Cannes round-up: Rust and Bone, Paradise: Love, After the Battle, Broken and Mekong Hotel

 

It's the rule in Cannes: arrive champing at the bit for drop-dead masterpieces, and be prepared to swallow a few disappointments before things really warm up.

As the competition kicks in, we've already had one film that had everyone on tenterhooks, and ended up polarising reactions. Jacques Audiard's prison drama A Prophet was the toast of Cannes 2009, so a lot was hanging on follow-up Rust and Bone. Indeed, it's had some of the press raving, while others tut-tutted about a major disappointment.

I'll be more cautious – serious flaws notwithstanding, this is a formidable film. Audiard's least thriller-like work to date, it's an essay in harsh realism, about the bond between a none-too-bright (and none-too-sympathetic) bruiser (Mathias Schoenaerts) and a marine-park trainer (Marion Cotillard) whose life is changed after a terrible accident. Perhaps because it's adapted from a set of short stories, the narrative rambles too much for comfort, and the drama loses credibility with a last-minute shock event unworthy of Audiard's usual subtlety. But few directors create complete worlds with the immersive coherence that Audiard achieves with this abrasive low-life panorama. And Cotillard's emotionally and physically demanding performance is so compelling that you rather wish Audiard had built the entire film around her character.

A definite disappointment is Paradise: Love, the first in a trilogy by Austrian social satirist Ulrich Seidl, whose films can usually be relied on to put the wind up audiences. This one followed a Viennese matron, on holiday in Kenya, whose search for love becomes an apprenticeship in sexual tourism. Fearlessly acted by Margarete Tiesel, Love makes its often cruel points about colonialism and exploitation quickly and effectively, then bangs them home at repetitive length.

The biggest missed opportunity in competition, however, was After the Battle, by Egypt's Yousry Nasrallah. Talk about hot off the press: the film addresses the aftermath of last year's anti-Mubarak uprising, through a Cairo-set romance of sorts between an intellectual woman of the media and a hunky working-class horse trainer. But a hyperbolic tone, some dire over-acting and much verbose political debate made this a leaden trudge, resembling a rendezvous between Ken Loach and Barbara Cartland on the banks of the Nile.

The first of a handful of British films here is Broken, the feature debut by theatre director Rufus Norris. It's a sombre coming-of-age story in the form of a suburban drama, with a careworn Tim Roth embroiled in a clash between neighbours triggered by the rage of a violent dad (Rory Kinnear). Norris directs confidently, if impersonally – the overall feel has over-familiar echoes of Andrea Arnold and Lynne Ramsay – and the film lends itself a little too easily to being fitted into the "Brit Miserabilism" bracket. There's also a distinct touch of classism in the treatment of Kinnear's daughters as, not to put too fine a point on it, red-headed prole spawn from hell. But the winning card is young Eloise Laurence, as the 11-year-old through whose eyes we see it all: she's characterful and boisterously eccentric (and with her chunky haircut, would be a shoo-in if they ever filmed the childhood of Iris Murdoch).

Meanwhile, the oddest thing I've seen is the hour-long Mekong Hotel, by Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010 Palme d'Or winner with his Uncle Boonmee. A quizzical sidebar to his work, this is less a mini-feature than an extended art video, a beautifully shot sequence of conversations laced with acoustic guitar – and a most unexpected quotient of gore, with a couple of non-sequitur entrail-gobbling scenes.

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick