Declaration of War - Image courtesy of Wild Bunch
BEST IN FILM
The year’s festival lineup — sensational though it was — leant towards the somber side of cinematic expression. Even in an audience of stone-faced, hard-nosed journalists, the occasional muffled sob escaped into the air. From the disturbing family dynamics masterfully unfurled by Scottish director Lynne Ramsay in her Palme d’Or nominated feature We Need to Talk About Kevin (based on Lionel Shriver’s 2003 novel of the same title), starring Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller and John C. Reilly to the tear pulling teenage love story played out by Hollywood’s bright young talents Henry Hopper (one to watch) and Mia Wasikowska (one your already watching) in Restless — the latest from indie auteur and Academy Award Nominee, Gus Van Sant, the 64th Festival de Cannes could easily have been endorsed by Kleenex tissue paper. By my second film, my bag was well-stocked with travel sized packets.
Of the emotion-laden features I sniffled my way through, it was Critics’ Week’s opening film, Declaration of War, the cleaver and sincere feature by French actress/writer/director Valerie Donzelli, that I discovered to hold this viewer’s attention as tightly as it grasped her heartstrings. Inspired by the real life experiences of the director and her ex-partner, Jeremie Elkaim, who co-wrote and stars opposite Donzelli in the film, Declaration of War is a beautiful love story that transition into the harrowing tale of two parents’ wrestling with the realities of their life and relationship after their baby son is diagnosed with brain cancer.
“When we live with so much intensity, you want to make a movie about it,” says Donzelli of the experience she shared with Elkaim. Speaking on the roof top terrace of the JW Marriot (formerly the Hotel Palais Stephanie), both the Donzelli and Elkaim are evidently ardently attached to this project, and were committed from start to finish, to creating a drama that was infused with a brightness to it, and not weighed down by unhappy emotion, easily done when working with such loaded content. “There are some films, that when you watch, you feel you’ve been emotionally manipulated and we didn’t want to do that, says Elkaim. For the pair, this is a happy story, as the director sums it up, “the film is first a love story.”
A disease drama anchored in the resounding passion shared between Donzelli and Elkaim, the film is an earnest expression of helplessness against their child’s illness, frustration with the bureaucracy of the hospital system, and both the strength and fragility of their bond.
Of all the star-studded soirees at this year’s festival, the enormous white beachside tent erected by Calvin Klein (Calvin Klein Collection and Euphoria Calvin Klein) and the Independent Filmmakers Project on the waterfront of the Hotel Martinez (known as Z Plage Vitamin Water during the festival), stood out as the meeting place for the brilliant, the beautiful and the jolly. The event — held in honour of the outstanding women at this year’s Festival de Cannes — saw a procession of impressive Hollywood ladies stride into the party including Uma Thurman, ever the embodiment of silver screen grace in a simple black floor length gown; a smiley Clémence Poésy, looking cute in grey blocked, white shift dress; and the buzz-around-Cannes herself, actress and new face Jessica Chastain, the female lead in the Terrence Malick’s latest film Tree of Life, co-starring Brad Pitt and winner of this year’s festival’s Palme d’Or.
Image courtesy of Calvin Klein Collection
When not standing in awe of the beauty on display — absolutely impossible not to do with the ethereal Diana Kruger popping by in a cascading gold gown from the Calvin Klein Collection and supermodels Lara Stone and Natalia Vodianova (like Kruger, both also faces for Calvin Klein) weaving through the well-heeled revelers — one might stand at the bar and watch the dance floor (not a spot free till the party’s close) from the bar alongside young Aussie actress Emily Browning, who stirred up controversy at the festival with her role in Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty, and up and coming British actor Max Irons, the former Burberry model most recently seen in Red Riding Hood opposite Amanda Seyfried.
BEST MUSICAL PERFORMANCE
This one is a toss up. For its pure explosion of adrenaline and the mass enjoyment (i.e. no golden ticket needed) ensued from said explosion, Lady Gaga’s short performance on the beach of the Hotel Martinez may have doubled the palpitations of more fans’ hearts than Kanye’s extended stage show at the exclusive Red Granite Pictures party up the La Croisette a few nights later.
