Chantons sous la pluie anyone?
This may be on course to become the wettest Cannes since records began. Spare a thought for those poor topless starlets all soggy and shivering this year. Anyway, to the much more important matter of the films. Trust Michael Haneke to raise the quality level in a pretty lacklustre Competition section thus far. Haneke won the Palme d'Or three years ago for The White Ribbon and must be in contention again with L'Amour/Love, a gruelling tale of the frailities and indignities of old age. The great Jean-Louis Trintignant (The Conformist etc) co-stars with the wonderful Emmanuelle Riva as an elderly couple in Paris. They are retired music teachers in their eighties and clearly have given each other a lifetime of devotion. When she suffers a stroke the bonds of their love are tested almost beyond endurance. Paralysed down one side, she is no longer able to walk, feed herself or manage all the things that the young and able-bodied take for granted. As she deteriorates, he chooses to become her principle carer during what becomes a humiliating and distressing decline. You will have gathered that this is not exactly a fun evening in the cinema. This is On Golden Pond without the sugar-coating and a much more honest reflection of old age than The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. In its favour the two actors are astonishingly good, investing their roles with tenderness and grace. It would take a hard heart not to be moved by Love.
The Competition titles have not been without their disappointments. Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone heads completely off the rails with Reality, a whimsical, unfocused satire in which a Naples fish seller becomes obsessed with his chances of being chosen as a Big Brother contestant. Abbas Kiarostami's flimsy Like Someone in Love feels like his idea of a Ray Cooney farce set in Japan and sorely testing the patience of even the most sympathetic viewer. Cristian Mungiu's long-awaited follow-up to 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days is Beyond the Hills. It is equally slow and stark and fails to match the impact of his earlier film as it explores a young girl's experiences at the hands of a devout and unforgiving religious community at a distant monastery. Even Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt has some serious flaws despite a strong performance from Mads Mikkelsen as a kindergarten teacher who is falsely accused of molesting a young girl. The accusations are taken at face value by his friends and community turning his life into a living hell. Not entirely believable and far from subtle The Hunt is outshone by last year's fine French movie Coupable which covers similar territory with much greater impact.
Lawless at least is entertaining as it tells the story of the Bondurant brothers, notorious bootleggers in the Virginia of the Prohibition era. Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf head an impressive cast in an extremely violent tale that is overbalanced by a jawdroppingly hammy performance from Guy Pearce as a corrupt lawman. Pearce looks like he is trying out to be the next Hannibal Lecter or is determined to show us what his version of The Joker might have been like. It is a showstopping turn but one that seems to belong in a very different film.
Away from the competition there have been some treats including The Sapphires, a little Australian crowd-pleaser based on the true story of an all-girl Aboriginal singing group that entertained the troops in Vietnam. Chris O'Dowd gives a lovely, warm-hearted performance as their chancer of a manager.
If you are a regular reader then I should tell you that Xavier Dolan's Laurence, Anyways is as spectacularly unruly and self-indulgent as you might expect but there's also something very striking about it as it follows ten years in the life of a couple whose love is severely challenged by the man (Melvil Poupaud) and his decision to start living as a woman. Finally, if you wondered what Allison thought of The Wee Man I suspect she might have thought The Wee Wee Man was a better title for this violent, foul-mouthed tale. Finally, please send us some Scottish sunshine if you have any to spare.
Co-director, Glasgow Film Festival