Tough times for smaller US films despite bumper Cannes
REUTERS CANNES (FRANCE) IN a bumper year for US productions in Cannes, director John Hillcoat, presenting prohibition-era drama Lawless at the film festival on Saturday, said the state of smaller-budget American movies was “distressing”.
Lawless is in fact an international production - Hillcoat and two of his leading cast are Australian, as is scriptwriter and musician Nick Cave. But the 1930s tale of three bootlegging brothers in Virginia also features leading US actors Jessica Chastain and Shia LaBeouf and is backed by the Weinstein Company.
It is one of five US productions in Cannes’ main competition of 22 films, an unusually high number, leading some experts on the French Riviera to speak of a boom in medium-budget pictures costing a few tens of millions of dollars.
But Hillcoat, who collaborated with Cave on the acclaimed 2005 Western The Proposition, was less sanguine.
“The state of things is pretty tough as everyone here knows, particularly in my world which is the kind of medium-budgets,” he told reporters after a press screening of Lawless, where there were boos as well as cheers at the closing credits.
Lawless is an ultra-violent adaptation of author Matt Bondurant’s fictionalised account of his family called The Wettest County in the World. British actor Tom Hardy plays Forrest, who with his brothers Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (LaBeouf) run a successful but illegal moonshine business that local police officers are happy to allow in return for backhanders.
Trouble arrives in the idyllic Virginian hills in the form of special agent Charlie Rakes, a creepy, effete officer from Chicago determined to break the Bondurant brothers and put an end to locals’ belief that they are indestructible.
Hillcoat was attracted to the film, in which Western meets gangster movie, partly because he believed it reflected contemporary concerns.
“There are a lot of parallels to today with the economic crisis, the political crisis, the war on drugs,” he said.
Cave also saw links, and tried to reflect them in the score, which he wrote. “This is actually a modern film in its way, because prohibition, it still exists today, it still fails epically with the so-called war on drugs,” he said.
Regarding the portrayal of violence, he added: “It’s very brutal, very quick, it’s all over very fast and it leaves a huge mess behind and that was what really excites me about the way John deals with violence.”