Archive for the ‘Cannes 2019’ Category

Beanpole (2019) **** MUBI

Dir: Kantemir Balagov | Writers: Kantemir Balagov, Aleksandr Terekhov | Drama | Russia 114′

A bitter bond of revenge and inter-dependence keeps two Russian women viscerally entwined in Leningrad after the Second World War comes to a close.

Beanpole is Kantemir Balagov’s follow up to his kidnap thriller Closeness which took the FIPRESCI prize in Un Certain Regard two years ago. Based on a story from The Unwomanly Face of War by Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexeievich, it sees the two women brought to their knees physically and mentally after the war has devastated their city. But life goes on for Iya, a tall rangy blond known as Beanpole (Miroshnichenko), and her friend Masha (Perelygina) who served together on the front, Iya returning early due to a neurological condition, bringing back with her Masha’s little son Pashka (Glazkov) in the autumn of 1945.

This gruelling slow-burner is softened by its gorgeously vibrant aesthetic that lends a jewel-like radiance to the girls’ misery, captured in Kseniya Sereda’s brilliant camerawork. Masha is wilful, mercurial and playfully charismatic – Perelygina is simply mesmerising to watch as she plots her way forward, emotions floating across her face like clouds on a winter’s day – Beanpole is a sullen and introverted soul but the two have no one left in the world but each other, and a terrible tragedy that threatens to destroy or deepen their fraught friendship. This close friendship contrasts with the sheer scale of the horror they have experienced on the front. Confined to stuffy interiors and hospital wards   the enormity of their emotional pain and suffering swells to bursting point. In the late Autumn of 1945 Iya is a nurse in a local hospital and her neurological affects hermivement. But Pashka is her pride and joy and their closeness is deeply moving. 

By the time Masha returns from the front, a dreadful event has taken place. Balagov explores the shifting dynamic between these two women with impressive maturity for a filmmaker still in his twenties, particularly with this female centric story, men taking a backseat – the world-weary head doctor Nikolai Ivanovich (Andrei Bykov) and Masha’s irritating suitor Sasha (Igor Shirokov) who is the son of a Communist party official. Somehow Sasha’s mother and the doctor get drawn into the complex web of need, revenge, and power.

Leningrad is almost romantic in its postwar atmosphere and Sergei Ivanov’s set design adds a homely folkloric touch to the interiors. Memorable scenes are those outside Sasha’s family dacha, and Masha’s tram ride in the final moments of this striking, intense and emotionally resonant drama. MT

NOW ON MUBU : UN CERTAIN REGARD | BEST DIRECTOR | FIPRESCI 2019

LIBERTÉ (2019) **** MUBI

Dir: Albert Serra | Cast: Cast: Helmut Berger, Marc Susini, Iliana Zabeth, Laura Poulvet, Baptiste Pinteaux, Théodora Marcadé, Alexander García Düttmann | Drama | Spain 132′

Catalan auteur Albert Serra was born in 1975 in Girona and is known for his delicately drawn and exquisitely mounted historical dramas such as La Mort de Louis XIV (2016); Honour of the Knights (Quixotic) 2006; and Story of My Death (2013). And there’s a great deal of mounting in his latest feature which stars veteran arthouse star Helmut Berger and competes in last year’s Un Certain Regard sidebar at Cannes Film Festival.

The theme in Liberté  is essentially voyeurism. If you should find yourself in Hampstead Heath on a balmy afternoon you will notice male figures darting surrepticiousy in the shady vegetation. You may even chance upon a secret tryst (if you are unlucky enough while walking your dog). Take this image and sashay back to the 18th century, somewhere between Potsdam and Berlin, and you bring to mind the scenario in Liberté – only here both male and female characters are taking part.

The year is 1774, shortly before the French Revolution. Madame de Dumeval, the Duc de Tesis and the Duc de Wand, all libertines expelled from the puritanical French court of Louis XVI, and seeking the support of the legendary Duc de Walchen, a German seducer and freethinker in a country where hypocrisy and false virtue reign. Their mission is to export libertinage, a philosophy of enlightenment founded on the rejection of moral boundaries and authorities. Most of all they are looking for a safe place to pursue their quest for pleasure.

This louche cruising amongst elegantly attired courtiers and aristocrats sounds fascinating, and it is for a while  Slightly more portly but nevertheless soigné individuals duck and dive in the undergrowth, in various stages of undress, their white linens contrasting with tanned breasts and buttocks, larded legs and bloated beerguts. Very much like Sade, Serra explores the darker side of human desire but always with graceful discretion. The louche antic gradually become more and more explicit to the point where they actually gets a little close for comfort, eventually verging on the pornographic. Suggestive but never lewd Liberte is a clever game of subterfuge that plays on our curiosity and makes use of a richly textured soundscape to create a atmosphere of sultry expectancy. There is no narrative as such just a series of enigmatic vignettes that take place during the hours of darkness one balmy summer night.

Arriving in painted palanquin borne by his henchmen the Duc de Wand (Baptiste Pinteaux) is recalling the execution of an unfortunate individual whose limbs were pulled one by one from his body. Obsessed by bestiality and golden showers, he loves to salivate over his lascivious encounters, that often involve dogs or farm animals. Fortunately were are spared the most lurid encounters due to the bosky nocturnal shadows as Artur Tort’s roving camera spies voyeuristically on the other outré encounters taking place in the semi-darkness of the eucalyptus trees (eucalyptus trees in the 18th century? – check continuity).

Decadence is the watchword here as none of the trysts is particularly joy-filled unless you are into sado masochism or subjugation. The tone is subdued rather that lascivious, poe-faced even. The film’s enigmatic title suggests that these aristos have too much time on their hands and nothing left to lose as they skip the light fantastic in the lush setting of a midnight night’s dream: Serra’s film may not appeal to everyone but it is certainly a brave and visually alluring meditation on permissiveness. MT

NOW ON MUBI | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2019 | SPECIAL JURY PRIZE

 

The Traitor (2019) Bfi player

Dir: Marco Bellocchio | Writers: Marco Bellocchio, Ludovica Rampoldi, Valia Santela, Francesco Piccolo | Cast: Pierfrancesco Favino, Alessio Pratico, Maria Fernanda Candido, | Italy, Drama 135′

In the early 1980s, an all-out war rages between Sicilian mafia bosses over the heroin trade. Tommaso Buscetta, “boss of the two worlds”, flees to hide out in Brazil. Meanwhile back home, scores are being settled and Buscetta watches from afar as his sons and brother are killed in Palermo, knowing he may be next. Arrested and extradited to Italy by the Brazilian police, Tommaso Buscetta makes a decision that will change everything for the Mafia: He decides to meet with Judge Giovanni Falcone and betray the eternal vow he made to the Cosa Nostra.

With thundering vehemence Marco Bellocchio portrays the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of Sicily’s real-life ‘men of honour’, and although The Traitor certainly packs a punch, it somehow lacks the heart and soul of many Mafia-themed features – and particularly Kim Longinotto’s recent documentary Shooting the Mafia – in telling the story of the Mafioso boss turned informant. In explaining the inner working of the organisation, the director blends dark humour and brutal violence with vibrant set-pieces (in Sicily, Rome, Brazil and the U.S) to provide a visual masterpiece with a palpable sense of the era. The mammoth endeavour runs at two and a half hours, blending archive footage (of Falcone’s tragic death ) and entertaining court scenes that revel in the cut and thrust of the debate and the raucous ribaldry of the gangsters showing just how impossible it was actually to bring them to justice and how dishonourable they actually were – and some are still on the run.

Giovanni Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi) once again emerges a gentleman and a diligent lawyer who garnered great respect from Bruscetta, and met his terrible end for simply doing his duty. Bruscetta is a macho man with a lust for life and love, and Pierfrancesco Favino is tremendous in the lead as this main mafioso figure who decided to testify before Falcone and appear in the mafia ‘Maxi Trial’ that lasted from 1986 to 1992. His testimony was historically crucial in implicating others and also securing him reduced prison sentences.

The action begins in 1980 when the two main Sicilian families in Palermo had decided to call a truce (Bruscetta from the Porta Nuova family and Toto Riina from Corleone). Tommaso had moved to Rio de Janeiro with his Brazilian wife (Maria Fernandez Candido) but left two of his eight children behind in the care of Pippo Calo’ (Fabrizio Ferracane), a big mistake as we soon discover.

After a resurgence of killing back home, shown in savage bloodshed, Tommaso decides to stay put, his sidekick Totuccio Contorno (Luigi Lo Cascio) surviving the massacre. But Tommaso doesn’t escape being arrested and tortured for drug-trafficking during which his wife is seen dangling from a helicopter over the bay in Rio. Extradited back to Italy he agrees to meet the authorities and  starts a dialogue with Falcone, mutual respect being the watchword.

The courtroom scenes are amongst the most stimulating in this bodyblow of a film, Nicola Piovani’s operatic score ramping up the emotional timbre. Once the trial is over, Buscetta and his family enter witness protection in Florida, but he is still determined to settle old scores, despite suffering from terminal cancer.

Naturally, this is not a film to be overjoyed about, but at least Bellocchio leaves us with a message of hope posited by Judge Falcone: “the mafia is not invincible; it had a beginning and will have an end,” MT

NOW ON BFI PLAYER

 

Parasite (2019) **** In Black and White

Dir: Bong Joon Ho | Cast: Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-shik, Chang Hyae-jin, Park So-dam, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Jung Ziso, Lee Jung-em, Jung Hyeon-jun | Drama | Korea 131′

The black and white cut of this wickedly thrilling upstairs downstairs social satire Korean-style seems even more resonant, relevant and appealing in its monochrome format.

This scabrous story is the latest in a line of hits from the South Korean master along with The Host, Snowpiercer and Okja. But this time the gloves are off as Boon Joon offers up shameless social reality and makes no bones it, dishing the dirt on the rigid class system in his homeland.

Thematically rather too similar to last year’s Plane d’Or winner Shopkeepers to offer any big surprises about South Korean life, this is nonetheless startling in its candour. The characters are ordinary people making their way as best they can. But this is a flashier film that wears its satire on its slick sleeve for all to access, and there’s nothing subtle about its social message. The ‘parasites’ are sharp individuals who cunningly see their way to the main chance. Bong Joon calls the film “a comedy without clowns, a tragedy without villains.” Yet in the natural world, parasites live off their hosts, depending on them for survival, but often causing disease or harm. This certainly was the case in The Servant, but does it happen here?

Head of the family Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) lives with his wife Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam) in a squalid slum, grafting a living by preparing cardboard pizza boxes. Through his backstreet contacts, young Ki-woo inveigles himself into a wealthy household of a captain of industry Mr. Park (Lee Sun-kyun) where he is tasked with tutoring his teenage daughter Da-hye (Jung Ziso). Her mother Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-jeong) is a typically vacuous trophy wife who prances around their pristine modernist mansion all day, doing a spot of shopping when she occasionally ventures out with . Without giving any clues away, the Ki-woo’s entire family are drafted into the vast mansion, taking various guises, and booting out the old guard. As the narrative spools out with a series of plot twists, the tension gradually mounts and the gulf between rich and poor is ramped up to the maximum. No one comes out a winner after a lavish garden party where they all take part in some form or another, as blood mingles with the champagne.

Winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2019 and four Academy Awards in 2020, including the Oscar for Best International Feature, this is a confident and entertaining drama that beats as it sweeps, its production values as smooth as silk and laced with a dread-laden score. The kids give as good as the adults performance-wise and leave us pondering which is best: North Korea with its oppressively restrictive communist regime or the South with its dog eat dog capitalism based on the law of the jungle? MT

PARASITE WON THE PALME D’OR 2019 | ACADEMY AWARDS FOR BEST DIRECTOR, BEST MOTION PICTURE, BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY, BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE.

NOW in Black and White COURTESY OF CURZON ARTIFICIAL EYE | IN CINEMAS from 24 July 2020

 

 

 

Litigante (2019) **** Curzon | Edinborough Film Festival 2020

Dir.: Franco Lolli; Cast: Carolina Sanin, Leticia Gomez, Antonio Martinez, Vladimir Duran, Alejandra Sarria; France/Columbia 2019, 95 min.

South America is delivering some really good films at the moment and Colombian filmmaker Franco Lolli (Gente de Bien) continues the trend with LITIGANTE. Aiming successfully for psychological hyper-realism it centres on an upper-middle class family where mother and daughter, both top-lawyers, argue each other, quite literally, to death.

Middle-aged Silvia (Sanin) is having a hard time: as chief lawyer for the public works department in Columbia’s capital Bogota, her boss has implicated her in a scandal. On the local radio she holds her own against the host Abel (Duran), and then bumps into him later at a party where he apologises. The two end up in bed, but other conflicts threaten to overwhelm Silvia: her controlling mother Letitia (Gomez) is dying of lung cancer, but is still very much in fighting mood as far as her daughter is concerned, even from her deathbed. When Letitia complains about her relationship with Abel: “he took you down in front of the entire population of Bogota in that interview”, exasperated Silvia exclaims: “You never want me to have a life that’s independent from yours”.

Then Silvia’s pre-school son Antonio (Martinez) has a tantrum, destroying toys and endangering other children. Apparently the other kids are bullying him about not having a father. And this is all because his mother refused to admit that his biological father, a high-ranking judge, actually sired her son. Silvia doesn’t even get on with the family’s housekeeper  ‘Majo’ and so her budding relationship with Able collapses even before getting off the ground.

Lolli manages the turmoil with great aplomb, creating a scenario where high octane emotional output is the norm. We watch Silvia and Letitia competing for the role of victim, trying to make each feel guilty in a classic family dynamic. Their sparring is the raison d’être of their lives – in a perverse way, they enjoy it. 

Litigante is not only much more honest than Cuaron’s Roma, it also has a stronger dramatic impact and a more convincing cast, led by the indomitable Carolina Sanin, who seemingly conquers all. DoP Pablo Romero Garcia uses handheld close-ups of the warring factions and his panoramic shots of Bogota evoke the chaos of a family in crisis.

LITIGANTE IN NOW STREAMING ON CURZON WORLD | 10 JULY 2020

Family Romance LLC (2019) *** Streaming

Dir.: Werner Herzog; Cast: Yuchi Ishii, Mahiro Tamimoto, Miki Fujimaki; USA 2019, 89 min.

Werner Herzog is experimenting again and this latest feature gamely blends drama with a hybridised fiction and documentary. Based on Japanese company that hires out its founder to act as a stand-in to suit client circumstances is not particularly original, although a tongue in cheek humour shines through in some of the cameos. Yorgos Lanthimos did this much better in Alps (2011). Here Herzog somehow falls victim to his narrative’s ambiguity: We’re never sure whether this is social critique, or a hidden camera gag.

Yuchi Ishii is boss and main employee of his Family Romance LLF (Limited Liability Company). His first assignment is at Cherry Blossom time in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park where he is meeting twelve-year old Mahiro Tamimoto: hired by the girl’s mother, his remit is to impersonate her father. The Dad in question pushed off when Mahiro was very young, and her mother Miki Fujimaki needs Yuchi to replace him, on important occasions. But this is just one of Yuchi many gigs: a young celebrity-hungry actor then hires him with a posse of fake photographers to get her face into the newspapers; an elderly woman, who has won 180 000 Yen in the lottery, has wants him to create that same feeling of elation when she found out about her win. Yuchi is also hired by a railway employee to take a bollocking from his boss over the late running of a train – the humour here lies in the perceived loss of face for the worker. But when Mahiro arrives one day with an Afro-American toddler “who no one wants to hang out with” because of her “fire-burned face”, things becomes distinctly weird. And when Mahiro falls for ‘father’ Yuchi, her mother tries to have the him move in.

Herzog tries to be philosophical throughout this often awkward, often amusing oddity, but the episodes are simply too thin to invite deep reflection. When Yuchi visits a hotel run by AI service personnel (robots), we are reminded of Philip K. Dick, but the director immediately jumps to another of his numerous exploits. Herzog’s basic camerawork contributes to making this feel like a very minor work, along with Ernst Reijseger’s saccharine score. AS

VOD RELEASE FROM FRIDAY 3 JULY 2020

   

  

A White, White Day | Hvítur, Hvítur Dagur 2019 ****

Dir: Hlynur Palmason | Iceland, Drama 90′

Hlynur Palmason follows his debut feature Winter Brothers with this stark portrait of rugged masculinity in the face of bereavement. Grimly buttoned up against the wild landscapes of his remote Icelandic homeland, Ingimundur (Sigurdsson) resolutely refuses to give in mentally and physically to the grinding grief that engulfs him after the death of his beloved wife.

The seasons pass in a series of long takes picturing the house Ingimundur is rebuilding with support of his young granddaughter Salka (Ida Mekkin Hlynsdottir in her stunning debut). His wife, a local teacher, has lost her life in a car accident and the vehicle swerves over the foggy mountainside road in the opening scene.

Ex-policeman Ingimundur is used to dealing with similar incidents and their effect on broken families but when it involves his own he carries on in disbelief as gradually the enigmatic scenario surrounding her death falls into place; whether a crime has been committed or her whether her death was accidental remains in the air as this dour and gruelling feature plays out. Sigurdsson gives a gritty performance tempered by the tenderness he feels for his granddaughter: it’s almost as if he’s channelling all the love he had for his wife into the little girl, and she soaks it up with wide-eyed innocence and an insight beyond her years.

