Film: From soccer-mad monks to bad taste in a bordello

Fresh from Cannes, picks out his highs - and a very definite low - from this year's festival

Most unspeakable film

Peter Greenaway's 81/2 Women was an absolute stinker, joyless and inept. Greenaway described it as "a laconic, comedic film" in the vein of Fellini, but that wasn't how it came across. What was most dispiriting - apart from the bombastic dialogue and mannered, pantomime-style performances - was its underlying misanthropy. Instead of the humour, hedonism and flights of fantasy that Fellini brings to his movies, Greenaway offers a series of stilted, over-decorated tableaux vivants in which the cast prance around naked, like animated tailors' dummies.

The 81/2 Women in question, prisoners in a private bordello set up by an English businessman (John Standing) and his priggish son (Matthew Delamere), each represent a stereotypical male fantasy. When she's not locked up and limping in a see-through perspex corset, a naked Amanda Plummer flits in and out of frame on a white stallion. Toni Collette is a shaven-headed, big-nippled nun who takes her vow of obedience very seriously. Other residents include a Japanese siren with gambling debts, a pregnant woman, and a whore with a heart of gold (Polly Walker). Father and son snuffle round their prey like pigs in search of truffles and, between times, have an incestuous affair.

It's hard not to think of Greenaway as the Rigsby-like proprietor of the upmarket boarding house, biting his nails in glee behind the scenes as the men's fantasies become ever more extreme. This impression is reinforced by the casting. There's no sign of Miss Jones, but the the smooth-talking black stud is played by Don Warrington (better known to many viewers as Philip in TV's Rising Damp.)

Best "Bosnian" British film

Ironically, the only British film to win a prize in Cannes this year was made by a Bosnian. Jazmin Dizdar's Beautiful People, an epic comedy- drama with 25 leading characters, combines Mike Leigh-like naturalism with flights of Balkan fantasy worthy of Kusturica, none more startling than the scene in which a drunken, drugged-up English football fan (Danny Nussbaum) falls asleep on his way back from Amsterdam and is airlifted into the Bosnian war zone along with a consignment of medical supplies.

Dizdar casts a sceptical, if affectionate, outsider's eye on the Brits. In scenes that are vaguely reminiscent of Lindsay Anderson's Britannia Hospital, he shows overworked doctors, cold-hearted politicians, teachers and journalists who are caught up in the daily grind while ex-pat Serbs and Croats fight on double-decker buses.

Beautiful People ends on a riotously optimistic note that has more to do with Bosnia than Britain. "That's very much a Balkan element," Dizdar says. "We're a very unpredictable nation... only a few years ago, we were all so much in love with each other. Now, everything has turned upside down and the people have become so ugly, so full of hatred, not only for each other but for themselves. That contradiction in our character has always attracted me."

If he was exhilarated about landing The Best Film Prize in Cannes' Un Certain Regard, so was Fay Weldon (whose son, Dan, produced the movie.) "All power to Jasmin, who everyone thinks is a girl, of course," she enthused. "Beautiful People is completely uncynical and not in the least sentimental."

Most inscrutable film-maker

Khyentse Norbu had easily the most unusual background of any film-maker in Cannes. When he was six years old, he was recognised as the incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892), a religious reformer and saint revered for his part in protecting Buddhism in Tibet in the late-19th century. Most of his childhood was spent studying and meditating in a small temple, away from his family. He's now a revered and senior lama himself.

Interviewed in a balmy garden, Norbu didn't seem entirely comfortable about either the attention lavished on him by the press or the identity foisted on him by his peers. "I have complete belief that I am a reincarnation of my past life, whatever it is - a dog or a bird or a butterfly," he said, "but to be a reincarnation of a saint... I have a big doubt."

Norbu's beguilingly funny film, The Cup (which screened in Un Certain Regard) is about a group of Tibetan monks who move mountains to watch the 1998 World Cup Final on satellite TV. It was thanks to his friendship with British producer Jeremy Thomas (Crash, The Last Emperor) that he was able to make it. He showed the screenplay to Thomas. "I didn't really expect anything because my film is very short and probably not very interesting, but after three days, Jeremy called me and said he had the money."

In his monk's robes, Norbu was an incongruous presence in Cannes. On the afternoon I met him, an assistant offered him and his lead actor (also a monk) a choice of tickets for that evening's screening: either Jim Jarmusch's slick, witty but very violent Ghost Dog, or an Indian film whose name nobody could remember. Inevitably, they opted for the Jarmusch.

Best film by an old-timer

Portuguese auteur Manoel de Oliveira, born in 1908, made his first film 70 years ago. His latest effort, The Letter, is an updating of Madame De La Fayette's 17th-century novel, The Princess Of Cleves. An account of an unfulfilled love affair between a married woman (Chiara Mastroianni) and a singer (Pedro Abrunhosa), it's an extraordinarily stylish and oblique piece of film-making. Never one to hurry, Oliveira has an engaging knack of interrupting the narrative to study some piece of sculpture or foliage. The most dramatic moments happen off-camera, or almost unnoticed at the edge of the frame. The closest the two lead characters come to consummating their relationship is when their eyes lock together across a room.

This might be a tale of doomed love, but it comes laced with lots of deadpan humour. When Mme De Cleves hears on the TV news that her beloved singer has injured in a car crash, she gasps in such overwrought, melodramatic fashion that we think she is about to suffer from a Lady Macbeth-like fainting fit. The effect is at once comic, banal and touching.

Relationships, Oliveira implies, hinge on throwaway moments like these. "All he ever does is show people talking in rooms," said one journalist after last week's screening at Cannes, as if that was the easiest thing in the world. The reverse is true. Oliveira deservedly won the Jury prize, the first nonagenarian ever to do so.

Best film about an old-timer

David Lynch's The Straight Story is about a good old boy (Richard Farnsworth) driving several hundred miles on a mini-tractor to see his ailing brother. A good-natured, shaggy dog story, it is closer in tone to a late Peckinpah movie such as The Ballad Of Cable Hogue than to Lynch's usual anatomies of the seamy side of small-town America.

There's just one moment when the imp of the perverse rears its head. The old man is interrupted on an open stretch of road by a distraught "deer woman" (Sally Wingett), who drives 40 miles to-and-from work, and who has deer crashing on to her bonnet every time she makes the journey. She doesn't know where they come from, or why. She's the single character in the film who wouldn't have looked out of place in Lost Highway.

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvMartin Freeman’s casting is a stroke of genius

Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival

film
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players