The legendary British director, Ken Loach, had said some weeks ago that his 29th feature Jimmy’s Hall would be his last. But it now appears that the work, which is part of the Cannes Film Festival starting on May 14, will not be the helmer’s swan song.
Loach told the media that he had talked about retirement (though only from features, not documentaries) “in the heat of a harrowing pre-production battle for the Irish drama, Jimmy’s Hall, which will debut in Competition on the Croisette. I kind of thought I wouldn't get through another one just as we were beginning Jimmy's Hall, because it's a moment of maximum pressure when you haven't shot a thing but you're knackered from all the prep, and you've been away from home for a long time and you still have to get through the shoot."
Loach said: "It's quite a daunting prospect, the effort you've got to find from somewhere and the nervous and emotional energy and all that. But now having come out the other side, while I'm not sure we'll get another of that size away, we'll at least get a little movie together of some sort (with longtime writing partner Paul Laverty) more akin to a documentary scale."
A known Communist sympathiser, Loach’s career began with television before it moved on to the big screen in 1967 with Poor Cow. It was two years later that his Kes attracted international attention.
Jimmy’s Hall is a drama set in 1932 and talks about Communist leader James Gralton, who comes to Ireland after a decade in New York, and he tries to reopen a dance place he had built in 1921.
Loach won the top Palm d’Or in 2006 for his extraordinarily poignant Irish historical piece, The Wind That Shakes The Barley. In 2012, his Angel’s Share got him the Jury Prize at Cannes.
This May, as Cannes zips by from May 14 to 25, Loach will be pitted against many world greats in Competition, but the battle between him and another British legend, Mike Leigh, with his biopic, Mr Turner, will be keenly followed by critics and others. And it has been two decades since they first sparred for the prestigious Palm at Cannes – one of the most sought after in the world. They vied in 1993 – when Loach won the Jury Prize for Raining Stones and Leigh got the Best Director’s Award for Naked. In 1996, his Secrets and Lies won him the Cannes crown, which he described as a landmark in his career.
Leigh's fifth movie at the Festival, Mr Turner, traces the life of artist JMW Turner. The auteur averred that Turner “is so complex and there's so much of him to get your head around. Turner was a compulsive artist. Turner had to paint, had to draw, all the time … It was an absolute obsession."
The Cannes competition will have 16 other films apart from Jimmy’s Hall and Mr Turner, and will open with the Nicole Kidman-starrer, Grace of Monaco, on May 14. (Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Cannes Film Festival for well over two decades, and will do so this year, and he may be e-mailed at email@example.com)