Archive for the ‘CANNES 2017’ Category

Memoir of War (2018) ****

Dir: Emmanuel Finkiel | Cast: Melanie Thierry, Benoit Magimel, Benjamin Biolay | France, 127′

Memoir of War (La Douleur) was France’s entry to the Oscars this year. It didn’t win but is eminently worth watching for Melanie Thierry’s hypnotic performance as Marguerite Duras in an elegant adaptation of the writer’s semi-autobiographical novel “The War: A Memoir”, set in Paris during German occupation.

Emmanuel Finkiel (Voyages) takes a conventional approach to this stunningly filmed cool classic that dramatises the writer’s life in Paris under German occupation in the final years of the war. After her husband Robert Anselme, a major figure in the Resistance, is arrested and deported, she is forced to live by her wits in order to get him back. And this involves a cat and mouse game with a French Nazi agent collaborator called Rabier (a stout Benoit Magimel with a dark wig).

Duras, who wrote the Oscar-nominated script for Alain Resnais’ drama Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), was an intellectual of the highest order, and this is reflected in Thierry’s contemplative, nuanced gaze, as she chain-smokes her way through one of the best performances of the Oscar nominations. Finkiel completely eschews melodrama in taking us into Duras’ intimate thoughts and recollections, often blurring the focus to suggest enigmatic events, and using her own stream of consciousness to drive the narrative forward as she struggles to survive the intrigue going on around her. Tortured by self-doubt and anxiety, she yearns for Robert but emerges obdurate and determined to find him.

Meanwhile, Robert (Emmanuel Bourdieu) barely makes an appearance despite the anguish surrounding him. The first hour deals with Duras’ efforts to keep Rabier onside, although clearly finding him rather repellent in many ways — and she may even be wasting her time. He is rather taken with her bluestocking beauty and literary credentials, and two enjoy a series of clandestine tête à têtes in discreet venues. But Finkiel’s film flows impressively as the focus shifts away from the couple and increasingly on to Duras’ fraught and internalised musings about Robert, as she gets closer to his colleague Dionys (Biolay).

The final denouement is as unexpected and it is slightly unsatisfactory. Robert is liberated and brought back to Paris by the skilful negotiations of Francois Mitterand and the film is suddenly brought to a conclusion that some may find brusque given the slow-burning nature of the early scenes. That said, Thierry is mesmerising to watch in a graceful tour de force of controlled anguish. This is Finkiel’s second feature with Thierry, and he clearly knows how to make the most of her. MT



The Rider (2017) **** Blu-ray

Writer/Dir: Chloe Zhao | Drama | 100min | US | 2017

Skilfully melding narrative and documentary film techniques, The Rider is set on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and follows a Lakota cowboy after an accident derails his rodeo riding dreams.

Chinese-born Chloe Zhao is a writer, director and producer known for her previous Cannes outing Songs My Brothers Taught Me. THE RIDER, her second feature selected for the Directors’ Fortnight and has won the National Critics’ Aeard. It’s a poetic cinema vérité drama that explores themes of male pride, family loyalty and thwarted ambition through a moodily soulful young cowboy who is unable to continue his vocation in the rodeo circuit due to a life-changing injury.

Enlived by the magnificent mountains and windswept prairies of America’s Badland’s National Park, South Dakota, a cast of non-professional actors Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau and Lane Scott star alongside Cat Clifford, who appeared in Songs My Brothers Taught Me, make this resonant action drama feel both authentic and  informative on the subject of horse training and competitive riding.

Zhao convincingly conveys the wild excitement and thrilling danger of this male-dominated world where young cowboys are addicted to the high octane buzz of the rodeo the narrative sizzles with angst and poignant moments, where macho bravado must be tempered with patience and gentle coaxing required to tame and tackle the wild horses and train the, to be ridden, and this is where Brady has an innate ability.

Brady dearly loves his family, his father is a disappointment to him, drinking and gambling on the slot machines, but he also fails to comprehend the weight of responsibility left to his dad when Brady’s mum died leaving him to bring up his two siblings: his brother has been left brain-damaged from a rodeo accident and his kind-hearted sister clearly has learning difficulties. But after a fall competing in the circuit where he was once a leading star, the film’s unsettling tension derives from Brady’s bitter struggle to fulfill his future in the outside world, a pale comparison to his life in the wild outdoors, and he constantly torn between reality working in the local supermarket, and his desire to get back in the wild riding and training with his horses.

But this is Brady’s film and he gives a mesmerising and deeply moving turn with echoes of Montgomery Clift in The Misfitas, as a man so deeply connected to the land and his horses that he doesn’t know where else to go. MT


The Rider won the Art Cinema Award at CANNES 2017 and National US Critics’ Award 2018





The Workshop (2017) ****

Dir: Laurent Cantet | Writer: Robin Campillo | France | Cast: Marina Fois, Matthieu Lucci | 114min | Drama

Laurent Cantet follows his middle-aged rumination Return to Ithaca (2014) with an equally unsettling but darker teenage drama that takes place in a multi-cultural summer school in Provence. Youth is a subject he’s covered before in his Palme d’Or winner The Class (2008) but here the region’s working class past come back to haunt the instability of the present providing an intoxicating mix of emotions in a tense, intelligent and socially relevant drama.

The film follows Antoine who is taking part in summer school in rather downtrodden town of La Ciotat, where he hopes to write a crime thriller novel with the help of a well-known author Olivia Dejazet (Marina Fois).  Joined by seven other local teenagers from the town which has seen better days as a centre for shipbuilding – today the docks just service luxury yachts.

Whilst most of the students are critical of Dejazet’s Parisian “snootiness”, they still co-operate  – apart from Antoine (Lucci). He is provocative to both teacher and co-students, shocking them with a piece of gruesome writing, describing a mass-killer, and told in the first person singular. Downtime is spend hanging around the area, in one instance with an unlicensed firearm.  Antoine has already been playing the popular video game “The Witch3: Wild Hunt”,  where he choses the role of a Viking killer-for hire. Malik (Rammach), a young Muslim woman, is Antoine’s fiercest critic, as he continues to undermine the project, upsetting everyone with his unruly attitude. Dejazet feels hopeless – not used to open racism and Antoine’s perverse love of violence – then she tries to help him. But her efforts end in a traumatic encounter, and Antoine gives himself away: he describes the main motive of the Bataclan perpetrators as boredom, a very astute projection, considering his activities with other far-right friends.

Antoine might not have the intellectual prowess of Drieu La Rochelle, the nihilist hero of Louis Malle’ s Le Feu Follet, but there are certain parallels: both men prefer male company, the home-erotic undertones are very clear. Like many fascists, they are obsessed with death and suicide (La Rochelle killed himself in 1945 after being a collaborator), and their relationship with women tends to be antagonistic: their masculine pride does not allow them to come emotionally close to women. Antoine is a gun for hire, his phantasies of obliteration are as much directed at himself as others.

Regular collaborate Robin Campillo, who also worked on Entre les Murs with Cantet, constructs an ambivalent relationship between Dejazet and Antoine: both are aware of their social differences, but in spite this they are somehow attracted to one another. Their relationship develops into a separate story, whilst the other six students try to write their own crime novel. DoP Pierre Milon uses impressive panoramic shots, showing the empty docks, then returning to the intimate scenes of collaborate writing, without breaking the fluent movement. Cantet’s direction is  sensitive, he never denounces Antoine, seeing him as a victim of change: once he would have found a spiritual home with the dock workers, but now he is alienated and bitter. L’Atelier is a story of disenfranchisement, and storytelling – with the author as teacher, but one who’s not always in control.




Tehran Taboo (2017) ****

Dir.: Ali Soozandeh; Animation; Elmira Rafizadeh, Bilal Yasar, Zahra Amir Ebrahimi, Negar Mona Alizadeh, Arash Marandi; Austria/Germany, 2017, 96 min.

First time director Ali Soozandeh shows us the seedy tightly-belted underbelly of life in Tehran, where drugs, illegal sex and all sorts of corruption are still part of a daily routine. Using rotoscoped characters and a mixture of 3D and drawn backgrounds, he creates a vibrant picture of a place full of psychotic men and women punished for their hypocrisy.

The central character is Pari (Rafizadeh), a prostitute who takes her mute son Elias (Yasar) with her to work. The first sequence is symbolic of all what follows: Pari is giving a man a blowjob in the front of the car, whilst Elias is sitting in the back, experimenting with an condom. Suddenly, Pari’s customer spots his daughter on the pavement, she is walking hand-in-hand with a boyfriend. The customer, enraged, shouts at the young man calling him a pervert. He pushes Pari aside, and crashes his car.

Pari is trying in vain to get Elias enrolled at a special needs school. But her attempts are unsuccessful, because her husband is serving a long jail sentence for drug-dealing (“I gave them 20 million to avoid the death penalty, now they want ten million for my freedom”), he refuses to sign the application form and will not allow Pari a divorce. When she asks the clerical Judge Adel to help her, he denies her rights – but finds a nice flat for her where he can visit at his leisure, loving the rough sex she provides. In the apartment block Pari where poses as a nurse, we meet Sara (Ebrahimi), who’d rather work as a teacher than have children with her repressive husband Mohsen. Sara looks after Elias, while Pari uses Judge Abdel to get her son into a school. A third narrative strand involves Donya (Alizadeh), who has a one-night stand with musician/DJ Babak (Marandi) and needs an operation to have her hymen replaced for her marriage the following week. When Pari tries to help both Sara and Donya, she discovers that both women have secrets that will lead to their undoing.

Soozandeh makes great use of mirrors and other reflective backgrounds to show the reality, hiding behind the action in front. A typical example of male society is Sara’s father-in-law, a diabetic, who uses Elias to fetch the hidden chocolate from the shelves. He watches pornographic films in Elias’ presence – but is alert enough to quickly switch the TV channels to the state-controlled news as soon as Sara comes into the room. Although the narrative is sometimes too heavy-handed, Soozandeh succeeds in painting a picture of male debauchery and violence behind the curtain of religious purity. MT


Faces, Places (2017) ***

IMG_3618Dir: Agnes Varda, JR | Doc | French/Belgian | 91min

The diminutive Agnès Varda comes across as a warm social animal at the ripe age of 89.  Collaborating for the first time ever with another photographer, the Ali G lookalike and French creative force JR – possibly for his able assistance and van driving skills – the pair embark on a tour of France, not just to take pretty pictures, but as a tribute to the people they meet along the way. Travelling south from the Northern mining towns to the Midi and Savoie, their aim is to record the memory of ordinary citizens by pasting their oversized photographs for posterity, on old houses and monuments.

JR’s van is painted to look like an enormous camera, and contains a photo-booth that churns out the large photographic prints. It’s a clever idea and one that generates enormous pleasure all round. By the end of their journey, Varda will even have her toes and eyes emblazed on road tanks waggons, to carry her adventure forward. Through this interchange of photographs and conversations with locals, they visit the small towns of Bonnieux, Pirou, St Aubin and Sainte Marguerite where in conversation with farmers, postmen, waitresses and dockworkers Varda builds a special portrait of contemporary France that’s also frank and sometimes even controversial along the lines of: ‘why don’t more women drive heavy goods vehicles’, or, ‘should a goat always keep its horns?’.

Varda still has a keen eye, even though she now suffers macular degeneration and has to undergo painful regular hospital injections. Claiming that ‘chance’ has always been her best assistant she clearly has a positive view of life and reminisces over her industry friends: there is Henri Cartier Bresson and his wife Marine Franke, whose graves we visit, and Guy Bourdin whose photo ends up on a beach monument. And despite happy memories of her friendship with Jean Luc Godard, when turning up at his house for an invitation to tea, the veteran director churlishly fails to appear. MT



Sicilian Ghost Story (2017) ****

Dirs/scr Fabio Grassadonia, Antonio Piazza| Italy/France/Switzerland, 2017. 122′

Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza made their names with Mafia thriller Salvo at Cannes several years ago, and returned in 2017 with another Sicilian-set slow-burner that adds teenage romance and Gothic fantasy to their signature Mafiosi mix to create this modern day Romeo & Juliet styled fantasy drama.

This is a stunningly crafted, magical fairytale enriched and heightened by the visual wizardry of Luca Bigazzi (The Great Beauty) but despite its touching storyline and convincing performances SICILIAN GHOST STORY is slightly overlong in telling the truth-based tale of teenager Giuseppe Di Matteo (Gaetano Fernandez) who was kidnapped in 1993 in order prevent his Mafia supergrass father, Santino, from spilling the beans. His ordeal is seen through the eyes of little Luna (Julia Jedlikowska), who holds a constant candle for her schoolfriend so bright, that the two form a psychic connection throughout his captivity, as he clings to her letter as his guiding light to salvation.

With its echoes of Grimm’s Fairytales (the enchanted wood) and Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (through the girl’s red duffel coat) the directors pay homage to best examples of fantasy meets reality. The film also recognises the fact that children escape into a world of fantasy when reality becomes too traumatic for them to cope.

Bigazzi intensifies the drama with his masterful techniques enhancing the vibrancy of Sicily’s landscapes and interiors with heady and luscious hues. At atmospheric soundtrack harnesses the ambient sounds of the forest to amazing effect. And newcomers Julia Jedlikowska and Gaetano Fernandez bring extraordinary intensity to their roles as Luna and Giuseppe in this thematically well-managed and haunting slice of Sicilian recent history. MT


Claire’s Camera (2017) *** | London Korean Film Festival

Dir: Hong Sang-so | Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Shahira Fahmy, Kim Min-hee, Jun-yeong Jeong | Drama | Sth Korea | 69min

There are similarities between Hong Sang-soo’s latest seaside drama Claire’s Camera and his Korean set comedy In Another Country. But not only does this latest lack the mordant humour of his 2012 outing it also drifts along aimlessly, the tangible chemistry between its central characters played by gracefully Isabelle Huppert and Kim Min-Hee almost making up for its unengaging narrative, posing as improvisation, yet often stretching our impatience to the maximum.

Set in an around Cannes, this whimsical whisp of a story almost brushes off the blatant marital infidelity that is quite blatantly its central premise. Sales agent Manhee (Kim Min-hee) is fired by her female boss for sleeping with the director So (Jung Jinyoung) she is representing at the festival. Her boss refuses to give her a chance to explain and it soon emerges that she is in a relationship with So, and is clearly jealous of the young Manhee.