Palmason suffuses his story with allusions to Icelandic culture and mythology and these are shared through storytelling: the craggy-faced grandfather passing on cherished folklore through bedtime stories complete with all the actions. And meanwhile the house takes shape around them, satisfyingly providing a new beginning with stunning views over the scenic countryside and sea where Ingimundur fishes for wild salmon. He also plays football and this is where he catches sight of a man he doesn’t recognise but who has appeared in a cache of his wife’s photos. Ingimundur shares his fears about a possible affair with one of his drinking pals. And the subject of female infidelity is broached with a shrugging nonchalance on the part of his friend. But Ingimundur’s fears take shape in an irrationally violent chain of events, sparked by jealousy, revenge and desperation in a tense and surprising finale which once again showcases Palmason’s inventive imagination for telling a yarn. MT

ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS from June 26, 2020

On a Magical Night, Room 212 (2019) ** Curzon World

Dir Christophe Honoré  | France, Drama 93′

What happens when a marriage goes plutonic? Christophe Honoré covers familiar ground in this Parisian drama that turns an old chestnut into a half-baked potboiler despite its arthouse pretensions and an award-winning turn from his regular muse Chiara Mastroianni as the leading star.

She is self-possessed and feisty as Maria married to Richard (her one-time partner Benjamin Biolay). Their relationship is as stale as an old baguette and nothing can warm things up between the sheets on frigid nights in their apartment in Montparnasse. Refreshingly, it is Maria who has strayed from the marital bed rather than Richard. And not just once: Maria has played the field with half a dozen handsome young studs during the course of her 25 year relationship with uber faithful Richard. After he discovers incriminating texts on her ‘phone, they have a low-key bust up that sees him crying into his cups, while she moves into the hotel opposite (hence the titular Room 212) to text pouty paramours who are then paraded before our eyes in an upbeat playful way as Maria revisits the past in this rather twee chamber piece.

On a Magical Night is Honoré’s follow-up to his sombre Sorry Angel, a gay melodrama that screened at Cannes 2018 in the competition section. Although Magical Night attempts to explore the theme of marital stagnation it doesn’t do so in a meaningful or entertaining way, actually looking more like a cheeky drama from the late 1970s. Mastroianni tries to liven things up but Briolay is rather tepid as her husband – this no melodrama – he simply mopes about tearfully as she secretly watches him from the 2 star hotel opposite.

Vincent Lacoste plays a younger puppyish version of Briolay, and his piano teacher ex, Irene, is Camille Cottin, who also breaks into charmless impromptu song. Decent at first this soon becomes tedious, leaving us checking our watches after an hour of frivolous nonsense, Mastroianni parading in various states of undress and in different positions as she attempts to straddle Lacoste in faux love-making. An interesting idea, but forgettably frothy in execution. MT

CURZON WORLD | CANNES UN CERTAIN REGARD WINNER – BEST ACTRESS

 

 

The Whistlers (2019)

Dir/Wri: Corneliu Porumboiu | Cast: Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Antonio Buil, Agusti Villaronga, Sabin Tambrea, George Pisterneanu | Thriller, 97′

This Noirish Romanian arthouse thriller is not the first to use whistling as a vital part of its storyline. Last year’s Locarno Critics’ prize winner Sibel showed how vital this ancient style of communication is in isolated parts of the World. And La Gomera is one of them. The craggy hideaway in the Canaries is where a dark and sinuous double-crossing drama plays out. It also travels to the Romanian capital Bucharest, and Singapore. Swinging backwards and forwards in time tense The Whistlers is a rather forboding film with a retro feeling of the Sixties and another saturnine performance from Porumboiu’s regular Vlad Ivanov (who appearing in Tegnap and Sunset).

He is Cristi, a detective under surveillance from his colleagues who is rapidly finds out that this special language from local Spanish-speaking gangsters can keep him under the radar. Porumboiu’s clever lighting techniques and a ravishing score of modern classics and operatic arias keeps the action pumping to a surprising finale.

You may find the plot rather complicated and the crooks hard to identify (I did), but basically it goes as follows: Vast wads of illegal euros are being laundered in a mattress factory outside Bucharest whence they’re transported to the crime ring in Spain and Venezuela. The factory owner and middle-man is a petty criminal called Zsolt (Sabin Tambrea) and his girlfriend Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) seduces Cristi in the sexually-charged opening sequence (which takes us back to Basic Instinct). Meanwhile Zsolt’s boss Paco (Agusti Villaronga) instructs another honcho Kiko (Antonio Buil) to teach Cristi the whistling lingo. The place is riddled with surveillance cameras and no one can really be trusted in this edgy atmosphere of uncertainty so the arcane hissing comes in handy as a form of covert communication.

Meanwhile, Cristi’s sidekick Alin (George Pisterneanu) and their boss Magda (Rodica Lazar) make up the Police contingent. All these characters are out for themselves. La Gomera takes a leading role   with its inaccessible stony beaches, crystal waters and dense wooded hillsides. The final coda in Singapore doesn’t quite dovetail into the film and has a whiff of being added just to spice things up for the glamorous reveal in a light show taking place at the Gardens by the Bay.

In true noir style The Whistlers is not a long film and slips down easily – there are no deep messages here – despite its rather intractable plot. An ambitious and intriguing addition to the Romanian filmmaker’s oeuvre. MT

ON CURZON WORLD FROM FRIDAY 8 MAY 2020

 

 

Fire Will Come | O Que Arde (2019) Mubi

Dir: Oliver Laxe | Wri: Oliver Laxe, Santiago Fillol, Oliver Laxe | DoP Mauro Herce | 90′

One of the strongest films in the Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2019 was this stunning docudrama from Mimosas director Oliver Laxe.

Set in the remote Ancares region in the heart of the Galician mountains Oliver Laxe’s stirring third feature transports us back to a rural way of life where the occupants live in gentle and humble acceptance of nature, eeking out their existence from the land and the animals who live amongst them.

This wild and savagely beautiful part of North East Spain is covered in rain-drenched forests and rolling mountains where the gusty winds can kindle even a small fire and send it raging incandescently through the region decimating flora and fauna. Laxe’s gaze is detached but brooding with sensitivity, inviting us into to this strangely unsettling world.

Amador grew up here with his parents and his respect for the local way of life is palpable. His regular cinematographer Mauro Herce (Dead Slow Ahead) shooting on Super 16, films a row of fir trees cascading to the ground and eventually revealing a massive bulldozer causing widespread mayhem as it moves ominously through the wooded hillside like a behemoth .

Amador (Amador Arias) comes home after serving time for causing a fire that almost wiped out the villagers, not to mention the vegetation and livestock. Set to the sonorous tones of a Vivaldi psalm we can sense this is a bitter homecoming for a middle-aged man with no one but his 83 year old mother Benedicta (Sanchez) to welcome him. She does this with a simple acknowledgement. “Are you hungry?” Both characters are played by non-pros who inhabit their roles with the naturalism professionals

Mother and son continue their day to day life as they left off. Amador is rather harsh on his sweet and obliging mother who runs their smallholding single-handedly, tending their three cows and trudging backwards and forwards with their ageing Alsatian. The other locals in this mournful corner include Inazio (Inazio Abra), who is working on a large-scale refurbishment of his parents’ stone farmhouse. Amador is emotionally buttoned down and taciturn, refusing to rise to the bait when one of the villagers shouts, “Hey Amador, have you got a light?”

There is a solace to this spartan existence drawn by Laxe with moving simplicity. The animals complete their household. Elena (Fernandez) the vet is the only intruder and she arrives to help pull one of their cows out of a ditch. The journey back to her practice is one of poignant beauty and wry humour as Amador once again remains tacitly unfriendly while the cow’s gentle eyes look on trustingly.

This is a minimalist film of rare eloquence. Nothing is forced or spare, the unsettling narrative gradually unfolding with a growing sense of doom as, predictably, the fires come back to the mountains forcing the animals to flee amid devastation, firefighters struggling with the raw power of the mammoth flames. One image that remains seared to the memory is of a horse stumbling bewildered from the wreckage, having been singed by thefla,es. The tiny figure of Benedicta is seen wandering disconsolately across the charred landscape. And we are once again left to ponder Amador’s involvement. Fire Will Come is pure cinema. Set to the atmospheric ambient sounds of nature and full of naturalistic detail and subtle undercurrents, it is joy to behold. MT

NOW ON MUBI

Portrait of a Lady on fire (2019) **** Curzon Home Cinema

Dir: Céline Sciamma | Adèle Haenel, Noemie Merlant | Drama, France 120′
Sciamma is back with a enigmatic and delicate drama that glows like a jewel box in its pristine settings yet feels pure and confident at the same time. Turning her camera from the contemporary (Girlhood and Tomboy) she also shows a talent for classical fare in this latest drama set in a chateau in 18th-century Brittany. Here a member of the Italian upper classes (Valeria Golino) has commissioned a portrait of her daughter Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) so she can marry her off to a wealthy suitor abroad.
Rather than risk a male painter becoming too close to her convent-educated offspring, the mother invites artist Marianne (Noémie Merlant) to be her companion, and she arrives at the seaside location in a boat rowing, almost losing her prepared canvasses during the journey. What develops is a tentative friendship between the women that slowly grows into something more ardent. Intimate glances and long walks lead to candlelit evenings where passion burns over their needlework and literary discussions. Or is Héloïse imagining things?
Isolation is to important as it distances their story from the rest of the world. Sciamma relies on the hush of the sea and some subtle sound design, instead of a formal score. Soon the portrait painting becomes secondary to the girls’ relationship. All this is handled with a lightness of touch and the utmost decorum. And the painting sessions turn from taciturn encounters to warmer and more meaningful tetes a tetes. There are shades of Choderlos de Laclos here and the sensuality is undeniable. A faint eeriness comes into play when Marianne has repeated visions of Héloïse in her white wedding dress – luminous for a while, she then disappears. We’re used to seeing lesbian love affairs in the present day so this hark back to the 18th century is refreshing and entrancing. And their mesmerising on screen chemistry gives the film a life of its own. MT
NOW ON RELEASE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 14-25 MAY 2019 | Winner: Best Screenplay

Bacurau (2019) **** Mubi online

Dir: Kleber Mendonca Filho, Juliano Dornelles | Cast: Sonia Braga, Udo Kier, Barbara Colen, Thomas Aquino, Silvero Pereira, Thardelly Lima, Buda Lira, Clebia Sousa, Danny Barbosa, Jonny Mars, Alli Willow | Brazil, 134′

The latest from Neighbouring Sounds and Aquarius director Kleber Mendonca Filho is a dazzlingly inventive Neo-Western that works on three levels: an ethnographical docudrama set in a remote Brazilian village gradually drifts into bandit thriller territory and blows out as a blood-soaked psychodrama showing a caring community capable of standing up for itself.

The action goes on for over two hours involving voodoo, magic realism, flying saucer drones, machetes and plenty of vicious-looking plants bristling in the simmering landscapes of Brazil’s tropical north east. The only thing missing is snakes – but the venom antidote arrives in the village courtesy of recent exile Teresa (Barbara Colen) who has come home to for her late grandmother’s funeral, joined by her soon to be lover Pacote (Thomas Aquino) who turns up trumps in the finale.

Mendonca Filho’s third feature manages its tonal shifts with remarkable ease and conviction and these actually work to the film’s advantage establishing the long-standing personal ties that will make the final act so convincing. And although Bacurau errs on the over languorous side half way through it soon tightens its gun-belt for a coruscating denouement.

Joining Mendonca Filho on the director credit is Juliano Dornelles whose magical production design is set in the lush badlands where this darkly comic Western plays out, throbbing with sexual tension and an eclectic electronic soundscape.

Screen diva Sonia Braga is back from Aquarius this time playing a fearsome a maven and village doctor. Udo Keir also fetches up as Michael leading a group of American gringos out here to massacre local Latinos, in a modern metaphor for Brazil’s colonial past. Surrounded by prickly cacti and sun-baked hills, Bacurau is an enigmatic backwater with no wifi: it isn’t even on the map (the word appropriately means Nightjar). The much-mocked mayoral candidate Tony Jr. (Thardelly Lima) arrives in town attempting to garner support with a truck full of out of date food and medical supplies. But it emerges he is secretly in cahoots with Michael and his henchman and women who have come to the area with nefarious intentions, seriously misjudging the mood of the locals who by this time have had enough.  MT

MUBI – In Cinemas March 13 2020 and exclusively on MUBI 27 March 2020

 

Little Joe (2019) ****

Dir. Jessica Hausner | Sci-fi Drama | Austria, UK, Germany | 105′

Austrian auteuse Jessica Hausner creates films that are intelligent and refreshing. And none more so than her recent Cannes competition entry Little Joe. A challenging, coldly humorous hyper-realist Sci-fi that explores the unique human condition known as happiness.

Sometime in the future Emily Beecham plays Alice, an emotionally buttoned up ‘plant designer’ who develops a scarlet thistle-like flower whose scent makes people happy, and is sure to catch on  commercially. But there’s a snag: the plant also makes subtle changes in the personalities of those who inhale its pollen. It also causes seems to destroy neighbouring plants in the laboratory.

Little Joe is a mesmerising film to look at: its brightly synthetic colour schemes, geometric framing and slightly off-kilter performances are undeniably eye-catching and entirely appropriate given the subject matter: genetic modification. This is not a film to love but a film to admire, the strange storyline keeping us agog in fascination until the surprising finale.

Once her pioneering plant is in full flower Alice names it Little Joe, and brings a sample home for her teenage son Joe (Kit Connor) to tend – she’s a rotten workaholic mother hooked on Deliveroo dinners, but hopes the plant will bring out her son’s nurturing side.

Meanwhile, in their slick laboratories and mint green uniforms, Alice and her colleague Chris (Ben Whishaw) are certainly more commercial scientists than traditional plants people, but Chris is the more appealing and emotionally intelligent of the two. Their chief designer Bella is an earth mother and soon notices that her beloved shaggy dog Bello has undergone a complete change of personality since sniffing pollen from the odd-looking thistles. The staff put this down to Bella’s mental health issues and move swiftly back to their microscopes. But these weird changes cannot be ignored for long.

Sound plays an important role throughout this unsettling story and Japanese composer Teiji has devised a spooky electronic soundscape for each phase of plant development. Hausner has seemingly gone out of her way to assemble an eclectic multi-racial cast and this certainly adds flavour to this exotic con concoction but Beecham, Wishaw, Kit Connor and his dad (Goran Costic) are particularly affective in striking the right mood. And if you think Little Joe bears a strange visual resemblance to another recent Austrian chiller you’d be right: DoP Martin Gschlacht also filmed Goodnight Mommie (2014). MT

ON RELEASE FROM 21 FEBRUARY 2020

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019 | Best Actress Emily Beecham
https://youtu.be/eKy7Iaco_rU

The Lighthouse (2019) *****

Dir: Robert Eggers | Thriller, US 109′

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are hard-nosed sea salts caught in a battle of wills in this terrifying two-hander set in 1890s Maine.

The Lighthouse is Robert Eggers much anticipated follow-up to The Witch and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Fuelled by a pent up rage that seethes right through to the biting end of this often claustrophobic thriller, the lauded American auteur adds another cult classic to the New England Gothic genre.

Arriving from Canada Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson) joins the craggy and flatulent old retainer Thomas Wake (Dafoe) to offer support as the winter sets in and the weather worsens. The stormy dynamic of their emotional voyage is fraught with hallucinatory twists and turns in a gripping yet enigmatic chiller that relies on atmosphere and a mounting dread to tell a stir-crazy tale infused with mystery, myth and legend. The haunting atmospheric soundscape is particularly redolent of solitude and isolation setting a plangent tone for what is to come.

Echoes of Moby Dick are clearly felt but this artful drama is more akin to Robert O’Flaherty’s 1934 document Man of Aran with its dense grainy black and white images and rugged sense of place. The Movie-tone aspect ratio focuses the attention on the keepers’ constantly fleeting expressions, like storm clouds scudding by. Louise Ford’s editing borrows from Soviet Montage outings such as The Diplomatic Pouch (1927) and Old and New (1929). Eggers scripts with his brother Max, and his regular cinematographer Jarin Blaschke captures the mournful misery of it all in chiaroscuro brilliance.

Dafoe is brilliantly cast as Wake, William Blake his literary touchstone, a grizzled beard and rugged features bearing witness to an eternity of storms and baking sun. Hobbling about on a gammy leg, his countenance is that of stiff-necked superiority and he pulls rank at every opportunity over his junior Winslow, who bitterly resents every command, turning his gaze on the slowly revolving beam, mesmerised by its chiaroscuro shadow play. Wake insists on being “the keeper of the light,” but we are soon made aware of a curious sexual vide that also inhabits these close quarters. Both have a troubled past and a need for solitude so their enforced nearness is a constant thorn in the side of the other.

Seabirds are very much a motif here along with a recurring sequence where Winslow is sexually tormented by a mermaid. A contretemps with an angry seagull marks a change in the weather, bringing a freezing storm from the North East and ruining their food stocks, sending them straight to the bottle for sustenance, with alarming and ambiguous consequences. Clearly it will all end in tears, albeit very salty ones laced with rum. MT

NOW ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE

A Hidden Life (2019) ***

Dir|Wri: Terrence Malick | Cast: August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist, Matthias Schoenaerts, Bruno Ganz, Karl Markovics, Franz Rogowski | US Drama 173′

Terrence Malick brings his tenth feature to Cannes with a reputation in the balance. Although appreciated by a small cadre of Malickians, his post-Tree of Life output even his defenders seem to agree needs defending.

