Archive for the ‘CANNES FILM FESTIVAL’ Category

The Substance (2024) Best Screenplay Cannes

 

Dir: Coralie Fargeat | Cast: Demi Moore, Margot Qualley, Denis Quaid  |

The Substance is a loud, lewd, violent sci-fi shocker about the horrors of ageing for women. French filmmaker Coralie Fargeat’s flashy follow-up to her vicious vengeance thriller (Vengeance) follows Demi Moore’s fading fitness fanatic, Elizabeth Sparkle, a one-time LA TV aerobics star, fall by the wayside when her younger version Sue (Margot Qualley) takes over. Their reptilian boss-man Harvey (Denis Quaid) announces his intention to give Liz the push, and she overhears the damning conversation in a garish red public loo just like the one in The Shining.

Sue has firmer buttocks, peachier skin, and sparklier eyes. But when Elizabeth discovers ‘The Substance’, an injectable youth-giving elixir, warning bells ring. And very loudly at that. Expect plenty of squelching body horror, gore, 80’s style spandex and Alien style images. A sad, but inevitable, indictment on modern Hollywood. @MeredithTaylor.

Coralie Fargeat has won best screenplay at #Cannes2024 for ‘The Substance’CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

 

 

Grand Tour (2024) Best Screenplay Cannes 2024

Dir: Miguel Gomes | Cast: Crista Alfaiate, Gonçalo Waddington, Cláudio da Silva, Lang Khê Tran | Fantasy drama 129′

Mariana Ricardo, Telmo Churro, Maureen Fazendeiro, Miguel Gomes

Sashaying between past and future, documentary and drama this tender tension tinged travelogue captures the glory days of Colonial times and the delicate exotic mystique of the Orient, at a time when it was still full of grace. 

Grand Tour is unique, a plot-free tale of doomed love and betrayal blends seamlessly with a beguiling black and white kaleidoscope of swirling images. Portuguese auteur Miguel Gomes, in his first time Palme d’Or entry, gives life to his own brand of cinema: dreamlike, quirky and romantically absurd, in similar vein to his 2012 feature Tabu . 

Surrender yourself to this timeless reverie set in Southeast Asia around 1918, where Goncalo Waddington’s English civil servant Edward has caddishly fled Rangoon on his wedding day. His fiancée of seven years Molly (Crista Alfaiate) pursues him peripatetically despite his feet of clay.

Laughing childishly whenever his name comes up in conversation she is clearly in de Nile on the Yangtze river as they glide effortlessly (you could get the staff in those days) through ‘Burma’, Singapore, Tibet, Bangkok, Vietnam, Shanghai and Chengdu in a parallel continental odyssey all crafted in grainy black and white. 

Niche in the extreme this is a diaphanous patchwork of a film as it floats in filigree on the silver screen. It tells of an era of heady romance and adventure for Colonial types when the world was still an enticing oyster to discover. Now and then, the recent past surfaces through a crevice in the old world with modern music – a crooner sings ‘My Way’ in a crowded bar in Manila as modern motorbikes circle incessantly in the centre of ‘Saigon’.

At one point Molly is courted by wealthy landowner (Cláudio da Silva) who offers her sanctuary when she falls ill. Here in this idyll, deep in the tropical jungle, she bonds with his servant Ngoc (Lang Khê Tran) and they decide to embark on an ill-advised journey North. Discover Grand Tour and immerse yourself in the mind-bending potential of the Orient. A fabulous film quite unlike any other @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

Being Maria (2024) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Jessica Palud | Cast: Anamaria Vartolomei, Matt Dillon, Giuseppe Maggio, Céleste Brunnquell, Yvan Attal, Marie Gillian

Last Tango in Paris was certainly a ground-breaking film shocking audiences to the core back in 1972. A woman directs this new biopic about the abused French actress Maria Schneider, who at age of 19, landed a role alongside Marlon Brando in the Bertolucci film that would make her a star but also destroy her life.

Berlolucci wanted to make a film about two people, Jeanne and Paul, indulging in a sexual relationship without any trappings. They would meet regularly in room and just go from there. But, crucially, without asking or her consenting, the Italian director and his 48-year-old male star sprung an unscripted rape scene on the young woman asking for real ‘rage’ and ‘humiliation’. And that’s what happened. Even though sodomy never took place the fear and loss of control is devastating. And we feel for Maria even though Brando assures her: ‘it’s only a film’. She has seen him as a mentor only to be deceived. And even now, in the light of the #MeToo era, this sequence is particularly resonant.

Maria is from an educated if broken home: her father (Attal) is the seasoned actor Daniel Gerlin who has gone on to form another family after leaving home. Her volatile mother Marie-Christine (Gillain) throws her out of the house – quite literally – for reconnecting him after the two meet and reconnect on a film set in the opening sequence. The twice rejected Maria then moves in with her uncle, but is clearly damaged by her life experience thus far.

Being Maria is directed by Jessica Palud (who has a handful of directing titles behind her: Revenir, Les Yeux Fermes), and co-written with Laurette Polmanss, freely adapting the novel ‘Tu t’appelais Maria Schneider’ by Vanessa Schneider, Maria’s cousin, It paints a convincing portrait of this young woman desperate to forge a career in acting.

Encouraged by her father in this endeavour, she contacts an agent and then finds herself in a café where she meets Bertolucci (Giuseppe Maggio who authentically, like the director, doesn’t role his ‘r’s). He has picked her out for the fateful role. (‘roles chose actors, not the other way round’ says her father). But after the furore of that pivotal scene, which happens early on. The film has nothing more to say thereafter and unravels as does Maria’s life. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CANNES PREMIERE

Animale (2024) CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | Critics’ Week 2024

Dir: Emma Benestan | France, Fantasy thriller 101′

Experience the dizzying bull run at Saints-Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camargue and you’ll understand the sheer terror pulsating through the crowd when the bulls are released from the arena to run wild through the streets, commandeered only by a group of bareback riders.

After training at La Femis in Paris, Algerian filmmaker Emma Benestan honed her craft as assistant editor on the 2013 Palme d’Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Colour. And her feature debut, a neon-tinged neo western, captures the rush of adrenaline and fizzing energy of the bull run fusing it into a surreal bovine thriller that joins the sub-genre of women triumphing in a male dominated ‘world’. Conceived as a supernatural fable Animale blends classic body horror with a potent revenge piece imbued with the spirit of Palme d’Or winner Titane ,The Eagle Huntress and Zahori all rolled into one dynamic piece of filmmaking.

In a cast of newcomers and established actors, breakout talent Oulaya Amamra plays Nejma, a 22-year-old woman keen to make her mark in the macho bullfighting corrida, and to this endeavour trains fearlessly in the bullring and afterwards endures a night of heavy drinking with the boys. Waking the following morning Nejma suffers more than just a post-binge hangover. Her whole body feels strangely transformed. Then comes that news that some of the experienced guys have been found dead, and a rogue bull is on the loose.

The struggle with the bulls come to represent Nejma’s battle to be accepted as a woman, albeit a tough one. The bulls can be fierce and frightening when riled but they are also creatures capable of a certain sensitivity, and strangely seem to empathise with their female trainer. Nejma’s own feminine quality is seen in the bulls’ latent soulfulness that DoP Ruben Impens captures again and again in their frightened gaze. Animale is a novel and atmospheric feature that marks Benestan out as a talented auteur. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CRITICS WEEK 2024

 

 

The Surfer (2024) CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Dir: Lorcan Finnegan | Cast: Nicolas Cage, Julian McMahon, Nic Cassim, Miranda Tapsell, Alexander Bertrand, Justin Rosniak, Rahel Romahn, Finn Little, Charlotte Maggi | Australia/Ireland, Fantasy thriller 99’

Nicolas Cage seems to be enjoying his current screen persona: a decent family man who becomes increasingly disturbed and emasculated. In Lorcan Finnegan’s latest film, a psychological buddy thriller premiering at Cannes Film Festival, Cage is a harried, ego-driven dad hellbent on revenge: Australian set-psychodramas  Long Weekend (1978) and Wake in Fright (1971) will both spring to mind in tone and intensity.

Set in beachside Australia, possibly Perth, this is a film about masculine pride and ego. But what starts as a plausible concept thriller soon drifts into much darker (more disgusting) territory and eventually grows tedious with its rather sad commentary on the male of the species.

Cage kicks off in a Lexus – hardly emblematic of success, – but that’s what it’s billed as here. His son in tow, he’s aiming to buy the house on the coast where he grew up as a killer surfer. But the locals, a pack of butch beach bums, don’t want him here. Father and son make their way down to the beach where they are confronted with the local gang of thuggish surfers, led on by Scally (Julian McMahon) who tells them to sling a hook, or a surfboard for that matter, and get the hell out of there.

Thus begins Cage’s descent into Hell. Beset by oncoming failure: his loss of face with his son, a failure to secure his dream property, and even the theft of his brogues, Cage turns his anger on the world at large – and the focus is the Bay Boys. What a pathetic sight he becomes, and in some ways we feel for him in a series of things that go impossibly awry: All these feelings of angst are reflected by the local flora and fauna: a cawing Kookaburra, a vicious scorpion, a rabid dog, the merciless sun that bakes down on the now delusional, dehydrated dad.

And his loss of self-esteem stares back at him in the negative attitudes of those around. Rather like Polanski’s character in The Tenant, he starts to doubt himself in a self-persecuting masculine meltdown. Sadly Finnegan’s finale doesn’t quite reach a satisfactory outcome, lost in mixed messages and bravado, but The Surfer is worth watching for Cage alone. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

Marcello Mio (2024) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Christophe Honoré Cast: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Fabrice Luchini, Nicole Garcia, Benjamin Biolay, Melvil Poupaud, Hugh Skinner, Stefania Sandrelli | France, Drama 120′

A girl wakes up one day feeling a bit sorry for herself and decides to dress up like her late father in this starry, soft-hearted nepo-baby flick from French director Christophe Honore.

Of course Chiara is no ordinary girl, she is the likeable daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni and her penthouse apartment overlooks Paris’ Tour Montparnasse. After turning up for a casting in a new film, the director (Nicole Garcia) asks her to play her role “more like Mastroianni than Deneuve.” And this sets Chiara contemplating the past in a film imbued with the spirit of Paris, and of French and Italian cinema.

Clearly more like her father than her mother Chiara decides to take on Marcello’s famous guise from Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, chopping off her hair and donning a black tailored suit to take a trip down memory lane – speaking Italian – for her role in a film that poses everlasting questions but never really lives up to its high-concept premise instead playing out in a series of jokey vignettes, musical interludes and reveries.

Catherine Deneuve looks proudly on as Chiara is mentored by Fabrice Luchini, schmoozes ex lover Melvil Poupaud, parties with musician Benjamin Biolay and hooks up with a ginger-haired Spaniel padding through the nighttime streets of Paris where she also bumps into Hugh Skinner’s lovelorn British soldier taking time out from his NATO barracks (that’s the film’s fascinating revelation – and qualifies its entry in the Queer Palme competition). Fizzing with fun and nostalgia this is a lovely little film but Palme d’Or material?. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

Kinds of Kindness (2024) CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos | Cast: Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn, Mamoudou Athie, Hunter Schafer | Thriller, 162′

Yorgos Lanthimos selects a quality cast and has them star as different characters in three quirky interlocking stories. The first, a bizarre film that sets of this bemusing trio on the theme of control freakery, is the most watchable.

Here Willem Dafoe gets the upper hand as Raymond, a bossman who bankrolls and therefore holds dominion over Jesse Plemons’ modest guy called Robert Fletcher. He gets to live in a modernist villa with his obliging wife (Hong Chau) courtesy of Raymond’s money, and is therefore totally in thrall to this uber-man. He will do anything to make Raymond happy, and that’s the scary twist in the tale.

For those who prefer the Greek weird wave director’s early fare such as Dogtooth and The Lobster, Kings of Kindness will appeal, and reunites him with his co-writer on those projects, Efthimis Filippou. But the triptych of weird stories becomes increasingly so, often giving the impression that Lanthimos is just trying a little bit too hard to be perverse just for the sake of it. 

The first part certainly has you glued to the screen – not least for its visual incongruousness. Plemons sports a polyester Windolene-coloured roll-neck that contrasts with his greasy carrot-coloured hair. It’s an enigmatic tale whose pieces gradually fall into place, and this was the segment I found most engrossing. 

From then on proceedings grow more dark, violent and unsavoury, but watching Willem Dafoe, Jesse Plemons, Margaret Qualley and Emma Stone do their stuff in varying roles is always intriguing – even though countenancing this ghastliness for nearly three hours is stretching it a little bit, and you may feel yourself coming over all queer (in the old-fashioned sense of the word).

The titles of each story are built around the initials R.M.F. (played by Yorgos Stefanakos) who doesn’t really have much a role to speak of – in fact he doesn’t get to say anything – but is merely there to serve the narrative as the car crash victim Fletcher is supposed to kill in order to please Raymond.

Margot Qualley entertains us on the electric organ with “How Deep is Your Love” the twin theme to the trilogy. She is variously Raymond’s wife Vivian (Qualley) and then a vet with life-giving powers in the final story. Meanwhile Emma Stone is Rita a glam optician who falls for Robert in the second part of the control-themed scenario. But the standout in Kinds of Kindness is Jesse Plemons who really comes into his own in the Hollywood firmament pulling off an impressive range of performances; his final turn as Daniel, a flesh-eating policeman is the least appealing, in a good way. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

Rumours (2024) CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

Dir: Guy Maddin, Evan & Galen Johnson | Canada 118′

Cult Canadian director Guy Maddin is an auteur in his own right with an eclectic stash of avant-garde films under his belt and loyal fanbase. Recently he joined forces with Evan and Galen Johnson and here joins them for a curious pulp horror outing worth seeing only for its stellar cast.

It all starts off rather straighforwardly in a lakeside gazebo in the grounds of a German castle at a G7 conference hosted by Kate Blanchett’s spritely president Helga Ortmann. She is joined by Denis Menochet (for France); Charles Dance (bizarrely for the US) a pigtailed and horny Roy Dupuis (Canada); Nikki Amuka-Bird (the UK) Italys’ Rolando Ravello and Takehiro Kira (Japan) who gather to work on a crisis paper until proceedings take a deep dive into Dr Strangelove territory.

During their arrival Ortmann has proudly showed the heads of state the recently discovered remains of a prehistoric body perfectly preserved in a nearby peat bog. And this atavistic relic gives rise to a strange turn of events that doesn’t quite live up to expectations. But never mind about that, the cast makes this a worthwhile, if overlong, watch with some witty exchanges. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS 2024

 

The Shrouds (2024) Cannes Film Festival

Dir/Wri: David Cronenberg | Cast: Vincent Cassel, Diane Kruger, Guy Pearce, Sandrine Holt | Canada 119′

In David Cronenberg’s latest sci-fi love story a grief-stricken man mourns the loss of his wife. But was he more obsessed with her body than her mind? Sexual desire is just one of the themes in this macabre but melancholy thriller. On his return to Cannes after Crimes of the Future, the Canadian director mulls over psychosomatics, freewill, life after death and the  power of Al in a filmic hotchpotch of complex and avantgarde ideas. Exciting to watch but needlessly convoluted in its plotline.

Here Vincent Cassel is France’s answer to Vincent Price: the chiselled cheek bones, haughty gaze, powerful physicality, penetrating blue eyes and shock of white hair make for a creepy cemetery entrepreneur who goes by the name of Karsh Relikh, an atheist who believes in the afterlife, but is also surprisingly vulnerable. The death of his wife Bekka has been a body blow, so much so that his teeth are actually rotting in response to the anguish (according to his dentist): he hasn’t had sex since her death four years previously, although this celibate status will be short-lived. Bekka leaves an almost identical sister Terry in the shape of Diane Kruger who deftly takes on both roles.

Weirdly it takes Karsh nearly the entire film to discover that Bekka’s body is what he misses most and he admits to experiencing a visceral desire to have been interred with her. And so he takes ‘great comfort’ in watching her corpse slowly decompose after burial in a “shroud” lined with multiple X-ray cameras. Bekka also visits him in her dreams complete with mastectomy scars. And when he finds out that their relationship was not as exclusive as he imagined, the jealousy is destructive. Meanwhile his limp brother in law Maury (Guy Pearce), is also emotionally unhinged by his divorce from Terry, and is trying to get his own back on Karsh for enigmatic reasons. Cronenberg envelopes his various themes into this simple story of sorrow and sadness.

Ultimately The Shrouds seems to serve as a cinematic valedictory to Cronenberg’s own wife who died of cancer several years ago. It has the same cold beauty as his recent works but none of the dark humour of his early films. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

 

C’est pas Moi- Leos Carax (2024) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Leos Carax | With: Denis Lavant, Nastya Golubeva Carax, Anna-Isabel Siefken, Bianca Maddaluno, Kateryna Yuspina, Loreta Juodkaite, Peter Anevskii | Short 41′

Fans expecting a nice traditional potted portrait of the maverick Paris-born filmmaker’s life C’est Pas Moi will be disappointed.

Predictably Leos Carax steers clear of a straightforward narrative to offer an artful, multi-faceted collage of his four decade career. That all said, this self-portrait is both mesmerising and tantalising in the true style of the director himself, blending a pot pourri of the experimental, psychedelic and personal that echoes – even pays tribute to – his fellow countryman Jean-Luc Godard in films like The Image Book.

The project was intended to be shown as an exhibition at the Pompidou Centre a few years ago where the organisers has asked him to respond to the simple question: “Who are you?”. So Carax (aka Alex Christophe Dupont, 1960-) answers enigmatically but cinematically with a montage of exuberant images that channel his life and art.

Accordingly It’s Not Me, is a mixture of everything that appeals to him  – from the Hollywood firmament to his own films like Holy Motors, Annette and Les Amants de Pont Neuf; snippets from family photos (but not of his estranged mother), snaps of his one time lover Juliette Binoche, his pets, actors he has worked with, like Denis Lavant and fellow directors Jean Vigo and even David Bowie. It’s Not Me is a real visual panoply but Carax is nowhere to be seen: He remains Mr Enigma. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

 

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Three Kilometres to the End of the World (2024) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Emanuel Parvu. Romania. Drama. 104 mins.

The past and the present collide in this straightforward Romanian melodrama, a third feature for filmmaker/actor Emanuel Parvu, and his first time in the main competition at the 77th Edition of Cannes Film Festival.

17-year-old Adi (Ciprian Chiujdea) is back from Bucharest to spend the summer with his God-fearing parents in their idyllic painted wooden house on the edge of the Danube. The young man has everything going for him: looks, intelligence and a good start in life. Until he suffers a savage attack on the way to the village disco, the future looked bright.

The action unfolds in a simple chronological way with strong performances all round: you may recognise Adi’s father Bogdan Dumitrache from his brilliant performance in Spiral and A Decent Man. This is Chiujdea’s feature debut and he feels convincing as a young man determined to get on in life despite his overbearing mother (Laura Vasiliu).

Shocked at the severity of Adi’s wounds his parents decide to file a complaint with the local police. But this is a small, tightly-knit community and the culprit is soon identified as the son of another local man to whom the father owes money. What also emerges is that this is a gay-bashing. And it doesn’t there with bitter repercussions as the parents remain in denial of their son’s sexuality, blaming his life in the big city, and hoping that a spell in a monastery will ‘sort him out’.

The story has its twists and turns which often feel rather uneventful but gain resonance in Parvu and his co-writer Miruna Berescu’s clever script. Three Kilometres is also made all the more watchable by the enchanting settings and some superb limpid visuals that create a real wonderland of this rural paradise in the Danube Delta, a throwback in time. @MeredithTaylor.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

 

 

Bird (2024) Cannes Film Festival 2024

Dir/Wri: Andrea Arnold. UK/France. Drama, 119 mins

A slice of social grit soaked in the English countryside and served up with a dash of magical realism is the best way to describe this latest feature from Andrea Arnold.

Set in her native Kent on the fringes of Gravesend on the Thames estuary Bird makes multiple visual references to its avian-themed title but also features butterflies, bees, horses, foxes and dogs along with a cast of British actors, a German, Franz Rogowski, being the standout. He plays the titular hero Bird, a charismatic wayfarer who will soon come to represent everything decent and honourable in this squalid corner of broken Britain.

Arnold’s Cow, a devastating documentary portrait of a dairy farming in the 21st century, came to Cannes Film Festival several years ago but went home empty-handed. Bird stands to gain more leverage due to its international stars Rogowski, and Barry Keoghan who plays Bug, a selfish, tattooed layabout who fathered a kid (Hunter) at fourteen, and is now set to be a granddad and an accidental father to his savvy young daughter Bailey (Nykiya Adams in a stunning debut).

Apart from the animals, Bird is a chaotically poetic film full of music, dancing and fighting (courtesy of its male contingent). Coldplay, Fontaines D.C. and Sophie Ellis-Bextor all feature in a rambling storyline that centres on twelve-year-old Bailey who lives in a dingy seaside flat with Bug and her slightly older brother Hunter (Jason Edward Buda) who is also heading for teenage fatherhood. None appear to do a day’s work or have anything approaching a job. Bug’s plan is to harness the slime of his recently purchased Colorado River toad which exudes a pricey hallucinogen he can flog on the black market.

So Bailey is forced to make her own life until she befriends Bird after falling asleep in a field full of daisies beside the M2 – and these scenes are particularly gorgeous to look at; Arnold knows how to ‘smell the roses’ cinematically-speaking and Bird is a film that takes itself slowly along the byroads, alighting on nature in all its summery beauty as well as the dregsville domestic interiors, not to mention bodily functions. Is Bird for real? – at one point Bailey gives him a Chinese burn just to check, but he’s the nearest thing to a decent bloke she’s ever come across and so begins their subtle love affair.

Arnold’s 2009 feature Fish Tank embarked on a similar scenic journey for its lost heroine but this time the English filmmaker heads in an unexpectedly new and inspired direction, and this really makes the film special although thematically we’re on traditional territory. The handheld camera may leave you in a daze but that’s all part of the slightly unreal life these drifters lead. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

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Megalopolis (2024) CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

Dir: Francis Ford Coppola | US Drama 120′

This ambitious undertaking, forty years in the making, should have been called ‘Magaflopolis’. Ok it’s easy to criticise, but a veteran director such as Ford Coppola has a duty to his audience: not to confuse them, or bore them rigid for over two hours – but that’s exactly what he does in this over-inflated piece of filmmaking that masquerades as an inspired satire.

Megalopolis is pretentious and posturing and ultimately vacuous. Discombobulating images continuously flash before our eyes along with a talented cast of Hollywood’s best. But there wasn’t a scene or a performance I enjoyed as the actors all seem caught up in the grandiosity of it all in displaying the worst traits of each sex. The women were grasping and bitchy. The men arrogant and ego-driven, in fact, Jon Voight was the only one with a shred of vulnerability and a cheeky grin of playfulness as canny banker Hamilton Crassus III with Aubrey Plaza hamming it up as his lover Wow Platinum. Meanwhile Shia LaBeouf is cast as his curious and corrupt trans-looking grandson Clodio Pulcher (Shia LaBeouf).

Coppola aims high, as he should do, but the film feels like an flashback to the 1980s, all gilded, burnished and blundering like a fancy-dress school play of Shakespeare with a sci-fi makeover that somehow looks old-fashioned in the scheme of contemporary special effects: the actors poncing around and quoting their literary lines in the hope this will give some integrity to what is really a confounding mess.

Adam Driver is the main character: he plays Cesar Catilina, a Nobel prize-winning ‘starchitect’ who is still recovering from the death of his wife, who he purportedly murdered: The jury is still out on this ambiguous plot line. Apparently he has invented a substance called Megalon which makes the building process more flexible. He intends to re-design and re-build parts of the city in a utopian scheme. Also tenuous is his mysterious control over time and space (?). Aubrey Plaza is fabulously vociferous as his long-term blond lover all done up in leopard skin with roots as dark as Kunta Kinte (she’s a busy woman romantically – it seems – as she also has a clinch with Clodio not to mention Crassus). But then Cesar falls for Julia the bland daughter of Cicero (Esposito) the city’s mayor (and his arch rival) who is all about noble things like decent pay, sanitation, new schools and hospitals. Julia (Nathalie Emmanuel) is all about ‘creating a home’ and these various factions come into conflict with each other: the creative, forward-thinking and the social-minded face of urban existence.

There are some inspiring elements: Driver and Emmanuel riding a sort of watch face that floats over Manhattan. I seem to have forgotten the others. But the idea that America is still great gradually fades with hollow laughter. Brazen, brash and bloated this is a step too far. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

 

 

Holy Cow (2024) Cannes Film Festival | UCR

Dir: Louise Courvoisier | France, Drama 90’

A joyful, earthy coming of age film about one of the most important things in life: Good food.

Holy Cow is also a first feature for Courvoisier who makes her debut along with lead actor Clément Favreau in this year’s Un Certain Regard sidebar.

In the Limousin dairy farmer’s son Totone (Clement Favreau) lives a carefree existence until his father’s sudden death forces him to grow up quickly and take charge of a younger sister (Luna Garret).

Landing a job in a neighbouring farm making cheese has its complications. First of all the farmer’s son is his love rival and Totone gets beaten up on day one. Then the cheese-making machinery gets the better of him. Worse of all, work starts at 4am and his sister must be taken to school.

But Totone is determined. And we get a crash course in the fine art of Comte cheese-making into the bargain. And when Totone meets fellow farmer Marie Lise (Barthélémy) they make a natural team with some dramatic heft provided by a heifer. But predictably the course of true love doesn’t run smoothly.

With a lively upbeat score and some lush rural cinematography Holy Cow is a breakout bucolic hit with a range of naturalistic performances from Clement Favreau and his fellow cast in an impressive feature debut. @MeredithTaylor 

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2024

All We Imagine as Light (2024) Cannes Film Festival 2024

Dir/Wri: Payal Kapadia | Cast: Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha, Chhaya Kadam, Hridhu Haroon | India Drama 110′

Writer-director Payal Kapadia‘s Mumbai set feature All We Imagine As Light is the first Indian film to compete for the Palme d’Or in nearly three decades; an impressive achievement for a first time filmmaker, especially an Indian woman. The last time an Indian film made it into the main competition was Shaji N Karun’s Swaham in 1994. Sadly it went home empty-handed losing out to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Kapadia, however, is not new to Cannes. Her poetic yet powerful documentary, A Night of Knowing Nothing, was the winner of Golden Eye for best documentary during the 2021 edition of Cannes Film Festival.

Unfolding in two parts and shifting deftly from realism to reverie All We Imagine As Light is about two women caught in impossible love stories in modern day Mumbai. Prabha, a nurse, shares a flat with Anu, yet they hardly know each other and are further constrained from forming a friendship due to shameful secrets that trap them from sharing their personal lives. Both women are disappointed by love, for differing reasons, and this emotional claustrophobia pervades the first part of the drama.

Anu, a Hindu, is in love with a Muslim man and forced to conceal her relationship due to societal constraints. All the two of them want is to make love but this is frowned upon even nowadays. Prabha is caught in an arranged marriage with a man who has since disappeared back to his village. One day, out of the blue, a rice cooker arrives in the post, supposedly from her estranged husband. This innocent gift sends Prabha into a deep depression, opening up fresh wounds of romantic disillusionment and upsetting her emotional equilibrium once again. She is a married woman constrained by all the ties that it implies, but leaving her lonely and emotionally frustrated.

The second part of film brings an uplifting almost dreamlike tonal shift that sees the women freed from their inertia when they set off on a road trip to a beach town where a mystical forest creates a space for the womens’ dreams to be unleashed. Kapadia’s film touches on traditional themes of abandonment, religious intolerance, female friendship and sexual liberation that are still all too relevant in today’s India with its impressive technical and financial advances. Yet despite all this, many women are still sadly stuck in the dark ages, while in the West men are enjoying the freedoms of gay marriage, gay fatherhood, and sexual transitioning. A thoughtful, richly thematic and beautifully captured film with two sensitive performances from leads Kani Kusruti and Divya Prabha. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

 

 

The Girl with the Needle (2024) CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

Dir: Magnus Von Horn | Cast: Vic Carmen Sonne, Trine Dyrholm, Besir Zeciri, Ava Knox Martin | Sweden, Drama

After training at the world famous film school in Lodz (Poland), Swedish director Magnus von Horn soon won international recognition in 2020 with his confident first feature Sweat a slick and scathing satire on social media celebrity.

The Girl with the Needle couldn’t be more different in tone or style but the theme is the same – sort of. A relentlessly grim atmosphere pervades this Palme d’Or hopeful, another tale of female empowerment turn of the century-style. This time set in 1919 Copenhagen where the macabre shadow and privations of the First World War still hang over Europe, affecting Denmark even though they were neutral.

Here a young girl called Karoline (Carmen Sonne) becomes reliant on all the help she can get after her husband Peter (Zeciri) disappears, suspected of being caught up in the hostilities. Karoline tries to apply for a widow’s pension but because Peter has not been technically declared dead she falls foul of the rules, according to Jorgen (Joachim Fjelstrup), the owner of the garment factory where she fetches up and whose needle give the film its gruesome title. She is soon pregnant by Jorgen who has no intention of marrying her.

Enter Dagmar (Dyrholm) a benevolent shopkeeper who purportedly helps poor mothers to find foster homes for their unwanted babies. The two bond and Karoline agrees, somewhat reluctantly, to become a wet-nurse, until it soon emerges that there is a terrible secret behind this work.

Unfolding in pristine black and white – and DoP Michal Dymek does a great job visually along with set designer Jagna Dobesz  – this is a full blown horror story with all the hallmarks of Robert Lynn’s Dr Crippen (1963) and Fritz Lang’s M (1931) not to mention Dickens or The Brothers Grimm (but this is no fairy tale). The echoing, plangent soundscape and special effects – a series of leering faces that morph from a smirk to a gurning glower –  are really sinister while feeling totally in keeping with an era fraught with human death and destruction in the trenches.  Carmen Sonne and Dyrholm, really plummet the depths of Hell to dredge up these two ghastly women: one forced, through force of circumstance, to be dreadful; the other evil incarnate.

Needles become a metaphor for the pain and suffering that they deliver throughout the film: whether it be morphine, ether or an abortion attempt. Peter soon reappears maimed and disfigured and wearing a mask and unable to eat without making disgusting noises. Another ghastly character is Dagmar’s seven-year-old ‘daughter’ Erena (Knox Martin) another evil concoction – a blond female answer to Damien from Omen II. Not for the feint of heart and certainly not for those frightened of needles. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

 

 

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed (2024)

Dir: Hernan Roselli | Argentina, Crime Drama 100′

Best known for his Rotterdam FIPRESCI-winning drama Mauro Argentina’s Hernan Roselli comes to Cannes’ 77th Edition with an intriguing crime drama.

Difficult to imagine that this seemingly decent family could actually be involved in something as dodgy as the criminal underworld. But Roselli’s third feature, which he writes and directs, blends found footage with fiction delving into the underbelly of organised, if low-level, crime in the outskirts of Buenos Aires the Felpetos have been running a clandestine lottery business for several decades.

Alejandra runs the administrative side of things, while her daughter Maribel heads up the team who log the bets from the privacy of their own living room. But the authorities have recently started to crack down on the activities of local bookies bringing a unsettling tonal shift to proceedings particularly when it emerges that the Felpetos have been concealing a burning secret.

The film, screening at the this year’s Directors’ Fortnight competition strand combines the same seething atmosphere as previous Argentine fare such as Azor, A Common Crime and Shady River in reflecting the unsettling history of the country with intriguing modern day realism that brings a striking note of reality to this assured piece of filmmaking marking Roselli out as a director at the top of his game. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024 | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2024

The Southern Brides | Las Novias del Sur (2024) CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Dir: Elena Lopez Riera | Spain, 40′

Las Novias del Sur premieres in the Queer Palm competition at this year’s 77th CANNES FILM FESTIVAL. It’s another unique snapshot of life in Southern Spain from Elena Lopez Riera who has carved out a niche for herself with similar ethnographical fare such as El Agua (2022), Those Who Lust and The Entrails.

Screening during Cannes Critics’ Week Southern Brides features the stories of various mature women who discuss their intimate experiences of love and marriage from the middle of the last century. Whether positive or negative this emotional heritage provides a shared history for themselves and their future generations.

Lopez Riera, who is unmarried and childless by choice, comes to the realisation that this vital thread connecting her to the future is missing, setting her adrift in the Universe.

Whereas the recent Costa Rica documentary Memories of a Burning Body (2024) focused on the sense of freedom and self-realisation middle age entailed for a group of now single women, here the director combines interviews with archive footage to craft a documentary where the accent is more on the personal voyage of discovery gleaned from sharing these sometimes poignant and riveting revelations. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CRITICS’ WEEK 2024 .

 

The Other Way Round (2024) Best Film Directors’ Fortnight 2024

Dir/Wri: Jonás Trueba | Spain Romantic Comedy 114′

Following his recent success with triple-award winning documentary Who’s Stopping Us (2022) Jonas Trueba’s latest, a comedy crowd-pleaser, follows a longterm couple in the throws of an amicable break-up.

After fifteen years together Ale (Itsaso Arana), a filmmaker, and Alex (Vito Sanz) have decided to call it a day. So to celebrate this rite of passage the two plan to invite their nearest and dearest for a knees-up in their Madrid flat.

Competing in the Directors’ Fortnight section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival this upbeat relatable romcom from the multi-award-winning is co-written by Trueba and his lead duo in a mumblecore style with its focus on sassy dialogue and slightly cooky performances from Arana and Sanz who are so plausible as an ordinary couple with the usual doubts and complexes that none of their close coterie can actually believe this relationship will – or indeed – should come to an end.

A party to mark the end of their life together is certainly a novel idea and the story goes to provocative places in exploring what happens when expectations fall short and long-term love just doesn’t set the night on fire anymore, although a strong and workable friendship is still alive and kicking, and many couples eventually decide to stick together their shared history and close ties with others binding them in a lifelong affair. The Other Way Round is a light-hearted look at deconstructed coupledom that ultimately asks the question: is everyone lucky enough to remain ‘loved-up’ forever or is this state of grace just a pipe dream, or even a mindset, for the lucky few? @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024 | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2024

 

The Second Act (2024) CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Dir: Quentin Dupieux | Cast: Lea Seydoux, Vincent Lindon, Louis Garrel, Raphael Quenard | France Comedy | 80′

Best known for his ‘zany’ comedies (The Deerskin, Incredible But True) writer director Quentin Dupieux gets the opening slot at this year’s 77th Edition of the CANNES FILM FESTIVAL with his latest The Second Act that follows a group of bored actors on the edge of a nervous breakdown. The task here is trying to make their boredom funny, and Dupieux doesn’t quite pull it off.

The film stars Lea Seydoux, Vincent Lindon and Louis Garrel (who has recently turned his talents to comedy) and the action revolves in the confines of The Second Act, a diner in the middle of nowhere, where Garrel is David, the love interest of Seydoux’s character Florence who is keen to introduce him to her father (Lindon) as ‘the man of her life’. Problem is, David doesn’t really fancy her and tries to get his friend Willy (Quenard) involved. But Willy isn’t convinced.

When they all eventually sit down together the bickering continues between their characters in the film being made and the actors they play in the actual film. There’s an inspired scene where the waiter (Manuel Guillot), clearly a lonely depressive, tries to serve them an expensive Cote du Rhone, but, due to stage fright, manages to spill it everywhere but in the glasses.

The Second Act is occasionally funny and Dupieux’s script full of good ideas and topical themes such as sexuality and racism and also touching on more contemporary subjects like the emergence of AI for budget filmmaking, and the late arrival to the French film industry of cancel culture and the #MeToo movement. But Dupieux just doesn’t know how to bring this all together into a story with a dramatic arc that leads to a satisfactory denouement. Ultimately the film outstays its welcome in a series of amusing skits brilliantly performed by a talented cast who eventually run out of steam with their laborious, receptive dialogues. A missed opportunity with some fun moments. @MeredithTaylor 

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024 | OPENING FILM 2024

Universal Language (2024) Directors’ Fortnight 2024

Dir: Matthew Rankin | Canada, Comedy Drama 89′

Fans of quirky humour will warm to this interconnected selection of parables from the Matthew Rankin whose breakout comedy hit The 20th Century swept the festival board back in 2019.

