Cannes: Ken Loach Serves Whiskey and the Working Class in Angels' Share

Ken Loach

Ken Loach and The Angels' Share star Paul Brannigan in Cannes Tuesday.

Cannes has a soft spot for Scottish director Ken Loach. His latest film, The Angels' Share, is his eleventh film in competition and he even won the Palme d'Or for The Wind That Shakes the Barley back in 2006. His latest, a comedy — or perhaps more precisely a dramatic-comedy — is a rarity of sorts for the director who is accustomed to critical acclaim though his well-crafted films can leave audiences depressed. But The Angels' Share involves a pack of offenders hoping to turn good, a last ditch crime, and a whole lot of high brow whiskey. The story serves as one more canvas for the plight of the working class. And for this screening, Cannes used subtitles to guide audiences through the characters' thick Scottish brogue.

"I'd rather have subtitles so people can understand what's going on," said writer Paul Laverty. "It's much [preferable] to diluting the local language and Americanizing it so you miss some of the local [nuance] of the film."

In the film, newcomer Paul Brannigan plays Robbie who is part of a posse of hooligans who are ordered to enter a community payback program. Harry (John Henshaw) oversees Robbie and his fellow Scottish brood. One day, Harry offers Robbie a taste of rare whiskey to celebrate the birth of his son, which gives him an idea. If he can get his hands on a single barrel of the malt, the cash would be enough to erase their financial problems allowing them to start over.

"I'm familiar with what Robbie came from," Brannigan said Tuesday in his thick Scottish lingo. "I came from a rough neighborhood in Glasgow where there are thousands of unemployed." Brannigan said he had a chance meeting with Laverty who had found him walking out of a community center in a scene that would not have been unfamiliar in the film and the two started talking. The result was simply life-altering for Brannigan who didn't hold back words.

"He saved me — he saved me! It was tough. I had no money. Hands up, I think he saved my life because who knows what I would have done to get money — who knows." Though Brannigan said that after this film comes out he'll again be unemployed, he did manage a part in the upcoming Scarlett Johansson starrer Under the Skin and hopes to continue acting. Though he kept pretty quiet about details, he apparently gets naked in front of Johansson's character in the movie, which he did with some anxiety. "She's an absolutely fantastic girl and once I got to talking with her, I felt much more at ease," he said.

Never inclined to sugar-coat language, Loach and Laverty embraced the inner-city vernacular that surrounds Robbie. The festival offered up subtitles during Monday night's premiere and similarly to the recent Weinstein Company documentary Bully in the U.S., Angels' Share ran into conflict with the U.K.'s MPAA counterpart for excessive language, receiving the equivalent of an R-rating in Britain, though unlike Bully's F-bombs, it was the C-word that ran afoul of censors.

"We were allowed seven 'cunts' but only two of them could be aggressive 'cunts,'" said Loach, laughing. "You get into the realm of surrealism here in terms of language. The British middle class is obsessed with what they call 'bad language.' But the manipulative and deceitful language of politics is accepted. I'd call those bad words. Embracing the ancient swear words that have gone back for centuries and words we all enjoy should be embraced."

Get more of Movieline's coverage of Cannes here.

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  • Chandelier says:

    Ken Loach is English but his screenwriter Paul Laverty is Scottish which is why some of his recent films have been set in Scotland. Or let's just say they're both British while we still can.

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