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Catching Foxcatcher

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‘Foxcatcher’ has to be one of my favourite movies so far in this Festival, thanks mainly to the surprise of seeing the usually comedic Steve Carell portray John du Pont, a man who lacks any humour.

Foxcatcher

I knew beforehand that Carell was in the movie, but didn’t recognise him when he first appeared on the screen. He has immersed in the character and morphed into a man with a different stature and energy, who bears no resemblance to the Steve Carell of ‘The Office’.

The movie is based on a tragic true story. Like Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, John du Pont is a powerful man with a flaw. He single-mindedly wants to be a hero who gains the respect he wants in the sports world…and the approval he craves from his mother!

To achieve his goal, the incredibly wealthy Du Pont invited Olympic Gold Medal winning wrestler Mark Schultz (played by Channing Tatum) to move onto his estate and and form a team to train for the ’88 Seoul Olympics. Lured by the cutting edge training facility and the thought of no longer have any financial stress, Schultz jumps at the offer.

It also allows him a little freedom and independence from his brother Dave who is loved and respected by everyone. But there’s a reason he’s so widely loved. He’s one of those guys who follows his heart, who’s a good guy without ulterior motives…unlike our Du Pont. And he’s perfectly portrayed by the ever-affable Mark Ruffalo (who also happens to be a supporter of the anti-fracking movement in South Africa).

The story is heartbreaking and multi-layered. About brotherhood. About unequal partnerships. How flattery can blind. What money can buy. And what money can destroy. And how many things money actually can never buy. Like true respect, true love and true acceptance.

Expertly directed by Bennett Miller – who poured his life and soul into this film – the cinematography, the location (an expansive estate in America) and the incredible acting by these actors come together to create a movie that’s well worth watching and that raises questions about life and  how best to live it.

Hmmm, If Only Eleanor Rigby Had Disappeared

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Not Happy. I’ve just come out of ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’…and I really can’t even spoil the end for you, because I have no idea what it was meant to mean.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY

Oh this is the kind of movie that’s so frustrating. It could have been so good. The beginning was so beautiful. It could have been about love and loss and how a couple copes. As they say a tragedy can either bring a couple closer together or send them spinning in different directions far away from each other.

This movie is a mixture of the two. The couple – we finally learn – lost their young baby. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by telling you. In fact I think it may help to know this from the beginning  so you understand the non-relationship relationship.

And maybe there is some credibility in their mix of these emotions – the closeness and the separateness. But instead it feels like the movie never quite decides what it wants to portray. Perhaps like the couple. But I doubt it. It rather seems that the makers of this film, directed by Ned Benson, were never quite sure exactly what they were making.

The acting is quite fine indeed. Apart from her mother. The New York couple is played by James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain who’s brilliant. But there’s no sense of a relationship between mother and daughter. As if the mom is simply an actress reading her lines with no memory of ever having known Chastain as a child. The father-daughter relationship on the other hand is beautifully executed, and perhaps the most moving relationship in the film. The most believable. And it was wonderful to see William Hurt – as her dad – up on screen again.

The rest – which should have been a heartbreaking tale of how one picks up the pieces after playing the blame games – blaming oneself, blaming the other – instead fizzles in to a movie that leaves you no wiser on the other side. And just disappointed. I wanted heart-wrenching love and loss. Instead I lost two hours of my life watching a film that wasn’t ready to be made yet.

Saint Laurent

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This is a YSL bio pic and Pierre Niney starres as the legendary fashion designer who goes from a teenager designing dresses in his house in Algeria to becoming the creative director of Dior and branching out to starting his own multi million dollar label. Along the way he falls in love with his business partner Perrie Begey and does a lot of cocaine.
sapeople - cannes film festival - saint laurent
It goes through the important moments in his life, being appointed artistic director at Dior at age 21, falling in love, creating the mondrian inspired coloured block dress. Pierre Niney looks a lot like him, the nose, the lanky frame and the glasses. The clothes are great and actually on loan from Yves Saint Laurent and Pierres Begey’s foundation – they could only be used for a few hrs at a time. The movie is very safe and very tastefully done.
sapeople - cannes film festival - saint laurent
It’s a little whitewashed and doesn’t show a lot of the muck that actually formed part of his life like the cocaine and sleeping around with other people and back stabbing and betrayal. It doesn’t really show who this person was, Who was this guy , he suddenly becomes this young prodigy who makes it into the biggest couture house on earth, how, why, who did he know, how did that process work? He did put that cool white sash on the cocktail and dress and voila!
sapeople - cannes film festival - saint laurent
We don’t ever get an idea of what inspired him – we all know the results but what we all wanted to know is how he got there. We meet some of his musses but no interaction with them that shows what could have inspired him. I didn’t really understand him creatively or personally – he treats Pierre Bergey terribly and all Pierre Bergey does is protect him. Does YSL feel bad about running around with hot young men, doing a lot of coke and have a lots of anonymous gay sex with them.
The movie kind of ends pretty abruptly – good performances, pretty shallow, if you want to see dresses, then maybe worth a watch.

South Africa Celebrates Freedom in Cannes

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South Africa has brought its 20 years of freedom celebrations to Cannes this year with a record four movies and one South African Showcase to be screened during this year’s Film Festival.

South Africans at the Cannes Film Festival
Actor David Kau, journalist Nadia Neophytou, Naomi Mokhele (NFVF) and producer Pascal Schmitz. Photo: Anthoni Panayis

Unfortunately none of the SA films have been selected for competition this year, but with these screenings they are being exposed to international buyers, agents, distributors and investors.

South Africa - flying the flag in Cannes
South Africa – flying the flag in Cannes. Photo: Anthoni Panayis

And for the first time in SA’s Cannes history, all of these films – presented by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) – are being screened within the prestigious Palais which forms the heart of the Cannes Film Festival.

In previous years the South African films have been shown in public cinemas in nearby Rue d’Antibes. Close but not as convenient or as prestigious.

The NFVF’s underlying theme this year is a celebration of 20 years of freedom.

To mark this occasion, most of the movies selected reflect this theme – including “Nelson Mandela: The Myth and Me” and “One Humanity ” (a documentary about the 1988 Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert and 1990’s International Tribute for a Free South Africa).

The other two movies are “Miners Shot Down” and “Inumber Number”.

Embracing the theme of Freedom, the NFVF has erected a large poster of Nelson Mandela at the Pavilion’s entrance for worldwide visitors to sign and write messages.

This poster will be taken home to South Africa at the end of the Festival where it will be put on display.

Based on last year’s figures, NFVF events co-ordinator Carla de Gavino Dias estimates that at least 2,000 people will visit the South African Pavilion in Cannes this year.

South Africans at the Cannes Film Festival
Producer Sizwe Mzolo and NFVF’s communications manager Naomi Mokhele.

Last night the SA Pavilion kicked off the festival with a cocktail party on the beach (that became so popular some people had to be turned away). Actors, producers, directors and journalists mingled to discuss work and play.

Today the first screenings were held for “Miners Shot Down” and “Inumber Number”.

And tomorrow night South Africa will be hosting its annual party at Rado Plage – the hottest ticket in town! Honestly. People without invitations push, shove and beg to be allowed in because it’s renowned as the best catered, most fun party of the festival!

South Africa Rocks!

Captives – Ryan Reynolds

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The Captives is a kidnapping thriller starring Ryan Reynolds – I was a little hesitant taking into consideration the last few movies Reynolds starred in but I should have had a bit more faith especially with Adam Egoyan as the director – he paints an intriguing and beautiful spectacle up on the screen.
sapeople - cannes film festival - captives
The Captives has a very non linear way of telling it’s story which somehow works really well in keeping the audience engaged and interested in the story. I thought it would over complicate things  and ruin  the movie but this was not the case. It actually makes it that much more entertaining by moving us from one scene to another and then linking them together to make sense. It helps build the tension that this movie had going for it, This movie had some amazing performances – any doubts that Reynolds can act – cast them aside – he plays the grieving father so well –  you see his pain, his guilt, his ups and downs which had me there with him  all the way.
sapeople - cannes film festival - captives
Kevin Durand, what a sick character, a villain you love to hate but the movie needs this character for you to be invested in it. A little bit of a slow start but once things start happening you will be glued to the edge of your seat. The tension is that good  that I wanted to see what was going to happen next.
sapeople - cannes film festival - captives
The movie is rooted in reality, it’s real – you feel like this could actually happen to these characters. Enjoyed this a lot. Go see it.
sapeople - cannes film festival - captives poster

