Culture Street

By Jessica Leafe
This year’s Cannes Film Festival promises a strong line-up of international cinema, with first-time auteurs alongside long-time veterans, and an exciting mix of calibre from both Australia and international films. Russell Crowe directs his first film, The Water Diviner, a dramatic adventure set four years after the battle of Gallipoli, where an Australian farmer travels to Istanbul to search for his sons with the help of a Turkish officer, and begins a relationship with a Turkish hotel-owner. Woody Allen directs Colin Firth and Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight, a romantic comedy set in southern France against a wealthy jazz lifestyle, where an Englishman is summoned to investigate a possible swindle. Though many of this year’s films include stellar casting and exceptional filmmaking, the films below are some of those that have captured marked interest already.

Grace of Monaco
Selected to open the festival is Grace of Monaco, directed by Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose). Nicole Kidman stars as the famous classic actress Grace Kelly, who has left her successful career in Hollywood to marry the Prince Rainier of Monaco. The film goes into her life six years later, when she is offered a leading role again by Alfred Hitchcock for his film Marnie in 1962, and the pressures amidst her political role as princess that affect her choices. Her royal position in the public eye and her marriage to Prince Rainier are the central issues of the story, and the film aims to give a different light to the glamourous royal’s life.

Charlie’s Country
An Australian film featured in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival, and also recently to have won Most Popular Feature Award at the Adelaide Film Festival, is Charlie’s Country. Australian filmmaker Rolf de Heer once again unites with acclaimed actor David Gulpilil in a film where Charlie (Gulpilil) attempts to define his place as an indigenous man in the homeland that has become contemporary Australia. Filmed on location in Arnhem Land and Darwin, these two Australian film partners have created an extraordinary exploration into the cultural identity of our nation in modern times, and the questionable tags of home, country, and membership.

Maps to the Stars
David Cronenberg directs this dark and complex psychological drama around a family in Hollywood. Each family member struggles with a mental issue as a result of modern Western culture. The father, a TV psychotherapist who has made his fortune with self-help manuals (John Cusack) and his wife, an ambitious and controlling mother, manage the film career of their thirteen-year-old child star son Benjie, who has just come out of rehab. Their daughter (Mia Wasikowska) has recently been released from treatment as a criminal pyromaniac, and befriends an aspiring actor/screenwriter limo driver (Robert Pattinson), while one of her father’s clients, a fading actress (Julianne Moore) is haunted by memories of her mother. As oddly parodist as the film sounds, it is assuredly emotional and disturbing, and is given an explicit rating for “strong disturbing violence, graphic nudity, language and drug material”.

Lost River
In this dark fantasy-thriller, Ryan Gosling makes his directorial debut with a film about a single mother (Christina Hendricks from Mad Men) who is caught in a macabre fairytale-like underworld as her teenage son finds a road leading to a secret underwater world. Set against modern-day Detroit, this film ties curious characters into shadowy fantasy with elements of horror and strange twistedness. The cast includes Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn, Iain De Caestecker and Saoirse Ronan, who recently added Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel to her biography. Lost River has also been selected to feature in the Un Certain Regard part of the festival.

Starring Bill Nighy and directed by British filmmaker Matthew Warchus, Pride is a comic drama set in 1984, where a group of gay and lesbian activists decide to raise money for families of the striking miners. When their offer is avoided by an embarrassed Union, they get on a minibus road-trip to a mining village in Wales to make their donation in person. The surprising union that follows between these two different groups is based on a true story, and the film promises to be a comical and triumphant drama. The cast is an array of British talent (including Paddy Considine, Imelda Staunton, and Dominic West) and Pride has been officially selected to close the Cannes Film Festival.

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