So is A Hidden Life a return to form, or is it another stage in a sad decline. Well, the truth is: a bit of both. It tells the true story of conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) and his wife Fani, played by Valerie Pachner, who lived in St. Radegund, an Austrian farming community. Beautiful mountains form a backdrop, an idyll just as the tropical islands did prior to the hostilities of The Thin Red Line. But war is approaching fast with Hitler, a native of the same region, glowering from newsreel footage and ripping through first France and then into Austria. At this point, Franz decides that he cannot swear an oath of allegiance to a man he views as the antiChrist. How he comes to this conclusion is unclear as Malick’s typically syllopsistic style means we never see him read a newspaper or watch any of the newsreels we see.

Everyone in the village tries to persuade Franz against his decision from the ultra-nationalistic mayor to the well-meaning priest. Again the gaps in the narrative made by the relentless moving fluttering from one beautiful image to another means that we weirdly never hear Jews mentioned, despite the fact that anti-Semitism was rife.  Hitler wasn’t some exceptional monster. His hatred and xenophobia and anti-Semitism were a product of his Austrian upbringing. This was by no means exclusive to Austria or Germany, but there was a particular virulence which made the message of National Socialism resonate. But according to Malick everyone just wanted to cut grass and drink beer.

Franz’s rebellion is religious and almost anti-political. And again Malick’s style favours this approach. There are no dialogues in Terrence Malick’s cinema and it is almost impossible to talk about politics without allowing people to actually talk. We have a series of monologues directed at characters which typically take place in the context of some photogenic meandering. The letters which form the bulk of the voiceover (yes, there’s voiceover) simply reiterate much of what we’re seeing on screen. But again I never felt that above a lot of PDAs there isn’t much of a relationship between Franz and Fani. They say they love each other a lot, but again they don’t argue and frankly I don’t trust a couple that doesn’t argue from time to time. They also have three extremely pretty daughters, Franz’s mother, who frequently looks pitiable against a white washed wall and Fani’s spinster sister living with them.

A film with no scenes is way too long at three hours. Joerg Widmer’s camera peers into faces with a distracting lack of respect for personal space before zooming off to look for something else to be interested in. Again, the absence of the conventional blocking of scenes means that often actors are left to wander like non-player characters in a mid-90s video game. And the decision to make the film bilingual with the Nazis speaking German and the protagonists English is a ludicrous one. How can you aim to be daring as filmmaker on one hand and then submit to such a lazy Hollywood convention? And one with such damaging effect on your political position.

But again, what political position? I respect the true story behind this but Malick seems to want the whole of the second world war and the moral universe to hang in the balance here. Franz is held up as an exemplar – something like Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Joan of Arc – but I couldn’t help but think of him as something of a von Trapp. His refusal to say the oath – he is offered the chance to work in a non-combat capacity – feels petty in the face of the unnamed Holocaust which is going on at exactly the same time.

Ultimately, Malick has made another technically beautiful film, with a gorgeous soundtrack and wonderful photography, that is at the same time unable or unwilling to engage with its subject. In always trying to go for the glory, he seems to miss what it is that makes us essentially human. We talk to each other. John Bleasdale

ON RELEASE FROM 17 JANUARY 2020

I Lost My Body (2019) ****

Dir: Jeremy Clapin. France, Animation 81′

Jeremy’s Clapin’s debut is a touching and lyrical love letter to loss that delicately captures the human condition.

Almost the best thing about I Lost My Body is the way its remains ambiguous – like life itself. Bringing to mind My Life As a Courgettehopes and aspirations are cleverly woven into a storyline that explores a young man’s unexpected yet triumphant voyage of self discovery.

Jeremy Clapin’s film does require a leap of faith: it all starts with a severed hand (rendered in 2D and 3D) driven desperately to find its body in a peripatetic journey through present day Paris. Meanwhile, the hand’s owner experiences his own trials and tribulations leading up to moment the two are parted. I Lost My Body will appeal to adults and children alike – and whether or not animation is your bag, it certainly captured the imagination of audiences and juries on this year’s international festival circuit.

In a childlike but never childish way, Clapin and his co-writer Guillaume Laurant, whose script is based on the Amelie BAFTA winner’s book Happy Hand, picture the world from an inquisitive kid’s perspective, full of wonderment, birds and insects; but also one that acknowledges consumer bleats familiar in to adults: the pizza guy who arrives late, that intercom buzzer that never opens the door the first time. Crucially, I Lost My Body is also a meditative and often surreal experience.

A creative boy called Naoufel (Alfonso Arfi) grows up with his talented parents, who soon recede into the background leaving him directionless and reliant on a badass acquaintance called Raouf. Naoufel’s only possession is a prized tape-machine full of recordings – and his parent’s voices. Growing up (voiced by Hakim Fares) Naoufel relinquishes his dream to become an astronaut, settling for an earthbound existence delivering pizzas. He meets the woman of his dreams while chatting to uer through her dodgy apartment intercom; he then follows Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois) to her uncle Gigi’s joinery workshop where he is offered bed and board as an apprentice, and has a transformative accident.

Clapin brings his narrative strands together with dextrous imagery; grains of sand slip between fingers as the world revolves in time and space nurturing Naoufel’s astronaut pretensions. We are gradually captivated by Naoufel’s own romantic imagination and his desire to do his best for Gigi, and capture Gabrielle’s heart. But his flatmate Raouf also has designs on his fledgling paramour. And although Naoufel eventually loses a part of himself, he never loses his faith or courage in following his dream. Accompanied by atmospheric sound design and beautifully rendered animations, this mournful riff on life, love and self-determination is a deeply affecting experience. MT

ON RELEASE FROM 22 NOVEMBER 2019 | Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prize 2019 

 

 

 

La Belle Epoque (2019) ****

Dir.: Nicolas Bedos; Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Guillaume Canet, Doria Tillier, Fanny Ardant, Pierre Arditi; France 2019, 115 min.

Nicolas Bedos has set his stall out writing light-hearted and clever dramas. He follows his popular debut Mr. & Mrs. Adelman with this well-crafted and rather old-fashioned screwball comedy that sees a disgruntled 60-something man revisit his past to discover why he fell in love with his wife in the first place.

Parisians Victor (Auteuil) and Marianne (Ardant) have been married for forty years. But their marriage has hit the skids due to Victor’s disillusionment with life after losing his job as a newspaper cartoonist. Psychologist Marianne has also lost her mojo. She treats her patients like objects on a conveyer belt, and only looks forward to riding in her self-driving Tesla car. Their two sons are very much in step with their millennial generation. But even they are shocked when Marianne tells them that she has a new lover (who predictably is only interested in a place live). Victor gets the bums rush.

As this point Bedos adopts a similar premise to Herzog in his Family Romance, LLC. Victor calls on family friend Antoine (Canet), who runs a stage company organising time travel for a range of wealthy clients. You can explore the era of Marie Antoinette or even reinvent yourself as Hitler. So Victor opts to be beamed back to the Lyon of 1974, when he first fell for his wife, played by young Margot (Tillier), who is also in an on-off relationship with the unfaithful Antoine. While ‘directing’ behind the scenes, Antoine is well aware that Victor is falling for his own lover. The script dictates they go to bed on day four, but Antoine makes sure this date is never reached.

Always inventive, DoP Nicolas Bedos creates delightful scenes in front and behind the camera, very much in the style of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off. The prompting alone is hair-raising, and Antoine gets into such a bad mood that he immediately replaces actors who fall foul of his directions. And since it is France, the actors performing the orgy scene, are only too happy to do some unpaid overtime. It is a chaos of situations and emotions, and although Bedos brings nothing new to the party Belle Epoche is a lively and enjoyable comedy. AS

NOW ON RELEASE FROM 22 NOVEMBER 2019

    

Sorry we missed you (2019) ***

Dir: Ken Loach | UK Drama 100′

Ken Loach is back with his regular writer Paul Laverty and another slice of social realism whose title will resonate bitterly if you’re still waiting for that parcel. SORRY WE MISSED YOU takes Loach back to the North East and the streets of Gateshead and Newcastle where hard-up grafter Ricky and his family have been facing an uphill struggle against debt since the 2008 financial crash and the rise of the gig economy and zero contract hours. An opportunity to get back into the black again comes in the shape of a shiny new van and a chance for Ricky to run his own business as a self-employed delivery driver. But things don’t quite work out as expected despite his best efforts, and we feel for him as he desperately tries to make things gel. Laverty’s script flows along as smoothly as the Tyne in scenes that showcase Loach’s talent for bringing out the best in new talent in a cast that includes Kris Hitchen and Debbie Honeywood with Rhys Stone and Katie Proctor as their son and daughter. This time humour and honesty keep sentimentality low key. The locale is very much a character too: Shields Road and Byker which we get to know like the back of our hand in this enjoyable tale of woe. Regular DoP Robbie Ryan does his stuff to perfection in what is oddly a much better film than his 2015 agitprop Palme d’Or winner I  Daniel Blake. MT

ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM 1 NOVEMBER 2019

 

The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao (2019)

Dir: Karim Ainouz | Writers: Murilo Hauser, Ines Bortagaray | Cast: Carol Duarte, Julia Stockler, Gregorio Duvivier, Fernanda Montenegro, Barbara Santos, Flavia Gusmao, Maria Manoella, Antonio Fonseca, Cristina Pereira, Gillray Coutinho | Brazil, 139′

Two sisters are forced into separate lives in this striking melodrama set in male-dominated Rio de Janeiro of the 1950s.

The Brazilian director’s two previous films have been enjoyable but lightweight compared to this ambitious but highly intimate drama, based on a novel by Martha Batalha, The Invisible Life soaks up the vibrant sensuality of tropical Brazil and distills into an intense and passionate portrait of feminine desire and longing in a country where a woman’s only domaine was the home. But their self-determination burns brightly throughout this moving story of female emancipation. There’s nothing coy or dainty about Ainouz’s complex and fully fleshed out characters played spiritedly by newcomers Carol Duarte (Euridice) and Julia Stockler (Guida) who make this often languorous film an extremely moving experience that follows the women’s lives from early adulthood to old age, the reveal comes in the form of an ingenious coda.

It’s 1941 and Guida and her younger sister Euridice are discussing sex – or the febrile expectancy of it – as they wander through the verdant coastline surrounding their cramped family home in Rio. Daughters of a draconian father and his meek wife – described as a shadow by Euridice later on in the film – the girls are bound together by an unusual closeness forcing them to share all their hopes and dreams which will be stifled by a patriarchal set-up as the film plays out. The story is framed by a plot device that causes the girls to be separated and so their only way of communicating is through stifled correspondence and unanswered questions. What emerges is a fascinating social history of Brazil during the 1940s and ’50s seen from a female perspective, but one which is gutsy and deeply affecting.

While Guida is conducting a secret affair with darkly handsome Greek sailor Yorgos (Nikolas Antunes), Euridice is developing her keyboard skills on the family’s piano, with a view to studying at the conservatory in Vienna. We then find out – through a letter to their father – that Guida has eloped with her man on a ship bound for Athens, whence she returns alone and pregnant. Clearly Yorgos had a girl in every port, but worse, her father throws her out callously disinheriting her, and telling her that Euridice is studying in Austria. In actual fact Euridice has married Antenor (Duvivier) a crude bore who spends most of his time in his underwear, and given birth to a daughter he didn’t really want. Meanwhile, Guida finds solace in the home of a prostitute Filomena (Barbara Santos) where she brings up her son.

Ainouz has an extraordinary eye for detail and the film’s well-paced dramatic arc unfolds through tone and atmosphere closely following the literary structure, drawing us into the women’s world where we share in their intimate feelings, joys, heartache and sadness. It’s a emotional rollercoaster but one told with such intense warmth and beauty that by the end we feel a deep connection to these characters and their experiences. Something that is rare nowadays, with so many atmospheric yet empty films.

Spectacular vibrant camerawork is provided by French DoP Helene Louvart (Happy as Lazzaro) both on the widescreen and in really intimate close-up – and although some of the images are quite graphic, adding considerable gravity and truth to the alarming scenes of birth and love-making. The male characters invariably have feet of clay but in subtle ways that show them as convincing people not just hastily drawn cyphers. Each frame is exquisitely captured adding texture to an immersive family saga that bears testament to the enormous forbearance and indomitable resilience of its female characters. It seems appropriate that piano studies from Liszt, Grieg and Chopin should be the accompanying score. MT

ON RELEASE FROM 15 OCTOVER  2021 | WINNER UN CERTAIN REGARD | Cannes Film Festival 2019

 

Matthias and Maxime (2019) ***

Dir: Xavier Dolan |

French-Canadian director Xavier Dolan directed his first film in 2009 at the age of just 20. He was back at Cannes this year with a coming of drama, set again in Montreal where a young man at the cusp of his working life is stuck at home looking after his abusive addict of a mother. He also has a facial blemish that saps his confidence. At a friend’s garrulous get-together Matthew finds himself play-acting a gay role with a young lawyer Matthias (Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas), who is in a committed relationship and a settled career, albeit a boring one. Sparks fly. Although the two have met before in their childhood, clearly things have moved on and the chemistry between them is now palpable. But the path to love never runs smoothly.

The camerawork is all close up and personal. And in common with Dolan’s dialogue-heavy previous films (It’s only the End of the World) there is that shouty, rowdy restless vibe that some might find objectionable while to others  this tender playfulness will be intoxicating. The performances are strong and convincing across the board and genuinely heartfelt, and once again Dolan is in the thick of it all – as Maxime. MT

LONDON FILM FESTIVAL |  2-13 OCTOBER 2019

 

 

The Dead Don’t Die (2019) ***

Dir: Jim Jarmusch | Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray | 103′ US Fantasy Horror

The peaceful town of Centreville finds itself up against it when the (un) dead start rising from their graves in Jim Jarmusch’s first zombie escapade.

THE DEAD DON’T DIE sees most of the starry cast ripped apart or thoroughly the worst for wear by the time we get Sturgill Simpson’s catchy title tune on the brain for the journey home. But this audience pleaser will certainly go down in history with the best of them – but my money’s still on Shaun of the Dead for sheer deadpan weirdness of the cult classic kind.

The police are the first to notice untoward goings on. Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) and Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) are alerted to local power cuts and watches going awry in sleepy Centreville. And Jarmusch brings the same deadpan humour to bear as did Edgar Wright, the dead coming alive in the eerie torpor that many claim is due to climate change.

The town’s cop trio is made up by token female Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny), and Danny Glover’s Hank Thompson is the token black resident who makes it possible for Buscemi’s Farmer Miller to add the requisite element of racial abuse. Other denizens include Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton), who gets to flex her Scottish credentials with a hefty samurai sword. The younger generation are there in the shape of Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez, Austin Butler and Luka Sabbat who roam around their numbers gradually multiplying as the story staggers on. Then there’s a classic village loner (Tom Waits) who seems to go under the zombies’ radar, perhaps because he’s so like them.

But a wry nonchalant bonhomie permeates this dozy undead drama and maybe Jarmusch is alluding here to the dumbed-down society we live in nowadays – their unaware, don’t care attitude is the most darkly worrying aspect. Crafty old Jarmusch is using his zombie outing as a wrapper to satirise all our current ills. Even the authorities seem brain dead with Tilda giving the only sparky thrill to the piece as the slightly unhinged oddball. MT

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE

Haut les Filles (2019) ****

Dir.: Francois Armanet; Cast: Jeanne Added, Jehnny Beth, Lou Doillon, Brigitte Fontaine, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy, Imany, Camelia Jordana, Elli Medeiros, Vanessa Paradis; France 2019, 78 min.

What if Edith Piaf had invented Rock-n-Roll, rather than Elvis Presley? Francois Armanet’s excellent Cannes documentary showcases the musings of ten popular French singers from the Sixties to the present day. The upshot is that Rock-n’-Roll is female and French.

Edith Piaf opens with a raunchy love song for her lover, the boxer Marcel Cerdan, who died in a plane crash in 1949. In the Sixties, it was the likes of Françoise Hardy and Brigitte Fontaine who challenged the predominance of men. Hardy remembers how naïve she and other chanteuses were at a time of total male dominance: When France Gall sang the saucy “Sucettes” songs with composer Serge Gainsbourg, she hadn’t the faintest idea of the double meaning of that ‘lollipop’.

Things have changed since. Camelia Jordana and Jeanne Added felt the freedom of being on stage, describing it as  “lifting me out into space”. Sixties photos of Françoise Hardy and singing partner Jacques Dutronc show a different picture, and one that was re-affirmed when she met Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg in the UK “where men expected women to look like Brigitte Bardot” – rather than Hardy’s androgynous look. Jagger claimed “she was his ideal woman”. Ironically even nowadays Charlotte Gainsbourg is hampered by old-fashioned male chauvinism. “I wish I looked more like my mother, but unfortunately I look like my father…he could not understand that I did not like to be on the cover of magazines”. She goes on to talk about the beautiful women in her family, such as Lou Doillon, daughter of filmmaker Jacques Doillon, although the two women had the same mother in the shape of Jane Birkin. Gainsbourg always thinks about herself as pretty and ugly (une jolie-laide), like the teenager she played in her film debut film La Voleuse by Claude Miller. Lou Doillon remembers the burden of having to be interesting to adults who were all creative. But although he father directed, her mother was very much in front of the camera.