Mr Turner

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Director Mike Leigh shows the last 25yers of J.M.W Turners life. He was a famous painter of Maritime and landscapes scenes and was one of the early practitioners of what would later be called impressionism – at the time nobody really new what it was. The movie doesn’t really cover this well at all even with it being 2.5hrs long. He was known as man of great vision.
sapeople - cannes film festival - mike leigh
In the movie there is a lot of grunting but he somehow manages to say a lot with those grunts. He is very  gruff, very randy, very raunchy but there is also a lot of vulnerability there, even some sweetness beneath all the dismissiveness and obnoxiousness. We get to see the partnership early on between him and his father – his father is very much his champion, his father helps him. There is no sense of how lost he is until he finds Marion Bailey. We get a little insight into this when his father dies and he goes to see the prostitute and breaks down.
sapeople - cannes film festival - mr turner
Mike Leigh has a way of giving more of an insight into these on the surface repellent characters , what he’s about, what his art is about and how dedicated he was to it. There are moments when he opens up and shows a bit more of himself in his romance with this landlady Marion Bailey.
It’s an interesting story and has interesting characters, Timothy Spall puts in a good performance but it’s an hour too long.
sapeople - cannes film festival - mr turner

Cannes Stars React to ‘Sugarman’ Director’s Suicide – “Life is a Beautiful Gift”

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The start of the Cannes Film Festival 2014 was dominated yesterday by the sad news of the death of Malik Bendjelloul, the talented Swedish director who won an Oscar last year for his documentary about two South Africans fans searching for musician Rodriguez.

Malik Bendjelloul
Malik Bendjelloul. Photo: Georges Biard

A South African journalist who had interviewed 36-year-old Malik last year, was in tears whilst waiting for the ‘Grace of Monaco’ press conference at the film festival yesterday.

She knew Malik had passed away in Stockholm the previous day, but she had just been informed by another reporter in the queue that he had committed suicide.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “He had so much energy. He had overcome so much and against all odds had completed the ‘Sugarman’ documentary. He was such an inspiration. Why?”

As talented British actor Stephen Fry, who is prone to depression would say – those of us who don’t suffer depression tend to ask the wrong questions. (In case you’re interested, please see his full quote below.)

Nicole Kidman and Tim Roth
Nicole Kidman and Tim Roth commented on Malik’s passing during a press conference yesterday.

Inside the press conference Nicole Kidman was shocked to hear the news and said “I did not know”.

Her ‘Grace of Monaco’ co-star, Tim Roth, added: “I don’t know the circumstances. It’s incredibly sad.”

During the Cannes Jury interviews later in the day Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal (‘The Motorcycle Diaries’) said “I briefly met Malik at the Oscars last year. This is such shocking news. So sad.”

Fellow Scandinavian director Nicolas Winding Refn (‘Drive’), from Denmark, said: “This is a very tragic affair. Malik was a wonderful film maker. I feel sorry. Life is a beautiful gift.”

“Searching for Sugarman”, which also won a BAFTA, followed the journey of the two SA fans as they searched for US folk musician Sixto Rodriguez whose album ‘Cold Fact’ had been such a hit for many young South Africans in the ’70s and ’80s.

Ironically, while he was almost more famous than the Rolling Stones in SA, Rodriguez was oblivious to this success and was an unknown back home and in most of the world.

Malik’s documentary brought Rodriguez back to SA where he performed at various sold-out concerts…and brought him finally onto the world stage, with a tour to various countries.

But it was not an easy journey for Malik.

“Sugarman” took him five years to complete, during which time he ran out of money and had to shoot some segments temporarily with his iPhone. After filming he offered to re-shoot those segments, but the producers loved the documentary just as he had made it.

The sadness at the passing of Malik was felt around the world. SA expat Lanthus Clark said “I live in Sweden, so it’s a double shock for us SA expats here.”

Dennis Kleinman said: “So very sad – I got to meet him in Los Angeles last year – was such a nice person and so interested to know that I was South African and how Rodriguez impacted my life.”

Stephen Fry on depression:

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.

“Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”

Nicole Kidman Responds to Monaco’s Disapproval

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Australian actress Nicole Kidman has described the reaction of the Palace of Monaco to her new movie about the late Princess Grace as “awkward”.

SNicole Kidmanpeaking to the press today at the Cannes Film Festival, where “Grace of Monaco” will officially open the Festival tonight – but without Prince Albert II and his South African wife Princess Charlene in attendance – Nicole said: “Obviously I feel sad because I think that the film has no malice towards the family, and particularly not towards Grace and Ranier. It’s fictional, it’s not a biopic.”

