No Cannes Do – Again!

The Arts


In ‘Film Freak’ I lead off a chapter about the Cannes Film Festival with this sentence;

‘Every Cannes Film Festival is announced with the same pair of newspaper headlines. If it’s going to be a good year, the line is ‘In The Cannes’. If it’s bad, it’s ‘No Cannes Do’. ‘

Well, ‘No Cannes Do’ is the headline first out of the gate this year over at The Independent, which has just realised that there are no British films at all in the Cannes lineup this year. This is because, once again, the British film industry is described like this by them;

‘Britain has been failing to produce quality film-makers making high-end, prestige films. It’s part of the industry that’s on a life-support machine. The worry is not so much the failure this year of British film-makers to be in competition, but that the only working British film-makers to make regular appearances at Cannes are Ken Loach, Stephen Frears, Mike Leigh, Terry Gilliam and, to a certain extent, Michael Winterbottom. A whole generation of film-makers has come and gone without establishing themselves on the festival circuit.’

They’ve not established themselves on any other circuit, either. I don’t think Winterbottom’s ‘The Look of Love’ will work well, mainly because he doesn’t seem to realise that his favourite actor, Steve Coogan, always comes over as either a/unlikeable or b/Alan Partridge or c/ both. Clever rarely equates to sympathetic, and ultimately film is a popular medium with the festival circuit as an academic sidebar.

Yet there have been good popular British films in the last couple of years. My choice:

1. Kill List

Ben Wheatley divided audiences but I bought into the grisly hitman plot and loved the outrageous ending, which made perfect sense to me (maybe that says something about my twisted mind).

2. Sightseers

From the same director in a limited gene pool, it came over as a cross between ‘Nuts In May’ and ‘True Romance’. Its leads were too unlikeable to make much of a dent at the box office, but I loved Tina trying to write a serious note with a three foot pencil.

3. Monsters

Terrible title, brilliant film. This utterly astonishing road-trip SF from Gareth Edwards is a game-changing movie made on a tiny budget – not that it ever looks cheap. Edwards knocked out the FX in his bedroom. Now he’s been handed something like £200m to reboot Godzilla – that’s what happens to good UK directors, they get stolen by Hollywood and destroyed.

4. The Raid

Another Welsh lad, Gareth Evans, created this visceral rip-roaring building-invasion action movie in a micro-budget. It underwent an awkward title change in the US and fizzled, but Evans will be back – a talent like this can’t go to waste.

5. Moon

David Bowie’s son Duncan Jones directed this superb SF thriller, the only SF two-hander I can think of apart from ‘Enemy Mine’, by turns eerie and moving, which proved you could put thrilling performances into a genre title.

6. The Glass Man

Still shamefully unreleased in the UK, Andy Nyman’s palm-sweating performance as a man coming apart at the seams as he deals with his trophy wife and a deranged hit man should have made it a must-see movie. The twist in the tail is terrific, and the night streets of London were never more atmospheric. Nobody seems to have picked it up, even for DVD – why?.

One comment on “No Cannes Do – Again!”

  1. snowy says:

    I have yet to get into BenW’s long form work. I saw Down Terrace and found it a bit too dull, even though I used to enjoy the shorts he was making in the early 2000’s. But there is a copy of ‘Kill List’ in the “to be watched” pile, so I’ve not given up yet.

    Monsters was technically deft, but I found the plot a tiny bit thin. Fun enough to watch, but probably not going to sustain a re-watch.

    [Waiting for The Raid to cross my path, but looking forward to it.]

    Moon was rather startling, and a real head twister, sadly once you know the plot, you can never recapture the emotion again. Much the same with his next film ‘Source Code’. Next of the block is a Ian Fleming bio-pic which might be interesting. Or could be a bit dull, depending on which period they focus on. And then there is the much touted Hollywood video game adaptation! which I fear is not going to go well. But if he gets a decent wage it might give him the time and space to go back to more interesting things.

    I thought I’d never heard of ‘The Glass Man’, but a little research reveals that I had heard Andy Nyman talk about it 18 or so months ago. It seems to have never got distribution, beyond the festival circuit. And is currently stuck in limbo, perhaps people are nervous about putting money into a film about a victim of the credit crunch while it is still going on.

    ‘Stuck’, somewhat similarly themed [in the setup at least], seemed to find some sort of audience eventually.

    And quirky little films do sometime squeak through, despite very mixed reviews like ‘Freeze Frame’, an odd little twist on the ‘surveilence society’.

    (Even those with with the most extremely niche tastes for lift/elevator based horror/thrillers, are catered for with ‘Black Out’ [2008] and ‘Devil’ [2010].)

    As to Cannes, it is a mystery why it carries on, all the real functions it used to have, have been long superceded. And it just shambles on like a sort of ‘Super-Zombie’ that is just to big for anyone to stop.

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