Archive for the ‘Cannes 2018’ Category

Murder me, Monster (2018) ***

Dir Alejandro Fadel. Argentina. 2018. 106′

Murder Me Monster’s widescreen solemnity might bring to mind the murder investigation in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia – and there are vague echoes of Amat Escalante’s The Untamed, but that’s where the similarity ends. This brooding Andes-set crime mystery is the gruesome work of Los Selvajes director Alejandro Fadel, and it is certainly not for the feint hearted with its bestial themes and deformed zombie-like characters. Infact everyone in this stomach-turning horror fantasy is on edge and whispering morosely, for one reason or another. And a series of macabre murders, where heads are torn from bodies, seem to be the reason why.

The opening scene sees the dying moments of a woman whose throat has been severed. As a herd of sheep and some other livestock are slowly make their supper of her remains, a blind man mumbles on about the murder. A feeling of unease creeps over proceedings when it transpires that the bloodshed is connected to a feral beast on the prowl and out of control in this desolate and remote corner of Argentina where the sun rarely shines.

Rural police officer Cruz (Victor Lopez) is tasked with investigating the murders and the finger seems to point to local thick-lipped weirdo David (Esteban Bigliardi) who claims that a savage creature is using certain phrases to commune with him, as if through telepathy, with a ‘silly’ voice that repeats ‘Murder Me, Monster’.

Cinematographers Manuel Rebella and Julian Apezteguia evoke nightmarish visuals often using the same technique as the painter El Greco – where the characters’ faces are often starkly backlit against a murky darkness. There’s a garish otherworldly quality to the outdoor mountain scenes in a film that takes on an increasingly Lynchian feel as the plot thickens. Pus-yellow, murky mustard and puke green make up the colour palette of costume and set designers Florencia and Laura Caligiuri. An atmospheric ambient score keeps the tension brewing.

This is intriguing stuff, if rather too enigmatic for its own good, eventually leaving us stranded in its own mysterious backwater. This study of fear and perversion in a Pampas backwater will certainly made you feel nauseous and bewildered by the end. MT

UK releasee to stream or download or own | 4th December 2020 AVAILABLE

 

The Dead and the Others (2018)| New Brazilian Cinema | Mubi

Docudrama | 114’ | Brazil/Portugal

Brazilian cinema is entering a new era in the wake of the country’s unprecedented political turmoil. Several new films are now available online along with this look at the Directed by Palme d’Or winner João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora, The Dead and the Others is a haunting docudrama based on their experiences of living for nearly a year in Pedra Branca, a village inhabited by the indigenous community of the Kraho people in Northern Brazil. The Kraho very much want to continue their way of life and traditions in their rural community, striving to be self-sufficient. Their plight connects with a global narrative of survival for small communities all over the world.

Fifteen year old Ihjãc has been suffering from nightmares since he lost his father and in the opening scene he walks through the rain forest in the light of the moon. A distant sound of chanting comes through the palm trees. His father’s voice calls him to the waterfall. It is now time to organise the funeral feast so his father’s spirit can depart to the village of the Dead and mourning for him can come to an end. Although his baby son Tepto was born in the local hospital, Ihjãc still spends most of his life with his family in the remote forest and although the village elders are urging him to fulfil his duty to undergo the crucial process of becoming a shaman, Ihjãc escapes back to the local town to avoid the transition. There, far from his people and culture, he faces the reality of being an indigenous native in contemporary Brazil.

With its themes of loss, displacement and cultural identity this eerie and woozily impressionistic piece that has a poignant urgency in its message, glowingly conveyed in vibrant, high contrast cinematography. MT

NEW BRAZILIAN CINEMA | UN CERTAIN REGARD JURY PRIZE 2018 | LET IT BURN

Woman at War (2018) **** Mubi

Dir.: Benedict Erlingsson; Cast: Haldora Geirhardsdottir, Johann Sigurdason, Juan Camillo Roman Estrada; France/Iceland/Ukraine 101 min.

Benedict Erlingsson’s follow-up to Of Horses and Men is an energetic eco-warrior drama that sees a feisty woman taking on the state of Iceland with surprising results. Lead actress Haldora Geirhardsdottir has an athletic schedule, running all over the rugged  countryside, with helicopters and drones circling overhead.

Halla Haldora (Geirhardsdottir) lives a double life: one minute she is a mild-mannered physical therapist and choir leader, the next she’s roaming the countryside, bringing down electricity pylons with a bow and arrow and wire cutters. The only person aware of her war against the multi-nationals’ new technology is Sweinbjorn (Sigurdason), who works for the government and sings in her choir. She gets support from a local farmer, who could be a distant relative, and has a sheep dog called ‘woman’.

But her adventures have more severe repercussions for Juan Camillo (Estrada), who is under suspicion himself for bringing down the pylons. Another running gag in this amusing drama involves three women wearing the Icelandic national costume, who stand at the wayside during Halla’s adventures; a trio of musicians playing drums, the tuba and accordion. Halla’s twin sister Asa, also played by Geirhardsdottir, is a yoga teacher and is about to set off for an ashram in south-east Asia, when Halla gets the news that her adoption application has been granted. As a result four-year old Nika, whose whole family has been wiped out in the Ukraine conflict, is now waiting for Halla to pick her up. But misfortune intervenes.

With a magnificent twist at the end, Woman at War is a stormy but often amusing affair. There are echoes of Aki Kaurismaki, with the dead pan humour taking away some of the tension of the countryside hunt for Halla. And Erlingsson makes a refreshing break from tradition in the super hero genre, by casting a super-fit middle-aged woman in the central role.

Making good use of the stunning country side, DoP Bergsteinn Björgulfsson’s widescreen images and towering panorama shots are truly magnificent, along with the road movie sequences that showcase Iceland’s wild scenery. Perhaps a little too generous on the running time, this feature combines hilarious scenes with a well-structured narrative and a convincing female heroine. AS

FROM FRIDAY, 3 MAY 2019 | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL SACD WINNER 2018

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018) ***

Dir: Terry Gilliam | Cast: Jonathan Price, Adam Driver, Stellan Skarsgard, Jason Watkins and Olga Kurylenko | Drama, UK 133′

Terry Gilliam’s struggle to film Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote has been as epic as the title itself. The finished version of his fantasy adventure – that sees a disillusioned advertising executive mistaken for Sancho Panza – was beset by legal potholes as it fought its way stoically towards the Red Carpet in Cannes two years ago, with a beleaguered but indomitable cast of Jonathan Pryce, who stars as El Don himself, Adam Driver, Stellan Skarsgard, Jason Watkins and Olga Kurylenko.

Miguel de Cervantes crafted a likeable story with everlasting appeal – its simple premise: that Chivalry should not die out in the ‘modern age’, a timely tenet that very much applies today. Even back in the 17th century, it was Don Quixote’s bee in his iron helmet, and he was said to be rendered mad by reading too many books on the subject of good manners. So he sets off with his trusty squire Sancho Panza and his lady Dulcinea, to make things right in the world from his titular hometown in La Mancha – where clearly he was stumbling on the foothills of dementia. During his confused and eventful journey, his worried family desperately try to get him home.

Terry Gilliam’s passion project has been two decades in the making. He had no idea that the saga would develop into its own quixotic tragedy. Keith Fulton’s 2002 documentary charts Gilliam’s doomed attempt blighted by the well-known chestnut the ‘rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” – filming was abandoned when the set was flooded. This put the mockers on Gilliam’s cherished dream, but he pushed on undeterred and blissfully unaware that his passion project would soon develop into a nightmare.

Over the years, several actors have been attached to the film including John Hurt, Ewan MacGregor and even Robert Duvall. But not all attempts to bring Cervantes’ legendary novel to the screen have been so problematic. Some have been roaring tributes. In 1926 Danish director Lau Lauritzen cast the leading comedians of his era in the main roles: Carl Schendstrom and Harald Madsen were Denmark’s answer to Laurel and Hardy. Then Georg Wilhelm Pabst chose the esteemed Russian actor Feodor Chaliapin Sr to play the chevalier in Adventures of Quixote (1933), which appeared in three languages (German, French and English). Rafael Gil successfully followed, filming the story as a comedy in 1947 with Rafael Rivelles in the saddle as Quixote, and Juan Calvo as Sancho Panza. Orson Welles then made a valiant stab in his (unfinished) 1972 endeavour that followed a similarly tortuous path as Gilliam’s, starting in 1957. Typically, Welles run out of money and was forced to abandon filming, the project was later developed by Jesus Franco who released the dubbed version in 1992 to uninspired reviews. Robert Helpmann directed and also starred in the main role of his 1973 ballet version, with Rudolf Nureyev as Basilio. And David Beier’s 2015 version actually starred James Franco, but the less said about this one, the better. Needless to say, there have been numerous TV adaptations.

The curse continued to blight other films in Cannes 2018 when Quixote was finally screened. In a strange twist, Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov had won the Don Quixote award at Locarno for his film Yuri’s Day (2008) but was placed under house arrest, forbidden to attend the 71st Cannes festival to accompany his competition title Summer (Leto). And Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi shared the same plight. He first appeared in Cannes with his debut White Balloon (1995) which went on to win the Camera d’Or, the first major award won by an Iranian film at the world’s most famous film festival. He was forced to stay at home while his drama Three Faces screened in the main 71st competition. Luckily The Man Who Killed Dox Quixote survived its arduous journey and finally makes it to the Croisette but shlepped home empty handed, but has since won Spanish and Belgian awards for its production and make-up. MT

ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM 31 JANUARY 2020  | FESTIVAL DE CANNES

 

Long Day’s Journey into Night (2018) ****

Dir/scr: Bi Gan | Cast: Huang Jue, Tang Wei, Sylvia Chang, Lee Hong-Chi, Chen Yongzhong, Luo Feiyang | Music: Lim Giong, Point Hsu | China/France. 2018. 130 mins.

A lush and painterly visual poem that loses much of its allure to enigma. Chinese director Bi Gan’s Noirish second feature is nonetheless a captivating fantasy reverie in the style of Wong Ka Wai.

It concerns a man’s spiritual and physical odyssey to recapture his lost love. It all takes place in Gan’s rain-soaked sub-tropical hometown of Kaili in Southern China. The resonance with his 2o15 debut Kaili Blues is clear, but this is an even more languorous drama that sizzles with regret and longing scored by a dulcet electronic soundscape and crowned by a final 3D sequence, shot in one take by DoP David Chizallet (Mustang).

Long Day’s Journey into Night shares the same title as Eugene O’Neill’s  play but there the similarities end. This drama explores the soul-searching of the main character (Huang Jue) who yearns for his former lover Wan Qiwen (Tang Wei). We first meet him in a restaurant where his father was purportedly murdered a decade previously. Luo is guided to a women’s prison where he learns that Wan stole a green book of fairy tales that somehow provides further clues to the mystery through a series of charms and spells.

Gan spins his story into a shadowy cyclical affair full of smoke and mirrors, infused with memories, incantations and seductive sequences in a surreal backwater that was again referred to in Kaili Blues – Dangmai. Here the natives speak Kaili rather than Mandarin.

In this dizzy and dazzling dance through time, water and clocks also feature heavily as Luo’s obsession eventually leads him through a post-apocalyptic industrial setting in search of his dream. This is not a film to understand but an experience to wallow in. MT

NOW ON RELEASE AT SELECTED ARTHOUSE CINEMAS

Un Certain Regard section of the 2018 Cannes festival

 

 

Amin (2018) ***

Dir: Philippe Faucon | France | Drama | 97’

Without resorting to outrage or dour social realism to convey his indignation, respected filmmaker Philippe Faucon draws on his lifetime experiences in Africa for this visually limpid ans gently humanist story of a Senegalese immigrant grafting to provide for his family back home, where the sun shines all year but life is as tough. The difference is that in France he can earn much more money, despite the increasing problems of unemployment, but his marriage starts to suffer.

AMIN is a watchable if rather predictable drama that joins other similar eye-opening interracial romances such as Laurent Cantet’s Vers Le Sud and Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Love in illustrating the plight of those with restrained financial or emotional circumstances and how this weakens their moral resolve and as they reach out to those who share their emotional pain from the other of the social or geographical divide.

Amin does his best to succeed with dignity and respect for his fellows in the noisy hostel they share on the outskirts of the big city. He is a proud and decent father of three but is growing increasingly distant from his wife who pressures him to bring the family to France. Faucon spends over half of the film slowly building a poignant picture of emotional and social strife for immigrant newcomers to France. Almost all of them have been short-changed by the system despite working hard to build up the country. Amin soon meets Emanuelle Devos’ single mother while working with some other builders to renovate her house. She has fallen out with her husband and has a little girl to support (Fantine Harduin from last year’s Happy End). The denouement is fairly formulaic but AMIN is a beautifully crafted drama that captures the zeitgeist in a charming and human way.

NOW ON GENERAL 21 JUNE 2019 | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT  CANNES 2018

 

 

Arctic (2018) **

Writer-Dir: Joe Penna | Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smaradottir | Drama | 93’

A macho Mads Mikkelsen is marooned in Arctic nothingness in Joe Penna’s dialogue free survival saga. You could almost call ARCTIC a road movie, but there isn’t a road to speak of. And this is not really a two hander either because the woman Mads tries to save – when her own aircraft crashes trying rescue him – is just a concussed and grunting victim he feels duty bound to take with him on his mission to reach safety in the snowy wilderness of craggy peaks and perilous caverns.

Moving mountains to get her to hospital is an experience as gruelling for Mads as it since for us viewers, if you haven’t already drifted off in the opening stages. If you do remain awake, there is no backstory or attempt at characterisation to make you care whether either of the travellers makes it home. Barren of landscape and of narrative, ARCTIC follows Mads as he moves in a slow circle, due to his poor map-reading skills, after etching an enormous SOS in the snow. The only brief moment of drama is derived from seeing a Polar bear deprived of his dinner when our hero hides in a cave.  Meanwhile Mads develops clever ways of catching and eating raw fish, a sight almost as unpalatable as Joseph Trapanese’s screeching score. 

Even Stakhanov would be proud of the work Mads puts in, and his perseverance in getting the injured woman out of danger as he drags her up hill and down dale without a by your leave, and certainly no encouragement from his human bundle. Yet he never gives up hope until the final showdown where he sets off a flare which is totally ignored, leaving him to trudge on tirelessly through the elements. Mikkelsen’s grunting performance has a strange humour to it, matched only by the moment when he catches sight of an artic flower and then rapidly disappears through a pothole. Marvellous stuff. MT

NOW ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE from 10 MAY 2019

Donbass (2018) ****

Writer/Dir: Sergey Loznitsa | Cast: Valeriu Andriuta, Boris Kamorzin, Sergey Kolesov | Drama | Ukraine/Ger/France/Neth/Romania/Russia | 110

Donbass today is a conflation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, and an important mining region since the late 19th century, when it became heavily industrialised. Sergey Loznitsa’s drama set in the region opened this year’s Un Certain Regard strand at Cannes.

In March 2014, following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and Russian military intervention, large swaths of the Donbass seethed with unrest that eventually erupted in a war between pro-Russian separatists affiliated with the self-proclaimed unrecognized Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, and the post-revolutionary Ukrainian government. Until the ongoing war, Donbass – which borders Russia – was the most densely populated of all the regions of Ukraine, apart from the capital city of Kiev. Before the war, the city of Donetsk (then the fifth largest city in Ukraine) had been considered the unofficial capital of the Donbass.

And it is during this troubled period of history that the Ukrainian born filmmaker sets his follow-up to last year’s Cannes title A Gentle Creature (he has made a film every year since his 2012 In The Fog: The Letter; Maidan; The Event and Austerlitz. Elliptical and visually striking, DONBASS does lack a certain warmth, focusing on its formal rigour and an evocative sense of emptiness, it is a piece that will certainly appeal to the diehard arthouse crowd.

The narrative follows but does not focus on any particular character, as a series of interconnecting vignettes gradually unfold that will be more engaging for audiences intimately familiar with the situation, rather than to outsiders looking in. There is a haunting scene where a prisoner (Valery Antoniuk) gets lynched by a crowd of locals who believe him to be a member of a Ukrainian execution squad. But nobody seems safe in this combattive, hostile and unpredicatble environment fraught with sudden explosions as gunfire rumbles continually in the background. The director conveys a palpable sense of generalised chaos and desperation.

Loznitsa collaborates again with DoP Oleg Mutu (who also lensed A Gentle Creature). This is a muscular and intelligent piece of filmmaking, but one that will have the most appeal to keen historians and ardant fans of this accomplished and fascinating director.MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2018

 

 

Fugue | Fuga (2018) Kinoteka 2021

Dir: Agnieska  Smoczynska | Cast: Gabriela Muskała, Łukasz Simlat, Małgorzata Buczkowska, Zbigniew Waleryś, Halina Rasiakówna, Piotr Skiba, Iwo Rajski | Poland/Czech Republic/Sweden 2018, 100 min.

Agnieszka Smoczynska re-unites with DoP Jacub Kijowski and actor Malgorzata Buczkowska who together made The Lure an international success. In Fugue, they are joined by writer Gabriela Muskala, who also  plays the lead role of Kinga, a woman suffering from severe post-traumatic amnesia.

We first meet Kinga staggering onto the platform of a station where she promptly collapses, having urinated infront in full view of the other passengers. Clearly she has lost her mind, and spends the next two years in a psychiatric ward in a Warsaw hospital, where she makes a brief appearance on TV, in the hope that someone might identify her. And they do. She is soon re-united with her husband Krystzof (Simlat) and four-year old son Daniel. Her name is Alicja, but strangely, no one appears happy to have her back, least of all Daniel. The only thing she is sure of is her credit card PIN number she and immediately makes an application for a new Identity Card. Her mysterious family friend Ewa (Buczkowska) is clearly so much more that than this, but Smoczynska keeps her cards close to her chest, revealing little in this enigmatic but captivating mystery drama. Eventually Alicja starts to re-adjust to home life with her husband, but a sudden accident in their car seems to trigger   Alicja’s memory and gradually a whole picture slowly develops of their life before the train incident. It emerges that her husband had successfully divorced her and wanted sole custody of Daniel.

In her follow up to The Lure, Smoczynska offers another convoluted and enigmatic drama: there are moments of supernatural evidence, where Alicja’s home environment appears completely alien to her. Particularly the green bathroom looks eerily like a fish tank (drawing comparisons with The Shining’s Room 237). The country house has a weird and haunted feel to it, and Alicja seems to be a prisoner within its walls, he family and even her son treating her with hostile suspicion.

Fugue is an allegorical story of a woman who is unsure of her position in the world, retreating from motherhood, and drifting between various states of being. Gabriela Muskala gives a brilliant tour de force in the leading role of this unique and beguiling Polish arthouse drama. AS.

KINOTEKA 2021 | Premiered during UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | 8-19 MAY 2018

Happy as Lazzaro (2018) *****

Writer/Dir: Alice Rohrwacher | Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Adriano Tardiolo, Agnese Graziani, Luca Chikovani, Sergi Lopez | Italy | Drama 125′

Al Rohrwacher brings tenderness and curiosity to her delicately compelling fables set amongst rural communities in her homeland of Italy. Her latest Lazzaro Felice has clear resonance with the work of Pier Paolo Pasolini and won Best Script at Cannes in 2018. Her previous a languid pastoral The Wonders (2014) followed a family of beekeepers in 1970s Tuscany. In her debut Corpo Celeste (2011)  a young girl challenges religious morality in the southern town of Reggio Calabria.

