68th Cannes Film Festival


by Joanna Orland

Cannes Film Festival (Festival de Cannes) is not only the most famous of film festivals, but it is also considered to be the most prestigious in the world.  From my extensive experience, I am fairly certain that it is also one of the largest.

Boasting a fine selection of films in various strands, the festival has become known as a premiere destination for film industry and cinephiles alike.  This year’s jury presided over by Joel and Ethan Coen, consists of a famous and talented roster with the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Sienna Miller, Guillermo del Toro and Xavier Dolan.  The films In Competition which are eligible for the esteemed Cannes Film Festival Awards including the illustrious top prize of the Palme d’Or, are of the industry’s finest, often going on to achieve awards season accolades at events including the Academy Awards.  This year’s selection of high calibre films is nothing to turn one’s nose up at, with acclaimed works from high profile directors including The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos), Carol (Todd Haynes) and Dheepan (Jacques Audiard).  While I haven’t managed to view every competing film, I’ve compiled my personal Top 10, award predictions, and the complete winners results.

The Cannes Film Festival is so vast, the films which are officially screening are merely the tip of the iceberg.  The biggest part of the festival is the Marché du Film, an expansive film market where producers and filmmakers forge their business deals in what is one of the largest markets of its kind in the world.

Outside of the Marché, there is more still, with independently hosted panels, screenings, events and parties, all revolving around the much lauded international film industry and community.  Each day in Cannes feels like a week, and a week has passed in what feels like a day.  Here is what I managed to intake in 7 weeks, er, days at Cannes Film Festival.

In Competition


Directed by Todd Haynes
Starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara

Todd Haynes beautifully directs this adaptation of author Patricia Highsmith’s 1950’s lesbian love story.

The visuals are stunning, with Carol clearly being an excellent companion piece to Haynes’ other works Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce.  The visuals alone provide enough of an impact to make Carol worth watching, but performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are also garnering much buzz from the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

The physical performances of Blanchett and Mara are indeed mesmerizing.  These women can act with merely their facial expressions, and do so for a lot of Carol.  Mara is reminiscent of a young Audrey Hepburn while Blanchett emits an air of sophistication, an obvious draw for Mara’s character Therese who falls for the older married woman.  While there are many visually engaging aspects of Carol, that is where the interest ends.

In spite of delivering good physical performances, there is something in the dialogue delivery of both Mara and Blanchett that feels stunted.  The implied intense relationship between the two women almost isn’t believable as conversations are so imperfect and forced.  The musical score adds to the dissonant feeling of this film as through its repetitiveness, I was lulled into a bit of a doze, while at the same time really wanting to stay engaged with the visuals.  For such a highly stylized film, it seems that all of the effort has gone into the visuals at the expense of other, just as important aspects of storytelling.

Fans of Tom Ford’s A Single Man or another of Haynes’ films Far From Heaven should find Carol a light masterpiece.  For me, these films boast their infallible style over substance, but even so, they result in something very pretty to look at.

Directed by Jacques Audiard
Starring Jesuthasan Antonythasan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Claudine Vinasithamby and Vincent Rottiers

Jacques Audiard’s latest film Dheepan is a powerful drama about three strangers who are brought together through the hardship of war.  To escape war torn Sri Lanka, refugee Yalini finds nine year-old Illayaal to pose as her daughter in order to act as the family for former Tamil Tiger fighter Dheepan.  Yalini and Illayaal take the place of Dheepan’s true wife and daughter who have perished in the fighting.  Together, these three refugees need each other in order to build new lives for themselves in France.

Barely acquaintances, the newly formed family settle into a housing project outside of Paris, where Dheepan finds work as a caretaker, and Yalini as a caregiver to a severely disabled man.  Illayaal is enrolled in a local school where she is placed in a special needs class as her level of French is not up to par.  Each character in Dheepan is wrought with struggles.  For Illayaal, it is not merely her not having any friends that plagues her, but it is also the loss of her true parents that she grieves.  With Illayaal’s mother having been killed in the war, Yalini is proving no substitute as she herself is not comfortable with children, and even admits to being willing to leave Illayaal behind in a heartbeat if she saw the opportunity.  Yalini herself never wanted to move to France, but longs to be in England with her cousin.  She makes the most of the situation by finding work, but never feels fully accepted into French society with language as a barrier, and even her physicality making her feel like a standout.  Dheepan struggles to keep his new family in order, but moreso finds life in the housing project overly familiar as gangs rule the estate and use the grounds as a base for their drug ring.

While each character is fully realized with their own complexities and stories, it is their relationship as a newly formed family which proves to be the heart of this film.  Dheepan is far from a romance tale, but the dynamic between these three strangers is a beautiful story to witness unfold.  Finding companionship with each other is one thing, but they grow to not just love each other, but to be reliant on each other to help them through adapting to their new lives while still dealing with the trauma which they endured during the war itself.  Illayaal relies on Dheepan and Yalini to care for her as parental substitutes.  Yalini while keeping Illayaal at arm’s length slowly warms to her while becoming more attached to Dheepan himself.  Dheepan needs both girls in his life in order to seek refugee status in France, but grows emotionally dependent on them as well to help him overcome the PTSD that he suffers from post-war.  Their mutual dependencies deepen as housing project gang leader Brahim (Rottiers) is released from prison, returning in order to regain control of his drug empire – a plot point which plunges the characters’ already dire plight into further chaos.

Rust and Bone, A Prophet, and The Beat That My Heart Skipped director Jacques Audiard has created something very special with Dheepan.  He has managed to capture the complexities of the aftermath of war, but with a very human focus.  While strangers to each other and the audience, these characters are so full of depth and richness that the audience feels fully invested in their daily lives and integration into French society.  The acting is compelling and vulnerable with Srinivasan and Antonythasan in particular giving exceptional performances.  The only minor flaw with this film is watching Dheepan go fully over the edge, letting his PTSD completely take over.  At this point, the film becomes less thriller and more action movie, but Audiard is able to bring the character back into the now to once again be the empathetic protagonist that he is throughout the rest of the film.

A complex and powerful drama from director Jacques Audiard, Dheepan tells an important story of the traumatic aftermath of war, and the difficulties of rebuilding one’s life.

Louder Than Bombs
Directed by Joachim Trier
Starring Gabriel ByrneIsabelle Huppert, Jesse Eisenberg, David Strathairn and Devin Druid

Louder Than Bombs is an elegant piece of filmmaking.  It is subtle, complex and most of all affective in its storytelling.

Isabelle was a famed war photographer who perished in a car crash years before we meet her family.  While her youngest son still believes the crash to be an accident, the rest of the family are fully aware that Isabelle committed suicide, unable to cope with the horrifying images of war which she spent her life photographing.  When her colleague Richard begins to write an article commemorating her work and the true circumstances of her death, her husband Gene must once again confront his grief, and the grief of his sons as youngest Conrad will have to learn to cope with this new, more upsetting truth.

In Louder Than Bombs, the catalyst of Isabelle’s death happens years before we meet the characters.  Oldest son Jonah has begun a family of his own, with the opening scene a very powerful and human one of him and his wife holding their baby shortly after its arrival into the world.  Gene has moved on by quietly dating a colleague of his, a fellow teacher at the local high school where his youngest son Conrad is also a student.  Conrad is suffering most in the family.  His suffering is mainly in silence as he feels alienated from his father, while tormented by his mother’s death.  Only Jonah seems to be able to connect with Conrad, as much as Gene tries.

While the entire family dynamic and grief coping mechanisms are explored in this touching film, it is Devin Druid’s Conrad who is the anchor, as Conrad keeps Gene and Jonah tied together through common concern, but also through Devin’s empathetic and endearing performance. Devin is a complex teenaged boy.  He keeps to himself, suffers in silence, is immersed in his video games, but also has some amazing quirks including a flair for writing.  His writing provides an intimate view into his inner thoughts to both Jonah and to the audience.

The subject matter is treated with sensitivity, and a story that could otherwise sound clichéd on paper is brought to life in a compassionate, interesting and unique way through Trier’s directorial choices.  Ethereal poetry and imagery are often intercut into scenes in order to convey character emotions, but seamlessly so to avoid such a bold and indulgent move becoming pretentious.

With such common subject matter, Louder Than Bombs feels like no other film of the genre as it requires full audience engagement rather than the act of passively watching a family grieve melodramatically.  The subtle nuances in this film are powerful, and a film that may not be one of the blockbusters of the year somehow packs more punch than its counterparts.

Nie Yinniang (The Assassin
Directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien
Starring Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Zhou Yun and Tsumabuki Satoshi

While I can certainly appreciate The Assassin‘s elegance, I sadly cannot enjoy it.  The film excels in its beauty and grace, but completely neglects to engage its audience in this slow-burning but beautiful work by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien.

The Assasin‘s visuals and tranquil soundscape are certainly a work of art, each shot masterfully composed and delicately filmed to both mesmerize and hypnotize.  The cinematic portrayal of nature is stunning and almost belongs on canvas rather than on screen.  The soundscape too is so serene and calming that while artfully enjoyable, it can also begin to dull the senses with its monotony.  The martial arts scenes are beautifully choreographed in a similar vain to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style of fighting, but Hsiao-hsien’s interpretation would likely find itself having more in common with a ballet rather than another film.  These graceful scenes are the highlight in this very slow film, but are far too infrequent to make the film enjoyable as a whole.

Set in 9th century China, The Assassin focuses on Nie Yinniang who is taken into a nun’s custody and trained into an assassin, tasked with eliminating corrupt local rulers.  After having one day failed at her task due to compassion, she is sent back to her birthland with orders to kill the man to whom she was once promised – a man who now leads the largest military region in North China.  She struggles with the dilemma of killing this man that she once loved, or breaking forever with her sacred way of the assassins.  Much of this plot unfolds in silence, making this film more ambient than plot-driven.  Dialogue unfolds too realistically, often repeated and very factual, as characters inform each other of the threat of Nie Yinniang and the reason behind it.  This dialogue and story are the weakest aspects of The Assassin.

The film may find its audience in those who are extremely patient and who enjoy watching an ambient mood piece that is masterfully filmed.  For those looking for a martial arts drama, best to look elsewhere.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin

French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve takes a page out of Michael Mann’s book to create the finely made action thriller Sicario.

In Mexico, ‘Sicario’ means ‘Hitman’.  Set near the U.S. and Mexico border, Sicario the film focuses on idealistic FBI agent Kate, who after discovering a ‘house of horrors’ crime scene, feels compelled to stop the criminals at the root of the problem.  Recruited by a rather dubious government task force led by Josh Brolin, Kate travels to Mexico alongside her new team and Alejandro (Del Toro), a consultant with a mysterious past.  Kate’s moral judgements are put to the test in this fight against the Mexican cartel, criminals whom she feels compelled to bring down through the justice system.

The story is one we’ve seen before, perhaps well suited to a television drama.  What makes Villeneuve’s take on the familiar cinematic, are the stylization and strong performances by heavy-hitters Benicio Del Toro and Emily Blunt.  Del Toro in particular gives a standout performance as the mysterious Alejandro.  The chemistry between him and Blunt is intriguing throughout.

This film is not only another story about the Mexican drug cartel, but it is also a story about morality and choices.  Kate tries to convince herself that she’s searching for justice, but as she’s thrust into the cartel’s battlefield, the lines between justice and vigilantism are blurred.  As Kate and her team meet criminals, assassins and spies, the right decisions become harder to make, often becoming detrimental to the task at hand.  Is Kate in over her head, or is this something she can and wants to see through to the end?

Not only are the lines between right and wrong actions blurred, but the central characters themselves are often portrayed as neither good nor evil.  Kate represents the moral centre, but as she even questions her own actions, how centred can the morals actually be?  This is something that not only Kate questions throughout the film, but the audience as well as they are presented with circumstances that require unobvious actions.

Stylishly filmed, perfectly paced, brilliantly performed, Sicario is a tense action thriller which looks, sounds and plays out flawlessly.

The Lobster
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux and Ben Whishaw

The Lobster is a most cynical commentary on both romance and single life in modern society.  No film can make you feel as brilliantly awful as this film does.

The premise is a strange one – single people are imprisoned in a hotel and are obliged to find a mate in 45 days.  If they fail to do so, they are transformed into an animal and released into the wild.  You only have four choices in the world of The Lobster – become an animal, become part of a couple, commit suicide, or run away into the woods to live with The Loners who are a feral society that forbids love.  While this may sound slightly confusing and unbelievable, director Yorgos Lanthimos has built the world of The Lobster meticulously and interestingly that it is at once easy to embrace such an odd premise filled with just as odd characters, including Colin Farrell as the desperate David.

David, who weighs about 40lbs more than Colin Farrell, has recently become single.  He checks into the hotel which is run by Hotel Manager, played brilliantly deadpan by Olivia Colman.  He has mere days to find his partner, otherwise he must endure his fate which is to become an animal of his choosing – a lobster.  His brother, now a dog, is his companion.  He befriends Limping Man played earnestly by Ben Whishaw, and Lisping Man played empathetically by John C. Reilly.  The female partners available to these men include Biscuit Woman (Ashley Jensen), Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden) and Heartless Woman (Angeliki Papoulia).  Clearly a fine selection.

As much as the characters are not named but rather described, everything in The Lobster is literal and simplified.  This is not due to a simple concept by director Lanthimos, but rather due to the director’s cynical outlook on humanity’s simple desires and strong desperation.  Through the cynicism, the film is filled with humour of the darkest sort.  Humour comes through the absurdity of the world built by Lanthimos as well as through the ease of which his characters unquestionably accept it.  The disregard society has for a singleton’s life is comedically emphasized through dramatizations and the absurd pressures of finding a mate before resigning to a lower form of life as an animal.  The film then flips this concept on its head by treating the idea of couplehood in an equally cynical and darkly humourous way.

Inevitably, David makes his way into the woods to encounter The Loners, which is foreshadowed early on in his stay at the hotel.  At this point in the film, the focus now turns to the concept of couplehood, with bold sweeping commentary made on how desperate people are for love in modern society – willing to swiftly accept the superficial as substantial.  The Loners are a very strict group with an even stricter leader played by Léa Seydoux.  Loner Leader enforces the strict no love policy with a ban on flirtation, and even simple tasks of helping each other in daily life.  To be a Loner, you must dig your own grave, as no one will do it for you.

The Lobster is currently my favourite of the In Competition strand at the 68th Cannes Film Festival.  It is clever, cynical, humourous, brash and bold on so many levels – it will make you feel horrible for being single, and even worse for ever having fallen in love.  Making me feel awful never felt so good.

The Sea of Trees
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe and Naomi Watts

The McConaissance Era has come to an abrupt halt with the latest dramatic Matthew McConaughey vehicle The Sea of Trees. Directed by former Palme d’Or winner Gus Van Sant, The Sea of Trees is a melodramatically dull piece of cinema, neither acting as the character study or spiritual piece it so desires to be. With a duration of nearly two hours, never does this film entice interest, but rather it strays into self indulgent territory, spoon-feeding the audience the emotions of its characters leaving nothing up to the imagination.

Matthew McConaughey plays Arthur, a man who has traveled to Japan to The Sea of Trees, a forest where people go to commit suicide. While in the forest, he encounters Takumi Nakamura, a man who is lost and needs help. Arthur takes a break from taking his own life to aid Takumi, and in the process realizes he desperately wants to escape the forest – a mystical place haunted by spirits, according to Takumi.

Intercut with the male adventure of surviving in the rough is the backstory of Arthur and his wife Joan, played by Naomi Watts. The two actors have zero chemistry, and their bickering scenes are mundane and irritating as Van Sant attempts to demonstrate their rocky marriage. Their tender scenes are also lacking in chemistry, making these flashback scenes feel gratuitous and redundant as the story could have been told merely in the forest.

While Watts and McConaughey are lacking chemistry, McConaughey and Watanabe have slightly more and at one point I was convinced they were going to kiss. Their scenes together were slightly more watchable than the rest of the movie, but overall, with very little invested in this story and its characters, I spent more time trying to catch up on sleep than paying attention to whether any of them live or die.

It’s not the story at fault – in the right hands, this could have been quite a fantastic film. The idea of a forest where people go to commit suicide has much potential, especially when including a spiritual element to it. It could have been treated abstractedly rather than completely literal and melodramatic. The visuals could have been more montage and the score could have been…. well…. just better on so many levels. Especially with such acting talent as McConaughey and Watanabe on board, the unfulfilled potential becomes even more blatant and the film all the more disappointing.

Matthew McConaughey had a good run. It’s just a shame that the end of an era is so anti-climactic.

Valley of Love
Directed by Guillaume Nicloux
Starring Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert

With a contrived premise working against it, Valley of Love manages to withstand the heat due solely to heartfelt performances by Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu.

Long-divorced couple Isabelle and Gérard have reunited to honour their dead son Michael, who has committed suicide after suffering from depression.  Each parent has received a letter from Michael stating that they must together pilgrimage to the scalding hot Death Valley on specific dates, and if they do, he will appear to them.

Desperate for forgiveness and to rid the guilt they feel over Michael’s death, the couple agree to this task, Isabelle more whole-heartedly than Gérard.  Was it perhaps Michael’s intention to reunite his parents through forceful confrontation, or is there indeed something supernatural to his request?  The problem here is that the director alludes to the supernatural, perhaps intertwining it with doubts of heat-induced delerium – this contrived plot is the downfall of this film.  The saving grace is the relationship between Isabelle and Gérard, as well as the performances given by the film’s lead actors.

Both actors are captivating in their sensitive and honest portrayals of a couple with a past, united by their connection of a lost child.  Isabelle is alluring to watch and very true in her performance.  Gérard is even more earnest in his character, seeing Depardieu give a strong and reflective performance, more down to earth than anything he’s done of late.  Perhaps this is a modern career highlight for him.  The dynamic between the two actors and characters is key to the enjoyment of this film.

Contrived plot aside, Valley of Love is certainly a pleasure, due to the characters at its core and the actors who bring them to life.

Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda

Stunning, nostalgic, powerful and divisive, Italian director Paolo Sorrentino has created a dazzling piece of cinema with his latest English language film Youth – a film difficult to review as it must be experienced, not described.

Starring Michael Caine as retired conductor and composer Fred Ballinger and Harvey Keitel as his lifelong friend film director Mick, the film follows the pair who, approaching their eighties, ponder the passage of time. Set in a spa hotel resort in the Swiss Alps, the film is populated with colourful characters including Rachel Weisz as Fred’s daughter, Paul Dano as a serious actor, Jane Fonda as the diva, and Paloma Faith as Paloma Faith. Youth does tend to stray into surrealist territory, with vivid imagery and an indulgent score that often shifts from beautifully bespoke to pop re-purposed.

While some of the press at the 68th Cannes Film Festival, where Youth is screening In Competition, are weary of Sorrentino’s latest effort, one cannot argue against the high calibre performance delivered by Michael Caine. This is the actor’s greatest in many years and will hopefully lead him to garner an Oscar for his turn as the apathetic Fred Ballinger. Much of the action does take place surrounding Fred, as his daughter emotionally reflects on his parenting and husbandly duties in a poetic monologue delivered beautifully by Rachel Weisz, and through many of the peripheral characters and luxurious visuals that encompass Caine’s performance. But Caine is the rock and his performance is anything but apathetic. He is stoic, subtle and more passionate than he has been on screen in my entire lifetime. His performance is touching, engaging and makes Youth as powerful as I found it to be.

In the same vain as Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning The Great Beauty, the stylization of Youth is over-indulgent and a tad pretentious, but gloriously so. There are moments of less-than-perfection, notably in some of Harvey Keitel’s lines as he on occasion struggles to deliver them in a natural fashion as if he were translating them from Italian originally. This is perhaps why Sorrentino’s Italian films receive a better reception, as Sorrentino is the epitome of Italian cinema – in all its glory. But in English, we get Michael Caine, which is well worth the trade off.

In addition to Caine and Keitel is Rachel Weisz, who has featured in two of Cannes 2015’s best with Youth and The Lobster.  The actress comes into her own with this performance as Fred Ballinger’s daughter, assistant to her father and jilted by her husband for pop singer Paloma Faith. Weisz’ heartfelt monologue to her father is a film highlight and provides much of the heart of this film as well as a pivotal point for Fred as he realizes the true relationship between parent and child. In fact, in his later years, Fred doesn’t even remember his own parents, or his childhood. The passage of time changes perception.

Paul Dano is oddly cast as a serious actor who has made one light-hearted film about a robot, but finds it has haunted his entire career, mirroring Fred’s plight as the composer with a serious repertoire, outside of his most acclaimed piece Simple Songs. Again, the film’s supporting roles come into play to support Fred and Mick, and Dano’s actor does just this.

Jane Fonda also has a supporting role as diva movie star Brenda Morel, whose career was launched many years ago by Mick’s films. She returns to visit Mick to warn him off of making his latest film as it will be a certain failure. As Mick ages, he becomes less relevant in cinema, she explains. This is a harsh scene with Fonda stealing every second of it. The irony of her own aging is not lost and while a short but acerbic part, Jane Fonda makes a huge impression.

There is so much to say about this film that it is hard to put into words. It is best seen, or rather, experienced as Sorrentino has perfectly captured the beauty in life, death and age with Youth.

Out of Competition


Mad Max Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road
Directed by George Miller
Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult

Is Mad Max: Fury Road perhaps the best action film ever made?

Thirty years or so after George Miller’s original post-apocalyptic film series hit the big screen, the director has rebooted the franchise with a new Max and a ravenous hunger for action. Tom Hardy is Max. Max is mad, hearing voices as he’s haunted by both the living and the dead. But in spite of being the title character, Max is merely the supporting protagonist of the film, with characters he meets along the way taking both priority and focus in the story, notably Imperator Furiosa played by Charlize Theron in a ferociously brilliant performance.

The film is an intensely visceral B-movie made on a Hollywood budget. The entire premise is a two-hour-long car chase through the post-apocalyptic setting of the Mad Max world, with the bulk of Hardy’s dialogue consisting of grunts rather than words. His character takes a literal backseat to Theron’s Furiosa who has charitably kidnapped the slave wives of overlord Immortan Joe who rules the citadel and a fleet of rabid War Boys, including the crazed Nux somehow played empathetically by Nicholas Hoult. When Immortan Joe realizes Furiosa’s plan, the chase ensues, and it is pure exhilaration from start to finish.

Subtle and nuanced are two words that certainly do not describe Mad Max: Fury Road, but the finer details of the set, cinematography and art design are a beauty to behold. While the action is turned up to eleven, the visuals simultaneously stun as the film feels like a comic book come to life. Camera shots, audio design and overdubbing that would seem to be in error in other films fit perfectly in this over-the-top tongue-in-cheek adventure. Comedic moments including an awkward thumbs up from Max or merely the entire concept of a War Boy going to battle with nothing other than a multi-neck guitar and a speaker system that even Glastonbury Festival would envy make this movie ride even more extreme. The fact that the film is self aware makes it all the more enjoyable.

Mad Max: Fury Road is much more than mad – it is bat shit crazy and the most voracious Hollywood action movie of all time.

Inside Out
Directed by Peter Docter

Starring Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan and Richard Kind

Never has sadness been so joyful.

In Pixar’s latest film Inside Out, emotions rule the mind.  Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust live inside young Riley’s head.  Each emotion takes part in forming the young girl’s personality, and relatably so, this film is very much about the human experience.

11-year-old Riley’s life is sent into turmoil as her happy family relocates from Minnesota to San Francisco for her dad’s new job.  While Riley’s family life plays out on screen, it is really the characters in her head who are the stars of the film.  Joy (Amy Poehler) has always been the leader of the emotional crew, as Riley’s been a child to date, happiness has ruled.  But as Riley gets older and her life uprooted, Sadness (Phyllis Smith) is beginning to have her day.

Sadness begins to turn some of Riley’s joyful memories into less happy ones, ultimately altering the girl’s disposition.  Joy tries to fight the invasion of Sadness by keeping Riley happy at all times, but through a beautiful journey, both Joy and Sadness learn to work together, both realizing their necessity as meaningful aspects of human life.

While Poehler’s innocently optimistic voice brings Joy to life with a strong likability, Smith brings a gloomy sweetness to sadness, making her the most endearing character of the film.  It is no coincidence that Sadness is as charming as she is, as the entire story arc is an examination of the important role that sadness plays in our lives.

While strongly sentimental, Inside Out is not without its humour.  The mechanics of people’s emotions are brilliantly entertaining to watch, with each character getting their own version.  The inner workings of the mind and subconscious are also splendidly designed to be completely palatable even as the abstract concept that this is.  Riley’s subconscious and memories are truly enjoyable to explore, filled with colourful characters and notions.  This is no Herman’s Head, but something much more complex, introspective and heartening.

Joyfully bittersweet, Inside Out explores the wonder of being alive, and makes the audience truly feel as though they are.

The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince)
Directed by Mark Osborne
Starring in English: Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Mackenzie Foy, James Franco, Marion Cotillard, Benicio Del Toro, Ricky Gervais, Riley Osborne and Albert Brooks
Starring in French: Florence Foresti, André Dussollier, Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Guillaume Gallienne, Vincent Lindon and Laurent Lafitte

Director of Kung Fu Panda, Mark Osborne adapts the beloved work of Antoine de Saint Exupéry – The Little Prince, or Le Petit Prince as it’s known in French.  In the same vain as how Antoine’s original story has been translated into many languages throughout the world, so has Osborne’s film, screening in both English and French at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.  In either language, the verdict is the same – The Little Prince is half masterpiece and half Hollywood trite.

The trite in question is the CGI animated story arc of a little girl whose overachieving mother moves her into a house next door to a quirky aviator who tells the girl stories of The Little Prince.  A hackneyed plot device to modernize The Little Prince story for today’s audience, this whole portion of the film seems contrived and bog-standard as far as typical animation style and content goes.

And then there is The Little Prince himself – the masterpiece in question.  Animated beautifully in stop-motion, the story of The Little Prince within The Little Prince is stunning.  Brimming with personality and artful animation, this section of the film is a true ode to Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s original vision.  This is the story of The Little Prince that Osborne should have told, rather than dumbing and watering the concept down for his audience.

This film so nearly could have been as beloved as Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s original story, but sadly the appeal is essentially invisible to the eye.

Special Screenings


Directed by Asif Kapadia
Starring Amy Winehouse

Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary is a devastating look at the British singer’s rise to fame and ultimate demise in 2011 at age 27.

Kapadia has humanized Amy Winehouse more than any other media to date.  He has gained access to a wealth of material from home movies to behind-the-scenes media footage, to paint a very complex picture of the singer.  These videos and photos, many very personal, along with audio interviews of her friends and family, are edited together seamlessly to tell the singer’s story.

It’s not just a linear story, but a very intimate one.  Archival footage of Amy talking to the camera, along with candid shots of her unaware, really allow for the singer’s personality, demons and inner thoughts to shine through on screen.  Kapadia clearly has an opinion of who is to blame for this girl’s troubles, and he makes a very strong case – perhaps why Amy’s father Mitch is distancing himself from this documentary.

Shocking to watch in a linear fashion is Amy Winehouse’s decline from her fresh-faced musical debut to her bulimic, alcoholic and drug addict frame of her later years.  Even more shocking is the behaviour of the people Amy surrounded herself with.  She did have friends who tried desperately to help her, but between her manager, husband and father making demands of her, vulnerable Amy never stood a chance.

Suffering from bulimia since a young age, Amy eventually turned to alcohol to help deal with the pressures of fame, and her lack of a reliable family structure.  In between albums, her drinking became detrimental to her health and career, this is when her friends intervened.  Amy agreed to go to rehab only if her father Mitch said she needed to.  He said she was fine, therefore Amy never went to rehab and her biggest hit song was born.  Sadly, this was likely Amy’s best chance of getting help, and having missed it, it would only be downhill from here.

Eventually Amy met her husband Blake.  He was the drug addict and needed Amy to be one too so she would need him.  He needed her vulnerability to fund his lifestyle.  As most surely know, he eventually ended up in prison and known as “Blake incarcerated”.

When Blake went to prison, Amy did briefly get better.  Her bodyguard took her in as family and swept her away to meet his own in St. Lucia in 2010.  It was here she began to recover and became more like the Amy her friends knew and loved.  But Amy missed Mitch, as she’d always sought the love and approval of her father.  Mitch on the other hand always sought fame and fortune, never choosing to do the best thing for Amy.

It’s a tragedy that the world lost such a young talent in Amy Winehouse.  Between her self-destructive ways and those who surrounded her, the vulnerable North London girl’s fate was practically set in stone.  We can’t be quick to blame her ways or her friends and family – the media spotlight certainly played its part in all of this as well, and aren’t we all responsible for that?

Talented, self-destructive and vulnerable, Amy Winehouse makes a very emotionally exhausting documentary subject in Asif Kapadia’s heartbreakingly tragic Amy.

Out-Of-Festival Events


Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Variety

Variety UN Women HeForShe Panel

Entertainment journal Variety partnered with UN Women’s HeForShe campaign to host a momentous event at Cannes Film Festival on May 16th, 2015.  Speaking on the subject of gender equality within the film industry, the HeForShe panel included actresses Salma Hayek, Parker Posey and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan alongside producers Elizabeth Karlsen and Christine Vachon.  Moderated by Variety’s Co-Editor-In-Chief Claudia Eller and UN Women’s Elizabeth Nyamayaro, the panel spoke frankly and openly about the issues that plague them and their female peers in the industry.

For full coverage of the event, please see our Variety UN Women HeForShe Panel article.


Walt Disney & Disney.Pixar Animation Presentation by John Lasseter

On May 20th, Walt Disney and Disney.Pixar Animation Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter gave a two-hour presentation on the future projects of the animation studios.  Presented at the 68th Cannes Film Festival, Lasseter humorously began by presenting his own brand of Rosé wine, before taking the audience through the studios’ impressive film plans for 2015 and beyond. 

Read the full details of Lasseter’s presentation in our recap.

An Open Secret – Film Screening and Q&A
Directed by Amy Berg

“What you see in the film is literally just the tip of the iceberg,” says executive producer Gabe Hoffman at an out-of-festival screening and Q&A in Cannes.  Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg’s new documentary An Open Secret is “the movie that Hollywood doesn’t want you to see”.  Our film review explains why.

Rock Dog
Directed by Ash Brannon
Starring Eddie Izzard 

I was fortunate enough to join Rock Dog filmmakers Ash Brannon and Eddie Izzard on their yacht.  Here is a sneak preview of my interview:

The Parties

There were so many parties at Cannes Film Festival, with nearly every screening or event hosting its own.  We were fortunate enough to attend a few.

HP Connected Music gig with Ella Eyre
HP Connected Music Showcase featuring Ella Eyre

As a main sponsor of the festival, HP hosted a number of parties including their annual music showcase, this year featuring the up-and-coming Ella Eyre.  Ella performed her songs to an enthusiastic audience, proving why she is a talent to be watched.  With impressive HP technology on display throughout the room, it’s no wonder the company acts as a sponsor to this industry event, and what a bold way to get filmmakers’ attention through the voice of Ella Eyre.

World Trailer Awards Yacht Party
The World Trailer Awards Launch Party

After the successful 16th Annual Golden Trailer Awards on May 6th in Los Angeles, the Golden Trailers producers have introduced a new global competition, The World Trailer Awards, which will debut in London on October 16th, 2015.


Please visit our YouTube channel for our Cannes 2015 video coverage.

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