Cannes 2016: Reporter's diary

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Festival de Cannes

The 69th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, one of the key events in the international entertainment calendar, is taking place in the south of France.

Having slapped on his sun hat and dusted down his tux, the BBC’s Neil Smith is on the Croisette to bring you all the news, gossip and glamour from this annual cinema showcase.

Follow his adventures here and on the entertainment news team’s Twitter feed.


“Wow!” muttered Ken Loach this lunchtime as his arrival at the official press conference for his latest film was met with a sustained round of applause.

I, Daniel Blake, his new feature, had clearly struck a chord with its depiction of a Geordie carpenter who finds himself on the breadline after suffering a heart attack.

Loach said it was “shocking” that, 50 years on from his seminal TV drama Cathy Come Home, there were still stories of social inequality and injustice waiting to be told.

“There is a conscious cruelty in the way we’re organising our lives,” he told reporters on Friday.

“The most vulnerable people [in society] are [being] told their poverty is their own fault.”

Writer Paul Laverty went further, suggesting there was a “propaganda campaign” at work “to denigrate everyone on welfare.”

“There’s nothing accidental about it, and it’s affecting a huge section of the population.”

Loach also brushed off a suggestion that his latest film might be his swansong, muttering: “I don’t know about that.”


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Dionne Warwick wafted into Cannes this morning to announce a film is to be made about her life.

LeToya Luckett, an original member of Destiny’s Child, will play the singer in Dionne in which Lady Gaga will also appear as Cilla Black.

Warwick and Black had quite the rivalry back in the day, particularly when Cilla’s version of Anyone Who Had a Heart eclipsed Dionne’s original.

Asked on Friday why she regarded Black as her nemesis, Warwick said it was “because she stole my music”.

Danny Glover will lay Dionne Warwick’s father in the film. Mario von Peebles is in talks to direct.

Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis is also lined up to appear as Marlene Dietrich, whose mentoring of Warwick earned her the nickname “Momma”.

The film will be based on Warwick’s own autobiography, entitled My Life, As I See It.


Prince fans were left disappointed last night when an open-air tribute screening of the late pop star’s 1984 film Purple Rain was called off at short notice.

High winds prevented the public screening going ahead on the beach – though it is hoped a second showing on Sunday will have a happier outcome.

It’s the kind of thing that happens at Cannes, a place where plans can change at the drop of a sun hat and one never quite knows who one is going to bump into next.

While entering a hotel on Thursday, for example, I found myself just one revolving glass pane away from Mads Mikkelsen, Danish star of Casino Royale and Hannibal and a member of this year’s Palme d’Or jury.

One celebrity encounter I missed out on last night was with Kendall Jenner, one of those Kardashians we’re all supposed to be keeping up with.

Now that’s what I called a missed opportunity. I would have dearly loved to have known what she made of the opening night film in this years’ Directors’ Fortnight.


I, Daniel Blake, the new film from Britain’s Ken Loach, is an angry howl at the welfare system and the bureaucracy involved in obtaining benefits payments.

Its titular hero – amusingly and touchingly played by stand-up comic Dave Johns – is a skilled joiner with a heart condition who has been signed off work by his doctor but who is still deemed fit to work by the Department of Work and Pensions.

Cast adrift in a sea of red tape, food banks and forms that can only be filled out online, this 59-year-old Geordie finds both poverty and desperation knocking at his door.

His plight is mirrored by that of Katie (pictured), a single mother from London with her own battles against a system that is baldly depicted as insensitive, unhelpful and often openly hostile.

There are clear links here to Cathy Come Home, Loach’s influential 1966 TV play about another mother who falls on hard times.

Half a century on, I, Daniel Blake shows the 79-year-old director’s eye for social injustice is as acute and unblinking as ever.

Interestingly, the film’s press screening this afternoon came with two sets of subtitles – French and English.

Were festival organisers fearful that the film’s thick Newcastle accents would be hard to make out?


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George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jodie Foster make a stellar trio in anyone’s book.

Small wonder they’ve been invited to Cannes to bring some more Hollywood glamour – oh, and a film – to this year’s event.

The film is called Money Monster, a satire-cum-thriller in which a smart-aleck presenter of a financial-advice TV show, played by Clooney, gets his comeuppance live on air.

It comes in the rather too topical form of a vengeful investor, played by Britain’s Jack O’Connell, who hijacks the show at gunpoint and forces its host to don an explosive-laden vest.

The hostage taker demands that the show remains on air, forcing Clooney’s producer – Roberts’ role – to double up as high-stakes negotiator.

The show, of course, becomes an international talking point, for all the New York Police Department’s attempts to keep a lid on the situation.

Things get a lot sillier from there, though Jodie Foster – directing here rather than starring – deserves some credit for keeping so many balls in the air at once.

Clooney, alas, isn’t really in his element as a flamboyant TV star whose thirst for ratings makes him behave more akin to a circus ringmaster.