Happy as Lazzaro is time-bending tale that uses poetic realism to enliven the rather depressing theme of corruption and crime in contemporary Italy. Again Rohrwacher uses Super 16mm to establish a retro aesthetic of sepia and muted senape and to re-create a nostalgic feeling for the past and times gone by in the dilapidated village of Inviolata where a traditional family of sharecroppers still serve the Marchesa Alfonsina de Luna. Although sharecropping has been illegal since the 1980s, their loyalty to their corrupt mistress is born out of habit, and because it suits them to maintain the status quo: It’s what they’ve always done. This recalls a past (and possibly a present in some areas) where a feudal system of sorts still exists, and Italy’s now decadent royal family (Vittoria Emanuele) are still acknowledged, paid homage to and addressed by their titles. So the villagers go about their leisurely business lacking the imagination or motivation to move on, and respecting the powers that be in this remote, sun-baked backwater that seems stuck in the past. And Lazzaro is the man with a heart of gold who is simply too good for this world, let along for this job. A saintly soul, Lazzaro is almost too good for this world, is left with the duties no one else wants to do, such as picking giant guarding the chicken coop from wolves. The Marchesa’s fecklessly lazy young son Tancredi, decides to play a trick on mother, for not giving him his inheritance early, and he sees that Lazzaro’s gentle nature and naive nature will make him perfect for a plan to defraud her. Lazzaro is naturally in thrall to the boy, out of deference, to his status. Tancredi then fakes his own kidnapping, hiding out in the undergrowth around the village expecting his mother to cough up the million lire ransom he has demanded. Naturally things don’t go according to plan and Lazzaro falls through a time-warp – in a tonal shift that Rohrwacher pulls of with aplomb – ending up in another world, set against a corrupt urban sprawl where he wanders dreamlike (and there is a certainly a surreal quality to these sequences) amongst unscrupulous characters as a nightmarish future unfolds around him. Lazzaro at this point takes on the semblance of a Christ-like spiritual figure – it’s a performance of great subtlety and luminance that has to be seen to be believed. This transformation to saint, or even ghost seems to represent the soul of the Italian nation overcome by decadence and the perils of modernity. It also raises the everlasting conundrum: how long can a person continue to be good when continually challenged by evil. MT

ON RELEASE FROM 5 APRIL 2019 NATIONWIDE

 

3 Faces (2018) ****

Dir: Jafar Panahi | Drama | 100’

Even though Jafar Panahi’s latest 3 FACES tries to challenge Iran’s massive macho culture with a feminist film, the feeling that remains after the curtain has fallen is of a deeply ingrained male-dominated society where women are still quietly championing the male of the species, while giving lip service to feminism. 

Jafar Panahi was unable to leave Iran to present his thoughtful drama which was made on a shoestring, and none the worse for it, beautifully reflecting the arid mountain landscapes of the Turkish-Azeri speaking area of Iran, where he drives, as himself, with actor Benhaz Jafari, trying to find the girl, Marziyeh Rezaie, who appears to have killed herself in mobile footage witnessed in the film’s histrionic opening scene, and sent to Mrs Jafari the night before.

The title refers to three women, actresses from pre revolution Iran, the present and the future. With 3 FACES Panahi hopes to deliver a feminist message to encourage women to be positive about their choices. The modern world challenges traditions in this rural backwater where men are virile and women remain behind close doors. When the pair arrive in the mountain village, it soon emerges that the girl was actually crying wolf. But she is distraught that her family have forbidden her from taking up a place at a prestigious conservatory in Tehran, and she apologises profusely to Mrs Jafahi for the upset caused.

The tone is solicitous and rather worthy, and we are then treated to various local twee vignettes that demonstrate male supremacy and female submission. What works best here is the footage of farm stock, being herded, and the plight of a prize bull who has collapsed on the road while on his way to inseminate a load of horny heiffers. Once again this demonstrates how grateful females should be to exist in the world of male strength and virility.

Meanwhile back to young Marziyeh who has been forced into an engagement to dampen down hopes of an acting career (“we don’t want any entertainers here”). The third face, former actress, dancer Shahrazade, active during the Shah Pahlavi’s reign, now lives alone in a tiny hut outside the village never gets any screen time. Apparently bitter and twisted, she is now a reclusive artist who is pictured the following morning painting in a distant field. 

There is a great deal to enjoy in all the performances: Panahi is laid back and louche as the soigne man from the big city; Behnaz Jafari (A House Built on Water) is an impulsive emotional woman with a hot temper that quickly gives way to tactile warmth. Little Rezaie is a sparky, confident girl who wears her heart on her sleeve. This is a captivating little film that glows with an upbeat message of hope. MT

ON RELEASE FROM 29 MARCH 2019 | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | JOINT BEST SCRIPT WINNER  2018

 

Under the Silver Lake (2018) **

Dir: David Robert Mitchell | Cast; Sibongile Miambo, Riley Keough, Jimmy Sampson, Andrew Garfield | Fantasy Comedy  | US |

David Robert Mitchell rose to international fame with his breakout horror hit It Follows which showed at Cannes several years ago. His latest is a trippy fantasy neonoir dream with the same feel and disturbing undertones as David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive but none of the brilliance, and far too much indulgent navel-gazing. What carries you through the druggy hotch potch of wacky vignettes is Andrew Garfield’s captivating turn as a down on his luck LA creative, who resorts to voyeurism and sexual shadow-play as his mind wanders lazily through the backwaters of LA’s Silver-Lake area. But after a promising opening the film’s fascinating potential disintegrates into an incoherent and sprawling mindfuck punctuated by Hollywood references. There is far too much unfocused creativity gushing from Mitchell’s gifted pen in UNDER THE SILVER LAKE, and it ends in a messy gloopthis time. That said, he’s certainly a filmmaker worth watching out for. MT

ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM 15 MARCH 2019

 

Girl (2018) ****

Dir: Lukas Dhont | Drama | Belgium | 97’

Adolescence is a terrible time of bewildering choices, sexual urges and obsession with appearance. Those ardently drawn to find a mate are the most cruelly punished, as others keep quietly buttoned down by insecurity or jealousy. Who knows what is happening physically at puberty, especially when bodies and minds feel confused about gender.

No one has expressed this better and more naturally than Belgian director Lukas Dhont with his latest feature GIRL, about a boy who wants to be a ballerina. This gender fluid teenager is played with thoughtful ease by 15 year old cisgender actor Victor Polster in a down to earth gem that rivals a A Fantastic Woman in every way.

Lara (Polster) has moved with her French-speaking father Mathias (Arieh Worthalter) and younger brother (Oliver Bodart) to study at Belgium’s most famous dance academy. So there are two important episodes that the teenager must face: preparing for transition, since she was born in the body of a boy, and working to become a professional ballet dancer. But Lara has all the support of her entourage including her family and new friends, and this is underlined in a tricky moment when the female students are asked whether they mind sharing their dressing room with their new colleague. This is all handled with consummate skill, and Lara soon settles in.

Dhont rose to fame with his titles Headlong and L’infini also set in the dance world and here he conveys Lara’s struggles through subtle body language and looks – there is a fascinating scene where Lara uses white tape to flatten her pelvic area in preparation for a skin tight ballet costume. While Lara is excited about the upcoming surgical operation, having been prepared by a Flemish psychiatrist (Valentijn Dhaenens), who does not want Lara to suffer any longer in the wrong body, his father Mathias is actually more nervous about his son’s hospital visit and the risks it involves.  

A tense tone sets in in the film’s second half where Lara suspects the hormones are not working, but this is down to impatience more than anything more serious.“You want to be a woman straight away,” Lara’s father says, “but you are an adolescent too”. The two then share one of the film’s most touching tête a tête’s. The film works best during these tender moments when we feel for the characters and their dilemma. These are crucial in preparing the audience for the startling finale, and Girl could have done with more of them. That said, Dhont manages to dovetail Lara’s physical transformation with her emotional adaption – no mean feat. 

This is very much Polster’s film and although the support cast feel natural and well-prepared, what really makes this enjoyable is the actor’s strong background in dance which is elegantly captured by strong visuals from DoP Frank van den Eeden, who focuses on the physicality and agility of the dance moves.MT

In cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema FROM 15 March 2019 

Border (2018) *****

Dir : Ali Abbasi | Fantasy Drama | Sweden | 104’

BORDER is one of those bracingly original films. Melding fantasy and folklore while teetering on the edge of Gothic horror it manages to be cleverly convincing and unbelievably weird at the same time. Fraught with undercurrents of sexual identity and self-realisation this gruesome rites of passage fable is another fabulous story with enduring appeal for the arthouse crowd and diehard fans of low-key horror. Based on a short story by Let the Right One In creator John Ajvide Lindqvist it is Ali Abbasi’s follow up to Shelley and his first with writing partner Isabella Ekloff.

Tina (Melander) has always been an outsider because she suffers from her neanderthal physical appearance of flaring nostrils and a facial gurning movement that marks her out to have the heightened sensory perception of an animal. She feels a particular affinity to the wildlife near her comfortable cabin in the heavily forested woods between Finland and Sweden, and can sense when deer or moose are about to cross the country road. As a customs officer, she also has a keen awareness for criminality but feels diminished by her ‘otherness’ and is desperately lonely, Meanwhile, her live-boyfriend Roland (Jorgen Thorssen) treats her like a pair of old carpet slippers and is more interested in his pack of dobermans.  

One day Tina spots an unusual traveller going through customs. He looks like her male double and Tina feels a palpable attraction to Vore (Eero Milonoff). Judging from the contents of his luggage he could be an entomologist, but on further examination this is not all he appears to be. Has Tina found love for the first time, or just somebody who feels familiar? There’s a tone of optimism on the romantic front, and also workwise as Tina’s sensory talents see her becoming the key investigator in the hunt for a local paedophile.

Abbasi masterfully manages the subtle strands of his storyline while keeping the tension taut and a dark humour bubbling under the surface. Melander’s Tina is a gentle and almost submissive character who keeps her tale between her legs, and we feel for her even when her confidence makes her more assertive after meeting Vore. This confidence enables her to confront her elderly father – who has clearly duped her since childhood – and her useless boyfriend. A rare curio that keeps you guessing all the way to its unexpected finale. MT

NOW ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE from 8 March 2019

Everybody Knows (2018) ***

Dir: Asghar Farhadi | Cast: Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Barbara Lennie, Ricardo Darin | Drama

Penelope Cruz is the star turn of the off kilter drama. Returning to Spain from Argentina with her two teenagers, Laura is back to celebrate her sister’s Irene’s wedding. Husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) soon follows, and she also reconnects with an old boyfriend (Bardem) as events take a less sunny turn.

Farhadi (A Separation) directs from a script written in Farsi and translated into Spanish, which he learnt phonetically.Tepid as a psychological thriller with a telenovela-esque twist, the film’s strength and most of its attraction lies in the three dynamic central performances and the picturesque 16th century setting in the town of Torrelaguna (Madrid) which is very much a character in itself, gloriously brought to life in Jose Luis Alcaine’s zinging images. Everybody Knows provides fascinating insight into traditional Spanish country life, exposing deep fault-lines of internecine resentment, provincial pettiness and mean-spirited grudges.

The plot revolves round a secret “everybody knows” (except Laura herself) about former flame Paco (Bardem) who was devastated when she left. The whole affair seems connected to a local kidnapping that took place years previously, revealed in some newspaper cuttings that just happen to be left around in Irene’s bedroom. Soon, menacing letters start to arrive demanding money, and threatening Irene not to contact the police. This unpleasantness also lays bare a long-standing dispute between Laura’s curmudgeonly father and Paco going back years.

Laura’s absence has kept all this at bay but now it comes into full focus, re-opening old family wounds that had never really healed. Strangely nobody seems to acknowledge or discuss the perpetrators of the original kidnapping, and although this slight plothole is glossed ovrr by the polished performances of the strong cast, still remains a nagging question mark in our minds.

This is a mildly intriguing drama that rolls on despite its narrative flaws which are significantly diminished by the undeniable slickness of Farhadi’s confident direction and complemented by the lead trio in brilliant form. MT

ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM 8 MARCH 2019

Oscar Foreign Language Academy Awards 2019

Nine films were on the short list for the coveted Academy Awards Foreign Language title at the end of last year: Some are well known (COLD WAR, CAPERNAUM, SHOPLIFTERS) but AYKA comes from a country where there is hardly any structure let alone financing available for filmmakers, so Kazakhstan’s entry should be particularly applauded.

Denmark: The Guilty (Gustav Möller)

Möller’s feature debut premiered at Sundance in January 2018, winning the audience award in the world cinema dramatic competition. The entire film takes place in the claustrophobic confines of a Copenhagen emergency services station, where a former police officer (Jakob Cedergren) has to deal with gruelling telephone calls from a kidnapped woman.

Germany: Never Look Away (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)

von Donnersmarck is very well thought of in German cinema circles and has a previously won in the category back in 2007 for his Cold War spy thriller The Lives Of Others. His latest sees an art student involved in a difficult situation at his college. We reviewed the film at Venice where it premiered in August 2018.

Poland: Cold War (Pawel Pawlikowski)

Pawlikowski’s film opened in Cannes Competition in 2018 and won him a best director prize. Searingly beautiful, it chronicles a love story between two people from different walks of life, set against the backdrop of the Cold War in the 1950s in various cities in Europe. Pawlikowski has previously won this award back in 2015 for his war-themed drama Ida – but his multi-faceted films have been arthouse staples since he started out in the 1980s with his TV fare (Open Space and From Moscow to Pietuschki in 1990), his first feature was The Stringer (1998).

Colombia: Birds Of Passage (Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra)

An arthouse title that explores the narco-trafficking industry and its profound effects on Columbian society. Gallego and Guerra’s film opened Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes in 2018 but their breakout success was with Embrace Of The Serpent (with Guerra directing, Gallego producing).

Mexico: ROMA (Alfonso Cuarón)

WINNER ACADEMY AWARDS 2019

Cuarón’s latest is a semi-autobiographical take on his own Mexico City upbringing, focusing on a middle-class family and their live-in housekeeper. With so many interesting stories coming out of Mexico, this is Cuarón’s first nomination in the category, although he has been nominated for six Oscars previously, winning best director and best editing for Gravity in 2014.

Japan: Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda)

Kore-eda’s cheeky story of a family living on on its uppers won the Palme d’Or in 2018.

Kazakhstan: Ayka (Sergey Dvortsevoy)

Living in abject poverty in Moscow, a young Kyrgyz woman tries to survive after abandoning her newborn, to return to her job. It premiered in the official Competition at Cannes in 2018.

Lebanon: Capernaüm (Nadine Labaki)

After her lively social drama Caramel, Labaki’s Cannes 2018 Competition entry is a more heavyweight but enjoyable story for its humanity and insight. Shot on the streets of Beirut using non-professional actors, the story follows the fate of a precocious but endearing 12 year-old boy who takes his parents to court.

South Korea: Burning (Lee Chang-dong)

Lee’s Cannes Competition title was the favourite amongst the critics at Cannes last year. It’s a psychological thriller but also a subtle love story based on Haruki Murakami’s short story Barn Burning.

THE AWARDS TOOK PLACE in Los Angeles on 24 February 2019 

Sauvage (2018) ***

Dir.: Camille Vidal-Naquet; Cast: Felix Maritaud, Eric Bernard, Marie Seux, Philippe Ohrel; France 2018, 99 min.

Felix Maritaud blazes through this stunning sortie into the life of young rent boys in Strasbourg, focusing on their aimless, dangerous and lonely lives. The harsh psychological realism is complimented by explicit sexual encounters, which often border on the abusive.

He plays Leo a rent boy in his early twenty who lives purely for the moment, using drugs, clients, petty crime and lots of day-dreaming to get through each day. That changes when he meets Ahd (Reinard), a fellow male prostitute and falls in love with him. Leo is not worried that Ahd is actually looking for a ‘sugar-daddy’ long term, and asks Leo to do the same: “That’s the best that can happen to us”. But Leo is stubborn, chasing Ahd down and endangering his relationship with an older man. After being sexually assaulted by two others who cheat him out of his money to boot, Ahd does Leo a last favour, beating up one of them and stealing his money, which he shares with Leo. But all the stress has taken its toll on Leo’s health, and a female physician (Seux), one of the few women in the feature, consoles him with maternal affection. This scene stands out in contrast to the film’s opener, when Leo is examined by a ‘doctor’, who turns out to be a client working for the IRS, who enjoys the role play. After Ahd has left for Benidorm with his lover, Leo finally follows his advice- after a particularly brutal (off-screen) encounter with a client known for his sadistic tendencies. His middle-class ‘protector’ Claude (Ohrel) wants to take him to Montreal for a new start in life – but does Leo really wants to be saved?

Leo shows all the symptoms of emotional regression due to neglect: he is a doleful child looking for love in all the wrong places, because society has marginalised him. Sauvage is not just about sex: it also shows the tenderness in a gay relationship, particularly when Leo goes with a man old enough to be his father: Leo cuddles him, both men getting more out of the encounter than penetration alone would have provided. But Leo is already a very fragmented character: he spends hours alone in the woods near the male gang’s pick-up place, and then over-compensates with hectic behaviour at parties and in dance clubs. His day dreams of emotional security are shattered in reality – and he has himself to blame. Solitude is his way back into childhood, while his waking hours are a nightmare of humiliation and deception. Leo doesn’t know how to connect these two selves, and the lack of concurrent identity makes him alien to himself.

SAUVAGE is an impressive first feature for writer and director Camille Vidal-Naquet. DoP Jacques Girault contrasts Leo’s dual existence with nightmarish images of the time spent with his clients, the aimless wandering in the streets, and the haven of tranquillity in the sunny woods. Vidal-Naquet is always non-judgemental, avoiding sentimentality at all costs. The result is a rather melancholic walk on the wild side. AS

ON RELEASE FROM 1 MARCH 2019 NATIONWIDE

Capernaum (2018)***

Dir: Nadine Labaki | Drama | 105’

Nadine Labaki sprung to fame with her delightfully upbeat debut Caramel, set around a women’s hair salon in Beirut Set. Here she casts non-professional actors in a politically themed fable that sees a child resorting to the strong arms of the law.

This multi-awarded Oscar hopeful has the same warm, stylish look as her previous two features but is a much more accomplished film that puts a watchable spin on dour social realism although it does not quite reach the heights of perfection as the script resorts to disingenuous pandering in the slack final section. Subject-wise we are back to Daniel Blake territory although this is a much better crafted film than the one that bagged Ken Loach the top  Cannes award several years ago and CAPERNAUM does not bludgeon the life out of your with its agitprop hammer. There are similarities too with Slumdog Millionaire in its upbeat fervour powered by cute and captivating performances from its newcomer children.

