The Cannes 2015 Diaries: Day Six

Cannes Day 6

Normally, by the time I’m about to leave a film festival, I’m ready to go home. I’ve always had fun, always loved the experience, but usually I am craving my own bed, my sleep, my standard routine. But, as I opened my eyes on my final full day in Cannes, this time I feel sad. “I don’t wanna gooooo…” I whined to Nadia, my Cannes roommate.

Alas, I have commitments in LA, and have been away for almost three weeks, so I can’t possibly stay. Next year, I vowed as I got out of bed, I will stay the entire run of the festival. The final weekend especially, because that’s when they repeat all the competition films back-to-back.

My first film of the day was not in competition, so no jury members (aka Jake) present, but I was excited to see it nonetheless. Every year certain studio films are allowed to screen in Cannes, handpicked by the festival. ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ was at the start of the fest, and today, Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ had its turn. Pixar films over the past few years have been mixed between the good (Toy Story 3) and the bad (Cars 2) but ‘Inside Out’ appears to be a true return to form.

The really sweet story centers on an 11 year old girl, Riley, the emotions inside her head – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust – and how they all work together. It’s a very clever film, which you can watch on two levels. On the surface, it’s a journey story as Joy and Sadness have to find their way back to Headquarters to restore the balance. But deeper, it’s a fun study on psychology, and many aspects are looked at – long term memories, which traits make up a personality, and how you may need to feel a tough emotion in order to move on. Funnily enough, all the emotions represented in the film are what you will experience while watching ‘Inside Out’, as Pixar knows just how to push all your buttons.

The animation looks beautiful of course, and there are plenty of star voices, but I liked how non-distracting they were. Each voice suited the character, so you forgot about the name behind the voice, rather than spending the whole time trying to figure out who it is.

Deciding to squeeze another film in at lunchtime, I went to see ‘Amnesia’, by Barbet Schroeder, an Iranian filmmaker. The film was set in Ibiza, Spain, in the early 90s and focused on Martha (Marthe Keller) an older lady trying to escape the horrors of her childhood in Germany. When she meets a young, hot German DJ, Jo (Max Riemelt), she finally has to confront what she has been running from. ‘Amnesia’ looks gorgeous, thanks to its sumptuous seaside setting, and I enjoyed watching Marthe Keller on screen. But, perhaps because much of the film was in English rather than their native tongue, the acting seemed stiff and some of the dialogue was completely unrealistic. The relationship built between the two characters happened quite quickly, and I never truly bought the love between them.

The final film for the day was the french movie ‘Marguerite & Julien’, by Valerie Donzelli, one of the few female filmmakers in competition. This film was based in part on a real story, a period piece, about the love between a brother and a sister. Yep. we’re talking incest. The film was shot beautifully, with plenty of energy in the camerawork to make it feel contemporary. But, with a subject matter that icky, you have to tread lightly, and REALLY feel for the characters to go along with it. And I just didn’t. I didn’t feel like this was a love that had to happen against all odds and I wasn’t cheering them on to be together. Inside my head, my emotions were saying, “Surely you can love another guy out there who is NOT your brother?” Plus the fact that Julien looked like he was 30, and Marguerite 20, did not help at all (In reality she’s 26 and he’s 37)

But now, as I sit here in a cafe, post-film, scribbling in my notebook… with a glass of rose and watching the glamorous and black-tied people pass by… I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky to be here. Well, maybe lucky is the wrong word, given that I willed and worked and hustled my career into existence. I think grateful is a better word. I’m so grateful I have the means to come to France and watch weird and wonderful films. Films which people put their heart and soul into making. And to sit with like-minded people who care as much as me about original movies. And am I feeling grateful for my leg injury, for forcing me out of my comfort zone to deal with something in a foreign place? Nah, that’s the wine talking. But I AM grateful it’s getting better and that I can walk most of the time, and very much grateful for my pain medication.

So until next time Cannes… merci beaucoup pour les souvenirs. A bientôt!

Here’s a list of everything I watched & the order I would rank them:
1) Carol
2) The Lobster
3) Amy
4) Inside Out
5) Mia Madre
6) Louder Than Bombs
7) Irrational Man
8) A Tale of Tales
9) The Sea Of Trees
10) Marguerite & Julien
11) Amnesia

(and I’ll squeeze in Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Sicario’ before my flight tomorrow morning!)

The Cannes 2015 Diaries: Day Five

Cannes Day 5

I blame lack of sleep, a diet consisting of 90% croissants, overhearing a lot of movie pitches AND being on heavy pain medication for the following scenario I was playing in my head while limping to my first movie this morning…

I was imagining sitting at one of the bars next to the water here in Cannes with a producer, and pitching:
Mad Malone: Limpy Road.
Listen to this (I would say) the heroine is a red-headed Australian called Red Furiosa. The villain, a French spider wearing a tiny beret, named Marcel. In a vicious fight, Marcel bites Red Furiosa (There is much irony over the fact that an Australian gets bitten by a spider in France) Anyway, imagine that her leg, severed by the spider, is wrapped in bandages, and looking like it is wearing a fat suit. It makes for an intense vision, yes? And now… Red Furiosa must bravely limp down the Croisette in Cannes – avoiding other reporters, club promotors and sleazy men looking for a good time – in order to make the 8:30am movie. It’s good right? $100m budget? SOLD!

Well, I have to do something to amuse myself as I limp about the place. But the business side of Cannes does fascinate me. Today, I visited the Marche Du Film, the Film Market, where film companies from all over the world set up stalls to show what they’re making in their countries or to promote their filmmaking talents. There are also production companies and small studios set up ready to showcase their slate of films to foreign buyers and take meetings. Then there are the producers trying to get films made, and you see some crazy film posters with insane titles like ‘Bikini Model Academy’. They are often searching for financing in Cannes to make these films, and often that is the first and last time you’ll hear about them. And then, if you go to any cafe or hotel bar, you will overhear filmmakers, screenwriters and producers pitching their big movie ideas.

I caught up today with one of my friends, an indie filmmaker from Australia, and it fascinates me to hear what his Cannes entails. He doesn’t get to see any films, instead his purpose is to find distribution for a film he’s already made, and to pitch for future distribution for a film he’s about to make. There’s a lot of networking and handshaking with financiers, buyers from cinema chains and distributors, it’s a numbers game and a huge gamble on both sides… but this is the place where it can all happen. This is why I support indie films. It is incredibly hard to get a movie made outside of a studio (who are pretty much only making blockbusters now) and then to get your film into theaters, or on VOD… it’s so much hustle, which I really admire. We need these people to succeed so we can have unique, different, original options to watch in theaters… otherwise it will ALL be marketed sequels, prequels, and franchise films.

But back to my first movie of the day. After unsuccessfully trying to get into ‘Son of Saul’ (which had really great reviews from its premiere) I decided to check out ‘Mia Madre (My Mother)’. Directed by Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti, its a mixture of showbiz satire and personal story, about a female director who is trying to make a movie, deal with a difficult star (played by John Turturro) and cope with her mother’s slow death at the same time. I enjoyed the mix of tones and the few surreal scenes, where you weren’t sure if she was dreaming or awake. John Turturro played the diva American actor perfectly, not over the top, but very funny. Overall the movie didn’t blow me away, but I had an enjoyable time watching it, and I like that it centered on a female director!

While lining up for the next movie, ‘Louder Than Bombs’, I saw one of the friends who was urging me to see a doctor. “Wow, look at you! Kind of standing normally now! And that walk, almost fluid!” he said, after I had showed off with a few steps. Yep, chalking that up to a win. Even though I hate they were all right about me seeing a doctor.

‘Louder Than Bombs’ is by Norwegian director Joachim Trier, and stars a very international cast of Isabelle Huppert, Gabriel Byrne, Jesse Eisenberg, David Strathairn and Amy Ryan. It’s a multi-perspective look at a family trying to cope with the mother’s death. The mother was a brilliant war photographer, who felt out of place both in the foreign countries risking her life, and at home in suburbia. The tone is uneven, and it seems disjointed as it moved between stories and back and forth in time. There were moments I absolutely loved (one scene which involved reading out a letter was very powerful) plus some visually striking shots, but overall it didn’t come together for me. I kept wondering how it would all end up, and what the point at the end would be… and after it ended I was still wondering. Perhaps it’s worth a revisit when it comes to theaters at some point down the track.

If the buyers buy it, that is.

The Cannes 2015 Diaries: Day Four

Cannes day Four

“Alicia, you HAVE to see a doctor!”
“It’s not going to get better without seeing a doctor!”
“Oh gosh, that leg! Please go and see a doctor?”
“If you don’t go, it could really hurt you for a long time!”
“I’m going to drag you there if you don’t go. See a doctor! Today!”

These were the sorts of comments all my friends here in Cannes (and in LA via text) have been telling me over the past 36 hours or so. When they spotted me limping about, and especially when they saw my swollen leg in person. Strangers in the street have been wincing at the state of it, and a few came up to me just to say “That looks really bad.” Even the guy at the cafe where I think I left my jacket (RIP favorite leather jacket I’ve worn constantly over 6 years) remembered me when I came back to look for it as “the girl with the bad leg”. And I saw a photo of me filming today, and I couldn’t deny the massive size difference between my two legs.

But if you’d think all that, plus the constant almost unbearable throbbing pain, would make me want to go to the doctor and sort it out… you don’t know me at all. As I said yesterday, I would do almost anything to avoid going to see a doctor. I mean ANYTHING. Especially when I have to go to a hospital to see one, as was the case with today being Saturday and nowhere open. So, fearing the wrath of my friends if I told them I hadn’t been to the doctor, I decided to suck it up.

To suck it up AFTER I went to see ‘Amy’, the Amy Winehouse documentary, which I didn’t want to miss! And I am glad I didn’t. ‘Amy’ is a heartbreaking look at the talented jazz singer gone too soon from this world. Director Asif Kapadia did an incredible job bringing together archived footage from interviews, concerts, TV shows and blending it with personal home videos and photos from Amy’s family and friends. Over the top of these images, you hear voices from Amy’s life, telling her story – never once do you see someone being interviewed for the film. This gives the movie a chilling, haunting quality… words hang in the air when you realize what might have been, if anyone had managed to save Amy from her demons. But from her demons sprung incredible, lasting music, and there is no doubting the power of her voice. Asif’s last movie was ‘Senna’, the great documentary about an iconic race car driver which you could enjoy even if you knew nothing about cars. Similarly, even if you’re not a huge fan of Amy Winehouse, this documentary will hold you captivated.

Following the documentary and a quick shoot with Movie Juice, the Australian TV show I host, I went off to the hospital to get my leg seen to once and for all. The doctor was lovely, though spoke only a tiny bit of English, and I only speak a tiny bit of French. Lots of hand signals and noises like “Ouch” ensued… but as a bonus I learnt the French words for swollen, bite, and infection. Which disappointingly is just “infection” said with a French accent.

Another trip to the pharmacy followed, so I think I can now say that I own all the pills, creams, and bandages available in Cannes. But at least I will be on the mend soon! (Yes yes, I know friends, don’t say “I told you so!”)

The second film I got to see today was ‘Carol’, by Todd Haynes, which has now become my favorite of the festival so far. It’s based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, is set in the 50s and stars Rooney Mara as a department store clerk who falls for an older married lady, Carol, played by Cate Blanchett. Haynes takes such care with the material, giving time to develop a sincere relationship, so nothing is simply titillating. The story is self-contained and the performances are restrained, Rooney and Cate are brilliant in their roles, and Kyle Chandler does a solid job as Carol’s husband.

‘Carol’ takes you by the heart and squeezes it. You feel for the characters. I love a movie which doesn’t hand everything to the audience, but respects our intelligence. Plus it’s beautifully shot and perfectly styled. I want to do my hair like Cate’s! And I never realized it until this film, but Rooney Mara can look so much like Audrey Hepburn! If ever there were to be a biopic, I’d be happy with that choice.

Post ‘Carol’ I eschewed party and dinner invites and hobbled back as elegantly as I could to my apartment to rest my leg. I feel like I say this at the end of every post… but hopefully TOMORROW it will be better?

The Cannes 2015 Diaries: Day Three

Cannes Day 3

Here’s a few things you should know about me:
1) I have a very high pain tolerance, and will do anything to get out of seeing a doctor…
2) When films are involved, all reason goes out the window…
3) Strange and annoying things always happen to me when I’m traveling…

Given the above, you won’t be surprised, dear reader, that we begin our day three story with me, limping 15 minutes down the road to get to a movie. I had woken up, greeted by throbbing pain from yesterday’s spider bite, and one leg which looked distinctively bigger than the other. Unperturbed and determined to see ‘The Lobster’, I limped on.

‘The Lobster’ was the first competition film playing for the day, which means… the jury was there. Including future husband Jake Gyllenhaal. I had spotted his hair first, in all it’s slicked back long glory, then the smile. And then I hid so he wouldn’t see me staring.

‘The Lobster’ is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos from Greece, his first English-language film, but you’d recognize his name if you saw his last film, ‘Dogtooth’ (and if you haven’t, make sure you watch it!) ‘The Lobster’ is set in an interesting world where everyone has to be in a couple. If your partner dies, you check into a hotel where you have a certain number of days to find a mate. If you fail, you are turned into an animal. Yep, it’s as strange as it sounds! Colin Farrell stars, alongside John C Reilly, Ben Wishaw, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux and more familiar faces.

I really enjoyed ‘The Lobster’, especially the tone – it’s a very serious, satirical comedy, which feels like Wes Anderson or Woody Allen, but much much darker. It loses a little bit of steam towards the end, but overall it is inventive, funny, and interesting. Put it on the list for whenever it comes to your city!

After a quick run to the pharmacy for various creams and tablets to hopefully soothe my leg, I was off to see Woody Allen’s latest, ‘Irrational Man’. This is a film I’ve been looking forward to, because Woody Allen, even though he can be hit or miss. Unfortunately, this one was a miss. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as a philosophy professor going through an existential crisis, and Emma Stone as his student trying to help him out of it. I won’t reveal what happens next, because I quite liked the surprise of the twist.

There were some great moments in there, some very funny Woody-esque moments, and the cast did well… but I just couldn’t get into the movie the way I wanted to. I think maybe, having narration throughout keeps the audience at arm’s length. And I didn’t like the characters enough to want to follow them. But still… there’s something so incredible about how Woody churns out a movie a year! Even his misses aren’t terrible.

After limping back to the apartment to have a break, elevate and ice my leg, I hobbled back out to see Gus Van Sant’s ’The Sea Of Trees’. This was on my most anticipated Cannes list, and I was hoping it would be a return to form for Van Sant, who hasn’t had a hit in a while. The premise is very intriguing – Matthew McConaughey plays Arthur, a depressed man who flies from the US to Japan to end his life in the famous ‘suicide forest’, until he meets another man played by Ken Watanabe. Naomi Watts also stars in the flashbacks as Arthur’s wife.

Great cast, interesting plot, but unfortunately the film is more cheesy than touching. It should have been haunting and enthralling… instead it’s melodramatic and predictable. Twenty minutes in I leaned over my friend Logan and whispered what the twist at the end was going to be. I was right, and as the credits rolled Cannes showed exactly what they thought of the film, with a resounding BOOOOO at the screen. Ouch.

Just to add injury to insult, when I tried to get up from my seat I was met with the most incredible throbbing of pain. I couldn’t stand properly, I was shaking, and I was holding on to my Belgian reporter friend Ward for dear life. Somehow within that last two hours, my bitten leg had gotten SO much worse. Getting out of the dark theatre it was easy to see that my leg was twice the size it had been that morning. Plus three times as painful. And very very hot. The pain subsided slightly once I started walking (when the blood’s moving it seems better) and with no doctors open that late, I PROMISED my worried friends that I would go to the doctor first thing in the morning if it were not better.