Camelia Jordana also remembers that her voice only made an impression when it sounded sweet and sexy, when she got older. Jordana lately found her identity as a strong feminist via the works of Simone de Beauvoir, a signatory of Women’s Manifest, a group that fought to de-criminalise abortion in France. Of the ten, Fontaine is the most radical – and much more so now than in the Sixties. “Stop Talking and take arms. Down with the stronger sex. Death to it” is only one of her provocative songs on stage.

Elli Medeiros, who was born in Montevideo, started her career with the Stinky Toys and was discovered by Malcolm McLaren, who invited the band to London, where they appeared at the ‘100 Club’ in Oxford Street. Having arrived without gear, they asked the Sex Pistols to lend them their outfits, but the band declined. Stinky Toys ended up singing in garb belonging to The Clash. Medeiros reflects that she stopped ‘screaming out her rage on stage’, after she had learned to sing properly.

Vanessa Paradis “feels on stage like a shipmaster” and Lou Doillon compares her music “with making love, forgetting everything else, like religion”. Whilst Paradis was awakened to feminism by Beatrice Dalle, Doillon had to watch TV in her nanny’s room, where she was fascinated by Catherine Ringer of Rita Mitsouko fame. Doillon finally sums up the development of female Rock-n’-Roll stars: “In the Seventies and Eighties, girl bands were more violent on stage then male musicians. They paid the price for being on stage, having to be more mannish than the blokes.” Whilst for Lou Doillon and others, gender fluidity is the order of the day, Fontaine remains a radical feminist: “Fuck l’amour!”

When all is said and done, it’s a shame that women have always had to struggle just to maintain the status quo with men. Oh Les Filles will be remembered mainly for its fabulous music and TV archive clips which certainly prove that female talent is more than skin deep. AS

SCREENING DURING CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019

Lillian (2019) **** Cannes Film Festival 2019

Dir.: Andreas Horvath; Cast: Patrycja Planik, Chris Shaw, Albert Lee; Austria 2019, 130 min.

Austrian filmmaker Andreas Horvath (Earth’s Golden Playground) has restaged the journey of the real Lillian Alling, who in 1926/27 tried to walk all the way from New York to her homeland country Russia. Debutant Patrycja Planik plays the gritty modern day heroine, who crosses the sub-continent without saying a single word.

We meet Patrycja, a woman in her early thirties, when she gives her photos to an ‘adult’ film producer, who declines the offer. “These are photos for modelling, we do hard core, your visa has run out and you don’t speak English”. In the background we see graphic examples of his trade, they could be straight out of one the documentaries of the feature’s producer Ulrich Seidl. “Go back to Russia” is the producers advise, and Patrycja takes him by his word. She breaks into a house near New York, finds a map and a huge jar with cheese balls, and sets off for her journey across he USA and Canada. When her shoes are ruined in a stream, she steals a pair from one of the many flea markets she visits, as well as from an abandoned laundrette. She sleeps in dilapidated houses and odd dwellings on the way.  She even manages to bed down in drainage pipes and under viaducts, greeted in the morning by stray cats. Scavenging for food, she steals a watermelon and eats pizza from a garbage can, and joins the kids in picking up sweets from the 4th of July parade. Hardly anybody bothers her: she looks so needy and poor, nearly always flying under the radar.

There are two encounters which are stand out: In Iowa she accosted by an elderly would-be rapist (Shaw), who chases her in vain across a corn field. Alone again, she steals a scarecrow’s shirt. In Nebraska, a sheriff (Lee) picks her up for vagrancy and treats her like a hardened criminal: she has to put her hands on the hood of his car, whilst he searches the meagre content of her bag. Later he relents, even giving her his warm sheriff’s jacket. This is the only kindness she ever experiences, before he drives her to the boundary of his county.

Whilst the landscape is breath-taking beautifully, Trump’s heartland seems emotionally dead. Somehow time has stood still in the mid-Fifties of the last century. Most people have fled to the cities, the remainers adamant to keep to the lifestyle of the era long gone by. We watch a parody of a rodeo, and a demolition derby with cars who were unfit to drive even a century ago. There are lots of religious slogans everywhere: “Smile, your Mum chose life” or “Where is your family?”. Instead of mobiles, old-fashioned two-way walky-talkies are still en vogue. After a hail storm, which she survives in an ambulant toilet, Patrycja again freshens her wardrobe up in a cloth donation bank.

Her journey comes to an end at the Yuka river, were she tries in vain to drag a canoe into the river, to continue her journey. This enigmatic ending works well with an allegoric story about men and whales: we never find out who Patrycja really is, there is no background, just a very very determined young woman, bashing on again and again with a spirited resistance to nature and everyone she meets: untouched through her ordeal, like a woman who fell from the sky.

Horvath’s photography is always dazzling, accompanied by a sparse musical score to replace the dialogue, which never materialises. Lillian is a triumph of a spirited, enigmatic women, wandering through a society, where emotions and ideas have long died.  AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | QUINZAINE DES REALISATEURS

 

 

It Must Be Heaven (2019)

Dir/Wri: Elia Suleiman | Cast: Elia Suleiman, Tarik Kopti, George Khleifi, Nael Kanj, Gregoire Colin, Vincent Maraval, Stephen McHattie, Gael Garcia Bernal | Comedy 97′

Best known for Chronicle of a Disappearance (2009), and Divine Intervention (2002) actor and filmmaker Elia Suleiman uses a blend of burlesque and sobriety in this droll observational comedy set in his native Nazareth, Paris and New York.

There is no narrative to speak of here, just a series of amusing vignettes plucked from everyday life epitomising the sheer ridiculousness of the ‘new normal’ in our increasingly paranoid world.

The common threads that run through this calming rather meditative feature focus on police harassment and surveillance, and weird behaviour of the general public. It’s a less stylised version of Roy Anderson’s cinema style. As the serene star of the show Suleiman conveys all this with a lightness of touch and elegant framing that brings out the life’s banality in all its glory.

The opening scene in Nazareth follows a solemn Easter procession of Orthodox faithful towards a some sacred wooden doors that are supposed to open at the priest’s command. Sadly, the people on the receiving end decide not to play ball, and we watch the priest give them merry hell from the other entrance, removing his mitre to facilitate his angry tirade. .

Arriving in Paris, Elia gawps at the beautiful girls from the safety of a pavement cafe. Having coffee the next day, police arrive and measure the place up, to make sure it conforms to government guidelines. Thankfully it does, and they depart poker-faced. On the way back to his apartment, a strange muscle-man stares at him disconcertingly in the metro, before performing a regular routine with a beer can. Back in his apartment, Elia looks out of the window to see three police officers inspecting a parked car, their choreographed movements on ridiculous electric scooters, are a recurring comedy motif throughout.

The next day, Elia runs into two Japanese tourists who ask if he’s ‘Brigitte”. Although this seems an innocent question on their part, the irony of the situation is clearly lost in translation, and they interpret his walking quietly away with bewilderment.

One of the best scenes involves a meeting with a film producer that is both polite, euphemistic and ironic – given the situation. Elia then runs into his friend Gael Garcia Bernal, played by the Mexican star himself. But his attempts to introduce Elia to a female producer ends abruptly: “It’s a comedy about peace in the Middle East,” says Bernal. “That’s already funny,” she replies without really thinking. In New York the mood turns more hostile. Everyone seems to be carrying guns, even the women. His Palestinian identity is greeted with either genuine amusement, or hostile suspicion.

This cinematic gem works it lowkey magic, Sofian El Fani’s widescreen camera allowing us to take in the big picture, on a global scale in pastel long takes. Uncluttered by trivia, the message is even more meaningful, Suleiman’s simple yet resonant musings are a joy to behold. MT

NOW ON RELEASE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | FIPRESCI PRIZE WINNER | MAY 2019

Once in Trubchevsk (2019) ** Un Certain Regard | Cannes Film Festival 2019

Dir: Larisa Sadilova | Comedy Drama | Russia 80′

In her chronicle of life in a Russian village Larisa Sadilova has tried to integrate ethnographical elements with a predictable story of marital discontent. The result is rather a lightweight comedy drama that sits uncomfortably in its wonderful rural setting, trivialising the community’s more interesting past.

Feint echoes of Andrey Konchalovsky’s impressive village drama Postman’s White Nights (2014) rapidly fade away within the opening scenes – this is a beast of a different colour, and not nearly as resonant or memorable.

The story unfolds during a year in Trubchevsk on Russia’s Western border with Europe, known for its Jewish craftsmen who fled or were massacred in 1941, along with the old and mentally ill. Buxom blond knitwear designer Anna (Kristina Schneider) is unhappily married to Yura (Yury Kisilyov) with a young daughter. She relies on hitchhiking in passing vehicles to ply her trade in the nearby towns. One day she jumps aboard her neighbour’s lorry and one thing leads to another.

This a place full of gossip and bored housewives. But Anna (Kristina Schneider) manages to keep her affair undercover for a time. Her long distance truck driver lover (Egor Barinov) keeps promising to leave his wife Tamara (Maria Semyonova) and their son, but hopes he can have his cake and eat it (“everything will work out”), so they find somewhere to conduct the affair, renting an idyllic wooden house from an old lady who shares stories of how she dealt with her own difficult marriage and this provides a source of humour in the otherwise facile story: (“keep your mouth full of water, then you won’t say too much”).

Anna’s unsuspecting husband believes that away on work trip to Moscow, but when her lover’s truck breaks down, events come to a head. Sadilova exposes the sad nativity of some marital affairs. Consumed with their lust for each other, the two haven’t really thought things through. The only wise women are the village elders who at least have the upper hand in the family, the younger ones are spirited but lack the independence to really follow their dreams, and they still pander to the males, making them rather sad and unfulfilled.

All this plays out against a far more important story, Trubchevsk’s preparations to mark the 75th anniversary of the town’s liberation from the Nazis. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019 | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2019

 

 

 

 

 

Homeward (2019)

Dir: Nariman Aliev. Ukraine 97 mins

Nariman Aliev’s feature debut is a powerful cri de coeur for his homeland Crimea exploring the fractured relationship between Ukraine and Russia. The young director is only in his mid twenties but already manages his material with confidence and maturity to create a gripping and thoughtful story about family responsibility and the ties that bind.

Mustafa (Akhtem Seitablayev) has driven to Kiev to collect the body of his son who has been killed in the war with Russia. His mission is simple, to bury Nazim in the family’s home in Crimea. But the journey will be eventful and fraught with difficulty. It will also bring him closer to his teenage son Alim (Remzi Bilyalov), who joins him on the journey.

And the two are not on great terms. Mustafa is an aggressive disciplinarian father who doesn’t pull any punches, least of all with his youngest boy. His simmering rage is partly due to the needlessness of Nazim’s death – in his eyes – marrying a non Muslim woman Olesya (Dariya Barihashvilli) he set up home in Ukraine, and clearly Mustafa was never going to approve of the match.Mustafa’s intention was to leave the family farm in Crimea to his boys so clearly his nose has been put out of joint with this marriage. To make matters worse, the two have a violent confrontation when he refuses to include Olesya in the funeral arrangements, leaving her locked in her own bathroom, oblivious to her feelings, or even her survival. This mere act displays an extraordinary disregard for his late son’s wishes, and makes a broad reference to his misogynist tendencies which will again rear their head later on. The British phrase “a bit of a Tartar” certainly comes to mind with this implacable man.

Alim has also made plans that don’t involve returning to the family farm. On the drive through Kiev he points out the university where he is studying journalism and his father remains stony-faced refusing show any interest. The journey continues with the usual checkpoints and border controls and Mustafa is truculent and surly with local officials. He then gives Alim a crash course in how to defend himself with a knife and this comes in handy later on when they are robbed, and Alim is able to gain his father’s grudging respect.

Akhtem Seitablayev manages shows us a chink of humanity in Mustafa – clearly he loves his son, and death often brings out the worst in family dynamics. Alim evidently respects his father, and is totally under his thumbl: when the boy gets a chance to swim in the river with some locals, including an attractive blond girl, Mustafa later slams down his wallet on the dinner table and suggests Alim goes his own way. This is a man who has lived by his wits and his courage and we feel a strange respect for him, and his desperation to keep the family together.

Homeward is a film that looks stunning and has that extraordinary resonance of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s work. Anton Fursa captures the burning sunset and the bucolic pastures of the vast flat landscape with its wide dusty roads and fast flowing rivers that really evoke that sense of belonging for Mustafa and his family have fought for. MT

New Wave Films digital release from 23 April 2021 | PREMIERED CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2019

 

Nuestras Madres (2019) *** Semaine de la Critique 2019

Dir: Cesar Dias | Guatemala/Bel/France | 75′  | World Premiere | Competition Feature Film

Guatemalan filmmaker Cesar Diaz is known for his documentary Why Do Humans Burn? (2010) commemorating the massacre of 32 Guatemalan civilians during the country’s 1980s Civil War, and his work on Jayro Bustamente’s multi award-winning drama Ixcanul (2015).

Diaz returns to the subject of civil war in his debut drama Nuestras Madres that screens in the Semaine de la Critique sidebar during Cannes Film Festival 2019. During the first ten years of the civil war, the victims of the state-sponsored terror were primarily students, workers, professionals, and opposition figures, but in the last years they were thousands of mostly rural Mayan farmers. More than 450 Maya villages were destroyed and over 1 million people became refugees, or were displaced within Guatemala. Diaz sets his drama against the backdrop of the ongoing trial of the military officers accused of inciting unrest and causing the death of these ordinary villagers. As testimonials pour in from neighbouring villages, Ernesto (Armando Espitia/Heli), a young anthropologist at the Forensic Foundation in Guatemala City, is tasked with taking statements from the victim’s families and identifying people who have gone missing. But when an old lady’s turns up, claiming to have lost her husband Mateo, Ernesto thinks he has found a lead that will allow him to find his own father, a Marxist guerillero who disappeared during the war and who has never been put to rest. His fight for the truth is vehemently apposed by his boss at the Foundation, who wants the past to stay in the past. But it also helps Ernesto to grow closer to his mother (Emma Dib). Part ethnographical study, part drama Nuestras Madres is set in and around the country’s magnificent mountain and volcanic countryside (Guatemala has 37 volcanos, of which 3 are active), Nuestras Madres is a straightforward but affecting story about the plight of thousands of Guatemalans who went missing, and whose story has never been told. MT

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | 21 May 2019 | Cannes Film Festival 2019 

Frankie (2019)

Dir: Ira Sachs | Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Jérémie Renier, Marisa Tomei, Brendan Gleeson, Greg Kinear | US, Drama 104′

Ira Sachs makes his Cannes Competition debut with this sedate drama set amongst the balmy hillsides and fairytale castles of Sintra which is very much the star of the show. Pleasant and well-paced it has Isabelle Huppert in the title role as a terminally ill actress who gathers her family around her for a final – occasionally fraught – summer break.

This languorous drama explores the intimate interlocking stories between the nine friends and family style. Frankie (Huppert) is a luminous presence throughout the film with her dry sense of humour and effortless allure  remaining serene and very much in control despite the anxiety of her loved ones.

Writing and his regular scripter Mauricio Zacharias Sachs doesn’t look for easy connections between these rather sedate showbiz types, the pencil-slim narrative ticking all the right boxes and gradually finding its way to an unspectacular conclusion.

From the outset, Frankie hums a Schubert tune which pretty much sums up the slumbering tone of the narrative. After a winning scene that sees her diving into an aquamarine swimming pool surrounded by lush gardens, her step granddaughter Maya (Nenua) reminds her there are guests in the hotel who might take photographs: “It’s alright, I’m very photogenic.” she cooly responds. And this sardonic wit flows throughout.

Frankie is stoical about her illness as she puts her affairs in order with the family: husband Jimmy (Gleeson in lowkey affectionate mode) his daughter from an earlier marriage, Sylvia (Robinson), and Ian (Bakare), the husband she is on the verge of leaving. There’s also Frankie’s son Paul  (Renier) and his father Michel (Greggory), who married a man after Frankie left him. Frankie’s best friend New Yorker Ilene (Tomei) joins the party with docile cameraman boyfriend Gary who is eager to propose to her – a nice touch in these non-committal days – she nevertheless damns him with faint praise. Sachs adds another strand involving Tiago (Cotta), a local Portuguese guide hired to show them the sights.