Ofcom, meanwhile, would have a field day with the number of F-words that go out unbleeped. Haven’t they heard of a 10-second delay?


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Jesse Eisenberg had only good things to say about the London theatre scene this morning while doing the promotional rounds for Woody Allen’s Cafe Society.

The Batman v Superman star is shortly to make his West End debut in his own play The Spoils, which opens later this month at the Trafalgar Studios.

“I love theatre in England; it’s the most unusual theatre scene, even more unique than New York, because it has more interesting, government-funded shows.

“They’re able to do bigger-budget, more obscure theatre than when it has to be independently produced and they have to get stars to be in it.

“I was very happy to hear they wanted to do my play; I would have done it anywhere.

“But I feel very lucky to do it in such a Mecca of great theatre like London.”


There had been talk ahead of this year’s festival that security would be ramped up in the light of last year’s attacks in Paris and fears that Cannes too might be targeted.

Apart from being subjected to the occasional sweep with a hand-held metal detector, though, I haven’t noticed any particular escalation in the usual building entry procedures.

The festival’s first day was dampened somewhat by a heavy shower that had people on the Croisette scurrying for shelter.

But it didn’t stop the opening night ceremony going ahead as scheduled, as these photos from the red carpet show.

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Timberlake lined up with a selection of ‘Trolls’ at the launch

“Life isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows, you know.”

No, not Woody Allen again, but Justin Timberlake in his latest role as a glum troll named Branch in the latest animation from the DreamWorks stable.

Called Trolls, the film tells of a cheerful little creature called Poppy (Anna Kendrick) who spends her days singing, laughing and hugging the other denizens of her magical, candy-coloured world.

Until, that is, a nasty ogre makes off with some of her friends, forcing her to embark on a rescue mission with a reluctant Branch on tow.

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Timberlake and Kendrick had some fun with a coachman upon their arrival

Festival attendees were given a preview earlier of some footage from the film, ahead of its release in the autumn.

They were also given a treat: Timberlake and Kendrick performing an acoustic version of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours, one of the songs that appears in the film.

Justin will be at the Eurovision Song Contest this weekend to sing Can’t Stop the Feeling, another song from the Trolls soundtrack.

I guess we should consider this a warm-up.


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Allen said celebrities complain about privacy “but these are not life-threatening problems”

Woody Allen was on predictably mordant form at today’s Café Society press conference, describing life as “fraught with peril, sadness and cruelty”.

“You can look at life as amusing with a farcical element to it,” he told journalists. “But it can also be very sad if you penetrate it.”

The veteran director also had some slightly prescriptive words for stars who complain about press intrusion into their private lives.

“Celebrities often kvetch about the lack of privacy and the paparazzi but these are not life-threatening problems,” he went on.

“There are upsides and downsides to fame, but the perks outweigh the downsides.”

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Woody Allen answered questions alongside the cast of his film, Café Society

Café Society, like several of Woody’s films, involves a relationship between an older man and a younger woman – a recurring trope that a couple of (female) journalists gently took him to task about.

Allen, though, said he “wouldn’t hesitate” to write a film in which the ages were reversed, but said it was “not a commonly seen thing”.

“It’s a perfectly valid idea to have the age difference in that direction,” he said as he sat on a dais between Kristen Stewart, 26, and Blake Lively, 28.

“I just don’t have the experience or the material to draw on.”

I’ll be spending some more time with Allen and his cast tomorrow, so make sure you stop by.


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Café Society: “A nostalgic throwback”

Woody Allen is no stranger to Cannes. Café Society is the 14th of his films to screen at the festival and the third one to launch it.

A nostalgic throwback to the glamorous nightclubs and pool parties of 1930s New York and Hollywood, it’s a wistful story of thwarted romance that Allen himself narrates.

Its hero is Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), a naïve rube from the Bronx who travels to Los Angeles in the hope of getting a job from his hotshot agent uncle (Steve Carell).

He quickly falls in love with his uncle’s secretary (Kristen Stewart), only to discover she has a boyfriend to whom she is devoted.

Can Bobby win her heart? Or will ‘Vonnie’ – short for Veronica – choose to stay with her lover, even it means breaking up his marriage?

It’s one of several moral dilemmas Allen toys with in a film which has a central theme of how the choices we make shape, steer and, in some cases, cut short our lives.

Sumptuously photographed by Vittorio Storaro, Café Society is a gentle, meandering tale that revels in Manhattan’s after-hours world of cocktails and jazz bars.

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This is Woody Allen’s third film to open the festival

Curiously, though, it also contains isolated scenes of mob-related violence that one would more readily associate with Martin Scorsese than its 80-year-old director.

I suspect the Cannes critics will be perplexed by a picture that, like a lot of Allen’s recent work, falls somewhere between playful comedy and thoughtful drama.

But I’m sure they’ll laugh as heartily as I did when one character remarks that one should “live every day as if it’s your last – because some day, you’ll be right”.

Café Society will open the Cannes Film Festival later and is out in the UK in September.

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