Meanwhile, Huppert is delicately caught in the crossfire as a dilettante in the Riviera there to enjoy the festival ambiance. The results are a mildly amusing play on jealousy, social awkwardness and the more subtle aspects of the female ego in matters of love. MT


In the Fade (2017) ***

Dir: Fatih Akin | Cast: Diane Kruger| Drama | German | 104min

IN THE FADE is a hard film to watch after the events of Manchester, Westminster amongst many others. In it Diane Kruger plays a plain-talking hard-edged mother trying to cope with the death of her Kurdish husband and small son, murdered by a bomb in their German home town.

Since his gritty debut Head-On Turkish-German director Fatih Akin has remained faithful to his indie style and his ethnic-rooted dramas in a another film that is incessently grim, as the events would suggest. But none its characters are at all likeable accept, strangely. the German father of one of duo of bombers, who are purportedly neo-Nazi sympathisers.

Kruger’s Katya has married Nuri, a convicted drugs dealer, in prison. Clearly in love, the devastation she feels in the aftermath is palpable. And it’s a strong performamce, Kruger’s first in her native German. A really spiteful courtroom procedural records a unjust verdict and Katya repairs to the seaside to heal. Or so it would appear. It actual fact, in keeping with her tough persona, she’s pursuing the bombers to a small Greek resort. The film is a subtle as a mallet, and about as enjoyable as being hit by one. Diane Kruger won Best Actress at Cannes for her histrionic performance. MT




A Ciambra (2017)

Dir.: Jonas Carpignano; Cast: Pio Amato, Koudous Seihon, Iolanda Amato, Damiano Amato, Rocco Amato; Italy/USA/France/Sweden 2017, 118 min.

Jonas Carpignano’s casts non professionals in this companion piece and follow-up to his debut Mediterranea, a lively all singing all dancing immigration drama that revolves around a family of Romas who live in an enclave of Gioia Tauro in Calabria, .

Voluble teenager Pio (Pio Amato) is the youngest in the family of jailbirds, idolising his brother Cosimo (Damiano Amato) who has already served time, as has his father Rocco (Rocco Amato), he mixes easily in the multi-cultural milieu of fellow Romas, local Italians and African refugees, and the rest of their clan are under house arrest. Mother Iolanda (Iolanda Amato) keeps the family together, and Pio is a afraid of her – but not enough to stop his various criminal activities. Pio’s only confidant is Ayiva from Burkino Faso, who lives in the African section of the town and is played by the only professional actor, Kudos Seihon. Pio’s loyalities are put to the test when he discovers his clan is planning a robbery at Ayiva’s “warehouse”; but he’s proud to be a Roma and keeps his mouth shut, respecting his brother’s words: “when you are in prison, you are respected, even by the Italians, but nobody respects the Africans”.  Carpignano keeps his distance from his characters, never judging them and allowing their macho, misogyny full rein. That said, the clan live in abject poverty, crime clearly doesn’t pay for these canny immigrants. This approach works up to a point. Realism is fine, but it has to encompass more than one dimension. There are shades of The Dardenne Brothers in Tim Curtin’s handheld camerawork which follows each scenes through to the end, although the brothers take their narrative rigour from showing society as a whole, not indulging in the cul-de-sac actions of one section of the community.  Overall, A Ciambra pulls out all the stops aesthetically, allowing the audience to enjoy the ride rather indulgently, and with a dangerous lack of reflection. AS



l’Amant Double (2017) ***

Dir: François Ozon | Cast: Jeremie Renier, Marine Vacth | Drama | France | 104min

François Ozon is back with a meandering 90s-style erotic thriller that starts as an upbeat, intriguing psychodrama hinting at hidden depths, but then loses its sting in the final stages. Poking fun at its female-centric themes, the film opens with an eye-watering gynaecological close-up – if only the script was as tight as its heroine’s tooshie.

The female anatomy belongs to pouting pixie-like minx Chloe (Marine Vacth) who is bored in her new job at a trashy art museum. Just as well, because her love life is complex and full of energetic sexual encounters that kick off when she falls for her dishy psychoanalyst Paul (Jeremie Renier). But when they move in together Chloe is alarmed to discover Paul is not who he seems. Firking around in his things she finds his passport with a different name and realises her lover has an analyst twin brother, which at first he denies. Pretending to need therapy, she tracks down the identical sibling (Renier flips deftly between the two), and soon they too are having rampant sex.

Ozon’s twin theme recalls the obsessive psycho thrillers of Brian De Palma and Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers and even The Brood, where emotional confusion casts doubt on the central character’s state of mind. This is Marine Vacth’s second collaboration with Ozon since she sprung to fame in his 2013 drama Young and Beautiful, and here she plays a similar type who is slightly disdainful and dissatisfied with her life. Despite Paul’s amorous and easy-going nature, Chloe is curiously drawn to the more difficult character of his brother – Jeremie Renier excels in both roles. Ozon, as playful as ever, then resorts to his box of kinky tricks as Chloe turns dominatrix, in a twist obviously worked into the narrative to delight French audiences – who love this kind of thing. From then on L’AMANT DOUBLE broadens into an exploration of Chloe’s gynaecological and psychosexual issues, scuppering the suspense and  the impact of the ultimate reveal.

Thank God for Jacqueline Bissett whose vignette spices up the dragged out denouement, and Myriam Boyer who brings some light relief as the nosy neighbour with a penchant for cats. If only Ozon would return to his more satisfying early thrillers, such as Under the Sand (2000)Swimming Pool (2003) or the serious dramas such as Frantz (2016).



Ismael’s Ghosts (2017) **

Dir: Arnaud Desplechin | Cast: Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Louis Garrel, Mathieu Amalric | Hippolyte Girardot, Alba Rohrwacher | Drama | 110min | France

Cannes 70th Anniversary got off to a wildly pretentious start with Arnaud Desplechin’s sprawling fantasy melodrama made watchable by sparkling performances from two of France’s leading female stars: Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

The histrionic storyline follows Matthieu Amalric, in his usual tortured turn as a neurotic chain-smoking writer whose wife Carlotta (Marion Cotillard) was declared missing 20 years previously. Emotionally unstable, he falls for Charlotte Gainsbourg’s charming and calming single astrophysicist, whose cross to bear is raising her disabled brother – who never actually appears.

Into this budding romantic mêlée plops the delicately distraite adventurist Carlotta who has been wandering the globe, much to the chagrin of her dying father and her husband.  She now turns up out of the blue to reclaim her husband and have his baby. Is she a ghost or a real person, do we really care? She puts a spanner in the works for all concerned – and only to illuminate Ismael’s ambivalence about what he really wants from a partner, and out of life in general. At this point Desplechin’s adds a exotic twist to proceedings involving Louis Garrel, who plays a diplomat hired by the French government, to a mythical North African country with his new bride, a playful Alba Rohwacher. And this is where the film loses its way (and our interest) as it slips backwards and forwards, careening between sparks of quirky humour, wild reverie and erotic moments where Cotillard reveals all but, judiciously, Gainsbourg remains gracefully un-décolletée – and strangely more interesting and appealing – as Ismael’s true love).

Funny how Déplechin’s female characters are eminently more interesting but only ever exist to serve his one-dimentional men. That said, there is much to admire in this hotchpotch: a sweepingly romantic score that punctuates the occasional moments of intrigue, Irina Lubtchansky’s intricate camerawork that conveys claustrophobia in tight corridors, and soaring delirium in widescreen shots; but nothing ultimately hangs together. ISMAEL’S GHOSTS is best remembered as a vehicle for Garrel, Gainsbourg, and Cotillard, and some flashes of momentary brilliance in a rather disturbed nightmare . MT


How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017)

Dir: John Cameron Mitchell | Cast: Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp | 100min | US | Musical RomCom

John Cameron Mitchell’s absurdly unconvincing ‘punk-retro’ musical is based on a short story by Neil Gaiman. It imagines a late ’70s London where aliens in psychedelic costumes infiltrate a corner of Croydon and create havoc by seducing kids at a local disco, where they vomit in their mouths. Elle Fanning is one of the aliens. How she got suckered into the project God only knows, but she tries her best and falls for the other only good about the film – the male lead gamely played by Alex Sharp. Sandy Powell’s costumes are worth a mention too.

Sadly these aliens are ‘programmed to self-destruct’ so the charmingly honest love story at the heart  of this charade sadly ends in tears. Clearly the director knows nothing about punk or late ’70s London so the whole thing feels like amateur dramatics staged by teenage filmmakers wandering onto the set of  Some Mothers do ‘Ave ‘Em – with a good deal of angry swearing thrown in for good measure. One to miss. MT



Let the Sun Shine In | Un Beau Soleil Intérieur (2017) Mubi

Writer|Dir: Claire Denis, Christine Angot | Cast: Juliette Binoche, Gérard Depardieu, Valéria Bruni Tedeschi | 94min | Comedy drama

Claire Denis’ talents extend across the genres – her terrific comedy debut Un Beau Soleil Intérieur starring Juliette Binoche, Gérard Depardieu and Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi sees a trio of Parisians keen to find love the second, third (or possibly even) twentieth time around. Previously known as Des Lunettes Noires, a more edgy and intriguing title that conveys the romantic pleasures of the time discretely known as ‘un certain age’, this drôle and triumphantly upbeat satire will make you chuckle knowingly, rather than laugh out loud.

Binoche plays Isabelle, a recently divorced mother in her early fifties keen to rediscover the buzz of sex and lasting love again and all the other things that make ‘la vie du couple’ worth living, after the pressures of raising a family or struggling to build a life. Surrounded by a series of smucks – to put it politely – she feels that romance is already a thing of the past. Isabelle is ‘special’ in that mercurial way that becomes amusingly familiar as Denis’ insightfully intelligent narrative unfolds. She has reached a time when wisdom and experience enriches everyday life, but when it comes to love we are still often teenagers.

Isabelle welcomes the familiar routines of daily life, but so do the men she encounters, particularly one pompous banker (Xavier Beauvois) who is the ultimate control freak and useless in bed. But she falls in love all the same, due to her newfound ability to tolerate even the worst of what’s left men-wise. The banker is clearly unable to leave his wife, so Isabelle moves on to Sylvain (Paul Blain), a louche and sensual man she meets in a bar where they dance to they strains of “At Last’  – and of course you know this is just another dream. Then there is alcoholic actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle) who satisfies her sexually but is too fond of himself to far for anybody else. Isabelle is looking for chemistry but also someone from her ‘milieu’, but at this stage in the game most  available men are single for a reason: they are either geeks or deeply unattractive, but totally unaware of it. And ex-husband François (Laurent Grevill) still serves as a ‘friend with benefits’, occasionally popping back on the scene, although her daughter is only glimpsed briefly.

Apart from the acutely observed witty script, the emotional nuances of Binoche’s performances are what makes this so enjoyable. Un Beau Soleil never takes itself too seriously, and is a complete departure from her dramas such as Beau Travail and White Material, and is probably most like her 2002 outing Friday Night. And the final scene where she visits Gerard Depardieu’s psychic is such a perceptive interplay between clever dialogue and intuitive performances it’s a joy to behold. MT





Wonderstruck (2017) ***

Dir: Todd Haynes | Cast: Julianne Moore, Toby Jones, Michelle Williams | Amy Hargreaves | US | Drama | 120min

Scripted by Brian Selznick based on his 2011 novel, Todd Haynes follows his gorgeously sumptuous Carol with twee and self-indulgent schmaltz. It follows similarly nostalgic lines, the childhood wonder and magic connected to happy memories of the past. But the retrospective often magical reveries finally emerging in a narrative voiceover require us to marvel at the serendipity of fate. Often we remember what we chose to and clothe it in swathes of golden glory. Wonderstruck is by no means a bad film but it often feels disingenuous and sentimentally saccharine – it is a film that congratulates itself it a glow of smugness composed of an intertwining narrative that sashays back and forth about two aurally-impaired children who grow up at different moments in time, who are lonely and head for the bright lights of the city away from the unhappiness of their rural homes.

Ben (Oakes Fegley) is a troubled kid from Gunflint, Minnesota whose single mother (Michelle Williams) was killed in a car crash before he got to know the identity of his father. When he hits the big time arriving in 1970s New York (a lovely imaginative scenes and one of the best in the film) he finds a book with a message to his mother from a person called Danny and decides to follow up on the address written there. The narrative then flips back to 1927 where Rose (Millicent Simmonds) is entranced by a Hollywood silent movie star Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore). Rose also makes her way to the big City to see her idol perform on the stage. And the two stories collide through their characters’ mutual fascination with the Museum of Natural History. Rose’s strand is the weaker and least convincing of the two. To say that her love of silent movies is connected to her deafness is rather glib and completely overlooks the vital component of orchestral accompaniment that brings this form alive. Although Ben’s strand is more engaging it lacks the ability to deal with major plotholes and inconsistencies that culminate in its absurd denouement. Wonderstuck is certainly well-meaning but ends up being worthy and caught up with its own importance in some of the longueurs in the museum. MT




120 BPM (2017) ***

Dir: Robin Campillo Writer: Robin Campillo | Cast: Nahuel Perez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adele Haenel, Yves Heck, Coralie Russier | 135min | Drama | French

Robin Campillo’s follow up to Eastern Boys is a cinéma vérité style drama that reflects  his own years as an AIDS activist during Mitterand’s 1990s government. It makes a brave and honest attempt to communicate the frustration felt by many sufferers of the disease through an organisation that calls itself Act Up.

120 BEATS feels quite conventional in style, and clearly Campillo feels so strongly about the film’s themes that he has decided not to be too ambitious artistically – the result is rather bland and overlong at 142 minutes, but certainly valuable as a lasting testament to the era, and a fight that continues. Most impressive are the naturalistic performances, particularly from Hanaele as the strong-minded Sophie, and the evocative score with tunes from Bronski Beat.

The film opens with during a rowdy meeting of Act Up in a brightly lit venue where clicking of fingers replaces clapping as a signal of approval. The group’s members, not all sufferes, are encouraged to be vocal and expressive. There follows a raucous demonstration in the offices of a drug company refusing to release its test results. There are romantic interludes with rather overplayed graphic sex that takes place between the feisty young Chilean French Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), who has fully blown Aids,  as he falls for HIV-negative Nathan (Arnaud Valois). Their relationship is only really examined in the light of Sean’s illness and none of characters is fleshed out enough for us to engage with their plight, which is a shame.

