Entertainment

Ken Loach, back in Cannes, again plumbs pain of inequality

Actress Hayley Squires, director Ken Loach, actor Dave Johns, producer Rebecca O’Brien and screenwriter Paul Laverty, from left, pose for photographers upon arrival at the screening of the film I, Daniel Blake at the 69th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 13, 2016.
Actress Hayley Squires, director Ken Loach, actor Dave Johns, producer Rebecca O’Brien and screenwriter Paul Laverty, from left, pose for photographers upon arrival at the screening of the film I, Daniel Blake at the 69th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 13, 2016. AP

Cannes, with yachts moored off the French coast and luxury boutiques lining its famous seafront, is an odd place for a proud socialist to call home.

But Ken Loach, the 79-year-old British director, has had 12 films in competition at the Cannes Film Festival over the years, including his Palme d'Or-winning “The Wind That Shakes the Barley.” He’s more a regular at Cannes than almost any filmmaker.

On Friday, Loach premiered “I, Daniel Blake,” a warmly realistic drama about a middle-aged widower (Dave Johns) in northern England who after a heart attack can neither work nor get government benefits. The film chronicles his sometimes comic, frequently painful frustrations as he winds his way through a byzantine system that seems designed to crush him.

Like many of Loach’s films, the politics of “I, Daniel Blake” are unmistakable. It’s an ardent polemic, straightforwardly and movingly told.

“There is a conscious cruelty in the way that we are organizing our lives now, where the most vulnerable people are told that their poverty is their own fault,” Loach told reporters. “If you have no work it’s your fault you haven’t got a job. Never mind in Britain, there is mass unemployment throughout Europe.”

Loach, like the Belgian brother duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, has long brought his distinct style of social realism to Cannes. This year, “I, Daniel Blake” follows another film that delves into the economic divide, albeit in a much different style of production.

Jodie Foster’s “Money Monster,” playing out of competition, is about a disgruntled, bankrupted investor (Jack O'Connell) who takes a TV finance pundit (George Clooney) hostage on live TV. The thriller is the rare Hollywood release to pulse with the fury of the Occupy movement, even though it comes about five years after protesters camped out near Wall Street.

While “Money Monster” has the sheen of a starry, big-budget production (Julia Roberts co-stars), Loach favors unknown faces and a less adorned approach. He quoted Bertolt Brecht on Friday as a filmmaking motto: “I always thought the simplest of words will suffice. When I say what things are like, it will break the hearts of all.”

“I think that’s what we tried to do because it not only breaks your heart … it should make you angry,” added Loach.

Loach also voiced hesitant support for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union in the country’s June 23 vote.

“The EU, as it stands, is a neo-liberal project how do we fight it best, within or without,” said Loach. “On balance, I think we fight it better within and we make alliances with other European left movements. But it’s a dangerous, dangerous moment.”

Dionne Warwick announces biopic, prompting quick denials

Dionne Warwick announced plans for a biopic about herself at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday, but questions quickly arose about the legitimacy of the fledgling production company the R&B singer has signed up with.

Shortly after the 75-year-old Warwick announced that the film will star LeToya Luckett and Lady Gaga, a representative for Gaga denied that the pop star was involved. She had been announced to play the late British singer Cilla Black.

It was the second time in months that AMBI Pictures, a company founded by Italian producer Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi, was caught blatantly overstating a project. AMBI made headlines in February when it claimed to be distributing a movie starring Pope Francis. The Vatican promptly denied that.

A representative for AMBI didn’t respond to requests for comment Friday.

“Dionne” is being shopped for buyers in Cannes.

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