Labaki structures her film round a trial, although this is not a courtroom procedural and most of the action is set in the chaotic streets or in cramped interiors where 12 year old Zain (Zain Al Rafeea), who looks more like 8, is already serving a prison sentence for stabbing, is now suing his parents for bringing him into the world. One of several siblings, his parents never registered his birth. Despite cocky indignation and a bristling sense of entitlement to his rights, he is a likeable kid who lives with his parents Souad (Kawthar Al Haddad) and Selim (Fadi Kamel Youssef). Rather than school, he goes out to sell fruit juice in the market, where he also collects tramadol which the family grind into clothes-washing water which is then passed to Zain’s prison-serving elder brother. Although these circumstances are all quite startling to Western viewers, they are sadly run of the mill for millions all over the world. But medication here in the Lebanon seems to be free at the point of collection, a fact which is difficult to believe.

After his younger sister Sahar is sold in marriage by his parents. Zain runs away and comes across Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw), an Ethiopian cleaner who is in Lebanon illegally. He offers to look after her toddler while she is at  work but she later disappears leaving the two to fend for themselves in what turns out to be quite an adventure.

This is a watchable drama with some endearing turns from the ensemble kiddy cast who conjure up an intoxicating chemistry considering their lack of experience. But the star of the piece is Rafeea as the cheekily adamant Zain, a tribute to kids everywhere who feel life has dealt them an unfair start, and who set out to put matters right. MT

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE from 22 February | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | Jury Prize Winner 2018

 

Bergman: A Year in the Life (2018) ****

Dir: Jane Magnusson | Doc | Sweden | 116’

Documentarian Jane Magnusson takes a swipe at Ingmar Bergman’s memory in her sprawling in-depth documentary that marks this year’s centenary of the birth of the Swedish legend. It is an informative expose that lays bare the lesser known side of Bergman and follows on from her 2013 outing Trespassing Bergman where Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen appraised the filmmaker’s staggering oeuvre.

In this current climate of moral rectitude, your judgement of the film will be guided by whether or not you think an artist’s work should stand apart from their personal life. Predicably it emerges that Ingmar was his father’s favourite and  his brother Dag Bergman reveals other intimate details about their childhood together, including his brother’s neurosis that led to stomach pains and sleepless nights.

Opting for a thematic rather than chronological narrative allows Magnusson to zoom in on Bergman’s personality, family and the women in his life in a revealing expose of a man who seemed entirely focused on his own needs. Yet he also emerges as a director who worked closely and intensively with his actors creating female roles that were appealing as well as emotionally and intellectually challenging.

So many documentaries about Bergman have been hagiographic tributes to the national hero, and when a filmmaker reaches these heady heights it becomes difficult to be critical. Since the dawn of time, creators have been philanderers and poor parents, driven by their obsession with emotionally consuming work. Does this mean that they should be metaphorically ‘taken out and shot’ or have their work shunned and demonised?

Magnusson’s film is observational in style, cleverly focusing in on 1957, Bergman’s most prolific year as a filmmaker on television and the big screen, with the release of Wild Strawberries and the Seventh Seal, his most autonomous work. It was also the year of his involvement in four theatre productions – including the massive almost unstageable endeavour that was Peer Gynt. 1957 heralded the arrival of his sixth child, with wife Gun Grut, and romances leading to marriage with Käbi Laretei and Ingrid von Rosen, including an affair with actor Bibi Andersson, who starred in the year’s two films.

Enriched by a wealth of personal photos and footage, there are informative talking heads from the world of film, theatre and literature making this a definitive and ambitious piece of work that reveals a complicated but endearing genius, despite its provocative stance. MT

ON RELEASE FROM 29 JANUARY 2019

New Year, New Films | 2019 in focus

2019 gets off to an impressive start with two extraordinary arthouse dramas both releasing in January. Timothée Chalamet plays a young man struggling with addition in Felix Van Groeningen’s  A Beautiful Boy and Saoirse Ronan gives a dynamite performance as the tragic Mary Queen of Scots in a mesmerising historical epic from theatre turned screen director Lisa Rourke. There’s plenty more to look forward as the New Year gets under way, here are a selection of arthouse features and documentaries releasing in 2019.

Bergman: A Year in the Life 

The focus of Jane Magnusson’s European Award winning documentary is 1957, arguable the zenith of  Ingmar Bergman’s career when he released two on his most acclaimed dramas The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, a TV film and four plays. It’s an impressive film that reflects Bergman’s mammoth contribution to the world of film and theatre. 25 January 

Burning 

Some critics went wild for this psychological thriller from South Korean director Lee Chang-dong. Certainly alluring, the enigmatic arthouse piece is based on a story from Haruki Murakami about a barn-burning weirdo and his struggle to win the girl of his dreams. 1 February 1st

Birds of Passage

In his follow-up to Embrace of the Serpent Ciro Guerra is joined by his wife Cristina Gallego for this arthouse chronicle of the emergence of the drugs trade in his native Colombia. Spring 2019

Can You Ever Forgive Me? 

Melissa McCarthy takes plagiarism to extraordinary ends as Lee Israel, a New York writer struggling to make ends meet – eventually by criminal means. Marielle Heller and Nicole Holofcener offer up an absorbing dark comedy drama that also stars Richard E Grant. Opens February 1st

Sometimes Always Never 

One of my favourite British films this years was this amusingly cheeky indie drama – it will make you laugh and contemplate your own life too. Love, ageing, loneliness and emotional fulfilment all deftly intermingle in a ‘detective’ drama about a father (a thoughtful Bill Nighy) and his two sons, one of whom has disappeared. Set in the rain-soaked Ribble Valley, there’s a soft melancholy to the muted visuals and the quintessentially English storyline, crafted by Frank Cottrell Boyce (The Railway Man). A subtle film film but an enjoyable one.

Border

Writer John Ajvide Lindvist’s arthouse oddity has the same fresh originality as his vampire thriller Let the Right One In, ten years on. The Swedish social satire is a romantic parable that blends fantasy, mystery and horror and won the top prize at this year’s Cannes ‘Un Certain Regard’. March 8th

High Life

Claire Denis is the latest auteur to try her hand with a Sci-fi drama. And she succeeds. This one stars Robert Pattison and Juliette Binoche and premiered at Toronto to wrapt applause. Early spring 

On the Basis of Sex

In the second film about noted US jurist Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG is already on release)– Felicity Jones stars as the fearsome feminine judge and activist who has broken down barriers since the 1950s, and continues to do so with her subtle charm and incisive intellect. February 8th   

Float Life a Butterfly

Carmel Winters’s won the FIPRESCI Discovery Prize in a drama that follows the ambitions of a young and feisty boxing enthusiast (Hazel Doupe) in 1960s Ireland. Spring 2019

Green Book

Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen star in this enjoyable road movie that delighted critics both at Marrakech and Toronto. It follows a suave African-American pianist (Ali) and a New York bruiser (Mortensen) to America’s Deep South on a voyage of discovery – of themselves and the racial tensions of the 1960s. 1 February 2019 

The Young Picasso 

Exhibition on Screen chronicles the early years of the Spanish painter, from his birth in Malaga to  his international recognition in Paris in his mid thirties. Informative and a must for art lovers. 5 February 2019

Greta

Isabelle Huppert had a low profile in 2018, but she’s back with a vengeance in Neil Jordan’s critically divisive drama that explores the relationship between a young girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Huppert’s lonely widow. 19 April 2019

The Irishman

When Martin Scorsese offered a lifetime Tribute to his great friend Robert De Niro at Marrakech Film Festival , The Irishman was the talk of the town. Scorsese’s latest film will be releasing on Netflix, 

The Mule

Another Hollywood luminary – now in his 90s – Clint Eastwood will hit cinemas at the end of January 2019 with his 143rd film – in which he also stars. The Mule is a high-octane thriller set in the US drug trade  January 25th

The Sisters Brothers

Jacques Audiard casts Joaquin Phoenix and John C Reilly in this sensitively-scripted buddy movie that sees the titular brothers embark on a Wild West odyssey, based on Patrick deWitt’s western novel. Skilfully avoiding a macho approach, this is insightful and great fun. April 5th

Woman At War

Benedikt Erlingsson follows his unusual equine-themed drama Of Horses and Men with another innovative tale from his native Iceland that sees an ambitious eco warrior in the shape of a middle-aged woman strike out for the environment. 3 May 2019

Too Late to Die Young

Dominga Sotomayor’s languorous Chilean family drama was a big hit at Locarno 2018, and takes place during the summer of 1990 while the country was making a dangerous bid for democracy.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino latest, another highly-anticipated controversial caper tackles the thorny theme of Hollywood during the Charles Manson era. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio star. July 26

The Woman in the Window

Based on A J Finn’s bestseller, Joe Wright and Tracey Letts create an intriguing crime thriller that explores urban angst, loneliness and voyeurism in contempo New York. Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman and Amy Adams star.

The Lady Eve

We can always rely on the classics, especially when Preston Sturges, Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck are concerned. Re-released by Park Circus this screwball comedy with a social message  is possibly one of the most enjoyable films you’ll see in February, and makes for perfect Valentine viewing. 15 February.

BEST INDIE AND ARTHOUSE FILMS TO LOOK OUT FOR IN 2019

 

 

Tribute to Richard Lormand (1962-2018)

It is with great sadness that we pay tribute to one of our greatest supporters, film consultants and readers Richard Lormand who has died aged 56.

During a long and distinguished career Richard was a leading light in international communication, film publicity and marketing, specialising in launches at the Berlin, Cannes, Locarno and Venice festivals, and just recently, Marrakech 2018 where he was preparing the 17th edition, when he died.

LOCARNO credit

Richard was a true professional and always a pleasure to work with. He handled world premieres for numerous award-winning films, including Maren Ade’s TONI ERDMANN, Ildiko Enyedi’s ON BODY AND SOUL, Fatih Akin’s IN THE FADE and SOUL KITCHEN, Alice Rohrwacher’s THE WONDERS and HAPPY AS LAZZARO, Christian Petzold’s BARBARA and PHOENIX, Samuel Maoz’s LEBANON and FOXTROT, Lav Diaz’s THE WOMAN WHO LEFT, Ritesh Batra’s THE LUNCHBOX, Takashi Miike’s 13 ASSASSINS and BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL, the Taviani Brothers’ CAESAR MUST DIE, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s UNCLE BOONMEE, Jerzy Skolimowski’s ESSENTIAL KILLING, Amos Gitai’s RABIN, Lucrecia Martel’s ZAMA and LA CIENAGA, Alexander Sokurov’s RUSSIAN ARK and FAUST, Jafar Panahi’s THREE FACES and THE CIRCLE, and Takeshi Kitano’s ZATOICHI and HANA-BI.

Richard was part of the press consultancy team of Locarno Festival and the producing teams of Mitchell Lichtenstein’s cult favourite TEETH, HAPPY TEARS (starring Demi Moore, Parker Posey, Ellen Barkin and Rip Torn) and ANGELICA (starring Jena Malone and Janet McTeer). He was also a producer on Amos Gitai’s DISENGAGEMENT, starring Academy Award-winning actress Juliette Binoche.

Born and raised outside Lafayette, Louisiana, Richard was the son of a Japanese mother and a native French-speaking Cajun American father. He began his career as a reporter/journalist for Reuters in New York City, then went on to work for the Cannes Film Festival (France), Taormina Film Festival (Italy), Torino Film Festival (Italy) and the Viennale/Vienna Film Festival (Austria). Richard also wrote and directed the 1994 award-winning short TI-BOY’S WIFE/LA FEMME DE TI-BOY (Clermont-Ferrand, Locarno, Torino).

His charisma, warmth and professionalism are rare in these days of increasingly faceless public relations, focussing on ‘hits’ and ‘likes’ on social media. Passionately driven by genuine talent and strong stories, Richard often took chances with small independent films and invested his time and talent to make sure they were noticed. His was a personal approach, genuine and always with heart. We shall miss him so much. MT

RICHARD LORMAND

Cold War (2018) ***** Winner Best Film | European Film Awards 2018

Dir: Pawel Pawlikowski | Cast| Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Syzc, Agata Kulesza, Cedric Khan, Jeanne Balibar | Drama | Poland

This beguilingly sexy and sad paean to disillusioned romantics everywhere portrays the euphoria we yearn for but cannot always sustain. Cold War spans a decade from the 1940s to the1960s where two lovers are caught inextricably in a web of passion and pain in a peripatetic relationship that saunters back and forth between Paris, Warsaw and Yugoslavia between pianist Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and singer-dancer Zula (Joanna Kulig). Pawlikowski deftly handles love’s heartaches, high and lows with supreme grace and elegance.

Apart from the dazzling artistry – each frame is a sultry masterpiece – one of the most atmospheric elements and one that becomes a character in itself is the music, from Polish and Slavic folksongs to Chopin, Gerswin and Chuck Berry bringing back memories of Polish fare of the 1950s and 1960s scored by Andrzej Trzaskowski and Krzysztof Komeda, but also unites drama with his documentary fare such as Serbian Epics (1992)

Shot in Academy-ratio, Lukasz Zal’s velvety black and white cinematography evokes the 16mm of the era, and its Iron Curtain sensibilities link it to Pawlikowski’s Oscar-winning gem Ida, although this is a more upbeat affair. Love and longing are themes that flourish throughout the director’s films from his time in England, where he shot Last Resort (2000) and My Summer of Love (2004), and the ephemeral nature of The Woman in the Fifth (2011). Pawlikowski’s work also has affinities with the films of Czech New Wave director Hugo Haas. The only subtle flaws is the abrupt departure of Wiktor’s lover Irena (Agata Kulesza)who either leaves through her disgust of Stalin or on seeing her partner caught in the fire of his new flame. But this by no means detracts from its sublime beauty as a concise yet richly-textured piece of work, and every gorgeous handmade tapestry has its endearing flaws. Flowing yet episodic, Cold War is melancholy but endlessly captivating.

Wiktor and Zula are united by music while he and Irena are curating an ethnomusicological project for dancers which morphs into an the Mazurek Ensemble, an agitprop of the Soviet regime promoting the Aryan heritage of the Poles. Lust envelops them but Kaczmarek’s career keeps him trapped in Communist Poland and when the ensemble travels to East Berlin to perform, Wiktor decides to defect to the West pleading Zula to come with him to Paris. The two profess undying love but flighty Zula bails at the last minute and stays behind in the East. Although she a mercurial woman she lacks the social confidence that Wiktor has inherited from his more grounded bourgeois background.

There is a deliciously spicy vignette where Jeanne Balibar plays Wiktor’s Parisian lover while Zula arrives at the party claiming to have married a Sicilian glass blower from Palermo. But it is clear that Wiktor and Zula are soul mates whose love transcends time and place. They are eventually drawn back together at the end of the 50s but their love cannot exist in this Cold War world with its privations, poverty and political regime. MT.

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE AT CURZON AND SELECTED ARTHOUSE VENUES | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL |BEST DIRECTOR AWARD 2018

The Load | Teret (2018) *** Marrakech Film Festival 2018 | Winner Best Director

Writer/Dir. Ognjen Glavonić |  Drama | 98’

Ognjen Glavonić won various awards for Depth Two, a documentary about the grim discovery of war graves in his native Serbia. THE LOAD is his debut drama that fought its way out of the country inspired by the region’s 1999 NATO onslaught to tell another story from this harrowing period of Balkan history, a quietly devastating one that haunts with its slow burning revelation looming tragically out of the dreary landscape of longterm war.

This is a place full of dour-faced officials going through the motions in a country were hope has been washed away with the winter rain and bombs still cascade in the distance like incendiary stars. A few roadside blossoms tell us spring has arrived and tired-looking truck driver Vlada (Leon Lucev) is making his daily grind towards Belgrade from Kosovo with a load locked in his beaten-up lorry, the contents unknown. His instructions are clear : no stopping or diversions, he must keep a low profile until he reaches his destination.

On his way the journey starts uneventfully but at a crossing a smouldering car crash has blocked the the route to the capital. And a rather blasé teenager hitchhiker Pava (Pavle Čemerikić) offers to show him the way to his destination, tempting Vlada to bend the rules. As it happens Pava is clueless about map-reading, but doesn’t really mind that he has let Vlada down. Clearly, he represents the younger generation, shielded from the coldface of war from protective parents like Vlada, who, inured to disappointment and setbacks, motors on resigned, his face etched with the gruelling inevitability of his lot and eventually the pair start to bond.

The tone is brooding, morose and vaguely doom-laden as the men push on framed in close-up and on the widescreen by Tatjana Krstevski whose superb washed out visual also featured in Depth Two).  The two men drive on until Paja blithely announces his departure to hitchike to German and look for better things. But nature of his Vlada’s business requires him to be responsible and slowly the gruesome truth dawns making the inevitable realisation all the more haunting. MT

WINNER BEST DIRECTOR | MARRAKECH FILM FESTIVAL 2018 

Capernaum (2018) *** Marrakech International Film Festival 2018

Dir: Nadine Labaki | Drama | 105’

Nadine Labaki gained international acclaim with her delightfully upbeat debut Caramel, set around a women’s hair salon in Beirut. Here she casts non-professional actors in a politically themed fable that sees a child resorting to the strong arm of the law. Just before the film screened at this year’s Marrakech Film Festival the news broke that the film would represent the Lebanon at the Academy Awards 2019.

This Cannes Jury Prize winner, and Golden Globe 2019 hopeful has the same stylish look as her previous two features but is a much more accomplished film that puts a watchable spin on dour social realism, although it does not quite reach the heights of perfection as the script resorts to disingenuous pandering in the slack final section. Subject-wise we are back to Daniel Blake territory although this is a much better crafted film than the one that bagged Ken Loach the Palme d’Or award several years ago. It also has to be said that CAPERNAUM does not bludgeon the life out of you with an agitprop hammer, despite a rather manipulative feel to proceedings. There are similarities too with Slumdog Millionaire in its upbeat fervour powered by cute and captivating performances from its newcomer children, and particularly from its lead Zain Al Rafeea.

Labaki structures her film round a trial, although this is not a courtroom procedural and most of the action is set in the chaotic streets or in cramped interiors where 12 year old Zain (Al Rafeea), who looks more like 8, is already serving a prison sentence for stabbing, is now suing his irresponsible parents for bringing him into the world. As one of several siblings, his parents never registered his birth. And all they seem to do is have children who they are unable to support and nourish, or even love. Despite cocky indignation and a bristling sense of entitlement to his rights, Zain is a likeable kid who lives with his parents Souad (Kawthar Al Haddad) and Selim (Fadi Kamel Youssef). Rather than school, he goes out to sell fruit juice in the market, where he also collects tramadol which the family grind into clothes-washing water which is then passed to Zain’s prison-serving elder brother. Later this tramadol water comes in as a usual way of earning money when Zain strikes out on his own. Although these circumstances are all startling to Western viewers, it has to be said that they are sadly run of the mill for millions of kids all over the world. But medication here in the Lebanon seems to be free at the point of collection, a fact which is difficult to believe given the current opiod crisis in the US and Europe.

After his younger sister Sahar is sold in marriage by his parents. Zain runs away and comes across Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw), an Ethiopian cleaner who is in Lebanon illegally. This strand introduces a migrant theme to the narrative which also feels timely. Zain offers to look after Rahil’s toddler while she is at  work but she later disappears leaving the two to fend for themselves in what turns out to be quite an adventure.