Rankin is a one-man potted Canadian version of Monty Python, and here along with his co-writers Ila Firouzabadi and Pirouz Nemati, dreams up a series of witty off-the-wall tales set, of all places, in Winnipeg and featuring a (predominantly) Farsi-speaking cast.

Universal Language is certainly an acquired taste: the humour is eye-pokingly prurient, politically incorrect and bizarre. The sets are provocative and the stories surreal, but will certainly have you pinned to your seat staring at the screen aghast –  in anger, bewilderment or amazement at the weirdness of it all. In contrast to the content, visually it looks all quite bland and washed out colour-wise but that just adds to almost whimsical nature of the perfectly framed set pieces: the turkey shop is a case in point, as is the school scene that opens in a snowy urban landscape; clearly Winnipeg has some great architects, and you get a tour of the city by a character called Massoud who certainly adds value to his travelogue of the town. The man and his mother tale is another well-worn chestnut but the Quebec setting is novel.

Whatever you make of it Universal Language is a bracingly inspired piece of filmmaking from a director who thinks out of the box and deserves a place in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight selection at Cannes Film Festival 2024.@MeredithTaylor

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2024 | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Tasio (1984) Cannes Film Festival 2024

Dir: Montxo Armendariz | Spain, Drama 93′

A young man grows up in the rural surroundings of Spain’s Navarra region in Armendar’s poignant ethnographical portrait of working lives that echoes Victor Erice’s  El Sur, created two years previously.

Armendáriz adopts a meditative approach to his minimalist depiction of Tasio’s powerfully visceral world that comes to life in Jose Luis Alcaine’s incandescent camerawork. Spare of dialogue yet speaking volumes, the film shows how Tasio ekes out a modest existence making charcoal. It’s a slow-burning (quite literally!) and arduous process: wood is piled into enormous mounds and then set alight  as it gradually smoulders into a sooty mound of dense black remains. Tasio, the `carbonero’, pokes and prods the mass making sure it gets just enough just air to continue its process in a centuries old cottage industry that still exists in parts of Spain.

The film was shot on the borders of the Basque Country (Euskadi), in the extreme west of Navarra (Navarre) around the villages of Aranarache, Eulate, Urra, Baquedano and Zudaire, villages forming the area known as Améscoa not far from the bosky slopes of the Sierra de Urbasa. A simple but noble look at times gone by. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CANNES CLASSICS 2024

Simon of the Mountain (2024) Cannes Film Festival | Critics’ Week

Dir: Luis Federico | Cast: Lorenzo Ferro, Kiara Supini, Pehuen Pedre | Argentina, Chile, Uruguay | Drama 97′

Argentinian filmmaker Luis Federico makes a brave and inspired attempt to work with the physically and mentally impaired in his feature debut that explores alternative lifestyles and parallel universes centring on an unlikely trio as they navigate the world from an original perspective.

Communities all over the world thrive in the margins of what is known as “society”. This is often what happens when the gene pool is restricted or concentrated to a small circle of people who find themselves compromised in all sorts of ways, allowing them to experience our world through different eyes.

The film centres on Simon (Ferro) a strong-jawed, capable man who, looking for a change of direction, hooks up with two disabled teenagers (played by Kiara Supine and Pehuen Pedre). Simon is well-versed in bed-making but not cooking or cleaning. For some reason he becomes into contact with two disabled kids and this leads to an often unnerving journey of friendship and discovery.

It was the American comedian W.C. Fields who once said: “never work with children or animals”. He was of the opinion that they can be unpredictable with their ability to steal scenes. But this quality only adds to this film’s allure, and Federico manages some extraordinary results from his fist time young actors. One scene in particular, involving an exchange between Supine and Pedre, is electric in its intensity and this just goes to show the enhanced sensibility between those experiencing challenges in other areas and makes Simon of the Mountain a touching, surprising often darkly humorous experience lead by two outstanding debut performances. @MeredithTaylor

BEST FEATURE WINNER CRITICS’ WEEK | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

In his Own Image (2024) Cannes Film Festival | Directors’ Fortnight 2024

Dir: Thierry de Peretti | Cast: Victoire Du Bois, Alexis Manenti, Louis Starace, Marc-Antonu Mozziconacci, Thierry de Peretti, Antonia Buresi, Cedric Appietto | France 110′

Screening in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight In his Own Image is Thierry de Peretti’s fourth feature that follows on from The Apaches (2013) A Violent Life (2017) and Undercover (2023) winning awards at San Sebastián and the Cesars.

Based loosely on a book by Jerome Ferrari this docudrama follows Antonia, a driven young photographer on a local newspaper in Corsica where her personal life mirrors the island’s turbulent political landscape from 1980s until the dawn of the 21st century.

With all the romanticism of a true love story In His Own Image unfolds before our eyes in de Peretti’s poignant potted political and social story of his island homeland. The director has clearly poured his heart and soul into this cinematic chronicle and infused it with a palpable sense of national pride and identity – and it draws us in from the first scene.

Peretti himself stars as Joseph, a priest in the small southern town of Bastelica where he is also godfather to a young woman called Antonia. Her extraordinary life plays out from the late 1970s onwards and serves as a classic tale of female empowerment, showing how she finds her chosen métier; parties with her friends and falls for her lover Pascal (Starace) who is 21 in the summer of 1979. It also shows how this woman is seen through the prism of a man. A selfish man who puts his country rather than his partner at the centre of his life, and both of them rather suffer the consequences. 

The action is evocatively captured on the widescreen and in intimate close-up, accompanied by an evocative score and enriched by archive footage that sets off with a devastating opening sequence and then flashes back in time to witness the local political unrest that sees Antonia’s new lover drawn into the conflict between the French authorities and local activists. They are fighting for Corsica’s liberation in a violent civil war, and Pascal is one of the them and becomes a ferocious freedom fighter.

In January 1980 Ajaccio is held under siege and archive sequences provide the film with a seething sense of unease and dramatic tension. During the events, Antonia corresponds avidly with Pascal, helping to raise awareness of his plight with her outstanding personal photo archive that speaks volumes: a photo tells a thousand words.

Antonia remains obsessed by her lover as she follows his cause. Her commitment and passion will eventually land her a job at the local newspaper Corse Matin. Despite her age and lack of experience this gives her a sense of independence and agency way beyond her years.

Now living in flat in Ajaccio Antonia is able to conduct a relationship with Pascal on his release from prison. When Guy Orsini, a freedom fighter, is murdered Antonia captures even more photo coverage. But she also comes to the realisation that being a photographer isn’t always an honourable profession – if you want juicy photos – and that working for Corse Matin is limiting her career progression and talents: obits, sport, village dances and trivial fare is not where it’s at for an inspired career photographer, and so Antonia must try to forge her own way, and also break away romantically with new lover Simon (Mozziconacci).

De Perretti elegantly balances all these elements: family, love, career and craft in a compelling drama that avoids sensationalism or melodrama to create a vibrant sense of a nation and a real woman of the late 20th century. Ordinary but also extraordinary In His Own Image is a real triumph. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT

 

Dog on Trial (2024) Cannes Film Festival 2024 | Un Certain Regard

Dir: Laetitia Dosch | Cast: Laetitia Dosch, Anabela Moreira, Anne Dorval, Francois Damiens, Pierre Deladonchamps | France, Comedy 83′

Laetitia Dosch first came to Cannes in Leonor Serraille’s Golden Camera winning Jeune Femme (2017). Here she stars in her own confident first feature as an animal rights lawyer determined to fight for her client, a recidivist dog.

Based on a true story, the comedy satire takes place in a small Swiss town where Maitre Avril Lucciani (Dosch) is a sucker for lost causes; much to the annoyance of her barrister colleague (Deladonchamps). We first meet the two of them in a cafe where he is complaining about Avril’s lousy track record. He meanwhile makes no excuse for misogynistic comments in extolling the virtues of a recent trip to Italy (“the women are amazing, their breasts are like fruit waiting to be picked – and they give wonderful blowjobs”!). The pace here is brisk and the humour eye-wateringly outré in the style of French comedian Blanche Gardin. 

The next day Avril predictably takes on another lost cause: that of Cosmos, a dog who has bitten several people and is now being sued by a Portuguese cleaner (Moreira), and her barrister played by Anne Dorval. Cosmos’ owner (Damiens) clearly has a screw loose but Avril is convinced by her argument that dogs should have just as many rights as humans. She pleads that Cosmos is not ‘a thing’ but ‘an individual’ who also has needs (and here she illustrates with the dog’s need to pee). Meanwhile the prosecution claims the animal should be put down. Noisy courtroom scenes jostle with filmed footage of street demonstrations and contemplative domestic settings where Avril reflects on her ability to fight for her cause.

Dosch’s arguments are well thought out and she doesn’t look for easy answers in a pithy dark comedy co-written with Anne-Sophie Bailly. What starts as a satire lampooning animal welfare and the French legal system soon ripples out into the thornier territory of street violence, casual misogyny, racism and even trivial consumer concerns. Going from strength to strength, Dosch clearly now has a talent for comedy in her tightly scripted debut that never outstays its welcome @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CAMERA D’OR | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2024 |

PALM DOG WINNER 2024 IN CANNES

SENIOR STRAY KODI SCOOPS TOP PRIZE FOR

SWISS-FRENCH COMEDY DOG ON TRIAL

GRAND JURY PRIZE GOES TO LITTLE XIN IN CHINESE DRAMA BLACK DOG

 

 

Cinema de la Plage | Cannes Festival 2024

 

Every day at 9:30PM, the Festival de Cannes reinvents itself as night falls, transforming the Croisette’s Plage Macé, opposite the Majestic hotel, into an open-air cinema.
In addition to the screenings, meetings and Official Selection events held at the Palais des Festivals, this is another way for everyone to get involved to the great cinema party. 
On the programme for the 77th Festival: teams on stage, world premieres, suspense, action, Jackie Chan, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, Rachid Bouchareb, Tony Gatlif, Danny Boyle, the continuation of the tribute to Studio Ghibli, and much more…
This now traditional rendezvous is open to festival-goers and all audiences, with a choice “warm-up” act every evening: the duo TwinSelecter. Rock, pop, soul, funk, punk, mambo, electro, film soundtracks, jazz, disco, psychedelic, hiphop, garage, to get you going before the screening!

THE PROGRAMME!

Tuesday May 14
TRAINSPOTTING (4K Restoration)
Danny Boyle
1995 – 1h34 – UK

Wednesday May 15
MOI AUSSI
Judith Godrèche
2024 – 17mins – France
Screening in the presence of the film team

Followed by SILEX AND THE CITY
Jean-Paul Guigue & Julien Berjeaut
2024 – 1h20 – France, Belgium
Screening in the presence of the film team

Thursday May 16
MY WAY
Thierry Teston in collaboration with Lisa Azuelos
2024 – 1h18 – France
Screening in the presence of the film team

Friday May 17
AFTER HOURS
Martin Scorsese
1985 – 1h37 – USA

Saturday May 18
TRANSMITZVAH
Daniel Burman
2024 – 1h40 – Argentina
Screening in the presence of the film team

Sunday May 19
INDIGÈNES (Days of Glory)
Rachid Bouchareb
2006 – 2h10 – France
Screening in the presence of Rachid Bouchareb

Monday May 20 – A short night with Ghibli
TALES FROM EARTHSEA
Gorō Miyazaki
2006 – 1h55 – Japan
Screening in the presence of Gorō Miyazaki

Followed by PORCO ROSSO
Hayao Miyazaki
1992 – 1h33 – Japan

Thursday May 21
EXILS
Tony Gatlif
2004 – 1h43 – France
Screening in the presence of Tony Gatlif

Wednesday May 22
SLOCUM ET MOI
Jean-François Laguionie
2024 – 1h15 – Luxemburg, France
Screening in the presence of the film team

Thursday May 23
ARMOUR OF GOD II: OPERATION CONDOR
Jackie Chan
1991 – 1h57 – China

Friday May 24
NINE QUEENS (Nueve Reinas)
Fabian Bielinsky
2000 – 1h54 – Argentina

Saturday May 25
PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE
Brian De Palma
1974 – 1h31- USA

Locust (2024) CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Dir: Keff | Taiwan

Keff is an American-Taiwanese screenwriter, director, musician and artist who grew up in Hong Kong and now comes to Cannes Critics’ Week with his feature debut, a follow-up to his second short film, Taipei Suicide Story.

Locust fuses a visually alluring neon-infused cinematic style with some violent gang scenes in 2019 Taiwan where Zhong-Han, an orally-challenged young man in his twenties, leads a double life slaving in a family-run restaurant during the working hours while nighttime sees him running a racket on behalf of Triad-style local gangsters.

When a shady businessman takes over the restaurant from his decent, hard-working former boss, Zhong-Han soon realises that his family and friends are in danger, forcing him into a swift ‘volt face’ in order to confront his own gang, that also serves at a metaphor for all that’s wrong in modern Taiwan, especially the corruption in the country’s corridors of power.

Locust is an assured, if a tad overlong, debut for the filmmaker who showcases his impressive writing talents and ability to transmit his ideas to the screen in a powerful and filmic first feature. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CRITICS’ WEEK 2024

 

Four Nights of a Dreamer (1971) CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CLASSICS 2024

Dir: Robert Bresson | France/Italy, Drama 83’

Adapted from Dostoevsky’s story about a young man and woman’s chance encounter as they gradually fall in love over four successive nights in Paris. The tentative nature of their gradual obsession for one another is echoed in Pierre Lhomme’s luminous cinematography that creates a delicate dreamy landscape of the French capital where anything could happen as their erotic passion grows into love. The Bresson version transcends mawkishness and sentimentality. However, unsure their actions are these two believe in the mystical power of love to transform their ordinary lives.  In 1957 Visconti filmed another version using the original title White Nights.

RESTORED PRINT | SCREENING during CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024 in the presence of Nathanael Karmitz, Chairman of the board of mk2

When the Light Breaks (2024) Un Certain Regard 2024

Dr/Wri: Rúnar Rúnarsson | Cast: 

Rúnar Rúnarsson’s latest film, When the Light Breaks opens the Un Certain Regard in the festival’s official selection

This simple but never simplistic study of profound and repressed grief takes place in springtime Reykjavik where a young pan-sexual woman’s joy is turned to sorrow after a tragic event sends her on a rollercoaster ride to emotional hell.

When the Light Breaks is the Icelandic director’s fourth feature  and follows his 2019 portmanteau feature Echo that won the Youth Jury Award at Locarno Film Festival.

Once again the tone is sombre but this time the narrative lacks the bite of his previous fare in particular Sparrows (2015) and plays out as a predictable story of loss that is nevertheless moving in its depiction of collective grief. It centres on Una (breakout teenage star Elín Hall) who is in the early stages of a relationship with Baldar Einarsson’s Diddi when they are separated by tragedy. The remainder of the film explores the aftermath to the event and the affects it has on Diddi’s circle of friends and particularly on Una who is unable to reveal their nascent affair for reasons that will soon become clear as the film unspools. 

DoP Sophia Olsson makes atmospheric use of Iceland’s rugged landscapes that contrast with the sleek architectural framing of modernist interiors and the particularly resonant scenes that take place in Reykjavik’s expressionist neo-gothic Hallgrímskirkja Church of Iceland that soars 244 feet into the blue yonder. Something to behold and very much in keeping with the film’s spiritual undertones. @MeredithTaylor

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

Block Pass (2024) Semaine de la Critique 2024

Dir: Antoine Chevrollier | Cast: Sayyid El Alami, Amaury Foucher, Damien Bonnard, Florence Janas, Artus Solaro, Dahan Lamort, Axelle Fresneau, Mathieu Demy

Motorcross racing makes for a high octane subject in this stylish teenage buddy movie from French filmmaker Antoine Chevroillier.

The Loire-born director is competing for the Golden Camera in the Cannes’ Semaine de la Critique competition and shares script duties with Bérénice Bocquillon and Faïza Guène in his big screen debut which stars Damien Bonnard and Mathieu Demy alongside Sayyid El Alami the young lead of his hit TV series Ouseekine.

Teenagers Jojo (El Alami) and Willy (Solaro) have been inseparable since childhood and spend their all free time training at the Pampa race track honing their biking skills much to the annoyance of their parents (Mathieu Demy, Damien Bonnard) who want them to focus on school work. And what starts as a heady, fun-filled romp soon turns into something more serious as Willy’s long held secret threatens to destroy not only their friendship but also the unsteady  relationship there have with parents.

This dazzlingly photographed portrait of teenage ennui kicks over the usual intergenerational conflicts: truancy, drugs, etc and also adds sex to the list. The summery rural landscapes of France provide a pastoral contrast to a story of lost childhood and tainted dreams in A well-paced action drama punctuated by tension fuelled conflicts between the boys and their parents and two terrific central performances by El Alami and Solaro. @MeredithTaylor

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024

The Hyperboreans (2024) Cannes Film Festival | Directors’ Fortnight

Dir: Cristobal Leon, Joaquin Cocina | Drama, Chile 64′
World premiere

Following their first feature-length animated film The Wolf House (2018), visual artists and filmmakers, Chilean Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña have focused on stop-motion animation and creating worlds that are as disturbing as they are absorbing.

The Wolf House was inspired by the story of Colonia Dignidad, the film could also have been straight out of Walt Disney had he had an equally bizarre imagination as these two.

Los hyperbóreos is certainly out there even for an experimental affair. It is a film within a film in which Antonia Giesen, actress and part-time psychologist, decides to make a thriller about what goes on in her patient’s mind – but that’s easier said that done.

The film takes shape inside a vast studio where we are led by a woman who is by turns a storyteller, actress and illusionist – who interacts with Méliès-style cardboard sets and effigies, following in the footsteps of a very real man: the Chilean neo-Nazi Miguel Serrano (1917-2009), a writer who was very much avantgarde in his wacky ideas and theories. This brave piece of filmmaking is an acquired taste and not for the feint-hearted but with its quirky mise-en-scene will certainly appeal to diehard cineastes. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024 | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2024

Savanna and the Mountain (2024) Directors’ Fortnight

Dir: Paulo Carneiro | Portugal Doc 74’

In the ‘wonderful kingdom’ of Covas do Barroso, a peaceful Northern Portuguese mountain village, life was sweet until something started spooking the horses according to this pastoral parable premiering at Cannes 2024.

And horses aren’t stupid. In fact they’re the first notice the subtle changes that the villagers decide to investigate way up in the mountains above their homes. This is a film about the power of the people. Their determination to stand up and activating against un-democratic change, especially when it challenges their environment and their threatens their way of life.

Eco Documentarian Paulo Carneiro is well known on the festival circuit for his similarly themed short Water to Tabato in 2014 and his first feature-length documentary in 2018, Bostofrio où le ciel rejoint la Terre. The Portuguese director Portuguese filmmaker is back in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight sidebar with a hybrid doc re-enactment filmed on a shoestring budget – and none the worse for it – that sees local villagers getting together to stop a government incentive aimed at extracting lithium via their contractor Savannah Mines.

The locals stage colourful demonstrations marching with uniforms, mock swords and banners bearing the sloganA mafio do litio” (The lithium mafia). They even kidnap a suspected mineworker and put him in a barrel – just for fun. Throughout the country environmentalists and opposition parties echo their sentiments and the government takes note, at least for a while. But that’s not the end of the villagers’ fight against the mining company. And it’s still raging on today. A generous, darkly funny film that nonetheless has serious undertones. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024 | DIRECTORS FORTNIGHT 2024

Cannes 2024 | Programme additions

Thierry Fremaux, festival director, has unveiled the long-awaited line-up for this year’s 77th edition of The Cannes Film Festival (May 14-25)

The competition includes a glittering selection of world premieres from David Cronenberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Jacques Audiard, Andrea Arnold, Yórgos Lánthimos, Paul Schrader and Paolo Sorrentino including the long-awaited latest outings from auteurs Leos Carax, Ali Abbasi, Alain Guiraudie, Jia Zhang-Ke and Miguel Gomes.

The Festival opens on the 14th May with Quentin Dupieux’s The Second Act (out of competition) with festival president Greta Gerwig leading the festival jury who will decide the winner of this Year’s Palme d’Or.

COMPETITION

 

Megalopolis – Francis Ford Coppola

An architect wants to rebuild New York City as a utopia following a devastating disaster in this Sci-fi epic starring Adam Driver, Aubrey Plaza, Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight (image above)


The Apprentice – Ali Abbasi (above) copyright Apprentice Productions Ontario Inc.

A dive into the underbelly of the American empire that charts a young Donald Trump’s ascent to power during the 1970s through a Faustian deal with the influential right-wing lawyer and political fixer Roy Cohn.

Motel Destino – Karim Ainouz

The Brazilian Algerian director is back in Cannes a year after The Firebrand with a love story between a man and a woman struggling against their demons.

Bird – Andrea Arnold (above)

Following her Cannes 2021 triumph Cow, Arnold returns to her native Kent for this male-centric family story starring Franz Rogowski in the title role alongside Barry Keoghan.

Emilia Perez, Jacques Audiard (below)

Mexican drug carte thriller with – you guessed it – a trans twist.

Anora – Sean Baker (above)

Mikey Madison stars in this comedy about a sex worker in New York and Las Vegas

The Shrouds – David Cronenberg (above)

The Canadian ‘Baron of Blood’s eagerly awaited return stars Vincent Cassel and Diane Kruger in a sci-fi adventure that follows a grieving widower’s attempts to contact the dead.

The Substance – Coralie Fargeat (Qualley – above)

The Revenge director’s latest is simply billed as ‘a horror story’ and stars Margaret Qualley, Dennis Quaid and Demi Moore.

Grand Tour – Miguel Gomes (above)

A man desperate to leave his fiancée on their wedding day in Rangoon, 1917, flees across Asia with his bemused ‘ex’ in tow

Marcello Mio – Christophe Honoré

Chiaro Mastroianni takes on the guise of her father Roberto – right down to the last detail – in this curious but inspired drama that also stars her mother Catherine Deneuve, Fabrice Luchini, Melvil Poupaud and English funnyman Hugh Skinner. (image below)

Caught By The Tides – Jia Zhang-Ke (below)

All We Imagine As Light  Payal Kapadia

Kapadia returns to Cannes after winning the The Golden Eye for his feature-length debut A Night of Knowing Nothing (2021).

Kinds Of Kindness – Yórgos Lánthimos (below)

Three characters cross paths in the Greek auteur’s follow-up to Oscar- winning Poor Things that once again stars Emma Stone and Willem Dafoe, along with Jesse Plemmons and Margaret Qualley.


L’amour Ouf  – Gilles Lellouche (below)

Beating Hearts follows star-crossed lovers Francois Civil and Adele Exarchopoulos from different sides of the track: Audrey Diwan co-writes with three others (ouf!) based on a novel by Neville Thompson.


Wild Diamond – Agathe Riedinger (below)

This feature debut from the French director centres on tempestuous teen Liane, 19, who lives with her family in Frejus, Côte d’Azur and is hellbent on stardom when she lands an audition for TV show Miracle Island.


Oh Canada  Paul Schrader (below)

Great to see this much underrated director, and writer of cult classics Taxi Driver, American Gigolo and Raging Bull in the competition line-up with a drama about one of sixty thousand Canadians who refused to fight in Vietnam. Richard Gere stars alongside Uma Thurman.

Limonov – The Ballad, Kirill Serebrennikov (below)

Ben Wishaw stars in this drama, co-written by Oscar winning Pawel Pawlikovski, about the maverick Soviet poet Eduard Limonov.

 

Parthenope – Paolo Sorrentino (below)

Another gorgeously lensed drama from the Italian auteur that centres on a woman: is she a siren or a myth? Gary Oldman, Stefania Sandrelli and Luisa Ranieri star.

The Girl With The Needle – Magnus Von Horn (below)

Sweat, his feature debut, was an assured piece of filmmaking. Here the Swedish director dives back in to the past for a female centric “fairytale about a horrible truth” starring Trine Dyrholm.

THE SEED OF THE SACRED FIG (below) Mohammad Rasoulof – According to a press agent, Rasoulof has apparently escaped Iran without permission in order to be in Cannes for the screening of his competition hopeful, and asks the international community for ‘effective support”.

LA PLUS PRÉCIEUSE DES MARCHANDISES – Michel Hazanavicius

Another Second World War tale told in animation. Voiced by the late Jean-Louis Trintignant, along with Gregory Gadebois and Denis Podalydes, follows the story of French Jewish family deported to Auschwitz. During the journey the father throws one of his kids out the train where he’s discovered in the snow and taken in by a childless Polish couple. (below).

TREI KILOMETRI PANA LA CAPATUL LUMII – Emanuel Parvu

The Romanian director and actor won the Heart of Sarajevo (2017) for his feature debut Meda.

OUT OF COMPETITION

The Second Act – Quentin Dupieux
Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga – George Miller
Horizon – An American Saga, Kevin Costner
She’s Got No Name – Peter Chan
Rumours, Evan Johnson – Galen Johnson, Guy Maddin

MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS

Twilight Of The Warrior Walled In – Soi Cheang
I, The Executioner  Seung Wan Ryoo
The Surfer  Lorcan Finnegan
The Balconettes – Noémie Merlant

CANNES PREMIERE

Miséricorde – Alain Guiraudie
C’est Pas Moi  Leos Carax
Everybody Loves Touda  Nabil Ayouch
The Matching Bang  Emmanuel Courcol
Rendez-Vous Avec Pol Pot – Rithy Panh
Le Roman de Jim, Arnaud Larrieu – Jean-Marie Larrieu

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

La Belle De Gaza – Yolande Zauberman (documentary)
Apprendre – Claire Simon
The Invasion – Sergei Loznitsa
Ernest Cole, Lost And Found –  Raoul Peck
Le Fil – Daniel Auteuil

UN CERTAIN REGARD

Norah – Tawfik Alzaidi
The Shameless – Konstantin Bojanov
Le Royaume – Julien Colonna
Vingt Dieux! – Louise Courvoisier
Who Let The Dog Bite?– Lætitia Dosch
Black Dog – Guan Hu
The Village Next To Paradise – Mo Harawe
September Says – Ariane Labed (below)


L’histoire De Souleymane – Boris Lojkine
The Damned – Roberto Minervini
On Becoming A Guinea Fowl – Rungano Nyoni
My Sunshine – Hiroshi Okuyama
Santosh – Sandhya Suri
Viet And Nam – Truong Minh Quý
Armand – Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 14-25 MAY 2024

 

 

Cannes Classics 2024

100 years of Columbia Pictures
GILDA
Charles Vidor
1946, 1h50, United States

A Sony Pictures Entertainment presentation. Restoration from the original 35mm nitrate negative and a 35mm nitrate internegative. 4K digitization and digital image restoration by Cineric, Inc. Audio restoration by John Polito at Audio Mechanics from the sound track of the original 35mm nitrate negative. Color correction, conformation, additional image restoration and DCP creation by Motion Picture Imaging colorist Sheri Eisenberg. Restoration supervised by Grover Crisp.
Screening in the presence of Tom Rothman, President of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The 40th anniversary of Paris, Texasby Wim Wenders, Palme d’or 1984
PARIS, TEXAS
Wim Wenders
1984, 2h28, West Germany/France

A Wim Wenders Stiftung presentation. A 4K restoration commissioned by the Wim Wenders Stiftung under the supervision of Wim Wenders and with the kind collaboration of Argos Films.
Distribution France Tamasa, release July 3, 2024.
Screening in the presence of Wim Wenders.

Le siècle de Costa-Gavras
LA VÉRITÉ EST RÉVOLUTIONNAIRE – L’AVEU
Directed by Yannick Kergoat, written by Edwy Plenel
2024, 52mins, France

Michèle Ray-Gavras presents a KG Productions production with the support of INA, Gaumont Pathé Archives, ERT.
Presentation of one of the ten episodes of the documentary series « Le Siècle de Costa-Gavras », dedicated to the history of the film L’Aveu.
Screening in the presence of Costa-Gavras, Edwy Plenel and Yannick Kergoat.

The ultimate film of Jean-Luc Godard
SCÉNARIOS
Jean-Luc Godard
2024, 18mins and 34mins, France/Japan

An Écran noir productions production in association with ARTE France and Nekojarashi Llp (Roadstead).
Scénarios is the title Jean-Luc Godard chose for his final 18-minute film, made, literally, the day before his voluntary death. In addition, Jean-Luc Godard recorded a 34-minute film in which, mixing still and moving images, halfway between reading and seeing, he outlined his project for Scénarios.
Screening in the presence of Fabrice Aragno, Jean-Luc Godard’s assistant, and Mitra Farahani, producer.

The 70th birthday of the Seven Samourai
THE SEVEN SAMOURAI
(Les Sept Samouraïs)
Akira Kurosawa
1954, 3h27, Japan

A presentation of Toho Global Ltd. Digital restoration by Toho Co.,Ltd. For the 4K restoration, the 35mm print was supplied by Toho and produced by TOHO Archive Co, Ltd. Images and sound respectively digitized by ARRISCAN and SONDOR RESONANCES. Restoration carried out to celebrate the film’s 70th anniversary since its first Japanese cinema release. French distributor : The Jokers Films.
Screening in the presence of Shion Komatsu (Toho).  

The complete works of Frederick Wiseman
LAW AND ORDER
Frederick Wiseman
1969, 1h21, United States

A presentation and restoration by Zipporah Films in association with Steven Spielberg, with the participation of the Library of Congress.
New version restored in 4K from the 16mm image negative and original sound. Digitization and color grading carried out at DuArt and Goldcrest laboratories in New York. Calibration and restoration by Jane Tolmachyov, under the supervision of Frederick Wiseman and the production direction of Karen Konicek. Digitization of the complete works of Frederick Wiseman, which will be the subject of retrospectives around the world from autumn 2024.
Screening in the presence of Frederick Wiseman.

Raymond Depardon Photographer
LES ANNÉES DÉCLIC
(The Declic Years)
Raymond Depardon
1984, 1h07, France

A Presentation of the Films du losange. Restauration in 4K under the supervision of Claudine Nougaret and Raymond Depardon at TransPerfect Media laboratory from 35mm image, magnetic and sound negatives.
Screening in the presence of Claudine Nougaret and Raymond Depardon.

Lucy Barreto, a producer in Brasil
BYE BYE BRASIL
(Bye bye Brésil)
Carlos Diegues
1970, 1h42, Brazil

A presentation and restoration by Lucy and Luiz Carlos Barreto for Produções Cinematográficas LC Barreto, in association with Quanta, Alexandre Rocha and Marcelo Pedrazzi, financed by Rede D’Or.
Screening in the presence of Lucy and Luiz Carlos Barreto, Paula Barreto.

The 60th anniversary of Jacques Demy’s Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Palme d’or 1964
THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG
Jacques Demy
1964, 1h32, France

A presentation by Ciné-Tamaris. 4K restoration under the supervision of Mathieu Demy and Rosalie Varda-Demy from the original negative, scanned in immersion to reduce the effects of time on the film by the Eclair Classics and L.E. Diapason laboratories in Paris. Sound restoration based on a three-track stereophonic mix of music and vocals.
Screening in the presence of Rosalie Varda-Demy and Mathieu Demy.

JACQUES DEMY, LE ROSE ET LE NOIR
Florence Platarets
2024, 1h28, France

An Ex Nihilo, Ciné-Tamaris, ARTE France and INA production, with the participation of Ciné +, Cineventure 9, and the CNC. International distribution by mk2 Films.
Screening in the presence of Florence Platarets and Frédéric Bonnaud (screenwriter).

DOCUMENTARIES

FAYE 
Laurent Bouzereau
2024, 1h31, United States

A Needland Media, Amblin and HBO production.
The first feature-length documentary about Faye Dunaway who speaks about her career, with landmark roles in Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown and Network. Joining Faye are her son Liam, colleagues and friends such as Sharon Stone, Mickey Rourke, James Gray and many others.
Screening in the presence of Faye Dunaway and Laurent Bouzereau.

JIM HENSON IDEA MAN
Ron Howard
2024, 1h51, United States

An Imagine Documentaries and Disney Branded Television production.
Welcome to the mind of Jim Henson, a singular creative visionary, from his early years as a puppeteer on local television to the worldwide success of Sesame Street, The Muppet Show and more. With unprecedented access to Jim’s personal archives, Oscar-winning director Ron Howard offers a fascinating and insightful look at a complex man whose vivid imagination inspired the world.
Screening in the presence of Ron Howard.

WALKING IN THE MOVIES
Lyang Kim
2024, 1h28, South Korea

A ZONE Film, Kookje Daily News co-production with the participation of Busan’s Committee for Local Press.
A portrait of one of the key figures in the rise of Korean cinema: Kim Dong-ho, founder of the Busan International Film Festival. The film describes his own dedication and creativity in the service of cinema and asks: “How could a high official fall in love with cinema?”
Screening in the presence Dong-ho Kim and Lyang Kim. 

JACQUES ROZIER, D’UNE VAGUE À L’AUTRE
Emmanuel Barnault
2024, 1h, France

An INA and mk2 Films production, with the participation of Ciné+ and the CNC.
Jacques Rozier or the fierce, independent itinerary of a filmmaker in perpetual disarray, admired by his peers and pampered by the critics.
Screening in the presence of Emmanuel Barnault.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR: THE LOST TAPES
Nanette Burstein
2024, 1h41, United States

A Zipper Bros Films, Gerber Pictures, Sutter Road Picture Company and Bad Robot production.
Thanks to access to Elizabeth Taylor’s personal archives and seventy hours of newly-discovered intimate recordings, the film by Nanette Burstein, who won acclaim at Cannes a few years ago for The Kid Stays in the Picture, which she co-directed with Brett Morgen, lifts the veil on the star, revealing a woman far removed from her public image.
Screening in the presence of Nanette Burstein.

FRANÇOIS TRUFFAUT, LE SCÉNARIO DE MA VIE
David Teboul
2024, 1h38, France

A co-production of 10.7 production and INA, with the participation of France Télévisions, CNC, Procirep-Angoa and Fondation La Poste. International sales mk2 Films.
At the end of his life, gravely ill, François Truffaut took refuge with his ex-wife Madeleine Morgenstern. She tried to keep him occupied during his long agony. The filmmaker confided in his friend Claude de Givray, with the intention of writing his autobiography. Too weakened, he abandoned the project. The film reveals part of this final story.
Screening in the presence of David Teboul and Serge Toubiana (screenwriter).

ONCE UPON A TIME MICHEL LEGRAND
David Hertzog Dessites
2024, 2h, France

A MACT Productions and Le Sous-Marin Productions production with the participation of OCS, in association with Dulac Distribution, Mediawan Rights and Indéfilms 10.
Michel Legrand, jazz musician and composer extraordinaire, has left his mark on the history of cinema, including the films of Jacques Demy, especially The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, the 60th anniversary of which is being celebrated in Cannes. Using never-before-seen archives and personal accounts, the film looks back on a lifetime dedicated to music, and the career of a man who served it masterfully to the very end.
Screening in the presence of David Hertzog Dessites.

RESTORED PRINTS

SLAP THE MONSTER ON PAGE ONE
Marco Bellocchio
1972, 1h28, Italy/France

A Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna presentation. Restored in 4K by the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna in collaboration with Surf Film and Kavac Film, under the supervision of Marco Bellocchio at the L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory.
Screening in the presence of Marco Bellocchio and Gian Luca Farinelli, Director of the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna.

THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS
Steven Spielberg
1974, 1h50, United States

A presentation and restoration by Universal Pictures. Special thanks to Steven Spielberg for his oversight of the 4K restoration of this film.
Screening in the presence of Cassandra Moore, Vice President, Mastering & Archive at NBCUniversal.

CAMP DE THIAROYE
Ousmane Sembene and Thierno Faty Sow
1988, 2h33, Senegal/Algeria/Tunisia

A presentation of The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project. Restored by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and the Cineteca di Bologna at the L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in association with the Tunisian Ministry of Culture and the Senegalese Ministry of Culture and Historical Heritage. Thanks to Mohammed Challouf. Restoration funded by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation.
Screening in the presence of Margaret Bodde, Executive Director of The Film Foundation.

ARMY OF SHADOWS
Jean-Pierre Melville
1969, 2h23, France

A Studiocanal presentation. 4K restoration created from the original 35mm negative and sound negative carried out by L’Image Retrouvée.
Screening in the presence of Juliette Hochart, EVP of Library, and Thierry Lacaze, Head of French theatrical, video and VOD distribution, Studiocanal.

JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN
Dalton Trumbo
1971, 1h52, United States

A Gaumont presentation. New 4K digital print, produced by GP Archives. Malavida will be released in France on October 2, 2024 in this new 4K print.
Screening in the presence of Nicolas Seydoux, Chairman of Gaumont.

ROSORA AT 10 O’CLOCK
Mario Soffici
1958, 1h42, Argentina

An Argentina Sono Film presentation. Restored in 4K by Cubic Restauration in collaboration with the Society for Audiovisual Heritage, coordinated by Fernando Madedo and supervised by Luis Alberto Scalella. Restored in the original AlexScope 2.35 format from the original 35mm negatives in the archives of Argentina Sono Film, the owner of the film.
Screening in the presence of Luis Alberto Scalella, president of Argentina Sono Film.

TASIO
Montxo Armendáriz
1984, 1h36, Spain

A presentation of the Cinémathèque Basque, Spain. 4K restoration financed by the Basque Government and carried out by the L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory from the original negative, supervised by director Montxo Armendáriz and with the agreement of production company Enrique Cerezo, PC. French distribution by Tamasa and release in French theaters in 2025.
Screening in the presence of Montxo Armendáriz.

THE ROSE OF THE SEA
Jacques de Baroncelli
1947, 1h26, France

A Pathé presentation. 4K restoration, based on the original nitrate negatives, an image negative and an optical sound negative, as well as a 1st generation standard brown. Work carried out by the L’Image Retrouvée laboratory (Paris-Bologna).
Screening in the presence of Sophie Seydoux, President of the Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé Foundation.

BONA
Lino Brocka
1980, 1h26, Philippines

A Kani Releasing and Carlotta Films presentation. New version restored in 4K by Carlotta Films and Kani Releasing at the Cité de Mémoire laboratory (Paris) from the original 35mm image and sound negatives preserved by LTC Patrimoine. Special thanks to Pierre Rissient and José B. Capino. French theatrical release: September 25, 2024.
Screening in the presence of Vincent Paul-Boncour, director and co-founder of Carlotta Films.

MANTHAN
(The Churning)
Shyam Benegal
1976, 2h14, India

A presentation of Film Heritage Foundation. Restored by Film Heritage Foundation at Prasad Corporation Pvt. Ltd.’s Post – Studios, Chennai and L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory, in association with Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd., the cinematographer Govind Nihalani and the director Shyam Benegal. Manthan was restored using the best surviving elements: the 35 mm original camera negative preserved at the NFDC-National Film Archive of India and the sound was digitised from the 35 mm release print preserved at Film Heritage Foundation. Funding supported by Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd.
Screening in the presence of actor Naseeruddin Shah, the family of actress Smita Patil, producers of the film and Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Director, Film Heritage Foundation.

SHANGHAI BLUES
Tsui Hark
1984, 1h42, Hong Kong

A Film Workshop presentation to mark the company’s 40th anniversary. 4K restoration of the original negative supervised by Tsui Hark and Nansun Shi, in collaboration with L’Immagine Ritrovata, soundtrack remixed by One Cool Sound.
Screening in the presence of actress Sylvia Chang.

FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER 
Robert Bresson
1971, 1h23, France/Italy

A mk2 presentation. Restored in 4K by mk2 Films with the support of the CNC from the image negative and magnetic sound at ECLAIR CLASSICS, Paris/Bologna.
Restoration and color grading supervised by Mylène Bresson. Color grading by Christophe Bousquet. Sound restoration by L.E. DIAPASON. French theatrical release by mk2.Alt and Carlotta first quarter of 2025. International distribution: mk2 films.
Screening in the presence of Nathanaël Karmitz, Chairman of the board of mk2. 

REMINDER!

Napoléon par Abel Gance (1927) to open Cannes Classics 
NAPOLÉON PAR ABEL GANCE (1927)
Abel Gance
1927, 3h40, France

After 16 years in the making, here is the first part (3h40) of Abel Gance’s Napoleonic epic (from Bonaparte’s youth to the Siege of Toulon).
Screening in the presence of Costa-Gavras, President, and Frédéric Bonnaud, General Director, of the Cinémathèque française.

The screening will take place in Salle Debussy on Tuesday May 14 at 2PM.

 

77th CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 14 – 26 MAY 2024 |

Honorary Palme d’Or for Studio Ghibli

This year’s 77th edition of Cannes Festival will award an Honorary Palme d’or for the first time to a group rather than an individual: Studio Ghibli.

Alongside the Hollywood greats, the Japanese studio embodied by two superb storytellers, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and a host of cult characters, has unleashed a fresh wind on animated film over the past four decades the Japanese animations have brought a breath of fresh air to the genre appealing to both kids and adults with vibrant universes and sensitive, engaging stories that brings together traditional and contemporary.

The Wind Rises (2013) @StudioGhibli

 

The Festival de Cannes was an early explorer of the animated film adventure. In the early years, Walt Disney productions presented short films (1946) and the feature Dumbo (1947). In 1953, Walt Disney himself took Peter Pan to the Croisette, where René Laloux won a special Jury Prize in 1973 for his first feature, Fantastic Planet. After a long absence, animation returned to Cannes in force with Shrek (2001) and Shrek 2 (2004), Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004), Persepolis (2007), Waltz with Bashir (2008), which all received awards in the Competition, or even Up, which opened the Festival in 2009. Many other films, such as Inside Out, Kirikou and the Wild Beasts, and more recently, Elemental, and Robot Dreams have also left their mark. Moreover, Un Certain Regard welcomed The Red Turtle (2016), Studios Ghibli’s first collaboration with a European production company.

It all began 40 years ago. The success of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in 1984 enabled him to establish Studio Ghibli with Isao Takahata in 1985. Today, the films are watched by people all over the world, and draw many visitors to the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka and Ghibli Park to experience the world of our films for themselves. And although Miyazaki and Takahata are now veterans of their craft Studio Ghibli will continue to take on new challenges, led by a new generation who will carry on the spirit of the company.

Back in the day the two achieved what seemed to be an impossible feat: independently producing pure masterpieces and conquering the mass market. Producer Toshio Suzuki, a key studio member from the start and soon assuming a full time role, he managed the studio with formidable efficiency, establishing perfect complementarity between the projects of Miyazaki and Takahata, by turns producers and directors.

The tale of the Princess Kagua (2013)

In 1988, with the simultaneous release of Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbour Totoro these outstanding creative artists achieved a double success. In 1992, Studio Ghibli was able to begin financing its own feature films with Porco Rosso. In the early years, only the two founders directed their films, but gradually young auteurs such as Goro Miyazaki and Hiromasa Yonebayashi distinguished themselves and joined the Studio.

In four decades and over twenty feature films, Studio Ghibli won over its audiences with works imbued with poetry and with humanistic and environmental commitments. With Porco Rosso, Pom Poko, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbors the Yamadas, The Wind Rises and The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, Studio Ghibli has delivered stories that are as personal as they are universal. They have won prestigious awards, including both the Golden Bear and the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for Spirited Away, and more recently another Oscar for The Boy and the Heron.

In Europe as in the United States, these films are among the animators’ most acclaimed work, between art for art and the commercial challenges of the industry. They are true models, as much for the quality of their writing, directing and animation as for their commitment to extensive aesthetic aspirations. In 2001, the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka opened on the outskirts of Tokyo to showcase the animators’ work and rich heritage, as well as to show short films created for the museum, thus asserting the Studio’s cultural importance. In 2022, the Ghibli Park, a hybrid park facility expressing the world of Studio Ghibli, opened in Aichi Prefecture. Goro Miyazaki, the first Director of the Ghibli Museum, was appointed the Creative Development Director to oversee the park construction.

Image © Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 14 – 25 May 2024

 

Une Nuit | Strangers by Night (2023)

Dir: Alex Lutz | Cast: Alex Lutz, Karine Viard | France, Drama 90′

Alex Lutz may have had Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise in mind with this chatty drama capturing a brief romantic interlude between two complete strangers who literally bump into each other on a crowded Paris metro.

Conceived by Lutz and his co-star Karine Viard and their co-writer Hadrien Bichet Une Nuit premiered at this year’s Un Certain Regard sidebar and certainly provides food for thought and a few laughs too despite the rather slim storyline that stretches the imagination, to say the least.

The film kicks off with a fierce argument in the underground after one of them complains about the other’s perceived bad manners. Next minute they’re getting on like a house on fire with a steamy session in one of those photo booths that still (thankfully) exists in France.

Karine Viard once again dusts down her comedy talents as the flirty Nathalie, a woman of the world comfortable in her skin and happy to experiment. Lutz plays a slightly younger but still frisky Aymeric. Both have teenage kids and are happily married so this this is clearly just going to be a flash in the pan. The romantic banter is probably best appreciated by a French-speaking audience but the two actors share an easy onscreen chemistry making this an amusing, often touching, little interlude. Paris gets a bit of a look in too as the setting for this cheeky, very French affair. MT

NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE and BELGIUM

 

 

The King of Algiers (2023)

Dir: Elias Belkeddar | Cast: Reda Kateb, Benoit Magimel, Meriem Amiar, R’Mimez, Chahine Beriah, Mourad Khan

Benoit Magimel and Reda Kateb star in this artful crime caper as a couple of French gangsters on the run in Algiers.

Omar la Fraise (Kateb) has just received a 20 year prison sentence, and his only way of escape is retreating to Algeria where he hopes to lie low with his partner in crime Roger (Magimel in his louche comedy guise honed in Pacifiction and his third appearance at this year’s Cannes Film Festival).

The close friends take up residence in a palatial villa on the coast, and Omar – in the pretence of turning over a new leaf, takes a job in a pastry factory where he meets and falls for the feisty Samia (Amiar), providing the film with its most confident plot point: the classic case of a good woman falling for a felon and redeeming him through the power of her love. Omar and Roger’s crime story is less convincing – although the two make an amusing double act as hardened crims, although the extreme violence involved in their activities feels out of context in the otherwise light-hearted nature of this airy crowd-pleaser.

Often waxing lyrical Elias Belkeddar’s feature directorial debut plays out like an affectionate tribute to the town of Algiers, and we get a really soulful sense of the country through magnificent aerial views of the capital city and its surroundings (provided by Darius Khondji’s nephew Andre Chemetof), the camaraderie of the people and their strong attachment to music with a lively score by composer Sofiane Saidi. MT

PREMIERED AT CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE.

Marguerite’s Theorem (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir.: Anna Novion; Cast: Ella Rumph, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Julien Frison, Sonia Bonny, Clothilde Coureau; France/Switzerland 2023, 112 min.

Marguerite’s Theorem is a welcome addition to the asocial mathematician  subgenre (A Beautiful Mind, X + Y, The Man Who Knew Infinity etc). Ella Rumph plays twenty-five-year-old PhD student Marguerite Hoffmann who has reached that momentous time in her academic career when she will present her thesis to the PhD supervisor Professor Werner (Darroussin).

Sporting slippers in the cafeteria and the lecture hall, Marguerite cuts an odd but genial figure, hassled by the male students, but – worse of all –  contradicted in her thesis about a Hungarian mathematician, by another of Werner’s students, a boy called Lucas (Frison).

Humiliated in public, Marguerite leaves Mathematics behind, at least for a while, turning her talents to Mah-Jong which offers her a decent living. Clothilde Coureau is her meddling mother getting in touch with Werner in a bid to find out why her daughter has thrown in the towel. Maths wins out in the end. Marguerite joins forces with Lucas united in their quest to fathom out the Goldbach theorem, even turning the tables on Werner.

Relationships prove more difficult than science for Marguerite in this competitive environment and Novion leaves us in the dark as to who is rinsing whom (scientifically speaking). The mathematicians, including Marguerite herself, are much more interested in proving their colleagues wrong than discovering new dimensions – even if they all disagree. Lucas seems to be the arch-schemer, Marguerite bringing up the rear. Werner emerges a Mephistopheles-like character, forced to rely on his experience rather than his fading brain-power to get what he wants.

PD Anne-Sophie Delseries’ intriguing set design sees the flat Marguerite shares with Noa (Bonny) transformed into a black-board jungle covered in Algebra cyphers sometime resembling poetry. Maths is shown as a work of art, Werner still insisting that emotions and Maths are diametrically opposed. There are feint echoes of A Beautiful Mind, with moments of semi mental illness taking hold of all characters. Although occasionally veering on the predictable Marguerite’s Theorem makes up for it with new plot twists.

In the end it seems that Maths may not be as satisfying as love, but something close to it: to find a modus operandi we must to learn to trust ourselves and our partner – forgetting the Ego and letting go of past prejudices. But will Marguerite be able to overcome her past as the ugly duckling, and fly away, like a swan, with the prize of love.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | SPECIAL SCREENING 2023

Rosalie (2023)

Dir: Stephanie Di Giusto | Cast: Nadia Tereszkiewicz, Benoit Magiel, Benjamin Bioloay | France, Drama 115′

Hair – or the lack or lack of it – is an emotive subject for both sexes. And particularly for women. Classically styled but highly original this unusual arthouse drama draws inspiration from a true story that scandalised Brittany in the 1870s.

French director Stephanie Di Giusto’s sophomore feature explores the life of a woman who is forced to reinvent herself when she arrives in a small village in Brittany, to be married. Nadia Tereszkiewicz is a force to be reckoned with in the title role of Rosalie. Her desperate desire to be loved, and initial lack of confidence is due to a terrible secret. On their wedding night her new husband Abel (Benoit Magimel) throws Rosalie out of the house. He feels cheated and appalled and unable to accept the rampant body hair that Rosalie has had since birth.

But Rosalie refuses to be defined by a natural phenomenon. Challenged by her isolation in this small community she soon realises that a change of attitude is needed in order to secure the success of her marriage to Abel, a bar owner struggling in debt. This change of perspective sees her gently blossoming with a growing acceptance of herself and a proud defiance that ripples out into all her relationships with surprising and often conflicting consequences.

Sumptuously captured in its ravishing rural locations this is an unsettling and thought-provoking film that questions traditional views of eroticism, sexuality and gender roles, touching on prejudice and also the male and female gaze. Rosalie is an understated look at the positive affects of perseverance, determination and self-belief and a triumph. MT

NOW IN FRENCH CINEMAS | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | UN CERTAIN REGARD

Lost in the Night (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Amat Escalante | Cast: Juan Daniel Garcia, Ester Expósito, Barbara Mori, Fernando Bonilla, Hero Medina, Vicky Araico | Thriller 120′

The rich and the poor have a Mexican standoff in this Neo western – and no prizes for guessing who triumphs. Amat Escalante first came to Cannes with his shocking feature debut Heli. Lost in the Night is a muddled murder mystery that looks spectacular but leaves us in the dark for most its running time. A pervasive sense of uneasiness gradually gains momentum in the final stages but some questions are left unanswered in a quietly savage tale of revenge that simmers in Adrian Durazo’s widescreen landscapes of the craggy Guanajuato setting.

Juan Daniel Garcia is Emiliano, the hero of the piece. This morose Mexican macho is motivated by a keen sense of justice. He is a serious man with a mission – to shed light on the fate of his pioneering mother (Araico) who disappeared after campaigning against the sale of the local mine to foreign investors and the contingent job losses. And he soon tracks down his suspect, an effete conceptual artist called Rigoberto (Bonilla), who hangs out in this stark backwater, postering around a curious concrete lakeside villa with his steely wife Carmen (Barbara Mori), and her influencer daughter Mónica (Ester Expósito), whose speciality is fake suicide videos. The local police, headed by Jero Medina, are not fit for purpose so Emiliano makes his own investigations by offering to work as the family caretaker.

Emiliano represents solid values, Rigoberto all that is spurious in this world: his most famous work conceptualises dead Mexican bodies. But Escalante’s narrative often gets bogged down in these modernising themes derailing the story from its central focus and stretching the film rather too thinly over its two hour running time. Emiliano’s female equivalent Jasmin (Mafer Osio) is a traditional Mexican ‘madonna’ who offers him tenderness but never really gets a look in. Monica throws herself at him, turned on by his strong silent earnestness. At one point he dives in and rescues her from the lake after one of her more petulant displays of narcissism. So an interesting addition to the Escalante archive but not one of his most memorable. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | PREMIER 2023

https://youtu.be/S38sRUvJjYs

The Woman from Constantinople (1969) Cannes Classics

The late 1960s was certainly a time for female filmmakers in Hungary, amongst them Líva Gyarmathy and Martá Mészaros. Judit Elek (1937-) made a name for herself with short films and then went on to direct her first of sixteen features, an atmospheric curio entitled, Sziget a szárazföldön, The Lady from Constantinople.

Elemér Ragályi was behind the camera providing the drama with its distinctive visual allure that adds considerable value to Iván Mándy’s slim but texturally rich plot centring on the titular lady (Manyi Kiss) who arrives at Budapest station in the opening scenes, and then proceeds to heckle her way through a lecture about Istanbul. Back in her apartment she stares vacantly at the wall outside and eventually decides to move out. And this provides the story with its central focus as wanders around collecting her possessions together to a piano score by Tihamér Vujicsics’

A low point in Elek’s career involved her ordering the gratuitous burning alive of 16 sheep during the making of her 1989/90 feature Tutajosok. This act of brutality saw her condemned by a group of scientists from Poland “No director knowing her own worth would debase herself for using so primitive and cruel methods”. (Source: Wikipedia). Nevertheless the film went on to win the Grand Prix at Creteil International Women’s Film Festival and the Montreal World Film Festival: Prize of the Ecumenical Jury in 1989.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CANNES CLASSICS 2023

The Other Laurens (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Claude Schmitz | Cast: Marc Barbe, Louise Leroy, Kate Moran, Olivier Rabourdin, Tibo Vandenborre, Edwin Gaffney | France/Belgium 117′

This stylish neon-drenched detective thriller premiering in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight sidebar channels France’s ‘cinema du look’ phase of the 1980s, and stars Olivier Rabourdin as Gabriel Laurens a scuzzy Belgium-based private detective who finds himself caught up in a surreal drug-trafficking investigation when his niece, Jade (Leroy), asks him to investigate her father’s death in the South of France.

Just when Laurens thought the coast was clear to enjoy his semi-retirement he finds himself embroiled in the complex financial problems of his estranged drug-dealing twin brother Francois (also played by Rabourdin), and a dodgy series of lowlife characters ducking and diving between Perpignan and the border with Spain.

There’s a touch of Luc Besson’s Leon to his relationship with his niece and this gives the film some of its more nuanced and soulful sequences particularly their coastal limousine drive and nighttime cocktails where Laurens explains the tragic fall-out with his brother.

Naturally the Americans have to get involved, finding it impossible to stay their side of the Atlantic, and this introduces Laurens to his twin brother’s ex Shelby (Moran) and her hunky French henchman (Barbe and Vandenborre), and Scott (Gaffney) who feels entirely out of place in the narrative with his chipper nonsense and tales of derring-do in Afghanistan.

Amongst other sub-plots Scott also rubs up against Marc Barbe’s gang-leader who swears revenge for their cultural contretemps providing a racial touchstone. Full of anecdotes and dry humour (question: what’s the Spanish for ‘paparazzi’, answer: ‘paparazzo?). With an evocative score and clever twist to the tale The Other Laurens is a smart and good-looking thriller that refreshes the genre. MT

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

Vincent Must Die (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Stéphan Castang | Cast: Karim Leklou, Vimala Pons, Francois Chattot, Karoline Rose Sun | France/Belgium, Fantasy Thriller 115′

A darkly hilarious and good-looking take on ‘The Office’, showcases Karim Leklou’s brilliant comedy talents as an ordinary man who somehow becomes the butt of random violence.

Brilliantly written by Mathieu Naert the film imagines Vincent (Leklou) in a variety of ghastly scenarios that accurately reflect life today. At work Vincent he is bludgeoned by an office intern who hits him in the eye with a computer. On a date he is then menaced by a tramp, and finally, riding home on his pushbike, he becomes the target of road rage. Even his neighbour’s kid attacks him on the stairwell. Clearly something must be done. Vincent is going downhill mentally and physically, until he buys himself an American bulldog called Vulcan. But he that lives by the sword can die by it too. When love comes along in the shape of Margaux (Vimala Pons) things get even more complicated.

Satirising our increasingly brutal and dangerous world this noirish tongue-in-cheek thriller imagines – with humour – a world where the psychological affects of generalised anger and violence have an everyday impact of society as whole making us fearful, defensive and even aggressive until we gradually become closed off to society as a whole. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | CRITICS WEEK 2023

Agra (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir.: Kanu Behl; Cast: Mohit Agarwall, Vipha Chibber, Rahal Roy, Ruhansi Sharma, Anschal Coswami, Pryanka Bose. India/France 2023, 118 min.

Kanu Behl certainly walks on the wild side in Cannes, very much like his countryman Anurag Kashyap with Kennedy. Set in the titular Indian city, Agra is a take on “Crime and Punishment”, where male hero Guru is full of toxic masculinity in an overcrowded, decrepit India, caught between tradition and modern technology, giving few positive identity models for the male youth of today. Agra proves that meaningful sex is the  panacea of the modern world. And unlike drugs it comes free.

Guru (Agarwall), 25, but still lives at home – he even sleeps in his mother’s bedroom. The cramped conditions force his father (Roy) to live on the upper floor with his mistress. Not surprisingly, Guru is confused, imagining a torrid sexual relationship with the nubile Mala (Sharma). He wants to marry her and move into the house, using the spare terrace as his new home. Unfortunately, Mal only exists in his dreams, and his family is unable to convince him of the truth.

In this state of sexual frustration and high anxiety Guru goes out of control. After killing his pet squirrel he is sent away from home and becomes obsessed with ‘phone sex, trying in vain to set up dates with women on the internet, his desire for a relationship taking over his life until dream and reality merge and threaten to swallow him up in surreal images captured on a dizzying handheld camera through the labyrinthine streets of the city. .

Then along comes internet cafe owner Priti (Bose), a forty year-old woman with a limp, who proves to be an ideal sexual playmate. Both are plagued by their family in a complex narrative that sees Behl eventually running out of steam, even though Guru finally becomes his own person, saying good-bye to Mala. Guru has no moral compass for his life’s trajectory, although he eventually finds an emotional touchstone in Priti.  In modern India, it seems as if many are more or less homeless or on the verge of being evicted – jobs are few and far between, and civil servants still have the upper-hand like under British rule. Agra has little pity with society – and if it would not have been for the schmaltzy ending, this could have been a real great feature.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

 

Power Alley | Levante (2023)

Dir: Lillah Halla | Brazil, Portugal, Spain | Sports Drama 92′

There’s plenty of energy and a queer vision behind this female-centric volleyball drama. Even the shower scenes fizz with a fast-moving tomboyish vibe and a thumping score from Brazilian band ‘Badsista’.

Playing in the Cannes Critics’ Week line-up, Brazilian director Lillah Halla’s colourful debut feature follows a teenage volleyball player who discovers she is pregnant in the run-up to an important championship match in a country where abortion is illegal.

The tone then turns more downbeat as 17 year old Sofia (Ayomi Domenica Dias) reflects on her options, not knowing who to turn to given the country’s termination ban. Blocked in her attempts to seek an illegal termination Sofia realises her career is now in question and she fears the worst when Gloria and Dr Elias confirm the pregnancy is well on the way.

There is a positive way forward for Sofia but it will involve telling her widowed father Joao (Rômulo Braga) who is equally invested in her future and proud of her achievements. He flies into a rage when he finds out the news, and is naturally opposed to Sofia’s wish to terminate. As the pregnancy develops the colour-scape becomes more vivid, shot through with a surreal neon aesthetic reflecting Sofia’s wildest fears.

Halla’s narrative never opts for the predictable instead there’s a complex set of circumstances in the mix as her central character’s dramatic arc develops with Sofia experiencing a sudden and unexpected transformation.

The story gradually unfolds to reflect that well-worn maxim: “life is what happens when you are making other plans”. Punchy and well-put-together Power Alley gets its message across in a drama that is both educational, tense and watchable. Lillah Hilla is certainly a talent in the making. MT

POWER ALLEY WON THE TOP PRIZE at BERGAMO FILM MEETING 2024

 

 

 

 

 

Inshallah a Boy (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir.: Amjad Al Rasheed, Cast: Mouna Hawa, Haitam Omari, Yumma Marwan, Salwa Nakkara, Mohammed A Jizawi, Eslam Al-Awadi, Seelena Saltanian; Jordan/France/Saudi Arabia/ Qatar 2023, 112 min.

This debut drama from Amjad Al Rasheed is also the first ever Jordanian feature film to be presented at Cannes, via Marrakech Film Festival‘s Atlas Workshop 2022. 

Inshallah a Boy certainly deserves this honour in showcasing the outrageously misogynist laws that hold sway in many Arab countries: if a widow has no male heir, her deceased husband’s family is by law entitled to half her possessions. Al Rasheed’s tightly-written script makes what could have been a dry and worthy story absolutely gripping throughout its running time. Al Rasheed co-wrote the screenplay with Delphine Agut and Rula Nasser, based on his own original story.

Nawal (Hawa) wakes up one morning to discover her husband has died in his sleep. With her young daughter Nora (Sultanian) Nawal is soon facing the greed of her brother-in-law Rifqi (Omari), who demands 1000 Jordanian Dinar for a pick-up truck he sold to Nawal’s husband, plus a fifty percent share of the family flat, originally bought with her parents’ money.

But there could be a way out of this injustice. And it will come via Lauren (Marwan) the daughter of her Nawal’s boss Mrs Souad (Sakkara), who employs her as part of a team of carers looking after her mother Colette (who is dying of Alzheimer’s). Nawal was the family’s sole breadwinner, her husband having lost his job – without telling her – four months prior to his death. If Nawal can prove she is ‘pregnant’, Rifqi cannot lay his hands on her property, or her daughter, for whom he claims custody, telling the court that Nawal is unable look after the girl. If Lauren can provide Nawal with a forged positive pregnancy test in return for helping her track down an abortionist to get rid of the child (conceived with the husband she no longer loves or lives with) then Nawal can keep her worldly goods. 

A complex narrative then, but Al Rasheed handles it with aplomb. There’s another twist to the tale that could complicate matters: Nawal’s colleague Hassan (Al-Awadi) has developed a crush on the widow, but this could work in her favour. Then disaster strikes when Lauren’s husband finds about his wife’s pregnancy and puts his foot down to an abortion. The two women’s inventiveness is then put to the test as they both fight the law and Jordan’s male-dominated patriarchy finally to find peace and contentment.

There is never a dull moment in this frenetic drama, DoP Kaname Onoyama using a lively hand-held camera to follow Nawal who seems to be perpetually on the move in the busy streets of Amman, even trying to learn to drive her dead husband’s truck. The ensemble acting is convincing, with Omari the standout as the scheming villain supported by Nawal’s double-dealing brother, the two no better than rats from the capital’s sewer.

JORDAN’s ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | Critics’ Week 2023

Creatura (2023) Directors’ Fortnight 2023

Dir: Elena Martin | Main Cast: Mila Borras, Alex Brendemuhl, Marc Cartanya, Cristina Colom | Drama, 118′

A woman’s adolescent sexual awakening and its impact on the rest of her life is the focus of this artful and innovative psychological study from Catalan director Elena Martin. It could be anyone’s story but still somehow feels intimate yet relatable with its universal appeal.

Mila’s story unfolds at five, fifteen and thirty five where the film opens with Mila Borras having found contentment- or so it seems – with Gerard, sensitively played by Marc Cartanya. The two of them are moving to her parents’ house in the country but this fresh start fails to ignite their failing sex life, and Mila’s mental state is suffering as a result.

Reflecting back on the past Mila can find no real cause for the blockage or her failure to respond sexually to Gerard anymore. Often a rash appears which sends Mila down-spiralling into a state of near hysteria although Gerard remains positive and supportive and they work through the situation.

In their nuanced narrative Elena Martin and her co-writer Clara Roquet explore false memory, buried trauma, societal misogyny and even over-thinking in this brave and beautifully captured drama that makes evocative use of its Summery settings in an around Girona, Barcelona and Sitges.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT

 

 

Légua (2023) Directors’ Fortnight Cannes 2023

Dir: Filipa Reis, Joao Miller Guerra | Cast: Carla Maciel (Ana), Fátima Soares (Emília), Vitória Nogueira da Silva (Mónica), Sara Machado (Sofia), Paulo Calatré (Victor), Manuel Mozos (Guilherme) | Drama, Portugal

An award for most enchanting opening scenes in this year’s Quinzaine selection much surely go to DoP Vasco Viana. Legua unfolds in deepest Portugal where a country estate – seemingly abandoned by its owners – is now home to three generations of God-fearing women who live an almost feudal existence in this quiet backwater miles from Lisbon and Porto.

Emilia is the ‘old-school’ elderly retainer who still takes her job seriously, despite her declining health, taking care of the modest property belonging to her boss Senhora Manuela who lives in Lisbon (and who we never meet). The fastidious old lady is also a taskmaster for middle-aged Ana, whose labourer husband has gone to work in France, but who also abides by Emilia’s exacting standards. She respects the old lady and never forgets the dept of gratitude she owes her for helping raise her own daughter Monica, who is now studying engineering. The young girl is very much of the ‘me-generation’, mocking the old-fashioned ways and traditions, preferring to listen to trance music with her Sofia, and focus on her future.

With its languorous pacing and graceful attention to detail Légua both celebrates and mourns the passing of an old order, now almost left behind to its antecessors. But is the future as promising as Monica believes?. Emilia and Ana are the guardians of this heritage and still relish their daily duties and the sense of order which is fast disappearing, and which lends comfort and stability to both ‘servant’ and ‘master’.

Emilia’s values are rooted in the last century and she believes traditions should be upheld and respected to the finest detail. Ana shares her views and carries forward the diurnal duties involved in running a home. There’s a gentle sensuous rhythm to this husbandry, and Reis and Guerra capture this pride in a job well done with sumptuous gracefulness, in a film that is almost silent apart from the soft sounds of birds and, at one point, a Christian Passion hymn harmonised by Bach.

Ana is an also a decent cook and a capable gardener. She believes her duty lies with her boss and with her Emilia (whose health is now rapidly going downhill) rather than with her husband, who she loves passionately, but who has been forced to seek work in France. Their daughter Monica is very much a city girl, who has no truck with the past. Monica fizzes with teenage energy as she talks about planning a rave in the nearby countryside: “although no one would come!”. It’s  lively performance from Vitória Nogueira da Silva, but Monica has as hard-edged selfishness to her personality. Typical of youth, she has no time for the past, only the future.

The strength and appeal of the narrative is this convincing portrayal of all three generations: their respective notions are cleverly melded and given equal respect within a film that is never judgemental of youth, or age – for that matter – but gently observes the feelings and authentic rituals of each of the women, while also reflecting and luxuriating on the surrounding landscape, both flora and fauna, which is also gradually disappearing with the passage of time. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2023

 

The Buriti Flower (2023) Ensemble Prize 2023

Dir.: Joao Salviza, Renee Nader Messora; Cast: Francisco Hyjno Kraho, Luzia Cruvakwyj Kraho, Debora Sodre.

The Kraho are an indigenous tribe of hunters gatherers who have continuously fought and died to retain their lands along the Balsas River in northeastern Brazil, since 1940. Renee Nader Messora and Joao Salaviza introduced us to these people back in 2018 with their Un Certain Regard jury prize winner The Dead and the Others/

Five years later they are back in the Un Certain Regard sidebar to elaborate on their experience living amongst the tribe, this time spending 15 months living with them and shooting on 16mm. The Buriti Flower much connects to a global narrative of survival for small communities all over the world struggling to maintain their ancestral rights and preserve their freedom in the face of the developed world that continues to expand into their ancestral territory.

The government of former President Bolsonaro called the area “unproductive” and helped European settlers to “reclaim” it by force. The history of the Kraho people is a history of massacres, with the government of the day more or less complicit. The “National Indian Foundation” (FUNAI) was founded in 1969, after its predecessor had to be abandoned because it supported the aggressive settlers in taken the land from the Kraho and other Indian minorities.

Jotat Kraho a young girl (who like most of the actors play themselves) has hallucinations about an upcoming disaster. Her sleep is disturbed and she flies through the air in her dreams. Her uncle  asks the titular Buriti palm for advice. He and other Kraho people are on the way to Brasilia for a congress of Indian minorities wanting to bring their grievances to the central administration.

But before they set off, we are told in detail the massacres of the 1950s, when the two most wealthiest ranchers of the area hired cow-boys and their guns, to liquidate the Kraho population so that their land would fall to the massacre’s perpetrators. One young Kraho woman woke up early on that fateful day, so she could warn others, before hiding. The village eldest Balbino – who we see in a black-and-white film shot before the massacre, tried to argue with the aggressors, only to be shot in the back when walking to his house. Up to this day, the “Gatehouse” to the village is always covered twenty- four fours because the threat of another invasion is always virulent.

Buriti ends on a hopeful note with the birth of the baby: “One more, but we need Two for the Leopard”. This is a melancholic and languid feature rather like the waters that dominate the landscape. There is a ghostly atmosphere that lends a surreal air to the proceedings, pregnant with possibility. DOP Nader-Messora lets her imagination roam freely, and the result is a kaleidoscope of water fairies and dream like creatures of all kinds This is set against the barbaric background of history. Unique and emotionally gripping.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2023

Kennedy (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir.: Anurag Kashyap; Cast: Rahul Bhat, Sunny Leone, KK Gautlam, Megha Burman, Benedict Garrett; India 2023, 142 min.

Best known for his epic Gangs of Wasseypur, Anurag Kashyap is back with his latest, a neo-giallo thriller that unites him with Rahul Bhat who starred in his kidnapping drama Ugly in 2013,

Kennedy is more or less a killing spree that follows an insomniac ex-cop still operating in a corrupt underworld. The film has been mostly shot during the night on Mumbai streets, over a period of 30 days and sees the titular character morphing into another person while still doing the dirty work for the corrupt Police commissioner in Mumbai.

Kennedy (Bhat) moves around without a fixed address, making it difficult for his old superiors to control him. One of his favourite places is a luxury hotel in the city, where he meets the equally enigmatic Charlie (Leone), whose alliances are not very clear – like with most characters. One exception, a senior clerk in the government, pays for his anti-corruption with his life – and so does his whole family.

There is a McGuffin, with Kashyap trying to confuse the issues even further; intertitles announce a countdown to the big night where all will be revealed. But the killing goes on, often to classical Viennese music (courtesy of the Prague Philharmonic choir) and this gives the scenes – with bodies flung all over the place – a distinct surreal feeling, elevating it from mainstream thrillers.

Kennedy seems to soften as the film wears on, making contact with his daughter on the net. But whether this spells redemption for his nefarious ways is never quite made clear – or if we are in for a Kennedy ‘Mark Two’. The bloody mayhem is commented on by a London News reporter (Garrett), who keeps the audience on board with the action – a very much needed intermediary.

Kashyap is a fan of neo-noir author Patrick Manchette and the late French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville, both influences leading to a ambivalent hero status for Kennedy, who seems to be happy to kill, only regretting his actions moments later. Obviously this is down to a split personality, allowing him to be effective as a killer, and very withdrawn when left to his own devices. There is a false bravado about him, particularly when dealing with women like Charlie.

DoP Sylvester Fonseca must take credit for the success of this revenge thriller, set in artificial, claustrophobic interiors – often hotel rooms – trapping the victims like animals. Fonseca and Kashyap also remain on target for most kills in one sequence, their relentless pace leaving us breathless. These repeated nightmares merge into each other, leaving very little room for reflection. But Kennedy still manages to tell a story – however warped and ambiguous.
The eye-candy, if you can call it that – is just right for a Midnight screening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where Kashyap’s feature is the only Indian film in the programme.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | MIDNIGHT SCREENING 2023

Rien a Perdre (2023) Cannes Film Festival

Virginie Efira, Arieh Worthalter, Félix Lefèbvre, Alexis Tonetti, Mathieu Demy, India Hair | Drama Belgium France 110’

A mother’s spirited struggle with the French legal system lies at the heart of Rien a Perdre, a fast-moving feature debut for Delphine Deloget best known for her TV fare and award-winning documentary No London Today that bagged a prize at the major Swiss festival Visions du Reel fifteen year ago.

Virginie Efira once again gives a feisty performance as the intractable Sylvie, a single mother with an explosive personality, trying to hold together her family of two tearaway boys – and a chicken – after the father of her youngest has cleared off. Teenage Jean-Jacques (Lefebvre) is a gifted trumpet player, but when his younger brother Sofiane (Tonetti), the more troubled and least fleshed out of the two, gets badly burned on the chip fryer, it becomes clear that Sylvie cannot cope.

Sylvie puts on a brave front but faces some difficult choices and her mental state has clearly suffered as a result. Her bother Alain (Demy) tries to help by offering Sofiane a home but is deemed too close to the problem. And her lover (Worthalter), is .

Sooner or later the authorities catch up with the family but Sylvie comes to blows with a pleasant social worker who proposes a move to a foster home for the boys. This turbulent intervention and the family’s slowly emerging backstory provides the driving force for the remainder of this naturalistic and often moving feature which offers Efira another chance to display her talent for playing strong-willed women. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 25 May 2023

The (Ex)perience of Love (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir.: Ann Sirot, Raphael Balboni; Cast: Lucie Debay, Lazare Gousseau, Florence Loiret Caille, Nora Hamzawi, Florence Janas, Tarek Halaby, Ninon Borsei; France/Belgium 2023, 89 min.

Playful and often hilariously funny The (Ex)perience of Love is an emotional rollercoaster in the same vein as Jan Bucquoy’s 1994 drama The Sex Life of the Belgians.

Presented at this year’s Semaine de la Critique at Cannes it the sophomore feature of Belgian writer/director Ann Sirot and her French filmmaker partner Raphael Balboni, who recently bagged the top prize at Belgium’s “Marguerites” Awards for their debut Madly in Life. 

Sandra (Debay) a fitness instructor, and her partner Remy (Gousseau), editor of a high-brow art magazine in Brussels, are trying to have a baby. Nothing seems to work until their Danish gynaecologist comes up with a diagnosis and a possible cure: Apparently, Sandra and Remy are suffering from a “past loves syndrome”, and need to circle back and sleep with all their ex parters to clear the ‘blockage’. 

Both have complex emotional backstories in tune with modern times: Sandra has had more lovers than Remi whose ex Julie (Hamzawi), who would later become his sister by marriage. Quite understandably, Julie’s husband Manu is very much against “lending” his wife to Remy, who is also something of a snob. Remi’s first love Nora has given up on relationships and now lives, sexually active, with two female friends in a shared flat.

So the completion between Remi and Sandra begins, both enjoying their   “backlog’ of ex-lovers. Remy meets Marion (Caillle), who is open to all forms of sexual experimentation. Justine (Borsei), Sandra’s sister and a mother of two, tries to help her sibling, who now feels emotionally side-lined by Remy, who is  rather enjoying his status as a ‘single man’. On his way to sexual liberation, he uses Sandra as a sort of guide, trying to sleep with a woman during an orgy in a swimming pool where everyone is wearing an animal head. But no experiment is without its surprises as both Remi and Sandra soon discover.

The (Ex)perience of Love is a study in male sexuality, with Remy regressing to teenage-hood, all too ready to sleep with new women, ‘forgetting’ Sandra and the child they so much wanted. Although the ending is a little too cosy and constructed, the directors confirm that sex without emotional commitment is empty. And that men like Remy are emotionally much less mature than Sandra had hoped for. Hilarious at times, The (EX)perience paints a rather sober picture of gender politics. MT

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 

Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (2023) Camera d’Or winner 2023

Dir: Thien An Pham | Le Phong Vu, Nguyen Thi Truc Quynh, Nguyễn Thinh, Vu Ngọc Manh |  Drama 177′

Thien An Pham makes his feature debut with this languid mystical odyssey reflecting the history of Vietnam. It sees a Saigon songster embark on a spiritual journey into his past in search of a brother who vanished long ago.

Thien (Vu) is living a carefree existence in the capital when tragedy changes his life forever. The reason for this dramatic change is the death of his sister in a freak motor cycle accident. Thien must take his sister’s body back to the rural village where they grew up in, and find his brother, a committed Christian who his since left town.

Back in the rural village, Thien meets the craftsman Truing Quynh) a proud ex-soldier, who admirably refuses to take money for the shroud he has created for Thien’s sister. He fought on the side of the South Vietnamese army and lost many friends since they were heavily outnumbered. But he is stoical and full of forgiveness, even though the side they were fighting for was responsible for their defeat.

Thien also comes across Sister Thao (Quynh), a young woman who almost became his bride back in the day. Thien is aggressive towards her at first, his male ego playing up, but soon realises the mistake he made in letting her go. For the first time, he understands her decision to choose a life of chastity, poverty and obedience and wishes he could believe in God, something which still eludes him. Later he meets a friend of his brother, and he follows her to his work place deep in the jungle. Here, his faith will be tested once again.

DoP Dinh Duy Hung creates a mesmerising sense of place with breath-taking images in the jungle and the waterways that play with light and shadows and changes to reflect Thien’s emotional transformation. Thien’s struggle to be able to believe in God after all the years of a superficial life is an arduous one, but he tries to be honest, even when seemingly losing the battle.

An old motorcycle, which belonged to his father, is his trademark, transporting him through the countryside, often getting stuck in the mud and mirroring the peaks and troughs of his own mental journey. His endurance grows with time, but his brother, who seems to be at the heart of the enigma, remains elusive.

This is certainly an epic, a subtle, sinuous piece of filmmaking and Thien An Pham is certainly in love with his long travelling shots. Leaving some of these “darling Images” on the editing floor would certainly have made for a more concise, less languorous look at his country’s past. But there is no mistake, this is a filmmaker with talent. AS

André Bazin Prize by Cahiers du cinéma goes to Pham Thiên Ân for Inside The Yellow Cocoon ShellCANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2023

It’s Raining in the House (2023) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Paloma Sermon-Dai | Purdey Lambert, Makenzy Lombet, Louise Manteau, Donovan Nizet | Belgium, France Drama 82′

An artful and entrancing coming of age story that unfolds one sultry summer in lakeside Belgium where teenagers Makenzy and her younger brother Purdey are discovering love and life in their working class neighbourhood after their mother leaves home.

Paloma Sermon-Dai’s tender debut drama is another personal project for the Belgian filmmaker whose award-winning documentary Petit Samedi chronicled her brother’s struggle with substance abuse.

There is a distinct cinema verite feel to It’s Raining, the director drawing from her documentary experience, and once again casting her own relatives, real-life sister Makenzy, almost 18, and fifteen year-old half-brother Purdey, in a naturalistic feature inspired by her 2017 short film Makenzy.

Needs must when the devil drives, and the siblings have to fend for themselves in a story that is slim on plot but triumphs with impressive camerawork from Frederic Noirhomme (Playground) who instills the piece with a sense of soft-peddling, bucolic charm. The kids’ naturalistic often amusing banter avoids a melodramatic approach to their trials and tribulations, capturing instead the banality and frustration of their humdrum everyday existence, often with flinty humour.

But while Purdey is more mature and realistic in outlook, trying to get a job and talking to the social services after she splits with her controlling Moroccan boyfriend, her brother loafs around with his friends and steals from the local store to make ends meet. Purdey’s petty crimes gradually turn more hard-edged when he meets some kids from Brussels, providing the film with a sombre change of tone in contrast to the carefree vibe of the opening scenes. Time for Purdey to make some serious decisions about her future. Sometimes the strongest bonds emerge out of hardship. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE |

The Nature of Love | Simple Comme Sylvain (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Monia Chokri | Cast: Magalie Lepine, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Francis William Rheaume, Monia Chokri | Comedy Drama Canada 110′

Girl meets boy from the other side of this tracks in this Quebec-set drama that explores how love can break down even the toughest barriers of class and intellect, until the cracks start to show.

Canadian actor and filmmaker Monia Chokri returns to Un Certain Regard with her third feature having won the Jury prize of the Cannes sidebar in 2019. The Nature of Love very much brings to mind Brigitte Rouan’s 1997 feature After Sex: A forty year old woman, in a loveless and sexless relationship, embarks on a risky affair in a social environment unknown to her. It’s a well-worn formula but told with style and appeal.

Sophia (Lepine-Blondeau) and Xavier (Reaume) are middle-class intellectuals living together in Quebec. Held together by a shared history and a tight circle of friends they have drifted into that ‘friendship’ zone that so often sounds the death knoll on passion. But when Sophia meets Sylvain (Cardinal), a builder working on her new summer house, the chemistry is electrifying.

Sylvain is all brute strength and masculine charm, and Xavier seems content to let things slide. But soon Sylvain’s blue-collar background is at odds with Sophia’s soigne milieu. And rather than accepting his gaucheness amongst her own set, Sophia persists in correcting her new lover’s limited vocabulary (“he has to learn to be precise to give his opinion greater value”). And that flies in the face of Sylvain’s male ego. After the usual recriminations the lovers split, and Chokri then explores the aftermath digging deeper into their cultural differences in a scene of utter confusion.

Chokri plays Sophia’s close friend Francoise, her role is to support this new beginning, while Sophia’s mother is the voice of reason, knowing her daughter all too well. Xavier’s father is the Alzheimer’s sufferer, reminding us to live life to the full: the Grim Reaper is always waiting in the wings.

Not as intricate and poetic as Mia Hansen-Love’s One Beautiful Morning, The Nature of Love is still a passionate portrait of a woman on fire. Shot with simmering compassion by DoP Andre Turpin, Chokri keeps up a relentless pace in this no-holds-barred dark comedy.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2023

 

 

 

The Anatomy of a Fall (2023) Golden Globes 2024 | Best Motion Picture – Non-English Language

Dir: Justine Triet, Wri; Justine Tried, Arthur Harari | Cast: Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado Graner, Samuel Theis | Drama 151’

French director Justine Triet enters the premier league of French film directors with this absorbing and fiercely intelligent psychological drama that sees a writer implicated in the death of her husband.

Certainly deserving its top prize at this year’s Cannes competition Anatomy of a Fall stars Sandra Huller, her second role of the festival, in a gripping courtroom drama that begins with a mysterious death and the gradually dissection of a marriage that in the early scenes appears to have everything going for it, and with an appealing little boy (Machado Garner) to show for it. But who knows what goes on behind the scenes?. And in this case the setting is a remote and picturesque chalet in the French Alps where, as the film opens,  successful German novelist Sandra (Huller) is being interviewed by a young PhD student from nearly Grenoble. The relaxed atmosphere sees the two women enjoying wine and gossipy banter, but loud music from the upper floor soon brings this genial meeting to close. Sandra’s husband is composing and playing back his syncopated vibes on a loop. And when Samuel is found dead, having fallen – or jumped – from a window, it gradually dawns that all is not well in this snowy paradise.

Over two hours then slip by in an engrossing battle of wits where the action swings from the magnificent Alpine hideaway to the sober confines of the court where Sandra, defended by her barrister and close friend Vincent (Swann Arlaud), will have to prove her innocence against the vicious cross examination of the prosecution (Antoine Reinartz). And here fact, reality, and fiction come under the spotlight, including Sandra’s dirty laundry which she is forced to reveal in public: her temper, her bisexuality, but also her keen intellect: and once again we realise that the Law is not about discovering the truth but winning the battle of perception.: As Vincent puts it succinctly to Sandra who insists: “I didn’t kill him”. “That’s not the point” – “You need to deal with how you come across to others”. As courtrooms dramas go this is one of the best. MT

Winner Best Motion Picture – Non-English Language | Best Screenplay – Motion Picture – 81st Golden Globes 2024 | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | WINNER PALME D’OR

Only the River Flows (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Wei Shujun | Yilong Zhu, Chloe Maayan, Tianlai Hou, Tong Lin Kai | China Drama 102′

Beijing born filmmaker Wei Shujun returns to Cannes three years after his award-winning Striding into the Wind (2020).

You could be forgiven for thinking Only The River Flows was actually made during the 1990s such is the vintage look of the celluloid and its grainy quality, shot by Chengma Zhiyuan (Fires on the Plain). Premiering in this year’s Un Certain Regard sidebar the thriller is set thirty years ago in rural China where a chief of police Ma The (Yilong Zhu) is investigating a series of murders that lead to an early arrest. The victims are a kindly widow, a poet and a rather sweet little boy. But the detective starts to question the decision due the increasingly unusual behaviour of the locals in this riverside backwater.

Written and directed by Shujun Wei, the feature certainly pays homage to the noir detective stories of  the 1950s but what makes it more interesting is its portrayal of China before the economic boom at a time where most ordinary people were still quietly getting on with their humdrum lives in relative obscurity. And Ma The is a case in point. Under the cosh of his superiors, he is forced to suffering in silence and endure grim headquarters in a disused cinema. Home life is not much better, infact he lives in a rather squallid hovel with his wife Bai Jie (Chloe Maayan) who has recently become pregnant with a child who may have a borderline genetic disorder.

Based on a book by Hua Yu, it pictures the police as rather cartoonish characters who would rather be doing anything (such a playing pingpong) rather than tracking down criminals, and there’s dark humour at play here in the script co-written with Chuniei Kang.

The chief suspect is laughingly known as ‘the madman’ but the investigation also throws up some rather squallid little goings on which add texture and context to the thrust of the narrative – the hunt for the serial killer – in this rather scuzzy little corner of China. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2023

 

 

 

The Mother of All Lies (2023) Directing Prize Winner UCR 2023

Dir.: Asmae El Moudir; Drama-Documentary with Asmae El Moudir; Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt 2023, 96 min.

La Femis graduate and director Asmae El Moudir, follows her first film The Postcard with this feature debut set against the troubled past of her homeland, Morocco.

Aesthetically the film follows a daring concept: On the one hand El Moudir questions her forebears’ history, using puppets and a handmade replica of the Casablanca neighbourhood where she grew up, at the same bringing herself into the feature, openly questioning her parents’ version of events.

The story centres on a single photo. El Moudir wants to know why she only has one photograph from her childhood, and why the girl in the picture isn’t even her. Her dictatorial grandmother burnt the rest of the memorabilia. The snap is shot in a Kindergarten setting and it soon turns out the girl in the photo is her sister Fatima, one of the victims of the massacre ordered by King Hassan II in Casablanca in June 1981, when the poor rose up against the cost of living crisis: bread and sugar prices increased by a staggering 77%.

On that fateful day in June 1981, the grandmother had closed the house but she was the only person who could have seen the assailant, who killed her granddaughter. Confronted by the surviving sister, the grandmother used bullying tactics to keep her, and the rest of the household, quiet. Not by accident, the photo of Hassan II is the only other image which survived to tell the tale.

The death toll was officially put at sixty six people but observers believed over six hundred were killed by police and military. After many years of the Sahara War, the Kingdom had run out of money and the price rises were supposed to cover for the seemingly endless military adventure. El Moudir questions her mother, father and grandmother’s account about their home and their country. Slowly, she unravels the layers of deception that have shaped her life.

As it turns out, Fatima was not the only victim in the house. The filmmaker’s father was a promising goalkeeper with the local team. One morning, the army and police used the pitch to bury the victims of the massacre, ending the father’s dream career. He joined his brothers who were jailed for decades, in mourning a lost past. One of the brothers recalls his time in prison: many where forced into claustrophobic cells where they were suffocated.

El Moudir painstakingly puts together the repressed history, with the grandmother defiant to the last. The use of puppets and miniatures actually makes the grand deception even more real, and quite alarming. There are echoes of the Chamber of Horrors in Madame Tussaud’s wax work museum. DoP Hatem Nachi cleverly merges the two artistic levels seamlessly. The film is particularly convincing in showing how the tyrannical grandmother uses her status as the matriarch to repress any form of resistance from her docile and traumatised family. The Mother of all Lies is innovative and startling. An impressive start to a promising filmmaking career. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | UN CERTAIN REGARD

The Homecoming (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Catherine Corsini Cast: Suzy Bemba, Esther Gohourou, Aïssatou Diallo Sagna, Lomane de Deitrich, Cédric Appietto, Denis Podalyds, Virginie Ledoyen | France, Drama

Catherine Corsini is arguably most successful in her intimate character dramas. Summertime particularly comes to mind. Her eleventh feature premiering at Cannes Film Festival captures the intensity of a summer holiday, with two terrific central performances from newcomers and onscreen sisters Suzy Bemba (Jessica) and Esther Gohourou (Farah). The French island of Corsica provides a stunning playground for them to get together after a long time apart, and experience first love before going on to real life.

The French are big on holidays: barely a month goes by without some kind of long weekend or school break, and Corsica is becoming increasingly popular with its secluded beaches and craggy coves. To bring us up to speed with family set-up Corsini starts her film with a preamble showing a mother Khédidja (Aïssatou Diallo Sagna) fleeing Corsica with her two little girls, their father having died in enigmatic circumstances. Flip forward fifteen years and the three of them are heading back there where Khédidja will be serving as nanny to a wealthy family from Paris. Here Corsini and her co-writer Naïla Guiguet skilfully manage the various narrative strands involving the trauma of their characters’ collective past, occasionally veering into melodrama but always with feeling.

Jessica is the smarter of the girls and soon develops a close bond with Gaia (Lomane de Deitrich), the daughter of the Parisian couple (Denis Podalydès and Virginie Ledoyen). Meanwhile the tomboyish Farah starts to dabble with drugs and meets Corsican bandit (Harold Orsoni) providing the film with some spikier moments. Bemba and Gohourou make for alluring couple exuding both charm and humour, somehow making their mark in an environment that is distinctly unfriendly to outsiders, and there’s a racial element at play here. Clearly they don’t fit in, and Farah is not the most likeable of teenagers.

But mostly this is an extended family story about sins of the past and redemption. All the characters experience a transformation as the dynamic gradually shifts with satisfying outcomes. Corsica is very much a character, its breathtaking scenery stealing the show as it did in I Comete: A Corsican Summer and Let the Corpses Tan.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

 

Monster (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Kore-eda Hirokazu | Cast: Sakura Andô, Eita Nagayama, Soya Kurasawa, Hinata Hiiragi, Mitsuki Takahata | Japan Drama 126′

This study of classroom bullying, and childhood trauma is not one of Kore-eda’s best films, and never reaches the emotional heights of Our Little Sister or Like Father, Life Son. But after a choppy first hour Monster  eventually comes together as a stirring drama about the benefits of friendship and imagination. The film also deals with the controversy of parent versus teacher in an educational environment where increasingly staff are having to take responsibly for often false accusations in order to keep the peace and avoid PTA reprisals.

Minato (Kuokawa) lives with his widowed mother Saori (Ando) in the Japanese coastal city of Suwa. The climate here is extreme and frequent downpours and typhoons provides the story with its often stormy atmosphere that mirrors the emotional state of this troubled but tightly-knit couple who we first meet watching a blazing fire from the balcony of their family flat.

Minato has a new teacher called Mr. Hori (Eita Nagayama), and their controversial relationship gives the story a sinister undertow when the boy starts behaving strangely. Clearly something it going on but Kore-eda keeps us guessing in a series of rather other sequences. It soon emerges than the boy has been injured by Mr Hori after an incident at school. Saori wants answers but they are not forthcoming, the staff and Mrs Fushimi (Tanaka), the reserved head mistress, merely bow and express their deep regret in Japanese style.

The focus then turns to Minato’s relationship with another student, Yori (Hinata Hiragi) whose father, a single parent, appears to be off the rails. From then on, sharing their past traumas the boys form an indelible bond as the story gradually turns into a affectionate buddy movie where the two of them scamper around in the summery fields and explore an abandoned train which becomes their hideout and a place to escape to and enjoy a sense of adventure and fantasy.

Complimented by a soothig score from late Ryuichi Sakamoto Monster often feels like a film in two halves, the second being the most satisfying and enjoyable and exuding Kore-eda signature tenderness and his skill for working with children. The seasoned director elicits some really stunning naturalistic performances from the entire cast. Yoko Tanaka is probably the most impressive as the stylishly elegant Mrs Fushimi, the epitome of discretion but always with a twinkle in her eye.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

The Taste of Things | La Passion de Dodin Bouffant (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir Anh Hung Tran | cast: Juliette Binoche, Benoit Magimel, Pierre Gagnaire | Drama | France, 135′

One time lovers Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel re-unite for a sumptuous feast of the senses that sees gastronomy as a conduit for a long lasting celebration. The French Vietnamese filmmaker first came to Cannes twenty years ago with his ravishing feature debut Scent of Green Papaya that won the Camera d’Or.

The Taste of Things, his seventh feature, adapted from Marcel Rouff’s 1924 novel The Life And Passion of Dodin-Bouffant is set in France in the late 19th century, the film follows the life of Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel) as a renownd chef living with his personal cook and lover Eugénie (Oscar®-winner Juliette Binoche). Eugénie and Dodin share a long history of gastronomy and love. While emotions remain contained, the culinary discoveries are, on the other hand, breathtakingly exquisite. The only sadness for Dodin is that Eugénie refuses to marry him. So, the food lover decides to do something he has never done before: cook for her.

 We first meet Eugenie (Binoche) in her kitchen garden on a blissful summer’s morning chosing a fresh lettuce for a mouth-watering meal of gastronomic proportions. Dodin (Magimel) and his guests will savour at their leisure later on at luncheon. Every dish is a work of art created from a basis of fresh local ingredients in season. But the film also symbolises a wider appreciation of the simple pleasures in life we often take for granted such as the intense anticipation of a delicious dinner or the satisfying sensuality of long-lasting desire.

Eugenie luxuriates in the quiet pleasure of cooking and enjoying time spent with Dodin over the twenty years of their time together. Their epicurean partnership has gradually led to the bedroom where occasionally the two indulge in the realm of the senses that extends beyond the purely culinary. But Dodin wants to formalise the arrangement with marriage. And is also concerned for Eugenie’s well-being and her failing health. Slowly he takes over in the kitchen preparing the food as an act of affection and appreciation he feels for her in their relationship of mutual respect and dedication. And the act of successful courtship like the preparation of a delicious dish requires patience and meticulous timing, a heavy-handed approach may ruin the chemistry, but he must keep the pot simmering in this delicate dance of love that is typically French. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION 2023

Banel & Adama (2023)

Wir/Dir: Ramata-Toulaye Sy | Cast: Mamadou Diallo, Moussa Sow, Binta Racine Sy | Drama 87′

Senegal’s dry sunny climate and spare sandy landscapes make a spectacular setting for this simple but never simplistic love story from first time feature director Ramata-Toulaye Sy. It sees a young couple conflicted by the modern world and the spirituality of African folklore.

Vibrant images and spectacular framing picture the newlyweds Banel and Adama at peace in their small village. But dark clouds soon gather over their idyll when Adama becomes increasingly absent from the picture dealing with his commitments as a farmer in a worrying drought. Banel spends her days aimlessly walking around repeatedly talking about her plans to leave the village and emerging as a rather spiteful and vacuous character, killing small birds and reptiles with a sling through boredom and bitterness.

A little boy named Malik is always on her trail, monitoring her movements. Adama calls him a “scribe angel,” who is trying to read her mind. But Banel becomes abusive towards him and she realises the futility of her life without a clear purpose. Is the director trying to make a point about a women’s role in tribal society. While the men tend their cattle the women have their own part to play. They must run the home and bear children. If so Banel is neither a trailblazer nor a role model, but a frustrated character and her life is without foundation in these shifting sands.

Ramata-Toulaye Sy has an outstanding gift for visual storytelling and a real eye for framing. Banel and Adama is a cinematic and atmospherically powerful film full of striking imagery, brooding discontent and baleful glances, including the extraordinary sand storm sequence that brings this enigmatic feature to a close. There are some intriguing ideas and concepts at play, but whether the story – about tradition and the modern world – can captivate an audience for the film’s entire running time, without character development and a satisfying plot resolution, is questionable. So script development is certainly where this talented filmmaker needs to focus her attention. MT

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Last Summer (2023) Cannes Film Festival

Wri/Dir: Catherine Breillat | Cast: Lea Drucker, Olivier Rabourdin, Clotilde Courau, Samuel Kircher | France Drama 104′

This French remake of May el-Touky’s far edgier awarding-winning original Queen of Hearts is so laboured, long-winded and last-century.  

Léa Drucker gives a steely performance as Anne a smug but successful juvenile rights lawyer who likes to live on the wild side and risks it all to have a casual affair with her mixed-up, ugly duckling stepson Theo (Kircher) because she can. In this sleek makeover where the focus is the upmarket Parisian suburban settings, Anne plays token mother to her adopted Japanese daughters, but most of the time she is flaunting her voluptuous figure in couture dresses, and stilettos, and is rarely without a glass of wine to get through her days of being a legal champion and massaging the ego of her rich and raddled industrialist husband Pierre (Rabourdin) who she can also alienate in a second with her razor-sharp rhetoric. 

But this sweet tale sour when Theo throws his toys out of the pram, confessing the liaison to  Pierre on a ‘man-to-man’ break. Anne strikes back with a vituperative counterclaim bringing her husband back onside and threatening Theo with her legal prowess. Breillat shocked audiences twenty years ago with her avantgarde approach to sex from the women’s point of view, most notably in Romance – but this material is so passe and lacks the bite of her early work, playing out like an bland erotic comedy with some skilful camerawork thrown in. It is also overlong.

El-Touky co-wrote the script but her original film Queen of Hearts – an apt title embodying the control freakery behind Anne’s character – also dived deeper into the psychological aspects of the story of an abusive narcissist with a heart of stone. Breillat’s film focusses on the intimate sexual relationship which provides awkward and ultimately tedious viewing, and is particularly unconvincing in its motivations as Theo is no adonis and lacks charisma. And who really wants to sit through endless close-up sweaty sequences of people having sex?  MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

 

 

About Dry Grasses (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan | Cast: Merve Dizdar, Deniz Celiloğlu, Musab Ekici | Turkey, Drama 197′

The past and the present once again collide in this discursive latest drama from Nuri Bilge Ceylan. It sees an art teacher languishing in a remote Anatolian backwater yearning for a transfer to the bright lights of Istanbul.

Samet (Deniz Celiloglu) has always been proud of his easy manner and genial way with his students although recently this bonhomie has failed to materialise due to his stalling career. He shares a comfortable house with a younger colleague Kenan (Musab Ekici) who joins him by the fireside after trudging across the snowbound wasteland in the film’s opening sequence. The two seem unaware of the latent competitiveness in their relationship,

But summer soon arrives bringing with it a vast expanse of dry grasses. Ceylan’s elegant framing once again provides a contemplative setting for this reflective story about school staff having to shoulder responsibility for accusations from pupils. And Samet soon comes under scrutiny when a pupil accuses him of abuse.

Samet has a soft spot for his prize pupil 14 year old Sevim (Ece Bagci) and the two often engage in inappropriate banter. But when Sevim betrays their clandestine friendship by filing a complaint about his behaviour to the authorities Samet backs off immediately, wondering whether his more attractive colleague Kenan is fact partly to blame for the complain. Kenan then becoming the focus in the inquiry. All this has a negative impact on Samet’s ego accentuating his competitive streak with Kenan. By way of getting his own back he decides to sabotage Kenan’s budding romance with his female colleague Nuray (Merle Dizdar) who works in a bigger school in a nearby town.

Although the Turkish auteur reworks his customary themes in one of his most resonant works so far, his films are always intriguing, memorable, and wonderful to look at. This time around a cheeky fourth wall adds an element of surprise to the Ceylan’s signature style. And although Dry Grasses never reaches a resounding conclusion, we leave the cinema feeling satisfied and enriched by the experience. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | Best Actress Award Merve Dizdar

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Anselm (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir.: Wim Wenders; Documentary with Anslem Kiefer, Daniel Kiefer, Anton Wenders; Germany 2023, 93 min.

To call Wim Wenders’ portrait of German artist Anselm Kiefer a documentary would be selling the work of both artists short. ANSELM is a potted history of post war Germany, rooted in the society where both men were born, in 1945. Neither of them escaped unhurt, even though Kiefer, a more confrontational character than Wenders, took the brunt of criticism. But “Das Rauschen der Zeit” is first and foremost a chronicle of a country still not ready to face its racist past. Their output is shrouded in enigma and ambivalence. There is always confusion and reverie: Wenders’ American set films and Kiefer’s French based creations are flights of imagination. But the shadow of the Third Reich looms large, and cannot be negotiated with art or gestures.

Anselm Kiefer, represented as a young man by Daniel Kiefer, and as a school boy by Anton Wenders, gained  prominence in 1971 as Joseph Beuys’ master student in Dusseldorf. This was followed by a scandal in Venice, at the Biennale in 1980, when Kiefer was accused of being a neo-Nazi, with him insisting he just wanted to refer to the victims of the Holocaust, wearing his father’s Wehrmacht’s Uniform and greeting the public with the Nazi salute. In 2022 Kiefer would make a triumphant return to the city.

But by now his work output was colossal – both in yield and form: He created topographic landscapes in an old brick factory in Germany, and landscapes in the South of France. And continues to this day with mega installations in his new studio in Croissy near Paris. There are architectural constructions, numerous pavilions, underground crypts and a gigantic, roofed amphitheatre. Everything is larger than life, and Kiefer is still at it, in a big way, always moving forward to the next project. Flame throwers are his favourite “weapons” of art, giant lift constructions lead him to the top of the world. Literally.

Then we return to the beginning with Paul Celan (1920 – 1970), holocaust survivor, poet and translator, who drowned himself in the Seine. The author Ingeborg Bachmann (1926-1976) a member of the circle of artists striving for a new beginning, not another cover-up. She died in an “accidental” fire in her own bed. But they were outnumbered by the ex-Nazi supporters who went into “inner exile” while still supporting the regime, like the philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), who never apologised or even tried to explain. There is a moving snapshot of Celan trying to meet Heidegger – but like Richard Strauss, leader of the NSDAP “ReichsmusikKammer” (Musicians had to be Aryans to take part), Heidegger could not even be bothered to say sorry, keeping his international reputation intact.

There is brilliance on both sides of the camera, thanks to DoP Franz Lustig, and it is a credit to both artists to return to the failed new beginning, because the huge majority of Germans preferred to feel sorry for themselves and were busy with collective denial. Wenders and Kiefer are still attempting to evade the past. But try as they may, it still outruns them. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | SPECIAL SCREENING

The New Boy (2023)

Dir: Warwick Thornton | Cast: Kate Blanchett, Mezi Atwood, Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair | Drama, Australia

Kate Blanchett delivers another tour de force – this time as a nun in a remote outpost for orphaned boys in Australia’s outback.

This drama about a boy disrupting the delicate status quo in a remote Benedictine monastery run by a renegade nun has a definite ring of Matthew Lewis’ Gothic novel The Monk about it.

But this is Australia in the 1940s rather than 18th century Spain. And the themes of innocence and spiritual corruption are replaced by those of Colonisation and the survival of indigenous communities, namely the Aboriginals. There’s no sex, as in Dominik Moll’s The Monk  but there is some magic realism: by rubbing his fingers together the boy conjures up the healing force of a sparkling light.

Warwick Thornton’s narrative follows a well-worn formula: the mercurial stranger comes to town and works his magic – good and bad – on a sceptical community. The ‘new boy’ in question is 9 year-old Aswan Reid, an Aboriginal who, early on, saves another orphan from a fatal snake bite. He sleeps under the bed, gobbles down his porridge, and gets extra rations from Blanchett’s indulgent ‘Mother Superior’ Sister Eileen, who is mourning the recent loss of her partner Dom Peter. And while the nun slowly hits the bottle, questioning her own faith, the boy gradually navigates this new world without losing the vital ropes to his past.

The other boys remain bemused by their new housemate who tries to steal the jam belonging to the kindly caretaker George (Wayne Blair) from under the nose of buxom cook Sister Mum (Barbara Mailman). But the boy is thankfully diverted from these rather cheesy interludes by the arrival of a life-size crucifix from Europe, sent to Aussie to avoid it being damaged by the WWII hostilities. And this provides a source of endless fascination for the boy as he experiments by piercing his own hands to see if they bleed, as the crucifix does, miraculously. Eventually, Sister Eileen wonders if baptism could be the answer to the boy’s antics.

Naturally Blanchett is the star turn here but Reid certainly pushes above his weight in an impressive performance for an untrained newcomer in this welcome addition to the aboriginal sub-genre from indigenous director Warwick Thornton. MT

IN UK CINEMAS FROM 08 MARCH 2024

 

 

 

Firebrand (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Karim Ainouz | Cast: Alicia Vikander, Jude Law, Eddie Marsan, Sam Riley, Ruby Bentall, Erin Doherty | Drama

Jude Law is grotesque as Henry VIII on last his last legs – quite literally – in this imagined drama chronicling his marriage to Catherine Parr, the only wife who survived him, played with elegant conviction by Alicia Vikander.

Brazilian/Algerian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz last came to Cannes with a ravishingly beautiful 1950s outing The Invisible Life of Eurydice Gusmao. His latest, adapted for the screen by ‘Killing Eve’ writers Jessica and Henrietta Ashworth from a novel by Elizabeth Freemantle, is another story about the plight of women living constricted lives, this time in turbulent Tudor times.

Catherine Parr was the first woman to publish in the English language but the focus here is not so much her literary skill as her feminine guile seen through her struggle to survive this putrid, coercive and quixotic tyrant who forces himself on her at every opportunity in the desperate need to provide a male child. His gruesome grunts and larded buttocks bear testament to Catherine’s gruelling ordeal. She is far the most interesting character here but is rather left on the sidelines with the flatulent bully Henry taking centre stage.

Firebrand is a dark disturbing drama that unfolds within the claustrophobic confines of the royal quarters only occasionally making it into the fresh air of its glorious Spring settings. Intrigue, conspiracy and sculduggery are par (!) for the course: and familiar touchstones to those terrible times of misogyny and paranoia, the threat of beheading hanging over every woman, and man in the court.

Catherine Parr was the most fortunate of Henry’s alliances, and was even appointed regent while the king was in France. But she was also suspected of harbouring radical religious views in her objection to the church’s use of Latin: and this plot line sees her befriending the outspoken Protestant heretic Anne Askew (Erin Doherty) causing a rift with Simon Russell Beale’s Stephen Gardiner, a Catholic bishop and Catherine’s implacable opponent. So nothing really new to write home about here but certainly a film worth considering. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | COMPETITION

Asteroid City (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Wes Anderson. Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Stephen Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori, Jake Ryan, Jeff Goldblum | US Comedy drama

Wes Anderson has a dedicated following but even diehard fans were put off by his 2021 film The French Dispatch, with its over-talky, complicated structure. In contrast Asteroid City is so exuberant, nostalgic and lovely to look at the sheer dynamism is sure to endear it to even Anderson sceptics although some complained, at the Cannes press screening, it lacked an ‘involving storyline’. This is a movie that is constantly on the move with Anderson’s regular A-list cast and candy-coloured eye-popping visuals that just make you gawp in amazement for two hours in a film about a play within a TV show .

Once again the narrative unfolds through multiple framing devices with Bryan Cranston introducing the show in a black and white opening scene where we meet Conrad Earp. (Norton) He is the playwright of the 1950s story we are about to watch which then bursts on the screen in a dazzling blast of technicolour transporting us to the mythical desert location of Asteroid City famous for its massive meteor crater and observatory for stargazers eager to see the Milky Way. It’s also a military testing ground for atomic weapons, pioneered by the serene scientist Tilda Swinton. There is a textbook style alien (Jeff Goldblum) whose appearance causes Jeffrey Wright’s army commander to launch an investigation. But Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe get left on the sidelines in nondescript cameos.

But the film’s focus is Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman), a melancholy, pipe-smoking photographer and recent widower who arrives with his children, and his wife’s ashes, in a retro shooting-break that promptly blows a gasket. Butch mechanic Matt Dillon scratches his head unable to mend the vehicle so Augie asks his father in law Stanley (Tom Hanks) for help, meanwhile falling in love Scarlett Johansson’s luminescent but lonely Hollywood star Midge, in scenes that plays out like a psychedelic version of Psycho. The nostalgia comes from the music – Rupert Friend is the crooning cowboy – the colours and the upbeat gaiety that recalls a time when America was great and led the way in all things cutting edge, including scientific breakthroughs and space travel, but still had decency and family values at its heart. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

The Zone of Interest (2023) Academy Award for Best International Feature Film 2024 | Grand Prix – Cannes Film Festival 2023

Wri/Dir: Jonathan Glazer | Cast: Sandra Huller, Christian Friedel, Ralph Herforth, Max Beck | UK 107′

Another daring and distinctive outing from the English auteur/commercials director, and his first non-English film, centres on a Nazi family living in an immaculate villa boasting an idyllic flower-filled garden.

On the other side of the wall smoke rises from the ovens of Auschwitz concentration camp. As birdsong fills the air the camera focuses on the crimson petals of a delicate dahlia while screams of torture ring out in Mica Levi’s chilling score. Beauty and horror shared in one chilling frame.

Music leads us into Glazer’s brave and bracingly original fourth feature, a valuable addition to the Holocaust sub-genre. Inspired by the 2014 novel from Martin Amis it takes an another, unique, look at the genocide this time focusing on a dissociative family in total denial of their neighbours. While they briskly build a life with a growing family, thousands are losing theirs in the most inhumane way possible beyond the wall.

In many ways a holocaust of sorts is still going on all over the world today. The film explores an ongoing debate about the extent we are all prepared to go to to protect and further our own lives and interests at the expense of others. The Zone of Interest asks: Who is beyond our wall, and who would we sacrifice to preserve our way of life?

Filmed in Poland and immaculately lensed by Lukasz Zal (Cold War), geometric framing and pin-sharp images offer a clinical, realist take on daily life for butch camp commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and his priggish wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) who spends her days complacently primping her garden: the perfect hausfrau with a heart of stone. Meanwhile Rudolf struts into his tidy living room to discuss with his sturmbannfuhrers the best way to incinerate 700,000 Hungarians.

A decade in the making and based on comprehensive research The Zone of Interest delves into the lives of Rudolf Hess (1901-47) and his wife who were just ordinary people who loved and took care of their family, but that’s where their empathy finished. Hess was no anomaly; somewhere along the line he and his fellow Nazis all became serial killers. The Zone of Interest is not just about the banality of evil, it takes the concept further to question our own individual capacity for violent words and deeds and points towards the possibility of each one of us being these people. And in this way the film connects subconsciously to us, the audience.

An early scene captures an intimate testament of loss and callous gain: Hedwig twirls around in a beautifully fashioned sable coat, just one of the personal items stolen from an Auschwitz victim. In the pocket a rose red lipstick is dabbed on tentatively and then relegated to her dressing table. As Hedwig and her staff gather round the breakfast table silk lingerie possibly still warm from the bodies of its victims is then divided casually amongst the women as their gossip about food and shopping.

Gradually more sinister elements surface in this Eden which play on our imagination in the same vein at The White Ribbon. A this is very much and interactive experience with its unsettling score that leads us into doom evoked by the blood-curdling overture. They are a family going through the motions in their lush riverside setting but clearly all is not well in Paradise. 

Cinema is full of stylish films about the Holocaust: most recently Son of Saul and The Conference. This one, focussing on the ’Interessengebiet’ (or area around the Auschwitz camp), is far from ‘gemutlich’ but provides chilling food for thought and a tribute to Martin Amis, whose novel sparked Glazer’s interest, and whose death was announced on 19th May 2023, just after the film’s Cannes Film Festival premiere. MT

NOW ON RELEASE | OSCAR FOR BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM, BEST SOUND Johnnie Burn, Tarn Willers  2024 | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL GRAND PRIX | 2023 |

Club Zero (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Wri/Dir: Jessica Hausner | Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Sam Hoare, Camilla Rutherford, Elsa Zylberstein | UK

Jessica Hausner is back in Cannes with a psychological drama that unfolds in an elite school where a teacher forms a sinister bond with a group of students.

A dereliction of parental duty is behind the faddish behaviour of so many kids today. Or so Jessica Hausner would have us believe in her primary-coloured feature that also highlights eating disorders through the online ‘pro-ana movement’, climate change and self control.

Mia Wasikowska heads the eclectic cast of singularly unlikeable characters as Miss Novak a nutritionist specialising in ‘zero eating’ in a modernist school billed as one of the best in Austria. The parents are rich and mostly neglectful of their kids who channel this latent disappointment and lack of real guidance by voicing a series of contemporary convictions which sound entirely laudable in the opening scenes: their love of sport, their need to impact less on to the environment. No one actually mentions a desire to be slim. Gradually Miss Novak indoctrinates her students into a cult of disfunctional eating, promoting the miraculous health and environmental benefits.

Hausner and her regular screenwriting partner Geraldine Bajard certainly make some really valid points but the cold-edged, non-naturalisitc interiors and characters are so universally unlikeable, performed by a cast of inexperienced newcomers, we do not care a jot for any of them as they fade into pasty-faced insignificance, and this, along with an irritating percussive soundscape and the relentlessly unforgiving depiction of Gen Z, makes for an arduous watch.

The exception here is school principal Sidse Babett Knudsen who lights up every scene with her amusing charisma, as Ms Dorset. Fellow auteur Ulrich Seidl is behind the production team but the film has none of his dry wit or deadpan appeal. Instead we are forced to endure one scene involving one teenage girl (Ksenia Devriendt) who eats her own vomit, echoing the ‘yuk’ factor of last year’s Palme d’Or winner Triangle of Sadness. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

 

Fallen Leaves (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023 | Jury Prize

Dir/Wri: Aki Kaurismaki | Cast: Alma Pöysti, Jussi Vatanen, Janne Hyytiäinen, Nuppu Koivu | Finland Drama 81

A spare but satisfying love story emboldened by Kaurismaki’s usual deadpan humour and blatant disregard for visual appeal. Fallen Leaves sees two lonely blue-collar workers form a tentative bond when they first set eyes on each other in a run down industrial backwater to the north of Helsinki.

Morose panel beater Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), a heavy drinker, lives in a squalid trailer with his fellow factory workers. When Friday night comes around he joins a colleague for karaoke where he meets Ansa (Alma Pöysti) but neither seems particularly impressed with each other. Or so it would seem. After taking her number, he promptly loses it and so begins an obstacle-ridden path to romance. 

Aki Kaurismaki won the Gold Bear for his Syrian refugee story The Other Side of Hope in 2017. Six years later he tracks back on similar themes in this ironically entitled ‘fourth’ episode of the Proletariat Trilogy, that started over two decades ago with The Match Factory Girl. Unlike Ken Loach’s recent agitprops Fallen Leaves avoids collective whingeing instead opting for playful humour to tell a tightly-scripted tale of gentlefolk, inured to their humble existence, and content with their situation in life – but love is always the balm they seek to get them through the day.

Full of irony and innuendo, Fallen Leaves works through familiar territory: immigration, zero hours contracts, social isolation and the healing powers of love in a light-hearted drama where music plays an important part, weaving in tunes from the Finnish songbook and offering a welcome antidote to the hardcore fare in this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Cheers and standing ovations prove this to be one of the most popular features of this years 76th edition. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

https://youtu.be/qmtYPFON7Us

A Brighter Tomorrow (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Nanni Moretti | Drama Italy/France, 95′

Since winning the Palme d’Or over two decades ago with The Son’s Room  Nanni Moretti, now nearly seventy, has been turning out self-reflective dramas about life for the Italian left-wing middle classes, and this circuitous comedy is another predictable sortie into that Roman territory and not without his signature moments of dry humour.

Like many directors of his era, Moretti keeps making the same film over and over again and this is the least involving to date. But then life tends to repeat itself so this is not such a bad thing, although you start to wonder why he is still in the main competition with so many talented filmmakers languishing in the sidebars. His last visit to Cannes with Three Stories, in 2021, was another middling drama in his repertoire where the women are usually peacemakers, the men the troublemakers, apart from Moretti himself who always good as the self-questioning man of integrity. Naturally – he’s the director.

A Brighter Future is essentially another of his films within a film, Moretti is Giovanni a neurotic novelist struggling to finish his own feature. As usual the politics are left-wing and the pace plods along placidly about the Italian Communist party objecting to the Soviets during the Hungarian invasion of 1956.

Margherita Buy – always a luminous prescence – plays his wife Paola, the film’s producer. But the is marriage going downhill and she has decided to leave him. Meanwhile Matthieu Amalric makes another febrile appearance as the film’s producer desperately trying to rustle up finance. To beef up the production Giovanni he has cast a group of Koreans who provide the funniest scene during a script meeting where their interpreter gets a ticking off for translating an intimate aside he has with Paola.

There are references to his ‘friends’: architect Renzo Piano and Martin Scorsese in a debate about violence in film. Scorsese has surely more experience and greater validity in commenting where this is concerned. The story gradually grinds to a rather pessimistic conclusion in chewing over and digesting the decadence of politics. So this is not one of his best outings but maybe a brighter future will bring a better Moretti film with it. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | COMPETITION 2023

 

Directors’ Fortnight | Cannes Film Festival (2023)

Discover the 55th selection of Directors’ Fortnight

Find the complete programme here

Following the Cannes Film Festival, you can watch the 2023 Selection between June 7 and 18 in about 30 arthouse cinemas in France.

Here is this year’s selection:

VALE ABRAÃO (Val Abraham / Abraham’s Valley)

de Manoel de Oliveira

Séance spéciale

 

LE PROCÈS GOLDMAN (The Goldman Case)

Cédric Kahn

Closing Film

 

AGRA

Kanu Behl

 

L’AUTRE LAURENS (The Other Laurens)

Claude Schmitz

 

BÊN TRONG VỎ KÉN VÀNG (Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell)

Thien An Pham

First Film

 

BLACKBIRD BLACKBIRD BLACKBERRY (Merle merle mûre)

Elene Naveriani

 

BLAZH (Grace / La Grâce)

Ilya Povolotsky

First film

 

CONANN

Bertrand Mandico

 

CREATURA

Elena Martín Gimeno

 

DÉSERTS

Faouzi Bensaïdi

 

IN FLAMES

de Zarrar Kahn

Premier long métrage

 

LÉGUA

Filipa Reis & João Miller Guerra

 

LE LIVRE DES SOLUTIONS (The Book of Solutions)

Michel Gondry

 

MAMBAR PIERRETTE

de Rosine Mbakam

 

RIDDLE OF FIRE (Conte de feu)

de Weston Razooli

First Film

 

THE FEELING THAT THE TIME FOR DOING SOMETHING HAS PASSED

de Joanna Arnow

First Film

 

THE SWEET EAST

de Sean Price Williams

 

UN PRINCE (A Prince)

de Pierre Creton

 

XIAO BAI CHUAN (A Song Sung Blue)

de Zihan Geng

Premier long métrage

 

WOO-RI-UI-HA-RU (In Our Day)

de Hong Sang-soo

Closing Film

 

QUINZAINE DES REALISATEURS | 17-27 May 2023

Cannes Film Festival 2023 – Programme complete

The 76th Cannes Film Festival is set for a legendary year with Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon starring Robert De Niro and Leo DiCaprio, and an out-of-competition world premiere of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. 

 

Bernardo Bertolucci makes his final bow winning an honorary Palme d’Or in 2011


Some of the best names in cinema will be crowding the Croisette this year – in fact, it’s hard to think which stars won’t be on the famous Red Carpet for this year’s epic celebration announced by Thierry Fremaux.

The 2023 competition lineup includes new films from Jonathan Glazer, Wes Anderson, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Todd Haynes, Nanni Moretti and Aki Kaurismäki. The programme also includes the latest from cinema greats Wim Wenders, Takeshi Kitano, Victor Erice and Catherine Breillat. Five female directors and one first time film will compete for the coveted main prize the Palme d’Or.

Palme d’Or hopefuls include Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, who won in 2018 with Shoplifters and is now back in Cannes competition with Monster, and Nanni Moretti with Il Sol Dell’Avvenire after winning the main prize with The Son’s Room in 2001. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, won the Palme in 2014 Winter Sleep, and comes back with About Dry Grasses, another story set between Istanbul and small town Anatolia.

Wes Anderson’s latest Asteroid City promises to be as quirky as ever and stars Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, Tilda Swindon, Jason Schwartzman. Todd Haynes’ May December features Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore in another emotional rollercoaster. But humour will undoubtedly come from Aki Kaurismäki and Dead Leaves, his first film in six years. Veteran Wim Wenders returns to Cannes with his Japan-set feature Perfect Days together with his documentary Anselm, a portrait of German painter Anselm Kiefer, one of two films about artists, the second being Martin Provost’s drama Bonnard, Pierre et Marthe that explores the love story between the renowned French painters Pierre Bonnard and his wife Marthe.

Jessica Hausner is one of six female directors in competition this year, with Club Zero. She joins Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher, who directs her sister Alba, Josh O’Connor and Isabella Rossellini in Chimera. French filmmaker Justine Triet will present her thriller Anatomy of a Fall. Catherine Breillat, another seasoned French director will be there with with L’été dernier starring Léa Drucker; Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania (The Man Who Sold His Skin) is coming with Four Daughters; and a feature debut for Senegalese-French director Ramata-Toulaye Sy with Banel & Adama will premiere in competition this year.

One of this year’s most anticipated films in the Palme d’Or lineup is from English auteur Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Under the Skin): Zone of Interest is a Nazi-themed thriller based on the novel by Martin Amis. One time lovers Benoit Magimel and Juliette Binoche team up for La Passion de Dodin Bouffant from Vietnam-born French director Tran Anh Hung.

It takes a Brazilian/Algerian director to make a film about Henry the VIII, but forget Hilary Mantel, Firebrand is billed as a ‘history horror story’ and stars Alicia Vikander, Eddie Marsan, Jude Law and Simon Russell Beale. Oscar winner Steven McQueen will be there with Occupied City, a documentary that explores Amsterdam under Nazi-occupation. Also from England comes Molly Manning Walker with her debut feature (in UCR) which goes by the buzzworthy title of How to Have Sex. Let’s just hope that this and all the other live up to expectations.  MT

 

JEANNE DU BARRY by MAÏWENN – Opening Film Out of Competition

CLUB ZERO by Jessica HAUSNER

THE ZONE OF INTEREST by Jonathan GLAZER

FALLEN LEAVES by Aki KAURISMAKI

LES FILLES D’OLFA by Kaouther BEN HANIA
(FOUR DAUGHTERS)

ASTEROID CITY by Wes ANDERSON

ANATOMIE D’UNE CHUTE by Justine TRIET

MONSTER by KORE-EDA Hirokazu

IL SOL DELL’ AVVENIRE by Nanni MORETTI

L’ÉTÉ DERNIER by Catherine BREILLAT

KURU OTLAR USTUNE by Nuri Bilge CEYLAN
(ABOUT DRY GRASSES)

LA CHIMERA by Alice ROHRWACHER

LA PASSION DE DODIN BOUFFANT by TRAN ANH Hùng

RAPITO by Marco BELLOCCHIO

MAY DECEMBER by Todd HAYNES

JEUNESSE by WANG Bing

THE OLD OAK by Ken LOACH

BANEL E ADAMA by Ramata-Toulaye SY  |  1st film

PERFECT DAYS by Wim WENDERS

FIREBRAND by Karim AÏNOUZ

LE RETOUR. Catherine Corsini

BLACK FLIES Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire

UN CERTAIN REGARD

LE RÈGNE ANIMAL by Thomas CAILLEY – Opening Film

LOS DELINCUENTES by Rodrigo MORENO
(THE DELINQUENTS)

HOW TO HAVE SEX by Molly MANNING WALKER  |  1st film

GOODBYE JULIA by Mohamed KORDOFANI  |  1st film

KADIB ABYAD by Asmae EL MOUDIR
(THE MOTHER OF ALL LIES)

SIMPLE COMME SYLVAIN by Monia CHOKRI

CROWRÃ by João SALAVIZA, Renée NADER MESSORA
(THE BURITI FLOWER)

LOS COLONOS by Felipe GÁLVEZ  |  1st film
(THE SETTLERS)

OMEN by BALOJI  |  1st film

THE BREAKING ICE by Anthony CHEN

ROSALIE by Stéphanie DI GIUSTO

THE NEW BOY by Warwick THORNTON

IF ONLY I COULD HIBERNATE by Zoljargal PUREVDASH  |  1st film

HOPELESS by KIM Chang-hoon  |  1st film

TERRESTRIAL VERSES by Ali ASGARI, Alireza KHATAMI

RIEN À PERDRE by Delphine DELOGET  |  1st film

LES MEUTES by Kamal LAZRAQ  |  1st film

ONLY THE RIVER FLOWS
Wei Shujun

UNE NUIT
Alex Lutz

The film will be screened Out of Competition – Closing Un Certain Regard

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | 16-27 May 2023

Indiana Jones & the Dial of Destiny | Cannes 2023

Indiana Jones returns to the Festival de Cannes for the world premiere of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, directed by James Mangold, starring Harrison Ford as the legendary hero. 15 years after the presentation in 2008 of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull directed by Steven Spielberg, the final installment of the Lucasfilm saga will be screened on Thursday, May 18 in Cannes and will be released in theaters on June 28 in France and June 30 in the United States. On this occasion, the Festival will also pay a special tribute to Harrison Ford for his career.

It is to the memorable music of John Williams, that James Mangold and Harrison Ford will climb the steps of the Palais des Festivals on May 18 alongside Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Ethann Isidore and Mads Mikkelsen. An event that will mark the highly anticipated comeback of the famous adventurer in the Official Selection.

“In 1995, I was honored to come to Cannes with my first film Heavy, as part of Director’s Fortnite. Twenty-eight years later, I am proud to return with a slightly larger spectacle. My legendary collaborators and I are very excited to share a brand new and final Indiana Jones adventure with you!”, declared director James Mangold.

Straight out of the imagination of George Lucas, well before the great epic Star Wars, it was in 1981 that Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first part of the saga, was revealed to the world. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the adventures of Indiana Jones conquered the hearts of millions of fans who followed him for four decades.

The embodiment of a heroic America, Harrison Ford has played some of the most iconic roles of the last 50 years including Han Solo for George Lucas in Star Wars IV, V, and VI, and Rick Deckard in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) and Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 (2017).

In 2023, James Mangold directs him to play again the adventurer with the hat and the whip. The American director and screenwriter is back in Cannes, 28 years after the presentation of his first film Heavy. He then directed, among others, Copland in 1997, the biopic on Johnny Cash, Walk the Line in 2005 with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, which earned the Oscar for Best Actress, but also 3:10 to Yuma in 2007 and Ford v Ferrari in 2019.

The Festival de Cannes would like to thank The Walt Disney Company and LucasFilm for their trust and is looking forward to hosting the screening of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny which promises another great cinematic adventure around the world.

The film is produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Simon Emanuel, with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas serving as executive producers.
John Williams, who has scored each Indy adventure since the original Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, has once again composed the score.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is set to be released in cinemas on June 28, 2023 in France and on June 30, 2023 in the US.

 

Elvis (2022)

Dir.: Baz Luhrmann; Cast: Tom Hanks, Austin Butler, Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson, Kodi Smit McPhee, Richard Roxburgh; US/Australia 2022, 159 min.

Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-1977) was – and still is – the most successful recording artist on this planet, so hiring Baz Luhrmann, well known for his baroque output, to make a film of the entertainer’s life, and turn in a handsome profit seemed like a brilliant idea.

But casting Tom Hanks as the singer’s gambling, cheating and lying manager Colonel Tom Parker put Austin Butler’s Presley at a glaring disadvantage. Parker, who voices the linear narrative, is also a rather unreliable witness to the story; Butler is certainly entertaining and charismatic as the titular hero, but does he do a convincing job as the hip-swivelling legend? Let’s just say few performers would have fared better opposite a behemoth like Hanks. Olivia DeJonge, as Elvis’ wife Priscilla, is even more short-changed: she brings up their daughter and suffers in silence, while her husband shags and devours pills like candies. And no mention is made of her being a teen bride; Priscilla was fourteen when she met the twenty-four-year-old Elvis for the first time in 1959.

The writers offer no real explanation as to why Elvis left for the army as a rebel in 1958, only to return two years later his bad boy instincts buttoned down. Amateur psychology is used to lay the blame on the shady Parker and his greed – we are led to believe the scrupulous manager of dubious Dutch origins had a hold over Elvis using the star as a cash cow to payoff his own mounting debts. Presley’s father Vernon (Roxburgh) was a weak role model and ended up in jail. Elvis’ actress mother Gladys (Thomson) is also just an underwritten sketch.

Luhrmann dishes up the legend’s mammoth musical history in all its glittering details weaving in a strand about his formative musical associations with the  segregated black artists Little Richard and Mahalia Jackson who lend vibrance to the story. DoP Mandy Walker, who worked with Luhrmann on Australia, pulls out all the stops in a biopic that runs for nearly three hours. Rather than zero-in on a pivotal era of the star’s career, Luhrmann merely touches on his entire life, and any depth or resonance is lost in the cacophony of flashing lights and noise.

Behind the cinematic showcase lies a hollow heart. Luhrmann, an obsessive showman himself, again goes overboard with his obsession for split screens in another sparkling montage that will satisfy the lowest common denominator. But having spent all his budget on appearances there’s nothing left for the script. The story is a classic but the straightforward chronicle approach takes away the element of surprise leaving us with an ‘all singing all dancing’ cabaret showpiece that ends in tears; a burnished biopic to please the investors rather than arthouse enthusiasts with discerning minds. AS

IN CINEMAS FROM JUNE 24TH 2022

Marcel! (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir.: Jasmine Trinca; Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Maavane Conti, Giovanna Ralli, Umberto Orsini, Valentina Cervi, Valeria Golino; Italy 202, 93 min.

Cruelty to animals and their tragic deaths features highly in many indie and arthouse film underlining our important bond with these vulnerable creatures. And nowhere more so that this year’s Cannes where dogs and donkeys bare the brunt of man’s callous behaviour.

Actress turned director Jasmine Trinca;s debut feature is an absurd, surrealistic comedy in the style of Fellini, but with, literally, much more bite. The titular Marcel is a canine, obsessively loved by street performer Alba Rorwacher, much to the chagrin of her daughter Maavante Conti, who just wants to be loved by her mum, and not always parked with grandparents Giovanna Ralli and Umberto Orsini.

Told in ten chapters, the story of this dysfunctional family is grim as well as fascinating. As far as mothers go, Rohrwacher is a nightmare: not only does she neglect her daughter, but she lets her pet dog Marcel sit at the dinner table, feeding him carrots. She is also a fan of divination, throwing coins around with great gusto – and to add to her talents she acts as a medium. An elderly admirer brings her flowers, and attends all her performances in the town square. Her daughter is forced to watch, but not allowed to play her saxophone, which would certainly enhance her mother’s amateurish performance.

Marcel soon goes missing, And no prizes for guessing the outcome or culprit involved in his disappearance. Later, mother and daughter drive to a county fair, were the child has to act Marcel’s part, before discovering the the macabre reality. Not having had much success with their act, the two then travel to visit family; a cousin (Cervi) is well aware of Rohrwacher’s shortcoming as a performer. Proceedings are livened with one family member fancying themselves as a hunter with the whole living room full of stuffed animals, a wild boar being next prey on the agenda.

Rohrwacher is a wonderful eccentric, Trinca calling her a “Buster Keaton disguised as a panther”. But the main reason why this often unstructured script comes together is Maavane Conti, who can be wonderfully expressionless and unfazed by the most turbulent of circumstances. Her limpid blue eyes seem to be cast out of marble, and she manages to remain obdurate in deflecting the guilt her mother accusingly projects on her with grandfather claiming:”it was your father’s dog”. Said father is absent, presumed dead, having left some dark drawings which make the flat even more gloomy.

DoP Daria d’Antonia creates the right ambience for this madcap trip, the colours being as crass as the action. Director Trinca is already planning ahead, hoping that Conti will be her “Antoine Doinel”. At least she rely on the actors baling her out, because MARCEL! has even at just 93 minutes offers too little substance. Quirky it certainly is, but if only the episodically nature could be replaced by more cohesion. Still, a stunning ending shows that Trinca is not short of of ideas. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

Stars at Noon (2022)

Dir: Claire Denis | France Drama, 138’

Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn play a pair of star crossed expats in Claire Denis’s political thriller set in Nicaragua Sandinista regime during the 1980s and updated from Denis Johnson’s novel with a pandemic twist to further its unsettling atmosphere .

Qualley is skanky journalist turned grifter, Trish, using her body rather than her writing to maintain a precarious existence when she meets the debonair aid worker Daniel DeWaan who is supposedly there on an humanitarian mission.

Claire Denis uses her considerable seasoned talent to imbue this with a highly charged erotic atmosphere that adds a sexual frisson to the sinister goings on in this central American republic. There is an undercurrent of unrest between the locals and the neighbouring Costa Ricans and although the Qualley and Alwyn’s chemistry offers combustible screen time it does not quite offer enough heft to lift this into more heavyweight territory given the dangerous times they are living in, particularly as Daniel soon turns out to be entirely unsuitable for the tricky mission he is undertaking.

In contrast Trish is a canny survivor who has the best lines when describing her contacts and these add a dry burst of humour to their rather gruelling exploits in surviving, and their bid to escape when the going gets rough. On the road to Costa Rica they run up against an abrasive CIA agent – Benny Safdie in a punchy turn.

Based on Denis Johnson’s novel ‘The Stars at Noon’, this is certainly a sensual and absorbing  experience not least for its woozy jazz score by Tindersticks but not quite as memorable as her early films Beau Travail or Chocolat. MT

IN CINEMAS from 4 June 2023 | CANNES FILMS FESTIVAL | Grand Prix ex aequo

 

Eo (2022) Cannes Film Festival | Joint Jury Prize

Dir: Jerzy Skolimowski | Drama, Poland 97’

Another film that sees the world through the eyes of an animal concluding that most humans are no better than exploitative beasts.

Cow took a bovine perspective at Cannes last year, and Gunda was all about the pecking order of pigs. Polish master Skolimowski, who at 84 has been making films since the 1960s, recreates Robert Bresson’s arthouse original Au Hasard Baltazar with a strikingly fresh and intense piece of visual storytelling and minimal dialogue save the occasional braying that endears us to its bidable beast of burden, a humble donkey called Eo.

Eo is a self-determining character whose destiny is often driven forward by personal choice rather than human ownership, his wanderlust taking him on to pastures new. And the director makes use of the donkey’s diverse life stages to expound a richly thematic narrative that trots through concerns as diverse as animal welfare, football hooliganism, family conflict and the ongoing debate about sustainable farming and the food industry. It does so with impressive artistic flair, a dynamic blood red visual aesthetic, and the masterful camerawork of award-winning DoPs Michal Dymek and Pawel Edelman.

Starting out in a travelling circus Eo will enjoy a life of extremes from a gruelling time harnessed to a scrap metal truck; to the bucolic pleasures of chomping through daisy strewn fields and a cushy billet in an Italian palazzo owned by Isabelle Huppert’s elegant countess, but he never forgets his first experience of human kindness from his circus trainer Kasandra (Sandra Dryzmalska) and suffers bouts of separation anxiety throughout these times of joy and pain. The final scenes will break even the hardest heart. This donkey’s doleful, disarming demeanour and stoical endurance make him worthy of the Best Actor award in this year’s Cannes. In reality the film went on to share the Jury Prize and Best Composer for Pawel Mykietyn’s commanding score. EO was heads and shoulders above anything else in the Cannes competition line-up creatively and thematically and certainly shows us who are the real beasts in todays world. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022 | Won the Jury Prize ex-aequo

 

Showing Up (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

Dir: Kelly Reichardt | Cast: Michelle Williams, Hong Chau, Maryann Plunkett, John Magaro, André Benjamin, James Le Gros, Judd Hirsch | US Drama 108′

Kelly Reichardt’s lowkey but thematically rich tale of creative life in the West Coast town of Portland Oregon is a quietly amusing rumination on contemporary counterculture and a tribute to the famous art college there.

More zen like and offbeat than Certain Women, it follows along similar lines in depicting the everyday uneventfulness of a generation busy doing very little to change the world but making a big deal about it in the process.

Michelle Williams is Lizzy a sculptress and ‘artist in residence’ who pours her heart into her misshapen clay figures but shows no compassion for a bird mauled by her assertive pet cat Ricky. Throwing into her garden with a callous: ‘go and die somewhere else’ the animal then makes a speedy recovery under the care of her fellow artist and landlady Jo (Hong Chau). Both are stressed out preparing for their various shows in this chilled out rural backwater that makes a setting for Reichardt to expose their petty foibles and trivial existence and she does so without judgement or cynicism in a film which is truly delightful in its lowkey languorousness.

There is a veiled animosity and irritation between these women that Reichardt handles so gracefully as to be almost imperceptible and the same goes for Lizzie’s relationship with her chipper father Bill (Judd Hirsch) and his freeloading houseguests (Amanda Plummer and Matt Malloy) who have overstayed their welcome but serve to fill the void in Bill’s life since he and Lizzy’s mother Jean (Maryann Plunkett) who runs the art school, are separated. The same goes for her troubled brother Sean (John Magaro), whose main concern is losing a TV channel. Reichardt totally avoids cliche  in this tender almost wistful study of family interactions, friendship and the human need to make our mark in a world where almost everything has discovered or been done before and survival is guaranteed. MY

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION

Close (2022)

Dir: Lucas Dhont | Cast: Eden Dambrine, Gustave De Waele, Emilie Dequenne, Kevin Janssens, Igor Van Dessel, Marc Weiss, Léa Drucker, Marc Weiss, Leon Bataille | Drama | 103’

A straightforward but emotionally resplendent second feature from this Belgian director who won the Camera d’Or for best debut feature with Girl and went on to win Grand Prix at Cannes 2022. Love and loss are explored through two teenage boys Remi (Gustave De Waele) and Leo (Eden Dambrine) whose budding relationship enters troubled waters when they hit puberty. To say more would spoil the plot. But what shines out here are the stunning settings and cinematography and the memorable performances particularly from Eden Dambrine who clearly has a promising career ahead of him. MT

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE  | joint Grand Prix winner 2022

 

Pacifiction (2022) Cesar for Best Actor and Cinematography 2023

Dir: Albert Serra | Cast: Benoit Magical, Sergi Lopez, Alexandre Melo, Montse Triola, Michael Vautor, Pahoa Mahagafanau | Catalan, Thriller, 138′

Catalan auteur Albert Serra follows Liberte his voyeuristic foray into 18th century Berlin, with a kitschy French language feature set in the Polynesian Island of Tahiti where the tropical climate and sultry sun-drenched sunsets provide a hedonistic hideaway for a shadowy expat community headed by Benoit Magimel’s top ranking Haut-Commissaire De Roller, a soi-disant ‘representative of the state’. But behind his patina of charm seethes a cynic of savage mistrust.

The prowling voyeurs of Liberte are back again looming out of this palm-fringed neon twilight zone of cocktail bars and nightclubs, only this time it’s the 21st century, and the political landscape is uncomfortably familiar. Serra’s regular actor Marc Susini is a light-footed admiral of the submarine, and Sergi Lopez (Harry he’s here to Help) plays sleazy nightclub owner Morton. Montse Triola plays the token female, a published writer returning home. And there are go-go girls and boys a plenty and the sexually ambivalent De Roller seems enamoured with their trans lead dancer Shannah (Mahagafanau). But we gradually relax into this mellow milieu inhabiting the intoxicating torpor of the tropical tale and its weird protagonists.

Serra is not a man to be hurried and once again he takes time to flesh out his story led by antihero Romane De Roller: a bloated, besuited, supercilious, self-seeking bureaucrat who talks in repetitive platitude-strewn cliches, finishing his sentences with a token “voila”. Magimel is majestic in the role. Endless languorous days see him driven round the windswept island in a white Mercedes, visiting local mayors and claiming to have uncovered a rumour about the government starting nuclear testing again after twenty years, in a submarine located off the coast: You wouldn’t trust him to post a letter, let alone quell a conspiracy theory. And storm clouds soon threaten De Roller’s last days in paradise when a Alexandre Melo’s Portuguese diplomat turns up complaining to have been robbed of his papers. Is he a spy or a nuclear specialist? His appearance only adds to the sinister atmosphere of impending doom.

The most impressive scene takes place on the high waves during a surfing competition where a rip tide gives way to stratospheric ocean rollers. De Roller dices with death on the back of a jetski smugly declaring his mastership of land and sea: “I do what you do, but in politics”. Serra’s bizarre style may not suit everyone but he is undoubtedly one of the most avant-garde and distinctive filmmakers working today. MT

PACIFICTION in UK cinemas on 21 April 2023 | premiered at Cannes Film Festival 2022 and has since won 13 awards on the festival circuit | 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crimes of the Future (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: David Cronenberg | Sci-fi, Horror, 138

Surgery is the new sex in David Cronenberg’s latest body horror sci-fi thriller that fast forwards us to a suture-licking future where pain has been eliminated and new organs can be generated by the body itself for practical uses or as an artform.

Viggo Mortensen is the cypher like central character, the renowned performance artist Saul who lives with his creative partner Caprice (a voluptuous Lea Seydoux). He sleeps in form-adapting orchid bed and eats plastic breakfast bars on a tentacled highchair that eases his body functions, the self-generated organs are then removed by Caprice in the custom-made Sark autopsy unit and both derive intense sexual pleasure form the procedure in subterranean twilight locations that bring to mind Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s fantasy drama Evolution. Caprice then tattoos the organs and passes them on to the National Organ Register staffed by a criminally underused Kristen Stewart as a vapid functionary (clearly stifling her disappointment in such a slight role just to be in a film by Cronenberg).  Fans will lap it all up, newcomers to the cultish shrine of Cronenberg will be bemused. The Canadian luminary is back with a vengeance. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | In Competition | ON RELEASE FROM 6 SEPTEMBER 2022

Nostalgia (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

Dir: Mario Martone | Cast: Pierfrancesco Favino, Francesco Di Leva, Tommaso Ragno, Aurora Quattrocchi | Italy, Drama 117′

Mario Martone’s moody mournful thriller Nostalgia, adapted from the novel by Ermanno Rea, sees a man returning to his past in Naples having made his mark in the Middle East. But this attempt to turn back time and is not greeted with the warmth he had hoped for in all quarters.

Martone floods the screen with the faded glory of the southern Italian seaport in a lush and classically styled rumination that contrasts the positive outlook of his central character Felice Lasco (Favino) with the bitter resentments he finds back home. His moribund mother Teresa is overjoyed to see him but his attempts to reconnect with an old sparring partner, the infamous gangland ‘Badman’ Oreste Spasiano (Ragno), are less successful to say the least – their nefarious past is pictured in flashbacks  –  and he is warned to keep away from the crumbling neglected backwater of Rione Sanita where Orest now hangs out under the protection of his acolytes.

But although Felice is determined to gloss over the ups and downs of his complex relationship with Oreste, who tears up at their reunion, an unresolved incident from the past is still a sticking point between the two men; one who has found success personally and professionally, the other failure in a life of crime. The simple but satisfying plot works to the film’s advantage allowing Martone to embellish his local characters, the most memorable is the local priest Don Luigi Rega (Francesco Di Leva) who still provides a spiritual touchstone to the community from his base in the vast cathedral. Buzzing around on a motorbike in full ecclesiastical regalia he is a comforting but commanding figure, his steadfast moral compass providing the guiding light. But Felice will soon become trapped in his determination to heal the past. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL |  IN COMPETITION 2022

 

 

 

Godland (2022) Un Certain Regard

Dir: Hlynur Pálmason | Iceland, Demark | Drama, 128′

Faith is tested to the limit in this striking and spiritual fable that follows a pioneering 19th century Danish priest with a noble mission to found a church in Iceland and photography its people. The deeper he travels into the remote and rugged wilderness the more he will lose his way, literally and metaphorically.

Icelandic filmmaker Hlynur Pálmason has won multiple awards for his distinctively dour and beguiling beautiful dramas Winter Brothers and A White, White Day. Godsland shows that not all men of God are good, or even likeable. Infact, Danish missionary Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) has no redeeming features whatever apart from his photographic skills and so it remains a mystery as to why he was chosen by the religious eminence gris in the film’s opening sequence.

Iceland is an extraordinary setting for this powerful battle of determination and adversity powered forward by the priest’s desperation to conquer the elements and reach his destination before winter closes in with its icy grip. But his religious fervour and will to serve God is no match for the sheer grit of his Icelandic guide (Hilmar Guðjónsson) and a rash decision to ignore his superior grasp of the region and hostile conditions soon lead to tragedy.

An unsettling soundscape echoes the elements. Fire, water, sodden peat bogs and incandescent volcanic eruptions provide a treacherous terrain where Lucas fails to collaborate with his fellow travellers or their animals in his dogged bid to press on at his own pace, and for once the lengthy runtime justifies this epic Herzogian slog. The academy ratio suits the mission well echoing the glass plates Lucas uses to compose his photographs.

Reduced to a chapped and blistered wreck when he finally reaches the northern outpost, his host Carl (Jacob Hauberg Lohmann), and two daughters Anna (Vic Carmen Sonne) and Ida (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir), provide a welcome warmth this sombre masculine drama but even their kindness cannot thaw the chilly heart of the intractable loner: “We don’t need men like him,” Carl tells his younger daughter who takes a shine to the pallid preacher and so begins another uphill struggle to breathe humanity into his troubled soul. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD

The Green Perfume (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir.: Nicolas Pariser; Cast: Sandrine Kimberlain, Vincent Lacoste, Rüdiger Vogler, Léonie Simaga, Arie Worthalter, Jenna Thiam, Pascal Rénéric, Thomas Chabrol; France 2022, 104 min.

A really seductive title that fails to live up to expectations, Le Parfum Vert tries hard, perhaps too hard, to revive Hitchcock mysteries in the style of Jacques Rivette. And while the French New Wave master would be delighted with the central pairing – two Jewish oddballs – along with the theatre setting; Nicolas Pariser is less successful when it comes to the modern version of Hitchcock: the plot is, to say the least, weak, setting aside the simplistic political plotline.

Martin (Lacoste), an actor, is witness to the onstage murder of his friend Vlad (Rénéric) during Anton Chekhov’s play ‘Ivanov’. In his last breath Vlad implicates the Green Perfume group. Martin, always the hypochondriac, freaks out when it turns out he is the main suspect. Fellow actor Caroline (Thiam) tries to calm him down but Martin is then abducted by a right-wing group with links to Russia, led by the sinister Hartz (Vogler), a cartoonish Austrian. Martin is then released the following morning, and running away from the police, led by detective inspector Louise (Simaga), meets Claire (Kimberlain), a cartoonist and owner of a bookshop, who is hounded by her sister and mother, phoning her in the middle of the night with a link to a Jewish dating agency.

Claire has spent a long time in Israel, she dislikes the snobby French but has to admit Israel is not European any more. Martin, who also spent time in Jewish summer camps, is more obsessed with his health and lack of love in his relationships: he is in the middle of a divorce and as self-obsessed as his new partner. Somehow, Louise catches up with the pair on Martin’s next engagement in Budapest where Corneille’s ”L’Illusion Comique” is on the programme. The Hartz Group will try to get hold of a super disinformation system. The clue to its whereabouts will be triggered by one of the actors who will use the wrong cue – the play is in French, the audience has a Hungarian translation. To find the traitor Claire follows Martin in the hunt, in spite of a bullet wound in her leg, before she too is abducted by Harzt and his men in the Budapest theatre.

Forget the farcical plot, The Green Parfum succeeds largely due to the compelling chemistry of the leads – both lonely and out of luck in love. A Jewish identity gets you only so far, and both have not really grown up and still hankers after ideas which are now on the scrap heap. Like Hansel and Gretel, they have lost their way home, only existing only in their imagination. Unaware of the danger of the real conspiracy, they save themselves by falling in love.

DoP Sebastien Buchmann pictures Paris and Budapest in a nostalgic glow. The chase scenes in the theatre are lively, but Buchmann is (like Pariser) most convincing, when it comes to small details, like the observations on the train when the two chases their pursuers – or find a corpse. Every day life is much more exciting than the wildest political plots – particularly when poorly executed. AS

THE GREEN PERFUME | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Decision to Leave (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

Dir: Park Chan-took | South Korea, Thriller, 138′

Park Chan-wook returns to Cannes after nearly six years and his latest, a dazzling Neo-noir love story spiked with dark humour and enveloped in a crime thriller, has won him Best Director. Decision to Leave is certainly a slick and seductive character drama although the sinuous serpentine plot may cause some frustration in the second half, and at well over two hours it rather overstays its welcome considering Claude Chabrol was making these kind of thrillers – admittedly on a much smaller budget – in a tightly-wound ninety minutes, always leaving you wanting more.

Decision to Leave revolves around an insomniac detective (Park Hae-li) investigating the death of a climber who fell from a shard-like mountain of the South Korean coastal location offering vertiginous contrast to the shadowplay of the more sombre domestic scenes, and adding to the thriller’s sultry allure. Seo-rae (Tang Wei), his Chinese widow, is not overly devastated by the loss of her husband and her blasé attitude leaves the pragmatic and happily married detective intrigued as he is slowly entranced by the widow’s enigmatic personality and beguiling beauty, prolonging the course of the murder investigation in a texturally rich narrative that touches on the enduring power of sex in longterm relationships, and the role of nutrition in healing the body.

The investigation grows more complex Detective Hae woon’s behaviour raises suspicions not only with his wife but also his colleague who questions him about his professional commitment to crime-solving. Meanwhile Seo-rae picks up on his interest in her which goes beyond the call of duty, particularly when he invites her to a lush sushi dinner and also prepares her favourite Chinese food in the privacy of her own kitchen.

Hae-joon and his wife eventually make the decision to move to another part of town to get some distance from a situation that grows more opaque when sinister details about the Chinese woman’s past emerge from police immigration records.

Decision to Leave is striking to look at, and the romantic interplay between detective and suspect offers its strongest moments, Park using his signature subtle wit to explore the sensuous dynamic between the two: the cool and procedural cop who falls victim to love and the geisha girl with a mysterious past. The second half becomes more erratic and loses its grip. It feels like the director finally gave up on his carefully constructed story that implodes in an enigmatic denouement and a captivating last scene on a deserted beach.

A striking and soulful thriller that succeeds largely due to the potent interplay between Tang-Wei and Park Hai Li whose chemistry smoulders in the same way as Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray in Double Indemnity (1944). But will this South Korean affair still be memorable in another eighty years? MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | BEST DIRECTOR

 

 

 

 

Little Nicholas (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

Dir.: Amandine Fredon, Benjamin Massoubre; Voices of Alain Chabat, Laurent Lafitte, Simon Paliu; Graphics by Jean-Jacques Sempé; script by Anne Goscinny, Michel Fessler; France/ Luxembourg 2022, 80 min.

Little Nicholas follows the adventures of a mischievous French boy (in the style of ‘Just William’). The creative child of author René Goscinny (1926-1977) and artist Jean-Jacques Sempé (Lafitte), he first saw the light in 1959 as a cartoon in the pages of the Sud-Quest newspaper. The duo would go on to create over two hundred popular children’s stories, before Goscinny died at 51. Co-written by Goscinny’s daughter Anne and Michel Fessler of March of the Penguins fame, schoolboy Nicholas is brought to life, sharing the death of his co-creator with Sempé.

The name Nicholas actually came from a passing vehicle while the authors where having coffee one day. The first episodes are rather formulaic, with Nicholas’ parents and maternal grandmother fighting over the right to bring up the child. Growing up, Nicholas will soon experience the dissolution of gender stereotypes, and a degree of anarchy at school.

The film work best in the segments involving Nicholas (voiced by Paliu) and Sempé after the death of Goscinny (voiced by Chabat, who directed the adaption of Asterix&Obelix: Mission Cleopatra in 2002) leaving Sempé, once again traumatised. Both artists shared a rotten childhood: Goscinny lost most of his family to the Holocaust while he escaped to Argentina with his parents. Sempé’s father was an alcoholic who abused his son and ruined his childhood. In the dialogue between Nicholas and Sempé it soon becomes clear that the two men created a perfect world through their character to compensate for their own misfortune. “Now René and I will live on through you” tells Sempé the boy. Anne Goscinny adds, “there is no finer way to pay tribute to my father, than to tell his story through the art he cherished the most: animation. The graphic novel was a path to the cinema and more precisely to animation”. The camera mournfully catching Nicholas, always looking at the figures of Asterix and Obelix on Sempé’s desk.

The directors chose two different styles of animation: they were inspired by Sempé’s drawings for the “New Yorker”, using classical cinematographic effects like shadow and light, where fresh primary colours dominate. For Nicholas’ world, which was originally black-and-white in the newspapers, the aesthetic is more washed out and sparse, water colours underlining the lyrical components.

Sometimes over-sentimental, and uneven in structure: the parallel narratives do not always mesh together, but the symbolism is still very persuasive, emotional loss can never be fully reconstructed in any art form. Little Nicholas is a testament to art surviving all. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022 | Special Screenings 2022

Forever Young | Les Amandiers (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

Dir: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi | Cast: Nadia Tereszkiewicz, Sofiane Bennacer, Louis Garrel, Micha Lescot, Clara Bretheau | France, Drama 126′

Captivating, chaotic and tenderly nostalgic, this attempt to distill the essence of student life at the acting school founded by director Patrice Chéreau (La Reine Margot) at the famous Theatre des Amandiers in Nanterre is the fifth feature from Italian French actor/director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi who follows a group of students honing their craft in her own alma mater in the late 1980s.

Bruni Tedeschi, who wrote her screenplay with Noémie Lvovsky and Agnès de Sacy, explores this intense environment through the dizzy central character of Stella (Tereszkiewicz) who feels semi-autobiographical for Bruni Tedeschi, the peachy young blonde resides in a palatial flat with a butler (her father was a wealthy Italian industrialist) and gives her all in an melodramatic audition that wins her a coveted place. She falls for fellow student Etienne (Bennacer), a sultry Alan Delon lookalike with come-to-bed eyes, who will be trouble from the start. It’s a doomed relationship that will feel familiar to many as fraught first love affair captured woozily in Julien Poupard’s kinetic camerawork.

Most of the students are soon taking drugs and sleeping with each, and the fear of AIDS rears its ugly head. Chéreau (Louis Garrel in his best performance yet) and his assistant director and Pierre Romans (Micha Lescot) join in the fun while maintaining the rigour of the teaching style in this incestuous but supportive acting community. Forever Young’s only fault is that the freewheeling style lacks structure despite its dramatic peaks and troughs. But the heart and soul is there in a deeply affecting film that feels authentic and achingly romantic but also frustrating at times in its efforts to maintain the narrative’s focus: what is being an actor? MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Fig Trees (2022)

Dir.: Erige Sehri; Cast: Ameni Fdhili Fide Fdhili, Fetan Fdhili, Samar SIFI, Abdelba Mrabti, Firas Amri, Leila Ouhebi, Ghaith Mendassi; Tunisia, Switzerland, Qatar, France 2021, 92 min.

A first foray into drama for French Tunisian filmmaker Erige Sehri, whose journalistic experience served her well in her documentary debut Railway Men.

With its cast of mainly non-pros Under the Fig Trees is a pleasant discursive comedy of manners that plays out in the countryside location of a fig orchard where fruit pickers of all ages expound their personal animosities and gender conflicts in the languorous heat of a summer afternoon, the fig serving as a sexual metaphor for turbulent times ahead as an entire family struggles to interpret the past, present and future of Tunisia.

The director’s background in documentary filmmaking is always prevalent. During filming her focus is on personal dynamics and body language and she spends time with the female protagonists who are trying to find a way out of the past, symbolised by their parents (and the older co-workers), into a future that will offer them the chance to opt for a profession instead of just marriage. Their attitude towards love, as seen in their instagram pictures, is still very romantic, but they know they will have to work hard for a freedom their mothers, and the Leilas of this world, never had.

Ghaith is paying Leila (Leila Ouhebi) extra money for acting as his ‘eyes and ears’. It is no accident that Leila is one of the few older women who encourage the teenagers to behave and pray – something which falls on deaf ears. Ghaith, who is always asking his staff to follow his orders, is very lax in performing his own duties; but in the end, he is the man who pays at the end of the week, and this power gives him a free hand in doling out favours or pay cuts. Melek and her sister Fide are constantly at loggerheads, Melek is in love with Abdoul (Mrabti), who has been living in Monastir for the last years, where he and Melik were an item. But Abdoul has a much more serious matter to deal with: his uncle, who owns the orchard where they work. He has sent the bailiff to his family home, to collect money. And the main focus is their confrontation. More intriguing is the relationship between Sana (A. Fdhili) and her love for co-worker Firas (Ameni) who plays the field, metaphorically, with Sana trying in vain to come to terms with his emotional neglect.

DoP Frida Marzouk’s handheld camerawork is fluid and appealing with poetic images of the fruit-picking and surrounding countryside. Playing out as a series of contemplative episodes without any real dramatic arc Under the Fig Trees is interesting but ultimately less meaningful than it could have been in raising awareness of Tunisian society and its place in the world. AS

NOW AT VIENNALE 2022 | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2022

 

Burning Days (2022) Un Certain Regard

Wri/Dir: Emin Alper | Turkey, Thriller 129′

Emin Alper made his debut with Beyond the Hill, a searing thriller centred on a family holiday. A decade later and Burning Days, playing in Un Certain Regard, seethes with the same savage sense of dread as genre thriller Frenzy (2015), taking us deep into southern Turkey it tackles poverty, corruption and homophobia in a close-knit village of Yaniklar, dominated by its authoritarian mayor.

Emre (Selahattin Paşali), a clean-cut young prosecutor, represents the progressive city-dwelling face of modern Turkey, arriving from Ankara to bring order, respect and social justice to the chaos of the traditional, populist movement that thrives on corruption and nepotism in the rural backwater.

The sound of gunfire greets him as a slaughtered wild boar is dragging its bloody entrails through the streets. A drought had caused vast sink holes to open up in the desert wasteland beyond the town, not to mention a plague of rats. But Emre faces a far more serious issue in this seedy community, that of homophobia, when he forms a bond with Murat (Ekin Koc) the owner of the local newspaper.

Once again Alper generates a creeping feeling of dread and genuine fear for his earnest, upstanding central character who soon finds out the mayor’s influence overrides law and order using the microcosm of the Yaniklar to thoroughly explore Turkey’s modern malaise in an absorbing and visually striking arthouse parable. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD

 

Holy Spider (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Ali Abassi | Cast: Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Hedi Bejastani, Arash Ashtiani | Thriller 114′

Border was a surreal gender bender fantasy set in Sweden. This time around Ali Abassi returns to his native Iran blending true crime and salient social comment with a scuzzy serial killer thriller that unfolds in the Islamic pilgrimage town of Mashhad, where millions come to worship at the shrine of Imam Reza .

This is where middle-aged Saeed Hanaei (Bajestani), a dedicated family man and construction worker, murdered sex workers at the turn of this century before being trapped by a tenacious female journalist who nearly lost her own life in the process as she wades through the mire of a chauvinistic society fighting off advances from an incredulous policeman to convince an unscrupulous judge.

Holy Spider sets off in the sordid backstreets of the city (filmed in Amman) where it follows ex Iran-Iraq war veteran Saeed as he picks off his victims on a motorcycle, riding them back to a squalid basement where he strangles the women with their own hijabs, earning him the name of ‘Spider Killer’.

Tehran-based journalist Rahimi (Zar Amir Ebrahimi), arrives in town determined to track Saeed down, and will stop at nothing, not least the misogyny of the police and local authorities, who undervalue women and particularly ‘loose’ women, to bring him to justice. And her ongoing investigation exposes the wider implications of these murders in a society that holds men and marriage in high regard. And Saeed truly believes he is doing a service to Islam in ridding his community of these ‘low life’ women who are seen as no more than vermin on the streets of the city.

Border was mesmerising in its zinging Nordic setting but Holy Spider is an exotic neon nightmare, Nadim Carlsen’s intimate close-ups gripping us by the throat in experiencing the strangulations for ourselves: the twisted purple lips, the bloodshot eyes, and bruised bodies, the sordid salaciousness of it all. A droning electronic soundscape from Lajos Wienkamp-Marques escalates the tension, feeding every fear engendered by the wickedness of this anti-female annihilation.

As Rahimi pursues the murderer she is beset on every side by negative forces aiming to discredit her in a narrative that persuades us that this task is a not just about exposing the truth but managing the lies and the wide-held belief amongst Saeed’s family and supporters that he is righteous in his crusade to wipe out junkies and prostitutes. And the suspense needles on until the final horrifying moments. MT

CANNE FILM FESTIVAL | BEST ACTRESS WINNER (Zar Amir Ebrahimi)

 

 

R.M.N. (2022)

Dir/Wri: Cristian Mungiu | Cast: Marin Grigore, Judith State, Macrina Baladeanu, Orolya Moldovan, Andrei Finti, Mark Blenyesi, Ovidiu Crisan | Drama 125′

A young Romanian boy has a nasty experience in the woods on his way to school one morning echoing the seething sense of social unrest in the Romanian village where he lives with his family.

Not quite as richly satisfying as his earlier fare, Cristian Mungiu unloads a truckload of issues in his latest, a dour drama that unfolds in the multicultural region of Transylvania, once home to Dracula but now to the equally unsetting evil of racial tension and political dysfunction, both at home and further afield.  .

R.M.N is another time indulgent drama – and there are quite a few around at the moment. It casts a slow-burn gaze over one of the last countries to join the EU through a group of diverse characters trying to make the best of things. Amongst them is the intractable Matthias (Marin Grigore) whose bad time in Germany has brought him back to the family fold in his birthplace of Recia, where he joins his estranged wife Ana (Baladeanu), young son Rudi ((Blenyesi), who has not spoken since the forest interlude, and an ageing father Papa Otto (Fini). Matthias is also attempting to rekindle a relationship with Hungarian-speaking Csilla (Judith State), a musician who runs the local bakery where she is managing two new employees from Sri Lanka whose arrival has caused ructions in the local community, along with Matthias’ reappearance in town, in the run up to Christmas. Yes, it’s a complex plot-line!

Once again the mountains provide a dour but scenic backdrop and this allows for many scenes to play out uncut including one revealing scene where the locals air their racial musings in one uninterrupted static sequence. An impromptu concert provides a welcome burst of Christmas spirit that adds light relief to the simmering tensions of village life. Once again Mungiu provides an engaging contemporary snapshot of his changing homeland but it feels like a film we have already seen before. MT

NOW IN UK CINEMAS | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL premiere 2022

The Mountain (2022) Directors’ Fortnight 2022

Dir.: Thomas Salvador; Cast: Thomas Salvador, Louise Bourgoin, Laurent Poitrenaux, Martine Chevallier, Andanic Mavet, Adam Pouilhe; France 2022, 116 min.

Mountains loom large in this year’s Cannes Film Festival and this sophomore feature from French director/co-writer Thomas Salvador (Vincent), who also stars, is a supernatural love story with eco undertones. Another feature exploring the power of psychogeography on the human soul it contrasts the vulnerability of its almost wordless characters with the perilous Alpine peaks of Chamonix.

The glaciers are captured with verve by DoP Alexis Kavyrchine. Aesthetically the film is an homage to the German “Bergfilme” of the 1920/30s. The film also bears a striking similarity with its eco-surreality to Julian Polsler’s memorable feature The Wall (2012) starring Martina Gedeck.

Parisian robot designer Pierre (Salvador) is meeting his business team in Chamonix, but instead of going back to the capital, he makes the rather reckless decision to embark on a climbing expedition intoxicated by the vertiginous scenery and clear air. Inviting his family to join him, he organises provisions for his stay. His mother (Chevallier) is anxious, his brother Marc (Poitrenaus) angry, but his younger sibling Julien (Mavet) just wants him to have a good time. He also connects with Lea (Bourgoin), the chef of an alpine restaurant .

The effects of climate change have profoundly altered the glaciers, literally ungluing their icy particles, and Pierre manages to catch one of them with his hand causing his right arm to glow with an x-ray like effect, and sucking him into the rocks with intriguing consequences, transforming him from nerdish robot engineer to mountain saviour.

Léa’s past is also enigmatic: she has travelled the world, only to come home again. Both Pierre and Léa are somehow other-wordily, very much in contrast to Pierre’s work colleges and his bickering family. Beguiling and beautifully soothing, The Mountain pulls us slowly under its spell. Radical in its implications, the feature retains its ambiguity, and for once the two hour plus running time is justified. MT

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

Triangle of Sadness (2022) Winner Palme D’Or

Dir: Ruben Ostlund | Cast: Charlbi Dean, Vicki Berlin, Henrik Dorsin, Zlatko Burić, Jean-Christophe Folly, Iris Berben, Dolly De Leon, Sunnyi Melles | Drama, 144′

All you worst fears about luxury cruising will be confirmed in this savage satire from the Swedish director Ruben Ostlund whose disconcerting film The Square won the Palme d’Or five years ago with its lacerating look at the art world. The gloves are off with this louche and lurid takedown of capitalism and communism, social influencers, the idle rich, and the fashion business. There is no finesse here but there are laughs aplenty. In fact, no one escapes Ostlund’s snide-tongued first film in the English language. The simple statement here is that life is not fair.

The triangle of sadness is known in the model business as the frowny bit between forehead and the bridge of the nose. It’s not a good look on the catwalk. And this is where we first meet vapid model Carl (Dickinson) whose self-satisfied social influencer girlfriend Yaya (Charlby Dean who has since died) has won them a break on a luxury cruise. The two bicker endlessly over the restaurant bill the night before: they both want to be equal but their canny taxi driver gives sappy Carl a savvy word of warning on the way back to the hotel: “be careful, once she has all the power it’s over”.

The cruise throws up all the rich, unsavoury characters you care to imagine. And throwing up is very much the name of the game once the ship enters stormy waters: literally and metaphorically, under the captaincy of Woody Harrelson’ Marxist-leaning Master. Soon our motley crew are washed up on a desert island with nothing but their human wiles to sustain them. And naturally this sorts the men from the boys, the women coming out on top. An ability to fish and kindle a fire comes in handy for the Filippino ‘toilet manager’ (Dolly De Leon) who now rules the roost, a social switcheroo along the lines of ‘in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”. Trading favours – sexual and financial – with the survivors understand’s human behaviour despite her hitherto lowly social position. There’s no prize here for guessing who she selects to sleep with her in the nighttime privacy of the shore-marooned lifeboat. But a trek into the mountains with Yaya will turn the tables once again and the Filipino cleaner much make the most of her place in the sun.

With its crass churlishness and whip smart scenes of political and social debate Triangle Of Sadness reaffirms the sad truth: that men and women are all beasts when reduced to lowest common denominator. It’s a dog eat dog world out there whoever you are, and especially if you’re a donkey. Go figure. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | PALME D’OR WINNER 2022

The Night of the 12th (2022)

Dir: Dominik Moll | Cast: Bastien Bouillon, Bouli Lanners, Théo Cholbi, Johann Dionnet, Thibaut Evrard, Julien Frison, Paul Jeanson, Mouna Soulam, Pauline Serieys, Anouk Grinberg, Lula Cotton Frapier | Thriller 114′

Dominik Moll’s memorable arthouse drama goes to intriguing places with a realistic and richly crafted narrative more focused on the moods and motivations of its authentic characters that the whodunnit at its core. Even though The Night of the 12th is an inconclusive crime drama it leaves you with a feeling of calm satisfaction rather than jangled nerves.

On the way home from a girls’ get together Clara (Lula Cotton Frapier) is.torched to death in an otherwise peaceful village in the suburbs of Grenoble. An extensive police investigation fails to flush out her murderer but in the process we are introduced to the local French detectives Bastien Bouillon (Yohan) and Bouli Lanners (Marceau) playing a rookie and hardened duo whose personal lives add valuable insight to the police procedural by exploring the wider implications of this violent murder in the context of contemporary attitudes towards women in France.

Moll and his regular co-writer Gilles Marchand base their script on a section of Pauline Guéna’s essay novel “18.3 – Une année à la PJ, Paris” that deals with this real crime but translocates the action to southeastern France. The remoteness of the mountain setting thrusts our focus onto the intense exchanges between Marceau and Yohan, and adds a scenic allure to the internal scenes of the police procedural with its acerbic macho observations of modern life and the eternal ongoing conflict between the sexes.

Marceau, whose wife has just left him, is increasingly disenchanted by the modern world; the lack of romanticism and culture amongst the young, and their glib attitude towards relationships. This spills over into his dealings with the various suspects, and he eventually retires from the case. But Yohan is the most mesmerising of the two; a deep thinker quietly fascinated by his work and the people he comes into contact with, especially his new colleague Nadia (Soualem) who brings her female gaze to the investigation:”men are often the perpetrators and women the targets” and the local judiciary judge, Anouk Grinberg, sublime in a cameo role. MT

NOW ON BFI SUBSCRIPTION | VOTED BEST FILM BEST DIRECTOR, BEST FILM, BEST NEWCOMER, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, BEST SOUND+ BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | CESAR AWARDS |

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stranger (2022) Un Certain Regard 2022

Dir: Thomas M Wright | Australia, Thriller

Two strangers meet on a bus ride in the outback in this tense Australian thriller written and directed with visual flair and ingenuity by Thomas M Wright. (Acute Misfortune).

At first The Stranger feels like one of those heist movies, one last trick before retiring for a bearded and biddable loner Henry (Sean Harris) hired by Paul (Mouzakis), an amiable undercover cop. Henry is down on his luck and looking for a gig ‘but nothing violent’. Paul then introduces his new pal to his criminal circle and an uncertain Henry goes along for the ride soon bonding with Mark (Joel Edgerton), who will show him the ropes.

Paul and Mark soon emerge as police detectives working on a cold case, an unsolved crime involving the disappearance of a boy eight years earlier in 2002. The police have been working tirelessly to find a body and murderer but so far have been unable to pin down Henry, the only suspect, who was seen in the area at the time the boy vanished. But when they discover Henry has another identity things start to fall into place.

Based on Kate Kyriacou’s book The Sting: The Undercover Operation that Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer, The Stranger is a gripping and sinuous piece of filmmaking with a twisty, tantalising narrative and convincing performances from Harris and Edgerton, who also produces.

Mark works hard to win Henry’s trust and their close relationship runs parallel to the nationwide police investigation that will gradually get to bottom of Henry’s murky past. Until the police get firm tangible evidence to place murderer and victim at the scene of the crime their killer could still slip away, after eight years on the run. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

 

Corsage (2022) Winner Best Film BFI LFF

Dir: Marie Kreutzer | Drama, Austria 115′

In her fifth feature Austrian auteuse Marie Kreutzer plays fast and loose with the memory of Empress Elisabeth of Austria in an entertaining and sumptuously realised film about the curse of beauty for a woman no longer in the flush of youth who still wants to be valued for her other talents.

Corsage blends tradition with contemporary touches, very much along the lines of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and lightly underpinned here by political references to the newly created Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Elisabeth, a fantastically theatrical creature – according to records – is played by a gracefully spunky Vicki Krieps. In modern terms she only just reached her prime, but back in the 1870s being forty was deemed ‘over the hill’. Kreutzer points at a regal middle age crisis for a woman who has been worshipped for her beauty and now feels distinctly undervalued and redundant with only her charity work, dogs and horses to keep her entertained. During a winter sojourn in Northamptonshire – an inspired choice – she flirts with a stable boy but returns minus her favourite black steed who is  killed in an accident. Elisabeth takes to her bed, unconsolable.

In the dilapidated grandeur of the palace a rigid diet of finely sliced oranges and black tea keeps her in impeccable shape, further assisted by waist-nipping corsetry. But she is hungry for love and affection and regularly visits the local mental asylum to commiserate with the deranged women chained to their beds. And when her husband the Emperor Franz Joseph (Florian Teichtmeister) offers ‘anything her heart desires’, she requests a bengal tiger or an extension to the asylum facilities. A stunningly realised drama with flashes of wit and modern music choices and another tour de force from the lovely Luxembourgeoise actor Vicki Krieps. MT

MARIE KREUTZER WINS BEST FILM AWARD BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL AUSTRIA’s OFFICIAL ENTRY IN THE ACADEMY AWARDS 2023 |  CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2022

 

 

 

Tchaikovsky’s Wife (2022)

Dir: Kirill Serebrennikov | Cast: Alyona Mikhailova, Odin Lund Biron, Yuliya Org, Miron Federov | Biopic Drama 143′

Best known for his multi-award winning feature debut The Student, the exiled Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov continues to blaze a trail with another inspired biopic drama – a first to explore the turbulent, sexless relationship between the 19th century Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky seen from the perspective of his wife Antonina Miliukova in Moscow in the late 1870s.

Tchaikovsky was homosexual and his innocent wife to be was oblivious to the fact: in her diaries she supposedly wrote: “Thank God he belongs to me and no-one else. Now he is my husband and no-one can take him away from me”. But, according to this version of events, Tchaikovsky cannot tolerate life ‘a deux’, and especially with a woman whose quite normal nubile demands eventually drive him away from his willing partner. And although our sympathies are with Antonina we are not oblivious to her faults which clearly go beyond religious insistence and eventually become tiresome in this dour and melodramatic storyline.

Those expecting a sweeping epic filled with vast tracks of the composer’s romantic music will be disappointed. True to its title Tchaikovsky’s Wife is first and foremost a lavish and lyrical but often cold-eyed portrait of a married woman’s obsessional and misguided love, it also touches on the prickliness of an artist trying to develop his talent, but this strand is less developed and takes a back seat to Antonina’s mental anguish.

Enriched by modern dance sequences, inventive camera angles and occasional flashes of Tarkovsky, each frame is a painterly portrait straight out of Manet or Berthe Morisot with the delicate detailing of an Ingres painting before the tone grows more sombre and louche with scuzzy naked sequences featuring well-hung studs, inspired by Tom of Finland staged in a rather misogynist attempt to excite the young woman and lure her away from her husband.

We first meet Antonina Miliukova in 1877 as a tender lady of fortune tentatively seeking a husband and lovestruck by her first sighting of the struggling composer. Fifteen years later she is reduced to a poverty-ridden emotional wreck unable to accept that her marriage has irretrievably broken down and her affair with the divorce lawyer has turned abusive.

What starts as hopeful story of triumph over expectation, after the couple’s marriage of convenience, soon descends into a tragedy of melodramatic proportions when Miliukova’s promise of family wealth comes to nothing: Tchaikovsky is unable to countenance a relationship with anyone but his own genius, and a few acolytes who pander to his talent.

The final scenes play out as a tragedy Miliukova having become a caricature of herself with the loss of her three children but determined not to relinquish the unique status of being the wife of a man who would eventually become one of the world’s most legendary composers. MT

AT THE ICA LONDON on 22 December 20

Armageddon Time (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: James Gray | Cast: Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Strong, Domenick Lombardozzi | US Thriller, 115′

Anthony Hopkins and Anne Hathaway star in this coming of age story about growing up in Queens in the 1980s, But they cannot save a rather bland, sentimental drama that feels overlong and underwhelming, competing here in the main competition line-up here in Cannes.

Gray is no stranger to the Cannes Film Festival. In fact the American director has been nominated four times for the coveted Palme d’Or: in 2000 with The Yards; in 2007 with We Own the Night; a year later with The Lovers. His last appearance on the Croisette was with The Immigrant in 2013, but for the first time his regular collaborator Joaquin Phoenix does not have a role.

Armageddon Times certainly seems flaccid and artificial when you think of Scorsese’s gutsy, kinetic New York urban dramas such as Goodfellas. This tale of a working class Jewish family – the Graffs – trying to fit in is certainly no kickass affair despite some violent moments at home and in the classroom. The plot lines are predictable, and references to the Holocaust are a hollow echo of much more moving dramas on the subject of antisemitism. The oblique references to the local influential Trump family feel like cheap point-scoring with intentionally unlikeable cameo roles from John Diehl as Donald Trump’s father Fred, and Jessica Chastain as the hard-faced US judge Maryanne Trump, along with the fact that the Graff family hail originally from Ukraine.

The youngest boy Paul (Banks Repeta) is possibly an autobiographical portrait of the young James Grey – unruly, artistic and at odds with the rest of the striving family, particularly his hot-headed father (Jeremy Strong), he only connects with his grandfather Aaron (Hopkins) who will finance his private education after a few dust-ups at the local ‘comprehensive’ with his black friend Johnny ending up taking the rap. Celebrated cinematographer Darius Khondji tries to lift Armageddon out of the torpid settings but all and all this is a pale rider in contrast with Gray’s previous Cannes feature, the space-hopping Ad Astra (2019). MT

IN COMPETITION | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

1976 (2022) Directors’ Fortnight 2022

Dir.: Manuela Martelli; Cast: Aline Kuppenheim, Nicolas Sepulveda, Hugo Medina, Alejandro Goic, Carmen Gloria Martinez, Gabriel Urzua; Vilma Verdejo, Yasna Ríos; Chile 2022, 97 min.

Another classically styled arthouse drama taking us back to the turbulent 1970s in Latin America seen through the eyes of a well to do Santiago woman, under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte.

1976 is a first feature for Chilean director/co-writer Manuela Martelli who works with a predominantly female crew and seasoned actress Aline Kuppenheim (A Fantastic Woman) who gives a sensitive performance in this lowkey but thematically vibrant domestic drama as 49 year old Carmen.

Carmen is redecorating the family’s holiday home near the beach in time for the season. As she chooses paint for the walls the sound of gunshot is clearly audible in the nearby street. Back at the house, she meets the local priest Father Sanchez (Medina) who has been involving her in various charity efforts, and his latest suggestion is that she takes in a young homeless man called Elias (Sepulveda).

Elias has been classified as a fugitive from Pinochet’s ‘Secret Police’, and is currently sheltering in one of the out-houses. He seems mild-mannered enough although in need of medical attention for a bullet in his thigh. Carmen always wanted to be a doctor but her father would not allow her to follow in his path, but somehow Elias brings out her caring side, and her recent Red Cross stint certainly comes in handy to took after the young man.

Father Sanchez later reveals that Elias was put in charge of two children after the Pinochet putsch, but that he panicked and became traumatised when they were later murdered. Carmen’s three grandchildren arrive with their mother and the rest of the family, the kids complaining that their favourite TV programme has been interrupted by a broadcast from Pinochet, adds further context. During all this, Carmen looks after Elias, tending to his bullet wound, soon finding herself assisting Elias is some of his underground work. She meets Silvia (Ríos), a fellow conspirator who gives her the code name “Cleopatra”, and sets up a meeting with another link in the resistance chain, who want to spirit Elias away.

Carmen’s husband Miguel, a doctor in Santiago, arrives at the house, much more interested in his college Osvaldo, who has chosen Miguel (Goic) to “re-organise” the hospital where one of the doctors has already fled the country. But when a young girl is found dead near the beach, and the writing is on the wall. Carmen’s next rendezvous with a parish priest does not go according to plan, and she is followed in her car which is later ransacked. Carmen knows she is living on borrowed time, and her maid Julita (Verdejo) soon confirms Carmen worst fears in a rather spooky scene at dusk. Will Carmen’s status and marriage save her?

The main thrust of the narrative is the developing relationship between Elias and Carmen. Keeping her distance at first, and seeing Elias as just another charge to take care for father Sanchez. But somehow, the memory of her thwarted career, and the negligence and nagging by her husband, who seems to see her as a ‘trophy’ to show her off to family and friends, changes the dynamic between them. The tipping point for Carmen is another dig by Miguel, for wearing a dress showing off her figure: Carmen cuts the dress to pieces, but also ends all emotional ties to her status. She asks Elias jokingly, if she will be remembered after the downfall of the Pinochet regime, and he claims a hospital will be named after her. But Elias is also aware of the danger for Carmen: “Tell them, that you never saw me, that you did not know my name. They will believe you”.

DoP Yarará Rodgriguez lets the camera glide over the beautiful coastal landscape, but his close-ups of Carmen are equally impressive, marking all the changes she going through: she is anything but a dutiful member of the underground: thanks to Father Sanchez, she has stumbled into something much more dangerous than she can imagine, but she also has a point to prove: her resistance is personal, disobeying her husband and all he believes in, has become her tool for resistance. Aline Kuppenheim is brilliant as Carmen, and the ensemble cast is also equal to the task. 1976 is a small gem, made on a mini-budget it brings together the personal and he political in a subversive way. Maria Portugal’s mournful score very much underlines the lyrical aspects of the narrative. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CANNES PREMIERES 2022

Rodeo (2022) Un Certain Regard

Dir.: Lola Quivoron; Cast: Julie Ledru, Antonia Buresi, Yannis Lafki, Ahmed Hamdi, Dave Nsaman Okebwan, Loius Sutton; France 2022, 104 min.

