The day before, freshly elected French president François Hollande was sworn in. The artificial ruckus about how there are – shock! grief! rending of garments – no women directors among the 22 titles in the Official Competition (last year, in a happy coincidence, there were four films in Competition directed by women including Julia Leigh's Sleeping Beauty) was somewhat offset by the fact that on the 16th, the new cabinet was announced and what do you know? Parity! Equality! Out of a total of 34 government secretaries and ministers, 17 are women. The new Minister of Culture is a 38-year-old woman whose father was a coal miner and who has published two novels to date, including one about the end of coal mining as a profession.
That's funny – festival-goers, watching movies in the bowels of various structures, feel a certain kinship with the miners of yore, except that there's no equivalent of a canary to warn viewers of a poisonously bad film.
Hollande boarded an airplane to fly to Germany to meet with Angela Merkel. And then something happened that in a fictional film would have the audience thinking "Yeah, right, that could happen" – Hollande's plane was struck by lightning. The President – who had only been president for a matter of hours – wanted to continue. The pilot – who had been a pilot for quite a while – insisted that they turn back and change aircraft.
As of Day two, the festival has begun but hasn't truly taken flight. Moonrise Kingdom (pictured) was met with approval by those not allergic to bittersweet whimsy.
Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah's After the Battle was something of a slog despite its admirable willingness to look at the melding of social classes in the wake of the recent revolution.
The documentary Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, whittled down from 15 hours of interviews between Polanski when he was under house arrest in Switzerland in 2009 and his friend and former producer Andrew Braunsberg, is an example of so-so filmmaking with fascinating material at its core. In one of those odd coincidences that tend to crop up at film festivals, Polanski speaks about how being a scout was one of his favourite experiences of all time. Moonrise Kingdom positively overflows with scouts and scouting.
Jacques Audiard's keenly anticipated Rust & Bone stars Marion Cotillard as Stephanie, a trainer of killer whales, and Matthias Schoenaerts as Ali, a bouncer-cum-boxer-cum-security guard who responds with matter-of-fact aid after a freak accident leaves Steph physically diminished.
For most French critics, Audiard can do no wrong, but this contempo melodrama, the follow-up to almost universally acclaimed A Prophet, struck many non-French viewers as well-acted and well-filmed but predictible.
Austria's Paradise: Love, by the always provocative Ulrich Seidl, follows a fleshly middle-aged Austrian woman on a trip to Kenya where muscular young men provides sexual services and the illusion of being interested in doughy European women as people rather than meal tickets.