Cannes film festival: What Pete Doherty and Ronan Keating have in common

You wouldn’t normally expect to see Ronan Keating and Pete Doherty mentioned in the same sentence. But then it isn’t every day that the Boyzone star and former Libertine come to Cannes to talk up their film acting debuts.

They’re not in the same movie, that would be too surreal, but in a romantic comedy, Goddess, and a woozy adaptation of Alfred de Musset’s novel Confession of a Child of the Century, respectively.
The latter played in Un Certain Regard, meaning all press got to see Doherty’s (some might say appropriately) somnambulant performance, as a 19th century libertine – see what they did there – and, broadly, write him off as an actor.

Doherty, though, said he enjoyed watching himself on screen when I caught up with the surprisingly healthy looking musician on Monday. A refreshing antidote to the tight-lipped, publicist-controlled automatons that frequently confront journalists, Doherty talked openly and, apparently, honestly about his use of, and liking for, drugs, Amy Winehouse, and his chaotic lifestyle.
The following day, Keating, sitting bathed in the first rays of sun to hit the rain-drenched Riviera resort almost since the film festival started on 16 May, described his decision to cross-over into movies as “nerve-racking”, because the “media are just waiting to knock you”. (Just be good, Ronan, that’s all we ask for.)

He said he had auditioned for Moulin Rouge and King Arthur, but “wasn’t good enough. So I studied, I learnt, and I feel I have worked hard to get to this position to be in the film.”
The Life is a Roller Coaster singer hasn’t abandoned music, and in August will release his first studio album in five-and-a-half years.

Asked where he got his ideas from, he appeared to suggest that he’d been inspired by the turmoil that hit his life when it was revealed in 2010 that he’d had an affair with a backing dancer, leading to the recent split from his wife of 14 years.

“I have had kind of a tough three years, and you can draw a lot from that,” he said.

Indeed, just ask Pete Doherty.

The 65th Cannes Film Festival continues until 27 May.

First published in The Scotsman

Final preparations are made for the 65th Cannes Film Festival. Picture: AP

AS the world’s coolest film festival gets underway today, Stephen Applebaum finds that behind all the glitz and the glamour there lies an institution not to be messed with

THANKS to the internet, we are living in an age of leaks. And it seemed like the security-conscious Cannes Film Festival might have sprung one, when a list of 24 films supposedly selected for this year’s 65th edition appeared on a French website calling itself Blog du Festival de Cannes, nearly three weeks before the official launch of the Competition line-up on 19 April.

It was a tantalising post, designed to get film fans’ juices flowing (and, no doubt, to attract traffic to the website). However, the inclusion of last year’s press-shy Palme d’Or winner, Terence Malick, as well as There Will Be Blood’s Paul Thomas Anderson, with films that most commentators believed wouldn’t actually be finished in time for the 2012 edition of the world’s glitziest – and frequently most vulgar and crazy - collision of cineart and commerce, instantly called its authenticity into question.   

Launching into damage-control mode, festival director Thierry Fremaux pronounced it “all lies” and warned that “Cannes is an institution and must be preserved. There is a code of conduct for Cannes and it must be respected,” he told website, adding darkly: “Those who don’t respect the code will never come back to Cannes.” 

He wasn’t kidding. As Lars von Trier discovered very publicly last year, one of the first rules of participating in Cannes is, don’t embarrass Cannes. After making some ill-advised off-the-cuff remarks about being a Nazi and having sympathy for Hitler when he was holed up in his bunker, at the now infamous press conference for his Competition film, Melancholia, the Danish iconoclast was declared persona non grata, and banned from the festival. Although the furore didn’t stop Kirsten Dunst from winning the award for best actress, the decision to exclude her director sent a powerful message: if one of Cannes’ favourite sons, and a past Palme d’Or winner to boot, can be barred, then no-one is safe.

Indeed, it is not just filmmakers that can provoke the wrath of Cannes’ organisers. Journalists are also bound by strict protocols, the breaking of which can result in one’s festival badge being revoked. These precious pieces of colour-coded plastic, depending on their hue, can make you feel like a king or la merde de la Croisette. Some people have the luxury of sailing fairly smoothly into screenings and Press conferences, while others find themselves in a situation that creates the sensation of cattle being herded to slaughter. (The fact that some films make you wish you could be put out of your misery only adds to the effect.) Consequently, tempers have been known to flare and fists to fly.
Whether there will be any of that this year remains to be seen. On paper, though, there is much in the official line-up with the potential to get passions running high. 

Malick and Anderson, to nobody’s surprise, are not part of the programme. Even so, fans of auteur cinema should be well served by the likes of Wes Anderson, whose Moonrise Kingdom kicks off proceedings tonight; Michael Haneke, whose film Love reunites with him with his daring Piano Teacher star Isabelle Huppert; Leos Carax, whose Holy Motors is his first feature since 1999’s Pola X; and the UK’s own Ken Loach, whose Scotland-set whisky heist movie, The Angels’ Share, is a lighter and less controversial proposition than his last Cannes winner, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, six years ago. No doubt Loach’s detractors on the Right are already preparing their well-rehearsed jibes about champagne socialists hobnobbing with the conspicuously rich on the French Riviera. 

Another festival favourite, David Cronenberg, will pitch up with his hotly anticipated adaptation of Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis, which the trailer suggests is far more recognisably Cronenbergian than his recent Freud/Jung face-off, A Dangerous Method. Some fear it could be dragged down by its star, Robert Pattinson, whose recent performance in Bel Ami failed to convince many critics that there was more to him than Twilight’s Edward Cullen. Perhaps Cronenberg can help him silence the naysayers.

Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand will go toe to toe for the top prize in the shape of The Road director John Hillcoat’s prohibition era thriller, Lawless, and Andrew Dominik’s dark tale of revenge, Killing them Softly, starring Brad Pitt, both of which should be hot tickets.

America’s Lee Daniels returns for the first time since Precious with The Paperboy, which boasts Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Macy Gray among its cast. He will be joined by Jeff Nichols, who follows last year's sidebar placement for Take Shelter with a Competition slot for Mud. Meanwhile, first-time feature director Benh Zeitlin will bring his acclaimed Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, Beasts of the Southern Wild, to Un Certain Regard.

With other Competition entries also including films from the likes of Cristian Mungiu (2007 Palme d’Or winner for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah), Thomas Vinterberg (Festen), and Jacques Audiard (A Prophet), the jury – headed by Nanni Moretti and counting Ewan McGregor, Andrea Arnold, and, surprisingly, Jean Paul Gaultier among its members – could have a tough time choosing the winner.

All will be revealed when the festival wraps on 27 May, after which the world’s media will stumble out of Cannes as if suddenly awoken from a fever dream and head back to reality. For 11 days, however, the small seaside town with hyper-inflated prices will have felt like the only place to be.

• The 65th Cannes Film Festival runs from today until 27 May.

First published in The Scotsman, May 16, 2012

Film review: Moonrise Kindgom

FANS of US auteur Wes Anderson can breathe a sigh of relief. The director’s new film – his first live action feature since 2007’s The Darjeeling Ltd – is bursting with his signature touches, from self-conscious camera movements and highly stylised, colour-coded costumes, to his obsessive use of maps, letters and music and recognisable blend of irony and absurdism.

Critics who accuse Anderson of superficiality, on the other hand, are unlikely to find anything here to change their minds. Moonrise Kingdom has quirky charm to spare, though, as it charts the experiences of two runaway 12-year-olds in love, on an island off the coast of New England in 1965, and the impact on the adults who set out to reassert their authority over them.

Bob Balaban pops up as a red-coated narrator to tell us that in three days’ time, a storm will hit the island. Anderson duly delivers, in a frenetic climax that sees Bruce Willis revert to action-hero type, as he climbs a tower to rescue the children.

Not only is he saving them from the storm, but from Tilda Swinton’s Social Services.
Tall and imposing, the eccentric British actress arrives dressed in a blue cape and matching trousers and jacket, threatening to take the children away. This is Swinton’s first time working with Anderson, and she attacks her role with relish.

Elsewhere, familiar faces from the director’s past films include Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman.
However, it is youngsters Jared Gilman, as a boy scout on the run, and Kara Hayward, as his angst-ridden girlfriend, who give the film’s visual inventiveness heart and soul, even when the action becomes frenetic and unfocused.

Anderson’s souffle provided a frothy opening to the 65th Cannes Film Festival, but the tone is expected to darken considerably when competition titles from Michael Haneke, John Hillcoat and Lee Daniels, among others, hit the screen.

Cannes Film Festival


First published in The Scotsman

Harry lingers like bad spell

STEPHEN APPLEBAUM, The West Australian, May 17, 2012

Harry lingers like bad spell
Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman in Black. Picture: Roadshow.

The first time I saw Daniel Radcliffe, he was a wide-eyed 11-year-old at a press conference for the first Harry Potter film. Eight excursions into J.K. Rowling's world of wizards and muggles later, he has emerged from the franchise a young man, ready to move on to other projects. But are cinemagoers prepared for a post-Potter Radcliffe, or will he be forever stuck in the hallways of Hogwarts in people's minds?

On stage, in London and on Broadway, he convinced critics that he has more to offer (I'm not referring to his full-frontal nude scene) with his powerful performance as a teenager who blinds horses, in a production of Peter Shaffer's controversial psychosexual drama, Equus.
If the American notices for his recent all-singing, all-dancing turn in the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying were more warmly encouraging than rave, most reviewers at least agreed that his desire to stretch himself was admirable. The question is: can he now sell himself to film audiences as something other than Harry?

His first outing - a brilliantly executed spin on Susan Hill's chilling ghost story, The Woman in Black, from Britain's newly revived Hammer studio - hasn't persuaded everyone, despite strong box-office takings in the UK and US.

But only churlish viewers would deny that he brings gravitas and darkness to his portrayal of widowed father Arthur Kipps.

Radcliffe is well aware he still has people to win over. However, meeting him in the flesh, you realise just how good a job he does in the film. On the brink of suicide when we first encounter him, it is as if bereavement has turned Kipps, a lawyer, into a living dead man.

"What was universal in all the people I talked to about loss, and about serious depression, was just how physically tired you are," Radcliffe says. "So that's where I started with Arthur, in a place of deep physical fatigue."

The film's director, James Watkins (Eden Lake), wanted him to move slowly and evoke a sense of stillness, requiring the actor to temper the "excitable energy" that he says, laughingly, has got him through life. "That's my thing. But James was very keen to deaden that."

Kipps hasn't been able to move on from his wife's death, and his battle with the ghostly Woman in Black - a kind of angel of death wreaking havoc on the children of a small English village - is essentially a battle for closure, for both of them. It could almost be a metaphor for Radcliffe's own bid to move on from Potter - something he believes would have been tougher were it not for Equus, and the way his performance was received.

"I have days when I go 'Am I going to be able to separate myself in a legitimate, credible way from Harry?'" he says. "Then I think 'God, but how much harder it would have been if I was starting to try that now'."

He has come to believe that Equus is the most important thing he has ever done. "It made people sit up and go 'Oh, he's interested in and willing to take risks, and he's committed'. Even directors who didn't see it . . . it has made a huge difference to how they saw me."

With a reported personal fortune of around $84 million, Radcliffe, 22, need never work again. Instead, though, he talks excitedly about the freedom that the money - "which is weird because I don't know what to do with it, and nobody does, and nobody would" - gives him to try "interesting projects". It means he can afford to risk falling on his backside because he doesn't have to worry financially, "which is the greatest liberation".

The most impressive thing about Radcliffe, arguably, is just how well adjusted and grounded he appears to be.

The money and fame could easily have turned him into a spoilt monster, but he is polite and chatty, and doesn't yet show signs of being jaded. He has earned himself a reputation as a hard worker and is very self-critical, which, he admits, can sometimes be a problem. "There is a thin line between self-critical and self-hating, and I go back and forth," he says candidly.

Last year he revealed how he had become "reliant on alcohol" - he no longer drinks - while filming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2009. Today, he finds watching the film, the sixth in the series, difficult. "I look back at it and go 'That is the performance of a complacent, lazy actor'," he says. "I see myself as not having given everything. I was unhappy in my own life and that comes across on film."

Really? "Maybe other people don't see it because they weren't there but I can't watch that film without going 'No, you should've been better than that. It's a missed opportunity.'"
He is more relaxed about his fame, something he ascribes to having had six years to ease himself into it surrounded by the same people, rather than having it suddenly thrust upon him like what happened to Robert Pattinson after the first Twilight film.

"People compare us a lot and I say 'No, Rob actually had it a lot harder'." Radcliffe says. "To suddenly get huge fame at that age is totally different from getting it at the age of 11 and having time to prepare yourself for the idea of growing up into it. I can't imagine that."

Far from complaining about his celebrity, he confesses to getting a kick out of the attention it gets him from girls. When Japanese fans faint, as they've been known to do, "You just go 'How weird is my life. That's hilarious,'" he chuckles. When he waved back at a pretty girl in the audience for How to Succeed and she went "mental", he loved it. "I may, at best, have that for another 10 years. So while you can do that, you should enjoy it. I know I'm nothing special. But she thinks I am, and that's funny."

What does his partner, Rosie Coker, think about this? "She finds it funny too, thankfully. She knows I'm a big flirt."

A tolerant girlfriend, a pile in the bank - Daniel Radcliffe's life really is magic.

First published in The West Australian, May 17, 2012