This is a watchable drama with some endearing turns from the ensemble kiddy cast who conjure up an intoxicating chemistry considering their lack of experience. But the star of the piece is Rafeea as the cheekily adamant Zain, a tribute to kids everywhere who feel life has dealt them an unfair start, and who set out to put matters right. MT

MARRAKECH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION 2018

The Dead and Others (2018) **** Marrakech International Film Festival 2018

Docudrama | 114’ | Brazil/Portugal

Directed by Palme d’Or winner João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora, THE DEAD AND THE OTHERS is an extraordinary docudrama based on their experiences of living for nearly a year in Pedra Branca, a village inhabited by the indigenous community of the Kraho people in Northern Brazil. The Kraho very much want to continue their way of life and traditions in their rural community, striving to be self-sufficient. Their plight very much connects with a global narrative of survival for small communities all over the world.

Fifteen year old Ihjãc has been suffering from nightmares since he lost his father and in the opening scene he walks through the rain forest in the light of the moon. A distant sound of chanting comes through the palm trees. His father’s voice calls him to the waterfall. It is now time to organise the funeral feast so his father’s spirit can depart to the village of the Dead and mourning can cease. Although his baby son Tepto was born in the local hospital, Ihjãc still spends most of his life with his family in the remote forest and although the village elders are urging him to fulfil his duty to undergo the crucial process of becoming a shaman, Ihjãc escapes back to the local town to avoid the transition. There, far from his people and culture, he faces the reality of being an indigenous native in contemporary Brazil.

With its themes of loss, displacement and cultural identity, this is an masterful if rather overlong piece of filmmaking that feels woozily impressionistic but also strangely urgent in its message, glowingly conveyed in vibrant high contrast cinematography MT

SCREENING DURING MARRAKECH FILM FESTIVAL | VIEWS FROM MOROCCO AND THE Ottoman Empire | THE 11th CONTINENT

Yomeddine (2018) *** Marrakech Film Festival 2018

Writer|Dir: A B Shawky | Egypt | Drama | 97’

YOMEDDINE (Judgement Day) is a coming of age road drama where two outcasts discover the harshness of the real world outside the lepper colony where they have spent most of their tragic lives. Funded by kickstarter, A B Shawky based his film on real people he met at the Abu Zaabal Leper Colony while filming his awarded documentary The Colony: childless leper Beshay and his schizophrenic wife; Hamed, the legless former truck driver, and Nubian boy Obama. After the death of his wife, we re-join Beshay and his apprentice Obama (Ahmed Abdelhafiz) on a journey south in a donkey cart, to trace the rest of Beshay’s family and find out why his father abandoned him there as a child.

A gentle sardonic humour saves YOMEDDINE from descending into sentimentality, even though the two’s sad plight may often have you close to tears. Newcomer Gamal plays Beshay (who is no longer contagious) with vulnerability and amusing self-deprecation, and the down to earth Obama tags along on the mission.

Poverty and religion are the themes that run through this slim but poignant story. Having been judged all their lives for their looks, when will they be judged for their personalities? Obama is more confident than Beshay but the two share an appealing rapport. During their trip they encounter all sorts of nefarious characters along the way, and although there’s no strong narrative, this watchable film ambles gently on as we enjoy the rapport of the characters and the simple storyline enriched by the passing Egyptian landscapes – that veers off the beaten track, offering sites that are unfamiliar to most. YOMEDDINE is a restrained piece of work that may not travel far, but there is a powerful charm to its journey. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 8-19 MAY 2018 | IN COMPETITION

The Image Book | Le Livre d’Images (2018) ****

Dir.: Jean-Luc Godard in collaboration with Fabrice Aragno, Jean-Paul Battagia, Nicole Brenez; France/Switzerland 2018, 85 min.

Returning to Cannes this May, and eventually winning a Special Palme d’Or with The Image Book, Jean-Luc Godard was as brazen as usual: a portrait of the artist as an iconoclast, but not in the historical sense. JLG, true to form, throws thousands of images at us, just as he’s always done. In very mutated forms – enigmatically connected, their meaning further ambiguously enhanced by free associative texts. It was announced that some of the images would travel the big cities of the globe as an installation. ~Having done away with actors, Godard decided to rely on images – his own as well as others. This event will now happen in cinemas, before an army of academics and JLG acolytes take over the diatribe.

The good news first: The Image Book is much more accessible than say Film Socialisme, it gives the audience a chance to put at least some strains together – depending on how many years one has spent in the cinema and the library, appraising his work. Before the onslaught of images, most of the film clips get away in the original form, the rest is colour distorted, saturated, over- or under exposed, played at the ‘wrong’ speed or an impaired rhythm. Godard reminds us that we think with two hands. The sounds are in discordance, distorted and often violently cut off, or altogether removed – all this to the music of Bach, Schnittke, Scott Walker, Prokofiev (Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible) among others. The clips of films, TV, mobile, newsreel and artwork are released in stunning tempo, underlined by Godard’s rasping voice plus a heavy cough attack. In the chapter ‘Remake’, he uses his own material as well others for a new message: a mix of fictional and real live killings. This is followed by a sequence of train features (always interrupted by Holocaust images) as a form of cinematic representations, starting with ‘The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat’ by the Lumiere Brothers. Then we jump to Europe just after the end of WWII, with Munk’s Eroica and Jerzy Kawalerowicz’ Night Train, and a long clip from Jacques Tourneur’s Berlin Express where the new order in Europe is established by the nominative travellers of the Four Powers.

Trying to be particularly clever, JLG quotes Dostojewski “The Warsaw train was approaching St. Petersburg”. Before we return to Europe, a short-list of features quoted: Johnny Guitar, Kiss me Deadly, The Beauty and the Beast, Vertigo and Gus van Sant’s Elephant. In Europe, JLG opines “the actions of the government cannot be separated from the actions of the citizens”. What he means is that Europeans have reduced the power of emotion by becoming a consumer society, and by killing the real meaning of language, with advertising. And there is the ever-recurring Faust question: JLG accusing Europeans of all wanting to be Kings, rather than Faust. Also spotted is a book of poems by Godard’s partner Anne-Marie Miéville, and excerpts of Hollis Frampton’s Means of Survival. The majority of clips and texts passed me by, so I long for a second, or even third viewing – just to ‘get with the programme’.

ISIS executions are scattered around The Image Book. Also in the last chapter about the Arab world, entitled ‘Joyful Arabia’ from an Alexandre Dumas novel, and with quotes by Albert Cossey: Ambition in the Desert, Godard shows the false dawn of the Arab Spring and other violent episodes – besides just the ISIS cruelties. In the end JLG quotes Max Ophuls’s Le Plaisir: a man dancing around wildly, until he collapses. Wonder what this is a symbol for, if anything?.

Well then: JLG as an audio-visual poet? A channel surfer of history? A lecturer in free association mode? Perhaps most likely just a painter of images. In a (cinema) world with little or no substance (never mind innovation), the idiosyncratic JLG stands out – for whatever reason. Yes, the huge majority switched off after Weekend – a few newcomers occasionally join the party mainly attended by his acolytes – but it’s a requires stamina to follow the leaders. AS

ON RELEASE on November 30 2018 NATIONWIDE

Shoplifters (2018) ****

Writer/Dir: Hirokazu Koreeda | Cast: Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Sosuke Ikematsu | Drama | South Korea |121′

Hirokazu Koreeda’s portrait of parenting, After the Storm, has much in common with this perceptive and often ambiguous satire about a family of small-time crooks and the misguided theft they commit for compassionate reasons, but with devastating consequences. SHOPLIFTERS is a worthwhile addition to the auteur’s preoccupations with family life, father and motherhood – both real and imagined, and is possibly his best work so far.

In Tokyo, part-time workers Osamu (Lily Franky) and his wife Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) complement their meagre income with a sideline in shoplifting. Aided and abetted by son Shota (Kairi Jyo), they often swipe groceries from the local store near the flat they share with fellow grifter Noboyu (Sakura Andô), teenager Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) and grandma Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), who turns the most lucrative tricks of the lot.

One day they take pity on an abused and timid teenager called Juri (Miyu Sasaki), offering her board and lodging in their already cramped home. This simple act of kindness is the catalyst for change in the family dynamic unleashing previously hidden motivations that range from short-sightedness to self-aggrandisement, and even narcissistic pride.

A tonal shift from upbeat bonhomie to gloomy sadness takes place in the film’s third segment when the family anticipate their emotional loss and start to fear the backlash of their rash altruism, and its damning formal retribution. Kore-eda and his cast bring out  tremendous pathos in this well-meaning family, and while we feel for them as do-gooders, – in the true sense of the word – they are crucially also law-breakers. And this is the J B Priestleyan crux of this upbeat and cleverly-crafted caper reflecting the subtle nuances of Japanese society. MT

ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM 21 November 2018 | CANNES WINNER | PALME D’OR 2018

The Wild Pear Tree | Ahlat Agaci (2018)****


Dir/Writer: Nuri Bilge Ceylan/Ebru Ceylan | Cast: Serkan Keskin, Hazar Erguclu, Ahmet Rifat Sungar | Drama | Turkey/France/Germany/Bulgaria/Macedonia/Bosnia and Herzegovina/Sweden 2018 | 188′

For some the countryside is a retreat where hopes and dreams merge with solitude and recovery. For a father and a son in THE WILD PEAR TREE the sweeping landscapes of Western Turkey’s Marmara region are a place of shattered hopes and despair.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan imbues his melancholy mood piece with the usual visual richness in a slow-burning saga that revolves around aspiring writer Sinan (Aydin Dogu Demirkol) who returns from army service to his native village to raise the money to publish his first book. But his father’s debts catch up with him and put a stop to his personal aspirations. Running at a little over three hours, this long-awaited follow to Winter Sleep and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia takes the customary languorous and discursive pace. The wide screen splendour also makes time for quietly intimate moments but there is no melodrama or ‘major developments’ in a film that plays out contemplatively as the story naturally unfolds.

Sinan is not particularly glad to be back home in the small rural village of Çan, where he holds the community in disdain. But his father Idris’ gambling has spiralled out of control causing his mother and sister to do without, so Sinan starts to do the rounds of friends and family in search of finance for his literary endeavour.

Contrary to the title, a wild pear tree never features in the film, and there is no love lost between Sinan and his father Idris, their relationship slowly deteriorating for obvious reasons. There is a sense of longing for urban civilisation, and while the film takes much delight in the convincingly creditable characterisations and conversation pieces, which are quietly enjoyable, often philosophical (even a little bit over talky at times), it’s clear that Sinan is no more enamoured with this rural idyll than when he reluctantly arrived.

Ceylan returns to the evergreen signature themes that have been present in his work since the beginning and have gained him a reputation and a strong following, along with his elegantly crafted widescreen style and well-rounded character studies. And there is always a touch of dry wit to lighten proceedings while grounding them in community, local politics, moral and ethical issues and family concerns.

In some ways, his latest is an expansion of his FIPRESCI and Golden Tulip winner Clouds of May (1999) and has the same ripe quality of visual sumptuousness throughout. Dermirkol plays Sinan as a vaguely unsympathetic character whose ennui with his family and rural life simply demonstrates an ardent need to get on with his aspirations rather than indicating a deeply flawed personality. But maybe they are one in the same. Ceylan eyes his antihero in a detached and observational way that makes him really convincing as a representative of his generation. In contrast to the self-sacrificing heroes of the early 1900s, Sinan is a full-fledged 21st century man. MT

ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM 30 NOVEMBER 2018 | Cannes Film Festival Premiere

The House That Jack Built (2018) ****

Writer/Dir: Lars von Trier | Cast: Uma Thurman, Matt Dillon, Riley Keough | Thriller |  Bruno Ganz | 155′

Controversy has always surrounded auteur Lars von Trier and his critically acclaimed work lives up to his reputation as a maverick talent, fuelling fierce debate and attracting attention from his devoted fans. And he is up to his tricks again refusing to be cowed by the controversy that got him ‘persona non grata status’ seven years ago.

This time he offers up the provocative portrait of a serial killer wreaking hell in the 70s world of America’s Pacific North West. THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT confirms the director has no intention of mending his ways, although it’s never quite clear whether he intends to be a mischievous as he appears. That said, he has clearly managed to wind some viewers up with walks out at the Cannes world premiere of the film. And with various allusions to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao and Idi Amin a mild mannered approach was never going to be the balm needing to heal the wounds of previous damage he caused. 

Anti-Americanism and misogyny are the themes firmly in the forefront of this new and naughty endeavour that has Matt Dillon in the lead role as Jack, a sociopathic criminal who subjects women and kids to a sadistic fate that would put even the Moors murders in the shade, while simultaneously moaning: “why is it always the men’s fault”. The narrative clearly runs contrary to the current polemic over sexual misconduct. Lars was never going to be acquiescent in this regard but his gorefest feels like he’s upping the ante big time! And while there are plenty of sympathisers, there are also the detractors. So the choice is yours.

THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT is certainly a film to see, despite its indulgent running time. And it is worth remembering that over the years, the Danish maverick has created some memorable roles for women, assuring Emily Watson a legendary turn in Breaking The Waves, Bjork for Dancer in the Dark, and Charlotte Gainsbourg for Melancholia. In this new outing the victim to feel sorry for is Riley Keough — but von Trier cuts the victim characterisations down to a bare minimum, so as a result we know and feel little for them. They are merely there to serve the narrative’s ploy of putting a spanner in the works of the gender war that is currently raging. 

The film is seen from the perspective of Jack and the hidden voice of his mentor/shrink Verge (Bruno Ganz), who remains in the dark until he finally emerges into the limelight as Dante after some 60 killings have been reported, escorting Jack through the circles of Hell, Divina Comedia style. 

The killing spree is conducted dispassionately by Jack. It kicks off with an deliberately unlikeable motorist (Uma Thurman) who meets her maker in a surprisingly bloodless way, after showing a gross sense of entitlement to Jack, after her car breaks down. Von Trier judiciously leaving the gore to our imagination, we actually feel more empathy with Jack than the woman. The next victims are a recently bereaved widow, then Sofie Grabol and her sons, forced to enjoy a picnic before being unceremoniously ‘taken out’. The director is also clearly taking a swipe at elements of our indifferent and uncaring society that allow victims to go unaided when in peril. The ‘dumb blond’ girlfriend is the next to go, in a killing that mirrors that of Sharon Tate. But each time Lars desire to inflame the recent feminist lash-back is almost overdone and certainly too glaringly obvious to be taken seriously. 

Dillon plays Jack with suave insouciance, boredom even. Nitpicking over details such as bloodstains on the carpet – he has a cleanliness fetish – and as his trail of carnage grows, he experiments with the slowly growing mound of bodies in his cool room.

The mid section of the film is devoted to a treatise on art and its value in society – which is all a bit too arcane to be edifying in the context of a murder movie – and the constant musical motif of Bowie’s ‘Fame’ becomes a tad tiresome after a while. This detour gives nods to Glenn Gould, William Blake, gothic cathedral architecture, the work of Hitler’s favourite architect Albert Speer. A vignette about dessert wine production feels like an echo of the Silence of the Lambs fava beans episode. Ganz’s Verge is a soothing Peter Cook style psychiatrist who assures Jack that his feelings are all consistent with his personality profile as a psycho. JACK’s editor Molly Malene Stensgaard interposes archive material at various salient intervals to add ballast to the ongoing diatribe between Jack and Verge, but there is nothing particularly exciting about cinematographer Manuel Albert Claro’s grainy handheld camera work or choice of visual aesthetic, although he captures the final descent into Hell inventively.

A great deal of the film actually feels quite tedious. JACK is neither a crime procedural or a gripping character study, and when the film’s title is finally fleshed out – quite literally – we are all ready to go home. MT

NOW ON RELEASE FROM 2 NOVEMBER 2018

Murder me, Monster (2018) *** | Cannes Film Festival 2018

Dir Alejandro Fadel. Argentina. 2018. 106′

MURDER ME MONSTER’S widescreen solemnity might bring to mind the murder investigation in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia – and there are vague echoes of Amat Escalante’s The Untamed, but that’s where the similarity ends. This brooding Andes-set crime mystery is the gruesome work of Los Selvajes director Alejandro Fadel, and it is certainly not for the feint hearted with its bestial themes and deformed zombie-like characters. Infact everyone in this stomach-turning horror fantasy is on edge and whispering morosely, for one reason or another. And a series of macabre murders, where heads are torn from bodies, seem to be the reason why.

The opening scene sees the dying moments of a woman whose throat has been severed and as a herd of sheep, and some other livestock are slowly make their supper of her remains, a blind man mumbles on about the murder, as slowly Fadel builds suspense out of a series of weird incidents that seem to indicate that a feral beast is on the prowl and out of control in this remote corner of Argentina where it invariably appears to be night.

Rural police officer Cruz (Victor Lopez) is tasked with investigating the murders and the finger seems to point to local thick-lipped weirdo David (Esteban Bigliardi) who claims that a savage creature is using certain phrases to commune with him, as if through telepathy, with a ‘silly’ voice that repeats ‘Murder Me, Monster’.

Cinematographers Manuel Rebella and Julian Apezteguia evoke nightmarish visuals often using the same technique as the painter El Greco – where the characters’ faces are often starkly backlit against a murky darkness. And there’s a garish otherworldly quality to the outdoor mountain scenes that turn increasingly Lynchian as the plot thickens. Pus-yellow, murky mustard and puke green make up the colour palette of costume and set designers Florencia and Laura Caligiuri. An atmospheric ambient score keeps the tension brewing.

This is intriguing stuff, if rather too enigmatic for its own good as a satisfying narrative that eventually leaves us stranded in its own mysterious backwater, and we feel rather nauseous and bewildered by the end. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2018

https://vimeo.com/268725708

 

Ayka | My Little One (2018) **** | Cannes Film Festival | In Competition

Dir: Sergei Dvortsevoy | Wri: Gennadiy Ostrovskiy | Cast: Samal Yeslyamova | Drama | Kazakhstan | Dop Jolanta Dylews

After giving birth in a squalid Moscow hospital minutes before, a young woman trudges back through blinding snow to pluck chickens in a factory outlet. Sound like your kind of film? This harrowing hunk of social realism is the delicately drawn follow-up from the man who rose to international stage with his tender Kazakh Un Certain Regard winner Tulpan back in 2008. 

Writer-director Sergey Dvortsevoy returns to the Croisette with this competition hopeful AYKA, a much more morose affair anchored by a carefully considered performance from Samal Yeslyamova, that won her Best Actress at Cannes, and who also played the main character’s sister in Tulpan.  Chased along the icy streets and tawdry interiors by awarded DoP Jolanta Dyweska’s handheld camera AYKA has the same chaotic feel as the Dardenne brothers’ Rosetta (1999). Here our back-footed heroine has had to abandon her baby to battle against a callous country populated by criminal landlords, corrupt employers, poverty and disdain. And we feel for her. 