Artistically there are one or two inventive flourishes such as when the sparkles from the disco lights are transformed into the virus, but it’s clear that Campillo does not want to cloud his central message with aesthetic mastery. Also, the aggressive energy generated by some of the more unappealing characters make it difficult for us to feel for them in their plight, despite Campillo’s witty script. Beats per Minutes has garnered much critical acclaim for its important subject matter, but a worthy theme alone does not make film brilliant and this is a decent but unremarkable third feature from Campillo. MT


Happy End (2017) ***** | Home Ent release

Dir: Michael Haneke | Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-louis Trintignant, Toby Jones, Mathieu Kassovitz, Franz Rogowski, Fantine Harduin Drama | 110min

HAPPY END is Michael Haneke’s satirical exploration of a rich family of industrialists whose dysfunctional daily lives become linked to the turbulent ongoing immigration nightmare that is Calais, thanks to the son and putative heir of the Laurent family’s building firm.

The ironically entitled HAPPY END joins Haneke’s film oeuvre with impeccable production values, sophisticated interiors and elegant performances from a starry ensemble cast, including veteran Louis Trintignant and, of course, Isabelle Huppert. This is a typical Haneke film: all his classic themes coalesce in a slow-burning treat, with an exquisitely judged script. Themes here include voyeurism, family guilt, shame, and revenge with social media and onscreen messaging topically enlightening the narrative and adding to a gritty subtext behind the beautifully manicured domestic scenes. In one involving and impromptu moment musicale for the scion’s 85th birthday (Trintignant as Georges Laurent), the female musician, a chelloist, is conducting a covert porn exchange with Thomas Laurent – revealed only to the audience as it scrolls down on his onscreen messenger.

Isabelle Huppert plays Anne Laurent, the chatelaine of the family’s Belle Epoque residence (complete with Moroccan staff) who has recently taken over the construction business from her ageing father Georges, who is stumbling on the foothills of decrepitude, and desperate to die, while actually being healthy, despite his advanced years. Recently engaged to Toby Jones’ English lawyer, and tasked with handling a UK deal involving the business, her son, Pierre (Franz Rogowski), is a non-starter prone to drunken outbursts, and her brother Thomas (Kassovitz) has a new wife, a baby and a savvy little daughter, (Harduin) from a previous marriage, who has broken into his computer and sussed his game.  So far, so dysfunctional. Meanwhile, we are treated to glimpses of the migrant crisis on the streets of the coastal city and an industrial accident on one of the Laurent’s main construction sites.

This is a malevolent movie that wears its unsettling credentials discretely hidden under its haute couture outerwear, and as in all Haneke’s fare, we know the ending will be far from happy, but provide first class entertainment from start to finish. MT


The Square (2017) Bfi player

Dir|Writer: Ruben Ostlund | Cast: Dominic West, Elisabeth Moss, Terry Notary, Linda Anborg, Claes Bang | Drama | Sweden\Denmark\US | 131′

Swedish director Ruben Ostlund won the Palme D’Or in 2017 with this startling satire on modern society, the moral of which is simplistically: don’t lose your mobile phone. Not a very helpful caveat but one that leads to the downfall of the film’s central character, a suave gallery owner who provides the prism through which Ostlund explores the state of Sweden’s art world and, more widely, its sociopolitical and national identity, going forward – as they say.

This is a frightening and ambitious thriller not only for its thematic richness but also for its resonant characters, darkly comic moments and relevance to modern life. As in his 2014 hit Force Majeure, Ostlund’s is a tale of guilt and responsibility but also political correctness and freedom of speech in the light of Sweden’s influx of migrants, and all this conflates for provocative watch but also a nail-bitingly tense one that will possibly leave you shattered and shaken – it did me.

Claes Bang plays the aptly named Christian, a sympathetic, sophisticated and broadminded gallery owner keen to keep at the cutting edge of art world. But several of his outré ideas backfire leading to a catastrophic chain of events and his downfall. The first is connected to an iniative called The Square: a space in the museum’s courtyard which allows ‘freedom of expression’ for all, provided that they abide by society’s ‘rules’. But a shocking PR stunt upsets the status quo, and he is forced into fire-fighting mode to save the reputation of the museum. The second leads to one of the most unsettling scenes in the film – and this occurs during a high level fund-raising dinner – calling into question his integrity.

It all starts when Christian discovers his wallet and mobile have been stolen while he is protecting a woman from the advances of a hostile man, outside Stockholm’s central station. Encouragingly, sources provide a catchment area – a block of flats – where his stuff is supposedly located and after requesting his belongings be returned they miraculously emerge leaving him with a feeling of largesse towards mankind. But after an ill-advised one night stand with Elizabeth Olsen’s American journalist, who has interviewed him that day, things start to go awry in a bizarre way, and seem linked to the robbery, highlighting the film’s racial dimension. As the museum director Claes Bang is suberb in a difficult and nuanced role where he is required consistently to present a professional face in the light of personal controversary and workplace mayhem, and we feel for him. Without disclosing the entire storyline, this is an intriguingly complex and shocking thriller, sumptuously crafted and full of inventive elements and subtle performances that will stay in your memory for a very long time. MT




You Were Never Really Here (2017) ***

Dir: Lynne Ramsay | Writer: Jonathan Ames| Lynne Ramsay | Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Nivola, Alex Manette, John Doman | Thriller | 95min

New York is the setting of Lynne Ramsay’s claustrophobic psychodrama about a troubled soul who brings his abusive past to bear in his work as a hit man. Featuring a tortured performance from Joaquin Phoenix, it glimpses a world much darker and more deadly that the woozy snapshot we get here. Ramsay is more interested in probing the inner workings of her character’s mind than focusing on the sordid underworld of ‘private security’ and directs from a script adapted by Jonathan Ames from his original novel.

Phoenix plays Joe, a damaged Travis Bickle-like loner and former soldier who would have us believe there is a righteous place in the world for him that is hitherto undiscovered. But until that moment arrives he is tasked with rescuing a teenager whose wealthy father wants to avoid contact with the authorities. Teenager Nina (a fragile Ekaterina Samsonov) is the daughter of minor politician Votto (Alex Manette), a sidekick in Alessandro Nivola’s election campaign for senator, and has been lured into a sex-trafficking ring. Joe is tasked with getting the teen back to Votto, in a local hotel. But the scheme backfires when other criminal elements infiltrate the ring and the film descends into a hazy contemplation of Joe’s broken psyche that gradually melds with the ambiant violence of the botched release.

Ramsay’s effort to blend a crime thriller with claustrophobic character study is a brave one that feels much more nuanced and tuned-out than Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, but sadly lacks the resonance and gutsy sense of time and place. That said, it’s a well-crafted thriller with an auteurish, almost poetic feel that contrasts impressively with the stark stabs of savage violence that punctuate this tawdry twisted tale. MT


Makala (2017) * * * *

Dir.: Emmanuel Gras; Documentary with Kabwita Kasongo, Lydie Kasongo; France 2017, 96’.

MAKALA confirms Emmanuel Gras (Bovines) as a major talen who “looks for expressiveness, not realism” and achieves just that in this visually stunning Cannes Critics’ week winning film that seamlessly blends documentary and feature.

Kabwita Kasongo (28) is married to Lydie, and they live with two of their kids in the village of Walemba in the Katanga province of the democratic Republic of the Congo. An elder daughter is with Lydie’s sister in the town of Kolwezi, fifty km from Walemba. In Swahili, Makala means charcoal, which Kabwita crafts from cutting and slowly burning a massive tree. Finally, he sets off with an overloaded bicycle, his prize possession, to sell the charcoal in Kolwezi. The three day journey is torturous and dangerous, particularly at night when lorries barrel by, often pushing Kabwita’s bike over, making him lose some of his precious cargo. The dream of owning his own home is far away as the15 sheets of metal required for a roof, would cost more than ten times the amount he gets for his charcoal.

Gras “developed a principle from fiction, of an beginning and an end”. And Kabwita is very much a noir-hero, his profit, and with it, his future, more and more reduced by circumstances beyond his control. In common with American Noirs directed by Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy/The Big Combo), the main protagonist is literally pushed to the margins of screen – contrary to the classic Hollywood films, where the accessible object is positioned front and centre in full view. Like a Lewis’ character, Kabwita teeters on the edge, in danger of falling out of the frame, threatened by the menacing lorries, which look more like robots out of sci-fi feature. Furthermore, Gras creates an aura of mystery (as in Lewis’ films), some parts of the frame are partly concealed, leaving us to join the main protagonist’s struggle to keep up with the ever- shifting sands of the action.

Gaspar Claus’ eerie violin score echoes the distressing mood of intensifying hopelessness. Gras has pioneers a style of his own: richly imaginative in its portrait of poverty and powerlessness. AS


Lover for a Day (2017) ***

Dir: Philippe Garrel | Cast: Eric Caravaca, Esther Garrel | 77min | Drama | French

Philippe Garrel is back With another family affair that brings to a close his trilogy that started with Jealousy. This grainy black and white Parisian story is as sweet and light as a mini croissant and just as innocuous, showing slim insight into the mind of a woman despite a collaboration of four writers, including the veteran Garrel himself. If you enjoy his work it’s watchable enough, but rather too slight and generic to have general appeal. Daughter Jeanne (his own daughter Esther) finds herself at home again with Papa (Caravaca), as her first love affair ends abruptly. But family life is interupted by her father’s young lover Ariane (Chevillotte) who is a philandering part-time porn model. The intimate domestic trio discuss love, fidelity and friendship but not to any degree of satisfaction or insight, and Arianne frequently becomes jealous when father and daughter spend the evening together. There is a candid intimacy to the dialogue but it all feels rather trite. Esther is a natural, as is Caravaca, but Chevillotte’s Arianne struggles to feel authentic and her story is largely hollow and implausible. Even with a running time of 77 minutes LOVER fails to be involving often feeling like an amateur college piece; well-crafted but rather will of the wisp. MT


Women on Top | 2017

Hollywood may still be struggling with female representation as 2018 gets underway, but Europe has seen tremendous successes in the world of indie film where talented women of all ages are winning accolades in every sphere of the film industry, bringing their unique vision and intuition to a party that has continued to rock throughout the past year. Admittedly, there have been some really fabulous female roles recently – probably more so than for male actors. But on the other side of the camera, women have also created some thumping dramas; robust documentaries and bracingly refreshing genre outings: Lucrecia Martel’s mesmerising Argentinian historical fantasy ZAMA (LFF/left) and Julia Ducournau’s Belgo-French horror drama RAW (below/right) have been amongst the most outstanding features in recent memory. All these films provide great insight into the challenges women continue to face, both personally and in society as a whole, and do so without resorting to worthiness or sentimentality. So as we go forward into another year, here’s a flavour of what’s been happening in 2017.

It all started at SUNDANCE in January where documentarian Pascale Lamche’s engrossing film about Winnie Mandela, WINNIE, won Best World Doc and Maggie Betts was awarded a directing prize for her debut feature NOVITIATE, about a nun struggling to take and keep her vows in 1960s Rome. Eliza Hitman also bagged the coveted directing award for her gay-themed indie drama BEACH RATS, that looks at addiction from a young boy’s perspective.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, BERLIN‘s Golden Bear went to Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi (right) for her thoughtful and inventive exploration of adult loneliness and alienation BODY AND SOUL. Agnieska Holland won a Silver Bear for her green eco feature SPOOR, and Catalan newcomer Carla Simón went home with a prize for her feature debut SUMMER 1993 tackling the more surprising aspects of life for an orphaned child who goes to live with her cousins. CANNES 2017, the festival’s 70th celebration, also proved to be another strong year for female talent. Claire Simon’s first comedy – looking at love in later life – LET THE SUNSHINE IN was well-received and provided a playful role for Juliette Binoche, which she performed with gusto. Agnès Varda’s entertaining travel piece FACES PLACES took us all round France and finally showed Jean-Luc Godard’s true colours, winning awards at TIFF and Cannes. Newcomers were awarded in the shape of Léa Mysius whose AVA won the SACD prize for its tender exploration of oncoming blindness, and Léonor Séraille whose touching drama about the after-effects of romantic abandonment MONTPARNASSE RENDEZVOUS won the Caméra D’Or.

On the blockbuster front, it’s worth mentioning that Patty Jenkins’ critically acclaimed WONDERWOMAN has so far enjoyed an international box office of around $821.74 million, giving Gal Godot’s Amazon warrior-princess the crown as the highest-grossing superheroine origin film of all time.

The Doyenne of French contemporary cinema Isabelle Huppert won Best Actress in LOCARNO 2017 for her performance as a woman who morphs from a meek soul to a force to be reckoned with when she is struck by lightening, in Serge Bozon’s dark comedy MADAME HYDE. Huppert has been winning accolades since the 1970s but she still has to challenge Hollywood’s Ann Doran (1911-2000) on film credits (374) – but there is plenty of time!). Meanwhile, Nastassja Kinski was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Honour for her extensive and eclectic contribution to World cinema (Paris,Texas, Inland Empire, Cat People and Tess to name a few).

With a Jury headed by Annette Bening, VENICE again showed women in a strong light. Away from the Hollywood-fraught main competition, this year’s Orizzonti Award was awarded to Susanna Nicchiarelli’s NICO, 1988, a stunning biopic of the final years of the renowned model and musician Christa Pfaffen, played by a feisty Trine Dyrholm. And Sara Forestier’s Venice Days winning debut M showed how a stuttering girl and her illiterate boyfriend help each other overcome adversity. Charlotte Rampling won the prize for Best Actress for her portrait of strength in the face of her husbands’ imprisonment in Andrea Pallaoro’s HANNAH. 

At last but not least, Hong Kong director Vivianne Qu (left/LFF) was awarded the Fei Mei prize at PINGYAO’s inaugural CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON film festival and the Film Festival of India’s Silver Peacock  for her delicately charming feature ANGELS WEAR WHITE that deftly raises the harrowing plight of women facing sexual abuse in the mainland. It seems that this is a hot potato the superpowers of China and US still have in common. But on a positive note, LADYBIRD Greta Gerwig’s first film as a writer and director, has been sweeping the boards critically all over the US and is the buzzworthy comedy drama of 2018 (coming in February). So that’s something else to look forward to. MT






Faithfull (2017)

Dir.: Sandrine Bonnaire | Documentary with Marianne Faithful | France 2017 | 62′.

