Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 Cannes Check #1 - Todd Haynes

Series Intro

As was done last year, today feel like starting the short series about the directors and their films in the Cannes 2015 Official Selection main competition, that up-to-this-moment there are 17 films announced and soon there will be more to fill the up-to-twenty usual lineup.

Let's check some facts for the 17 films we know are In Competition.

- There are two (2) Palme d'Or winners: Nanni Moretti with La Stanza del Figlio in 2001 and Gus Van Sant with Elephant in 2003.
- There are three (3) Grand Prix winners: Matteo Garrone with Gomorra in 2008, Jacques Audiard with A Prophet in 2009 and Matteo Garrone with Reality in 2012.
-There are four (4) Jury Prize winners: Hou Hsiao-Hsien with The Puppetmaster in 1993, Paolo Sorrentino with Il Divo in 2008, Maïwenn with Polisse in 2011 and Kore-eda with Like Father, Like Son in 2013.
-There are two (2) Best Director winners and most remarkably they are the two Palme d'Or winners; but truly outstanding is that one director won in the same year with the same film two top awards! The winners are Nanni Moretti with Caro Diario in 1994 and Gus van Sant with Elephant in 2003.
-There are two (2) Best Screenplay winners: Jacques Audiard with Un heros tres discret in 1996 and Jia Zhangke with A Touch of Sin in 2013
-There are four (4) directors that won other awards
60th Anniversary Prize: Gus van Sant with Paranoid Park in 2007
Best Artistic Contribution: Todd Haynes with Velvet Goldmine in 1998
Un Certain Regard Award: Yorgos Lanthimos with Dogtooth in 2009
Short Film Grand Prix at La Semaine de la Critique: Denis Villeneuve with Next Floor in 2008

The above data leaves us with five directors that have not win an award at any Cannes section. Out of these five, we have four that have been in Cannes before but never In Competition and one director that Never been to Cannes.

Been in Cannes Before
Stéphane Brizé in 1999 Directors' Fortnight with Le Blue des Villes
Valérie Donzelli in 2008 Directors' Fortnight with the short film Il fait beau la plus belle ville du monde and in 2011 Critics' Week with the section opening film La guerre est déclarée
Joachim Trier in 2011 Un Certain Regard with Oslo, 31 August
Justin Kurzel in 2011 Critics' Week with Snowtown

First time in Cannes
László Nemes

First time In Competition
Stéphane Brizé, Valérie Donzelli, Justin Kurzel, Yorgos Lanthimos, László Nemes, Joachim Trier, and Denis Villeneuve

So we can see that only one director is truly "virgin" to the mother of all festivals and actually there are seven (7) directors that are newcomers to the main competition.

With this bird's eye panorama let's start the Director Series in the most unexpected manner. A manner that speaks more about my love of cinema as a "normal" viewer than as one of the so-called infamous cinephile. Let's start with the film I've been "dying" to see for more than 2 years and that finally has a release date, sigh.

Todd Haynes

In Cannes for the third time as his first visit was with 1995 Safe screened in the Directors' Fortnight section. His second time was with his 1998 film Velvet Goldmine that was In Competition and went to win the Best Artistic Contribution award, which was the last year the award was given (but previous award winners were the likes of Andrei Tarkovski, Carlos Saura, Stephen Frears and more). So we can't say he's a Cannes regular but definitively is not either a newcomer and we have to consider that he has been around the top festivals circuit with fabulous films like 2007 Venice fest Special Jury Prize winner I'm Not There, also Venice fest 2002 awesome Far From Heaven, and 1991 Berlinale Teddy award winner Poison.

His latest much awaited film is Carol which is In Competition for the 2015 Palme d'Or.

Born in Los Angeles, California on January 2, 1961. Haynes received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arts and Semiotics from Brown University in 1981. He then moved to New York, where he founded Apparatus Productions, a non-profit organization to support independent films. He wrote the screenplay for his directorial debut, a short called Assassins: A Film Concerning Rimbaud (1985). His next film was another short called Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987), that used Barbie and Ken dolls to portray the brother and sister pop team, Karen and Richard Carpenter. The movie was a success at several film festivals, but not surprisingly, Richard Carpenter obtained a court order that has kept the movie out of circulation. Haynes wrote and directed his first feature, a horror film called Poison (1991), based on the writings of Jean Genet. Despite being called pornographic by critics, the film won the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the Teddy Award at the Berlinale.

His filmography is not extensive (16 films, 6 are feature films) but he has a large collection of accolades that also include an Oscar nomination for the screenplay of Far from Heaven plus many honors for films like I'm Not There and the acclaimed TV mini-series Mildred Pierce. Indeed he is famous for changing its direction with each film he makes and I'm really looking forward to see how did he managed the period imaginery in his latest film, Carol (similar to TV Mildred Pierce?) and also in his next project about the life of famous singer Peggy Lee.

Believe his films tend to be not for all audiences, but as he shifts styles some become more accessible to general audiences like for example, Far From Heaven; somehow imagine that Carol could be more accessible to audiences BUT if film keeps true to Patricia Highsmith story in her Price of Salt novel then film story could be not really for general audiences as is highly emotional and somehow disturbing among the lesbian interest book stories. But don't get me wrong, it is a strong and highly engaging book to read (LOVE the book), just it's hard for me to imagine how they are going to translate all the lesbian interest to moving images ... surely they will have to tone it down. Sigh.

Carol premiering In Competition absolutely gives me hope that film has to be outstanding, the many film stills available tell of what could be great cinematography and good-looking period costumes, make-up and style. Deep in my heart don't think film could mean an award for Haynes but hope it does for Cate Blanchett. Unfortunately there is no trailer yet, so we have to see if what we read in the still images is well-translated into moving images.

Basic info about Carol
Director: Todd Haynes
Scriptwriter: Phyllis Nagy
Language: English
Runtime: 118 mins
Production Countries: UK and USA
Production Companies: Developed by Number 9 Films and Film4, and is co-financed by Film4 and Goldcrest Films. It is a Number 9 Films (Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley) and Killer Films (Christine Vachon) production in association with Larkhark Films Limited.
Distribution: StudioCanal in UK, TWC in USA, HanWay Films handles International Sales.

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler

Plot Summary
Carol (Cate Blanchett) is elegant, sophisticated, wealthy and married. Therese (Rooney Mara) is just starting out in life, unsure of who she wants to be. A chance encounter in a Manhattan department sparks an extraordinary friendship between these two women. But this is 1952 and Carol is risking everything for this relationship that defies society's conventions. Based on the best-selling novel by Patricia Highsmith (Strangers On A Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley), Carol is a powerful romance fueled by the suspense, danger and exhilaration of forbidden Love.

A selection of the many Film Stills available

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