Cannes Film Festival

Ridley Scott's new version of 'Robin Hood' is a heavy-handed way to open the most important festival in cinema's year

Last week, the outlook seemed grim for Cannes, as freak tidal phenomena battered the Côte d'Azur and wrecked beachside restaurants. Despite that, the festival got going as planned on Wednesday night, but festival-goers are beginning to think that a little more waterfront drama could only liven things up. We'd do anything for a headline that read "New wave shakes up Cannes".

So far, this is shaping up to be the quietest Cannes in some time, after a vintage programme last year. This year's opener was a dour romp through the greenwood as Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe took on Robin Hood. The best that can be said about their effort is that it is nowhere near as silly as the Kevin Costner version, but neither is it, as you might have hoped, Gladiator with crossbows. Allegedly big on historical accuracy – though I've never heard of the Merry Men thwarting a French invasion – the film is essentially a pumped-up superhero-origin story that starts with sullen archer Robin Longstride (Crowe, with grizzled chops and an accent somewhere between Nottingham and Dublin) making his way home from the Crusades, and ends with him taking up residence in Sherwood Forest.

The film has a few things to commend it. There are lively battle scenes shot in the jerky, gritty, post-Private Ryan manner, all boiling oil, flying rocks and squalor. And there are lively turns by the likes of Mark Strong (the current go-to man for shiny-pated malevolence) and Mark Addy as a mead-quaffing, bee-keeping Friar Tuck (tossing a hive at his enemies: "Gentlemen! Enjoy!"). Cate Blanchett, as Marian, is still using her crisp Katharine Hepburn delivery from The Aviator – and going into battle in chainmail and helmet. Crowe, though, is woefully sullen. And it's bizarre to see Cannes kicking off with a film in which the French are depicted as utterly evil – treacherous, untrustworthy, and they speak in yellow subtitles. I suppose it just proves that festival director Thierry Frémaux has a sense of humour – which is more than you can say of Messrs Scott and Crowe.

Meanwhile, there's little to warm the critical cockles. It was heartening, as ever, to see the veteran Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira show up with a new film (and I do mean veteran: he recently turned 101, and apparently his secret is sardines). But his metaphysical romance The Strange Case of Angelica, about a photographer and an amorous ghost, was one of his more rarefied efforts. Nor did Chongqing Blues, by China's Wang Xiaoshuai, live up to its promise. It's the story of a man returning after years away to find out why his son was killed in a supermarket siege. The first hour is terrific – a fabulously shot inquiry into the new China's generational divide. Then in the second it becomes a standard redemption story.

It wouldn't be Cannes without Mathieu Amalric, the hardest-working actor in French art cinema, and recent Bond villain. He has a directing career too, but his competition entry On Tour is unlikely to boost that enormously. Amalric plays a down-at-heel producer acting as Svengali to a group of American burlesque queens touring coastal France. Brassy opening titles and the names of the performers playing themselves – Kitten on the Keys, Dirty Martini, Roky Roulette – promise jollity and raunch, and the occasional number with balloons or Louis Quatorze outfits is certainly eye-opening. But Amalric is less interested in the Felliniesque divas than in his own hapless character, who can barely go to the supermarket without being smacked round the chops. And the seedy moustache he sports is decidedly distracting. No wonder a passing punter was heard to dismiss the film as "all tits and whiskers".

Better value by far was South Korean comp entry The Housemaid, by Im Sang-Soo, a remake of a 1960 cult classic. It's the story of a naive young woman who goes to work in the sumptuous house of a super-rich family, and has an affair with the alpha male of the house, then sees her position become very uncomfortable. Sleekly controlled and very black, it fizzles out in the last stretch, but for sheer entertainment – and for putting the satirical knife into the super-wealthy – it's very good value.

But the competition film that has really made a big impression is Mike Leigh's Cannes comeback Another Year, which features a hard core of long-time Leigh regulars, including Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen. They play happily married London couple Gerri and Tom (get it?) who spend a year coping with the traumas of their friends and family.

Vera Drake lead, Imelda Staunton, returns for a terse cameo, and the film turns out to be one of Leigh's most ambitious – a narratively loose but very cogent ensemble piece about family, ageing, self-deception and the effects of time.

The only legitimate piece of Hollywood glitz on show was Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, in which Oliver Stone revives his 1980s demon banker Gordon Gekko for the age of Lehman Brothers.

All the flashy computer graphics in the world can't make the financial meltdown as visually interesting as Stone would like, and he's not getting any subtler with his visual metaphors (bubbles! dominoes!). The film is outrageously knowing (Michael Douglas smirks, "What – nobody here believes in comebacks?") but makes up in glossy brashness what it lacks in narrative interest. Josh Brolin is formidably nasty as the banker who out-Gekkos Gekko, Douglas is more sleekly lizardy than ever, and ever-gaminish Carey Mulligan contributes a human touch and a more than passable US accent.

Next Week:

Jonathan Romney sees what happens when Werner Herzog and Nicolas Cage make a cop movie – Bad Lieutenant

Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map