Dvortsevoy and his co-writer Gennadi Ostrowski, trip backwards and forwards offering inklings into the Kyrgyzstani woman’s background in a drama whose themes of social injustice and transmigration are not hammered into place but lightly alluded to in a tale that makes us focus more on Ayka’s blood-stained postpartum hardships (which are not for the feint-hearted) and her fearsome fight for survival in a place where she is neither wanted nor welcome. Some of the scenes make for gruesome viewing but this is a brave and ballsy film that begs for an audience and certainly deserves one. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | BEST ACTRESS WINNER 2018

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Dogman ***** (2018) | Cannes Film Festival | Best Actor Award

Dir: Matteo Garrone | Ugo Chiti | Adamo Dionisi, Francesco Acquaroli, Edoardo Pesce, Laura Pizzirani | Drama | 120′ | Italy

The second Italian hero of Cannes Film Festival appears in Matteo Garrone’s terrific revenge thriller that returns to the filmmaker’s own stamping ground of Caserta with a richly thematic and compulsive exploration of male rivalry and belonging in a downtrodden criminal-infested football-playing community scratching a living.

Life has always been tough in this neck of the woods, infested by gangland influences: it is a terrain that Garrone knows and describes well in his 2008 feature Gomorrah. A brutal brotherhood controls this bleak beachside wilderness where everyone relies on each other to survive.

At the heart of DOGMAN is a tour de force turn from actor turned director Marcello Fonte who plays an endearing and diminutive dog grooming supremo who although popular and kind, has formed a toxic twosome with local hoodlum and sociopath Simone, a thorn in his side who is dragging him constantly into trouble. Marcello’s wife has cleared off and he has a young daughter Sofia (Alida Baldari Calabria) to look after –  and dog-grooming hardly makes ends meet, so to keep Simone sweet he supplies him with cocaine and courtesies, though secretly he wishes him dead.

Marcello possesses the same innate goodness as Lazzaro in Rohrwacher’s drama that played earlier in the competition line -up. And he’s gifted and patient with the dogs brought into his shop, and in one scene he actually goes out of his way to rescue a chihuahua who has been nearly frozen to death in a botched robbery. In short, Garrone uses similar ‘good and evil’ theme as Scorsese in his New York street thrillers where one good person is perpetually trying to redeem the others, against the odds and often at his own expense. Marcello is keen on his friends and is popular and wants to keep it that way, but Simone is a liability and one day will lead him to tragedy.

This is a gritty and violent film and often unbearably so, but there are moments of heart-rending tenderness – between his Marcello and his dependants – where tears will certainly well up. Fonte won Best Award at Cannes for his skilful portrayal that switches subtly from sad loner to desperado.

Garrone sets the desolate scene resonantly with his brilliant lighting and inventive camerawork, this time working with DoP Nicolai Bruel, who paints this part of Italy with an almost gothic desperation highlighted by Michele Braga’s mournful musical score. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL  2018| BEST ACTOR AWARD MARCELLO FONTE

The Gentle Indifference of the World (2018)**** | Cannes Film Festival 2018

Dir: Adilkhan Yerzhanov | Writer: Roelof Jan Minneboo | Cast: Sultan Abzalov, Tulemis Alishev, Dinara Baktybaeva, Kulzhamilya Belzhanova | Drama | Fr/Kazakhstan |

Roelof Jan Minneboo is a Dutch writer and script doctor who works with budding independent filmmakers to give their distinctive stories a voice. He has done this so far with the late Somalian director Abdi Jama for Queleh, with Georgian director George Ovashvilli’s Corn Island which went on to win the main prize at Karlovy Vary in 2014 and with Armenian Ilgar Najaf whose Pomegranate Orchard (2017) picked up a several awards last year for his story of a prodigal son. This is his second collaboration with Kazakh filmmaker Adilkhan Yerzhanov, after the director won the Free Spirit Award at Warsaw for his debut  The Owners (2014).

The title’s logline: Love will always be above life, fear, death and money, is an encouraging start and The Gentle Indifference of the World never disappoints with its captivating style and unusual narrative inspired by Kazakh Steppe legends. Each frame of this stunningly filmed piece of cinema is an absolute gem, once again embracing the free-spirited and unique cinematic voice that is Yerzhanov, directing with inventive conviction in a strangely poetic and offbeat thriller. Unexpected humour, gentleness and violence emerge from the bizarre yet simple tale about feisty Kazakh folk who are not afraid of taking the law into their own hands in the big sky countryside of the lle Alatau Steppe and in the corrupt city of Almaty.

After her father’s sudden death, the central character Sultanat (a gracefully charismatic Dinara Baktybaeva) is forced to move from her idyllic rural home to Almaty to raise money to pay off family debts so her mother can avoid a prison sentence. With only her faithful friend Kuandyk (Dyussembaev) for emotional support, city life proves tough for this ravishing beautiful young woman and even when her uncle comes up with a suitable husband to do the honours financially, Sultanat soon finds him wanting. She has been close friends with the faithful but penniless Kuandyk since they were little, but can their bond survive in the tough urban setting where cold reality lurks at every turn, and love must triumph over money and power which continually trump its survival? An extraordinary and evergreen story, beautifully told. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 8 – 19 MAY | UN CERTAIN REGARD

 

 

 

Burning (2018)

Lee Chang dong, Oh Jung mi | 143’ | South Korea | Drama 

Lee Chang-dong’s sees a rich guy and an honest worker compete for the affections of an enigmatic young woman in his mysterious slow burner that sizzles with a seductive spell and intoxicates for over two hours with its captivating storytelling and strikingly atmospheric score by Mowg.

‘A literary adaptation’ can sound warning bells but this standout psychological thriller breathes life into a short story from Haruki Murakami, adapted by Lee and his co-writer Oh Jung-mi who keep things deceptively simple yet alluring with a thematically rich ride set to Hong Kyung-pyo’s sumptuous cinematography, and enfused with themes of privilege, class, stifled creativity and revenge.

Lonely budding writer Jongsu comes from a poor and dysfunctional family background and works as a deliveryman near the North Korean border where he is unexpectedly invited into the bed of his former school friend who later returns from a trip to Africa with suave but unassuming new boyfriend in the shape of Korean hotshot Ben (Yeun Steven), who seems rather to smooth to be true. But then the story becomes more complex. Jongsu (Yoo Ah-in) has really fallen for the charming but insecure Haemi (Jun Jong-seo), who remembers his harsh comments on her appearance back in the day, and has since had plastic surgery.

A loose friendship soon develops between the threesome and for a while the story hums along gently mulling over its cultural references and glorying in its low key placid perfection. But all is not well in paradise and the tone takes a sinister turn after Ben confesses to being somewhat of a pyrotechnic with a penchant for greenhouse burning, and we witness this in a startling bonfire that seethes in silence. This heats up the whole affair with Haemi going missing and the two men coming head to head in a violent climax. With dynamite performances from the trio this is an elegantly crafted thriller from a Korean master at the top of his game. MT

NOW ON BBC | IPLAYER | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL FIPRESCI PRIZE 2018

Sir (2018) | Critics’ Week 2018

Dir: Rohena Gera | Drama | India | 97′

Documentarian Rohena Gera’s fiction debut is a refreshing and delicately drawn character drama, a love story that takes place in modern day Mumbai between two likeable people from opposite ends of the social spectrum, one is rich the other poor.    

Ratka is a young widow whose dicey new single status has for forced her to find work in the city. So she moves from her rural village to work as housekeeper for a wealthy young man whose wedding has recently been called off. “Sir” is clearly feeling emotional and Ratka suggests to his mother that the wedding presents be kept in her room to spare him further heartache. There they fester as a constant reminder of his and her marital failure.

The lovelorn Ashwin is gradually soothed by Ratka’s kind and thoughtful personality, so different from the spoilt prima donnas from his own milieu. Impressed by her drive and ambition to become a tailor, he offers her time out to train. His own work as a writer seems like a vanity project in contrast and most of his time is spent lolling around feeling sorry for himself and secretly ashamed at his lack of ambition.

Gera makes great use of Mumbai’s pulsing metropolis as a backdrop for the pair’s palpable chemistry as sexual tension slowly catches fire between them. But Ratka’s personality is the stronger of the two and Gera takes time to flesh out her emotional qualities and sparky intelligence leaving Ashwin as a rather one-dimensional cypher with only the machismo consistent with his status to define him. Clearly something’s gotta give, and in order to bring these two together between the sheets in an elegant manner Gera has to employ a narrative device that ends up being unconvincing. That said, SIR is a watchable film and was justly awarded a prize at the Cannes Critics’ Week sidebar. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE

Manto (2018)**** | Un Certain Regard | Cannes Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Nandita Das; Cast: Navazuddin Siddiqui, Rasika Dugal, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Rajshiri Deshpande; India/France 2018, 112 min.

Nandita Das’ follows her stunning debut Firaaq, with a passionate bio-pic of Indo-Pakistani writer and author Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955), whose life was a constant struggle against censorship under British colonial rule and in the newly created Pakistan, whence he fled  from Bombay. Rather daringly, Das has integrated five of his short stories into the narrative, that are proof of Manto’s radicalism.                       

The first is Dus Rupay where a young girl from the slums is sold to two wealthy men for the afternoon: they play with her on the beach, before abusing her. Das covers the time between 1946 and 1950, with Manto (Siddiqui) working as a scriptwriter for Bollywood in Bombay, where feels very much at home before the partition. He and his wife Safia (Dugal) mourn their dead son, but are comforted by their two young daughters. Manto shows his morbid nature on his gravestone: “Here lays Saadat Hasan Manto, wondering if he is the better storyteller or God is!” Manto invariably sides with women in his writings, and it is no accident that he was a good friend of the feminist writer Ismat Chugtai (Despande), who also found herself in the British courts. When asked why he is writing about sex-workers, and not the British repression, Manto answers: “Aren’t they part of society too?”

After the partition, Manto’s friendship with the film star Shyam Chadda (Bhasin) comes to an end when an angry Muslim mob in Pakistan attacks the actor’s Hindu family in Pakistan, making them flee to Bombay, “I could kill you”, says Chadda to Manto – and even though he takes it back, the writer knows his time is up, and he moves to Lahore. But there is little to stimulate him in the Pakistani city, and he is soon in court defending himself for another shot story (Cold Meat), considered obscene. Even though he wins the court case, Manto does not feel at home in Lahore, and his drinking lands him in rehab. Symbolically, he is like the man in one of his stories who remained in no-mans land between the two states, having written “Two or three years after Partition, it occurred to the governments of India and Pakistan to exchange their lunatics, like they had exchanged their criminals. The Muslim lunatics in India were sent to Pakistan, and the Hindu and Sikh lunatics in Pakistani asylums were to be handed over to India.”

MANTO’s stylish aesthetic is photographed by Kartik Vijay in semi-sepia, and Siddiqui gives a subtle splendour to his turn as the caustic, low-level depressive writer who cannot adjust to his new homeland due to his humanist nature. Melancholic, sombre and despondent, he drinks himself to death at only 42. Writing was his life, he even gave up the typewriter to use only pens because he felt they were more pure. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL – UN CERTAIN REGARD 2018

Lazzaro Felice | As Happy as Lazzaro 2018 | Best Script Cannes 2018

Writer/Dir: Alice Rohrwacher | Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Adriano Tardiolo, Agnese Graziani, Luca Chikovani, Sergi Lopez | Italy | Drama 125′

Al Rohrwacher brings tenderness and curiosity to her delicately compelling fables set amongst rural communities in her homeland of Italy. Her latest Lazzaro Felice won Best Script at Cannes this year, her previous a languid pastoral The Wonders (2014) followed a family of beekeepers in 1970s Tuscany. In her debut Corpo Celeste (2011)  a young girl challenges religious morality in the southern town of Reggio Calabria.

Happy as Lazzaro is time-bending tale that uses poetic realism to enliven the rather depressing theme of corruption and crime in contemporary Italy. Again Rohrwacher uses Super 16mm to establish a retro aesthetic of sepia and muted senape and to re-create a nostalgic feeling for the past and times gone by in the dilapidated village of Inviolata where a traditional family of sharecroppers still serve the Marchesa Alfonsina de Luna. Although sharecropping has been illegal since the 1980s, their loyalty to their corrupt mistress is born out of habit, and because it suits them to maintain the status quo: It’s what they’ve always done. This recalls a past (and possibly a present in some areas) where a feudal system of sorts still exists, and Italy’s now decadent royal family (Vittoria Emanuele) are still acknowledged, paid homage to and addressed by their titles. So the villagers go about their leisurely business lacking the imagination or motivation to move on, and respecting the powers that be in this remote, sun-baked backwater that seems stuck in the past. And Lazzaro is the man with a heart of gold who is simply too good for this world, let along for this job. As saintly soul, Lazzaro is left the duties no one else wants to do, such as picking giant guarding the chicken coop from wolves. The Marchesa’s fecklessly lazy young son Tancredi, decides to play a trick on mother, for not giving him his inheritance early, and he sees that Lazzaro’s gentle nature and naive nature will make him perfect for a plan to defraud her. Lazzaro is naturally in thrall to the boy, out of deference, to his status. Tancredi then fakes his own kidnapping, hiding out in the undergrowth around the village expecting his mother to cough up the million lire ransom he has demanded. Naturally things don’t go according to plan and Lazzaro falls through a time-warp – in a tonal shift that Rohrwacher pulls of with aplomb – ending up in another world, set against a corrupt urban sprawl where he wanders dreamlike (and there is a certainly a surreal quality to these sequences) amongst unscrupulous characters as a nightmarish future unfolds around him. Lazzaro at this point takes on the semblance of a Christ-like figure – and it’s a performance of great subtlety and placidness that has to be seen to be believed. This transformation to saint, or even ghost seems to represent the soul of the Italian nation overcome by decadence and the perils of modernity. It also raises the everlasting conundrum: how long can a person continue to be good when continually challenged by evil. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 9 – 21 MAY 2018

BlacKkKlansman (2018) | Cannes Film Festival | Grand Prix winner

Dir: Spike Lee | Cast: Adam Driver, Topher Grace, Laura Harrier, Ryan Eggold, Corey Hawkins | Biopic Crime Comedy | US |

Spike Lee’s latest film follows Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado, who successfully managed to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan.

BlacKkKlansman, champions the Black Lives Matter brigade and is Spike Lee’s most engaging film in years, playing out as a straightforward 1970s style tale that sees a Black rookie detective get close up close and personal with the KKK, by posing as a potential punter over the ‘phone then sending his white colleague along to do the honours. Adam Driver plays game in fine form. 

There shades of Shaft here and other blaxploitation films of the era, but the accent is on comedy and irony rather than outright thriller, although Lee has done his research seriously offering plenty of historical detail and some archive footage from the Charlottesville riots from August last year, and the camera swivels firmly in focus of President Trump, and DW Griffith’s Birth of a Nation.

The white supremacists are a nasty bunch, as you can imagine, and no one escapes their vitriol which is aimed at Jews and anyone not of Aryan blood. Topher Grace plays David Duke, the head honcho of the local branch, the film also features Black characters who are racist such as Patrice..

After joining the surprisingly racist Colorado Springs Police department, his first mission is to attend a Black Power meeting addressed by Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture. Here he meets and falls for Angela Davies Patrice (Laura Harrier). The film then charts his progress to infiltrate and bring down the KKK organisation in scenes where the tone is taut but always firmly upbeat. With lowkey natural performances from leads Adam Driver and John David Washington, and a stellar score of ‘70s hits, this is an enjoyable, informative and undivisive drama and certainly worthy of winning the Palme d’Or. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | GRAND PRIX WINNER 2018

The House That Jack Built (2018) | Cannes Film Festival

Writer/Dir: Lars von Trier | Cast: Uma Thurman, Matt Dillon, Riley Keough | Thriller |  Bruno Ganz |

Controversy has always surrounded auteur Lars von Trier and his critically acclaimed work lives up to his reputation as a maverick talent, fuelling fierce debate and attracting attention from his devoted fans. And he is up to his tricks again refusing to be cowed by the controversy that got him ‘persona non grata status’ seven years ago.

This time he offers up the provocative portrait of a serial killer wreaking hell in the 70s world of America’s Pacific North West. THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT  confirms that the director has no intention of mending his ways  although it is never quite clear whether he intends to be a mischievous as he appears. That said, he has clearly managed to wind some viewers up with walks out at the Cannes world premiere of the film. And with various allusions to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao and Idi Amin a mild mannered approach was never going to be the balm needing to heal the wounds of previous damage he caused. 

Anti-Americanism and misogyny are the themes firmly in the forefront of this new and naughty endeavour that has Matt Dillon in the lead role as Jack, a sociopathic criminal who subjects women and young kids to a sadistic fate that would put even the Moors murders in the shade, while simultaneously moaning: “why is always the men’s fault”. The narrative clearly runs contrary to the current polemic over sexual misconduct, and Lars was never going to be acquiescent in this regard.  

That said, THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT is certainly a film to see, despite its indulgent running time. And it is worth remembering that over the years, the Danish maverick has created some memorable roles for women, assuring Emily Watson a legendary turn in Breaking The Waves, Bjork for Dancer in the Dark, and Charlotte Gainsbourg for Melancholia. In this new outing the victim to feel sorry for is Riley Keough — but von Trier cuts the victim characterisations down to a bare minimum, so as a result we know and feel little for them, they are merely there to serve the narrative’s purpose of putting a spanner in the works of the gender war that is currently raging.. 

The film is seen from the perspective of Jack and the hidden voice of his mentor/shrink Verge (Bruno Ganz), who remains in the dark until he finally emerges into the limelight as Dante after some 60 killings have been reported, escorting Jack through the circles of Hell, Divina Comedia style. 

The killing spree is conducted dispassionately by Jack, and kicks off with an deliberately unlikeable motorist (Uma Thurman) who meets her maker in a surprisingly bloodless way, after showing a gross sense of entitlement to Jack, after her car breaks down. Von Trier judiciously leaving the gore to our imagination, we actually feel more empathy with Jack than the woman. The next victims are a recently bereaved widow, then Sofie Grabol and her sons, forced to enjoy a picnic before being unceremoniously ‘taken out’. The director is also clearly taking a swipe at elements of our indifferent and uncaring society that allow victims to go unaided when in peril. The ‘dumb blond’ girlfriend is the next to go, in a killing that mirrors that of Sharon Tate. But each time Lars desire to inflame the recent feminist lash-back is almost overdone and certainly too glaringly obvious to be taken seriously. 

Dillon plays Jack with suave insouciance, boredom even. Nitpicking over details such as bloodstains on the carpet – he has a cleanliness fetish – and as his trail of carnage grows, he experiments with the slowly growing mound of bodies in his cool room.

The mid section of the film is devoted to a treatise on art and its value in society – which is all a bit too arcane to be edifying in the context of a murder movie – and the constant musical motif  of Bowie’s ‘Fame’ becomes a tad tiresome after a while. This detours involves nods to Glenn Gould, William Blake, gothic cathedral architecture, the work of Hitler’s favourite architect Albert Speer. A viignette about dessert wine production feels like an echo of the Silence of the Lambs fava beans episode. Ganz’s Verge is a soothing Peter Cook style psychiatrist who assures Jack that his feelings are all consistent with his personality profile as a psycho. JACK’s editor Molly Malene Stensgaard interposes archive material at various salient intervals to add ballast to the ongoing diatribe between Jack and Verge, and there is nothing particularly  exciting about cinematographer Manuel Albert Claro’s grainy handheld camera work or choice of visual aesthetic, although he captures the final descent into Hell inventively.

A great deal of the film actually feels quite tedious. JACK is neither a crime procedural or a gripping character study, and when the film’s title is finally fleshed out – quite literally – we are all ready to go home. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | Out of  COMPETITION 2018

Fugue | Fuga (2018) **** | Cannes Film Festival 2018 | Un Certain Regard

Dir: Agnieska  Smoczynska | Cast: Gabriela Muskała, Łukasz Simlat, Małgorzata Buczkowska, Zbigniew Waleryś, Halina Rasiakówna, Piotr Skiba, Iwo Rajski | Poland/Czech Republic/Sweden 2018, 100 min.

Director Agnieszka Smoczynska re-unites with DoP Jacub Kijowski and actor Malgorzata Buczkowska who together made The Lure an international success. For Fugue, they are joined by writer Gabriela Muskala, who also plays the lead, Kinga/Alicja, a woman suffering from severe post-traumatic amnesia.

We first meet Kinga staggering onto the platform of a station where she promptly collapses, having urinated infront in full view of the other passengers. Clearly she has lost her mind, and spends the next two years in a psychiatric ward in a Warsaw hospital, where she makes a brief appearance on TV, in the hope that someone might identify her. And they do. She is soon re-united with her husband Krystzof (Simlat) and four-year old son Daniel. Her name is Alicja, but strangely, no one appears happy to have her back, least of all her Daniel. The only thing she is sure of is her credit card PIN number she and immediately makes an application for a new Identity Card. Her mysterious family friend Ewa (Buczkowska) is clearly so much more that than this, but Smoczynska keeps her cards close to her chest, revealing little in this enigmatic but captivating mystery drama. Eventually Alicja starts to re-adjust to home life with her husband, but a sudden accident in their car seems to trigger   Alicja’s memory and gradually a whole picture slowly develops of their life before the train incident. It emerges that her husband had successfully divorced her and wanted sole custody of Daniel.

In her follow up to The Lure, Smoczynska offers us another circuitous and enigmatic drama: there are moments of supernatural evidence, where Alicja’s home environment appears completely alien to her. Particularly the green bathroom looks eerily like a fish tank (drawing comparisons with The Shining’s Room 237). The country house has a weird and haunted feel to it, and Alicja seems to be a prisoner within its walls, he family and even her son treating her with hostile suspicion. Fugue is an allegorical story of a woman who is unsure of her position in the world, retreating from motherhood, and drifting between various states of being. Gabriela Muskala gives a brilliant tour de force in the leading role of this unique and beguiling Polish arthouse drama. AS.

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | 8-19 MAY 2018

Foam at the Mouth | Ar Puma uz Lupam (2017) *** | Cannes Market 2018

Dir.: Janis Nords; Cast: Vilis Daudzins, Ieva Puke, Raimonds Celms, Indra Brike; Latvia/Poland/Lithuania 2017, 80 min.

After tackling the thorny subject of child crime in his Berlinale Grand Prix winner Mother I love You, Janis Nords comes to Cannes Market with an atmospheric thriller that scratches at the edges of horror set in a remote Latvian community where women are the only civilising influence in a community where man and beast converge.

The women here are a tough bunch and none more so than physiotherapist Jana (Puke), whose ex-cop husband Didzis (Daudzius) has lost part of his left leg is and only employable as a dog handler. To makes matters worse, the challenge to his masculinity has reduced Didzis to an hostile neurotic who feeds off his three Alsatians’ aggression, showing them affection in return, particularly his favourite Gina. The neglected Jana is surprised by her own sexual frustration that surfaces while treating seventeen year old Roberts (Celms) at the gym where she practices, and this incident provides a inventive vein of dark humour and tension to the intriguing narrative. Driving home one night, Jana and Didsis collide with a rabid boar which leaves its infected blood dripping from their truck bumper, and the dogs sniff this out. What follows is a harrowing hunt for the rapid beasts, which attack some students of the school. Meanwhile, Didzis tracks down an enemy of his own, in the shape of Roberts, whose mother soon emerges as a repressive zealot, as the grim storyline reveals that everyone’s life in danger from either from the animal kingdom or the human one.

Matthew A. Gossett’s script is taut and mischievous complimented by DoP Tobias Datum suggestive images, mainly shot at night and in the gloaming when the difference between dogs and humans is distinguishable only by their form. This is a thriller where testosterone driven males and infected dogs seem to be at war at all costs. Foam is more than just symbolic: under the superficial veneer of civilised society, men are deteriorating into atavistic creatures, just like local wild dogs. Made a shoestring, and none the worst for it, FOAM is really frightening at times, as Nords plays on the darkest fears of the human psyche in this tense little B-picture, which would make Sam Fuller proud.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | MARKET SECTION | Winner of the Moscow Critics’ Award

Shoplifters (2018)**** | Cannes Film Festival | Winner Palme d’Or (2018)

Writer/Dir: Hirokazu Koreeda | Cast: Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Sosuke Ikematsu | Drama |121′

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s portrait of parenting, After the Storm, has much in common with this perceptive and often ambiguous satire about a family of small-time crooks and the misguided theft they commit for compassionate reasons, with devastating consequences. SHOPLIFTERS is a worthwhile addition to the auteur’s preoccupations with family life and father and motherhood – both real and imagined, and is possibly his best work so far.

In Tokyo, part-time workers Osamu (Lily Franky) and his wife Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) complement their meagre income with a sideline in shoplifting. Aided and abetted by son Shota (Kairi Jyo), they often swipe groceries from the local store near the flat they share with fellow grifter Noboyu (Sakura Andô), teenager Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) and grandma Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), who turns the most lucrative tricks of the lot.

One day they take pity on an abused and timid teenager called Juri (Miyu Sasaki), offering her board and lodging in their already cramped home. This simple act of kindness is the catalyst for change in the family dynamic unleashing previously hidden motivations that range from short-sightedness to self-aggrandisement, and even narcissistic pride.

A tonal shift from upbeat bonhomie to gloomy sadness takes place in the film’s third segment when the family anticipate their emotional loss and start to fear the backlash of their rash altruism, and its damning formal retribution. Koreeda and his cast bring out  tremendous pathos in this well-meaning family, and while we feel for them as do-gooders, – in the true sense of the word – they are crucially also law-breakers. And this is the J B Priestleyan crux of this clever and beautifully crafted caper reflecting the subtle nuances of Japanese society. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | WINNER | PALME D’OR 2018

https://youtu.be/3zJ3_JZnH_Q

Alone at my Wedding (2018) | Acid – Cannes Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Martha Bergman; Cast: Alina Ioana Serban, Tom Vermeir, Rebecca Anghel, Viorica Tudor, Marian Samu; Belgium 2018, 120 min.

Martha Bergman’s debut feature is a wild ride, undertaken by young mother Pamela – a brilliant Alina Ioana Serban – a Roma from a small Romanian village, who is picked up on the internet by a shy, middle-aged Belgian.

We first meet Pamela in the middle of a freezing winter. She lives in a basic hut with her grandmother (Tudor) who looks after her baby daughter (Anghel), dragging the poor mite around unceremoniously in all conditions. 18 year old Marian (Sama) is  also called on to look after the baby, despite his desperation to leave the village, and the country altogether.

This picture of discontent is tempered by the arrival in her life of French speaking Belgian Bruno (Vermeir), and Pamela makes a swift departure to be with him, leaving Pamela with her grandmother. Pamela’s French is very poor, and Bruno, who is stiff but well meaning (“I respect you, you are not a commodity”), has great difficulties in communicating with her. Not content with spending her time with her new boyfriend, Pamela starts looking looking for a job and Bruno teaches his wife-to-be French. 

Bruno seems somewhat of an ingenue where romance concerns but soon the couple are sleeping together. But Pamela cannot bear to be contained, she has a one-night stand with another Roma in a car, and the two are picked up by the police. When Pamela is returned to Bruno, he is angry that the police arrested her. But when he finds out why, he throws her out, but soon relents. His parents arrive, and there is an embarrassing dance scene to Roma music. But what really makes Pamela happy is the arrival of a brand new television, she seems to be a creature of simple pleasures.  

Also co-written by fellow director Katell Quillevere, the script is refreshingly different; there are some dream sequences between Pamela and her grandmother, who dies, soon after singing the titular song: and Pamela is far from complimentary calling the old woman “a whore, like her mother”. All said and done, it is Serban who carries the feature, as much untamed as she is unfocused, Pamela is always ready for another opportunity for mischief-making, like the teenager she really is. DoP Jonathan Ricquebourg (The Death of Louis XIV) uses vibrant visuals in the scenes featuring Pamela, underlining her vivacity, and a more sombre palette for the grey reality Pamela holds in contempt. Whilst sometimes uneven, Bergman shirks narrative conventions for an upbeat tale of Roma life, in contrast to the usual victim stories we have come to expect.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | ACID SELECTION 2018 

   

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) | Cannes Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Stanley Kubrick; Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Leonard Rossiter, Margaret Tyzack; UK/USA 1968; 141 min.

Christopher Nolan presents a Warner Bros 70mm print struck from new printing elements made from the original camera negative in Cannes this year. This is a true photochemical film recreation. There are no digital tricks, remastered effects, or revisionist edits. Stanley Kubrick’s daughter, Katharina Kubrick, his coproducer Jan Harlan and director Christopher Nolan were in attendance.

But who better to define Science Fiction than Arthur C. Clarke, co-author of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, on whose short story of the same name Kubrick’s film is based: “Science fiction is something that could happen – but usually you wouldn’t want it to. Fantasy is something that couldn’t happen – though often you wish it would”. This rather cautious outlook is also at the heart of Kubrick’s film, which does not engage us with the thrills of conventional Sci-Fi films – neither Clark nor Kubrick could come up with plausible aliens and the film is the better for it – presenting, rather, a visual/philosophical treaty. To start with, 95 of the 141 minutes are without dialogue, dominated by classical music and/or images – the dialogue could have easily been written on the inter-titles used in silent films. Needless to say, there are no statements or solutions just questions about a future, which remains enigmatic and open to all sorts of interpretations in the final images.

The first Homo-Sapiens opens the proceedings: some apes are thrilled by the appearance of a strangely glittering monolith – inspired by his awe. One of them uses a bone as tool, jubilantly throwing it into the air, where it transforms into a spaceship. Part two opens with the discovery that the same monolith has been found on the moon. It transpires that it is sending electronic signals to Jupiter. We witness space flights, as ordinary and routine as rail travel. Part three is set in 2001, when a secret mission is send to Jupiter, to find out if Aliens are responsible for the signals from the moon. There are five astronauts on board of the spaceship; three of them are scientists, kept in coffin-like boxes, put into an artificially induced coma. Commander Bowman (Duella) and his deputy Poole (Lockwood) are keeping an eye on the instruments, but their work-rate is minimal, since the super-computer HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain), who is infallible, is in charge of the journey. When Bowman and Poole find out that HAL is malfunctioning, they huddle in a closet to resolve the matter, but HAL is able to lip read and tries to do away with the whole crew. Firstly he kills the three scientists, then he cuts Poole’s air supply off when he is out in space. Bowman tries to rescue him but HAL sabotages his efforts. The computer than locks the space ship, to leave Bowman in space, but the commander outsmarts him and switches him off, HAL pleading like a human, for his life. After a journey illuminated by whirling colours, Bowman ends up in a flat full of Louis XV furniture, where he quickly grows old and dies. At the foot of his bed stands the monolith like a sentinel.

Music plays a central role in decoding the film: The opening scene is dominated by Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathrustra” (a re-occurring theme of the film; the docking sequences of part two are accompanied by the Johann Strauss’ waltz “An der schönen blauen Donau”; Bowman’s and Poole’s lonely life on board of the spaceship is mournfully underscored by Aran Khatchaturian’s “Gayane’ Ballet Suite and György Ligeti’s Requiem is the leitmotif of the whole film.

Even after 50 years, and without any CGI, the images of A SPACE ODYSSEY are still fresh and do not give away the real age of the film. Kubrick used simple tricks, like the scene with the ballpen in the spaceship, which seems to float, but was in reality only glued to a plate of glass. The images of the astronauts floating in space were achieved with circus equipment and models in real size, filmed against a black background, the camera shooting from the floor upwards. This way, the ropes under the ceiling were hidden by the body of the stuntman; the audience has the illusion, to watch him floating from a sideways position. Music and visuals are dominating; the underlying philosophical questions, particularly the role of the computer, are still  topical and evergreen and overall 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY still feels modern and wonderful to watch. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | SPECIAL SCREENING

The Load (2018) | Directors’ Fortnight | Cannes Film Festival 2018

 Writer/Dir. Ognjen Glavonić |  Drama | 98’

Ognjen Glavonić won various awards for Depth Two, a documentary about the grim discovery of war graves in his native Serbia. THE LOAD is his debut drama that fought its way out of the country inspired by the region’s 1999 NATO onslaught to tell another story from this harrowing period of Balkan history, a quietly devastating one that haunts with its slow burning revelation looming tragically out of the dreary landscape of longterm war.

This is a place full of dour-faced officials going through the motions in a country were hope has been washed away with the winter rain and bombs still cascade in the distance like incendiary stars. A few roadside blossoms tell us spring has arrived and tired-looking truck driver Vlada (Leon Lucev) is making his daily grind towards Belgrade from Kosovo with a load locked in his beaten-up lorry, the contents unknown. His instructions are clear : no stopping or diversions, he must keep a low profile until he reaches his destination.

On his way the journey starts uneventfully but at a crossing a smouldering car crash has blocked the the route to the capital. And a rather blasé teenager hitchhiker Pava (Pavle Čemerikić) offers to show him the way to his destination, tempting Vlada to bend the rules. As it happens Pava is clueless about map-reading, but doesn’t really mind that he has let Vlada down. Clearly, he represents the younger generation, shielded from the coldface of war from protective parents like Vlada, who, inured to disappointment and setbacks, motors on resigned, his face etched with the gruelling inevitability of his lot and eventually the pair start to bond.

The tone is brooding, morose and vagually doom-laden as the men push on framed in close-up and on the widescreen by Tatjana Krstevski whose superb washed out visual also featured in Depth Two).  The two men drive on until Paja blithely announces his departure to hitchike to German and look for better things. But nature of his Vlada’s business requires him to be responsible and slowly the gruesome truth dawns making the inevitable realisation all the more haunting. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2018

 

Bergman: A Year in the Life (2018) | Cannes Film Festival 2018

Dir: Jane Magnusson | Doc | Sweden | 116’

Documentarian Jane Magnusson takes a swipe at Ingmar Bergman’s memory in her sprawling in-depth documentary that marks this year’s centenary of the birth of the Swedish legend. It is an informative expose that lays bare the lesser known side of Bergman and follows on from her 2013 outing Trespassing Bergman where Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen appraised the filmmaker’s staggering oeuvre.

In this current climate of moral rectitude, your judgement of the film will be guided by whether or not you think an artist’s work should stand apart from their personal life. Predicably it emerges that Ingmar was his father’s favourite and  his brother Dag Bergman reveals other intimate details about their childhood together, including his brother’s neurosis that led to stomach pains and sleepless nights.

Opting for a thematic rather than chronological narrative allows Magnusson to zoom in on Bergman’s personality, family and the women in his life in a revealing expose of a man who seemed entirely focused on his own needs. Yet he also emerges as a director who worked closely and intensively with his actors creating female roles that were appealing as well as emotionally and intellectually challenging.

So many documentaries about Bergman have been hagiographic tributes to the national hero, and when a filmmaker reaches these heady heights it becomes difficult to be critical. Since the dawn of time creators have been philanderers and poor parents, driven by their obsession with emotionally consuming work. Does this mean that they should be metaphorically ‘taken out and shot’ or have their work shunned and demonised?

Magnusson’s film is observational in style, cleverly focusing in on 1957, Bergman’s most prolific year as a filmmaker on television and the big screen, with the release of Wild Strawberries and the Seventh Seal, his most autonomous work. It was also the year of his involvement in four theatre productions – including the massive almost unstageable endeavour that was Peer Gynt. 1957 heralded the arrival of his sixth child, with wife Gun Grut, and romances leading to marriage with Käbi Laretei and Ingrid von Rosen, including an affair with actor Bibi Andersson, who starred in the year’s two films. 

Enriched by a wealth of personal photos and footage, there are informative talking heads from the world of film, theatre and literature making this a definitive and ambitious piece of work that reveals a complicated but endearing genius, despite its provocative stance. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 8-19 MAY 2018

 

Cold War | Zimna Wojna (2018) | Cannes Film Festival | IN Competition


Dir: Pawel Pawlikowski | Cast| Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Syzc, Agata Kulesza, Cedric Khan, Jeanne Balibar | Drama | Poland

This beguilingly sexy and sad paean to disillusioned romantics everywhere portrays the euphoria we yearn for but cannot always sustain. Cold War spans a decade from the 1940s to the1960s where two lovers are caught inextricably in a web of passion and pain in a peripatetic relationship that saunters back and forth between Paris, Warsaw and Yugoslavia between pianist Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and singer-dancer Zula (Joanna Kulig). Pawlikowski deftly handles love’s heartaches, high and lows with supreme grace and elegance.

Apart from the dazzling artistry – each frame is a sultry masterpiece – one of the most atmospheric elements and one that becomes a character in itself is the music, from Polish and Slavic folksongs to Chopin, Gerswin and Chuck Berry bringing back memories of Polish fare of the 1950s and 1960s scored by Andrzej Trzaskowski and Krzysztof Komeda, but also unites drama with his documentary fare such as Serbian Epics (1992)

Shot in Academy-ratio, Lukasz Zal’s velvety black and white cinematography evokes the 16mm of the era, and its Iron Curtain sensibilities link it to Pawlikowski’s Oscar-winning gem Ida, although this is a more upbeat affair. Love and longing are themes that flourish throughout the director’s films from his time in England, where he shot Last Resort (2000) and My Summer of Love (2004), and the ephemeral nature of The Woman in the Fifth (2011). Pawlikowski’s work also has affinities with the films of Czech New Wave director Hugo Haas. The only subtle flaws is the abrupt departure of Wiktor’s lover Irena (Agata Kulesza)who either leaves through her disgust of Stalin or on seeing her partner caught in the fire of his new flame. But this by no means detracts from its sublime beauty as a concise yet richly-textured piece of work, and every gorgeous handmade tapestry has its endearing flaws. Flowing yet episodic, Cold War is melancholy but endlessly captivating.  

Wiktor and Zula are united by music while he and Irena are curating an ethnomusicological project for dancers which morphs into an the Mazurek Ensemble, an agitprop of the Soviet regime promoting the Aryan heritage of the Poles. Lust envelops them but Kaczmarek’s career keeps him trapped in Communist Poland and when the ensemble travels to East Berlin to perform, Wiktor decides to defect to the West pleading Zula to come with him to Paris. The two profess undying love but flighty Zula bails at the last minute and stays behind in the East. Although she a mercurial woman she lacks the social confidence that Wiktor has inherited from his more grounded bourgeois background. 

