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Over the next two weeks, the beautiful French Riviera shall play host to one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals, as Cannes opens its doors to Hollywood’s elite once more.
From what was formed initially as opposition and competition to the Venice Film Festival in the 30s, Cannes has developed into a substantial beacon of influence within the film industry. The festival has become important for both art and cinema, whereby mainstream film-making conventions take a back seat and a greater appreciation for film as an art form gains greater recognition.
Cannes’ highest accolade pits 18 of the finest directors from around the world, who will all be vying for the highly sought after Palme d’Or award. On this year’s list, two British directing heavyweights, Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, shall form stern competition. Leigh’s interesting biopic of the landscape artist JMW Turner played by Tim Spawl, Mr. Turner, will go head-to-head against Loach’s final ever feature film, Jimmy’s Hall which will portray Irish political activist Jimmy Gralton and the troubles he faced with deportation. Both are past winners of the golden palm in 1996 and 2006 respectively, and if either win they’d in turn become the seventh and only British multiple winner of the esteemed award.
Another biographic film featuring on the list is Foxcatcher, starring Channing Tatum as he personally searches for a Matthew McConaughey-like career transition from rom-com specialist to acclaimed actor. The film depicts the gripping tale of the American wrestling Schultz brothers focusing on the younger brother Mark’s dramatic relationship with an eccentric, overly competitive coach – played by Steve Carrell. Other notable films that have made the reputed shortlist include the western Homesman which Tommy Lee Jones directs and appears in, as well as Maps to the Stars a satirical film based on the archetypical Hollywood life, with Robert Pattison as its lead. With over ten of the eighteen directors sharing different nationalities, it is fair to say there is a vast representation of all kinds of cultures, visions and styles on display.
While the Palme d’Or is lauded as the festival’s top prize, it is important to mention that Cannes pays homage to young innovative talent too. Giving budding directors the opportunity to establish themselves on the grandest stage is testament to the festivals celebration of contemporary film from all generations. In the Un Certain Regard section, heartthrob Ryan Gosling cuts his directorial teeth by introducing the curious ‘Lost River’ to audiences. Judging by recent pictures and reports, the film looks an intriguing, edgy trip into a fantasy world and gives a possible peak inside the diverse mind of the man behind the camera.
Whilst the festival may not be a great indicator of a film’s future Oscar credentials – only one film has ever won both the best film Oscar and the Palme d’Or – last year’s festival premiered a few which gained the Academy’s praise. Inside Llewyn Davies, Nebraska and The Great Gatsby – the opener of last year’s festival – all made the progression from Cannes to the Academy Award nominations. Clear evidence that those premiering probably will have some part to play in Los Angeles next year – giving us all a sneak preview of what’s to come.
Cannes’ off-screen activities have at times preceded the event, as the celebrity parade of extravagant after-parties, yachts and general decadence descend upon the south of France. But behind the glitz and glamour of Cannes we have here a film festival with real substance, one which undresses some of the industry’s artificial frailties, allowing directors to throw caution to the wind and fulfil their artistic license to produce challenging, seminal work.