After unsuccessfully trying to find a cab, I hobbled back in pain to the apartment, using the giant photo banners strung across the streets as my motivator. “Ok, I’m at Tim Burton, I just need to make it to Clint Eastwood on our street. Ok Leash, you can do this! You just have to go past Jessica Chastain, under Penelope Cruz, straight at Matthew McConaughey, keep going at Julianne Moore, wave to Viggo Mortenson, and then you’ve made it to Clint Eastwood and he’s made your day and you can have a bath and go to sleep!”

Let’s hope I make a miraculous overnight recovery, because tomorrow Cannes promises some more fantastic films!

The Cannes 2015 Diaries: Day Two

Tom Hardy

As Nadia looked at my leg, the shock in my Cannes roommate’s eyes was unmistakable.
“Ouch…” I managed feebly, gesturing towards my shin at what was, this morning, a small insect bite and now… a huge swollen lump.
“I think you had better go and get something for that! It looks bad!” said Nadia, quite concerned.

And so, off I limped to the nearest “Pharmacie”, cursing the fancy French spider who bit me. I nicknamed him Marcel, and imagined him saying “Je te hais!” (I hate you!) as he bit my leg. Probably while wearing a beret. Just the height of rudeness. Un petit Monsieur Araignée ( a small Mr Spider) but tres tres rude all the same. But at least the pharmacy trip let me practice my French, attempting to explain what I needed, about bloody Marcel and what he had done to me.

It amazes me how our brains retain languages. Throughout the year, I barely speak a word of French, but as soon as I’m back in France, BOOM it comes. Well, as much as I know anyway – a few words and some funny phrases to get me by. When I forget a word, I pull out a “Je suis desole, j’ai un trou de memoire…” which means, “I’m sorry, I have a hole in my memory” or simply “I have a blackout”. It never fails to get a laugh.

I had decided Marcel was a fancy araignée because he bit me at the Five star Hotel Du Cap where I had spent my morning doing interviews for ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. This hotel is one of the most famous here, situated just outside of Cannes, this is where the big stars stay, and where many of the flashy parties are held. I considered hiding in the bushes post interviews to crash said parties, but I didn’t want to meet any of Marcel’s buddies.

The interviews for ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ were short but fun. This was my second time with the cast, I spoke them 15 days ago at the very start of the press tour. Today, though they were full of love for the film… you can tell they are ready to be DONE with interviews!

Nicholas Hoult remembered me from our last interview, saying “You’re the girl who hugs!” as I walked in… which sounds kind of like a tagline for my eventual life movie: ‘Red Fury: The Girl Who Hugs’ (or quite possibly after today, ‘Red Fury Spider-Woman: The Girl Who Hugs And Climbs Walls’)

Director George Miller also remembered me, and let me say, he has to be one of the sweetest men around. So kind, quiet, unassuming, humble. It’s hard to believe at age 70 he’s now set the standard for future action movies in Hollywood. As Mad Max Tom Hardy himself told me, “I know a few directors who are worried about how to top this, or where to possibly go from here!”
The action truly is remarkable – the film plays like one long car chase and I barely breathed throughout the whole thing.

As well as the mind-blowing practical stunts, I think audiences will be so drawn to the film because at the center of it all are some very human characters. Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, is the driver of the plot, and though her character has been billed as a “tough, strong, action heroine”, she’s actually quite broken. Brave, only because she has to be in order to survive. Not tough in a masculine way, not one-dimensional either. When I told this to Charlize she cheered and said, “Thank God YOU get it!”, which makes me think she’s just endured 15 days of trying to explain that her character is not JUST a warrior woman with a prosthetic arm and a cool shaved head.

After the interviews, and before Marcel’s evil magic had taken its toll, I went off to see a special screening of ‘The Third Man’ (1949) starring Orson Welles. One of the best parts of Cannes for me, is the dedication to the classics. This year Cannes is honoring the work of official poster star Ingrid Bergman, Orson Welles for his 100th birthday, and Greek filmmaker Costa-Gravras who won the coveted Palme d’or prize in 1982.