With 63 films under her belt, Sandrine Bonnaire is a talented actress but needs to hone her documentary making skills. This portrait of British singer/songwriter/actor/performance artist Marianne Faithful, who celebrates forty years on the stage, is slim not only in running time, but also in technique. She fails to bring out the essence of the English singer, songwriter and actress in a strangely invasive film, reducing Marianne Faithfull nearly to tears on one occasion during filming.

FAITHFULL relies heavily on early Sixties footage and TV clips for its watchability. We learn that Faithfull first met Jagger at a party in early on in her career when she was attacked by the main-stream media for not committing herself to being the motherly female “when there are so many ways for her to spend her days; cleaning the home for hours or rearranging the flowers”. On the London stage, she was Ophelia, confessing unashamedly that she could sometimes not perform, because of drugs. Then there are wonderful clips from “The Girl on the Motorcycle, in which she starred as Rebecca.

But it was a miscarriage at 19, at the end of her five year long relationship with Jagger which really damaged her. “Mick wanted children” – and yes he did indeed, having now fathered eight. What followed was a descent into drugs, influenced by her reading William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. But Faithfull always got up and persevered, as her more recent concerts show, getting even better.

Bonnaire will be remembered for a rather embarrassing scene in the car when Faithfull asked her more than once, to turn off the camera and leave her be. But Bonnaire, instead of listening, put the camera even closer to her wounded face. Subconsciously, the director repeats exactly the treatment the teenage singer got from the establishment press. The only way to enjoy this documentary, is to concentrate on Marianne Faithfull’s music, and there is luckily a great deal to enjoy here. AS


Blade of the Immortal (2017)

Dir: Takashi Miike | Writers: Hiroaki Samura, Tetsuya Oishi | Action Thriller | Japan | 140′

Seasoned manga director Takashi Miike seems to be live forever like his hero Manji played by Takuya Kimura in what is purported to be the Japanese director’s 100th film. How can any artist be original with this body of work behind him, Indeed, BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL lacks the inventive touches of his earlier work but it’s certainly enjoyable and as highly polished as Majii’s extensive weaponry. Adapted from Hiroaki Samura’s manga of the same name, it follows a Shogunate samurai warrior who is endowed with immortality due to the poisoned chalice delivered on him by a white-veiled Buddist nun in the opening scenes. This curse – or boon – depending on how you look at it, is delivered in the form of ‘sacred’ bloodworms scattered on his fatal wounds inflicted during a fight to avenge his sister’s death at the hands of the ruthless Itto-ryu, a school of fighters led by the weirdly tattooed Anotsu (Soto Fukushi). In this way he is rendered impervious to lethal wounds – which heal at the drop of a sword – severed limbs cleverly finding their back to his body. Initially this sounds just the ticket for a Shogun warrior, but as time goes by he gets sick and tired of the whole charade until he meets cute Rin (teen star Hana Sugisaki), a determined tomboy who iis also seeking revenge for her parents who were also slain by the Itto-ryu. This is flesh on the bloody bones of the saga, which limps on in a gore-fuelled second act which never really develops its existing immortal characters but just keeps on introducing us to other ghoulish weirdos including Sabato Kuroi (Kazuki Kitamura) and mysterious monk Eiku Shizuma (Ebizo Ichikawa) who appears to possess an antidote to the bloodworms  in a series of subplots during its 140 minutes of blood-letting and limp-lopping tempered, with occasional stabs of humour amid the mass slaughter. All good clean fun. MT



Petit Paysan | Bloody Milk (2017) | Pingyao Film Festival 2017

Dir/Writer: Hubert Charuel

When one of his cows falls ill, the farmer does his best to save the rest of his herd in the heartfelt agrarian drama Bloody Milk (Petit Paysan), the genre-bending feature debut of writer director Hubert Charuel.

Social realism wanders in the muddly territory of thriller in this taut but flawed French farming drama, offering up a promising premise that never quite brings home the bacon despite a good script and a stunning central turn from A Woman’s Life star Swann Arlaud) as a dedicated devotee of dairy farming and country living despite its meagre financial rewards.

Pierre (Arlaud), is a gentleman farmer in every sense of the word. He runs a small milk farm concern that comes under threat when one of his herd comes down with a strain of Mad Cows disease a debilitating and highly contagious wasting disease. As we all remember from the sad episode in Britain recently, this is a tragedy that forces the slaughter of the entire herd, under Government guidelines, so Pierre tries to mitigate the damage by killing the cow and burying in his own fields. Problem is, his sister (Sara Giraudeau) is a vet who turns a blind eye at first but once his mother (Candelier) finds out things go from bad to worse, especially when the health inspectors turn up and snoop around.

Written by Charuel and Claude le Pape, this is a heart-rending and doomladen story about a really decent man who tries to do his best by everyone – including his cows – one gives birth in a touching scene – and we all feel for his pain and that of the livestock he so tenderly cares for, but it lacks the dramatic moments to really lift it into the same territory as the Icelandic UCR winner Rams despite some similar humour. Furthermore Petit Paysan has a pejorative ring to it as a title, as many audiences will consider it rather recherché as well a a labour of love to run a small dairy concern in a world where hand made produce is all the rage, and certainly raw milk quite sought after for its health-giving properties. The English gentry during the 18th century often turned their hands to dairy farming – one such example is at Kenwood House in Hampstead, England.


Devil’s Freedom | La Libertad del Diablo (2017) | Lff 2017

Dir/Writer: Everardo Gonzalez. Mexico, 2017, 74′

Mexico has become synonomous with terror when it comes to the drug trade. In dramas such as Heli and Sicario the horror and casual violence of modern life emerges through stories of ordinary people caught up in a criminal underworld, as here in Devil’s Freedom (La Libertad del diablo), a rather dry but important documentary that gives testament to the endemic corruption caused largely though drug wars, but also in criminality of all kinds, where life is cheapened by man’s desire to fight for control of land and filthy lucre.

The characters interviewed in El Paso Director Everardo Gonzalez’ often harrowing film are often fully masked as he calmly interviews them off camera, allowimg them full amd frank expression of their grief and suffering. Some of them break down as they tell of  the torture, loss of life and trauma they have endured in the war against drugs which has claimed over 100,000 lives in the past five years. This is a number that beggars belief, but the authorities are often as corrupt as the public involved.

The gruelling constant mask to camera confessions are often punctuated with sorties into indiscrimate landscapes picturing the grim light of dawn or masked gunman travelling in trucks on the desert roads, or abandoned and dilapidated sights where sinister events have seemingly taken place. Either way, this makes for gruelling viewing.

Gonzalez never resorts to sensationalism, maintaining his distance with the occasional question that begs for description rather than sympathy. Neither does he attempt to contextualise events or seek explanation for Mexico’s malaise. Sufferers and perpetrators alike express fear, regret and shame. There seems little hope for redemption or hope in film’s incediary finale. MT



The Summit | La Cordillera (2017)

Dir.: Santiago Mitre; Cast: Ricardo Darin, Paulina Garcia, Elena Anaya, Christian Slater, Dolores Fonzi; Agentina/France/Spain 017, 114.

Another corruscating critique of politics comes from Director/co-writer Santiago Mitre (Paulina) whose cynical eye captures the way politicians deal with each other and their citizens. In spite of structural fault lines, Mitre captures an uneasiness which also affects the personal sphere of the participants.

Argentine president Hernan (Darin) travels to Chile where the presidents of eleven South American States meet to form an Oil producing conglomerate on the same lines as OPEC. But Hernan has trouble at home: his estranged daughter Marina is mentally unstable, and her ex-husband threatens to unmask the president with a corruption scandal which happened when Hernan was a mayor. Hernan is welcomed by the Chilean president (Garcia), who has chosen a mountain retreat in the Andes, reminiscent of the Swiss Alps, for the titular summit. Behind the scenes meetings are obviously more important than public, plenary sessions, as it becomes soon clear that Hernan’s vote will be decisive. The Brazilian president is totally opposed to any participation of the USA, whilst Hernan plays a waiting game. Suddenly, all hell breaks lose with his daughter and son in law making his official duties fraught with difficulty, and the American envoi (Slater), makes him an offer that’s almost impossible to refuse. The only honourable person seems to be a journalist (Anaya), who grills the presidents mercilessly. But Hernan is not the only one well-schooled in avoiding concrete answers. The mountain resort is not only geographically removed from the population, it is a symbol of the political structure of the sub-continent. Hernan is sleeping with a mistress, and the luxury of the surroundings lacks for nothing: it might as well be Washington DC. The score by Alberto Iglesias reflects the uneasiness of the setting, and Javier Julia’s (Wild Tales) images, particularly the panoramic shots from high above, show the splendid isolation of the rulers. AS


Beauty and the Dogs | Aala Kaf Ifrit (2017)

1eefebec3515b791dbe30a1852af3172Dir.: Kaouther Ben Hania; Cast: Mariam Al Ferjani, Ghanem Zrelli; Tunisia/France/Sweden 2017, 100 min.

Writer/director Kaouther Ben Hania’s mockumentary The Blade of Tunis raised eyebrows in her home-country of Tunisia. For her first feature she has chosen another provocative theme: police brutality. Based on the novel Coupable d’Avoir eté Violé (2013) by Meriem Ben Mohamed and Ava Djamhidi, her film makes for a harrowing watch, shot in nine single sequences by Johan Holmquist.

Mariam (Al Ferjani) is a student, who goes to a party with her friends, where she is attracted to Yousef (Zrelli)  But the evening is far from romantic. After the pair go to a nearby beach, Mariam is captured and raped by two policeman, whilst a third forces Yousef to go to an ATM and take money out, for not arresting him. But Mariam’s ordeal has only just began and although Yousef supports her, the hostility she meets from hospital staff, both the private and public, is shocking. Doctors refuse to certify Mariam’s injuries, and send her to the police station, fearing conflict with the authorities. There, Mariam is questioned aggressively, called more or less a slut for not wearing a burka, and unfortunately, one of the police officers recognises Yousef as one of the demonstrators during the recent unrest. But worse is to come when Mariam and Yousef turn up at the station of the accused officers’ police station where the young woman is reminded, to “think about the honour of her country” and asked to withdraw her accusations. Yousef, shouting “this entire country is a prison’” is arrested, and Mariam left alone with the officers.

BEAUTY AND THE DOGS is a tour de force of resistance by Mariam, who somehow finds the strength to persevere with her case. The only criticism here is Ben Hania’s failure to reveal what really happens until the final scenes: when Mariam lays on the floor of the police station, watching it all on her mobile. This way, unnecessary tension keeps the audience in suspense and away from the unfolding drama. That said, Ben Hania offers a fearless and spirited story from her native Tunisia. AS


The Merciless (2017)

Dir: Byun Sung-hyun | Cast: Him Si-wan, Sul Kyung-gu | Crime Thriller | South Korea | 117′

Byun Sung-hyun’s The Merciless looks absolutely stunning as it opens on the waterfront where a man is celebrating his release from prison with his gangland mentor as a series of revelations about their ambitious past slowly unfurls in this dramatic and stylish thriller that often feels a bit too clever for its own good.

Jo Hyun-su (Yim Si-wan) is the young criminal and Han Jae-ho (Sul Kyung-gu) his aspirational father figure in this noirish South Korean exploration of like-minded friendship between felons. As long as you don’t thing too much it slips down as easily as a lychee cocktail.

Although this sounds like a contradiction in terms, the two have high hopes of rising to the top the criminal underworld. Hyun-su sons proves himself to the older Jae-ho (Sol Kyung-gu)  by saving his life in a knife attack and this loyalty leads to them working together once they are back in the real world. But when push come to shove their motives are very different. Jae-ho is desperate for a chance to kill his boss, Chairman Ko (Lee Kyoung-young) who was behind the attempted prison hit. Meanwhile, Hyun-su is tasked with taking down a enterprise linked to the Russian mafia, in an operation led by the masterful Chief Cheon (Jeon Hye-jin) who is bent on putting Ko and his associates in the klink.

This is a colourful and tonally cohesive genre thriller which have echoes of Infernal Affairs. Visually it’s lushly and vibrant but narratively there are drawbacks. Performance-wise too there is much to enjoy and the rapport between the leads crackles with charismatic, especially in regard to Yim Si-wan (a Korean pop singer who also goes by the name of Siwan). And although the film is more style over content, it’s a good-looking piece of filmmaking that slightly outstays its welcome at nearly two hours. MT


Cannes Film Festival Awards 2017


Palme d’Or: THE SQUARE (Ruben Östlund) – main pic

70th Anniversary Award: Nicole Kidman

Grand Prix: BPM  (Robin Campillo)

Director: Sofia Coppola, THE BEGUILED

Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

Actress: Diane Kruger, IN THE FADE

Jury Prize: LOVELESS (Andrey Zvyagintsev)

Screenplay — THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou) and YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (Lynne Ramsay)


Camera d’Or: JEUNE FEMME Montparnasse-Bienvenüe) (Léonor Serraille)

Golden Eye Documentary Prize: FACES, PLACES (Visages Villages) (Agnès Varda, JR)

Ecumenical Jury Prize: RADIANCE Naomi Kawase)


Un Certain Regard Award: A MAN OF INTEGRITY/ Mohammad Rasoulof

Best Director: Taylor Sheridan, WIND RIVER

Jury Prize: Michel Franco, APRIL’S DAUGHTER

Best Performance: Jasmine Trinca, FORTUNATA

Award for Poetry of Cinema: Mathieu Amalric, BARBARA


Art Cinema Award: THE RIDER  (Chloe Zhao)

Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize — TIE: LOVER FOR A DAY Philippe Garrel) and LET THE SUNSHINE IN (Claire Denis)

Europa Cinemas Label: A CIAMBRA Jonas Carpignano)


Grand Prize: MAKALA Emmanuel Gras)

Visionary Prize: GABRIEL AND THE MOUNTAINS (Fellipe Barbosa)

Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize: AVA  (Léa Mysius)


Based on a True Story (2017)

Dir Roman Polanski | Writer: Roman Polanski, Olivier Assayas | Cast: Emmanuelle Seigner, Eva Green

Unusually, there’s a happy ending to this traditionally styled film from Roman Polanski.

Emmanuelle Seigner and Eva Green go tete a tete in a tongue in cheek psychological drama adapted by Polanski and Olivier Assayas from Delphine de Vigan’s story about an author and her envious admirer (D’Apres un Histoire Vrai).

There are shades here of the director’s award-winning 2010 thriller The Ghost Writer, not least because Green’s feisty character pens books for well-known people. That said AFTER A TRUE STORY wears its heart more playfully in a formidly-crafted thriller that inhabits a chic quarter of Paris and a Normandy farmhouse where Seigner’s divorced Delfine spends weekends with her part time lover Francois (played insipidly by Vincent Perez/La Reine Margot) and host of  book programme.

We first meet Delphine at a signing for her latest bestseller as adoring fans extoll the virtues of her literary genius. But Delphine is now struck by writers-block in a period of anxious navel-gazing, and this is where Elle comes into the story.

At first we get the impression that the two are going to be romantically involved as they kiss warmly but this is all part of Polanski’s teasing style. Delphine exuding an air of confidence that Delphine seems to be lacking in her current state of flux but Alexandre Desplat’s unsettling score signals a warning of danger.

Alarmingly Elle soon takes over the writer’s life advising Delphine’s contacts to give her space and strangely she acquiesces. Meanwhile, Francois has dropped out of the story on a name-dropping tour to the US  (Bret Easton Ellis and Cormac McCarthy, don’t you know!) and soon the women are living together in Delphine’s flat – apparently sharing their life together, with Elle even impersonating her at a student lecture.

Green and Seigner are convincing in their roles, as the sassy Elle and more laid-back – almost submissive – Delphine,  but there’s no mistaking a steely side to the author who looks like she’s just rolled out of bed. DP Pawel Edelman’s confident lensing and Jean Rabasse’s sophisticated set design ensure a enjoable watch in this sophisticated game of wits that, unlike Polanski’s usual fare, has a happy outcome leaving us pondering whether the Polish born filmmaker was softening in his dotage. Luckily, as we now know, this was just a blip in the 90 year old director’s landscape. MT



The Desert Bride (2017) | Cannes Film Festival | Un Certain Regard 2017

Dir/scr Cecilia Atán & Valeria Pivato. Argentina/Chile. 2017. 78mins.

This painterly portrait of late-life love provides a subtle and gently humorous focus on contemporary Argentina. Atan and Pivato’s feature debut screened in the Cannes auteurs sidebar, Un Certain Regard, and stars Gloria’s Paulina Garcia as a woman in domestic service who gradually takes back the reigns of her single life and opens her heart to love. The desert road movie serves both as a voyage of self-realisation and female empowerment. Bearing its heart on its delicate sleeve the film interweaves the past and present and is graced by sumptuous cinematography from NO and NERUDA’s Sergio Lawrence. It’s a sweet slip of a film and utterly adorable.

Teresa is leaving her current home for a spell in San Juan in the desert region of Cuyo. Getting there involves a laborious bus journey where the vehicle breaks down leaving Teresa in the pilgrimage town of La Difunta. Here she comes across a kindly market trader in the shape of Gringo (Claudio Rossi). A storm imterupts their innocent encounter but Teresa realises her bag has been left in his trailer. After caching him up they embark on a mission to find the missing luggage as Teresa gradually warms to Gringo’s kindness and easy-going bonhomie: something she could get used to.

Garcia’s portrayal of Teresa’s understated emotional awakening is one of the pleasures of this pastel-hued slow-burner, providing a filmic focus on first love in the autumn of life. MT


Djam (2017) | Cannes Film Festival 2017

Dir: Tony Gatlif | Drama | French |

Tony Gatlif makes films about gypsy cultures from India to the near East and DJAM is his latest, although not his best, it offers something slightly off the beaten track: a female-centric road movie where his feisty belly-dancing heroine embarks on an adventure from Lesbos, to Greece and Turkey. There’s never a dull moment in this exotic musical odyssey that captures the contempo socio-economic zeitgeist of the near Middle East (immigration, female liberation etc) and celebrates rebetiko, an ancient blend of Greek and Turkish tradional folkmusic.

After leaving her uncle (Simon Albekian)  on the quayside Djam (Patakia) uses her cheeky charm to blaise a trail through a variety of hurdles she meets along the way, the first is securing a passport for a naive girl called Avril (Maryan Canon) who has been robbed. From then on the two become travelling companions.

Vibrant and lushly atmospheric this verite-style drama is carried along by Daphné Patakia’s earthy exhuberant chutzpah in the title role (for which she wears no undies), although her minxy coquettishness may be irritating for some, others may find the film a breath of fresh air, with its melodramatic and musical interludes.

Cannes this year has been remarkable for a blatant over-sharing of female issues: from Francois Ozon’s opening shot of a close quarter vaginal examination; to endless open discussions about menstruation; Diane Kruger examining her menstrual blood and here – Patakia’s Djam forcing her friend to shave off her pubic hair on the open road. None of this has particularly enriched the stories concerned, begging the question – what happened to feminine mystique?

Gatlif’s narrative plays as fast as loose as Djam and her copine as they sing and dance around like a couple of lascivious troubadours, seemingly high on their own brand of goofy naughtiness. Although Gatlif seems to be making it all up as he goes along, this is a fresh and impressively-crafted snapshot. MT


A Gentle Creature (2017) | Cannes Film Festival | In Competition

Dir: Sergei Loznitsa | Cast: Vasilina Makovtseva |143min | Russian | Drama

A GENTLE CREATURE is based on a short story by Dostoevsky, narrated by a middle-aged pawnbroker whose wife kills herself. The story was first adapted by Robert Bresson in 1969 as his first film in colour but its subject matter differs from its title, drawing comparisons with several other recent fraught psychodramas such as A Happy End and The Square

Sergei Loznitsa imagines a dark descent into Hell in his follow up to My Joy and In the Fog.  A GENTLE CREATURE is a film about the frustration of its central character: an earnest young woman whose husband has disappeared into the intractable Russian prison system. This parable about contemporary bureaucracy and human rights it is also a cynical takedown of our fellow man. The woman, played thoughtfully by Vasilina Makovtseva, has decent intentions that lead her into a never-ending nightmare, in a story that works on two levels: as a Kafkaesque psychological thriller and a brazen indictment of Russian society.

From her ramshakle cottage in the middle of nowhere, she sets off to personally deliver a parcel of food and clothing that has been returned to her by the prison authorities. The claustrophobic bus journey is a microcosm of Russia itself, beset with vile and unhelpful characters who bicker and bait each other, spouting vile opinions that provide rich insight into the country’s social politics.

When the woman arrives at her destination, a mesmerising dream sequence then ensues, glistening with shades of Kubrick s Eyes Wide Shut where a powerful elite of assembled guests at a dinner have the opportunity to expound on the greatness of Mother Russia, but this all culminates with a brutal rape scene as the woman is driven away in a van, hopes of visiting her husband dashed by the iron fist of the authorities who she thought were taking her to her husband. Often feeling like a contemporary version of Dante’s Inferno A GENTLE CREATURE has no happy end, reflecting on the mournful misery of mankind and the unkindness of strangers in a broken and demoralised world. MT





The Desert Bride (2017) | Cannes Film Festival | Un Certain Regard


Paulina Garcia (Gloria) as a fiftysomething housekeeper whose life changes dramatically turn when she travels across Argentina to take up a new post.

La Familia (2017) | Semaine de la Critique | Cannes 2017


Twelve-year-old Pedro roams the streets with his friends in the violent atmosphere of working class Caracas. A serious street fight leads to him fatally wounding another another boy, so single father Andrés decides they must leave the city in an adventure that will leave them closer than they have ever been.

Gustavo Rondon Cordova’s debut as director and writer is a dark and pessimistic portrait of working class Venezuela. Father and son find themselves on the run from a vengeful mob – and even though we never see the pursuers – which strangely makes the threat feel more menacing, the title is ironic – rather like Michael Haneke’s Happy End.

The absence of women in the mens’ life is key in informing the storyline: Andres’ girl-friend, Zoreida, has been a casual affair, and we only learn about Pedro’s mother because she liked swimming with him. Having to work day and night, Andres had no time to be a proper father, and Pedro resists authority in every way. The two are like hunters, fighting for a living, always confronted with the comstant threat of violence. Their flight is a metaphor: it is not just the vengeful mob they are fleeing, it is a whole way of life. The narrative unfolds episodically, to show the transient nature of their life. The unrest created leads always to more abrupt change. Both seem self-destructive: a clear sign of the lack of female input.

LA FAMILIA is always understated, even the chase lacks any sensationalist angle. Well-paced and impressively photographed: DoP Luis Armando Artega evokes a lush and magical sense of place in contrast to the their raggedness of their rat race. A really imaginative debut. MT


Thr Defence of the Dragon (2017)| Cannes Film Festival | Quinzaine des Realisateurs

Dir.: Natalia Santa; Cast: Gonzalo Sagarminaga, Hernan Mendez, Manuel Navarro; France/Columbia 2017, 79 min.

Natalia Santa’s debut is a brilliantly acted tragi-comedy, full of innovative ideas and told with great aplomb. With shades of Pablo Stoll’s Whisky (2004), it follows three desperate, ageing men, who have great difficulty surviving in 21st century downtown Bogota, for different reasons.

Samuel (Sagarminaga) is a fifty-three year old professional chess player and private tutor, divorced with a young daughter – whom he neglects like all the women in his life. Joaquin (Mendez) is a watchmaker in his mid sixties, not earning enough to pay the rent, Marcos (Navarro) a 70 something homeopath completes the trio whose regular hangout is the local dilapidated Lasker Chess Club and the Normanda Café.

Samuel is gloomy and resigned, only coming alive when chess is involved. His male company is much desired, not only by his landlady’s young daughter, who tries her best to seduce him – in vain – but also by the mother of his young maths student, an illustrator adamant to set up a private meeting with Samuel. Joaquin is the most likeable of the three: He can empathise with his friends, but he is really a prisoner of times gone by – the word digital makes him feel uneasy. Marcos is really a user, exploiting his assistant not only on a professional level, but also in the bedroom. Worse of all, he is a homophobic estranged from his gay son who has been killed in a bear attack. When two of the men find themselves homeless, clearly they have to change.

Santa always keeps a certain distance from her characters: they are analysed, but never denounced. The humour is deadpan, bleak and always carries a certain undertone of mournfulness. Santa paints them as dinosaurs who have maintained a strong macho identity: silent and withdrawn. They make their way though life like little boys lost in the woods, whistling to overcome their fear and loneliness, which they naturally deny. Rarely leaving their homes, and barricading themselves in, they are characters from a bygone era in the streets of Bogota. Samuel and Joaquin live in reduced circumstances, whilst Marcos’ house is full of ornaments and paintings: he pretends to be upper-class, but is as broke as his friends and even more unwilling to change. The visuals match the narrative in their love of small details. Intricate medium shots show the inner shabbiness of these men. Santa skilfully controls her narrative keeping the tension just right in this well-paced and engrossing drama. An astonishing masterclass on a micro-budget filmaking.


The Beguiled (2017 | Cannes Film Festival 2017

Dir: Sophie Coppola | Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Oona Laurence | 91min | Thriller | US

Set in Louisiana and shot in 35mm THE BEGUILED is Sophie Coppola’s re-telling of Thomas Cullinan’s original 1966 novel that explores the powerplay and sexual tension that erupts between a group of differently-aged nubile females and an attractive male forced into their midst during the American Civil War.

Luminously mounted (the operative word – as the movie reveals!), THE BEGUILED sizzles swelteringly in its Southern Gothic aesthetic while remaining as delicate as a starched doily. Colin Farrell is dashingly seductive as the union soldier McBurney transported to this prim and proper confederate ladies’ school when he is rescued, wounded, in nearby woods by one of the youngest girls. Presided over by Nicole Kidman’s prickly Madame Martha who disapproves of the enemy element but secretly joins the innocent ladies’ lustful queue in the shape of Kirsten Dunst’ glacial French mistress Edwina, and Elle Fanning’s disruptive teenager Alicia with an eye for the main chance, the film works as a psychological thriller and a historical drama.

Sophie Coppola makes a dramatic reverse thrust in her clever narrative once Alicia’s cat has been let out of the bag transforming the dynamic of the entire household and transferring the power from a female perspective to a rugged male one, thus unleashing anger, fear and pent up longing all round, although we are never quite sure who is ultimately in control. As McBurney gets to know Martha’s pupils, it’s unsure whether he is trustworthy or a snake in the grass with lascivious intentions. And his masculine vulnerability sparks both desire and inquietude in the young women. He also has a cunning male knack of making them all feel intimate with him showering praise and compliments, individually, in an obsequiously sincere way. Competing with each other covertly for his affections, the girls try to maintain their ladylike behaviour but on an animal level their instincts lead them in a different direction.

Philippe Le Sourd’s hazy visuals give the film a dreamlike quality as if the college is caught in a time-warp from which there is no escape, and yet a drousy longing to remain. The film also has a timeless nature dealing with evergreen themes which could easily translate to a comtemporary setting. Don Siegel made a 1971 version of the story starring Clint Eastwood as the soldier who seduces the women, gradually turning them against each other and eventually himself.

Performances are superlative especially from Nicole Kidman as the cocquettish but buttoned-up Marsha, and Elle Fanning Alicia in the first flush of  burgeoning sexuality. Both manage vague flirtatiousness while keeping their upper lips stiff. But Farrell is the standout in a complex portrait that feels ambiguous but retains an intruiging tension throughout. This is Coppola’s most absorbing and accomplished work so far. MT


Rodin (2017| Cannes Film Festival 2017

Dir: Jacques Doillon, Vincent Lindon, Izia Higelin, Severine Caneele | Biopic Drama | 119min | France

Jacques Doillon has demeaned a French national treasure with a film about Auguste Rodin that will disappoint those whose evocative takeaway of the sculptor’s work is his erotically-charged The Kiss.

Rodin’s work is the epitome of passion but this film coneys none of it. Cliched and bogged down with tedious scenes and boring exchanges, any vestige of joy instilled by the oeuvre of this great master will have left you by the end.

Vincent Lindon won best actor in Cannes 2015 for his honest portrait of a man at the end his tether. You will be at the end of yours at this second rate biopic. As Rodin he is a laborious, lumbering, grizzled, gruffalo lusting after his models as he copes with the derision of patrons and press. The public appalud him but he handles his newfound fame with glowering gloom.