She said however that she does understand the Monaco royal family’s reaction and refusal to attend tonight’s Premier. “It’s their mother and father, and I understand the protection of one’s parents.”

She said it’s “awkward”, but she still has respect for them, and would like them to know that “the performance is done with love and an enormous amount of affection for their parents, and the love story of their parents.”

Nicole, wearing a pretty white dress, said she had “goosebumps” when she was offered the role of playing former Hollywood star Grace Kelly.

“My whole career, I’m always looking for things that put me on a highwire, and this was one of those roles. It still is!”

She also said that as a fellow actress there were many parallels between her life and that of Princess Grace on both a professional and personal level if living one’s life in the spotlight.

Two of the main scenes in the movie which are fictional are the visit by director Alfred Hitchcock to Monaco (in reality he phoned), and the presence of de Gaulle at the Red Cross Ball (which he did not actually attend).

The director acknowledged these and said it was a question of images, needing two characters in the same frame, and that “I didn’t try to achieve facts…what I’ve tried to depict is the heart of things.”

The Monaco Palace issued a statement last week saying:

“On the occasion of the film “Grace of Monaco” at the opening of the Cannes Film Festival May 14, 2014 and its outing on the screens, the Princely Palace reiterates that this feature can not be described in any way as a biopic. The trailer confirms it is totally fictional…This reinforces the conviction left upon reading the script that it is a production, a page in the history of the Principality, based on historical and literary references using dubious and incorrect wrong data. The director and the producers refused to consider the many comments made by the Palace that would have resulted in a challenging global scenario and characters. The royal family does not wish in any way to be associated with this film which does not reflect reality and regrets that its history has been a diversion for purely commercial purposes.”

Day 12 – Congratulations to the Award Winners!

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Oh sob. I hate it when the Film Festival ends. You know this becomes your life, your world. And it’s fascinating. You’re interviewing creative people at the peak of their careers who are living their lives to the full, who are not too scared to follow their dreams. And you’re watching movies about life. Life. What could be better?

A. Kechiche, A. Exarchopoulos, L.Seydoux © FDC / LOB
A. Kechiche, A. Exarchopoulos, L.Seydoux © FDC / LOB

And so today it all ended. And now we have to wait another year for this enchanting wonderful world of the Cannes Film Festival.

Congratulations to all those who won awards, and all those who participated.

Bruce Dern won  best actor award for Nebraska.

‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ won the Grand Prix. Oscar Isaac (the amazing actor in the movie) said afterwards:

“The film revolves around my character but it was the Coen brothers who created its narrative dimension. There are two of them but it’s like they had a single brain which was in many places at the same time. As a result, I just did whatever either of them had said to me last.”

Amat Escamante won Best Director for Heli and Berenice Benjo won  Best Female Actress for Le Passe (The Past).

She said: “I’m really surprised and I want in particular to thank Asghar Farhadi because this prize is linked to him. He’s a director who knows so well how to watch actors, and how to tell stories. I look to him. It’s inconceivable that this prize is just for me because without him and the film team, I’d be nothing.”

The Palm D’or was awarded to La Vie l’Adele – chapitre 1 & 2.

Farewell beautiful Cannes. We’ll be back!

Day 11 – Film about South Africa Closes Cannes Film Festival

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What a fantastic feeling, to be in Cannes – at the wondrous Cannes Film Festival – and have the last official film of the festival be set in South Africa!

The film is called “Zulu” – yes, it has the same name as the movie that Michael Caine made famous…but this one does not include Isandlwana or anything in history that far back – this film is set in today’s day, with the aftertaste of apartheid.

This is the fourth feature film from Frenchman Jerome Salle and is being touted as a “South African detective film”.

It pits black against white, and shows in some wonderfully harrowing scenes – including a breathtaking visual of a white and black man chasing each other across the dunes – the torment and damage that has been done to the soul of the black man, a man who thinks he is okay, a man who wants to move on…but who apartheid has damaged so badly, he will never be able to truly forgive.

As he set out to do, Jerome has create a film that captures how marked South Africans are by their history.

The cinematography is beautiful – I feel so bad to say it, but it has taken a Frenchman to truly capture the beauty of South Africa in a way that sets a South African movie on the global stage. It has the quality of that international feel to it.

Starring Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom, the film was shot on location in Cape Town. I cried, I laughed. I was proud. I was ashamed.

Orlando Bloom © eskwad
Orlando Bloom © eskwad