Though I have seen ‘The Third Man’ many times before, it was absolutely fantastic to watch it on the big screen with a packed cinema of people. My classic-loving heart warms when I see people enjoying these old gems. My people!

Limping back to our apartment, Nadia gave me a bottle of wine snagged from her flight, and I decided to rest instead of forcing my swollen leg to more movies. Tomorrow, day three, is packed full of anticipated films – including the buzzed about ‘The Lobster’, Woody Allen’s ‘The Irrational Man’, and Gus Van Sant’s ’The Sea of Trees’ with Matthew McConaughey. And I’m going to see ALL of them… provided of course, I am not a Spider-Woman like superhero by the morning.

The Cannes 2015 Diaries: Day One

Cannes Day One

As I sped down a freeway in a black Maserati, I had to giggle at my life. I had just spent an incredible three days holed up in a beautiful hotel in Provence, a break literally prescribed to me by my doctor. A month ago I had booked a doctor’s appointment, suffering from lack of sleep, a loss of appetite and rashes on my stomach. She took one look at me and said quite simply, “You are stressed. You are a workaholic and need to rest. Take a vacation!”

If you follow me on social media my life may seem like a series of holidays… but nearly all of the trips I do are for work, and even though my work is incredibly fun, ask anyone who knows me and they’ll say, “Alicia? She works too much!” I love what I do, and I do it twelve hours a day, seven days a week.

Back at home I had spent some time contemplating what kind of holiday normal people take. A health retreat? Too strict. Silent meditation? I could never last. A city I’d never been to? I’d feel pressure to do touristy things. Picking up my phone to thumb mindlessly through instagram I suddenly saw it – a perfect hotel in France, photographed by a blogger, showing wine and cheese and the French countryside. That’s it. That’s the one. And knowing I was soon off to France anyway for Cannes, I yelled “YOLO!”, went ahead and booked it, and vowed never to say YOLO again.

Flash-forward to today, and I’m so grateful I did. Catching a glimpse of my reflection in the car window I looked relaxed, recharged… like a whole new person! And a few hours later my smile got wider when I arrived at the Cannes Film Festival.

This is my third time at Cannes, and the way I explained how I feel about it to my roommate Maude is… “This is my Comic-Con AND my Coachella”, to which she gave me a knowing smile, because those events are her jam. Whatever it is which makes you the most excited in life, that’s what this festival is for me. Here, they treat cinema as art, booing or cheering or sometimes both. Here, you see the most beautiful films mixed with the most bizarre. Here, just walking down the street is a fashion and freak show rolled into one. The normally quiet seaside town comes alive with a celebration of cinema, and I LOVE it. So much so, I’ve paid my own way to be here. I’ll do bits and pieces of work which will go towards the cost… but there was just no way I was going to miss the festival again!

After a quick glass of rose at an opening night celebration I rushed off to see my first film of Cannes 2015 – Matteo Garrone’s ’Tale of Tales’ . This is also his third time at the festival, the Italian filmmaker showed ‘Gomorrah’ in 2008 and ‘Reality’ in 2012. ‘Tale of Tales’ is based on the first ever book of fairytales, which inspired iconic fairytale writers Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and more.

The film weaves three fairytales together – one about a Queen and son (and his twin, born via the heart of a sea monster), another about a father and his Princess daughter (who is forced to marry an ogre), and the third about a randy King who falls in love (with an old, ugly woman who transforms) As you can see, it’s a surreal movie, a fantasy, which alternates between being funny, sickening, tragic, and just SO strange. But quite beautiful at the same time. This is the type of film you see here in Cannes, where you walk out thinking, “what the hell did I just watch?”

A crepe helped sooth my confusion, and I headed back to the tiny studio apartment I’m sharing with my friend Nadia, to get some sleep before I tackle day two.

BONUS VIDEO! Here are the five films I’m most excited to see this year: