CANNES HOOPLA? WORTH THE BOTHER?

CANNES HOOPLA

PEOPLE look at you with a certain amount of envy and curiosity when you say you have just returned from Cannes.

You don’t even have to add, film festival.

They often forget it’s still work: writing, chasing people, interviewing, talking, reviewing – there’s little time to relax, even when there’s a glass in your hand, you’re often thinking, is there a story, could there be a story? Are they for real?

there’s little time to relax, even when there’s a glass in your hand, you’re often thinking, is there a story, could there be a story? Are they for real?

You need a certain barometer for BS…because everyone’s got something to sell.

It wasn’t a vintage year by any means, but there were some distinct high points, personal and otherwise.

Shashank Arora - Cast 'Titli'
Shashank Arora – Cast ‘Titli’

Let’s start with the Indians – there were two clear high points for the nation more often than not synonymous with the word, Bollywood in a film context.

But as Indian super film producer Guneet Monga from Sikhya Entertainment said: “Bollywood can’t be the definition of everything we do.”

On the Red Carpet on the very first evening was “Grace of Monaco” backed largely by Indian money.

Yash Raj Films in Los Angeles co-produced the film which stars Nicole Kidman and Tim Roth.

Despite this top notch cast and considerable support (Frank Langella, no less as a wily old Roman Catholic priest and Grace confidant), the western critics were scathing and the Monaco royal family criticised the film and wanted nothing to do with it.

But the movie, which opens this week (June 6) in the UK, is a largely very positive portrait of Grace.

It tries to show how the one-time Hollywood star had to transform herself into a princess and be in some respects, both aloof and disengaged from every-day life in the tiny principality wedged between France and Italy.

It was for all that, a proud moment for Uday Chopra who went to LA to set up YRF from scratch in the Hollywood town.

Uday Chopra
Uday Chopra

“I enrolled on a production course at UCLA and lived out of a hotel for three months,” he told a panel about the making of Grace hosted by the India pavilion.

It was hard, but he loved the challenge and when he took to probably the most famous red carpet of them all, with Kidman by his side, there was a sense of arrival.

The film isn’t as bad as the critics make out; it has on old style Hollywood glamour and tone and many Indian journalists were actually impressed and enjoyed the film. It certainly went down well with the Cannes premiere crowd.

Chopra said Indian women would respond to the film – it is expected to release there mid June.

He is now working with the British-Iranian screenwriter Arash Amel, who wrote Grace, on another film. It will feature a torrid affair between star Ingrid Bergman and famous second World War photographer, Robert Capa.

“We want to make international movies for international audiences,” Chopra said, outlining the strategy for his LA outfit.

There was also much cheer for the Chopra family with a film in the Un Certain Regard section. Only the main competition section is more important.

“Titli” is directed by Kanu Behl and the film is produced by YRF (India) and Dibakar Banerjee Productions. Banerjee is one of India’s most innovative directors working outside of Bollywood and is something of a mentor to the younger Behl (who wrote the 2008 cult hit, Love Sex Aur Dhoka).

Kanu Behl Director Titli
Kanu Behl Director Titli

“Titli” is a gritty, ably told tale about a family in crisis and the relationships binding three brothers and their dad together. The youngest, ‘Titli’, desperately wants to leave the family business – carjacking – but it isn’t as simple as all that, as it is with most families steeped in crime.

It didn’t win any awards in the UCR section (the top award was taken by ‘White God’, a timely allegory about racism in eastern Europe, featuring a young girl and her mongrel dog, Hagen in Budapest).

So India was there building on its anniversary celebrations last year – but one might cynically ask – apart from “The Lunchbox”, which has done some tremendous business ($15m reportedly), few of the other films got a wide release. If films are to make money, they need a wide release – Cannes or not.

Away from the business of films and all that, there were three high points (for this writer).

Sophia Loren, almost 80, was majestic and beautiful and seeing her the masterclass was special, even though the translation loops didn’t make it to my seat.

There was a real Cannes buzz around Ryan Gosling’s first film as a director, “Lost River”, but it was a bit of a disappointment. Getting into the first showing was something of a feat in itself, considering how many febrile American females were piled high in the queues.

And seeing and hearing a very relaxed and genial Quentin Tarantino in his press conference, as he came to close the festival, was quietly thrilling for any fan of his movies.

It shows that despite the many travails, Cannes remains something special and unique and gives as good as it gets.

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