Friday 5 June 2015
Cannes 2015: Calling Occupants of Interplanetary, Most Extraordinary Craft
Guest contributor Katherine McLaughlin (Little White Lies, SciFiNow, The List Magazine...) went to the Cannes Film Festival for the first time this year, and she shares her experience(s) with us:
Just like the best film I saw at the festival, Miguel Gomes’ epic Arabian Nights (more on that later), my first time at Cannes film festival was strange, surprising and unlike anything I'd ever experienced before but ultimately it was invigorating and inspiring.
On getting confirmation of my Cannes accreditation I tallied up my commissions and to make it work financially I would have to find very cheap digs. I put out a call on Twitter for something affordable and some very helpful people pointed me in the right direction, though even their prices were out of my budget. Eventually I got an email out of the blue from a Canadian film critic who laid out his offer in honest terms. He had a studio apartment 20 mins walk from the Croisette but it would mean not only sharing a room with 3 other people but also a pull out double bed with a complete stranger. I threw caution to the wind and agreed to his proposal. We laughed, we talked, some of us snored…
On my first day I sweatily navigated my way through the crowd gathered by the red carpet at the enormous Palais to join the queue for the second showing of Tale of Tales at the more modestly sized Bazin theatre. I arrived a couple of hours in advance as I had no idea what my badge meant or how many other people would be stupidly excited at the prospect of seeing a dark and surreal fairy tale film. Though the response was muted I left the theatre thoroughly satisfied. Matteo Garrone had pulled off exactly the sort of precise, painterly and grisly fantasy film I had been dying to see for years.
I didn't experience any booing at the festival…I wish I had been at The Paperboy in 2013 to defiantly voice my approval. When the audience are behind a film as they were throughout the 8.30am screening of Mad Max: Fury Road, it makes the experience that bit more special. Every time the screen faded to black applause and whooping would break out at the action wizardry we had just witnessed from George Miller and Editor Margaret Sixel. I even got emotional at one point and had a little cry [SPOILER ALERT] when the young abused women first encounter the ageing female warriors.
As well as fulfilling my commissions of reviews of the big films, I longed to discover something small and special. That came via Quinzane at which I saw the loopy Yakuza Apocalypse, that sees a vampiric gangster do battle with a man in a frog costume. It was nice to see Takashi Miike back on form with a bizarre and violent tale about those in power sucking the life out of the general population.
Debut feature Mustang from Deniz Gamze Erguven also impressed me. It’s a Turkish female rites of passage which recalls the dreamy haze of The Virgin Suicides. It's not as concerned with high school but rather the imprisonment of the female form where innocent acts are horribly misconstrued.
I also saw my favourite film in this section, Arabian Nights. I will never not think of the population of Portugal who are struggling through tough austerity measures when I hear Lionel Richie’s Say You Say Me, which featured in a dog walking scene around a council flat block. Gomes’ personal approach to the subject, where we see him battling with the idea of spending a load of money on making a film when his fellow country people can't make ends meet, is moving and admirable. The way he worked his way round the problem is truly inspiring. The film played out in three parts, The Restless One, The Desolate One and The Enchanted one, adding up to a grand total of 6 hours and 21 minutes. It's a big investment time-wise but one I wholeheartedly recommend. Plus, there was some quality bonding, biscuit sharing and film chatter going on while I was queuing.
As I exited the film to join the queue for Philippe Faucon’s drama Fatima, a man whistled the tune of The Carpenters ‘Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft’ a haunting jingle (which played in the final volume of Arabian Nights). Its lyrics ‘Please close your eyes and concentrate with every thought you think upon the recitation we're about to sing’ made me want to immediately revisit Gomes’ rich and epic social realism tapestry.
For me, Fatima nailed the often tough relationship between a mother and her second-generation immigrant daughters. One of the daughter's is an aspiring doctor desperate to reward her mother's sacrifices, the other a tearaway teen ashamed of her mother's job as a cleaner. I found it very moving, but I'm part of that second-generation of immigrant daughters.
My festival ended on a high with Hou Hsiao-hsien’s slow burn wuxia masterpiece The Assassin which sees a woman go through a crisis of conscience on her final mission. I marched out of the Salle du Soixantieme to the drum beat of the uplifting closing tune, still in awe of what I'd just seen and speedily made my way back to my apartment to pick up my suitcase and catch my plane home… In my mad rush I also forgot to take my laptop home but a fellow film critic picked it up for me and brought it back to the UK.
On my return home my friends and family have asked me who did I meet and how were the parties? I don't have much to tell them about other than the films. However, I did surprise myself by how excited I got on meeting a filmmaker I admire. On my third trip to the bar at the Little White Lies/MUBI grand soirée I bumped into Desiree Akhavan. I shouted hello in her face as if I'd known her all my life and was immediately embarrassed by my actions. She took it all in her stride and told me she was on the jury for the Queer Palm. She talked about how much she had enjoyed Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster and I talked at her about how I loved the way the dialogue mimicked the structure of online dating profiles. She was more than polite and we ended up having a proper discussion about the film.
That was that, and I made my way back to the new acquaintances I had made at the party. Who am I kidding? ... the one person who seemed to actually like me. At the beginning of the night I chatted to people about the films they loved. I mentioned the wonderful Carol which incidentally took home the Queer Palm and I queued at least 3 hours to see – though once again quality bonding and chats about Hannibal and Olive Kitteridge took place. Many at the party, in fact most of the people I met, were majorly impressed by Arnaud Desplechin’s My Golden Years which sees Mathieu Amalric take a walk down memory lane to re-examine pivotal moments of his coming of age. But by the end, there were drunken conversations about the wicked kebab place that stuffed the chips inside the wrap. Of course, there was snobbery, snubbing and general awfulness too but mostly kindness prevailed in Cannes.