CANNES, France, May 16, (AFP): From the Warner and Lumiere brothers to the Boultings, cinema has been marked from its earliest days by remarkable sibling double acts.
The Safdie brothers — Ben and Josh — are the latest directing duo to hit the headlines, the big surprise of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which opens on Wednesday.
The New Yorkers, whose new grindhouse movie “Good Time” was described by its star Robert Pattinson as a “mentally damaged psychopath bank robbery movie”, are the most eye-catching newcomers in the running for the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or.
They join a long list of brothers from the kings of low-brow comedy, the Farrellys, to the Coens who have worked together behind the camera.
The Coens: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen are members of the elite club of filmmakers who have won best film Oscars and the Palme d’Or. Their genre-spanning and wryly comic movies like “Fargo”, “The Big Lebowski”, “Raising Arizona” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” have won them a huge crossover audience that combines arthouse cred with genuine crowd pleasers.
The Wachowskis: The brothers behind “The Matrix” franchise are now in fact sisters having both come out as trans women. Larry became Lana in 2010 and Andy Lilly two years ago, in one of the most high-profile coming outs in Hollywood. The sisters have continued to work together, mostly notably on “Jupiter Ascending” and the television series “Sense8”.
The Farrellys: Peter and Bobby Farrelly cut their teeth as writers on “Seinfeld” before becoming the undisputed kings of American cringe comedy with such gross-out hits as “Dumb and Dumber”, “Shallow Hal” and “There’s Something About Mary”. Peter Farrelly, the elder by two years, once joked that they “look up” to their stupid characters. “They are better than us,” he said.
The Afflecks: Even when brothers work hand in glove there is always room for sibling rivalry. Take the Afflecks, Ben and Casey, who have a healthy Oscar rivalry as actors, directors and producers. Ben currently has two, while Casey won his first last year for “Manchester by the Sea”, although he was previously nominated for “The Assassination of Jess James by the Coward Robert Ford”.
The Dardennes: The Belgian brothers — who have twice won the Palme d’Or with their gritty dramas “Rosetta” (1999) and “L’Enfant” (2005) — are often mistakenly taken as twins because they look so similar, although Jean-Pierre is actually three years older than Luc. To further confuse things, their producer Denis Freyd is known as “the third brother”.
The Pangs: The Hong-Kong-based duo Danny and Oxide Pang are best known for their seminal horror film “The Eye”, which not only spawned a Hollywood remake of the same name but a Bollywood one too. The brothers began their career in Thailand with “Bangkok Dangerous” and still make films there from time to time, with Oxide marrying “The Eye” star Angelica Lee.
The Russos: Like the Farrellys, Anthony and Joe Russo began in television as writers on the cult comedy “Arrested Development”. But they moved into the Hollywood big league with their superhero films adapted from the Marvel Comics character Captain America. They hope to repeat the trick with Marvel’s Avengers superhero characters next year.
AFP asked actors and directors who made their names at the festival to recount their highs and lows of the star-studded event.
French director Claude Lelouch first attended Cannes in 1959, arriving directly from a military base while on leave. He was denied entry for wearing a uniform and had to sneak in through an emergency exit. He says he picked the right film to see, Marcel Camus’ “Black Orpheus”, which won the Palme d’Or that year.
But his best memory is of winning the Palme d’Or in 1966 for “A Man and A Woman”.
“Cannes is the most beautiful place in the world, and the worst, too, for showing a film,” he says. “It’s like a casino: you win or you lose.”
“There is no halfway with Cannes. I’ve known the worst and the best there, I know what I’m talking about,” he added. “Today, all the great directors dream of presenting a film. It’s not for nothing it’s the biggest festival in the world.”
Twenty years ago, Chadian film director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun spent 11 hours on a train from the French southwest city of Bordeaux to get his first taste of Cannes. It was May 1997 and he only had one night.
He was able to get an invite to a screening by Abbas Kiarostami, the Iranian film director, and enter the Grand Theatre Lumiere.
Once seated, about 20 metres (65 feet) off the ground, Haroun turned his head and was struck with “vertigo” and “nausea,” but as soon as the lights went off, “I forgot everything.”
Haroun won the Jury Prize in 2010 for “A Screaming Man,” and his first reaction was to raise his head to those sitting in the nosebleed seats.
“I wanted to believe that among them was a young director watching the show with his head full of dreams”.
Filipino director Brillante Mendoza has many happy memories from Cannes: The first time he trod the red carpet in 2008 when his movie “Serbis” competed for the Palme d’Or or his victory as best director in 2009 for “Kinatay”.
But his favourite memory is still his first appearance at Cannes in 2007 when his movie, “Foster Child” was screened at the Director’s Fortnight.
“The mere fact that they chose me was already overwhelming because at the time, there were only three Filipino (directors) who made it to Cannes and it had been almost 20 years since the last one,” he told AFP.
“I didn’t realise after the screening there would be a standing ovation. I could not believe it. I was a bit embarrassed. I had to stand up and then sit down but every time I sat down, the clapping became louder.”
“I got a bit emotional, I cried. I couldn’t believe what was happening. After that, it took me a long time to control my emotions,” he said.