There is a deliciously spicy vignette where Jeanne Balibar plays Wiktor’s Parisian lover while Zula arrives at the party claiming to have married a Sicilian glass blower from Palermo. But it is clear that Wiktor and Zula are soul mates whose love transcends time and place. They are eventually drawn back together at the end of the 50s but their love cannot exist in this Cold War world with its privations, poverty and political regime. MT.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 8-19 MAY |BEST DIRECTOR AWARD

Ash is Purest White (2018) *** Cannes film Festival | In Competition

Dir: Zhangke Jia | Cast: Tao Zhao, Fan Liao, Xiaogang Feng | Drama | China | 140’

ASH IS PUREST WHITE portrays the eventful relationship between a Chinese petty criminal and the woman whose loyalty to him never dies. This rolling contemplative saga occasionally veers off the beaten track with its indulgent running time of 141 minutes but will still appeal to the director’s ardent followers, featuring the same rough-edged characters who we first meet in 2001 and follow until the bittersweet denouement on New year’s Eve 2018.

Star of Shanxi’s creative community Jia Zhang-ke trained as an architect near his native mining town of Fenyang, just South of Beijing, and brings his aesthetic flair and some magnificent landscapes to this lasting love story set in a dying era. The director’s forte is his graceful way of portraying China’s traditional way of life with its penchant for ceremonial drumming and white-gloved officials, with the chaotic new era vibrantly captured in Eric Gautier’s resplendent camerawork.

Opening in 2001 in his Shanxi homeland, his wife and regular collaborator Zhao Tao plays the confident delicate local beauty Qiao, who frequents the nightclub of her boyfriend Guo Bin (Liao Fan/Black Coal, Thin Ice). And she is no arm candy, establishing herself as a keen advocate of the traditional jianghu codes of loyalty while embracing the modern world, spryly dancing to Village People’s YMCA. 

Respectful of her ageing father she is more playfully assertive with Bin, and when he is assaulted by thugs on motorbikes, she manages to save him by firing shots into the air in a brutal scene that really takes our breath away, but also secures her a spell in prison where she is unwilling to grass on her boyfriend about the ownership of the firearm.

The second act is an upbeat affair that follows Qiao’s release in 2006, and treats us to a sumptuous journey down the Yangtze River in another nod to the sinking glory of the old China versus the brash new world. Qin has proved a feckless boyfriend and is no longer on the scene, but Qiao is keen not to let him slip away so easily, after her sustained loyalty. And when she is robbed of her cash and passport, she bounces back cleverly in some amusing scenes where she gate-crashes a wedding to enjoy the banquet, desperate for food. Qiao finally confronts Bin in a soulful and moving episode that is visually captivating for its exquisitely calm contemplation of the end of their romance. 

As we leave Qiao she is running a gambling hall, and Bin is back in her life, attracted to her strength of character and tenacity. The two actors are mesmerising to watch in their commandingly restrained yet natural performances, exuding a fascinating chemistry that will remain in the memory for a long time after the credits have rolled. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION

 

 

Foam at the Mouth | Ar Puma uz Lupam (2017) *** | Cannes Market 2018

Dir.: Janis Nords; Cast: Vilis Daudzins, Ieva Puke, Raimonds Celms, Indra Brike; Latvia/Poland/Lithuania 2017, 80 min.

After tackling the thorny subject of child crime in his Berlinale Grand Prix winner Mother I love You, Janis Nords comes to Cannes Market with an atmospheric thriller that scratches at the edges of horror set in a remote Latvian community where women are the only civilising influence in a community where man and beast converge.

The women here are a tough bunch and none more so than physiotherapist Jana (Puke), whose ex-cop husband Didzis (Daudzius) has lost part of his left leg is and only employable as a dog handler. To makes matters worse, the challenge to his masculinity has reduced Didzis to an hostile neurotic who feeds off his three Alsatians’ aggression, showing them affection in return, particularly his favourite Gina. The neglected Jana is surprised by her own sexual frustration that surfaces while treating seventeen year old Roberts (Celms) at the gym where she practices, and this incident provides a inventive vein of dark humour and tension to the intriguing narrative. Driving home one night,  Jana and Didsis collide with a rabid boar which leaves its infected blood dripping from their truck bumper, and the dogs sniff this out. What follows is a harrowing hunt for the rapid beasts, which attack some students of the school. Meanwhile, Didzis tracks down an enemy of his own, in the shape of Roberts, whose mother soon emerges as a repressive zealot, as the grim storyline reveals that everyone’s life in danger from either from the animal kingdom or the human one.

Matthew A. Gossett’s script is taut and mischievous complimented by DoP Tobias Datum suggestive images, mainly shot at night and in the gloaming when the difference between dogs and humans is distinguishable only by their form. This is a thriller where testosterone driven males and infected dogs seem to be at war at all costs. Foam is more than just symbolic: under the superficial veneer of civilised society, men are deteriorating into atavistic creatures, just like local wild dogs. Made a shoestring, and none the worst for it, FOAM is really frightening at times, as Nords plays on the darkest fears of the human psyche in this tense little B-picture, which would make Sam Fuller proud.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2018 | MARKET SECTION

Cannes Classics 2018

 

This year’s Cannes Classic sidebar has one or two priceless gems glittering in its antique crown. Apart from well-known legends: Ozu’s Tokyo Story, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Wilder’s Apartment, Varda’s One Sings, The Other Doesn’t and Bondarchuks’ War and Peace, there are some worthwhile lesser known features not be missed.

To start with, there is Henry Decoin’s Beating Heart from 1940, a fitting tribute to leading star Danielle Darrieux, who died last year aged 100. The couple were married while filming this screwball comedy, which was remade in Hollywood in 1946. Darrieux plays Arlette, a young girl running away from a reform school, only to join a school for pick-pockets, run by a Fagin-like character. He instructs her to steal an ambassador’s watch, but Arlette falls in love with him. Like in most of Decoin’s well-structured films, the tempo plays a big role. Decoin was often overlooked as a director, largely because of his rather uneven output, but his post-war noir masterpieces like La Chatte (1958) are really stunning. 

Jacques Rivette is famous for his playful features such as Céline and Juliette go Boating, but his one and only excursion into mainstream, La Religieuse (1966), based on a Diderot novel, is full of anarchic fun. Suzanne Simonin (Anna Karina), is incarcerated in a cloister against her will, and soon falls foul of not one, but three Mother-Superiors: they treat her sadistically, tenderly, or as an object for plain lesbian lust – but Suzanne stays pure. This anti-clerical romp was very popular at the box office, and served as a liberating force for Karina who finally got a divorce from JL Godard after having acted in their final collaboration, Made in USA, in the same year.

Hyenas (1992), directed by Senegalese filmmaker Djibri Diop Mambety (1945-1998), is a re-telling of the Durrenmatt play ‘Der Besuch der alten Dame’ (Visit of an old Lady). Set in an impoverished African village, the old lady in question is very rich – but she has not forgotten how her lover (now the Mayor) had treated her when she was pregnant with his child. She asks the townsfolk a simple question: do they want to participate in her wealth and punish the guilty man, or would they prefer clean hands and poverty. Colourful and very passionate, this adaption of a Swiss play works very well in its African setting.

Diamonds of the Night. Adapted from a short story by Arnošt Lustig, Diamonds in the Night follows two boys (Ladislav Jánsky and Antonín Kumbera) on the run through the forest after escaping a train taking between concentration camps. Showing in the Cannes Classics sidebar, it tributes the Czech New Wave director Jan Nemec whose concept of “pure film”, urged audiences to relate their own experience to the ephemeral fractured narrative he masterfully puts together in this cinematic wartime escape drama..

Youssef Chahine (1926-2008), Egypt’s most famous director, was very critical of radical elements of the Muslim faith. Destiny (1997)  is set in the 12th century in the Spanish province of Andalusia, then ruled by Muslims. The Caliph appoints the liberal philosopher Averros as a high court judge. But his wise and humane judgement become the butt of criticism by a group of radical Muslims, who want to banish the Caliph, using Averros as a means to and end. After a long inner struggle, the Caliph sends the philosopher into exile, but the radicals lose out: Averros’ rule of law has gained popularity all over the province. Chahine, as always, directs with great sensibility, and a brilliant use of colour. 

Finally, there is La Hora de los Hornos (The hour of the Furnace) from Fernando Solanas, a documentary which could only be shown in his homeland of Argentina in 1973, five years after its premiere in 1968. Exploring a central theme of worldwide insurrection, from student unrest in the USA to Czech resistance against the Soviet invasion, Solanas paints a picture of an utopian liberation. Even Argentina, which never really had the slightest hope of a proper democracy – never mind a revolution – is shown as ripe for revolution on behalf of the working masses. Running for over four hours, La Hora is a document of hope, well-structured, passionate and idealistic – but unfortunately overtaken by a grim reality. Still, it is a worthwhile, monumental effort.  AS

THE FULL CLASSICS LINE-UP                 

Beating Heart (Battement de cœur) by Henri Decoin (1939, 1h37, France)
2K Restoration presented by Gaumont in association with the CNC. Image works carried out by Eclair, sound restored by L.E. Diapason in partnership with Eclair.

Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves  by Vittorio De Sica (1948, 1h29, Italy)
Presented by Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna, Stefano Libassi’s Compass Film and Istituto Luce-Cinecittà. Restored by Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and Stefano Libassi’s Compass Film, in collaboration with Arthur Cohn, Euro Immobilfin and Artédis, and with the support of Istituto Luce-Cinecittà. Restoration carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory.

Enamorada by Emilio Fernández (1946, 1h39, Mexico)
Presented by The Film Foundation. Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive and The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project in collaboration with Fundacion Televisa AC and Filmoteca de la UNAM. Restoration funded by the Material World Charitable Foundation. The film will be introduced by Martin Scorsese.

Tôkyô monogatari (Tokyo Story / Voyage à Tokyo) by Yasujiro Ozu (1953, 2h15, Japan)
Presented by Shochiku. Digital restoration by Shochiku Co., Ltd., in cooperation with The Japan Foundation. For the 4K restoration, the duplicated 35mm negative was provided by Shochiku, managed by Shochiku MediaWorX Inc. and conducted by IMAGICA Corp. French distribution in theaters: Carlotta Films.

Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock (1958, 2h08, United States of America)
Presented by Park Circus. 4K digital restoration from the VistaVision negative done by Universal Studios. The film will be screened at the Cinéma de la Plage (Movies on the Beach).

The Apartment by Billy Wilder (1960, 2h05, United States of America)
Presented by Park Circus with the co-operation of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 4K digital restoration from the original camera negative. Digital restoration completed by Cineteca di Bologna, Colour Grading by Sheri Eissenburg at Roundabout in Los Angeles. Supervised on behalf of Park Circus by Grover Crisp.

Démanty noci (Diamonds of the Night) by Jan Němec (1964, 1h08, Czech Republic)
Presented by the National Film Archive, Prague. The restoration was done by the Universal Production Partners studio in Prague, under the supervision of the National Film Archive, Prague.

Voyna i mir. Film I. Andrei Bolkonsky (War and Peace. Film I. Andrei Bolkonsky) 

by Sergey Bondarchuk (1965, 2h27, Russia)
Presented by Mosfilm Cinema Concern. Digital frame-by-frame restoration of image and sound from 2K scan. Producer of the restoration: Karen Shakhnazarov.

La Religieuse (The Nun)

by Jacques Rivette (1965, 2h15, France)
Presented by Studiocanal. 4K restoration from the original camera negative. Sound restauration from the sound negative (only matching element). Works carried out by L’immagine Ritrovata laboratory under the supervision of Studiocanal and Ms. Véronique Manniez-Rivette with the help of the CNC, the Cinémathèque française and the Fonds culturel franco-américain.

Četri balti krekli (Four White Shirts) 

by Rolands Kalnins (1967, 1h20, Latvia)
Presented by National Film Centre of Latvia. 4K Scan and 3K Digital Restoration from the original 35mm image internegative and print positive materials mastered in 2K. Restoration financed by the National Film Centre of Latvia, the restoration made by Locomotive Productions (Latvia). Director Rolands Kalnins in attendance.

La Hora de los hornos (The Hour of the Furnaces) 

by Fernando Solanas (1968, 1h25, Argentina)
Presented by CINAIN – Cinemateca y Archivo de la Imagen Nacional. 4K Restoration from the original negatives, thanks to Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales (INCAA), in Buenos Aires. With the supervision of director Fernando “Pino” Solanas. French Distribution: Blaq Out. Fernando Solanas in attendance.

Specialists / Gli specialisti)

by Sergio Corbucci (1969, 1h45, France, Italy, Germany)
Presented by TF1 Studio. Full version previously unseen restored in 4K from the original Technicolor-Techniscope image negative and French and Italian magnetic tapes by TF1 Studio. Digital work carried out by L’Image Retrouvée laboratory, Paris / Bologne. French theater distribution: Carlotta Films. The film will be screened at the Cinéma de la Plage (Movies on the Beach).

João a faca e o rio (João and the Knife)

by George Sluizer (1971, 1h30, the Netherlands)
Presented by EYE Filmmuseum, Stoneraft Film in association with Haghefilm Digital. A full 4K restoration of the original 35mm Techniscope camera negative shot by Jan de Bont. By bypassing the originally required analogue blow up to Cinemascope, this digital restoration presents a direct-from-negative colour richness and image sharpness never seen before.

Blow for Blow

by Marin Karmitz (1972, 1h30, France)
Presented by MK2. Restoration carried out by Eclair from the original negative in 2K with the help of the CNC and supervised by director Marin Karmitz. The film will be re-released in French movie theaters on May 16th, 2018. Marin Karmitz in attendance.

L’une chante, l’autre pas (One Sings the Other Doesn’t)

by Agnès Varda (1977, 2h, France)
Presented by Ciné Tamaris.
The film will be screened at the Cinéma de la Plage (Movies on the Beach) with Agnès Varda in attendance.
2k digital restoration from the original negative and restoration, color grading under the supervision of Agnès Varda and Charlie Van Damme. With the support of the CNC, of the fondation Raja, Danièle Marcovici  & IM production Isabel Marant, with the support of Women in Motion / KERING. International Sales MK2 films. Distribution in theaters: Ciné Tamaris (the film will be released in France on July, 4th, 2018).

Grease

by Randal Kleiser (1978, 1h50, United States of America)
Presented by Park Circus and Paramount Pictures. 4K digital restoration from the original camera negative. The film will be screened at the Cinéma de la Plage (Movies on the Beach) with John Travolta in attendance.

Fad,jal

by Safi Faye (1979, 1h52, Senegal, France)
Presented by the CNC and Safi Faye. Digital restoration carried out from the 2K scan of the 16mm negatives. Restoration made by the CNC laboratory. Safi Faye in attendance.

Five and the Skin (Cinq et la peau)

by Pierre Rissient (1981, 1h35, France, Philippines)
Presented by TF1 Studio. 4K restoration from the original camera negative and the French magnetic tape by TF1 Studio with the support of the CNC and the collaboration of director Pierre Rissient. French distribution in theaters: Carlotta Films. Pierre Rissient in attendance.

A Ilha dos Amores (The Island of Love)

by Paulo Rocha (1982, 2h49, Portugal, Japan)
Presented by Cinemateca Portuguesa – Museu do Cinema. 4K wet gate scan of two 35mm image and sound interpositives struck in a Japanese film lab in 1996. Digital grading was made by La Cinemaquina (Lisbon, Portugal) using a 35mm distribution print from 1982 as a reference. Digital restoration of the image was made by IrmaLucia Efeitos Especiais (Lisbon, Portugal).

Out of Rosenheim (Bagdad Café)

by Percy Adlon (1987, 1h44, Germany)
Presented by Studiocanal. 4k Scan and restoration. Work led by Alpha Omega Digital in Munich and carried out under the continuous supervision of director Percy Adlon. Original negative, kept in Los Angeles in excellent condition, processed in Munich for scanning and image by image restoration. The film will be screened at the Cinéma de la Plage (Movies on the Beach) with Percy Adlon in attendance.

Le Grand Bleu (The Big Blue)

by Luc Besson (1988, 2h18, France, United States of America, Italy)
Presented by Gaumont. A 2K restauration. Image work carried out by Eclair, sound restored by L.E Diapason in partnership with Eclair. A screening organized to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the screening of the film opening the Festival de Cannes in 1988. The film will be screened at the Cinéma de la Plage (Movies on the Beach).

Driving Miss Daisy

by Bruce Beresford (1989, 1h40, United States of America)
Presented by Pathé. 4K restoration made from 35mm original image and sound negatives. Restoration carried out by Pathé L’image Retrouvée laboratory (Paris/Bologne) with the collaboration of director Bruce Beresford.

Cyrano de Bergerac

by Jean-Paul Rappeneau (1990, 2h15, France)
Presented by Lagardère Studios Distribution. Scan from the original negative and 4K restoration carried out by L’Image Retrouvée for Lagardère Studios Distribution with the support of the CNC, the Cinémathèque française, the Fonds Culturel Franco-Américain, Arte France–Unité Cinéma, Pathé et Mr. Francis Kurkdjian. French distribution in theaters: Carlotta Films (in progress). Jean-Paul Rappeneau in attendance.

Hyenas

by Djibril Diop Mambety (1992, 1h50, Senegal, France, Switzerland)
Lamb

by Paulin Soumanou Vieyra (1963, 18 min, Senegal) Presented by La Cinémathèque de l’Institut français, Orange and PSV Films. Digital restoration made from 2K scan of the 35mm negatives. Restoration carried out by Eclair.

El Massir (Destiny) 

by Youssef Chahine (1997, 2h15, Egypt, France)
A preview of the full retrospective which will take place at the Cinémathèque française in October 2018, the film will be presented by Orange Studio and MISR International films with the support of the CNC, fostered by the Cinémathèque française. 4K restauration at Éclair Ymagis laboratory by Orange Studio, MISR International Films and the Cinémathèque française with the support of the CNC. The film will be screened at the Cinéma de la Plage (Movies on the Beach).

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 71st EDITION | 8 -19 MAY 2018

Border | Grans (2018) | Cannes Film Festival 2018

Dir : Ali Abbasi | Fantasy Drama | Sweden | 104’

BORDER is one of those bracingly original films. Melding fantasy and folklore while teetering on the edge of Gothic horror it manages to be cleverly convincing and unbelievably weird at the same time. Fraught with undercurrents of sexual identity and self-realisation this gruesome rites of passage fable is another fabulous story with enduring appeal for the arthouse crowd and diehard fans of low key horror. Based on a short story by Let the Right One In creator John Ajvide Lindqvist it is Ali Abbasi’s follow up to Shelley and his first with writing partner Isabella Ekloff.

Tina (Melander) has always been an outsider because she suffers from a neanderthal physical appearance of flaring nostrils and a facial gurning movement that mark her out to have the heightened sensory perception of an animal. She feels a particular affinity to the wildlife near her comfortable cabin in the heavily forested woods between Finland and Sweden, and can sense when deer or moose are about to cross the country road. As a customs officer, she has a keen awareness for criminality but she feels diminished by her otherness and lonely: her live-boyfriend Roland (Jorgen Thorssen) is more interested in his pack of dobermans.  

One day she spots an unusual traveller going through custom who looks like her male double and Tina feels a palpable attraction to Vore (Eero Milonoff) who seems to be an entomologist, from the contents of his luggage,  though on further examination this is not all he appears to be. Has Tina found love for the first time, or just somebody from her own tribe? There’s a tone of optimism on the romantic front, and also workwise as Tina’s talents see her become the key investigator in the hunt for a local paedophile.

