The 67th Cannes Film Festival got off to a controversial start on Wednesday with the screening of Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco starring Australian actor Nicole Kidman and Britain’s Tim Roth. The film was booed by some members of the audience while international press reviews almost unanimously gave it the thumbs down. Peter Bradshaw, film critic of the UK daily, The Guardian, described it as “a film so awe-inspiringly wooden that it is basically a fire-risk“. French film magazine Première joined the chorus of disproval calling the film “a poor, Mediterranean remake of The King’s Speech while Le Monde described it as “absurd, dreadful and a bit silly”.
Better reviews for British director Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner which was the first film to be screened in the official competition on Tuesday. “Incandescent, a dazzling feat of confidence” said some critics of this tale of English painter JMW Turner portrayed by Leigh-regular Timothy Spall. The film is Leigh’s fifth to be shown at Cannes and is one of the favourites to take the Palme d’or in 10 days time. He has already taken home the prestigious prize in 1996 for Secrets and Lies. Also in competition on Tuesday Timbuktu, the only African film in the official competition. Directed by Maurtinian Abderrahmane Sissako, the film follows the fate of a Malian village taken over by Islamists. The film was warmly received by critics most often describing it as “powerful and poetic”.
Outside of the official competition, all eyes will be on La Croisette this weekend for the arrival of French actor Gérard Depardieu who is due to promote United Passion directed by Frédéric Auburtin about the creation of football’s World Cup Competition. The film will be screened on Sunday night as part of Cinema de la Plage. But the screening is likely to be overshadowed by Saturday’s release on VOD of Abel Ferrara’s Welcome to New York loosely based on the downfall of former IMF chief Dominque Strauss Kahn. The film was not included in the festival’s official selection and will not be released in cinemas in France although it will be available in cinemas elsewhere.
The two-hour film was mostly funded with American money although Depardieu put some of his own money into the film and took a lower fee. In an interview with American magazine Variety producer Vincent Maraval criticised the French media and political establishment saying “no French TV station wanted to finance us. Everyone warned us not to make this film, both our friends and our enemies.”