As for the performers’ respective looks, where Lady Gaga looked ferocious behind her heavy noir cat eyes, Kanye appeared ever the reserved gentleman, dressed in an all white suit paired with a deep white T — oh so very French of him.
Channeling Cruella de Vil (see picture), the reigning queen of pop threw the crowd of devoted Little Monsters — piling over onto the street — into a thundering tizzy when she began singing “Judas,” the new single off her recently released album, Born This Way. Enthusiastic though guests at Red Granite were — plenty of loosened black ties celebrating the company’s expansion into the international market helmed by Danny Dimbort, formerly of Millennium/Nu Image — the champagne fueled excitement of this big kids dance party (where celebs including one Leonardo DiCaprio was spotted) simply did not compare to the sheer fandemonium of Lady Gaga’s televised performance for Le Grand Journal. At least this is the opinion of someone who nearly lost an arm when caught in between a feverish Little Monster and a photo op of Gaga.
Other notable mentions include DJ Zen Freeman onboard Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s mega yacht, aptly named the Octopus, who also spun his rhythmic charm at Tommy Alastra’s party for Hans Fjellestad's documentary, Sunset Strip. The film, due out later this year, recounts the history of Hollywood’s infamous road as-told-by celebrities Sharon Stone, Sofia Coppola, Mickey Rourke to name a few, some of whom, including Jonny Depp, were in attendance for the screening of the trailer that evening.
Image courtesy of Cyrille Margarit - Artman Agency
It isn’t a film festival without Nikki Beach. Set up at the Hotel Palais Stephanie on La Croisette, the terrace here was where you wanted to spend the daylight hours, particularly if celebrity spotting was on your agenda. Leading men, Jude Law and Ryan Gosling, paid the outpost a visit to sign the mathusalem of Maison Vandome, in celebration of the launch of Prestance, a Grand Cru dressed such that it nabs the title for the first haute couture champagne. Though the red-accented bottle of bubbly — also launched at the beach club — by Jean Paul Gaultier and Piper Heidsieck is perhaps handsome enough to give it some competition. Other spottings included Kanye West, seen seaside, nibbling on sushi and sipping champagne.
BEST DUSK-TO-DAWN HANGOUT
Once again this year, the place to be after the premiere parties have wrapped for the night, was Paris-import Le Baron. Tucked away behind the throngs of partygoers and festival onlookers traipsing up and down La Croisette, this discreet little (and I do mean little) pop-up bar has all the makings of a home away from home for those who prefer their locals to be;
1. frequented by familiar faces (by visit 2 you get to know at least half of the clientele here, half of which seem to have come from Paris just for Le Baron)
2. free of pretension (i.e. no roped off VIP area), and
3. feature the sort of music you could listen to on repeat while noodling around in your house, in Le Baron’s case, the player piano, live pianist and group sing-a-longs add to the charm of the bar’s selected soundtrack.
Lit up by the cool and deliciously fragrant candles designed by Paris label Popup-Paris, the raw delightfulness of the space made it seem only natural to meet the person both to your left and right, as well as partake in the mass of voices joyously shouting The Doors “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)” (their rendition of the 1929 German opera song written by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht) on to joining the entire bar as they stand at attention to sing along to the live rendition of Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.” A far cry from the suited and gowned crowd to be found at the other popular late night festival spot, the Hotel 3.14 bar, where Le Baron set up the previous year, this is not a place to go to seek out celebrities. While they are here, you won’t find an entourage, they are dispersed and mingling amongst the crowd, like Niels Schneider — the 23-year-old Quebec actor from last year’s breakout film Heartbeats directed by Xavier Dolan — who stopped in to celebrate after being presented with a prize for emerging talent by Robert De Niro at the Cannes Film Festival’s Chopard award ceremony.