Tag Archives: Paul Wiffen

LFF gala premiere: Kate Winslet’s Labor Day

15 Oct
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Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin in Labor Day

Last night was the May Fair Hotel Gala Premiere of Labor Day, starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. It was great to be back on the red carpet – I used to go to all the LFF galas when at Time Out and The Times. Kate Winslet looked radiant in red, though she complained of “pregnancy brain” to one interviewer on the red carpet. What awesome timing, though – to be pregnant while promoting a film called Labor Day!

As to the film itself, it’s nearly brilliant. It has a great set-up: an agoraphobic mum (Kate Winslet) and her young son are forced to drive an escaped con (Josh Brolin) to their home, where he lies low until he can escape. The sense of menace is mixed with a palpable sexual tension as he ties her up “for her own good”, so that she can’t be accused of being his accomplice.

But later, when he unties her and starts doing jobs around the house, it becomes clear that he is not merely a good man, but an absurdly good one, the kind you wouldn’t find outside Mills & Boon (the film, by Jason Reitman, is based on a novel by Joyce Maynard). He fixes the car, the furnace, the garden wall; he cooks, he cleans, he irons with his shirt off; he teaches the son baseball and is kind to his disabled friend. In a faintly ludicrous sequence, reminiscent of a three-handed version of the pottery scene in Ghost, he teaches mother and son to make a peach pie, one of many heavy-handed visual metaphors for the family they are building together. Once the looming menace is replaced with the simpler fear that the police will find him before they can live happily ever after, the film loses much of its tension.

Me interviewing Francesca Cardinale

Me interviewing Francesca Cardinale

And then on to the after-party at the May Fair Hotel, which specialises in putting up stars from the world of film and fashion. Here I bumped into my old Cannes mucker, director Paul Wiffen, always with a stylish hat on his head and a beautiful actress on his arm. This time the young lovely was Francesca Cardinale, niece of the great Italian actress Claudia Cardinale, currently at a top acting school in Rome, opposite Cinecita.

I interviewed Francesca briefly, though between my lack of Italian and her lack of English, all I could glean was that she has a small role in Those Happy Years, an Italian film  well received at the Toronto Film Fest, and showing at the London Film Festival on Oct 18 and 19; and that in Paul Wiffen’s forthcoming secret agent romp SpyFail she plays the daughter of one Maria Gratis Tuttilenotte (geddit?) who is bent on revenge.

Wiffen also says he is on the verge of a casting coup for his secret agent character, Roger Most. I am sworn to secrecy until the ink has dried on the contract, but it’s someone handsome, debonair, ludicrously funny, and richly deserving of another big-screen outing. Watch this space.

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Cannes confessions #6: the night time is the right time

21 May

Whoever said “Man cannot live by canapés alone” (they do say that, don’t they?) clearly has never been to the Cannes Film Festival. The place is a ligger’s paradise: every major film-making country has a pavilion, each one hosting receptions; the Croisette beach is lined with party marquees; and that’s without even counting the regular hotel ballrooms and nightclubs.

Veteran Canneites swap tips on how to smuggle extra people in – from walking purposefully past talking the doormen in someone’s slipstream talking into a mobile phone, to getting a stamp on your way out for a cigarette and then pressing it to your friend’s wrist before it’s had time to dry. Director Paul Wiffen, with whom I spent a fair bit of time, is a master of the art, having been to 16 Cannes Festivals. Someone really should ask him to write a book of Cannes Film Festival astuces, as he calls his clever wheezes, so if there are any publishers reading this…

There is truth, however, to the phrase “No such thing as a free lunch.” Every drink must be paid for excruciatingly in speeches, most of them barely audible and in a foreign language. And so I can exclusively report, from the ballroom of the Majestic Hotel with the Princess of Thailand in attendance flanked by kneeling flunkies, the exciting news that Thailand is proud of its film industry; ditto for the Russians; ditto for the Locarno Film Festival. As to the Swiss, for all I know they make atrocious films as efforts to gain access to their woefully disorganised bash on the beach were rebuffed.

The best party I went to was for Four Senses, starring former Miss Switzerland Nadine Vinzens and described by the wonderfully named producer Omar Kaczmarczyk (pronounced “Cash-my-cheque”) as an “eromantic” adventure. (The movie, he clearly believes, is so ground-breaking that it necessitates a whole new word.) Though I am still eager to hear the rest of charismatic director/writer Gabriel Murray’s Hamlet story, as I was called away to dinner too early…

And of course, poker fiend that I am, I couldn’t resist trying out the Croisette Barrière Casino, which a couple of years ago wrested the World Series of Poker Europe away from London’s Empire Casino. The cash games there are brutal, with minimum blinds of 5-10, but I figured it would be a novel way to meet top producers, and so it proved: one ended up sitting to my left.

He was in a foul temper, however, cursing every unlucky break, and in no mood to chat to an aspiring film-maker. My British modesty didn’t help. After I guessed correctly that he was a producer (he had a Festival pass round his neck, and was playing high-stakes poker, so duh), he asked what I did. “I’m a journalist,” I say, “but I also have a film I’ve co-written at the festival.” And then, apologetically – “It’s only a short, playing in the Court Métrage. Gotta start somewhere, I suppose.”

At that, he turned away. I have to learn not to be so bloody British. Still, it meant I felt no guilt when I flopped two pairs to crack his pocket Aces, and he exited soon after, hurling his final chip angrily at the dealer with appallingly bad grace.

So let’s abandon all British reserve now and toot my own horn. The next night I played a 30-person tournament at the casino, and came fourth after eight hours’ play. Not too shabby. Good training for the WSOP Millionaire Maker tournament in Vegas the weekend after this…!

For my recent Cannes despatches, read my first IBT article first, with the opening night gala and towering celebrity tales. Then my tips for festival virgins; hanging with the Bond spoofers; and streakers, lesbian love-ins and Nuke ‘Em High with the Troma crew. Plus picture-gallery here, and my final IBT article, on outrageous Cannes publicity stunts, here

For more about my own film in the Short Film Corner, Colonel Badd, see outtakes here and posters here.

Come back tomorrow for more on Cannes.

Cannes confessions, #1: top tips for festival virgins

16 May

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The sun has finally burst through the clouds, and I’m sitting writing this by a pool on a hill with a view of the white-walled town and the deep blue sea. Yes, you can be jealous now, because I’ve finally made it back to Cannes for the Film Festival.

The last time I was here, it was 1997 and I was Editor of Time Out, with VIP access to all the most glamorous parties. It’s a great story, and I’ve just written about the highlights, plus an account of last night’s star-studded opening gala, for the International Business Timeshere — you should definitely read that first.

Now I’m in Cannes as a film-maker, with Colonel Badd, a short comedy I co-wrote with the director Tony Errico, accepted into the Short Film Corner. (More about Colonel Badd, which takes the form of an interview with a retired supervillain, here.)

Cannes is a crazy, wonderful, chaotic festival which every aspiring film-maker should experience at least once. I had very little clue how it worked before I rocked up yesterday. But I’m learning fast. Here are my top tips so far:

— Accommodation. I found a terrific two-bed flat near the Palais for £800 a week. Cheap by festival standards, when prices triple, but not so stupidly cheap as to be suspicious. I discovered too late I’d been scammed. Police and banks alerted (gosh they move slowly in a crisis), but money I think irrecoverable. The next cheap flat I found, for which I was also asked for a bank transfer, I Googled the owner, found her office number, and talked to her secretary to make sure. Top tip: Book very early (or very late) for the best deals; find flatmates to book an apartment or house with rather than get a hotel; try to be within walking distance of the Palais.

— Transport. Flying is cheaper than the train, but the coach from Nice to Cannes is a nightmare. Three times as many people as there are seats crowd into a disorderly queue. You’d think they might put on more than the usual half-hourly coach on the opening day of the festival, but no; everything in France is “réglementaire”, by the book, whether or not it makes sense. In my desperation to get to the Palais before accreditation shut I overcame the problem, I am ashamed to admit, by jumping the queue. And even then I had to plead with the driver in French that my “compagnons de voyage” were already inside, as they wouldn’t let me on with luggage. Top tip: don’t queue by the bus doors; go round the side and get your bags in the hold sharpish. The driver calls for people with stored bags to get on first.

— Accreditation. Cannes operates on a complex system of colour codes and badges, with access to certain areas and screenings and not others depending on your status. Without accreditation, all you can do is chat to people in bars. Top tip: Make a short film and submit it to the Court Métrage/Short Film Corner, and they give you two accreditations. Thank you Tony Errico for mine.

— Screenings. This works on a points system. They started me off with 100 points, plus I get 2 extra points for every hour spent in Cannes, like a casino loyalty programme. Popular screenings at popular times cost 100 points; others cost 50 or even 30. It actually makes a strange kind of sense. Until I discover that Tony Errico, as producer, gets none. Go figure. Top tip: You usually book from computer terminals inside the Palais, but now they also offer an app that lets you book from your iPhone or similar. You can only book 24 hours in advance.

And that’s enough for now. Right, I’m off to see where this wild ride will take me… Click here for my second despatch from Cannes. Plus photo-gallery here.