His wife Rose (Séverine Caneele) is unimpressed with him; his lover Camille Claudel (Izïa Higelin) is left coping with her own flagging career. Doillon has sucked the life out of his characters and with the luminous memory of Juliette Binoche in Bruno Dumont’s Camille Claudel 1915 still hanging in the air, Higelin’s portrait struggles in a morass of mediocrity. If RODIN comes to a cinema near you, run straight in the other direction. MT


The Meyerowitz Stories (2017) | Cannes Film Festival | In Competition

Baumbach’s latest serio-comedy THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES asks the question: how do you manage a creative father who constantly puts you down?

Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler deal with their own neuroses while managing a creative father who puts them all down. Stiller is well-off LA lawyer Matthew Meyerowitz, a half- brother to failed musician Danny (Sandler) and non-entity Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) who live close by to their sculptor father (Hoffman) whose party piece is bringing the conversation back to himself.
Harold’s retrospective show brings the family back together in the Brooklyn home he shares with his fourth wife Maureen, a scatty alcoholic played amusingly by Emma Thompson. But the show is put in jeopardy when Dad suffers a brain trauma that makes his narcissism worse.
The siblings find a certain love-hate solidarity as they struggle with the inevitable fallout, all operating from a position of shame; Danny feels a failure as an artist, although he’s a good father. Matthew fails by not being an artist, despite being a financial success; Jean has emerged from Harold’s negligent parenting never achieving anything, in act of self-sabotage; and they’re all latently angry with each other. Baumbach’s clever script ensures there’s plenty of dry humour, and even open wrestling, to lighten things up. With entertaining turns from Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson and a soulful Adam Sandler as the underdog, this is a film that will feel poignantly personal for many.


24 Frames (2017) | Cannes Film Festival | Special Screening

Dir: Abbas Kiarostami | Experimental | Iran | 120min

A final experimental film from Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami, who died last year at 76, is a tribute made especially poignant in the Festival’s 70th Anniversary. Abbas Kiarostami started life as an artist and also worked as a photographer and this clearly informs this series of delicately rendered vignettes that depict scenes from a mostly wintery nature seen from the POV of the animals. These started as photographic stills taken by Kiarostami in Tehran by the Caspian Sea. He then imagines these pictures coming to life with the action continuing for around four minutes. The result is enchanting, uplifting and poignant this experimental film has no dialogue or narrative but occasional scored by popular music and may also be viewed as an art installation rather than a film with appeal to the arthouse crowd rather than mainstream audiences.

Apart from being a visual record of his personal experiences this meditative and meaningful film offers insight into animal behaviour when seen in isolation. A seagull mourning its mate, a cat pursuing its prey and lion seduces a lioness feature in these tableaux vivants. But film opens with Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 1565 oil painting entitled The Hunters in the Snow.  Slowly the picture comes to life as a chimney starts smoking and birds flutter from the bare trees. What remains uncertain is how he has created these moving images but it’s clear that he was intrigued by animals and particularly birds. There is even humour in one frame taken against a turquoise blue sky: a tiny bird chirps away on a pile of logs while trees are gradually felled in the background.  With the final tree falling he flies away. Another depicts a herd of cows strolling along a beach while one lies on the sand, clearly breathing. When the tide threatens to cover the animal, it ups and moves away. This all sounds simplistic but somehow can move you to tears. Another endearing scene involves a young guard dog protecting a flock of goats from the prowling wolves. Tunes accompanying are as sublime as a choral Ave Maria and as cheesy and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music, but somehow it works.

The final 24th frame seems to echo Kiarostami’s romantic nature. In the early hours of the morning a girl is asleep by her computer where an old film is playing on slow-mo. The woman in the picture sings the Lloyd Webber hit “love will still remain.”. Somehow at the end Kiarostami breaks with his country’s strict taboos: the film contains a unveiled woman, kissing a man and singing about it alone. What a brave goodbye. MT


Radiance (2017) | Cannes Film Festival | In Competition

Dir: Naomi Kawase | Drama | Japan | 89min |

Despite her detractors, and there are many, Naomi Kawase is a seasoned director and her latest film here at Cannes is testament to her often unappreciated talent. RADIANCE showcases her skills in this tender and charmingly observed film about a famous visually impaired photographer (Mayasa/Masatoshi Nagase), who is gradually losing his sight. At a workshop he meets  Misako (Ayame Misaki) who writes spoken commentaries for films for the enjoyment of the visually impaired.

Upset by Mayasa’s criticism about one of her commentaries, Misako gently objects accusing him of lacking imagination, but when she discovers his own wonderful talent she reflects on her error and the two grow closer.

RADIANCE is a slim but delightful story that reflects on themes that may be oblique to the unaffected. Amongst the stark psychodramas in this year’s competition, it offers a restorative tonic to human goodness. MT



How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017) | Cannes Film Festival 2017

Dir: John Cameron Mitchell | Cast: Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp | 100min | US | Musical RomCom

John Cameron Mitchell’s absurdly unconvincing ‘punk-retro’ musical is based on a short story by Neil Gaiman. It imagines a late ’70s London where aliens in psychedelic costumes infiltrate a corner of Croydon and create havoc by seducing kids at a local disco, where they vomit in their mouths. Elle Fanning is one of the aliens. How she got suckered into the project God only knows, but she tries her best and falls for the other only good about the film – the male lead gamely played by Alex Sharp. Sandy Powell’s costumes are worth a mention too.

Sadly these aliens are ‘programmed to self-destruct’ so the charmingly honest love story at the heart  of this charade sadly ends in tears. Clearly the director knows nothing about punk or late ’70s London so the whole thing feels like amateur dramatics staged by teenage filmmakers wandering onto the set of  Some Mothers do ‘Ave ‘Em – with a good deal of angry swearing thrown in for good measure. One to miss. MT



The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) | Cannes Film Festival | In Competition

Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos | Cast: Colin Farell, Nicole Kidman,  Barry Keoghan | Drama | Greece | 101min 

Has Greek New Wave director Yorgos Lanthimos gone too far in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. A film that would have us believe that all families are essentially dysfunctional, and all men psychopaths. His latest is set in a sleek but soulless Cincinnati, Ohio in the run up to Christmas. Colin Farrell is an Irish heart surgeon who performs, as many do, to soaring choral music, adding a Kubrickian touch to the film’s bleak opening scene where open heart surgery is being wound up before blood-stained gloves and garb are then thrown into a bin. This sets the tone for a disquieting and starkly alienating parable that examines the human drive to escape death.

Farrell plays Steven Murphy, on the surface a loving husband and family man who has developed a weird friendship with a teenage boy that grows more bizarre as the film unfolds. It soon emerges the boy’s father died on the operating table when Murphy was the surgeon. Left with his unemployed mother, Martin is a young man with a grudge. Later in a speech Murphy tells how the doctor involved in the first heart transplant, Andreas Gruentzig, died in a plane crash: “The operation was successful, but the doctor didn’t make it”.

There’s a horrible feeling throughout the film that the Sword of Damocles is going to fall on Steven, (to use an apposite anecdote from Greek mythology) and all because of Martin (Barry Keoghan) who feels resentful and envious, and puts a curse on the family. Keoghan is a particularly chilling psychopath, but so is Farrell when he puts his mind to it in the final scenes. MT

Happy End (2017) | Cannes Film Festival | In Competition

Dir: Michael Haneke | Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-louis Trintignant, Toby Jones, Mathieu Kassovitz, Fantine Harduin Drama | 110min

HAPPY END is Michael Haneke’s satirical exploration of a rich family of industrialists whose dysfunctional daily lives become linked to the turbulent ongoing immigration nightmare that is Calais, thanks to the son and putative heir of the family building business.

This year’s Cannes Competition line-up is fraught with startling dramas and the intriguingly entitled HAPPY END joins the list with its impeccable production values, sophisticated interiors and top-drawer performances from a starry ensemble cast, including veteran Louis Trintignant and, of course, Isabelle Huppert.

This is a typical Haneke film: all his classics themes coalesce in a slow-burning treat, at times a tad too much so. These include family guilt, shame, revenge where social media and onscreen messaging enlightens the narrative adding to a gritty subtext behind the beautifully manicured domestic scenes. In one involving an impromptu moment musicale for the scion’s 85th birthday (Trintignant as Georges Laurent), the musician, a chelloist, is conducting a covert porn exchange with Thomas Laurent – revealed only to ourselves scrolling down on his onscreen messenger).

Isabelle Huppert plays Anne Laurent, the doyenne of the family’s Belle Epoque villa  (with Moroccan staff) who has recently taken over the construction business from her ageing father Georges, who is stumbling on the foothills of dementia. Recently engaged to Toby Jones’ English lawyer, tasked with handling a UK deal involving the business, her son son Pierre is a non-starter prone to drunken outbursts, and her brother Thomas (Kassovitz) has a new wife and baby and a smart little daughter (Harduin) from a previous marriage (and has broken into his computer and sussed his game). So far, so dysfunctional. Meanwhile, we are treated to glimpses of the migrant crisis on the streets of the city.

This is a malevolent movie that wears its unsettling undercurrent discretely hidden under its haute couture outerwear, and as in all Haneke’s fare, we know that the ending will be far from happy. MT


Coby (2017) | Cannes Film Festival 2017 | ACID

Dir.: Christian Sonderegger; Documentary; France/USA 2017, 78 min.

Christian Sondereggers’s feature length documentary debut COBY is not only an intimate portrait of a transgender man’s journey, but also a testimony to the support he gets from his family, who live in the small village of Chagrin Falls in Ohio.

When she was twenty-one, Suzanna Hunt decided that she would undergo a sex change process, since she “was not happy with what she saw in the mirror – it was not what I expected”. S/he took the name of Coby during the medical/psychological changing process, before settling for Jacob after the successful transformation. We meet Jacob, working as a paramedic in an ambulance, administering help to a stricken baby with his fellow workers. But more surprising than Jacob’s successful progress, is the role his family played in all the upheavels. His parents, Ellen and Williard, and his brother Andrew are interviewed at length, and it turns out that Jacob’s parents were anything but the average village people. They home-schooled their children, there was no TV, and they lived a life of tolerance as Christians. This tolerance was tested by Suzanne early on, the family had to adjust to the many stages Suzanne/Jacob went through, including a lesbian phase, which is recalled with smiles by all concerned.

Jacob is proud to be accepted as man not only by his family, but also his co-workers. But he is honest about the changes in his reactions: before he took testosterone, he would tear up in sympathy when his girl friend Sarah had emotional problems – but now he is much more reserved. ”When I have problems, I react like a gorilla”. But he still has the memories of 21 years as a woman, so he is still able to talk with female colleges in a different way as the other male workers. All in all “I don’t feel like a woman, but feel good in my femininity as a man.” As for the future, since Sarah does not want to bear children, Jacob is the only parent to be able to procreate, and he is taking all medical precautions to keep this possible open.

As for his father, the “memories of him as a girl fade slowly, being replaced by new ones of him as a man”, a process his brother agrees with. As Jacob says “I was born into the right family”. Coby is told in a simple, but not simplistic manner, somehow very close to the way the Hunt family lives: avoiding drama and ruptures, but caring for each other in a truly Christian way. They are in a way the real ‘Anti-Trump’ family: overcoming ‘otherness’ in their family with love, understanding and patience, just understanding without any dogma.


Alive in France (2017) | Cannes Film Festival 2017

Dir: Abel Ferrara | Cast: Abel Ferrara, Joe Delia, Paul Hipp, Cristina Chiriac, Dounia Sichov, PJ Delia, Laurent Bechad | 79mins | Rockumentary

Cult film director Abel Ferrara turns the camera on himself in the role of raddled rock star in this self-indulgent concert documentary premiering here at Cannes Film Festival.

Ferrara joins a long list of filmmakers who have morphed into their own musical subjects but the others have done so with considerably more flare and elan particularly David Lynch and Woody Allen. Strutting and staggering about on stage like a dishevelled hippy, Ferrara doesn’t exactly strike a pose in the way that Madonna did for her Blond Ambition Tour. Better described as a poor man’s Keith Richard. his musical ravings are at best forgettable, at worst shambolic and meandering.

The director of classics Bad Lieutenant and The King of New York embarks on a tour that plays out in Paris and Toulouse during October 2016 with his musical collaborators Joe Delia and Paul Hipp. Described as a friends and family affair, maybe it should be kept that way, while his film fans look forward to the next film SIBERIA with Willem Dafoe.  MT




Alive in France (2017) | Directors’ Fortnight 2017

Dir: ABEL FERRARA | 2017 || DOCUMENTARY | Cast: Joe Delia, Paul Hipp, Cristina Chiriac

Abel Ferrara headlines a film retrospective and a series of concerts in France dedicated to songs and music from his films. Preparations with his family and friends will form the material of this self portrait, showing another side of the director of legendary films BAD LIEUTENANT, THE KING OF NEW YORK and THE ADDICTION. Ferrara is joined on stage by past collaborators, including composer Joe Delia, actor-singer Paul Hipp and his wife actress Cristina Chiriac for concerts at the Metronum in Toulouse and the Salo Club in Paris in October 2016.


Jupiter’s Moon | Cannes Film Festival 2017 | Competition

Dir|Writer; Kornel Mundruczo | Cast: Merab Ninidze, Gyorgy Cserhalmi, Monika Balsai, Zsombor Jeger | 110min | Sci-fi | Hungary

After his UCR hit White God (2013) Hungarian auteur Kornel Mundruczo makes it into the main competition line-up with this sci-fi thriller about a young immigrant who is shot down while illegally crossing the border into Hungary. Terrified and in shock Aryan finds his life has mysteriously been transformed by the gift of levitation.

Clearly the director has honed his craft since his breakout arthouse piece White God, that had so mqny pleasing elements. JUPITER is visually more ambitious and technically brilliant but narratively a complete mess. The bewildering storyline starts off with a great premise – a Syrian refugee becomes an angel in one of Jupiter’s Moon’s where a cold ocean known as Europa spawns new forms of life. The metaphor is clear and cleverly thought out yet the film tries to be too many things, a political commentary and an action thriller: less would have been far more effective than more. After a blindingly intriguing opening scene, the shaky handheld camera continues in a tonally uniform almost continuous take that eventually feels exhausting, and hardly ever gives up, detracting from the enjoyment of the stunning set pieces.

Zsombor Jéger is the central character but not a sympathetic or particularly engaging one as Aryan, the Syrian refugee who is gunned down by László (György Cserhalmi), the nasty leader of a refugee camp in Budapest. Aryan survives his injuries and then discovers an uncanny ability to float, and from on desperately tries to find his father with the help of a nefarious doctor, Stern (Merab Ninidze), who has been struck off for medical malpractice. Aryan is inveigled into a plan to defraud Stern’s rich patients into believing he has faith healing properties, but this is a tenuous ploy that again feels too gimmicky.