Cinematographer Rui Pocas, who photographed the fabulous arthouse films Zama and The Ornithologist, captures the splendour of the setting At usual, Huppert reigns supreme throughout, even in the fading days of her life she eclipses everyone. MT

NOW IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE

 

 

Diego Maradona (2019) **** Cannes Film Festival 2019

Asif Kapadia | Doc, UK 120′

Asif Kapadia is no stranger to Cannes. His Cannes biopic Amy went on to win an Oscar and became the highest grossing British documentary after its Cannes premiere in 2015, and was even more popular than his 2010 biopic Senna. DIEGO MARADONA rounds off his trilogy about child geniuses and fame. Football fanatic Kapadia is clearly fascinated by the Argentine football legend’s charisma, low cunning and leadership, but mostly by his sheer ability to bounce back from the lows in his career: “He was always the little guy fighting against the system, and he was willing to do anything to use all of his cunning and intelligence to win.” This all footage foray blends over 500 hours of grainy media coverage with home video material to transform Maradona’s story into an adrenaline fuelled two hours that sees the cheeky mummy’s boy from a poor barrio in Buenos Aires transformed into a charismatic winner whose undiluted hubris was bound to send him Icarus-style on a meteoric mission to the sun. Crucially Kapadia’s film is about both sides of the megastar’s personality: the affectionate insecure slumdog and the epic hero who would finally crash to earth. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | GOLDEN EYE | 14-25 MAY 2019

Oleg (2019) Mubi

Dir.: Juris Kursietis; Cast: Valentin Novopolski, Dawid Ogrodnik, Anna Prochniak, Guna Zarina; Latvia/Lithuania/Belgium/France 2019, 108 min.

Director/co-writer Juris Kursietis (Modris) has created a spare but thrilling feature about a Latvian emigrant in Belgium, who falls under the spell of an evil smalltime gangster from Poland. Long takes and agile handheld camerawork along with some poetic under-water scenes make for an affecting verité drama. A twist of subversive humour lifts Oleg out of the   ‘grim and depressing’ category often associated with realism.

Oleg (Novopolksi) recalls how he was deeply affected as a child by his grandmother’s tale of the sacrificial lamb. Broke and in debt he feels just like that lamb in real life. A vision of him trying to breaking through the ice as he struggles under water occurs frequently throughout the film. Eventually he lands a job in a meat processing plant in Ghent where his training as a butcher comes in handy. Unfortunately, one of his illegal co-workers is maimed in one of the machines, blaming Oleg for the accident. His mates force him to take the rap in order to avoid an investigation. Back home – and jobless Oleg again – he meets the gregarious and charismatic Andrzej (Ogrodnik), who organises a motley crew of East-Europeans, hiring them out to do various jobs.

But Andzejs turns out to be a conman, who hardly ever pays his men. Oleg runs away, even though he fancies Andrzej’ girl friend Margosa (Prochniak), who is in thrall to her sadistic boyfriend. Alone in the streets at Christmas time, Oleg walks into a Latvian restaurant and is mistaken for an actor by rather posh Zita (Zarina), who runs the place. After a night of lovemaking, Oleg confesses he’s not really an actor, and is thrown out. Briefly returning to work for Andrzej things don’t improve and so he goes to the police, and informs on the gangster, having asked his grandmother to do the same in Latvia. Now at a lose end and with his freedom back, Oleg buys a plane ticket to Riga, but the night before his flight, he meets Margosa.

Despite of the underlying harshness of the narrative this is a bracing account of life as an immigrant. Andzejs gives Oleg a ‘forged’ Polish passport, calling him a “Novopolski” and the scenes in the meat factory are extremely brutal – and if you’re still not a vegetarian, you might now change your mind. The bleached-out aesthetic seems to mirror the hollowed out lives of these illegal workers, and the underwater sequences reflect Oleg’s feelings of desperation and powerlessness: struggling to survive in every way.  Kursietis seems to have re-invented social realism, or at least put a new appealing face on the genre. AS

NOW ON MUBI | PREMIERED AT CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | Quinzaine des Réalisateurs 2019

 

The Best Years of a Life (2019) **** Cannes Film Festival 2019

Dir: Claude Lelouch | France Drama, 90′

Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant are back together again 53 years later in Claude Lelouch’s sequel to Un Homme et Une Femme. 

Claude Lelouch’s cult classic with its breezy romantic score by Francis Lai is one of the most popular French films ever made. Even the title harks back to that “ou la la! moment when your French lover sweeps you off your feet in a cosy bistro savouring a post prandial Cointreau.

Well that was back in 1966 but this sequel feels surprisingly slick and contemporary. Now in his 80s, ex racing driver Jean-Louis Duroc (Trintignant at 89, for the un-initiated) is in a swish Normandy care home – infinitely more appealing than the ones BUPA charges £100k a year for, even the staff are sexier.

The Best Years of a Life (Les Plus Belles Années d’une Vie)sees Jean-Louis considerably more dishevelled but the cheeky twinkle in his eye is still there as he flirts with his carer and wanders around the foothills of dementia – or is he just having us on?. Meanwhile his long-lost love, a well-preserved Anne Gauthier (Aimée, an amazing 87) is running a small shop and enjoying her daughter and granddaughter. His son Antoine (Antoine Sire, now grown up since his childhood role) persuades Anne to visit his father. Jean-Louis pretends not to recognise her at first – she is still the diffident one, and he is still a bit of a rascal. Lelouch, now 81, clearly understand Jean-Louis, and his script is insightful and extremely convincing for anyone who has a father of this age. And as the two go back down memory lane, Lelouch cleverly splices extracts from the original film: the lovers cavorting on the beach and laughing with their kids. Lelouch has even added footage of an exhilarating drive through Paris in the early hours of the morning, and layered it over images from his other films. In a way this is the director’s chance to bring his 1966 film back to life and offer a plausible and authentic conclusion to the story, attracting nostalgic older audiences – and even inquisitive new ones. And although the previous sequel, A Man and a Women: 20 Years Later (1986), was not a success, this seems to have considerably more depth and understanding.

A great deal of the film is pure nostalgia, but there’s humour too and it flows along pleasantly without any awkward moments – the flirty bits do happen as men of this generation get older. You have to remember – they grew up in a completely different century.

The Best Years of a Life was made in just under two weeks, showing how the veteran director and his ageing stars are still capable of being impressive. And with its timely themes and the impressive car sequence it competes favourably with anything in the competition line-up. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 14-25 May 2019

LIBERTÉ (2019) **** Un Certain Regard 2019

Dir: Albert Serra | Cast: Cast: Helmut Berger, Marc Susini, Iliana Zabeth, Laura Poulvet, Baptiste Pinteaux, Théodora Marcadé, Alexander García Düttmann | Drama | Spain 132′

Catalan auteur Albert Serra was born in 1975 in Girona and is known for his delicately drawn and exquisitely mounted historical dramas such as La Mort de Louis XIV (2016); Honour of the Knights (Quixotic) 2006; and Story of My Death (2013). And there’s a great deal of exquisite mounting in his latest feature which stars veteran arthouse star Helmut Berger and competes in the Un Certain Regard sidebar.

The theme in Liberté  is essentially voyeurism. If you find yourself in Hampstead Heath on a balmy afternoon you will notice vague male figures wandering around in the shady vegetation. You may even come across a secret tryst (if you are unlucky enough while walking your dog). Take this image and sashay back to the 18th century, somewhere between Potsdam and Berlin, and this is the scenario in Liberté – only here both male and female characters are taking part.

The year is 1774, shortly before the French Revolution. Madame de Dumeval, the Duc de Tesis and the Duc de Wand, libertines expelled from the puritanical court of Louis XVI, seek the support of the legendary Duc de Walchen, German seducer and freethinker, lonely in a country where hypocrisy and false virtue reign. Their mission is to export libertinage, a philosophy of enlightenment founded on the rejection of moral boundaries and authorities, but moreover to find a safe place to pursue their errant games, where the quest for pleasure no longer obeys laws other than those dictated by unfulfilled desires.

This louche cruising amongst bewigged courtiers and aristocrats sounds fascinating, and it is for a while. Soigné and slightly porkier individuals duck and dive in the undergrowth, in various stages of undress, their elegant white linens contrasting with tanned breasts and buttocks, larded legs and bloated beerguts. Very much like Sade, Serra explores the darker side of human desire which gradually becomes more and more explicit to the point where it actually gets a little close for comfort, verging on and eventually becoming explicitly pornographic. There is no narrative as such just a series of vignettes that take place during the hours of darkness one summer night.

Arriving in painted palanquin borne by his henchmen the Duc de Wand (Baptiste Pinteaux) is recounting the execution of an unfortunate individual whose limbs were pulled one by one from his body. Obsessed by bestiality and golden showers, he loves to salivate about his lascivious encounters, often involving dogs or farm animals. Fortunately were are spared the most lurid encounters due to the bosky nocturnal shadows as Artur Tort’s roving camera spies voyeuristically on to various other outré encounters in the semi-darkness of the eucalyptus trees (eucalyptus trees in the 18th century? – check continuity).

Decadence is the watchword here as none of the trysts is particularly joy-filled unless you are into sado masochism or subjugation. The tone is also rather mournful as body fluids are shed and shared. The film’s enigmatic title suggests that these aristos have too much time on their hands and nothing left to lose: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Serra’s film is brave and extraordinary well made. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2019 | SPECIAL JURY PRIZE

 

The Wild Goose Lake (2019) *** Cannes Film Festival 2019

Dir: Diao Yinan | Cast: Hu Ge, Gwei Lun Mei, Laio Fan, Wan Quian, Qi Dao, Huang Jue, Zheng Meihuizi, Zhang Yicong, Chen Yongzhong | China 113′

Chinese writer-director Diao Yinan’s long-awaited follow up to Berlinale winner Black Coal, Thin Ice is a beautiful and beguiling crime caper that somehow fails to deliver the thrills it promises, rather like the bathing beauties who seduce and tease on the murky shores of the Wild Goose Lake of its setting.

This enjoyable and elegantly styled noir thriller is certainly awash with wonderful set-pieces and exquisite visual moments which skilfully echo China’s gilded past and leave us in no doubt of its contempo criminality and territory wars. The enigmatic plot involves a sinuous gangster Zhou Zenong (Hu Ge) on the run from his own mob and the local police, one of whom he shot by accident in a frenzy-fuelled bike escapade along the lake, near the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Sashaying between various timeframes The Wild Goose Lake follows Zenong as he meets up with  with Liu Aiai (Gwei Lun Mei/Black Coal, Thin Ice) one of the bathing beauties (sex workers) who works for his boss, and may have been sent to help him. But the police have also set a ransom on his head so Liu Aiai may be tempted to turn him in.

The two chase through narrow streets and backwaters, Zenong on the run from everybody, including his shop worker wife Yang Shujun (Wan Qian), and Liu Aiai pursuing him in a chase that turns out also to be fuelled by lust. Eventually she catches up with him in a languorous lakeside scene where Zenong is lounging in a becalmed boat, bleeding profusely from his wounds. She seduces him and spits his semen out into the water, from then on the two are close allies. Swinging through the backstreets and side alleys, Dong Jinsong’s fast-moving camerawork skilfully captures the neon drenched ambiance. One scene features dancers rocking to the 70s disco hit “Rasputin” their LED-lit trainers adding a jewel-like dimension to the night setting.

But these are Noirish nights and there’s no happy ending in sight for the lovers as they rush from scene to scene. The Wild Goose Lake is at heart a wild and beautiful goose chase between the cops, the crooks, a gangster on the run and his femme fatale. But when did Noir thrillers ever have a happy ending? MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION 14-25 MAY 2019

 

Cordillera of Dreams (2019) *** Cannes Film Festival 2019

Dir: Patricio Guzman | DoP: Samuel Lahu | Chile, 97′

Patricio Guzman completes the trilogy on his native Chile with this follow-up to The Pearl Button (2015) and Nostalgia for the Light ((2010).

Since moving to Paris over 40 years ago, well-known documentarian Patricio Guzman admits to feeling an outsider on returning to the country of his birth. This latest Cordillera de los Suenos is probably the most politically engaged of the trio with echoes of his seminal work The Battle of Chile (1975-79) but also possibly the least engaging. The mournful reminiscence touches on the relationship between Chile’s history and the natural world but the lively interviews with sculptors and artists whose work focuses on the Andes, soon give way to video footage of the brutal Pinochet years recorded by the prolific photographer Pablo Sala who first began his work in the 1980s and has been filming public life in Chile ever since.

The Cordillera of Dreams (La Cordillere des songes) is certainly a sad reflective film and once again enjoys Guzman’s serene and measured narration which muses on the links between the country’s extraordinary geography and the human tragedy that Chileans experienced since the fateful coup on 11 September 1973, when Guzman left the country and moved to France. He now dreams of returning to his homeland and restoring the dilapidated house where he grew up in Santiago.

“It doesn’t even smell the same” says Guzman of his beloved country tucked away behind the Andes, describing it as a “chest full of poetic dreams”. Like most of the world, Chile has now moved into the 21st century and now enjoys a stable and prosperous economy that welcomes foreign investment. Samuel Lahu’s extraordinary overhead shots of Santiago are magnificent; fuzzy clouds scudding by to reveal the grid pattern of a white city walled by huge snowy mountains — the Andes – stretching to the East. But still the director yearns for the past and his happy childhood – like most of us – but sadly the future has arrived in Chile without him. Capitalism has brought prosperity – but and none of us can bring back the past, however hard we try.

Then we see overhead footage of the ‘ghost trains’ silently transporting Chile’s wealth of copper to the ports to be transported abroad. The privately owned mines are nowhere to be scene and no public roads have access to them. Along with wine, this precious national resource is one of Chile main exports, and there’s nothing new about that. The Pearl Button was fascinating in that it discovered the item from the shirt of a political victim years later at the bottom of the sea, but this film makes no such amazing discoveries, nor does it ask new questions.

We already know that Pinochet was a genocidal maniac who held the country in his thrall from his imposing tower block in Santiago – and we get a tour of the empty building echoing with the ghosts of corrupt generals. And there is ample footage of public beatings and water cannon roving the streets during his bloody regime, thanks to Sala. In his precious trove of videos, he even shows us footage of the column of men, (between 15 and 65 who were removed from their homes), filing off in a large line into the football stadium, that same ground that bore witness years earlier to Chile’s triumph in the World Cup.

But while Guzman fled abroad to the peace and prosperity of France, Pablo Salas remained to face the music, however funereal it was. So perhaps Guzman feels twinges of guilt for abandoning his homeland, and senses that Chile has possibly turned her back on him for disloyalty. Salas, now in his late fifties, is an sympathetic man who is philosophical about his country, swearing he could never leave. In his studio surrounded by boxes and boxes of video material, he is the one who has made it “impossible to erase history” and for that Guzman is grateful. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 2019 | GOLDEN EYE DOCUMENTARY PRIZE

 

 

 

The Orphanage (2019) **** Cannes Film Festival 2019

Dir.: Sharbanoo Sadat; Cast: Quodrattolah Quadri,  Ahmed Fayaz Osmani, Hasibukkah Rasooli, Eshanullah Kharoti, Anwar Hashimi, Asadullah Kabiri; Den/Ger/France/ Lux/Afghanistan 2019, 90 min. 

Writer/director Sharbanoo Sadat (29) won the Quinzaine Main Prize in 2016 for her debut feature Wolf and Sheep, as well as CICAE-Festival Award for “most daring feature”. Born in Tehran, she grew up in a remote village in Afghanistan, that forms the setting of her feature debut, after studying documentary filmmaking in Kabul; The Orphanage is part of a planned quintology based on the diaries of her friend Anwar Hashimi.

Kabul 1989 is under Soviet rule, but teen-cousins Qudrat (Quadri) and Fayaz (Osmani are not really that worried about politics. Qudrat, a Bollywood fan, dreams about becoming a famous actor and the boys make some money selling scalped cinema tickets. Finally, their luck runs out and they land up in a Russian orphanage. There they immediately turn their attentions to the girls in their class, and even the female teachers. Instead of listening to the teacher, Qudrat dreams himself into the role of a heroic lover impressing his beautiful girlfriend – no other than the girl sitting in front of him in class. In his dorm, Fayaz is “christened” ‘Redhead’ by Eshan (Kharoti), the main bully on the block. Meanwhile Eshan’s best friend Asad (Kabiri) steals a new T-shirt and shoes from a much younger boy. The two are then confronted by the supervisor (Hashimi), who stands up for the younger boys. Love-sick Qudrat meanwhile somehow gets into the Deputy Headmistress’s bedroom, while she is asleep. The whole orphanage then heads off to Moscow, to spend time with a ‘Pioneer’ Group. The main focus of the trip is to interest the boys in Soviet ideology by visiting Lenin’s Tomb. But the kids are much more interested in the Pioneer girls. After their return to Kabul, Hasib (Rasoli) and some of his friends find an overturned Soviet tank. They steal bullets, Hasib has a tragic accident when of them explodes. Fayaz comes down with a mystery illness, and is transferred to a psychiatric ward, where he eventually recovers. Eshan challenges one of the younger boys to a chess game, but turns violent when he loses, and the antics eventually come to a head and Eshan is expelled. When the Mujahidin advance on Kabul, Hashimi asks the boys to burn all written material in the courtyard. An impressive finale sees Qudrat again in “cinema mode”, this time in a musical, singing “Death is our Lover”, whilst defending Hashimi from the violent Islamic State soldiers.

