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Ten things we’ve learned so far at the Cannes Film Festival

Cannes has now passed the halfway point. Here’s what we've discovered along the way

By Dave Calhoun

1. The McConaissance is having a wobble

Film Drama

In the past year or two Matthew McConaughey has done no wrong. An Oscar for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ and a starring role in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ made him Hollywood’s man of 2014. But his latest film, Gus Van Sant’s ‘Sea of Trees’ has been the worst-received film of the Cannes competition by far – ‘lethally tedious,’ according to our review. McConaughey took the boos on the chin. ‘Anyone has as much right to boo as they do to ovate,’ he said graciously. While crying inside (probably).

2. Cate Blanchett never had sex with that woman (or any woman)

Film Drama

Cate Blanchett arrived on the Croisette with Todd Haynes’s beautiful 1950s lesbian romance ‘Carol’. The film newspaper Variety ran an interview with the Australian Oscar-winner before the festival in which she said she’d had ‘many’ relationships with women. But at the Cannes press conference for ‘Carol’, Blanchett was quick to confirm she’d been misquoted. Apparently she had made clear in the interview that none of these relationships were sexual. Journalists, eh?


3. John C Reilly must have had a quiet word with his agent

Film Fantasy

American actor John C Reilly is starring in two of the most out-there films at Cannes, Matteo Garrone’s medieval fairytale mash-up ‘Tale of Tales’, in which he plays a king who battles a sea monster, and Greek surrealist Yorgos Lanthimos’s ‘The Lobster’, in which he is a single man in danger of being turned into an animal if he doesn’t find a romantic partner. Clearly he’s been telling his agent to put the weird scripts on the top of the pile.

4. Amy Winehouse still knows how to make us cry

Film Documentaries

A new documentary, ‘Amy’, about the late soul singer had its world premiere at Cannes, and it went down a storm. Unsurprisingly, it’s a difficult watch, detailing how Winehouse suffered from depression, bulimia, alcoholism and drug addiction, all of which, coupled with a troubled childhood and a dodgy husband, contributed to her downfall. There are also moments of great musicianship and joy, too, and the whole heady cocktail had festivalgoers weeping in droves. It’s out here in July.


5. There are still new ways to approach the Holocaust

Film Drama

Okay, this one’s not a joke. The only film competing for the Palme d’Or by a first-time director is ‘Son of Saul’ from Hungarian writer-director László Nemes. It portrays a night and day in the hell of Auschwitz in the company of a member of the Jewish Sonnerkommando (a prisoner unit ferrying bodies from the gas chambers). It’s terrifying and gruelling, and it manages to make so many earlier depictions of these atrocities look tame and compromised. This has got to be the leading contender for the Palme d’Or.

6. Actors are full of themselves - who knew!

Film Drama

Italian director Nanni Moretti (‘We Have a Pope’) brought his latest film, ‘My Mother’, to Cannes, and it tells of a female film director dealing with the imminent death of her mother while also directing an egotistic Italian-American actor in a new film set in Rome. The actor is played by John Turturro, and he does a great job of portraying a monster who forgets his lines, screams at the director, abuses his power on set and expects everyone to worship him. Presumably Turturro had a lot of experience to draw on after two decades working in Hollywood.


7. Booing never goes out of fashion

Film Drama

Critics booed at the screening of Gus Van Sant’s ‘Sea of Trees’ and there was similar behaviour after ‘Mon Roi’ from the French director Maïwenn (‘Polisse’). This big, brash romantic melodrama about a toxic marriage starring Vincent Cassel as a self-centred husband divided the audience. And as soon as the credits appeared, one man was heard screaming something, perhaps ‘egoist’ (this is a high-minded crowd) or (in Spanish or Portuguese) ‘You swine!’. We’ll put it down to lack of sleep.

8. There’s nothing that a bit of fresh whitebait can’t cure

Film Drama

Food was rarely off the menu in the deeply charming Japanese film ‘Our Little Sister’, which tells of three twentysomething sisters who take in their teenage half-sister after their father’s death. The film is a sweet, wise, meandering tale about life, love, work and families, and we’re never less than a few minutes away from a good meal or drink. The fresh whitebait especially caught our eye, but were also intrigued by the horse mackerel (fish or beast?).


9. Pixar still has it

Film Animation

Pixar, the inventive cartoon makers behind the ‘Toy Story’ films, premiered their wonderfully loopy ‘Inside Out’ at Cannes. It imagines what goes on inside an 11-year-old girl’s head when she moves with her mum and dad from Minnesota to San Francisco. Joy and Sadness and a load of other emotions are characters operating a control station in her brain. The whole thing is wildly imaginative, even experimental at times. The Cannes crowd loved it and so will everyone else.


10. Everybody speaks English, don’t they?

One of the big trends of this year’s festival is directors for whom English isn’t their first language making films in our beautiful language. Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos made ‘The Lobster’ in Ireland with Coin Farrell and John C Reilly. Italian director Paolo Sorrentino shot ‘Youth’ in the Alps with Michael Caine. And Norwegian director Joachim Trier made ‘Louder than Bombs’ in New York with Jesse Eisenberg. That’s a lot of air miles and dictionary app sales.

More from Cannes Film Festival 2015

Cannes Film Festival, red carpet
© Andrea Raffin

Cannes Film Festival


It’s another strong lineup at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival (May 13-24 2015), with filmmakers including Paolo Sorrentino, Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant and Jacques Audiard all presenting new films in the competition for the Palme d’Or. This year’s jury is jointly headed by American filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, who will decide which film will take the crown from recent Palme d’Or winners ‘Winter Sleep’ and ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’.


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