Selfish Giant Cleans Up With Cantona At The British Film Festival Of Dinard
Posted on Monday October 7, 2013, 16:54 by Nev Pierce in Under The Radar
The Selfish Giant lived up to its name on Saturday, winning four awards at the Dinard British Film Festival, in Brittany. Eric Cantona lead the jury – which included Michael Smiley, Toby Jones, Alice Eve and David Parfitt – in recognising the poignant social-realist drama inspired by Oscar Wilde’s story.
I went into Clio Barnard’s second feature, having not see The Arbour, wondering if it could possibly justify the raves or would it be kitchen-sink miserablism that works with critics rather than people. It obliterated such cynicism, though, thanks in no small part to the great performances from its young leads, especially Conner Chapman, who was there alongside co-star Shaun Thomas and producer Tracy O'Riordan to take home the festival’s top prize, the Hitchcock d’Or (a golden statue of, yes, Hitch himself).
The Selfish Giant also won Best Cinematography, The Cine+ Award – ensuring it promotion on those channels during its French theatrical release – and the Heartbeat Award, which expands its distribution. (The film is released in the UK on October 25th and Damon Wise’s review is here.) Dinard, now in its 24th year, is a rather unlikely success as a festival, given its set in a small French coastal town yet celebrates British cinema. During its five-day span, six films play in competition and several more in previews (largely material that has already been released in England, from Amit Gupta’s charming family comedy Jadoo to Scott Graham's austere but tender Shell – with its standout performance by newcomer Chloe Pirrie).
The Audience Award – voted for by the public at the consistently well-attended screenings – went to Titus, a black and white film about jazz and regret. Your reaction to that description will probably tell you whether or not you will enjoy it.
More to my taste was the debut of Anthony Wilcox, a long-time assistant director on films by the likes of Michael Winterbottom, Jane Campion and Edgar Wright. Hello Carter is not – spiritually or literally – linked to Get Carter. It lacks both Michael Caine and brutal revenge. Instead, it’s a funny, odd, sweet comedy, with dashes of After Hours and The Apartment, with a real sense of how difficult, and important, it is to move on. Charlie Cox plays Carter – an unemployed officer worker who lives on his brother’s couch, pining for his ex-girlfriend. Cajoled into trying to get back in touch with her, he tries to get her number – with no success, until he bumps into her brother (Paul Schneider – very funny), who promises he’ll hand over the digits if Carter delivers a letter across town. Cue: disaster.
The film is a little haphazard in its plotting (although its reliance on coincidence is fine because it is shameless) and the tone takes a little tuning into, but it carries you with its affection for the characters, strong sense of a Londoner’s London and very good performances from Cox – who has to show one of life’s passenger’s learning to drive – and Jodie Whittaker, who has the Fran Kubelik role, with its mix of sorrow, hope and deadpan delivery. There’s also a gentle wisdom here, speaking to the disenchantment of Generation Y: “I just want to wake up in the morning and know the reason I set the alarm the night before.”
The jury made special mention of the cast in another debut feature, Everyone’s Going To Die – a very funny, bright, odd-couple romance (of a sort), as two strangers become friends over a peculiar day in Folkestone. The handsome, mysterious Ray arrives looking like one of the Reservoir Dogs – or, as he puts it in the film – “a fancy dress gangster”. He’s been sent to do a murky job, but crosses paths with German ex-pat Melanie, who is looking for direction and interest in her jobless days away from her petty fiancé. Nora Tschirner is terrific as a free-spirit who really actually would quite like to be grounded and former EastEnders actress Madeline Duggan is very good in a key supporting role. The breakout should be Rob Knighton, though, making his feature debut in his 50s, looking and sounding like the beautiful bastard offspring of Terence Stamp and Viggo Mortensen. It’s a really striking performance – simple and soulful (without being in anyway introspective or self-regarding). The film has echoes from Breathless to Lost In Translation and Before Sunset, but feels like its own thing – shot with invention but not ostentation by directing ‘collective’ Jones, who are currently writing their next feature.
The Best Screenplay award went to Chris Coghill for Spike Island. I’ve yet to see the film, but it made me grin to see this Manchester-raised writer win with a film set at a Stone Roses gig – and then get to hug Eric Cantona on stage.
As Coghill put it, accepting the award, “What’s French for fucking hell?!”