White God had a believable plot with engaging characters but Jupiter’s Moon, although a far more technically skilful film, feels hollow, glib and also frankly quite boring despite its arresting visual wizardry from White God cinematographer Marcell Rév. Ninidze’s Stern Gabor is a quixotic and cunning rogue and far and away the most exciting character in an ensemble of cardboard characterisations. Along with the visual mastery there is an impressive atmospheric score that helps to ramp up the tension and also adds a certain gravitas. A shame then that the whole things feels so underwhelming and unwieldy as a story. Clearly the director is trying to up his game but needs to establish whether he wants to go for arthouse audiences or the mainstream crowd. White God was starting to build him a fanbase but this seems like a step backwards. MT




L’Amant d’Un Jour (2017) | Cannes Film Festival 2017

Dir: Philippe Garrel | Cast: Eric Caravaca, Esther Garrel | 77min | Drama | French

Philippe Garrel is back in Cannes with another family affair that brings to a close his trilogy this started with Jealousy. This grainy black and white Parisian story is as sweet and light as a mini croissant and just as innocuous, showing little insight into womens’ minds despite the collaboration of four writers, including the veteran Garrel. If you enjoy his work it’s watchable enough, otherwise too slim and generic to have much appeal. Daughter Jeanne (Esther Garrel) finds herself at home again with Papa (Caravaca) as her first love affair with ends abruptly. But family life is interupted by her father’s young lover Ariane who is a philandering part-time porn model. The intimate domestic trio discuss love, fidelity and friendship and Arianne frequently becomes jealous when father and daughter spend the evening together. There is a candour to the dialogue but it all feels rather trite. Esther is a natural as is Caravaca but Chevillotte’s Arianne struggles to feel authentic and her story is largely hollow and implausible. Even with a running time of 77 minutes L’AMANT fails to absorb our attention often feeling like an amateur college piece; well-crafted but threadbare in its storyline. MT



Loveless (2017) | Cannes Film Festival 2017

IMG_3612Dir: Andrei Zvyagintsev | 127min |Drama | Russia

Zvyagintsev’s long-awaited followup to Leviathan is the story of a divorcing couple forced back together again to search for their missing son. LOVELESS is scripted by Oleg Negin who also wrote The Banishment, Leviathan and Elena but the only similarities lie in the alienation of the characters: here Zvyagintsev would have us believe that the Grim Reaper has finally visited Russia and stolen its human soul and spirit. What remains is a collection of spiteful, self-seeking, sociopathic types whose only pleasure is shopping, selfies and social media due to a culture that breeds indifference by forcing them into loveless marriages to procreate and conform.

In Moscow a young couple have already been through a bitter divorce but are still sharing a home. Their young son Alexsei sobs silently in his bedroom in one of the most moving scenes in this otherwise emotionally barren affair, while his parents, who never wanted him, bicker about how best to sell the family flat. Boris (Alexei Rozin) is a tubby, pasty-faced office worker whose new girlfriend, an aquisitive blond, is needy and close to her conniving mother. His soon-to-be-ex-wife Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) is hostile towards her son and husband. A beautician, she is now dating a rich and cold-eyed man twice her age with a pristine appartment in an upmarket part of town.  There is nothing to recommend any of them: physically and spiritually they represent the worse form of life, alive and kicking – not just in Moscow – but in much of the civilised world.

When Alexsei disappears during his parents’ separate date nights, the film becomes a police procedural of utter desperation. Moscow feels like a frozen forest filled with creatures from another planet: these s0-called parents are merely psychopaths and narcissists going through their vacuous routine, their only despair is for themselves rather than the loss of their son. This is a bitterly depressing film but visually impressive and inventively framed.

If you’re looking for two hours of utter desperation and frightening emptiness. LOVELESS is the film to watch and it’s coming to a cinema near you. Be warned. MT




Wind River (2016) | Cannes Film Festival 2017

Dir: Taylor Sheridan | Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner | US | Thriller | 111min

Taylor Sheridan is the writer behind Cannes UCR 2016 breakout hit Hell or High Water and scripted the competition title Sicario in 2015. He returns to Cannes this year with his own mystery thriller set in Wyoming and starring  Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen.

Shedding more troubling light on American contempo society this action thriller explores events surrounding the violent murder of a teenage girl found in a snowy corner of Wyoming and its investigation by Renner Cory Lambert, a  thoughtful and sensitive wildlife ranger who clearly has some issues relating to the recent loss of his own teenage daughter and breakdown in his marriage. Joining him in the investigation (Sicario-style in black SUV) is Olsen’s rather green FBI sidekick, Jane Banner. Clearly Cory is a hands-on type who is used to the territory, whereas she is not.

It also emerges that the dead girl has a brother whose sidekick Pete (James Jordan) seems to have some past connection with the oil company located on the Native American land, and although her father (Gil Birmingham) offers little insight into possible perpetrators, clues start to reveal that Pete is in some way connected.

Their inquiries lead them to an alarming confrontation with a group of Mexican oil-workers and this rather melodramatic second act sits uncomfortably with what has gone before. But Sheridan makes this good in the final denouement which brings us to an impressive close in this enjoyable thriller with its twists and dramatic turns. Clearly Sheridan is still learning but his directorial debut lacks the dialogue finesse of his former outings. WIND RIVER is solid entertainment showing Sheridan to be honing his skills as a consummate talent in the making. MT






Redoutable (2017)

Dir: Michel Hazanavicious | Cast: Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, Berenice Bejo, Micha Lescot, Gregory Gadebois, Felix Kysel | French | Biopic Drama

Agnes Varda showed us the borish side of Jean-Luc Godard in her Cannes film Visages, Villages and in REDOUTABLE, his Palme d’Or 2017 hopeful, Michel Hazanavicius shed light on the narcissistic introvert he eventually became in the late 60s, away from the bright lights and adoration of the French film industry that made him a legend.

Played here with sardonic insouciance by a balding Louis Garrel, this is an enjoyable biopic that sees Godard withdraw from society to experiment with radical filmmaking and political activism. Refusing to except that his big time was over – he is seen reliquishing control of Wind from the East, a notion that might prove controversial to some viewers. Also he has started to resent his wife Anne Wiazemsky (played by Stacy Martin) on whose memoirs the film is based, she is spending less time with him and away on location – but the pair still generate a pleasurable chemistry. And although his career and marriage are clearly unravelling, Anne still seems an important part of his life.

Naturally the film was going to be a pastiche – this was Godard’s raison d’etre and fittingly Hazanavicious makes extensive use of Godard’s visual and stylistic gimmicks and the famous intertitles in his film’s primary-coloured 60s aesthetic. The famous dark glasses are there, even if he continually breaks them. Godard himself is naturally not keen on REDOUTABLE which makes him out to be a ‘has been’ when clearly he feels he is still a happening director, capturing his audience’s imagination to this day.

There’s plenty of action and debate in REDOUTABLE but strangely played down are the riots of 1968 which affected that year’s Cannes film festival, and seem to be particularly relevant at this time. An interesting watch for his fanbase and the arthouse crowd , but not possibly one for mainstream audiences. MT





Cannes Film Festival 2017 | Preview

Cannes Banner | signature_banniere-longue_A-03The 70th Cannes Film Festival starts on the 17th May with an Official Selection full of established directors and some newcomers competing for the coveted Palme D’Or. Pedro Almodovar is president of a Jury with Jessica Chastain a notable member and with legendary directors turning to TV and special eps of Twin Peaks and Top of the Lake and a VR slot for Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu with Carne y Arena to show just how far we’ve come since 1947 in a festival where TV is now acknowledged along with the Big Screen for filmmakers who have already made their mark.

Filmmakers at the top of their game will be gracing the Croisette: Michael Haneke, Todd Haynes, Roman Polanski, Hong Sangsoo, Yorgos Lanthimos and Sophie Coppola. Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux assures there will be additions to the 18 films in the main line-up and more surprises in the pipe-line.

 IMG_3622ISMAEL’S GHOSTS | FESTIVAL OPENER | Arnaud Desplechin (France)

The opening film is supposed to be rousing but is often raffling and second rate. Last year’s Woody Allen was festive and funny so Arnaud Desplechin’s starry opener may surprise us all with its solid and celebrated French including Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Louis Garrel and Matheiu Amalric.

IMG_3581JUPITER’S MOON | Kornel Mundruczo | Hungary

After his UCR hit White God (2013) the Hungarian auteur makes it to the main competition line-up with a sci-fi thriller about a young immigrant who is shot down while illegally crossing the border. Terrified and in shock, wounded Aryan can now mysteriously levitate at will. Thrown into a refugee camp, he is smuggled out by a doctor intent on exploiting his extraordinary secret. Pursued by enraged camp director Laszlo, Aryan and other fugitives remain on the move in search of safety and money, inspired by his amazing powers. A cautionary thriller about disillusionment and faith from the director of the award-winning WHITE GOD.

IMG_3638THE DAY AFTER | Hong Sangsoo | Korea

Hong Sangsoo has been a busy man of late with his Berlinale feature On the Beach at Night hotly followed by this Palme d’Or hopeful that looks like being another intense drama full of tortured souls in Seoul. Meanwhile his second collaboration with Isabelle Huppert CLAIRE’S CAMERA (shot in Cannes) is to screen in the UCR sidebar. Three films so far in 2017 and it’s only April!

IMG_3623GOOD TIME | The Safdie Brothers | US

This US crime thriller from the Safdie brothers follows onscreen siblings Robert Pattinson and mentally-challenged Benny Safdie during a criminally-charged nocturnal escapade into New York. Jennifer Jason Leigh also stars.


LOVELESS | Andrei Zvyagintsev | USSR

Zvyagintsev’s s long-awaited followup to LEVIATHAN is the story a divorcing couple forced back together again to search for their missing son. LOVELESS is scripted by Oleg Negin who also wrote The Banishment, Leviathan and Elena. 

IMG_3610THE SQUARE | Ruben Ostlund | Sweden

The Square is Ostlund’s English language debut and stars Dominic West and Elisabeth Moss in another satirical drama that derives dark comedy from human behaviour in a crisis. Sounds very similar to his Cannes awarded  Force Majeure.

IMG_362012o BEATS A MINUTE | Robin Campillo | France

Eastern Boys was one of the most memorable and timely thrillers of 2013 with its immigration backstory. 120 BEATS A MINUTE looks like being another politically-charged affair that follows AIDS activist group ACT UP in the early nineties. It’s great to see Campillo finally in the competition line-up with his own film after he wrote the screenplay for Palme d’Or-winner The Class. His two earlier films didn’t play in competition.

IMG_3608THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (New and Selected) | Noah Baumbach | US

The Brookyn-based filmmaker’s latest comedy centres on the tricky situation that develops between an ageing artist, played by Dustin Hoffmann, and his estranged grown-up children – one of whom is British actress Emma Thompson – during a get-together to celebrate his achievements. Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler also star.

IMG_3611IN THE FADE | Fatih Akin | Germany Turkey

Akin’s debut HEAD-ON is still his best and most fervent work so let’s hope his Palme D’Or hopeful will be another standout in this year’s Cannes competition. It’s billed to a revenge thriller set in Turkish community in Germany where Diane Kruger stars as Katja a woman who loses her son and husband in a bomb blast.

IMG_3640RODIN | Jacques Doillon | France

Vincent Lindon was an instant hit in The Measure of a Man which won him best actor in the 2015 competition. In this heavyweight drama (121min) he stars as the legendary French sculptor married to Izia Higelin’s Camille Claudel, who was last played by Juliette Binoche in Camille Claudel 1913, It remains to see how Higelin will compete after Binoche’s multi-layered portrayal of the French artist. There again, Toby Jones and Philip Seymour Hoffmann both brought their own complexity to the tough role of Truman Capote so there’s almost room for a new twist.

OKJAOKJA | Bong Joon-ho (South Korea)

The Korean director last came to Cannes with Mother which played in the UCR sidebar back in 2009. This is the story of an otherworldly being that becomes the target of a large corporation headed by Tilda Swinton’s Lucy Mirando.


Disaster strikes when Joaquin Phoenix’ ex soldier tries to save a young woman from a sex trafficking ring (Ekaterina Samsonov, also in Wonderstruck).

IMG_3613RADIANCE | Naomi Kawase (Japan)

Cannes regular Naomi Kawase will be back again, like Isabelle Huppert she is a constance presence at Cannes and always seems to have film in competition although not all are picked up for release. During a film shoot the  audioscripter (Ayame Misaki) falls for a photographer (Masatoshi Nagase) who’s losing his sight.

IMG_3624THE BEGUILED | Sophie Coppola (US)

Westerns are very much macho fare so a female-centric erotic thriller based on Thomas Cullinan’s novel set in a girls’ school in Virginia during the Civil War offers a welcome twist to the genre, particularly when it stars Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman with Colin Farrell as the token male element.

IMG_3614A GENTLE CREATURE | Sergei Loznitsa (Ukraine|France)

Sergei Loznitsa’s documentary AUSTERLITZ slipped under the radar at Venice last year but was nonetheless extraordinary and transcendent. The Ukrainian auteur’s latest film is set in Latvia and should be ready to grace the Croisette in time for the festival. Inspired by a short story from Russian author Dostoyevsky, it follows a woman who decides to track down her innocent husband held captive in prison, against his will.

IMG_3642THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER | Yorgos Lanthimos (Greece)

The Greek New Wave director’s latest is another dysfunctional domestic drama set in Ohio where Barry Keoghan (’71) is a teenager who attempts to bring Colin Farrell’s talented surgeon into his family. Alicia Silverstone and Nicole Kidman also star.

IMG_3616WONDERSTRUCK | Todd Haynes (US)

After success with CAROL, Haynes adapts a Brian Selznick novel about two lives with a mysterious connection across America. Set during parallel time periods 1927 and 1977 it starsJulianne Moore, Toby Jones and Michelle Williams.

IMG_3617HAPPY END | Michael Haneke (Austria)

Michael Haneke won the Palme D’Or in 2012 for his resplendent study of lasting love AMOUR. Five years later, Emmanuelle Riva is no longer around but Jean-Louis Trintignant will be on the Red Carpet as the star of this latest family drama set in the refugee town of Calais. Isabelle Huppert and Mathieu Kassovitz complete the sterling cast.

IMG_5522LE REDOUTABLE | Michel Hazanavicius (France)

Louis Garrel plays a young Jean-Luc Godard in the Lithuanian born filmmakers’ comedy biopic charting Godard’s love and marriage to Stacy Martin’s Anne Wiazemsky, 20 years his junior. A starry French ensemble is primped by Berenice Bejo and Gregory Gadebois.

l'Amant Double L’AMANT DOUBLE | Francois Ozon (France)

After the delicately rendered black and white war-themed drama FRANTZ that premiered at last year’s Venice, the prolific Francois Ozon has been hard at work to bring his latest in time for Cannes. And yet he always looks so charming and dapper on the Red Carpet! In L’Amant Double a young girl suffering from depression falls in love with her psychiatrist only to discover his other life.

O U T   O F    C O M P E T I T I O N 

IMG_3588BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL directed by Takashi Miike 

HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES directed by John Cameron Mitchell


VISAGES, VILLAGES directed by Agnès Varda is a documentary that chronicles the friendship that develops between Varda and DoP JR when they embark on a photography trip through the French countryside in his magic bus. 

D’APRES UNE HISTOIRE VRAI by Roman Polanski and Olivier Assayas adapt Delphine de Vigan’s book a stalker (Eva Green) who becomes obsessed with an author (Emmanuelle Seigner) suffering from writer’s block after publishing her latest novel.

S P E C I A L   S C R E E N I N G S 

IMG_3626NOS ANNEES FOLLES directed by Andre Techine

Le VENERABLE W directed by Barbet Schroeder

CARRE 35 directed by d’Eric Caravaca – the director goes back to his childhood to discover more about his little sister who died aged 3.

12 JOURS  directed by Raymond Depardon

THEY directed by Anahita Ghazvinizadeh

AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL  directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk

TOP OF THE LAKE: China Girl” directed by Jane Campion & Ariel Kleiman

PROMISED LAND  directed by Eugene Jarecki

24 FRAMES directed by Abbas Kiarostami

NAPALM directed by Claude Lanzmann

COME SWIM directed by Kristen Stewart

DEMONS IN PARADISE directed by Jude Ratman

SEA SORROW directed by Vanessa Redgrave

CLAIRE’S CAMERA directed by Hong Sangsoo

TWIN PEAKS directed by David Lynch

Midnight Screenings

THE VILLAINES directed by Jung Byung Gil

THE MERCILESS directed by Byun Sung-Hyun

PRAYER BEFORE DAWN directed by Jean Stephane Sauvaire


Un Certain Regard 2017 | Cannes Film Festival

UMA THURMAN will lead the jury to select the winning film in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at Cannes this year. 

IMG_363416 Films have been short-listed so far but this is not the defnitive list as Thierry Fremaux may well add two or three before the festival kicks off on the 17 May. Un Certain Regard betokens a certain auteurish feel to the features selected and this year’s list is no different with seasoned player Laurent Cantet presenting L’ATELIER, films from two new Bulgarian directors Stephan Komandarev and Katemir Balagov and a debut from US filmmaker Taylor Sheridan. The bare bones are here and will be fleshed out as more details emerge. The section opens with BARBARA another drama from Cannes darling Mathieu Amalric.

IMG_3631APRIL’S DAUGHTER directed by Michel Franco | Mexico

Mexican director Michel Franco won Best Script for his 2015 competition thriller Chronic. His latest is a female-centric drama that explores the relationship between a mother and her pregnant teenage daughter. Emma Suarez stars.

IMG_3577LUCKY directed by Sergio Castellitto | Italy | Jasmine Trinca and Stefano Accorsi star in this Rome set thriller that revolves around a divorced hairdresser is dreaming of opening her own salon so she can do the best for her only son.

IMG_3609WESTERN directed by Valeska Grisebach | Germany

A group of German construction workers start a tough job at a remote site in the Bulgarian countryside. The foreign land awakens the men’s sense of adventure, but they are also confronted with their own prejudice and mistrust due to the language barrier and cultural differences. The stage is quickly set for a showdown when men begin to compete for recognition and favor from the local villagers. From the director of the acclaimed SEHNSUCHT aka Désir(s).

DirectionsDIRECTIONS directed by Stephan Komandarev | Bulgaria

IMG_3630AFTER THE WAR directed by Annarita Zambrano

A convicted Italian war veteran living in France is threatened with extradition after he becomes linked to the assassination of a judge in the politically febrile city of Bologna. Fleeing France with his teenage daughter, his family in Italy face the consequences of his past misdemeanours.

IMG_3628LA CORDILLERA directed by Santiago Mitre | Argentina

Ricardo Darin, Christian Slater and Dolores Fonzi team up for this political thriller centred on events surrounding the Argentine president’s visit to a Summit in Chilean capital of Santiago.

DREGS (Lerd)  directed by Mohammad Rasoulof | Iran

IMG_3627OUT by György Kristóf | Slovakia 

A Slovakian engineer in his fifties is forced to take up an alluring offer of work in a Latvian shipyard in György Kristóf’s migration thriller debut.

THE NATURE OF TIME directed by Karim Moussaoui 

In modern day Algeria three lives come together as the past and present collide for a wealthy property developer, an ambitious neurotic, and a young woman who must make a decision between love and reason.

BEFORE WE VANISH directed by Kurosawa Kiyoshi | Japan

A mystery Sc049653.jpg-c_215_290_x-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxi-fi thriller surrounding a young couple in a crisis. The husband disappears only to come home several days later a changed man – tender and loving. Strange events seems to be linked to his absence including the brutal murder of a local family, sending the local reporter and the police out to investigate the possible presence of aliens.

65C38608-8627-4832-90C1-237EEBF42E73-622-0000009B1C16257AL’ATELIER by Laurent Cantet | France

Antoine is taking part in a summer writing school in La Ciotat, where he hopes to write a crime thriller novel with the help of Olivia, a well-known author. But the region’s working class past comes back to haunt the instability of the present providing an intoxicating mix of emotions in the writing worshop.

WALKING PAST THE FUTURE by Li Ruijun | Chinese filmmaker returns to Cannes with his latest drama.

1eefebec3515b791dbe30a1852af3172BEAUTY AND THE DOGS by Kaouther Ben Hania | Tunisia

CLOSENESS directed by Kantemir Balagov | Bulgaria

449339.jpg-r_1920_1080-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxTHE DESERT BRIDE directed by Cecilia Atan and Valeria Pivato | Spain  

Stars Paulina Garcia (Gloria) as a fiftysomething  housekeeper whose life changes dramatically turn when she travels across Argentina to take up a new post.

IMG_3637WIND RIVER | Taylor Sheridan (US) Debut

Sicario scripter Sheridan struck gold with this his directorial debut at Sundance in January 2017. The plot revolves around the discovery of a body on a Native American reservation in Wyoming. Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and Kelsey Asbille star.

JEUNE FEMME | Léonor Serraille (France) Debut

This is Serraille’s feature debut developed from her graduation film at the Femis in 2013. It revolves around jilted lover Laëtitia Dosch who is abandoned by her beau when she arrive in Paris to join him.


Directors’ Fortnight 2017 | Cannes Film Festival 2017

IMG_3606Claire Denis, Abel Ferrara and Bruno Dumont will be included in this year’s buzzy Quinzaine Selection introducing some new names and some established auteurs to the party which runs from 18-28 May 2017. Nigerian British  filmmaker Rungano Nyoni is also amongst the chosen few in a line-up which is always eclectic and inventive in its choice of indie film.

Denis opens the festival with UN BEAU SOLEIL INTERIEUR starring Juliette Binoche, Gerard Depardieu and Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi. Previously known at Des Lunettes Noires, a more edgy and memorable title, this is a film about love inspired by French philisopher Roland Barthe’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments. The festival will close with Sundance standout debut PATTI CAKE$ from US director Geremy Jasper.

Leonardo Di Costanzo follows up his brilliant two-hander THE INTERVAL (shot by The Great Beauty’s Luca Bigazzi) with THE INTRUDER (L’Intrusa) a Naples-set immigration thriller infiltrated by an outsider linked to the Camorra and Bruno Dumont brings his long-awaited musical JEANETTE: THE CHILDHOOD OF JOAN OF ARC adapted from Charles Peguy’s work and featured a techno score from Igor. Also there will be Abel Ferrara with a documentary ALIVE IN FRANCE, his follow-up to Pasolini starring Willem Defoe who is also attached to his next dram Siberia. In the autobiographical title Ferrara headlines a film retrospective and a series of concerts in France dedicated to songs and music from his films. Preparations with his family and friends will form the material of this self portrait, showing another side of the director of legendary films BAD LIEUTENANT, THE KING OF NEW YORK and THE ADDICTION. Ferrara is joined on stage by past collaborators, including composer Joe Delia, actor-singer Paul Hipp and his wife actress Cristina Chiriac for concerts at the Metronum in Toulouse and the Salo Club in Paris in October 2016.


And where would the festival be without veteran Philippe Garrel. His son Louis is in the main competition line-up but father will be there with the Jean-Claude Carriere scripted L’AMANT D’UN JOUR which stars another member of the family Esther (Jealousy).  Israeli author and filmmaker Amos Gitai’s WEST OF THE JORDAN RIVER compares contempo life in occupied Palestine with his memories of making his 1982 documentary Field Diary, Yoman Sadeh. Gitai (RABIN, FREE ZONE) describes the efforts of citizens, Israelis and Palestinians, who are trying to overcome the consequences of occupation. Gitai’s film shows the human ties woven by the military, human rights activists, journalists, mourning mothers and even Jewish settlers. Faced with the failure of politics to solve the occupation issue, these men and women rise and act in the name of their civic consciousness. This human energy is a proposal for long overdue change.

The List in Full so far:

Un Beau Soleil a l’Interieur (Dark Glasses)– Claire Denis

A Ciambra  directed by Jonas Carpignano
Bushwick  directed by Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott
Patti Cake$  directed by Geremy Jasper
Alive in France directed by Abel Ferrara
L’amant d’un Jour directed by Philippe Garrel
Cuori Puri directed by Roberto De Paolis
The Florida Project directed by Sean Baker
Frost directed by Sharunas Bartas
I Am Not a Witch  directed by Rungano Nyoni
Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc directed by Bruno Dumont (main pic)
L’intrusa directed by Leonardo Di Costanzo
La Defensa del Dragon directed by Natalia Santa
Marlina Si Pembunuh Dalam Empat Babak directed by Mouly Surya
Mobile Homes directed by Vladimir de Fontenay
Nothingwood directed by Sonia Kronlund
Ôtez-moi d’un Doute directed by Carine Tardieu
The Rider directed by Chloé Zhao
West of the Jordan River (Field Diary Revisited) directed by Amos Gitai


La Semaine de la Critique 2017 | Cannes Film Festival

Eleven features will compete in this year’s SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE kicking off on the 18 May with SICILIAN GHOST STORY, Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s ‘political and spiritual’ love story that follows their Mafia-themed thriller SALVO. Italian cinema has had a shot in the arm in recent year, largely from Southerners such as Piazza and Grassadonia, Luca Guadagnino,  Paolo Sorrentino and Matteo Garrone. This Sicilian acting duo won the Grand Prix at Semaine de la Critique 2013 for Salvo a drama told from the perspective of a blind woman. Their latest has been in the traps since 2015 – it’s a love story which has already won a prize at Sundance 2016 for its script. Dave McCary’s US Sundance title BRIGSBY BEAR will close the celebration on 26 May.


PETIT PAYSAN (Bloody Milk) | Hubert Charuel | France

Charuel’s debut feature life revolves around a farmer (Swann Arlaud), his farm and his cows until misfortune strikes. Arlaud retains a gripping hold over the narrative with an intense performance as a farmer whose profession is threatened at every turn. Profoundly humanistic and even funny at times.

UNE VIE VIOLENTE | Thierry de Peretti | France

Thierry de Peretti second outing is a social realist drama set against a political activist background in Corsica and featuring some mind-blowing performance from a cast of non-actors. As the title suggests, this is a gangster and Mafia film.


LA FAMILIA | Gustavo Rondon Cordova | Venezuela

Cordova’s highly original debut revolves round a tense father/son relationship in the Venezuelan capital. Twelve-year-old Pedro roams the streets with his friends, raised by the violent urban atmosphere around him in a working class district of Caracas. After seriously injuring another boy in a rough game of play, single father Andrés decides they must flee. Andrés will realize he is a father incapable of controlling his own teenage son, but their situation will bring them closer than they have ever been.


LOS PERROS | Marcela Said | Chile

Alfredo Castro (From Afar) and Antonia Zegers star Said’s second feature this Pinochet-themed Chilean drama from Marcela Said (I Love Pinochet). Zegers gives a stunningly unpredictable turn in as the central female character in a film that settles accounts with the remains of the Pinochet dictatorship.

AVA | Lea Mysius | France

A sweet and fanciful love story centres on a debut performance from Noée Abita in the title role as a young woman fighting her demons as she faces her fears of a bleak future. Sparkling and vivacious.

OH, LUCY | Atsuko Hirayanagi | Japan

Josh Harnett leads a Japanese cast in Hirayanagi’s light-hearted comedy debut about a lonely, chain-smoking office worker in Tokyo who falls in love with an American.

GABRIEL E A MONTANHA | Felipe Gamarano Barbosa | Brazil

Barbosa’s second film follows Gabriel, a young man who hopes to change the world as he travels through some magnificent landscape in Africa, still trapped in his certainties as a civilized human being.

This year’s selection includes a new animation from Ali Soozandeh whose

TEHRAN TABOO | Ali Soozandeh | Iran | ANIMATION

Soozandeh promises an amusing and humanistic take on the contempo Iranian capital in a tale that explores the lives of three strong-willed women and a young musician who cross paths in a schizophrenic society where sex, adultery, corruption, prostitution and drugs coexist with strict religious law. In this bustling modern metropolis, avoiding prohibition has become an everyday sport and breaking taboos can be a means of personal emancipation. Sometimes mindboggling, the animation gives the narrative the necessary freedom to explore the forbidden side of Tehran and teases the country’s hypocrisy and contradictions with tenderness and humour.

MAKALA |  Emmanuel Gras | Doc

Bovine director Emmanuel Gras’ second documentary takes place in Congo where it explores a man’s extraordinary life and connection with the land



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