Shooting in Tajikistan, DoP Virginie Surdej is able to turn Sadat’s overflowing imagination into stunning images. Qudrat’s wonderfully anarchic “cinema stunts” are brilliant, and the interactions of the boys with their Russian teachers is equally impressive in their subtlety. The ensemble cast is convincing, and Sadat’s untamed approach is a refreshing change from the calculated story-telling in so many films nowadays. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019 | Quinzaine des Réalisateurs 2019

                           

Le Daim (Deerskin) 2019

Dir: Quentin Dupieux | Cast: Jean Dujardin, Adêle Haenel, Albert Delpy, Pierre Commé | Comedy Drama, France 77′

The apparel doth oft proclaim the man, says Polonius and the apparel in Quentin Dupieux’s new film Deerskin doth certainly proclaim Jean Dujardin’s Georges pretty oft.  We first meet Georges in that typical midnight-of-the-soul location: a motorway service station. He is feeling a sudden contempt for his corduroy jacket, trying to stuff it down the toilet. Apparently in the immediate aftermath of a marital breakdown, Georges splurges a huge sum on a second hand 100% deerskin jacket with tassels. Not since Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread has a man been so taken with a sartorial item. Georges’ new jacket is tight for him and weird, and yet he’s so excited about being the height of what he calls “killer style”.

Holing up in a remote mountain hotel, Georges starts to film his jacket with a camcorder (thrown in as part of the jacket deal) and hold conversations with the garment with Dujardin doing both voices. On one level, Georges seems like a pitiable middle-aged man in the midst of a crisis: his bank account is frozen; his wife tells him he no longer exists and he even resorts to eating out of a bin. And yet Georges is armoured by his own delusions which quickly turn psychotic. Befriending a local bartender Denise (the ubiquitous Adêle Haenel), he convinces her he is making a film, which gels with her own ambition to be an editor. But the filmmaking pose is only a way toward securing his more ambitious goal – a dream he vocally shares with his jacket – of eliminating all other jackets; and therefore all other jacket wearers.

It is testament to Dupieux’s skill and the utter commitment of his two leads that Georges madness somehow feels grounded in an ordinary world. And yet it’s a world of ordinary madness. There are no police around and no consequences to the violence, even though Georges doesn’t seem to be hiding the bodies. In fact, he’s filming the killings and Denise is onboard, enthused enough by the footage to start financing the movie herself. Albeit occasionally dense – he doesn’t seem to understand computers – Georges has a fiendish talent for improvisation and the same could be said of the film. Its twists and turns, its toying with expectation, keep the shuttlecock of lunacy airborne long enough for Georges to get himself kitted out with more deerskin products and the movie to turn in some hilarious moments of violence.

Although more recently seen as a straight dramatic actor Haenel has proven comedy chops and she makes Denise both a credible foil and accomplice to Georges. But the power of the movie comes with Dujardin’s performance, which is detailed and astute, comic and unnerving. Dujardin shows Georges to be a vain preening man – he asks women in a bar if they were talking about his jacket – who demands attention and insecurely needs to be the boss. It’s like he’s playing American Psycho via David Brent.

The film is a portrait of toxic masculinity weirdly stripped of its most common denominator: misogyny. Georges doesn’t care for anyone except himself and his jacket. Deerskin is a reductio ad absurdum of male obsession and vanity and it is all done in “Killer Style”.  John Bleasdale

NOW IN CINEMAS | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019 | Quinzaine des Réalisateurs

Sorry We Missed you (2019) *** Cannes Film Festival 2019

Dir: Ken Loach | UK Drama 100′

After his Palme d’Or win in 2015 with I, Daniel Black, Cannes old timer Ken Loach is back with his regular writer Paul Laverty and another slice of social realism with a title that will resonate bitterly if you’re still waiting for that parcel. SORRY WE MISSED YOU takes Loach back to the North East and the streets of Gateshead and Newcastle where hard-up grafter Ricky and his family have been facing an uphill struggle against debt since the 2008 financial crash and the rise of the gig economy and zero contract hours. An opportunity to get back into the black again comes in the shape of a shiny new van and a chance to run his own business as a self-employed delivery driver, but things don’t quite work out as expected despite his best efforts, and we feel for him. Laverty’s script flows along as smoothly as the Tyne in scenes that showcase Loach’s talent for bringing out the best in newcomers in an able cast that includes Kris Hitchen and Debbie Honeywood with Rhys Stone and Katie Proctor as their son and daughter. This time humour and honesty keep sentimentality low key. The locale is very much a character too, Shields Road and Byker which we get to know like the back of our hand in this enjoyable tale of woe, and we have his regular photographer Robbie Ryan to thank for that. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 14-25 MAY 2019

Pain and Glory (2019) **** Cannes Film Festival 2019

Dir: Pedro Almodovar | Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas | Drama, Spain 117’

Pedro Almodóvar has never won the coveted Palme d’Or but here he gets another chance to prove his impressive talents at portraying with probing insight and humanity a variety of tortured characters both male and female. Pain and Glory is a uniquely piquant and personal portrait that takes us into his own heart through the story of another struggling filmmaker. Once again, as we enjoyed in Julieta, this is a confident and passionate affair resonating with the work of many great auteurs before him, Fellini springs to mind, and the film is seductively set to a score by Alberto Iglesias. But this is one of his most subtle almost sensitive works to date that feels convincingly honest and spontaneous, while quailing away from theatricality it is elegant and self-assured. Maybe the Spanish director has finally let down his guard and bared his soul in this rather delicate drama. It follows one Salvador Mallo (his longtime collaborator Antonio Banderas who plays his alter ego with feeling) a filmmaker who has lost his way and now reflects mournfully on his past in lonely solitude as the present quietly collapses around him. And we feel for his quiet pain in every scene as the narrative unfolds in the context of other minor stories. Finally the fourth wall is broken and we discover the truth, in rather an abrupt finale. Mallo opines “a great actor is not the one who cries, but the one who knows how to contain his tears”. Pedro Almodovar has finally come home, but ironically Banderas wins the award. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 14-25 MAY 2019 |Winner Best Actor for Antonio Banderas

 

 

 

Rocketman (2019)

Dir: Dexter Fletcher | Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jamie Bell, Harriet Walter | Fantasy Musical | UK, 121′

The Elton John biopic ROCKETMAN is an all singing all dancing affair with Taron Egerton performing the classic numbers and Dexter Fletcher behind the camera. Feeling rather like Ken Russell directing Roger Daltrey in Tommy without the cinematic qualities: this is just one big theatrical number after the other.

Told through a clever framing device, written by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), this is a proper musical with fantasy sequences sharing an extraordinary human story of the shy but talented schoolboy Reginald Dwight from Pinner who found fame and fortune as one of the most iconic figures in pop culture, only to land up in drug therapy and finally accept his sexual orientation after a failed marriage.

Fletcher has Elton recounting the story looking back through a lens clouded with drug and alcohol abuse, and this gives the film its fantasy element, although although there is very little about what actually makes Elton John tick, and maybe that was a conscious decision to concentrate the narrative on his showman-like qualities, avoiding a warts and all approach. Egerton has a good voice; he performed a version of I’m Still Standing in the comedy animation film Sing (2016). With a nice fat budget of 40 million, Rocketman actually looks glamorous too although but like a great deal of show business, it has no heart or soul. MT

NOW ON BBC iPlayer

Solo (2019) *** ACID at Cannes 2019

Dir: Artemio Benki | Doc France/Czech Rep/Arg/Austria

Psychologists have identified strong links between creativity and mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and even schizophrenia. Some of our most famous writers, artists and musicians have suffered from mental instability: Virginia Woolf was dogged by depression, Ernest Hemingway committed suicide after treatment, Robert Schumann died in a mental home and even Steven Fry admitted to bi-polar when he famously walked away from a role on the London stage.

Producer and director Artemio Benki explores mental affliction in his serene and sensitive documentary screening in the ACID sidebar at Cannes this year. Solo centres on Martín P. a young Argentinean piano virtuoso and composer who has been receiving treatment for his breakdown four years ago as a patient in the controversial psychiatric hospital of El Borda, the largest and most noted of its kind in Latin America. As a child Martin was hailed a musical genius and went on to be the most talented composer of his generation. But for the past four year he has been struggling to get back to the concert stage while composing his latest work Enfermaria. Solo tells his unique yet relatable story, his fight with creativity and his obsession with being the best in a world where perfection and talent require confidence and persistence to thrive. Martin’s essential focus is to find that safe place between ‘insanity’ and ‘normality’ so he can move on and develop his career and his life. MT

SCREENING IN ACID Sidebar | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019

 

5B (2018) **** Cannes Film Festival 2019

Dir: Dan Krauss, Paul Haggis | US, Doc 95′

A new documentary from Oscar nominee Dan Krauss (The Kill Team) and Paul Haggis delves into the history of the first ward in the world for people with AIDS, at San Francisco General Hospital. The film focuses on the unsung heroes, a small collection of nurses and caregivers who banded together to provide courage, compassion and, crucially, touch to those devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the early 1980s. Even pets were allowed to visit their afflicted owners and partners were invited to make the ward their home. 

Spiking their film with moments of sharp humour, the result is a poignant tribute to this tragic time in American history, and a celebration of the quiet heroes worthy of renewed recognition, although the directors do demonise those medical professionals who exercised prudence in their treatment of the patients. Particularly, top orthopaedic surgeon and head of the San Francisco surgical team, Dr Day, who decided to wear protective garments because she wanted, quite understandably, to avoid being infected from the spurting blood of infected patients. Also unpopular was President Reagan who introduced a raft of measures to protect those working in AIDS care. Reagan even considered exiling the sick to their own private island – as the Venetians did to stamp out the plague – and one AIDS sufferer jokes: “we’d be happy to go if it was Santa Catalina island”. Yet it was an era were America was just not ready for people coming out, let along dying at the same time, so these draconian measures were hardly surprising.

Combining archive footage and interviews with those involved and affected, Krauss and Haggis explain that those people first infected with the virus in the late 1970s went downhill rapidly, often dying within months, even weeks. As fear spread throughout the community of San Francisco and beyond, AIDS sufferers lost their jobs and were kicked out of their apartments. One dying caretaker’s desk was even burnt in the parking lot of his building. In contrast, those pioneering individuals, who offered loving support, talk of their own memories: Rita Rockett even staged parties once a week in the ward, offering musical entertainment and food. Grateful patients were allowed to say: “they loved her to bits, but not to death!”

With the arrival of protease inhibitors – antiviral drugs that block the disease – fatalities eventually went into decline in the late 1990s. And many of the talking heads featured in the documentary have lived to tell their tearful tales. Well-paced and informative, 5B is a fascinating film that could have even added a positive twist in the fight for AIDS. These point towards immunity and even the possible eradication of the disease in the not too distant future. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019 | GOLDEN EYE DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

 

Heroes Don’t Die (2019) **** Semaine de la Critique 2019

Dir.: Aude Léa Rapin; Cast: Couzinè Haenel, Antonia Buresi, Jonathan Couzinè, Hasija Boric, Vesna Stilinovic; France, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina 2019, 85 min.

Aude Léa Rapin’s feature debut drama is certainly a unique undertaking. Led by a terrific performance from Adele Haenel (The Unknown Girl) it explores re-incarnation, hope and forgiveness to deliver a passionate conclusion amid the emotional ruins of war.

The films opens with Joachim (Jo) (Couzinè) bursting into the Parisian apartment of his filmmaker friend Alice (Haenel), to report that he might be the reincarnation of a solider who died in Bosnia in August 1983 –  Joachim’s own birthday. Or at least that’s what he has just been told by a man on the street corner. It soon emerges that Alice has spent a long time looking into the aftermath of the Balkan crisis which led to the breakup of Yugoslavia. But she’s not convinced about Joachim’s claims, or his ‘nightmares’ about his military past. Jo is adamant that these are no ordinary bad dreams. So Alice packs her filmmaking equipment and sets off with her sound designer Antonia (Buresi) to Sarajevo, hoping to find a basis for Jo’s former identity as Zoran Tadic, only to discover that the tragedy is by no means over.

On entering the suburbs, they find the mass graves of the victims, with new bodies buried in small coffins – the identifications of victims still going on – often more than 8000 civilians were killed per day. Alice accuses Jo of having made it all up, but then she remembers that a cardiologist did say that Jo could die at any moment after his 35th birthday due to a chronic heart condition. They meet one of Alice’s former sources who takes them to the – now – dilapidated bob sleigh track, used at the Sarajevo Olympics in 1984. They learn, that the track was once the frontline between the two war factions. Later they meet Hajra (Boric), another of Alice’s acquaintances from her war time reporting. And soon she discovers that a beekeeper living on the outskirts of the town of Brutonac, had a husband called Zoran Tadic, who was a soldier in the war. Here the finale is both devastating and breath-taking.

This is a moody, enigmatic drama touched by eternal sadness and Haenel keeps it all together as the deus ex machina of this experiment in poetry, essay and history lesson all rolled in to one. In the end, the audience has to decide if re-incarnation is simple a device for escaping from our sins.AS

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019      

Beanpole (2019) **** Un Certain Regard 2019

Dir: Kantemir Balagov | Writers: Kantemir Balagov, Aleksandr Terekhov | Drama | Russia 114′

A bitter bond of revenge and inter-dependence keeps two Russian women viscerally entwined in Leningrad after the Second World War.

Beanpole is Kantemir Balagov’s follow up to his kidnap thriller Closeness which took the FIPRESCI prize in Un Certain Regard two years ago. Based on a story from The Unwomanly Face of War by Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexeievich, it sees the two women brought to their knees physically and mentally after the war have devastated their city. But life goes on for Iya, a tall rangy blond known as Beanpole (Miroshnichenko), and her friend Masha (Perelygina) who served together on the front, Iya returning early due to a neurological condition, bringing back with her Masha’s little son Pashka (Glazkov) in the autumn of 1945.

This gruelling slow-burner is softened by its gorgeously vibrant aesthetic that lends a jewel-like radiance to the girls’ misery, captured in Kseniya Sereda’s brilliant camerawork. Masha is wilful, mercurial and playfully charismatic – Perelygina is simply mesmerising to watch as she plots her way forward, emotions floating across her face like clouds on a sunny day – Beanpole is a sullen and introverted soul but the two have no one left in the world but each other, and a terrible tragedy that threatens to destroy or deepen their fraught friendship. The sudden intimacy of the girls’ life contrasts with the sheer scale of the horror they have experienced on the front, and the drama is confined to stuffy interiors and hospital wards that seem to stifle the enormity of their emotional pain and suffering. Iya is now a nurse in a local hospital in the late autumn of 1945 and her neurological complaint renders her incapable of movement for several minutes at a time. But Pashka is her pride and joy and their closeness is deeply moving. 

By the time Masha returns from the front, a dreadful event has taken place. And Balagov insightfully explores the shifting dynamic between these two women with impressive maturity for a filmmaker still in his twenties. The men in their life take a backseat to proceedings but are vital to the narrative: the world weary head doctor Nikolai Ivanovich (Andrei Bykov) and Masha’s irritating suitor Sasha (Igor Shirokov) who is the son of a Communist party official. Somehow Sasha’s mother and the doctor get drawn into the complex web of need, revenge, and power.

Leningrad is almost romantic in its postwar atmosphere and Sergei Ivanov’s set design adds a homely folkloric touch to the interiors. Memorable scenes are those outside Sasha’s family dacha, and Masha’s tram ride in the final moments of this striking, intense and emotionally resonant drama. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019 | UN CERTAIN REGARD | BEST DIRECTOR | FIPRESCI

Atlantique (2019) ** Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Mati Diop | Wri: Olivier Demangel | Cast: Traore, Mame Sane, Aminata Kane | Drama 104′

Mati Diop, now 36, is one of the four women, and the only black female director in this year’s Cannes competition line-up. With a French mother and Senegalese father, she grew up in Paris and rose to fame with Simon Killer going on to film, direct and write several short films. Her Dakar-set debut feature Atlantics sees a young girl trapped by her love for an unpaid construction worker and her arranged marriage to a glib entrepreneur.

This Palme d’Or hopeful is similar in many ways to Diop’s short film Atlantiques (2009) and also echoes Alain Gomis’ Aujourd’hui (2012) in its glorious setting by Dakar’s Atlantic coast, atmospherically shot by Claire Mathon. Mame Sane makes for an impressive lead as the feisty but vulnerable central character Ada, but there are tonal inconsistencies and Diop’s attempt to fuse the social realism of the early scenes with the magic realist elements of the final half feel unconvincing and may leave many viewers bewildered.

A confident beginning sees construction workers on the rampage. They have been building the tall skyscraper that gives the city the skyline of a smaller version of Dubai, but are owed  three months’ pay. Assurances from the foreman that the boss, Mr. N’Diaye (Diankou Sembene) will pay up, fall on deaf ears. One of the worker, Souleiman (Traore), meets up with with 17-year-old Ada and the two share passionate embraces on the beach. But this doomed romance is bound to fail: Ada has been betrothed to Omar, a rich man who shuttles between Dakar and Italy, and the wedding is in a few days Meanwhile Souleiman has decided to take off in a pirogue with his mates hoping to find better luck in Spain.

Ada finds out about all this when she meets him later in a bar on the beach run by her friend Dior (Nicole Sougou). Her other friends Fanta (Amina Kane) and Mariama (Mariama Gassama) will be bereft now that the men are leaving town. They have all used their feminine wiles to get ahead financially and this is described by Diop as “Afro capitalist neo-feminism.” And when they see Ada’s new home they are deeply envious, she is utterly unimpressed and actively rebels against the wedding .

Luckily for Ada, someone deeply objects to the horrendous white polyester Louis XV bedroom and set fire to the whole property, although no-one is harmed. The police officer assigned to investigate, Issa (Amadou Mbow), proves unworthy of his job and seems to be suffering unexplained blackouts as proceedings take on a surreal twist with some of the characters developing white, zombie like eyes.

The supernatural soon invades the story as the film morphs into horror mode and the pacing slurs to Al Qadiri’s eerie scores that mixes electronics with African instruments. This tonal shift feels odd and take us by surprise as the action moves predominantly into the night with Diop making great use of the raging Atlantic sea that provides a malevolent background. Her inventive visual ideas mingle well with the film’s undertones of Islamist misogynism, post-imperialism and witch doctors; although these are not developed sufficiently, along with the enigmatic love story, despite the ample running time of nearly two hours. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 14-25 MAY 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Les Miserables (2019) Cannes Film Festival 2019 ***

Dir: Ladj Ly | Drama France 102′

Not to be confused with Victor Hugo’s 1862, Les Miserables is in a way a 21st update of the milieu where the French classic took place. With echoes of TV’s Law & Order Ly channels the anger and malaise of modern city life into his contemporary story, that kicks hard against the system.

Opening with documentary footage showcasing the national unity leading up to France’s 2018 World Cup victory, to the headline “There are no bad plants or bad men; there are only bad cultivators,” is an apposite one that could apply to dogs and children as well.

This good cop, bad cop urban thriller follows a day in the life of officer Stéphane (played by Damien Bonnard), who’s recently fetched up the backwater of Montfermeil from the almost genteel by comparison town of Cherbourg. Ly – who directed and co-wrote the debut feature from his own short film – grew up in this badass council estate and we soon find out that the cops are as venal as many of the locals they victimise. This soon emerges when Stephane is tasked with shadowing two Anti-Crime Squad officers, Chris (played by the distinctly unappealing (co-writer) Manenti, a really nasty piece of work, and his black sidekick Gwada (Djebril Zonga) who, interestingly, also abuses his power, and almost manages to corrupt Stephane’s straightforwardness and strong sense of public duty. The trio roam around the neighbourhood where drug dealers are free to peddle their wares and kids run wild. Meanwhile the local Muslims try to go about their business, and a petty criminal called Issa, who has stolen a baby lion from the circus, nearly loses his eye when Gwada fires a flash-ball gun further adding to mayhem. Clearly Ly is playing things up for dramatic effect but it also transpires that this community has more or less been abandoned by the authorities for so long that it has developed its own dog eat dog existence. And this sad fact is portrayed with a great deal of humour and humanity by Ly and his co-writers Alex Manenti and .Giordano Gederlini.

Julien Poupard’s camera captures the area warts and all with his brilliant images, often from the officers’ moving car and this is amplified by drone footage, adding considerably to the gritty allure of this everyday story of life in a place where little has seemingly changed in nearly 200 years. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019 | 14-25 May 2019

Bull (2019) *** Un Certain Regard

Dir: Annie Silverstein | Drama | 104′

Annie Silverstein’s feature debut is muscular filmmaking at its best: high on atmosphere the enigmatic narrative ebbs and flows but there’s no major dramatic heft just plenty of pulsating moments of tension.

The story centres on 14-year-old protagonist, Kris (Amber Havard), who has no father to speak of and a mother (Sara Albright) in prison; without anyone to guide her she hangs out with lowlifes in a downtrodden community — directionless and full of doubt. There are shades of The Rider and Bullhead here but none of that strong storytelling.

Guided by her grandmother (Keeli Wheeler) while her mother’s behind bars, she also takes care of her little sister. Her pit bull terrier menaces and kills the chickens belonging to her African-American neighbour, almost getting her a criminal record.  Abe (a towering Rob Morgan) decides not to press charges, on the proviso that Kris agrees to help out around the house. Abe was once a Bull Rider pro, but now works as a rodeo protection advisor, bating the bulls so they chase the cowboys. Naturally, he’s a hardbitten but appealing character and there’s a terrific scene where he stares down a bull as it cowers visibly in its pen. The focus gradually moves towards Abe and he carries the film along with Kris, who exudes vulnerability but also teenage nous.

BULL is certainly a powerful first film, so perhaps Silverstein will emerge with a stronger narrative next time, building on this impressive start with its appealing cinema vérité style. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019

The Unknown Saint (2019) **** Semaine de la Critique 2019

Dir.: Alaa Eddine Aljem; Cast: Younes Bouab, Salah Bensalah, Bouchaits Essamak, Mohmed Naimane, Anas El Vaz, Hassan Ben Bdida, Abdelhaini Kitab, Ahmed Yarziz; Morocco/France/Qatar/Germany, Lebanon; 100 min.

Alaa Eddine Aljem’s debut feature is a little gem: filmed with great confidence, it is the story of a thief in a small Moroccan desert village trying to recover his loot, while the villagers pray for rain. In tune with its sun-baked environment the tautly inventive narrative unfolds in a languid style in scenes showcasing the fleshed out characters and talented cast.

On the run from the police, a young thief Amine (Bouab)has just time enough to bury his booty on a desert hill, camouflaging the scene as a modest grave. Ten years later, Amine and his accomplice, simply called “The Brain” (Bensalah) for his lack of the grey matter, return to discover a Mausoleum for an unknown Saint has been built over the grave. No rain has fallen for over a decade and the villagers are desperate; one of them, Hassan (Essamak) wants to go elsewhere, but his father Brahim (Naimane), the religious leader of the village holds him back. Then there is Aziz (Kitab), the self-appointed mausoleum guard who treats his son with contempt, his life revolving around his Alsatian dog. For some unknown reason, the new doctor (El Baz) is only getting women patients at his surgery. His long suffering nurse (Ben Bdida), who survives on alcohol and weed, explains that the women use the surgery as a “hangout”, while collecting their prescriptions. Meanwhile, Amine and his helper wonder how to tackle Aziz so they can recover the loot. This is a sinuous and slow-burning drama with just enough irony not to reduce it to a farce. The characters are larger than life, appealing despite their foibles and full of humanity and charm. Even the two criminals come across as incompetent bunglers rather than hard-edged thieves. DoP Amine Berrada uses the desert as a majestic background, his panoramas are impressive, particularly the night shots. Judging by this impressive debut, Aljem is a filmmaker with a bright future ahead of him.  

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | Wednesday 15 May 2019 |11.30am

 

     

   

The Dead Don’t Die (2019) Cannes 2019 ****

Dir: Jim Jarmusch | Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray | 103′ US Fantasy Horror

The peaceful town of Centreville finds itself up against it when the (un) dead start rising from their graves in Jim Jarmusch’s first zombie escapade.

THE DEAD DON’T DIE is the first festival opener to also vie for the Palme d’Or in the main competition this year at Cannes. Jarmusch has won all sorts of awards in previous editions – The Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award (Broken Flowers); Best Artistic Contribution (Mystery Train); The Golden Camera (Stranger than Paradise); and Coffee and Cigarettes III was awarded the Best Short film in 1993 , but he’s never actually taken home the top prize. And it’s possible he will with this flip but fun affair with its slim but subtle undercurrents.

Most of the starry cast are ripped apart and end up thoroughly the worst for wear by the time we get Sturgill Simpson’s catchy title tune on the brain for the journey home. But this audience pleaser will certainly go down in history with the best of them – but my money’s still on Shaun of the Dead for sheer deadpan weirdness of the cult classic kind.

The police are the first to notice untoward goings on. Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) and Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) are alerted to local power cuts and watches going awry in sleepy Centreville. And Jarmusch brings the same deadpan humour to bear as did Edgar Wright, the dead coming alive in the eerie torpor that many claim is due to climate change.

The town’s cop trio is made up by token female Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny), and Danny Glover’s Hank Thompson is the token black resident who makes it possible for Buscemi’s Farmer Miller to add the requisite element of racial abuse. Other denizens include Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton), who gets to flex her Scottish credentials with a hefty samurai sword. The younger generation are there in the shape of Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez, Austin Butler and Luka Sabbat who roam around their numbers gradually multiplying as the story staggers on. Then there’s a classic village loner (Tom Waits) who seems to go under the zombies’ radar, perhaps because he’s so like them.

But a wry nonchalant bonhomie permeates this dozy undead drama and maybe Jarmusch is alluding here to the dumbed-down society we live in nowadays – their unaware, don’t care attitude is the most darkly worrying aspect. Crafty old Jarmusch is using his zombie outing as a wrapper to satirise all our current ills. Even the authorities seem brain dead with Tilda giving the only sparky thrill to the piece as the slightly unhinged oddball. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 14-25 May 2019 | IN COMPETITION

Go Where You Look! Falling off Snow Mountain (2019) Directors’ Fortnight 2019

Dirs: Laurie Anderson, Hsin-Chien Huang Virtual Reality Creation | US/China

Anderson and Hsin-Chien collaborate in three virtual reality installations presented together for the very first time at this year’s  Quinzaine.

If you’ve not experienced virtual reality it really is a transformative experience: Rather like diving you enter a whole new world, but with VR you can’t actually see your body during the process.

Laurie Anderson is a musician, filmmaker, writer, digital arts creative pioneer and, ultimately, a storyteller in the broadest sense. She discovered VR only recently and her new way of exploring narrative territories is a good way to start. New media artist Hsin-Chien Huang, who has a background in in art, design, and digital entertainment. His VR collaboration with Laurie Anderson was awarded the Best VR Experience in at Venice Film Festival in 2017. But they first worked together in 1995 on the CD-ROM Puppet Motel. 

AloftChalkroom and To the Moon, are three poetically linked and complementary pieces presented together, and each lasting around fifteen minutes. The sensory, poetic and technological dimensions of these three pieces are tightly intertwined and and considerably amplify our cinematic experience, and this one takes place in Le Suquet morgue, just to add a  surreal twist to the proceedings.

Rocking a very soigné Issy Miyake rigout, Anderson explains that there are no cameras or lenses involved in Go Where You Look and it all feels very physical and interactive, as the audience very much influence the outcome of each tour. You sit on a stool, pop on a headset and the show takes off. 

ALOFT is the nearest thing to experiencing a place crash – in the most serene way possible. As the sole passenger in the airline you begin to notice some shafts of light appearing in the ceiling and floor near the cockpit. Gradually the plane starts to fall apart, in a gentle way. Suddenly you’re floating in your seat towards what looks like a town with to connected rivers. The black box floats by, and soon other objects come into view and float by as you head towards a luminous vortex. If you grab them with your gloves paws, Laurie’s voice then tells a story. There’s a lily, a mobile ‘phone and a lump of coal. If you snatch the coal it turns out to be Mars and soon you’re hovering above the Martian landscape. A typewriter appears and you can write your name as the letters floats high up into the black stratosphere. Other experiences include a placid lake. Your hands soon turn into horses legs. 

TO THE MOON uses images and tropes from Greek mythology, literature, science, sci fi space mo- vies and politics to create an imaginary and dark new moon, and a more formal narrative structure. During the 15-minute VR experience, you take off from Earth and soar up towards the blackness which then becomes the surface of the Moon. The eeriest thing is being able to see Earth revolving with Europe stretching before you. You can then climb a lunar mountain before returning – eventually – to Earth, your two handsets guiding you forward, or even speeding you up. You see the Constellations, the Great Bear etc evaporating before your eyes. In Snow Mountain you actually climb the mountain before your virtual body dramatically tumbles away into deep space, Laurie Anderson’s voice chanting about not knowing where we all came from. In the Donkey Ride you the viewer trot along on the back of a donkey through the lunar landscape. Eventually you float up and away into a universe of stars that begins to explode like fireworks.

Certainly different and worth experiencing. Maybe one day virtual reality will be able to re-create experiences that are more personalised. For example you could embark on a world tour, or even be united with a long lost lover or a a friend of family member who has passed on. MT

QUINZAINE | 15 -24 May 2019 | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019  

 

Cannes 2019 – Final additions…

COMPETITION SCREENINGS 

Thierry Fremaux hinted that there may be final additions to the official line-up and here they are – with his comments.

Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino (2 hrs 45)

“We were afraid the film would not be ready, as it wouldn’t be ready until late July, but Quentin Tarantino, who has not left the editing room in four months, is a real, loyal and punctual child of Cannes! He’ll definitely be at Cannes this year, as he was  Inglourious Basterds,  – 25 years after the Palme d’or for Pulp Fiction – with a finished film screened in 35mm and his cast in tow (Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt). His film is a love letter to the Hollywood of his childhood, a rock music tour of 1969, and an ode to cinema as a whole.

He added: “In addition to thanking Quentin and his crew for spending days and nights in the editing room, the Festival wants to give special thanks to the teams at Sony Pictures, who made all of this possible.”

Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo by Abdellatif Kechiche (4 hrs)

French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche returns to Cannes with the Intermezzo of Mektoub, my Love six years after his Palme d’or with La Vie d’Adèle (Blue Is the Warmest Color). The groundwork for this saga storytelling and extraordinary portrait of French youth in the 90s was laid in his Canto Uno, and it will be a pleasure to see its cast again.”

MIDNIGHT SCREENING

Lux Æterna by Gaspar Noé (50 min)

“Two actresses, Béatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg, are on a film set telling stories about witches – but that’s not all. Lux Æterna is also an essay on cinema, the love of film, and on-set hysterics. It’s a brilliant fast-paced medium-length film for Gaspar Noé’s return – an unexpected one until recently – to the Official Selection, for a film that the Selection Committee watched at the last minute and which will be shown in a Midnight Screening as hyped as it is mysterious.”

UN CERTAIN REGARD

La famosa invasione degli orsi in Sicilia by Lorenzo Mattotti (1 hr 22)

“Adapted from Dino Buzzati’s children’s book, this animated film by illustrator and comic book author Lorenzo Mattotti is a visual extravaganza, whose graphic ingenuity and colour work will delight much wider audiences than the fans of the Italian master. With Italian voices by Toni Servillo, Antonio Albanese, and Andrea Camilleri, and French voices by Leïla Bekthi, Arthur Dupont, and Jean-Claude Carrière. Like the other Un Certain Regard film in animation Les Hirondelles de Kaboul (The Swallows of Kabul) by Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobbé-Mevellec, La famosa invasione degli orsi in Sicilia will also be competing next June at the acclaimed Annecy International Animated Film Festival.”

Odnazhdy v Trubchevske by Larissa Sadilova (1h30)

“Russian filmmaker Larissa Sadilova, who already directed six features, hadn’t shot a film in several years. She is back with this “chronicle from the village of Troubtchevsk”, evoking the feelings of love in the contemporary Russian countryside, shooting characters played by her formidable actors with refined direction and a gentle eye. Women aspirations, their patience, the courage that has to be displayed towards an always illusory emancipation, desire, frustration, and a certain sense of immemorial fatalism are all examined, acutely and without weight. It will be the first time the Festival de Cannes welcomes Larissa Sadilova.”

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Chicuarotes by Gael García Bernal (1 hr 35)

“A full-fledged member of Mexico’s exceptionally talented generation, a first-rate actor in films by Iñárritu and Cuarón, Gael García Bernal, along with Diego Luna, is a devotee of Cannes, where he was on the Jury in 2014. Chicuarotes is the actor’s second feature film where he takes a deep dive into Mexican society with a story about teenagers that is an affectionate portrayal, continuing in Mexican cinema’s tradition to pay homage to its eternal country, film after film.”

La Cordillera de los sueños by Patricio Guzmán (1 hr 24)

“Patricio Guzmán left Chile more than 40 years ago when the military dictatorship took over the democratically-elected government, but he never stopped thinking about a country, a culture, and a place on the map that he never forgot. After covering the North in Nostalgia for the Light and the South in The Pearl Button, his shots get up-close with what he calls “the vast revealing backbone of Chile’s past and recent history.” La Cordillera de los sueños is a visual poem, an historical inquiry, a cinematographic essay, and magnificent personal exercise in soul-searching.”

Ice on Fire by Leila Conners (1 hr 38)

“In 2007, Leila Conners screened The 11th Hour at Cannes, a hard-hitting documentary about climate change produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. The Festival screens conflict documentaries as part of a strong and proud tradition, like it also did with An Inconvenient Truth by Davis Guggenheim, which won an Oscar and earned Al Gore a Nobel Peace Prize. Twelve years later as the alarm bells are still multiplying all around the world (and more!), Leila Conners and Leonardo DiCaprio teamed up again on the same topic to make a film with an eloquent title: Ice on Fire. ”

5B by Dan Krauss (1 hr 33)

“In the 1980s, only a number and letter were used to designate a ward at San Francisco General Hospital, the first in the country to treat patients with AIDS. While a portion of society saw these patients as pariahs, the male and female caregivers in 5B chose a different route. This film is their story.

Directed by Dan Krauss, 5B is a film about a past that questions our present. It will be distributed in the United States, all around the world, and in France, which in October will be hosting the world conference for all fund-raisers donating money over the next three years to fight HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. U2 singer Bono has been a fervent champion of the cause – and of this film, which he will be coming to Cannes to support.”

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 14 – 25 MAY 2019 

Cannes Classics 2019

The 25 years of La Cité de la peur, a Midnight Screening of The Shining presented by Alfonso Cuarón, the 50 years of the mythical Easy Rider in the company of Peter Fonda, Luis Buñuel in the spotlight with three films, the attendance of Lina Wertmüller, the Grand Prix of 1951 Vittorio De Sica’s Miracle in Milan, a final salute to Milos Forman, the first Japanese animated film in color, the World Cinema Project and the Film Foundation of Martin Scorsese, documentaries about cinema and History, masterpieces known and rare films in restored version from countries rarely honored, this is the new edition of Cannes Classics—the first section dedicated to heritage cinema ever created in a major festival.  

 The majority of the films will be screened at Buñuel Theater, Salle du 60e or at the Cinéma de la Plage, all presented by major players in the film heritage: directors, artists or restoration managers.

The 50 years of the mythical Easy Rider

Presented half a century ago on the Croisette, in Competition at the Festival de Cannes, the film won the Prize for a first work. Co-writer, co-producer and lead actor, Peter Fonda will be in Cannes at the invitation of the Festival to celebrate this anniversary.
Easy Rider (1969, 1h35, USA) by Dennis Hopper

Restored in 4K by Sony Pictures Entertainment in collaboration with Cineteca di Bologna. Restored from the 35mm Original Picture Negative and 35mm Black and White Separation Masters. 4K scanning and digital image restoration by Immagine Ritrovata. Audio restoration from the 35mm Original 3-track Magnetic Master by Chace Audio and Deluxe Audio. Color grading, picture conform, additional image restoration and DCP by Roundabout Entertainment. Colorist: Sheri Eisenberg. Restoration supervised by Grover Crisp.

Midnight Screening of The Shining 

The ultimate horror film for an event screening presented by Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón.
The Shining by Stanley Kubrick (1980, 2h26, UK / USA)

A Presentation of Warner Bros. The 4K remastering was done using a new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative. The mastering was done at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging, and the color grading was done by Janet Wilson, with supervision from Stanley Kubrick’s former personal assistant Leon Vitali.

The 50 years ofLa Cité de la peur

The cult comedy of comic group Les Nuls will be screened at Cannes Classics au Cinéma de la Plage upon the occasion of the 4K restoration of the film for its 25th anniversary with Alain Chabat, Chantal Lauby and Dominique Farrugia in attendance.
La Cité de la peur, une comédie familiale (1994, 1h39, France) by Alain Berbérian

Presented by Studiocanal. A restoration by Studiocanal and TF1 Studio . 4K scanning 16bits from the original negative 35mm on Lasergraphics director. The pre-calibration was done in a projection room equipped by a 4k projector 4k Christie Laser by Pascal Bousquet and additional work of filtering, dusting was done to compensate the imperfection due to the age of the film. Optical illusion composited on DI on Flame to remain close to the quality of the original negative. Calibration validated by Laurent Dailland, director of photography. Original digital sound was used without modification. Work of remastering done by VDM Laboratory.

Luis Buñuel in the spotlight with three films

Three films by Mexican director and screenwriter, with Spanish origin, will be shown this year.
Los Olvidados (The Young and the Damned) (1950, 1h20, Mexico) by Luis Buñuel

Presented by the World Cinema Project. Restored by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project at L’Immagine Ritrovata in collaboration with Fundación Televisa, Cineteca Nacional Mexico, and Filmoteca de la UNAM. Restoration funding provided by The Material World Foundation.

Nazarín (1958, 1h34, Mexico) by Luis Buñuel

Presented by Cineteca Nacional Mexico. 3K Scan and 3K Digital Restoration from the original 35mm image negative (preserved by Televisa) and prints positive materials from Cineteca Nacional. Restoration made and financed by Cineteca Nacional Mexico. Mastered in 2K for Digital Projection.

L’Âge d’or (The Golden Age) (1930, 1h, France) by Luis Buñuel

Presented by La Cinemathèque française. A 4K restoration of The Golden Age was done by la Cinemathèque française and le Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Experimental cinema’s department, at Hiventy Laboratory for the image and at L.E. Diapason’s studio for the sound, using the original nitrate negative, original sound and safety elements.

Tribute to Lina Wertmüller

The first woman director ever nominated as a director at the Academy Awards in 1977 for Pasqualino Settebellezze, Lina Wertmüller will introduce the film with lead actor Giancarlo Giannini in attendance.
Pasqualino Settebellezze (Seven Beauties) (1975, 1h56, Italy) by Lina Wertmüller

Presented by Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca Nazionale. Restored by Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca Nazionale with the support of Genoma Films and Deisa Ebano from the original 35mm picture and optical soundtrack negative made available by RTI S.p.A. Digital scanning and restoration work carried out by Cinema Communications in Rome.

The 1951 “Palme d’or”

The Palme d’or was created in 1955 but the Grand Prix awarded to Miracle in Milan by Vittorio De Sica was the equivalent.
Miracolo a Milano (Miracle in Milan) (1951, 1h40, Italy) by Vittorio De Sica

Presented by Cineteca di Bologna. Restored by Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and Compass Film, in collaboration with Mediaset, Infinity TV, Artur Cohn, Films sans frontières and Variety Communications at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. 4K Scan and Digital Restoration from the original 35mm camera negative and a vintage dupe positive. Colour grading supervised by DoP Luca Bigazzi.

Milos Forman

A devotee of the Festival de Cannes, a former President of the Jury, a director with several lives, Milos Forman passed away one year ago. The restoration of his second film and a documentary will give us the opportunity to pay our tribute and remember him.
Lásky jedné plavovlásky (Loves of a Blonde) (1965, 1h21, Czech Republic) by Milos Forman

A presentation of the Národní filmový archiv, Prague. 4K digital restoration based on the original camera done by the Universal Production Partners and Soundsquare in Prague, 2019. The donors of this project were Mrs. Milada Kučerová and Mr. Eduard Kučera. Restored in partnership with the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and the Czech Film Fund. French distribution: Carlotta Films.

Forman vs. Forman (Czech Republic / France, 1h17) by Helena Trestikova and Jakub Hejna

Presented by  Negativ Film Productions, Alegria Productions, Czech Television, ARTE. A powerful documentary that recounts with emotion the career of director Milos Forman, from the Czech New Wave to Hollywood. Oscars, politics and political upheavals for a life in the service of cinema.

All the restored films of Cannes Classics 2019

Toniby Jean Renoir (1934, 1h22, France)

Presented by Gaumont. First digital restoration in 4K presented by Gaumont with the support of the CNC. Restoration done by L’image retrouvée in Bologna and Paris.

Le Ciel est à vous (1943, 1h45, France) by Jean Grémillon

Presented by TF1 Studio. Restaured version in 4K using two intermediate and a duplicate done by TF1 studio, with the support of the CNC and Coin de Mire cinéma. Digital and photochimical work done by L21 laboratory.

Moulin Rouge (1952, 1h59, UK) by John Huston 

Presented and restored by The Film Foundation in collaboration with Park Circus, Romulus Films and MGM with additional funding provided by the Franco-American Cultural Fund, a unique partnership between the Directors Guild of America (DGA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musique (SACEM), and the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW).   Restored from the 35mm Original Nitrate 3-Strip Technicolor Negative. 4K scanning, color grading, digital image restoration and film recording by Cineric, Inc., New York. Colorist: Daniel DeVincent. Audio restoration by Chace Audio. Restoration Consultant: Grover Crisp.

Kanal (They Loved Life) (1957, 1h34, Poland) by Andrzej Wajda

Presented by Malavida, in association with Kdr. Scanned, calibrated and restored in 4K under the artistic supervision of Andrzej Wajda and Jerzy Wójcik, second DOP, and regular collaborator of Wajda (Ashes and Diamonds) and one of the greatest Polish DOP. Technical supervision: Waldermar Makula. 4k Scan from the original negative, image and sound. Producted by Studio Filmowe Kadr with the participation of  Filmoteka Narodowa. French distribution: Malavida. International Sales: Studio Filmowe Kadr.

Hu shi ri ji (Diary of a Nurse) (1957, 1h37, China) by Tao Jin

Presented by IQIYI et New Ipicture Media co., ltd (NIPM). 4K Scan and 3K Digital Restoration from the original 35mm print positive materials mastered in 2K. Restoration financed by IQIYI & NIPM, and made by L’Immagine Ritrovata (Italy) and Laser Digital Film SRL (Italy).

Hakujaden (The White Snake Enchantress) (1958, 1h18, Japan) by Taiji Yabushita

Presented by  Toei Animation Company, ltd., Toei company, ltd. et and National Archive of Japan. The project celebrates the 100th year anniversary for the birth of Japan animation and 60th anniversary for the original theatrical release in 1958.
4K scan and restoration from the original negative, 35mm print, tape materials, and animation cels by Toei lab tech co., ltd. et Toei digital center are carried out. The restored data is stored in 2K.

125 Rue Montmartre (1959, 1h25, France) by Gilles Grangier

Presented by Pathé. 4K Scan and 2k restoration, using the original safety negative (negative image, intermediate and negative optique sound) Work done by Eclair laboratory for the image and L.E Diapason (Léon Rousseau) for the sound part. Restored with the support of the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC).

A tanú (The Witness) (1969, 1h52, Hongrie) by Péter Bacsó

The original uncensored  version presented by the Hungarian National Film Fund – Film Archive. The film was restored in 4K using the original camera negative and outtakes, the only existing uncensored positive print and the original magnetic sound. The restoration was carried out at the Hungarian Filmlab. The digital colour grading was supervised by Tamás Andor (HSC, Hungarian Society of Cinematographers).

Tetri karavani (The White Caravan) (1964, 1h37, Georgia) by Eldar Shengelaia and Tamaz Meliava

Presented by Georgian National Film Center. 4K Scan from 35mm, digital restoration (color, grading, stabilization). Restoration financed by the Georgian National Film Center, the restoration made by National Archives of Georgia.

Director Eldar Shengelaia in attendance.

Plogoff, des pierres contre des fusilsby Nicole Le Garrec (1980, 1h48, France)

Presented by Ciaofilm. Restored in 2k from the original negative 16mm image. Sound restoration from the 16mm magnetic. Work done by Hiventy laboratory  under the supervision of Ciaofilm and Pascale Le Garrec, with the help of the CNC, Région Bretagne and the Cinemathèque de Bretagne. Distributed by Next Film Distribution.

Director Nicole Le Garrec in attendance.

Caméra d’Afrique  (20 Years of African Cinema) by Férid Boughedir (1983, 1h38, Tunisia / France)

Presented by the CNC. Restoration: Laboratory of the CNC. 2K scan from the original 16mm image negative. Sound restoration : Hiventy. This movie fits into the restoration scheme initiated by L’Institut français and the CNC, supervised by the commitee for the African cinematographic heritage. Right-holders: Marsa film. French Distribution: Les Films du Losange.

Director Férid Boughedir in attendance. 

Dao ma zei (The Horse Thief ) (1986, 1h28, China) by Tian Zhuangzhuang and Peicheng Pan

Presented by Xi’An Film Studio. 4K Scan and 4K 48 fps digital restoration from the 35mm original camera negative. Restoration financed and made by China Film Archive.

Director Tian Zhuangzhuang  and Cinematographer Hou Yong in attendance. 

The Doors (1991, 2h20, USA) by Oliver Stone

Presented by Studiocanal, in partnership with Paramount, Lionsgate and Imagine Ritrovatta. Restored in 4k, initiated and supervised by Oliver Stone from the original negative, scanned in 4k 16 bits on ARRISCAN at Fotokem US. Restoration managed by Imagine Ritrovatta in Italy. Calibrated work supervised by Oliver Stone. Immersive soundtrack thanks to the Atmos mix created by Formosa Group, Hollywood, under the supervision of Dolby and original mixers of the film Wylie Stateman and Lon Bender. The movie can be seen in 7.1 and 5.1. Remastered 4K now available in 4K Cinema, UHD Dolby Vision and Atmos.

Documentaries

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (USA, 1h34) by Midge Costin

Presented by Dogwoof and Cinetic Media.

The biggest directors and artists make us immerse in the history and impact of sound in cinema: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Barbra Streisand, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Patty Jenkins, Robert Redford, Ryan Coogler, David Lynch, Sofia Coppola, Christopher Nolan, Ang Lee, Walter Murch. A rich, fascinating and essential documentary.

Les Silences de Johnny (55mn, France) by Pierre-William Glenn

Presented by les films du Phœnix  in coproduction with Ciné+.

A personal and moving portrait of actor Johnny Hallyday by great cinematographer, director and friend of Johnny’s Pierre-William Glenn.

La Passione di Anna Magnani(1h, Italy / France) by Enrico Cerasuolo

Presented by les Films du Poisson and Zenit Arti Audiovisive.

The destiny of legendary actress Anna Magnani through archive footage, often unpublished. To dive into the history of Italian cinema.

Cinecittà – I mestieri del cinema Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy, 55mn) by Mario Sesti

Presented by Erma Pictures in collaboration with Cinecittà Luce.

A presentation of Erma Pictures in collaboration with Cinecittà Luce.

The last interview of the Master Bertolucci who recalls his work with precision, delicacy and philosophy. A movie lesson.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019 | 15-25 May 2019

 

Cannes Film Festival –

Thierry Frémaux (now general delegate) has unveiled the 2019 official selection. And this year’s Cannes looks to be a glittering number with plenty of real stars gracing the Croisette (Elton John, Isabelle Huppert, Tilda Swinton and Claude Lelouch), four female filmmakers in the main Competition line-up which strikes a good balance of well known auteurs and new filmmakers – and some promising British Films: Dexter Fletcher’s biopic Rocketman; Asif Kapadia new documentary about his hero Diego Maradona, and another dose of dour social realism from Ken Loach. Cannes and Netflix are still at loggerheads – in the best possible way – but where would Cannes be without a little controversy to hit to headlines…

The four Palme d’Or hopefuls directed by women are— Mati Diop’s Atlantique (she was memorable in Simon Killer);Jessica Hausner’s Sci-fi-ish debut Little Joe stars Ben Whishaw and Emily Beecham in a story set in the world of genetic engineering (left); Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire (with its all female cast) and Justine Triet’s Sibyl a psychotherapist themed drama which has distinct echoes of Ozon‘s l’Amant Double. Infact, 13 of the 51 filmmakers (about 25%) are women. And Thierry intends to continue with the trend.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won the festival’s directing prize for Babel in 2006 will head up the jury. This year’s official poster (above) pays tribute to the director Agnès Varda, who died last month at age 90, and features an image from her final film La Pointe Courte. And for the first time ever, the opening film Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die will also play in competition. Styled as a zombie comedy is has a superb cast: Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny and Tilda Swinton.

Also in the main competition is Pedro Almodovar with Pain and Glory described as a fictionalised auto-biopic. He’s be nominated before but never won the Palme so it would be a feather in the Oscar winner’s cap. Canadian Xavier Dolan is back with a Quebec-set drama Matthias and Maxime. Il Traditore is Marco Bellocchio’s drama about Tommaso Buscetta the first mafia informant in 1980’s Sicily. Ira Sachs’s Frankie is set in the bewitching town of Sintra which will add another dimension to the story starring festival doyenne Isabelle Huppert along with Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear and Jérémie Renier. Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu tries his hand at comedy with The Whistlers which unites him once again with Vlad Ivanov (Hier and Sunset). Ladj Ly is the only first time filmmaker on the comp list and he brings a drama expanded from his 2017 short entitled Les Miserables about the Seine-Saint-Denis anti-crime brigade. Veteran favourites The Dardennes Brothers will be there will Muslim-themed Young Ahmed. Malick’s A Hidden Life (aka Radegund) explores the life of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian conscientious objector to the Third Reich who was executed in 1943 and contains final performances from Michael Nqyvist and Bruno Ganz, sadly no longer with us.

Other directors returning to competition include Oh Mercy, a Roubaix-set crime drama from Arnaud Desplechin and a family drama from South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho (Okja). And Cannes regular Kleber Mendonça Filho co-directs his latest (with Juliano Dornelle), a horror film entitled Bacurau.

Un Certain Regard sidebar has films from Catalan auteur Albert Serra – Liberté – and The Wild Goose Lake, a Chinese thriller by Diao Yinan (Black Coal, Thin Ice). Bruno Dumont’s follow up to Maid of Orleans story Jeannette (2017) is simply called Joan of Arc. 

And where would Cannes be without the megastars of the Riviera? Double Oscar-winning Claude Lelouch claimed the Palme d’Or back in 1966 with the iconic Un Homme et Une Femme. And he follows this up with the same classic duo in The Best Years of a Life (Out of Competition) uniting Jean-Louis Trintignant with Anouk Aimée. Veteran heavyweights Abel Ferrara and Werner Herzog also join the party.

TV-wise there will be a chance to sample Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s 10-parter  Too Old to Die Young. Venice started the TV-streaming service trend, and Cannes has now joined the bandwagon.

Thierry Frémaux left the press conference with his usual cheeky promise that other titles will soon be announced. And everyone was excited to hear that these could include Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood exploring the final years of the Golden Era with a starry line-up of Al Pacino, Leonard DiCaprio, Dakota Fanning and Margot Robbie.

For the time being no Netflix films will be included in the Palme d’Or competition, indeed the streaming giant does not have a film ready in time to be presented this year. Martin Scorsese has declared that special affects have delayed his entry of The Irishman which was very much on the cards for Thierry Frémaux and Pierre Lescure, and will now most likely appear at Venice.

Other regulars and possible contenders are Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems and the latest from Noah Baumach and Ad Astra from James Gray. So watch this space. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 14 -25 MAY 2019

Jury

Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Elle Fanning

Maimouna N’Diaye

Kelly Reichardt

Alice Rohracher

Enki Bilal

Robin Campillo

Yorgo Lanthimos

Pawel Pawlikowski

 

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