Cannes 2013: Film 4 Upcoming Slate Reaction

From Fassbender with a paper head to Nick Frost salsa dancing

fassbender frank film4

Film4’s contribution to British cinema over the past few decades has been virtually unparalleled and judging by the slate we saw previewed today here in Cannes, that’s not about to change in a hurry.

At a lunch at Film4's Cannes HQ (sadly, not a building in the shape of a giant four – they’re slipping up), Film4’s Tessa Ross, who won a BAFTA earlier in the year, cued up a showreel that contained brief glimpses at around a dozen forthcoming Film4 titles. The future is bright. Here’s a film-by-film rundown.

Already much buzzed about due to that first look pic showing Michael Fassbender wearing a Frank Sidebottom-style papier-mâché head, the footage from Lenny Abrahamson’s comedy about a gonzo rock band was the biggest hit among the assembled journalists. The focus here is on Domnhall Gleeson, effectively playing Jon Ronson (on whose experiences the film is based) as he joins a band, only to find that they’re all one capo short of the fifth fret. We got to hear Fassbender speak as Frank, in a deep, rich American accent, but there wasn’t even a hint of the head coming off. There were plenty of laughs, too, as Gleeson’s character adjusts to the methods of a group that think outside the box. “Somebody’s thinking in the key of C!” bellows Frank, as he and his cohorts run around in a circle. “It’s me! Sorry” yells Gleeson, who is promptly decked by Maggie Gyllenhaal, as the band’s thereminist. Highly promising.

A Field In England
Ben Wheatley’s psychedelic, black-and-white Civil War-set descent into weirdness has been seen, and greatly admired, by Empire back in Blighty. It’s out on June 5 on every format under the sun. If you liked any, or all, of Wheatley’s previous works, this is a must-see.

The Double
Richard Ayoade’s follow-up to Submarine has a touch of the Brazils about it, as Jesse Eisenberg’s hapless office jockey finds himself supplanted at work and at home by an exact duplicate, while the forces of bureaucracy – personified by Wallace Shawn – conspire to not give a damn.

Twelve Years A Slave
Steve McQueen’s hotly anticipated third film is the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is sold into slavery in 1841. The film charts his twelve-year odyssey through slavery, as Solomon tries to stay alive and retain his humanity and dignity in the face of those with none. The clip we saw was powerful, as Solomon watches in mounting horror when one of his friends is taken away from him. With an all-star cast including Michael Fassbender (of course), Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti and Alfre Woodard, expect this one to be there or thereabouts come Oscar time.

Cuban Fury
Ever since Empire visited the set of Nick Frost’s salsa comedy, which has been pushed back to January 2014, we’ve been itching to see one thing in particular: the dance fight between his decent, noble Bruce Garrett and Chris O’Dowd’s cock-blocking nemesis. Today, we finally caught a sneak peek at the sequence, in which the two men resolve their issues through thrusting, pirouetting and tangling for the lead – and it was very funny indeed. We're expecting big things from Frost’s first non-Pegg / Wright lead in a movie. Oh, and one more thing: the man can move.

Starred Up
The latest movie from David Mackenzie (Young Adam, Spread) looks like, with its no-holds-barred depiction of the British prison system, a modern update of Scum. But there’s a wrinkle here, too, as Jack O’Connell’s Eric, bristling with anger and rage against the machine, meets his match inside… and that match is his father. The briefest of brief glimpses at this one, but shots of Eric brandishing table legs as weapons and weeping in the arms of a fellow inmate are very promising. Possibly not for Eric, but at least for the viewer.

A Most Wanted Man
Anton Corbijn’s spy thriller, about a Chechen Muslim who becomes the subject of serious interest from German and US spy agencies when he illegally immigrates to Hamburg, was harder to get a handle on. Still, it looked as stylish as you might expect, there were brief looks at the key players, including Rachel McAdams, Daniel Brühl and Willem Dafoe, we got to hear Phillip Seymour Hoffman rocking a German accent, and there was a bit of business with someone being bundled into a car. It may be too early to dub this one this year’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but the signs are there.

For Those In Peril
One of the two Film4 films playing here at Cannes (the hugely impressive The Selfish Giant, which screened today, is the other), Paul Wright’s film about the sole survivor of a boating accident was represented by elliptical footage of the man (George MacKay) and his other half, set to Johnny Cash’s version of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, that felt very Terrence Malick. The finished film, we suspect, will be something radically different.

Under The Skin
A sci-fi tale by the director of Sexy Beast, starring Scarlett Johansson? This was always going to be interesting. This tease of Jonathan Glazer’s story about an alien in human form was crammed with interesting, eerie, unsettling images (naked alien men-babies cavorting underwater and through a field, anyone?), while Johansson – eyes wide and dark as lochs – seems to be a perfect fit for the director’s sensibilities. We can't wait to see what this thing is like. It’s described by Film4 as “part road movie, part science fiction, part real”. That may be as close as anyone can come to nailing it.

20,000 Days On Earth
At first glance, it seemed to be a Nick Cave concert film / documentary, but 20,000 Days On Earth appears to be something more. To quote the blurb, it’s “an innovative drama-documentary with Nick Cave about creativity and our fight against time.” It’s also a “search for truth through artifice and myth”. That doesn't entirely come across from the footage, but that may have been because we were just waiting for him to do the one with Kylie.

How I Live Now
This was a dialogue-free look at Kevin Macdonald’s adaptation of Meg Rosoff’s novel. It's the story of a young New Yorker whose summer holiday with her English cousins is interrupted by a cataclysmic war. Saoirse Ronan is the American cousin, George MacKay – him again – looked suitably swoonsome as the boy with whom she falls madly in love. Hard to judge at this stage, but it looked more lived-in and real than most books based on young adult novels, and we’re sure Ronan – surely the best young actress around – will deliver again.