Abbasi masterfully manages the subtle strands of his storyline while keeping the tension taut and a dark humour bubbling under the surface. Melander’s Tina is gentle and almost submissive character who keeps her tale between her legs, and we feel for her even when her confidence make her more assertive after meeting Vore,  particularly towards her elderly father who has clearly duped her since childhood, and her useless boyfriend. But the denouement of is quite unexpected in this rare curio that keeps you guessing all the way to the end. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2018

Wildlife (2018) | Critics’ Week | Cannes Film Festival 2018

Writer|Dir: Paul Dano | Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould | Drama | US | 105’

A teenage boy experiences the breakdown of his parents’ marriage in  Paul Dano’s crisp coming of age family drama, set in 1960s Montana, and based on Richard Ford’s novel.

Although once or twice veering into melodrama, actor Dano maintains impressive control over his sleek and very lucid first film which is anchored by three masterful performances, and sees a young family disintegrate after the husband loses his job.

WILDLIFE has a great deal in common with Retribution Road (2008), its similar theme of aspirational hope for a couple starting out on their life in a new town, in this case Great Falls, Montana. But here the perspective is very different – in Wildlife, the entire experience is seen from the unique perspective of a pubescent boy, Joe, played thoughtfully by young Australian actor Ed Oxenbould (The Visit).

There’s an old-fashioned quality to the film that very much works to its advantage. The date is 1960 and in the mountains behind the family house a forest fire is raging, with warnings that it could well spread to the town centre if not controlled by rangers, who Jerry Brinson (Gyllenhaal) decides to join at a wage of only a dollar an hour, after much moping around the house when he loses his job on the local golf course. This comes as a big surprise to his wife Jeannette (Mulligan), an earnest homemaker who believes in her husband’s desire to make more of himself, and she sees this as a step backwards, career-wise. Meanwhile, Joe signs on as an apprentice to a local portrait photographer, a part-time job he takes to while doing very well in his school work.

Dano and his co-writer Zoe Kazan, stick to a clean, straighforward narrative but there’s a subtle brooding tension at play, and while Joe seems emotionally grounded and resilient (a tribute to his parents), Jerry and Jeannette are less so: although Jerry’s character is the most underwritten of the three, there’s a haunted quality to him as a straightforwaed dad who suddenly implodes after the shock of his firing. Jeannette also starts to lose her own sense of equilibrium:. “What kind of man leaves his wife and child in such a lonely place?,” Jeanette casts around for emotional ballast in an much older wealthy man, Warren Miller (Bill Camp), who she meets while giving swimming classes.

In some ways this fragmented behaviour is character-forming for Joe, his parents have clearly given him a rock solid babyhood, and so he can weather the shocking fliration scenes that take place between Millar and his mother, and his loss at his father’s temporary abandonment, although he finds it all difficult to fathom. This is not a film about adult infidelity and abandonment, but about how a teenage perceives and deals with it, and as such it is beautifully restrained and supremely elegant – the audience is required to suspend disbelief and take a trip back to teenagehood and the bewildering experience it offers. Dano makes the denouement an enigmatic affair, leaving the door open to hope, while acknowledging the inevitable. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 8-19 MAY 2018 | CRITICS’ WEEK |

 

Yomeddine (2018) | Cannes Film Festival | In Competiton

Writer|Dir: A B Shawky | Egypt | Drama | 97’

YOMEDDINE (Judgement Day) is a coming of age road drama where two outcasts discover the harshness of the real world outside the lepper colony where they have spent most of their tragic lives. Funded by kickstarter, A B Shawky based his film on real people he met at the Abu Zaabal Leper Colony while filming his awarded documentary The Colony: childless leper Beshay and his schizophrenic wife; Hamed, the legless former truck driver, and Nubian boy Obama. After the death of his wife, we re-join Beshay and his apprentice Obama (Ahmed Abdelhafiz) on a journey south in a donkey cart, to trace the rest of Beshay’s family and find out why his father abandoned him there as a child.

A gentle sardonic humour saves YOMEDDINE from descending into sentimentality, even though the two’s sad plight may often have you close to tears. Newcomer Gamal plays Beshay (who is no longer contagious) with vulnerability and amusing self-deprecation, and the down to earth Obama tags along on the mission.

Poverty and religion are the themes that run through this slim but poignant story. Having been judged all their lives for their looks, when will they be judged for their personalities? Obama is more confident than Beshay but the two share an appealing rapport. During their trip they encounter all sorts of nefarious characters along the way, and although there’s no strong narrative, this watchable film ambles gently on as we enjoy the rapport of the characters and the simple storyline enriched by the passing Egyptian landscapes – that veers off the beaten track, offering sites that are unfamiliar to most. YOMEDDINE is a restrained piece of work that may not travel far, but there is a powerful charm to its journey. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 8-19 MAY 2018 | IN COMPETITION

Mean Streets (1973) | Masterclass with Martin Scorsese | Cannes Film Festival 2018

“You don’t make up for your sins in Church. You do it on the streets. You do it at home.  The rest is bullshit, and you know it”

Mean Streets was an autobiographical feature with Harvey Keitel’s character loosely based on Scorsese’s father’s relationship with his younger brother, played by Robert De Niro, who was always in and out of jail. Scorsese explores themes of responsibility and obligation, pondering where they end, and if they ever do in a society based on strong moral ties and close relationships, such as his own strict Catholic upbringing, in a tough working class neighbourhood of Queens, where he suffered from asthma. With no books or money, music and visits to the cinema became his abiding influences. In the film, he asks:. How do good people exist in a bad society, and can they still remain good surrounded by evil. Bad people, too, are often capable of extreme acts of kindness and generosity, so where do the boundaries lie? Most of his work closely examines his close relationships with other men, who were a particular feature of his own life, and he is most familiar with these male bonds: brother; cousins, fathers and friends.He is also interested in exploring compassion in society and how difficult it is to care for others who are challenging and cannot see the light, such as his father’s younger brother.

Before making a film, Scorsese generally locks himself away for 2 weeks and draws the entire thing on paper which he then shows to his DoP. He considers the minute geography of the film he’s working on, examining all the angles thoroughly before starting. His latest film has so many scenes, he has started working more closely with the actors, and making things comfortable for the them, often person by person. 

Robert De Niro phrase YOU TALKING TO ME happened as a pure accident while they were rushing to finish a scene, but it’s become legendary. Another happy accident was Joe Pesci’s line: “ou think I’m funny? These all happened due to time constraints. There has to be laughs during the filmmaking process because the anxiety and tension of making the dark stuff is harrowing, he makes music films as a way of balancing things out. MT 

Dir.: Martin Scorsese Cast: Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, David Proval, Amy Robinson, Jody Foster; USA 1973, 112 min.

Imagine being told by a fellow director you admire, that “you have just spent a year of your life making a peace of shit” – Martin Scorsese was told exactly this by John Cassavetes, after he’d watched Scorsese’s Box Car Bertha (1972). Cassavetes suggested that his next film should resemble his debut feature Who’s that Knocking at my Door? (1967), set in the Italian/American community in New York. Scorsese followed the advice and directed MEAN STREETS – the rest, as they say, is history.

MEAN STREETS (original title ‘Season of the Witch’) takes it title from a Chandler essay: “But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid”. Based on Scorsese and Robert de Niro’s personal experiences in “Little Italy”, MEAN STREETS is a “passion play” – not only because of the religious undertones but also in the sense of the anger and violence displayed. Charlie (Keitel, who had starred in Who’s that Knocking) is in love with money, Teresa and God – in a constantly changing priority. But Charlie’s life is complicated by his best friend Johnny Boy (De Niro), a psychotic gangster who prefers to keep his cash for clothes, instead of paying back his creditors, who will eventually get their own back on him.  Charlie not only has to look after Johnny, he also has to hide his love for Teresa (Robinson), an epileptic girl, who happens to be Johnny’s niece. And then there are Charlie’s relatives, wanting him to take over the family restaurant – very much against his will. The violence escalates after Johnny insults the loan shark Michael once too often. When he, Teresa and Charlie head out of town for a holiday they are ambushed and a professional killer (Scorsese) peppers their car with bullets. Unlike Glenn Ford who comes too late to save his wife from the burning car, in Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat – which Charlie’s uncle is watching on TV; Charlie leaves the severely injured Teresa in the car.

Amazingly MEAN STREETS was shot mainly in Los Angeles, Scorsese – the crew only spent six days in New York. The physical and emotional violence is best symbolised by Jodie Foster’s child prostitute, Iris. Foster was just eleven at the time the film was shot, and her older sister Connie had to body-double for her in the sexually explicit scenes. MEAN STREETS is the key to all Scorsese’s crime films: metaphors and quotes have vie with the violence, the integrated score(often overlaying the fighting – ironically), seventies hits such as ‘Be My Baby’ and ‘I Looked Away’, religious themes and the lack of male engagement, leading to the brutal conclusion of total annihilation.

Whilst MEAN STREETS was not a success at the box office, the New York Times’ film critic wrote after the premiere: “No matter how bleak the milieu, no matter how heart breaking the narrative, some films are thoroughly, beautifully realised, they have a kind of tonic effect that has no relation to the subject matter. Such a film is Mean Streets”. Amen. AS

MARTIN SCORSESE MASTERCLASS FOR HIS CAROSSE D’OR | THEATRE CROISETTE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2018| NOW OUT ON DUAL FORMAT | BLURAY COURTESY OF MASTERS OF CINEMA

Cannes Film Festival 2018 | On the Croisette – off the cuff update

Festival bigwig Thierry Frémaux warned us to expect shocks and surprises from this year’s festival line-up, distilled down from over 1900 features to an intriguing list of 18 – and there will be a few more additions before May 8th. The main question is “where are the stars?” or better still “Where is Isabelle Huppert” doyenne of the Croisette – up to now. The answer seems to be that they are on the jury – presided by Cate Blanchett, who is joined by Lea Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, Denis Villeneuve, Robert Guédiguian, Ava Duvernay, Khadja Nin, Chang Chen and Andrey Zvyagintsev.

Last year’s 70th Anniversary bumper issue seems to have swept in a more eclectic and sleek selection of features in the competition line-up vying for the coveted Palme D’Or. There are new films from veterans Jean-Luc Godard (The Image Book), Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman) and Oscar winner Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War), and some very long films – 9 exceed two hours. Three female filmmakers make the main competition in the shape of Caramel director Nadine Labaki with Capernaum, Alice Rohrwacher with Lazzaro Felice and Eve Husson presenting Girls of the Sun. Kazakh filmmaker Sergei Dvortsevoy rose to indie fame at Cannes Un Certain Regard 2008 with his touching title Tulpan, and he is back now in the main competition line-up with a hot contender in the shape of AYKA or My Little One. 

Scanning through the selection for British fare – the Ron Howard “directed” (Thierry’s words not mine) Solo, A Star Wars Story stars Thandie Newton, Paul Bethany and Emilia Clarke but no sign of Mike Leigh’s Peterloo. And although Matteo Garrone’s Dogman is there and is a hot contender for this year’s Palme, the much-awaited Jacques Audiard latest The Sisters Brothers, and Joanna Hogg’s hopeful The Souvenir Parts I and II are nowhere to be seen- but Lars von Trier is still very much ‘de trop’ on the Riviera, or so it would seem. Thierry is still thinking about this one. And on reflection he has now added The House That Jack Built – out of competition.

Apart from Godard, there are two other French titles: Stéphane Brizé will present At War, and Christophe Honoré’s Sorry Angel – in competition, and these features will open shortly afterwards in the local cinemas – to keep the Cannois happy. The Un Certain Regard sidebar has 6 feature debuts in a line-up of 15. And the special screening section offers Wang Bing’s Dead Souls with its 8 hour running time  allowing for a quick petit-dej on the Croisette before the following days’ viewing starts!

It Follows director David Robert Mitchell will be in Cannes with his eagerly anticipated follow-up Under the Silver Lake. And Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke  brings another Palme d’Or hopeful in the shape of Ash is Purest White, starring his wife and long-term collaborator Tao Zhao.  First time director A B Shawky presents the only debut feature in the competition strand Yomeddine – a leper road movie from Egypt – and it’s a comedy!. Iranians Jafar Panahi (Three Faces) and Asghar Farhadi (Everybody Knows) also make the list – with Farhadi’s film starring Penelope Cruz and husband Javier Bardem and opening the festival this year.

So out with the old guard – Naomi Kawase included – and in with the new – is Thierry’s message this year. Let’s hope it’s a good one. And stay tuned for more additions and coverage from the sidebars Un Certain Regard, ACID, Semaine de la Critique and Directors’ Fornight. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 8 -22 MAY 2018

COMPETITION LINE-Up

EVERY BODY KNOWS – Asghar Farhadi

AT WAR - Stéphane Brizé 

DOGMAN – Matteo Garrone

LE LIVRE D’IMAGE – Jean-Luc Godard

NETEMO SAMETEMO (ASAKO I & II) (ASAKO I & II) – Ryusuke Hamaguchi

SORRY ANGEL – Christophe Honore

GIRLS OF THE SUN – Eva Husson

ASH IS PUREST WHITE – Zia Zhangke

SHOPLIFTERS – Kor-eda Hirokazu

CAPERNAUM – Nadine Labaki

BUH-NING (BURNING) – Lee Chang-Dong

BLACKKKLANSMAN – Spike Lee

UNDER THE SILVER LAKE – David Robert Mitchell

THREE FACES – Jafar Panahi

ZIMNA WOJNA/Cold War – Pawel Pawlikowski

LAZZARO FELICE – Alice Rohrwacher

LETO – Kirill Serebrennikov

YOMEDDINE – A B Shawky

KNIFE + HEART – Yann Gonzalez

AYKA –  Sergey Dvortsevoy, director of Tulpan, winner of the Prize Un Certain Regard in 2008.

These two films by Yann Gonzalez and Sergey Dvortsevoy are both directors’ second feature. It will be their first time in Competition.

AHLAT AGACI (THE WILD PEAR TREE) – Nuri Bilge Ceylan, winner of the Palme d’or 2014 for Winter Sleep.

The Competition 2018 will be composed of 21 films.

SHADOW – Zhang Yimou (out of competition)

THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT – Lars von Trier (out of competition)

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 71st CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 8-20 MAY 2018

 

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) | Cannes Film Festival 2018

Dir: Ron Howard | Writers: Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan | Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany | US | Action adventure | 135′ 

In 2002, it was Star Wars – Episode II – Attack of the Clones and in 2005, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. In 2018, what is one of the greatest legends in the history of cinema has returned to the red carpet here at Cannes, presented Out of Competition.

The saga’s second spin-off is the latest film of the Star Wars galaxy by Ron Howard bringing together Han Solo, his faithful Chewbacca, the crooked Lando Calrissian, the Millenium Falcon and of course the droids. This adventure takes us back to the youth of the famous smuggler, ace pilot and charming scoundrel, Han Solo. Written by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, and directed by Ron Howard, who starred in George Lucas’ classic American Graffiti and directed numerous popular and critical hits such as Apollo 13 (1995) or A Beautiful Mind (2002, Oscars for best film and director).

Alongside Alden Ehrenreich (Blue Jasmine, 2013) who plays Han Solo, it has local Hampstead resident Thandie Newton (Jefferson in Paris); Woody Harrelson (No Country For Old Men), Emilia Clarke (Terminator Genisys), Donald Glover (The Martian), , Phoebe Waller-Bridge (The Iron Lady), Joonas Suotamo (Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi) and Paul Bettany (Dogville).

The World is Yours (2018) ***


Dir: Romain Gavras | Writers: Noe Debre, Romain Gavras, Karim Boukercha | Cast: Isabelle Adjani, Vincent Cassel, Francois Damiens, Karim Leklou, Norbert Ferrer | Comedy Crime | France | 100′

Romain Gavras’ rambunctiously glossy gangster comedy is stashed with French household names and beats as it sweeps towards a preposterous finale. Best known for his music videos for the likes of Jaz-Z, this energetically stylish comedy is full of French verve and punchy argot making it less accessible for non-French speakers with its raucous, over-the top absurdity. Isabelle Adjani and Vincent Cassel boost a brash and ballsy plotline that sees a North African crime syndicate dream of better things from their humble Paris council flats. A Prophet‘s Karim Leklou (Fares) is the surprising standout as a feisty grifter who is desperate to make some cash so he can retire to the sun. Meanwhile his unmanageable matriarch Danny (Adjani) has her own hair-brained schemes, so it’s up to mid-mannered Fares and his motley crew to make it all happen. Bonkers but delightful if you like this kind of French caper. MT

NOW SHOWING AT CINE LUMIERE FROM 25 APRIL 2019 | QUINZAINE 2018

Ash is Purest White (2018) ****

Dir: Zhangke Jia | Cast: Tao Zhao, Fan Liao, Xiaogang Feng | Drama | China | 140’

ASH IS PUREST WHITE portrays the eventful relationship between a Chinese petty criminal and the woman whose loyalty to him never dies. This rolling contemplative saga occasionally veers off the beaten track with its indulgent running time of 141 minutes but will still appeal to the director’s ardent followers, featuring the same rough-edged characters who we first meet in 2001 and follow until the bittersweet denouement on New year’s Eve 2018.

Star of Shanxi’s creative community Jia Zhang-ke trained as an architect near his native mining town of Fenyang, just South of Beijing, and brings his aesthetic flair and some magnificent landscapes to this lasting love story set in a dying era. The director’s forte is his graceful way of portraying China’s traditional way of life with its penchant for ceremonial drumming and white-gloved officials, with the chaotic new era vibrantly captured in Eric Gautier’s resplendent camerawork.

Opening in 2001 in his Shanxi homeland, his wife and regular collaborator Zhao Tao plays the confident delicate local beauty Qiao, who frequents the nightclub of her boyfriend Guo Bin (Liao Fan/Black Coal, Thin Ice). And she is no arm candy, establishing herself as a keen advocate of the traditional jianghu codes of loyalty while embracing the modern world, spryly dancing to Village People’s YMCA.

Respectful of her ageing father she is more playfully assertive with Bin, and when he is assaulted by thugs on motorbikes, she manages to save him by firing shots into the air in a brutal scene that really takes our breath away, but also secures her a spell in prison where she is unwilling to grass on her boyfriend about the ownership of the firearm.

The second act is an upbeat affair that follows Qiao’s release in 2006, and treats us to a sumptuous journey down the Yangtze River in another nod to the sinking glory of the old China versus the brash new world. Qin has proved a feckless boyfriend and is no longer on the scene, but Qiao is keen not to let him slip away so easily, after her sustained loyalty. And when she is robbed of her cash and passport, she bounces back cleverly in some amusing scenes where she gate-crashes a wedding to enjoy the banquet, desperate for food. Qiao finally confronts Bin in a soulful and moving episode that is visually captivating for its exquisitely calm contemplation of the end of their romance.

As we leave Qiao she is running a gambling hall, and Bin is back in her life, attracted to her strength of character and tenacity. The two actors are mesmerising to watch in their commandingly restrained yet natural performances, exuding a fascinating chemistry that will remain in the memory for a long time after the credits have rolled. MT

NOW ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM 26th APRIL 2019

 

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