mr. Turner explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner. Profoundly affected by the death of his esteemed father, loved by a housekeeper he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, where he dies. Throughout all this, Turner travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty.

Mike Leigh talks about the project

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