The Story Behind Cannes 2010

Another year, another Cannes opens and closes... and, in a cute irony, there was actually a film playing called Another Year .

Total Film crawled the length of the Croisette to bring you the lowdown on the Fest's raves and raving-mad moments.

The Cannes team is now cream-crackered and taking a well-earned rest, but there's still time to look back on 12 days of the world's greatest carnivale du cinema...

Day One – Wed 12th May

Cannes wouldn’t be Cannes these days without a big premiere to kick things off, and 2010 was no exception.

Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood provided the necessary splash, with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett looking a lot more glamorous on the red carpet than on-screen. But was it a case of hitting the bullseye straight away?

Sadly not, as Total Film felt so Rob ’d that we shot the film down with a 2-star review .

Maybe that's the reason Crowe refused to play ball with our request for a red carpet interview...

Speaking of red carpets, juror Kate Beckinsale made the first of many eye-popping appearances wearing a baffling dress and beehive do that caused one commentator to carp:

"It looks as if a baby chick has hatched and hitched a lift in all those ruffles and feathers."

With the focus on generating media buzz, only one film in the official competition slipped out: Bond villain Mathieu Amalric's Tournée ( On Tour ), an indulgent but entertaining road-movie about a troupe of American showgirls on tour in Paris.

Next: Day Two - Thurs 13th May [page-break]

Day Two – Thurs 13th May

After a relatively easy start, the Cannes merry-go-round started to swing in earnest with a glut of screenings, both within and outside the competition.

In the former category, the first two films of what some called the Festival's ‘Asian invasion’: bleak Chinese drama Chongqing Blues and South Korea’s mildly unsettling K-thriller The Housemaid .

Both were solid enough, although neither was deemed spectacular - an assessment you're going to see a lot more of in this feature...

The strangest stories came in Un Certain Regard, where spritely Manoel de Oliveira (a mere 101 years old) showcased his latest, The Strange Case of Angelica.

Meanwhile, Italian documentary maker Sabina Guzzanti conflated Berlusconi with vampires in Draquila – Italy Trembles , providing the Festival's first salvo of controversy.

Total Film saw neither of these. The team were too busy cavorting with Zombie Girls on the beach. When in Cannes…

Next: Day Three - Fri 14th May [page-break]

Day Three – Fri 14th May

No Competition entries today, with attention focused instead on a couple of much-touted out-of-competition premieres.

First up, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps , the long-anticipated sequel to his era-defining study of the goodness of greed.

An exuberant Michael Douglas clearly relished the opportunity to get back into Gordon Gekko's tailored suits, but a young, hungry cast (Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin) wasn't about to be upstaged.

The film, like its predecessor, divided critics, with Stone’s strident melodrama often getting in the way of cogent analysis of financial meltdown. But most were at least entertained.

That’s more than be said for Hideo Nakata’s disappointing Chatroom . While all media eyes were on its up-and-coming cast led by Kick-Ass Nowhere Boy himself, Aaron Johnson, the film’s unsubtle, outdated look at the perils of social networking left critics shrugging.

Drawing best reviews was Christi Puiu’s three-hour Aurora, the follow-up to The Death of Mr Lazarescu. It's likely to be yet another hit in the Romanian New Wave... so why wasn’t it playing in competition?

Next: Day Four - Sat 15th May [page-break]

Day Four – Sat 15th May

Last year, critics relished an auteur smackdown, with heavyweights Tarantino, Haneke and Von Trier in contention.

Today offered a milder version of the same – an auteur snack-down, perhaps? - as laidback, whimsical legends Mike Leigh and Woody Allen both brought London-set films to the Croisette.

Leigh’s Another Year was the first unanimous hit of the festival: an acutely observed, bittersweet study of the steadfast marriage between Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, and the emotional fall-out of depressed best mate Lesley Manville.

In essence, as the title suggests, it’s fairly interchangeable with much of Leigh’s past work, but therein lay its pleasure too.

Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger , playing out of competition, gave us the chance to play that well-known annual parlour game, “is this Allen’s return to form?”

On this evidence, probably not, the consensus being that it was a daft divertissement , nothing more.

Next: Day Five - Sun 16th May [page-break]

Day Five – Sun 16th May

There’s no rest at Cannes... Sunday ramped up the action with some of the more excitingly named titles playing at the Festival – A Screaming Man , Outrage and Kaboom!

The former sounds like a catch-all title for the Coen Brothers’ oeuvre, but turned out to be a quietly compelling drama from Chad about a father forced to turn his son over to a rebel army.

As it turned out, the film straddled the Festival’s two clearest tropes – father/son issues and stark moral dilemmas – but critics seemed in agreement that, in its low-key way, it nailed both.

No such calm with Outrage , a film seemingly hell-bent on garnering the Ronseal award of the Festival. The great Takeshi Kitano’s return to his Yakuza roots, Outrage did its best to outrage with gallons of blood via hackings and shootings.

But Cannes audiences, usually the first to rise up in protest at extreme violence, seemed to be suffering too much ennui this year to bother getting upset. The only person outraged, perhaps, was Takeshi himself.

Also returning to his roots was Gregg Araki, whose Kaboom! (part of Un Certain Regard) swapped the arthouse prestige of Beautiful Skin for the anything-goes savage camp of his early films.

A lot of fun, and a cult classic in the making, but the jury was instead forced to watch torpid period piece The Princess Of Montpensier . C’est la vie.

Next: Day Six - Mon 17th May [page-break]

Day Six – Mon 17th May

In Cannes’ topsy-turvy world, Monday – when the world is back at work – was a relatively quiet day, dominated by Biutiful , Alejandro González Iñárritu's first full Spanish-language feature since Amores Perros .

It's an edgy and restless crime-flick in the trademark Iñárritu manner, but arguably too linear to truly excite a director who prefers to bound through time and space.

Most agreed that the film was held together only by a staggering, soul-sick lead performance by Javier Bardem – surely becoming a contender for best actor of his generation?

Next: Day Seven - Tues 18th May [page-break]

Day Seven – Tues 18th

Ah, this is more like it. A big day, presided over by some big names: Stephen Frears, Abbas Kiarostami... and Cheryl Cole.

The latter made a splash at a party held by jewellery brand Grisogono, for whom she pocketed a cool quarter-million pounds for playing a half-hour set.

At least she showed up. To the consternation of critics, Nouvelle Vague legend Jean-Luc Godard kept true to the Vague part by a) refusing to promote what is expected to be his last film and b) by making that film a baffling riddle-wrapped-in-an-enigma type of movie.

A lesson to would-be agent provocateurs everywhere: if you really want to rile Cannes, be an obtuse old git.

Total Film didn’t manage to catch the controversy (or Cole's performance, sadly)... Too busy watching Frears’ sweet/sour Tamara Drewe , a wry black comedy about romping rural folk that confirms there’s more to Gemma Arterton than swords-and-sandals blockbuster duty.

Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami was also speaking English with Certified Copy, a low-key, stolid intellectual romance. Aside from Juliette Binoche’s bewitching performances, critics were quick to wonder if Kiarostami had strayed too far from his comfort zone.

English-language debuts are a common Cannes problem – remember Wong Kar-Wai’s My Blueberry Nights a few years ago?

Pick of the day was Of Gods And Men , an engrossing – if never truly enthralling – true-life tale of monks under siege from Islamic fundamentalists.

It summed up the mood of the place: if this is one of the best of the Fest, then perhaps Cannes 2010 isn’t a vintage.

Next: Day Eight - Wed 19th May [page-break]

Day Eight – Wed 19th

Mick Jagger charmed Cannes after he flew into town to promote new doc Stones in Exile about the making of classic 1972 album Exile on Main Street .

For once, it was a fitting location for a junket, as said exile took place not far along the French coast. Looking back, Jagger quipped, "We were young, good-looking and stupid; now we're just stupid."

That's also how critics felt trying to makes sense of an increasingly congested fixture list, as film after film piled into consideration.

There was so much to do that Total Film didn’t make it into first screenings of Ken Loach’s Route Irish , a late-to-competiton entry showing in the smallest screening room available.

Catching up with it a few days’ later, it was hard to disagree with the widespread view that this was a solid but not spectacular offering from Loach for a solid but not spectacular Cannes.

The same goes for two more Competition contenders, My Joy and Poetry , neither exactly a barrel of laughs – although Poetry’s charming lead performance from Yun Junghee helped to liven the downbeat mood.

Better by far was Sundance hit Blue Valentine , an American indie playing in Un Certain Regard.

A brilliant forensic examination of a relationship from courtship to collapse, it confirmed Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as two of the finest actors of their generation.

Again, perplexed audiences wondered why films of this standard weren’t readily available in the official competition...

Next: Day Nine - Thurs 20th May [page-break]

Day Nine – Thurs 20th May

A diplomatic incident invoving an American. No, we're not talking about Doug Liman's Fair Game , the only U.S. movie plays for Palme D’Or contention.

We're talking about Lindsay Lohan, who announced she'd lost her passport - presumably while partying hard - and so was unable to fly back to the States for a probation hearing for prior party-hard misdemenours.

On the plus side, it meant LiLo could continue to party hard in Cannes.

As for Fair Game , Liman was back on form after Jumper with a smart, solid (if not spectacular – see a pattern emerging?) dramatisation of the outing of covert CIA op Valerie Plame as payback for anti-war articles by diplomat husband Joe Wilson.

Yet another reteaming for Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, but that’s no bad thing – the ever-reliable pair pushing Fair Game to a notch above most Hollywood thrillers. And not too shabby by the standards of this year’s Cannes, either.

More true-life thrills came with Oliver Assayas' Carlos , a biopic of infamous terrorist Carlos the Jackal. Another lauded out-of-comp screening, but at five hours long there just weren’t enough hours in the day for Total Film.

Instead, the team took their chances with La Nostra Vita , an Italian thriller about a dad struggling to make a decent living for his son. Think Bicycle Thieves with added dodgy dealings.

While full of enough energy to propel it above the generic storyline, it begged an important question:

Did all the directors get together beforehand to agree to make more or less the same film?

And finally, there was still time for the first prize of the Festival, as international critics awarded the Critics Week's Grand Prize to Janus Metz's Danish war documentary Armadillo .

Amazing they found the time to watch it, really.

Next: Day Ten - Fri 21st May [page-break]

Day Ten - Fri 21st May

With only a few days left, many were wondering if Cannes 2010 would offer any real surprises.

And then Total Film saw the hypnotic, deeply strange Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives from Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul, a film with shadowy, shaggy, red-eyed creatures in forest and a woman making love to a catfish.

Yes, really.

It was one of two impressive late shows in the official Competition, alongside Outside Of The Law , another sharp French-Algerian thriller from Days of Glory director Rachid Bouchareb.

Charting the birth of Algerian nationalist movement the NLF, it's a taut suspenser in the post-Melville manner (men in hats, lots of lurking in the shadows) but the real thrills were found in the sparkling sunlight of the Croisette.

With Algerian independence still a sticky subject for some in France, security was ramped up as protestors railed against the film's perceived anti-French slant.

The scandal was such that the powers-that-be confiscated Total Film's deadly breakfast-screening weapon: a banana.

Next: Day Eleven - Sat 22nd May [page-break]

Day Eleven - Sat 22nd May

Something of a wind-down, with only a smattering of Palme D'or pretenders left to see.

Total Film elected not to see Burnt By The Sun 2 , already scolded by a terrible reception in Russia - which just goes to show that even arthouse sequels struggle to impress.

But the alternative, the intriguing Hungarian film Tender Son – The Frankenstein Project , failed to impress either. Yet another father/son study, but one with only glacial pacing, dull shocks and the most tenuous, pretentious connection to the Frankenstein story.

Festival closer The Tree was a better attempt to infuse realism with weirdness, as widow Charlotte Gainsbourough is haunted (or is she?) by the spirit of her late husband, who lives in... yes, you guessed it... a tree. We're calling it the arthouse Poltergeist .

But, more importantly, who won the annual Palme Dog prize, for the best pooch performer across the Festival? This year, the honour went to Albert the boxer aka Boss in Tamara Drewe .

All that remained was the burning question of whether jury president Tim Burton, no stranger to movies about lost sons seeking father figures ( Edward Scissorhands , Big Fish , even his take on Willy Wonka) find his ideal amongst the Competition's many parenting sagas?

Or would he talk his fellow jurors into voting for the weirdest film on show?

Next: Day Twelve - Sun 23rd May [page-break]

Day Twelve - Sun 23rd May

Prize time - and, after the relative disappointment of the Festival as a whole, even the glittering celebs couldn't add sparkle to a ceremony dominated by messages of solidarity for jailed Iranian director Jafar Panahi.

Accused of making an anti-government film, Panahi was banned from attending the Festival and had gone on hunger strike in protest.

Happily, he's since been released on bail.

As for the prizes, Apichatpong Weerasethakul was a deserving winner - Thailand's first - of the Palme D'Or for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

(Which, incidentally, Total Film tipped as the winner (opens in new tab) a whole month before it was announced. Consider our trumpet well and truly blown.)

In a truly global selection, other big prizes went to French-made but Algerian-set Of Gods and Men , and Chad's A Screaming Man .

Style icons Juliette Binoche and Javier Bardem kept the paps happy by winning the acting awards, although the latter shared his with La Nostra Vita 's Elio Germano.

The only major shock was the snub for Mike Leigh's much-admired Another Year , although to be fair he already has a Palme D'Or and Best Director award on his mantlepiece, for Secrets and Lies and Naked , respectively.

Overall, though, it's the name of Leigh's latest that encapsulated a Festival which, for better or worse, was pretty much par for the course.

There were films (bad, good and infrequently amazing).

There was a smattering of politics and controversy.

And there was gossip and glamour on the red carpet.

And, with that, Cannes 2010 really is Another Year .

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