Lola Quivoron makes her Cannes debut with a provocative tour-de-force of daring motorcycle stunts and a heroine, who behind her tough facade, is a feminist fighter in a world of macho men.

Rodeo has much the same striking visual allure as Julia Docournau’s Palme d’Or winner Titane, particularly in the cold blue and green aesthetic; both directors graduated from La Fémis. Titane daringly explored obsession between a woman and her car, Rodeo has a more humane angle but Quivoron’s heroine often falls too easily onto her feet given the difficult path she has chosen .

A shouty opening sequence sets the tone for the rest of the feature: We briefly meet Julia (Ledru) before she disappears, obviously homeless. On an illegal racecourse in the countryside, she embarks on a vain attempt to kick start motorbike stunt racing with a gang of macho ‘dirt riders’. But disaster strikes early when one of the guys Abra (Okebwan) has an accident and later dies in the hospital -“they pulled the plug on him” comments one of his friends.

Julia is able to connect with the big boss Domino, who operates a ‘swiping’ ring involving expensive motor cycles from the seclusion of his prison cell. She persuades him to let her sleep in the garage, where the gang’s top of the range machines are housed. For this, Julia has to swipe on order a motor cycle the boss has his eye on. Julia will fill her bag with small stones, telling the owner of the motor cycle she will just have a quick go on one of the bikes, leaving him her bag “with my keys, identity and credit cards”. Julia will repeat this modus-operandi successfully throughout the film. The guys in the garage, among them Kais (Lafki), Mous (Hamdi), and Ben (Sutton), are not sure how to take Julia.  there’s definite frisson with Kais, but the chemistry fizzles with her and Domino’s long-suffering wife Ophélie (Buresi) and Domino soon cottons on to the situation. Rodeo culminates with a high octane robbery – re allong that famous scene in Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines – with a massive trailer of glossy motorcycles, unfolding like a ballet sequence, using quad bikes. But Quivoron has a dramatic yet poetic ending in store for her heroine Julia.

Rodeo is a rollercoaster ride, but Julia’s temper tantrums often show her vulnerability. She cannot allow herself any feelings for the opposite sex, hiding behind her men-eating persona. But her desired liaison with Ophélie is doomed. Somehow we see a perverse Cinderella motive: Julia wants to be invited to the ball of motorbikes and mayhem – but because of her gender she is reduced to the villain of the piece. The daring stunts provide the cut and thrust of Quivoron’s lesbian themed arthouse drama but, the heart and soul is Julia’s search for an identity not determined by gender.AS

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES 2022

Esterno, Notte (2022) Cannes Film Festival – Special Screening

Dir/Wri: Marco Bellocchio | Cast: Margherita Buy, Fabrizio Gifuni, Toni Servillo, Fausto Russo Alesi, Daniela Mara, Pier Giorgio Bellocchio | Italy, Drama, 5hours

After Good Morning, Night, seasoned Italian director Marco Bellocchio turns his camera on the kidnapping and murder of Italian statesman Aldo Moro, experimenting for the first time with a broad-based serial narrative form to approach the multiple points of view of the main proponents and victims of that tragic period in Italian history.

A dour and classically styled political epic Esterno, Notte, unfolds in the tense and turbulent climate of 1978, in an Italy divided by civil war. The infamous Red Brigades, the principal armed organisation of the extreme left are locked in a battle with the State, and the narrative unfolds from the perspective of two RB partners in crime Valerio Morucci (Montesi) and Adriana Faranda (Marra) who are also lovers. After a brief domestic vignette that flips back to March 1976 the action moves onto the beach for a showcase shoot-out, the Red Brigades giving us an example of their ferocious firepower. Street violence, kidnappings, kneecappings, gunfights and murder attempts will erupt on the wide screen while behind closed doors intense internecine discussions offer insight.

Rich industrialists and their families are being tormented by kidnappings. For the first time in a country of the Western bloc, a government backed by the Communist Party (PCI) was about to take office in an epoch-making alliance with the historic conservative bulwark of the Nation: The Christian Democratic Party (DC).

Meanwhile Aldo Moro, the President of the DC (here played gamely by Fabrizio Gifuni) is the main proponent of the agreement marking a decisive step in the mutual recognition between Italys main parties. On 16 March 1978, on his way to Parliament Aldo Moro is kidnapped after an ambush in which his entire police escort is massacred. It was a direct attack on the heart of the State. His imprisonment would last 55 days, marked by Moros letters and the communiqués of the Red Brigades: 55 days of hopes, fears, negotiations, failures, good intentions and bad moves. 55 days at the end of which his body was abandoned in a car in the centre of Rome, halfway between the headquarters of the two Parties, the DC and the PCI. This is a comprehensive and highly intelligent piece of filmmaking that will resonate with those who lived through the era and offer newcomers a valuable testament to an episode of nation’s gritty past.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | SPECIAL SCREENING

The Woodcutter Story (2022) Critics’ Week

Dir/Wri: Mikko Myllylahti | Cast: Jarkko Lahti, Iivo Tuuri, Katja Küttner, Marc Gassot, Ulla Tapaninen | Finland, Drama

Roy Andersen and Aki Kaurismaki clearly influenced a fresh new voice in the Finnish directing firmament. Best known so far for co-scripting The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (2016), winner of the Prix Un Certain Regard. Myllyahti’s feature debut is a quirky, darkly humorous hotchpotch of horror, sci-fi and wickedly dark drama underpinned by a politically infused existential narrative.

With a deadpan tone and Arsen Sarkisiants striking hyper realist images this Critics’ Week entry tells the tale of Pepe who works in a small industrial wood-processing plant deep in snowy heart of Finland’s northern forests where he lives a humdrum existence with his wife and little son. Myllyahti clearly understand the milieu having grown up in the small northern town of Tornio. The highlight of Pepe’s day is sharing a TV dinner with his wife after sharing a few beers with the locals. But his contented life takes a turn for the worse after a series of tragic events gradually destabilise the placid status quo. At first Pepe seems to take it all in his stride but soon his discombobulation gets the better of him. The Woodcutter is one of those films with niche appeal – but there’s some laugh out loud scenes – and you can’t deny its wacky inventiveness and unique style. MT

61st SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

 

Return to Seoul (2022) Un Certain Regard

Wri/Dir: Davy Chou | Drama, 115′

French Cambodian director Davy Chou has made a name for himself with his unique cinematic gaze on Cambodia and its people. His graceful prize-winning feature debut Golden Slumbers reminisced on Cambodian cinema from the 1960s to the mid 1970s.

But his latest, a drama with the apt title Return to Seoul is an obtuse look at cultural identity seen through the eyes of its main character, a twenty five year old French woman who returns to her native South Korea to track down her birth mother.

From the start you are not going to like Freddie (Ji-Min Park). Flouncing into a bar in downtown Seoul she flirts outrageously with a Korean guy who then makes romantic overtures, only to be told, point blank, that she already has boyfriend ‘back home’ in Paris. Arrogant and extremely pleased with herself, on the face of it, she then tells another lover who has selflessly accompanied her back to Seoul for one of her business meetings, later in the film, that “she could erase him from her life at any minute”.

Of course all this hides a deep emotional wound at her core: inflicted by a biological mother who first abandons her as a baby in a Seoul orphanage, and then declines to meet her when she painstakingly tracks her down via the Seoul orphanage where she was given up.

Told in a series of off-kilter episodes tracking her life from that first meeting in the bar, until her early thirties, the film is full of awkward characters that are neither appealing nor relatable, the exception being a French businessman (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) who turns from lover to employer, All the People is a brave but not always successful attempt to explore the complexities of forging ahead with meaningful personal and romantic relationships when your heart has been shattered at birth. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2022

The Water (2022) Directors’ Fortnight 2022

Dir: Elena Lopez Riera | Cast: Barbara Lennie, Nieve de Medina, Luna Palmies, Alberto Olmo | France, Spain, Switzerland | Drama, 104′

In a small village in south-eastern Spain legend has it that certain women are destined to disappear when the river bursts its banks during the summer storms. And this popular myth forms an intriguing premise for first time filmmaker Elena Lopez Riera, whose fantasy drama The Water screens in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight.

In the sultry heat of summer evenings the riverbank would be a perfect place to hang out if only it wasn’t for the foul stench of the water which has almost become a joke for the local teenagers who find the best way to ignore is by chain-smoking, flirting and dancing the night away. The unusual phenomenon is then explores through the love affair of Ana (Pamies) and José (Olmo) fall for each other in the intoxicating atmosphere leading up to the storm. Their lust for each other connects with the female myth that has been past on by other women in the village particularly Ana’s mother (Nieve de Medina) and her grandmother, who shares some naughty memories of her own antics as a newly married woman.

Lopez Riera skillfully combines interviews with other local women and aerial footage of the flooded village from the archives and deftly interweaves these to create a visually alluring and thought-provoking fantasy drama based on anecdotal evidence. The Water is an inventive ethnographical portrait of modern Spain that fuses reality and folklore into an impressive arthouse drama. MT

SCREENING DURING DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2022

Domingo and the Mist (2022) Un Certain Regard

Dir.: Ariel Escalante; Cast: Carlos Urena, Sylvia Sossa, Esteban Brenes Serrano, Aris Vindas, Janko Navarro; Costa Rica/Qatar 2022; 90 min.

Costa Rican writer/director Ariel Escalante fuses reality and fantasy in an original hybrid of ghost story and environmental drama that sees a struggling community raging against the forces of modernism screening in this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard.

Deep in a tropical village a disintegrating  community is being threatened by local developers. 65-year old Domingo resents being forced out of his house and land by the company building a new local highway, but there is much more to his stubborn refusal than initially meets the eye. Domingo (Urena) clings to the happy times he shared there with his wife and her memory haunts him, day and night.

So the likeable widower digs his heels in along with his friends Paco (Vindas) and Yendrick (Serrano) who forge a doomed alliance against the mighty developers whose sinister tactics are menacing the villagers to move on. At the same time, Paco is slowly going broke, his potatoes are infested, and he has no money to buy pesticides and he is sorely tempted to give in. Domingo is also at odds with his daughter Sylvia (Sossa) who seems to have a different recollection of the past. It Yendrick has messed his own marriage up and is still depressed about it although he has since remarried and has another family .

The action takes place mostly in darkness Escalante and DoP Nicolás Wong Diaz inculcating an atmosphere of terror and insecurity with elements of magical realism involving swirling mists, striking images and an atmospheric soundscape punctuated by raucous gunfire deep into the night.

Every evening Domingo is at the ready with his shotgun, aiming at anything that moves, eventually to his own detriment. The whirling mists follow him everywhere, particularly in the woods and the house that now serves as shrine to his wife. He promises her “we will visit all our favourite places, when I am dead”.

Domingo in the Mist is a slow burner, languid and lyrical, luxuriating in the innermost fears and feelings of a terrorised community. Urena in the title role gives a soulful performance, and Escalante impresses with an image-driven narrative with a neo-classical framing of guilt and redemption.

CANNES | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2022

La Jauria | The Pack (2022) Semaine de la Critique

Dir/Wri: Andres Ramirez Pulido | Cast: Jhojan Estiven Jimenez, Maicol Andres Jimenez, Miguel Viera | Drama, Colombia France | 86′

Latin American directors continue to mine their turbulent history – past and present – in this thundering thriller that takes place deep in the Colombian tropical forest.

Premiering in Semaine de la Critique La Jauria is a confident debut from first time filmmaker Andres Ramirez Pulido who has fleshed out the ideas from his Palme d’Or nominated short film Damiana (2017) into a story crime story with a subtly redemptive twist.

Eliu (E.Jimenez) is serving time in an experimental hacienda-style young offenders institution for crimes he committed with his friend El Mono (M Jimenez), a recovering drug addict. The petty criminals are supervised by para-military forces under the control of Godoy (Rincon), an elderly ex-offender who practises obscure breathing exercises, believing the therapy will cure the men of the evil spirits possessing them.

The arrival of El Mono changes the dynamic in the camp and Eliu, who has always hated his father for physically abusing his mother, decides under the influence of drugs and alcohol, to murder him – only to learn later that he and El Mono have killed the wrong person. Worse still, they cannot find the place where they dumped the body in the caves. Meanwhile the police are growing tired of Godoy’s slow and avant-garde methods, and when another inmate Calate ((Vasquez), raises concerns about Godoy’s style of therapy, the punishment meted out to him spins out of control.

DoP Balthazar creates a haunting atmosphere of surreal horror which works particularly well in the night scenes. Working with a cast of mostly non-pros, Pulido ramps up the tension, his poetic realism worthy of the great Fernando Birri. The Pack is a great example of the signature cinematographic language of the South American continent, with the director overcoming the limits of his budget with vision and inspiration. AS

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

 

Cannes – Un Certain Regard 2022

The Cannes Film Festival competition sidebar known for auteur driven features and alluring visual storytelling rather than star-strewn casts.

 

LES PIRES Lise AKOKA, Romane GUERET 1st film

First time directors Lisa Akoka and Romane Gueret take the brave step of making a film with teenage cast from the same neighbourhood, during the summer break.

KURAK GÜNLER (BURNING DAYS) Emin ALPER

Best known for his atmospheric widescreen thrillers Beyond the Hill and Frenzy and rural parable A Tale of Three Sisters, Alper’s latest feature – and his first time in competition at Cannes – takes him back to the Turkish countryside for a tale of smalltown political intrigue.

METRONOM Alexandru BELC 1st film

The doomed days of first love in Romania, 1972, are depicted in this feature debut from Alexandra Belc and starring Vlad Ivanov (The Whistlers).

SICK OF MYSELF Kristoffer BORGLI

A toxic relationship takes a turn for the worst in a darkly comic tale of oneupmanship from Norwegian filmmaker Borgli.

ALL THE PEOPLE I’LL NEVER BE Davy CHOU

An adopted French woman’s attempts to rediscover her biological roots in South Korea are not as she imagines in this sophomore feature from French Cambodian director Davy Chou.

DOMINGO Y LA NIEBLA (DOMINGO AND THE MIST) Ariel ESCALANTE MEZA

Unscrupulous property developers uncover a mysterious past and a surreal present when they threaten to take over a rural village in Mexico in this sophomore feature.

PLAN 75 HAYAKAWA Chie 1st film

Eugenics provide the haunting subject matter for this timely debut drama set in the Philippines.

UNTITLED PINE RIDGE PROJECT Riley KEOUGH, Gina GAMMELL 1st film

Actress turned filmmaker Riley Keough joins Gina Gammell behind the camera for this first feature that follows two Lakota boys as they grow up in Pine Ridge Reservation.

CORSAGE Marie KREUTZER (main image)

After winning various awards at Berlinale, Austrian auteur Marie Kreutzer tackles the thorny subject of ageing and feminine allure taking a regal example as her main character. Empress Elisabeth of Austria was known for her sartorial elegance and the film explores her desire to keep up appearances as she turns 40, considered ‘old’ in 1877. Vicky Krieps stars.

BACHENNYA METELYKA (BUTTERFLY VISION) Maksim NAKONECHNYI 1st film

In an incendiary subject for this year’s Cannes line-up, Maksim Nakonechnyi’s first feature explores rape and unwanted pregnancy from the perspective a POW returning home from active service on the Ukrainian front.

 

VANSKABTE LAND / VOLAÐA LAND (GODLAND) Hlynur PÁLMASON

This Islandic filmmaker has won multiple awards for his distinctively dour and beguiling beautiful dramas such as Winter Brothers and A White, White Day. This latest is a moral fable that follows a pioneering 19th century Danish priest with a noble mission to found a church in Iceland. The deeper he travels into the remote wilderness the more he loses his way, literally and metaphorically.

RODEO Lola QUIVORON 1st film

So many ideas here been done before – the misfit angle, the woman in a man’s world who struggles against the odds after further setbacks – let’s see if first time filmmaker Quivoron can bring something new to the party.

JOYLAND Saim SADIQ 1st film

Pakistani LBGT filmmaker Saim Sadiq has won awards for blazing a queer trail in his shorts Nice Talking to You and Darling. His first feature film centres on a patriarchal family back in Pakistan and is certainly crammed with ideas, but can he put them together in a meaningful way for mainstream audiences?

THE SILENT TWINS Agnieszka SMOCZYNSKA

The inexplicable bond between twins provides the intriguing heart of this latest feature from Polish director Smocynkska whose distinctive fantasy drama The Lure caused quite a stir at Locarno 6 years ago.

THE STRANGER Thomas M WRIGHT

Along with ‘The Promise’, The Stranger is possibly the most over-used title for a film – a brief glance at imdb alone provides no fewer than five films with the title. But this Adelaide-set crime thriller from actor turned director Thomas M Wright – whose Acute Misfortune was described by Hollywood Reporter’s Neil Young as “one of the most striking and accomplished directorial debuts of 2018”. Plus it has a strong cast of Sean Harris and Joel Edgerton – so what could go wrong? Watch this space.

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 17 – 28 MAY 2022

 

 

Cannes Classics – 2022 restorations

This year’s Cannes Classics strand opens with Jean Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore in celebrating of its restoration 50 years after shooting began in 1972. The mammoth undertaking runs for over three hours and would later go on to win the Grand de Jury presided by Ingrid Bergmann, and the Prix de la Critique, causing riots back in the 1973. A full retrospective of the director’s work will in slated for 2023 in French cinemas.

Sciuscià | Vittorio de Sica | 1946, 1h33, Italy

Presented by The Film Foundation and Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna. Restored in 4K by The Film Foundation and Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata in association with Orium S.A. Restoration funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation

Thamp (The Circus Tent) | Aravindan Govindan | 1978, 2h09, India

A presentation of Film Heritage Foundation, India. Restored by Film Heritage Foundation, The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, Cineteca di Bologna at Prasad Corporation Pvt. Ltd.’s Post – Studios, Chennai, and L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory, and in association with General Pictures, National Film Archive of India and the family of Aravindan Govindan. Funding provided by Prasad Corporation Pvt. Ltd. and Film Heritage Foundation.

The Trial  | Orson Welles | 1962, 2h, France / Germany / Italy

This restoration was produced in 2022 by STUDIOCANAL and the Cinémathèque Française. The image and sound restoration were done at the Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory (Paris-Bologne), using the original 35mm negative. This project was supervised by STUDIOCANAL, Sophie Boyer and Jean-Pierre Boiget. The restoration was funded thanks to the patronage of Chanel.

If I Were a Spy… | Bertrand Blier | 1967, 1h34, France

Presented by Pathé. 4k restoration, done scanning the original negative film. A project undertaken by the Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory (Paris-Bologne). Restoration funded by the Centre national du cinema et de l’image animée (CNC).

Poil de Carotte | Julien Duvivier | 1932, 1h31, France

A TF1 presentation. New 4K restoration done by TF1 studios, with the backing of CNC, using the original nitrate negative and a combined dupe negative on non-flammable film. Digital and photochemical work done in 2021 by the Hiventy laboratory.

The Last Waltz | Martin Scorsese | 1978, 1h57, USA

MGM Studios’ The Last Waltz (1978) is presented by Park Circus thanks to a new 4K digital restoration from the Criterion Collection, approved by director Martin Scorsese.

Itim | Mike De Leon | 1976, 1h45, Philippines

A Mike De Leon presentation, distributed in France by Carlotta Films. Restoration done using the original 35mm negative and optical soundtrack, stored at the British Film Institute. This presentation is a preview of the French release of Mike De Leon’s entire restored body of work, slated 2022-2023.

Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol | Glauber Rocha  | 1964, 2h, Brazil

Presented by Metropoles.com and Paloma Cinematográfica. Restored from the original 35mm negative preserved at Cinemateca Brasileira and with a brand new 4K restoration by Estudios Cinecolor and Estudios JLS, Cinematographer Luis Abramo/Rogerio Moraes and with the supervision of Rodrigo Mercês.

Sedmikrásky (Daisies)  | Vera Chytilová | 1966, 1h14, Czech Republic

Digital restoration of this film funded by the donation of Mrs. Milada Kučerová and Mr. Eduard Kučera was carried out by Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in collaboration with the Národní filmový archiv, Prague and the Czech Film Fund in UPP and Soundsquare.

Viva la muerte  | Fernando Arrabal | 1971, 1h30, France / Tunisia

Viva la Muerte! was scanned and restored in 4K by the Cinémathèque de Toulouse using the original 35mm image negative, the original 35mm sound negative of the French version, and a 35mm interpositive element containing the end credits missing from the original negative.

Documentaries

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman by Ethan Hawke The Last Movie Stars
Ethan Hawke, episodes 3 and 4 | 1h47, USA

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodwind enjoyed one of the most enduring relationships in Hollywood. Actor, director and producer Ethan Hawke and executive producer Martin Scorsese explore their lives and careers in a captivating, intellectual, and moving documentary. Divided into six chapters the film features Karen Allen, George Clooney, Oscar Isaac, Zoe Kazan, Laura Linney and Sam Rockwell, with archive interviews of Elia Kazan, Sydney Pollock, Paul Newman, who discuss the iconic couple and American cinema. Screened in the presence of Ethan Hawke and Clea Newman Soderlund

Romy, A Free Woman | written by Lucie Cariès and Clémentine Déroudille, Dir: Lucie Cariès | 1h31, France

Romy Schneider was a regular in Competition at Cannes, starting in 1957 with Sissi, and notably with Claude Sautet’s Les Choses de la Vie. This exceptional documentary recounts her illustrious career with passion and dedication.
Screening in the presence of Lucie Cariès and Clémentine Deroudille

Jane Campion, Cinema Woman | Dir: Julie Bertuccelli | 1h38, France

Director Julie Bertuccelli paints Jane Campion’s portrait with great sensitivity, humour and admiration, telling the tale of the first-ever woman to win the Palme d’Or in 1993.
Screening in the presence of Julie Bertuccelli.

Gérard Philipe, le dernier hiver du Cid Dir: Patrick Jeudy, 1h06, France

An adaptation of Jérôme Garcin’s novel Le dernier hiver du cid, this documentary built exclusively on archive footage and a delicate storytelling style celebrates the 100th anniversary of Cannois Gerard Philipe. His memory will flood back to the Croisette through a screening of Fanfan la tulipe.
Screening in the presence of Patrick Jeudy, Jérôme Garcin and Anne-Marie Philipe.

Patrick Dewaere, mon héros (Patrick Dewaere, My Hero) | Dir: Alexandre Moix, 1h30, France

The actress Lola Dewaere chronicles the film career and traumatic life of celebrated actor Patrick Dewaere, the father she never knew, under the watchful eye of director Alexandre Moix.
Screening in the presence of Alexandre Moix and Lola Dewaere.

Hommage d’une fille à son père Dir: Fatou Cissé, 1h11, Mali

Fatou Cissé accompanies her father, Malien director Souleymane Cissé, in a trip through his film career, painting an intimate and poetic picture of one of Africa’s most celebrated actors. Screening in the presence of Fatou Cissé and Souleymane Cissé.

L’Ombre de Goya par Jean-Claude Carrière | Dir:José Luis Lopez-Linares, 1h30, France

A restoration that rediscovers the magical language of the late screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, as he researches the painter Goya. An incredible trip through culture, emotion, cinema, painting and Spain. A French-Hispanic-Portugese coproduction: Screening in the presence of José Luis Lopez Linares.

Tres en la deriva del acto creativo (Three in the Drift of the Creative Act) Fernando Solanas | 1h36, Argentina

Last homage to the great director Fernando Solanas who came many times to the Festival En Competition and two times to Cannes Classics.  .

Screening in the presence of Victoria and Juan Solanas, and Gaspar Noé.

CANNES CLASSICS  | 17-28 May 2022

Cannes Film Festival 2022 – Programme additions

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL will celebrate its 75th Anniversary with a line-up featuring four previous Palme d’Or winning directors, three features by women, and nothing – one again – from the United Kingdom. That said, it’s a glittering programme featuring all the usual suspects plus a few new faces on the block. Tehran born Ali Abbasi was last in Cannes with his darkly dystopian troll fantasy Border, his latest Holy Spider is an Iranian-set religious-themed crime thriller, the detail is still under wraps.

Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi always turns up trumps – either behind the camera or infront of it – here she has her first shot at the main competition directing a drama about the trials and tribulations of pioneering a creative path in life seen through the prism of Nanterre’s famous acting school Les Amandiers. Canada’s David Cronenberg has never won the main prize but bagged the Special Jury prize back in 2004 with his contraversial 1996 thriller CrashCrimes of the Future, starring Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart, will see him return to the Cannes line-up for the 7th time.

The Belgian Dardennes Brothers are now a legend in their own lunchtime with their left-leaning politically charged social dramas and Tori and Lokita is the latest in a long line of Cannes winners that started with Rosetta and The Child winning the main prize in 1999 and 2005 respectively. Claire Denis is arguably one of France’s most successful women filmmakers with a long career spanning back to her first short film in 1971 and continued with stylish arthouse fare such as Beau Travail and more recently sci-fi hit High Life. and comedy Let the Sunshine In both with Juliette Binoche. She has already bagged a Silver Bear at Berlinale this year for her love triangle drama Fire. The Stars at Noon based on a novel by Denis Johnson, is another romantic drama this time set during Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution where Margot Qualley and Joe Alwyn play the leading roles.

Arnaud Desplechin is a classical veteran of CANNES FILM FESTIVAL and made the competition line-up with Deception in 2021 and again with Oh Mercy in 2019. His latest feature will be his seventh attempt to win the coveted Golden Palme: Brother and Sister stars Marion Cotillard and Melville Poupard in a domestic drama that sees the two siblings brought together again at the death of their parents, after a long-standing feud.

A drama about a ballet dancer catapulted Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont to the international recognition as the Camera d’Or winner in 2018. Girl won three awards at Cannes for its delicate depiction of teenage gender dysphoria while Close centres on an intense friendship between two teenage boys. The sparkling Brooklyn set ’80’s thriller We Own the Night was James Grey’s first foray into the competition back in 2007. His fourth entry Armageddon Time takes him back again to New York of the era, and stars Anne Hathaway and Anthony Hopkins in a coming of age story about growing up in Queens.

Broker is another child-centred story from Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-Eda (Like Father, Like Son) his sensitive domestic dramas deal with the intricacies of family dynamics where kids are concerned. Now competing in Cannes for the eighth time, Hirokazu won the Palme d’Or in 2018 for his darkly amusing satire Shoplifters. South Korean star Bae Doona leads in this unusual story that centres on a ‘baby box’ facility where passers by can leave their unwanted children.

Nostalgia, Mario Martone’s follow-up to his biopic of Neopolitan theatre legend Eduardo Scarpetta, is another project co-written by his wife Ippolita Di Majo. He previously competed at Cannes with l‘Amore Molesto back in 1995, based on another novel by Elena Ferrante of The Lost Daughter fame.

Cristian Mungiu – in competition this year with RMN – is known for his hardcore social realist dramas: his 2007 Palme d’Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days tackled illegal abortion in 1980s Romania, he took a more nuanced approach to a lesbian relationship between two nuns in a convent in Beyond the Hills which won Best Screenplay in 2012.  Contrary to its title, director Ruben Ostlund’s latest Cannes hopeful, Triangle of Sadness, (below) is a dark comedy that sees two models at the crossroads of their career. The Swedish director divided Cannes critics with his ambivalent satire Force Majeure that scooped the Jury Prize at Un Certain Regard in 2015, and the Palme d’Or for The Square two years later. Starring Woody Harrelson and Oliver Ford Davies this promises to be another off-field outing for the provactive filmmaker.

South Korean maverick Park Chan-wook scandalised Cannes audiences with his rebarbative revenge thriller Old Boy seizing the Grand Jury prize back in 2004. He stormed back five years later with a stylish vampire outing Thirst grabbing another Jury Prize. The sensually sumptuous Handmaiden followed in 2016. And this year he is back again going for the jugular (?) with Decision to Leave a detective mystery thriller set in the mountains of South Korea.

2022 is set to be American auteuse Kelly Reichardt’s defining moment: with a feature Showing Up in the main competition line-up – her fourth collaboration with Michelle Williams – and a Special Tribute at this summer’s Locarno Film Festival she is one of the most individual of directors with her richly resonant fare. Set in Portland, Oregon her follow up to First Cow centres on an artist preparing for a life-changing exhibition. Iranian director Saeed Roustaee rose to fame in 2016 with his award-winning debut Life and a Day. His first film in competition is Leila’s Brothers.

Fares Fares (The Nile Hilton Incident) and Mohammad Bakri are the stars of Boy from Heaven Egyptian filmmaker Tarik Salee’s Cannes Festival debut, it sees the death of the main Imam in Cairo’s prestigious university lead to a bitter battle for overall control. Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov won the Francois Chalais award for his impressive 2016 feature The Student  Two years later he was prevented from attending Cannes with Leto, a musical paean to the Leningrad Rock scene of the 1980s that would win the Best Soundtrack Award 2018, and Petrov’s Flu followed in 2021. Abandoning his disgraced homeland, Serebreninikov is now living in Berlin where he wrote and directed his latest lyrical drama Tchaïkovski’s Wife. 

This year’s festival welcomes Polish Greats director Jerzy Skolimovski back into the competition line-up with the enigmatically titled EO. His comedy King, Queen and Knave was in the competition line-up back in 1972, he then took the Grand Jury Prize with Alan Bates starrer The Shout six years later, and won Best Screenplay for Moonlighting in 1982. Success is the Best Revenge went home empty- handed from the competition in 1984, as did his Torrents of Spring five years later. His latest feature, a contemporary adaptation of Robert Bresson’s 1966 cult classic Au hasard Balthazar a road movie that begins in a Polish circus and ends in a slaughter house for its tragic star, a donkey. EO is described in the blurb as “a panopticon of human behaviour towards a defenceless animal, a suggestive picture of social relations and cultural exchanges taking place in the modern world”. We wish him the best of luck!

There are three late additions to the programme announced on 14th April. Catalan auteur Albert Serra is known for his audacious often provocative highly individual but always sublime fare. His latest feature follows on the heels of the exquisitely niche drama Liberte that bagged the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 2019. Starring Benoit Magimel and Sergi Lopez (Harry He’s Here to Help) Torment on the Isles sees politics clash with a coup de foudre for a crisis-ridden novelist and an ambassador on the steamy island of Bora Bora.

Sophomore director Leonor Seraille’s moves from her directorial debut and Golden Camera winner Jeune Femme to the main competition with Un Petit Frere. Father/son buddy movies are always popular with the (male) critics and Belgian directors Charlotte Vandermeersch, Felix Van Groeningen have found another winning formula along these lines with their Palme d’Or hopeful The Eight Mountains set in Italy’s Aosta mountains. MT

PALME D’OR COMPETITION

Holy Spider Ali Abbasi
Les Amandiers  Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi
Crimes of the Future – David Cronenberg
Tori et Lokita Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne
Stars at noon Claire Denis
Frère et sœur Arnaud Desplechin
Close Lukas Dhont
Armageddon Time  James Gray
Broker Hirokazu Kore-Eda
Nostalgia  Mario Martone
RMN  Cristian Mungiu
Triangle of Sadness – Ruben Östlund
Decision to leave  Park Chan-Wook
Showing up Kelly Reichardt
Leila’s brothers  Saeed Roustaee
Boy from Heaven Tarik Saleh
Tchaïkovski’s Wife Kirill Serebrennikov
Eo Jerzy Skolimowski

The Eight Mountains Charlotte Vandermeersch, Felix Van Groeningen
Un Petit Frere Léonor Serraille
Torment sur les Îles Albert Serra Spain

OUT OF COMPETITION  :

Top Gun 2 : Maverick  Joseph Kosinski
Elvis  Baz Luhrmann
Novembre Cédric Jimenez
Three thousand years of longing George Miller
Mascarade de Nicolas Bedos

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 17 – 29 May 2022 

Titane (2021) Palme d’Or | Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Julia Ducournau | Cast: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier, Laïs Salameh, Bertrand Bonello, Dominique Frot | France Thriller 108′

Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winning female revenge thriller is a strange dark comedy: for a lot of the time you’re bored between outbursts of unspeakable violence, its tortured heroine taking self-harm to a different level after a dysfunctional upbringing forces her into a life of crime.

As a little kid we see her kicking the back of her stepfather’s carseat, a habit that drives him mad and sends the vehicle careering into a top spin leaving Alexia in need of brain surgery – she’ll bear the scars forever, physically and mentally. Performing a lap dance style routine on the boot of a car is the way she earns her living in a louche local nightclub. Her hairpins come in handy for fending off unwanted advances: one incident sees her piercing a fan through the ear spurting his brains everywhere, in another Monty Pythonesque moment she forces a barstool leg into another man’s mouth – calmly sitting on it.

French filmmaker Decournu’s film life started with Raw – a seedy vampire story about a student who develops a penchant for blood. Here stabbing is the method of dispatching victims, although one night Alexia gets rather more than she bargained for in a raunchy one night stand. All this is conveyed in a colour-popping neon visual style, awkward camera angles delivering a stylish avant-garde allure to what is basically arthouse body horror.

Tortured and troubled after her murder fest, Alexia retreats to a public lavatory where she breaks her nose on the ceramic sink and crops her hair into a boyish bob to escape the authorities. Now as man, she seeks refuge with her musclebound firefighter father (Vincent Lindon). But then there’s her bulging stomach – has she been impregnated? Again the hairpin comes in handy for firking about in her vagina in an effort to bring on a miscarriage.

Fluid in its sexuality, this is a Palme d’Or winner that ticks all the boxes virtue-signalling wis: Ducournau is only the second woman ever to win the top prize, the first was Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993). To complete the zany picture this year at Cannes, Jury President Spike Lee announced the winning title right at the beginning of the ceremony – a gaffe that transformed the show into Mel Brooks’ style comedy mayhem – pure Hollywood, but that’s entertainment. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL – WINNER PALME D’OR

 

 

The Restless | Les Intrinquilles (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Joachim Lafosse | Belgium Drama 105′

If Damien Bonnard wasn’t a manic depressive in his latest film you’d punch him in the face. He plays the lead like a spoilt manchild. but that’s the sad side affect of his mental disturbance in this summery drama from Belgian’s Joachim Lafosse.

Success as abstract artist has provided Damien with one of those gorgeous 19th century Cote d’Azur villas where he lives with his likeable wife Leila (Leila Bekhti) and young son Amine (Merz Chammah). But their seaside idyll becomes increasingly fraught when his illness gets out of control, powering him forward in a sleepless manic mission to achieve everything while Leila and Amin are left exhausted by his insatiable often violent moods that eventually requirement hospitalisation. .

With its elliptical narrative, this three-hander is a brave attempt to tackle mental illness but The Restless is predictably an irritating film to watch until almost the end. Enthusiastically crafted and acted it will transport you to lush Mediterranean locations, but relaxing or particularly enjoyable it ain’t. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Bunuel: A Surrealist Filmmaker (2021) Cannes Classics

Dir; Javier Espada | Spain, Doc 90′

Spanish filmmaker Javier Espada shares his birthplace of Calanda (Aragon) with the legendary Spanish surrealist Luis Bunuel whose story forms the subject of this engaging new documentary playing in the Cannes Film Festival Classics section.

As a teen during the Easter Semana Santa processions Espada escaped the loud drums of the ceremony for relative calm of his local fleapit and was instantly bewitched by  Bunuel, the image of Christ fusing with the character of the Marquis de Sade in his subconscious, creating subversive undertones.

His obsession would later lead to a lifelong friendship with Bunuel’s regular screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière whose script for Diary Of A Chambermaid would continue with cult classics such as Belle De Jour and The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie. It and would also lead to Bunuel’s memoirs ‘My Last Breath.’

A recently restored archive from stereoscopic glass plates, clips and personal photos – provided by his sons Juan Luis and Rafael – and the Luis Bunuel Film Institute is enlivened by Espada’s own thoughts and those of Bunuel providing insight into a charismatic career that started with his traditional upbringing in a well to do influential family in Calanda. But a tragic incident involving a donkey would put a subversive spin on the director’s output and much of his work would be banned banned by Franco’s regime due to its controversial subject matter. DoP Ignacio Ferrando Margeli provides a pristine black and white aesthetic in this deep dive into cinema history. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | CANNES CLASSICS

 

 

Memoria (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir: Apichatpong Weerasethakul | Thailand, Fantasy Drama 139′

Memoria is the delicately mesmerising and meditative first English language film from Thai artist and film-maker Apichatpong Weerasethakul.  

Well known for his awarded experimental filmmaking and avant-garde art installations, he won the Palme d’Or back in 2004 for his bewitching fantasy drama Uncle Boonmee but Memoria is his most thematically rich and accessible film so far.

Tilda Swinton is the quietly haunting main character Jessica, an English expat who seems ethereal yet down to earth gliding gently through a story touching on folklore, sci-fi and mysterious happenings linked to  unusual sonic events in the Colombian capital of Bogota. Unfolding in a series of hypnotic long takes Memoria ponders the meaning of life and the negative impact of man’s imprint on the natural world in a way that is exquisitely subtle rather than forced on the audience. 

Jessica is a horticulturalist based in Medellin and visiting Bogota where her sister Karen (Agnes Brekke) is recovering from an unexplained respiratory affliction in hospital. That same morning Jessica woke to a strange sonic boom, and this sound, unheard by Karen and her husband Juan (Daniel Giménez Cacho, leads Jessica to sound engineer Hernan (Juan Pablo Urrego) to try and uncover its origins. That same night the sound once again resonates at a dinner with Karen and Juan but they are unaware of it. Further investigations seem to point to construction work in the nearby countryside where ancient bones belonging to a little girl have recently been unearthed in the disruption. There may be a connection with Karen’s illness – pointing to a covid-style virus that been released in building work but this theory remains unproved and part of the film’s enduring allure.

Hernan manages to replicate the sound – a deep metallic thud – and the two seem to be on the verge of a breakthrough. But when Jessica goes back to his studio later on Hernan appears not to have been a figment of her imagination, and he never appears again. Walking in the lush tropical surroundings of Bogota Jessica then meets another man called Hernán (Elkin Diaz) who belongs to a community who sleep dreamlessly and with their eyes open. In his ramshackle home mysterious memories start to flood Jessica’s subconscious, but whether they are hers or transmitted by the spirits unearthed in the building works is the mystery at the heart of her zen-like odyssey.

Echoing the work of Lav Dias Memoria is a film experience that places us under its spell in a parallel universe enveloping all the senses. Enigmatic, beguiling and astonishingly captivating throughout Memoria explores fundamental aspects of our existence in a natural world that is is very much a force to be reckoned with, slowing taking its revenge in subtle and unfathomable ways. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

House Arrest (2021) Un Certain Regard

Dir: Aleksey German Jr. | Wrs: Aleksey German Jr., Maria Ogneva

Cast: Merab Ninidze, Anna Mikhalkova, Roza Khairullina, Anastasia Melnikova, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Alexander Pal, Anastasia Talyzina, Alexandra Bortich, Von Duanugiz | Drama USSR 106′

A middle-aged academic accused of embezzlement is the focus of this discursive arthouse feature from Russian director Aleksey German Jr. David (Ninidze) may be confined to house arrest by the authorities but his mind is free to expose a rich minefield of social issues affecting modern Russia.

There’s nothing particularly to this story that treads old ground for the most part. David’s critique touches on corruption, state-sponsored violence and anyone who dares to speak out against the system. But  filtered through David’s own troubled state of mind, his bruised ego and indignation at being cooped up by the system that drew sharp criticism after his sketch of the Mayor having sex with an Ostrich, the story becomes more interesting. As such this is a rich character drama as much as a social satire. House Arrest is the most accessible film German Jr has made so far following in the footsteps of his recent features Dovlatov (2018) and Under Electric Clouds (2015), and premiering in this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard sidebar.

People seem more concerned with the sex act itself rather than what it represented, and herein lies the dark irony of the situation further enriching the film’s plotlines. As an eminent professor specialising in Russian literature and particularly a late 19th century period referred to as the ‘Silver Age’ – fellow writer German clearly feels the professor’s anger acutely, and provides David’s mother (Roza Khairullina) as a wise stooge allowing him to expound on his ideas. Ex-wife (Anastasia Melnikova) is reluctant to become involved as her husband is part of the system but she supports him with food parcels in his increasingly untidy prison. The only person entirely onside is his lawyer Anna (Anna Mikhalkova) and she has her work cut out when strange men arrive at the flat in the middle of the night to beat him up. This is a timely if claustrophobic drama that will resonate with everyone who has been trapped in their lives and forced to ruminate and navel gaze in these Covid times. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | UN CERTAIN REGARD

 

 

A Hero (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Dir/Wri: Asghar Farhadi | Cast: Amir Jadidi, Mohsen Tanabandeh, Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy, Sahar Goldust | Iran Drama 127′

Another moral satire from Asghar Farhadi that mulls over truth, honesty and family life in modern Iran.

Lowkey in its sober setting but brimming with a growing complexity the story takes place in and around a modern prison in Shiraz where the likeable working class hero Rahim (Amir Jadidi) is a regular visitor for his various petty crimes involving debt.

The Royal Tombs of Persepolis provide a striking showcase early on when Rahim meets up with his brother brother-in-law (Alireza Jahandideh) to discuss ways of refinancing his life and paying back the money he owes a former other brother-in-law, Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh), who won’t let him get away with a penny, determined him suffer over the divorce. Meanwhile Ramin is hoping to marry career-minded Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldust) once things are back to normal.

But the crux of the story revolves around a lost handbag containing a number of gold coins that turns up on a bus. Farkhondeh naively takes the bag home and Rahim tries to sell the coins through a dealer, but the amount offered doesn’t begin to cover the money he owes so he decides instead to put an announcement in the small ads, a relieved woman eventually coming forward to reclaim it.

This simple act makes Rahim a hero in the small local community boosting his self esteem with his family, and particularly his young son who has learning difficulties. But when the national press and TV get hold of the news his popularity leads to family jealousy, particularly for Bahram who digs his feet in over the money. And so Rahim’s naive act of honesty sets him back even further the envious family start picking, holes in story, and his motivations – they can’t quite believe him to be capable of such a selfless act. Rahim’s lack of confidence causes him to change his take on events and soon he’s the proverbial creek without a paddle, Farhadi deftly weaving a social media strand involving false news into his thorny narrative, just for good measure, once again triumphing with this immersive, elegantly paced modern parable in screening in competition at Cannes 2021

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Lamb (2021) Un Certain Regard 2021 | Un Certain Regard

Dir: Valdimar Johannsson | IFantasy Sci-fi | Iceland, 103′

This surreal sci-fi for animals lovers is one of a new breed of arthouse films that blends folklore and fantasy horror with a surprising touch of dark humour.

A first feature for Icelandic director Valdimar Johannsson, its intriguing premise invites us to suspend our disbelief when a childless couple in a remote farmstead in Iceland unexpectedly become parents during the lambing season. Ingvar (Hilmir Snaer Guonason) and Maria (Noomi Rapace) realise this is no ordinary newborn. But the sense of joy they feel at finally being a family of sorts fills the couple with a warm contentment. The docile baby takes pride of place in their bedroom, and life goes on as normal.

But there’s an unsettling undertone to this birth that leaves a nagging doubt in our minds and fuels this sober arthouse curio with eerie dread. The reason for their muted joy soon becomes apparent in a way that is both amusing and bizarre, with its distinct references to Cannes 2021 title Annette and even the recent Border.

Johannsson’s spare soundscape echoes around the bleak lunar-landscapes of Iceland’s craggy peaks and windswept terrain. But the tone lightens with a visit from Ingvar’s musician brother Petur (Bjorn Hynur Haraldsson) whose reaction to young Ada is hilarious but also worrying until he gets used to the unorthodox new household. This amusing interlude provides the story with an upbeat vibe and some rather touching family scenes as the two bond both outsiders in their own special way. But the nagging suspicions remain. And it’s the film’s cruel finale that provides a tragic twist that reminds us that Ada may have been nurtured by loving parents but is still a wild child at heart. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | UN CERTAIN REGARD

Bergman Island (2021)

Wri/Dir: Mia Hansen-Løve | MCast: Vicky Krieps, Tim Roth, Mia Wasikowska, Anders Danielsen Lie | Drama 112′

In the Swedish island of Faro two filmmakers explore their work and their love for each other in Mia Hansen-Løve’s dreamy sun-kissed drama that combines a documentary stye to explore the island’s cinema legacy.

The ghost of Ingmar Bergman fills this sensuous summer story through the emotional encounters of a group of friends there to celebrate a wedding and a writers’ workshop. Filmmakers Chris (Krieps) and Tony (Roth) will stay at the famous house where Bergman shot Scenes from a Marriage. Krieps is the same diffident, restless woman she was in Phantom Thread, finding the peace and tranquility of the island oppressive and missing her daughter June. Tony is laid-back, supportive and secure in his skin as the two discuss their various projects, Chris keen to probe his ideas on her outline film script which forms the core of this film within a film that sees Mia Wasikowska as Amy, the slated central character and also a guest at the wedding where she is reunited with her ex-lover Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie) their affair rekindled, although both are now spoken for back home. Chris also makes friends with a Swedish film student (Hampus Nordenson), whose role is to instruct us on the Bergman background.

Mia Hansen-Løve directs with confidence and a lightness of touch deftly integrating the various strands of her story with seamless ease in a drama that explores the ups and down of love and the complexities of modern relationships exposing both the pleasure and the pain in a breezy beachside reverie. Faro is very much a character here DP Denis Lenoir’s luminous landscapes providing the backcloth for this enjoyable and affecting drama. MT

NOW ON RELEASE FROM 3 JUNE 2022

 

Tre Piani | Three Stories (2021)

Dir: Nanni Moretti | Wri: Nanni Moretti, Federica Pontremoli, Valia Santella | Cast: Margherita Buy, Riccardo Scamarcio, Alba Rohrwacher, Nanni Moretti | Italy 119′

Nanni Moretti’s latest will certainly appeal to fans of his classically filmed dramas featuring Italy’s best acting talent. Since winning the Palme d’Or in 2001 for The Son’s Room  he has been turning out spirited stories about life for middle class people, and this circuitous story involving neighbouring families is darkly witty and enjoyable, although more muted than his earlier fare. The women are peacemakers, the men the troublemakers, apart from Moretti himself who plays a powerful man of integrity, naturally – he’s the director.

Based on a novel by Tel Aviv writer Eshkol Nevo, Moretti transports the intricately plotted action to Rome where a car accident sets the cat amongst the pigeons for those living nearby. Local resident Monica (Alba Rohrwacher) is waiting for a taxi to take her to hospital where she will give birth to her first child when a speeding car collides with a nearby pedestrian, hurtling into the ground floor flat where Sara (Elena Lietti) and Lucio (Riccardo Scamarcio) live with their 7-year-old daughter.

At the wheel of the car is a drunkun Andrea (Alessandro Sperduti), the problem son of two judges, Dora (Margherita Buy) and Vittorio (Moretti) who will refuse to pull any strings for their son, causing a long-lasting rift in the family when his prison term is finally up.

Meanwhile Monica gives birth to baby Beatrice with her usual elfin delicatesse, her alluring husband Giorgio (Adriano Giannini) is working abroad offering no emotional support to deal with the baby or her ageing mother, but female empowerment saves the day. A mini mafia subplot with Giorgio’s estranged brother gives the story another showcase for its signature male rivalry and violence, Monica batting off his sexual advances with grace.

Meanwhile Sara (Elena Lietti) and Lucio (Riccardo Scamarcio) become suspicious of the old man next door Renato (Paolo Graziosi), who regularly babysits their daughter and who provides the film’s child abuse theme that will see Lucio himself in a flirtation with young neighbour Sara (Elena Lietti) later accusing him of sexual misconduct.

Elegantly paced and thoughtful with some inspiring music choices and delightful performances, Moretti delivers another class act. MT

ON BFI PLAYER

Mothering Sunday (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Eva Husson | Cast: Odessa Young, Josh O’Connor, Sope Dirisu, Colin Firth, Olivia Colman, Glenda Jackson | UK Drama 110′

A nostalgic reflection on English family life ravaged by loss in the Great War is the subject of Eva Husson’s languorous female empowerment melodrama.

Slim of plot but indulgently languid in its evocative sensuality Mothering Sunday is seen through the eyes of a young girl in service reflecting back on a fateful summer day in 1924 when tragedy changed her life forever: and decided to become a writer. The timeline sashays backwards and forwards, Glenda Jackson adding grist as the older novelist Jane shrugging off the success of her prize-winning in the modern day.

Based on Graham Swift’s novella Mothering Sunday – a day when staff in service were given the day off to visit their mothers – evokes the sultry atmosphere of a doomed affair between a maid Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young) and Paul Sheringham (Josh O’Connor) the only surviving son of a well to do family in the verdant English countryside. Released from duties Jane spends the day in bed with her lover at his stately mansion in his parents’ absence. Paul is going to be marrying Emma in a fortnight’s time, so both he and Jane know their affair is over.

In the background Colin Firth and Olivia Colman play the Nivens, an older generation broken by loss and still mourning their sons killed in the war. But the focus here is on sensuality rather than storyline, and the camera lingers on their love scenes as Jane prances around naked. Meanwhile on the grassy lawns of Henley the Nivens keep calm and carry on over a tearful lunch with their coterie of bereaved friends, Colin fronting up well, Colman morose.

But there’s only so much loving-making and visuals of fusty libraries and flowers in a china vase a film can take. And rather than focus on Jane’s literary aspirations and how they eventually take shape and blossom professional – we see her occasionally penciling a word on a page, or in brief vignettes during a marriage in the 1940s, Husson is more concerned with the atmosphere, permeating this soulful story with a pent up feeling of loss and longing, that eventually erupts in the tragic denouement. In this sense the film is a missed opportunity to make better use of its strong cast of Colin Firth, Olivia Colman and Glenda Jackson. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

 

Benedetta (2021)

Dir: Paul Verhoeven | Cast: Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling, Daphné Patakia, Lambert Wilson, Olivier Rabourdin, Louise Chevillotte

Dutch director Paul Verhoeven is still best known for his scandalous sex saga Basic Instinct. It set the 1990s on fire with Sharon Stone’s memorable naked crutch shot and a brilliant script by Joe Eszterhas that felt racy and groundbreaking. Next came Showgirls and Elle, notable for their leading ladies Gina Gershon (who won a Razzie award) and the incandescent Isabelle Huppert.

Benedetta attempts to recreate the world of Ken Russell’s The Devils and Walerian Borowcyck’s Blanche without their narrative ballast despite an opening credit that proudly announces “based on a true story”: of a naughty nun in Renaissance Italy entitled’ Immodest Acts’ by one Judith C Brown.

Benedetta Carlini claimed to have seen a vision of Jesus and subsequently devoted her life to her saviour. But the only devotion here is to the misogynist male gaze in a shagged-out shaggy dog story that drew sniggers of derision from an audience of critics at its Cannes premiere in 2021.

Benedetta (Virginie Efira), works her way shamelessly through the ecclesiastical hierarchy in a convent in Northern Italy city of Pescia after hoodwinking the Abbess Felicita – Rampling adding a touch of class in a difficult role as the Convent head. Efira doesn’t hold a candle (let alone a wimple0 to Sharon Stone in the erotic scenes, her approach too raunchy and too coarse.

Benedetta is warned early on that “your worst enemy is your body,”. But this is a caveat that soon falls by the wayside when dark-eyed novice Bartolomea (Patakia) is admitted to convent escaping her father’s cruel abuse. The story soon takes a more sinister turn when the two are bonded by their fatal attraction – far less alluring or convincing that that of the Stone and Douglas affair.

What starts out a lushly-mounted period drama soon descends into a dark-edged Carry on at the Convent-style caper that is more corny than provocative. Verhoeven has a field day as his absurdist melodrama burns through a bloated budget in extraordinary set pieces, its lush Tuscan locations evocatively lensed by Jeanne Lapoirie. Under the influence of Bartolomea, Benedetta turns into a bodice-ripping virago with a deep baritone voice. Worse is to come involving CGI snakes, blood-letting and stigmata in scenes featuring a sexually ambivalent Christ on the Cross.

A series of torrid encounters between the two young nuns drives the pacy plot forward, Felicita soon ‘smelling a rat’ through a peephole in the convent wall. Verhoeven and his Elle writer David Birke attempt to add moral complexity to the story by suggesting that Felicita is jealous of ‘their thing’ and this catapults the film towards its ludicrous finale  playing out in Florence and featuring a glowering Lambert Wilson as the Catholic church’s top dog, the Nuncio.

This was a time where women were regularly burnt at the stake and had minimal social and sexual agency. In the confines of a convent cloistered exploits clearly allowed them a mode of sexual expression. But Verhoeven trivialises rather than champions the women’s cause by making these encounters porny than horny, at least for his female audience.

Overstaying its initial welcome at two hours (plus) this clunky bonkbuster feels both tedious and exploitative. What could have been seductively subversive is just silly and salaciously over the top. We are left smirking in our seats by the showcase showdown – but not in a good way – not caring what happens, as long as it ends. MT

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 15 APRIL

 

Great Freedom (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Fir: Sebastian Meise | Drama 104’

Franz Rogowski is the dynamite that burns through this outré arthouse portrait of illicit homosexuality in post war Berlin from Austrian filmmaker Sebastian Meise.

Arrested for cottaging in the grubby confines of a public lavatory in the claustrophobic early cine-camera scenes he is Hans Hoffmann, a man who will spend the remainder of the film in prison surrounded by murderers and thieves, before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1969.

Meise makes no attempt to make his characters likeable in this sordid slice of social realism but Rogowski always brings an appealing sense of vulnerability that softens the hard edges of this overlong sober prison drama with its flecks of brilliance. The final scene is a memorable masterstroke.

The narrative unfolds across three interlinking timelines seeing Hans in a series of sexual encounters in the same sordid prison where he often finds himself in solitary confinement for doing so. The touchstones are 1945, 1957 and 1968 where he forms a close relationship with homophobe Viktor (Georg Freidrich) who is serving time for murder but whose sexual yearnings are for women, not men.

But Meise plays on the theme of sexual fluidity here in a story that very much explores sex as a physical release as much as an emotional need in a pivotal part of the storyline that leads to the men’s relationship soon developing into a close bond of friendship and reliance that touches on love but never speaks its name.

Hans dabbles in other affairs in the story’s most poignant scenes and here he gives full throttle to his signatory romantic sensuality in a gutsy performance that carries the film through its rather low-key narrative where tighter writing in the middle act could have made this more intense.

Nevertheless this is a nakedly unflinching look at a time when men weren’t allowed to show their love for each and a worthwhile warts of all expose of the German prison system of the era. MT

Rehana Maryam Noor (2021) Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard

Dir/Wri: Abdullah Mohammad Saad Cast: Azmeri Haque Badhon, Afia Jahin Jaima | Drama 107

Bangladesh makes its first appearance ever in this year’s competition selection at Cannes 2021.

The claustrophobic, seething, slice of social realism is a second feature for writer-director Abdullah Mohammad Saad. It follows moralistic widow Dr. Rehana Maryam Noor in her daily round at a teaching hospital in Dhaka where she works as an assistant professor and mother of a recalcitrant teenage daughter, Emu (Afia Jahin Jaima).

Invigilating in the exam room in the opening scene of this tense psychological drama, Dr Noor unceremoniously expels a medical student for scribbling notes on her yellow ruler. This draconian approach sets the tone for a vehement tirade that plays out in grim close-up as she then comes across a professor abusing a student: there will be hell to play!.

Maryam – a smouldering Azmeri Haque Badhon – has a difficult backstory which slowly unfolds in parallel with the main narrative. Unbalanced by her fraught home life she is a woman who is unflinching in her approach to anyone who breaks the rules. A tough, spiky feminist she also makes for an unlikeable heroine clearly shaped by her tough life in this male-dominated sexist society.

In sharp contrast her boss Prof. Arefin (Kazi Sami Hassan) is almost lackadaisical towards the young students in his care, giving them a cautionary ticking off when they err. Especially in the case of Annie, a student who fetches up as Arefin’s office in tears. But when it transpires that the young girl has been sexually abused it’s impossible for Rehana not to get involved, determined to make those involved come forward and take the rap to safeguard the safety of future female students. But Rehana’s severe attitude soon points to her own repressed sexual nature, gradually complicating an already complex state of affairs that plays out in the second half of the film.

There so many themes going on in Saad’s richly textured script making this an engrossing but not particularly enjoyable film to watch which its intransigent characters and baleful tone. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | COMPETITION 2021

 

 

Cow (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Director: Andrea Arnold | UK Doc 94′

Andrea Arnold returns to her native Kent for a first documentary feature that follows the daily life of a most-loved farmyard animal, the Cow. An intrusive almost wordless look that starts with the birth of a female calf to Luma, a long-lashed beauty with a glossy black and white splodged coat. Hooves first, the baby emerges and all we see is an enquiring eye looking round at the world in amazement, Luma wiping a lustrous tongue round her fluffy ear. But mother and baby are soon parted, the calf is taken away to the plastic teat of the farmer’s bottle. Dairy cow Luma will then be milked mechanically for our own consumption til the end of her life.

Cow has echoes of the 2012 shocker Leviathan where Lucien Castaing Taylor and Vanessa Paravel took an intense arthouse gaze at commercial fishing through the eyes of the fish. Gunda took a similar wide-eyed approach: A human attempt to see things from the animals’ perspective, where the animal becomes our friend and the human a cruel, opportunistic interloper. When the black bull arrives to do his business, Luma carries on unimpressed. The only moment of bliss in her life is grazing in the bucolic peace of the summery Kentish meadows, chewing buttercups and lush grass in the moonlight. Overhead a plane comes into landing its lights flashing like an alien spaceship in her natural world.

The mass production of milk is big business but Arnold doesn’t bore us with the facts or figures, or even talking heads. The only heads here are furry bovine ones, and muddy bottoms caressed by swishing tails. Bemused, bewildered and beguiling the cows look out in wonder at a world of exploitation. And when Luma’s calf disappears into a plastic pen with a plastic teat, Luma moos loudly in protest as the two are parted. And as each of her calves is born Luma comes  become protective, or at least that’s what we hear from a disembodied human voice. Clearly cows have feelings too. But here she exists to produce milk – gallons of it – and that repetitive diurnal task it what seems to lead to her tragic demise in the film’s shockingly blunt finale. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CANNES PREMIERES

Everything Went Fine | Tout est bien passe (2021)

Dir: François Ozon | Cast: Sophie Marceau, André Dussollier, Géraldine Pailhas, Charlotte Rampling, Éric Caravaca, Hanna Schygulla, Grégory Gadebois, Jacques Nolot, Judith Magre, Daniel Mesguich, Nathalie Richard | France 98′

Francois Ozon always has a cheeky grin in his films. And Everything Went Fine is no exception. This candid end of life drama is a delightful follow-up to the darkly drole Summer of 85, a funny version of The Father with the same piquancy and sharp attention to detail. It could be anyone’s family story once parents get to ‘un certain age’. It could even be yours.

Charlotte Rampling is back, along with his regular collaborator the late novelist Emmanuèle Bernheim who wrote Under The Sand, Swimming Pool and 5X2 and on whose book this new story is based. Refreshingly honest and laced with Ozon’s classic subversiveness, André Dussollier plays the classic stroke-ridden 84 year old with an arch naughtiness and poignancy. The relationship with his long-suffering middle-aged daughters Emmanuelle and Pascale is spiky, to say the least. There’s even a cameo role for veteran Hanna Schygulla who advises on euthanasia.

What elevates this from trite comedy territory is the cast who really capture the essence of fraught family life with an honesty that tonally transcends sentimentality. Some may call it a ‘love hate relationship’ but this is exactly what happens with life and death, and Ozon craftily navigates these prickly relationships making us believe that he’s really been there himself.

Emmanuèle’s father André Bernheim is a cultured man with an ego not unlike Dustin Hoffman’s character in The Meyerowitz Stories that premiered at the festival in 2017. A rather selfish gay art collector who rediscovered his sexuality after marrying the girls’ sculptress mother – a cool-handed Charlotte Rampling – he keeps on the ball despite his stroke leaving him physically challenged.

Many may baulk at the humour Ozon playfully uses to convey a desperate family tragedy but this is really how it is – as those affected can frankly testify. And it’s this complete authenticity that keeps you glued to the screen and nodding in agreement, rather than the cardboard worthy scenario many may envisage.

Euthanasia is also thoughtfully handled, offering the film a morally meaty maze with plenty to chew on. This is a satisfyling mouthful that will make you laugh to self rather than out loud. A light-hearted comedy that unflinchingly faces reality with heart and humanity. MT

ON RELEASE from 17 June COURTESY OF CURZON | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

Val (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Dirs: Leo Scott and Ting Poo | US Doc 104′

The thing about Val Kilmer is his silly humour. It shines out in this warm biopic of an actor who struck gold commercially but still wants to make it in the arthouse world. Now in his early 60s, a glittering past is behind him, a cancer survivor clinging on cheerfully despite a robotic voice like Stephen Hawking, he still smiles radiantly. A shadow of his former self but his spirit is strong and full of positive energy for the future. And once you get used to the voice you realise he’s much the same as he ever was: just older and wiser – and more resigned.

In Val, directors Leo Scott and Ting Poo use a hotchpotch of videos and snapshots mostly taken by Kilmer himself: an actor and writer but most of all a big human whose love for life and his family radiates through the 40 years of archive footage in a documentary that takes us from his childhood years in California to the Batman years for which he is most famous, and beyond. His latest project – a tribute to Mark Twain – is still ongoing and clearly fascinates him. 

The film starts with him playing around in his trailer with Rick Rossovich during the making of Top Gun, his complex character comes out in another scene where he’s filming John Frankenheimer on the set of The Island of Dr. Moreau. Ordered to stop filming Kilmer carries on regardless. The director had threatened to walk out and so Kilmer bargains with him to stay and the camera continues rolling.

A training at New York’s Juilliard school has clearly instilled a strong sense of quality in his work. And this is probably the root cause of his reputation for being ‘difficult’. He was billed for the main role in the 1983 production of “The Slab Boys,” a Broadway hit play, Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon later pulling rank for the main parts. His creativity went on to be stymied by the commercial system that ultimately offered little by way of freedom to express himself, and this theme sets the tone for an entertaining portrait of a real man, rather than just a jobbing player of parts. This is why his story remains one of success rather than failure, despite the decrepit guy in the picture. Loss is a big theme: his marriage and divorce from Joanne Whalley affected him badly, and obviously the cancer diagnosed in 2015. But he soldiers on making us laugh with an infectious humour in this feelgood movie. 

Batman was a personal disaster for him weighed down by a heavy costume and hardly able to breathe, let alone speak. It crushed his performance and he signed out after one go at the Caped Crusader: “every boy wants to be Batman, but not play him”.

The Top Gun episode was a blast with much fooling around off set, sealing his reputation:“For the rest of my life I will be called Iceman by every pilot at every airport I ever go to.” he comments from his Malibu beach hideaway. But he wanted more than fame. Inspiration was really his watchword. In a bid to work with Kubrick and Scorsese he sent them audition tapes but nothing came of it. His force of personality projected him forward for choice roles but he didn’t always get them. Willow was another disaster but the The Doors would be special and he honed his performance again and again, even wearing the leather trousers in an obsession that ultimately cost him his marriage. 

Family intervenes throughout the film: particularly his sadness over his brother Wesley who died in a jacuzzi accident in his teens. And his mother was a big influence and he reminisces over her in some tearful sequences. Although his father was a big business man Val ultimately had to bail him out. His faith Christian Science also figures strongly and clearly gives him the strength to pursue his artistic projects. He may have fallen from the pantheon of stardom but seems to have found peace with his kids and a boundless enthusiasm drives him forward to the future. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Annette (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Dir/Wri: Leos Carax | Marion Cotillard, Adam Driver, Simon Helberg | Drama France, 139′

French auteur Leos Carax last graced the Croisette with Holy Motors a weird and mysterious odyssey into the mind of one man. Annette his latest creation sees him back in Cannes nine years later with another cinematic sensation: another journey into the complexities of male psyche that explores the nature of fame and the fragility of love through his first English language film.

Adam Driver haunts this moody modern opera with a muscular expressiveness that lurches from rage to almost religious fervour as offbeat comedian Henry, although his comedy act sequences are overlong and not particularly amusing and detract from the central narrative which already has more than enough references to his anger issues. Marion Cotillard shimmers exquisitely as the diva he falls for but the baby they make together is simply out of the world.

Visually stunning in the style of Holy Motors, is Caroline Champetier once again beguiles with her luscious cinematography in a highly original film that blends its bizarre ideas and tonal switches with elegance, always surprising the audience: particularly with erotic sex scenes laced with obsidian black humour: this is a richly thematic modern classic with a focus firmly in the future.

The cult rock band Sparks performs and composes a score that is daringly racy and poignant in the style of a Greek tragedy (complete with a black female chorus) where its central character Henry (Driver) is a meglamaniac narcissist whose lust for new experiences and extreme carnal compulsion will be his devastating downfall, destroying everything challenging his dominance.

Opera singer Ann (Marion Cotillard) melts his heart with her dulcet tones – for a while at least – and the two wander deliriously in a verdant garden of Eden crooning the film’s catchy musical leit-motif “We Love Each Other So Much”. and soon their baby Annette is born and their joy now complete.

But storm clouds soon gather over on the loved-up paradise in a melodramatic tone shift. Carax goes into overdrive in a full-blown expose of macho toxicity where passions are given full throttle during Henry’s hysterical nighttime motorbike rides home to his tropical hideaway, the dizzying camerawork  recalling Holy Motors‘ nocturnal taxi forays. There is a third narrative strand in shape of Simon Helberg’s compelling turn as Ann’s spurned lover now reduced to her accompanying pianist at her elegantly-staged opera gigs. Once again Cotillard get the chance to play Lady Macbeth and this will be teased out suggestively in the film’s third act.

Baby Annette is like a benign female version of ‘Chucky’, her blue eyes and auburn locks adding an endearing appeal and vulnerability to the subtle scariness she engenders but also hinting at A.I. She will grow up to be a thoughtful and intuitive little girl, whose presence pivotal to the storyline. At this point Carax uses the female chorus to clever effect as a #MeToo theme kicks in and this feeds into Henry’s violent anger management issues which are now the central focus of the story and pivotal to the final reveal.

Annette is a compelling visual masterpiece that utterly captivates and confuses for nearly two and half hours. An atmospheric soundscape, dreamlike images and extraordinary performances coalesce in a contemporary rock melodrama the like of which has never been seen before, and it world premieres here at Cannes. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

 

 

Zero Fucks Given | Rien a Foutre (2021) Semaine de la Critique

Dir.: Emmanuel Mare, Julie Lecoustre; Cast: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Mara Tarquin, Alexander Perrier, Jonathan Sawdon; Belgium 2021, 115 min.

This bizarre but brilliant first feature for French duo Emmanuel Marre and Julie Lecoustre follows a shameless young air-stewardess on a flight to nowhere, emotionally speaking. We soon understand why.

Cassandra (Exarchopoulos from Blue is the warmest Colour) works for a budget airline mostly around Europe. She dreams of being hired by Emirates Airlines or even a high-paying company called Private Jets, but speaks only a little English apart from French.

From her base in Lanzarote relationships are tricky so she signs out of reality, keeps her family at a distance and opts for an online life on Tinder under the pseudonym ‘Carpe Diem’, a bare-breasted selfie setting the tone for some casual sexual encounters. In some ways she is typical of the resigned young millennial who literally doesn’t care what happens as long as she’s having fun.

Not only is the job repetitive and unfulfilling, Cassandra spends most of her time in airline terminals, a hostile and alien environment made worse since Covid. Drugs and disco are her favourite release on breaks from the inflight tedium. When her contract runs out, she is re-assigned to a course that includes saving passengers with CPR – an exercise Cassandra fails dismally, unable to interact even with a dummy: “You are breaking all his ribs” the course leader tells her, after Cassandra pummels the model doll mercilessly. Job follows job largely down to Cassandra’s ability to sell her persona on Zoom interviews ‘Seize the day’ very much captures the economic and social climate of this disposal world.

Exarchopoulos gives a stunning performance as the women “with no attributes”, an empty vessel not even trying to find an engagement with the outside world. She is vague to the point of disowning herself, constantly on the move in transit positions. She is the modern young woman honed for the quick-turnaround of her professional life, opting for a quick fix while treading water in the hope of a better opportunity, always with her eye to the main chance. Cassandra is the opposite of her sister and father: rootless and uninterested in her past, leaving them to fight with the emotional consequences of the mother’s death. DoP Olivier Boonjing excels with the cold airport images where contrast, the warmer colours of Cassandra’s hometown. Zero Fucks Given is certainly original: an almost sinister study of a modern milliennial. Hugely recommended. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 2021

 

Intregalde (2021) Quinzaine – Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir: Radu Muntean | Romania, 104′

“No good dead goes unpunished” is the idea behind this latest film from Romania’s Radu Muntean (One Floor Below). Întregalde ponders how modern Romania has gone backwards and forwards at the same time through a richly thematic psychodrama playing in this year’s Quinzaine selection at Cannes.

Written by Răzvan Rădulescu, Alex Baciu and Radu Muntean it centres on three friends Maria, Ilinca and Dan (played by Maria Popistașu, Ilona Brezoianu and Alex Bogdan) who embark on a humanitarian mission to deliver food parcels to a remote part of Transylvania.

But on their way home the upbeat charity jaunt soon turns into a stress-fuelled nightmare when they pick up a mysterious old man in the forest. Kente (played by non-pro actor Luca Sabin) takes them wildly off track, before leaving them on a muddy track in the autumnal gloom of the Apuseni mountains.

Early scenes strike a familiar note for most of us used to charity efforts, food banks and child poverty, now at 21st century reality. In the back of their land-rover the two stranded women talk about relationships and fertility problems while they wait for Dan (Bogdan) to get help to repair their stricken vehicle. Arguments follow as they all fall out over their decision to leave the main road in the bitterly cold falling snow. By the morning the woods are transformed into a winter wonderland where time seems to have shifted back hundreds of years in the village of Întregalde.

Muntean gives us a sardonic vision of a country where two worlds collide: one is the complex modern existence, the other is caught in a fairytale past of painted wooden houses and rural traditions. Both exist in the 21st century: Kente still believes in his imaginative stories and folklore and lives sustainably off the land and his livestock. The three helpers have been catapulted into an economic reality where food and money are now scarce for many ordinary people, caught in the poverty trap of modern Romania. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | QUINZAINE DES REALISATEURS.

 

 

 

Europa (2021) Quinzaine – Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir/Wri: Haider Rashid | Adam Ali, Svetlana Yancheva, Mohomed Zouaoui, Michael Segal | Italy, Thriller 75′

This gritty immigration clearly takes it cue from the 1964 Czechlovak classic Diamonds of the Night that followed two Jewish teenagers escaping from a train taking them to Dachau concentration camp. Haider Rashid’s debut may be more colourful but the sombre subject remains the same. A breathless handheld camera follows a young Iraqi Muslim who reaches the coast of Bulgarian on a boat, trafficked from North Africa. Hoping for a better life, rather than escaping certain death like the teens in Jan Namec’s New Wave debut that ends in tragedy, Europa is more enigmatic.

DoP Jacopo Caramella keeps his camera right up close to Kamal (Ali) as he rushes on through the bosky undergrowth. Occasionally the focus broadens to the near distance where his pursuers are hot on his trail. Europa is about the pain, fear and gruelling tiredness suffered by this modern refugee who may be young and fit but is also injured and exhausted by his dangerous odyssey, and ill-equipped for to endure the perilous journey that lies ahead when night falls.

Writing with Sonia Giannetto, Haider keeps the tension taut in this fact- based drama driven forward by Kamal’s terrorised POV. We feel his sheer exhaustion, his fear-fuelled energy sapping away. Eventually he reaches a safe haven in the woods but not for long. Adam Ali grew up in the safety of Manchester but his performance as Kamal is fraught with palpable terror in this tightly- wound unhurried  tragedy that ponders the unkindness of strangers. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 

The Heroics | Les Heroiques (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Maxime Roy; Cast: Richard Bohringer, Francois Creton, Romeo Creton, Ariane Ascaride, Patrick D’Assumçao, Clothilde Couran, Clara Ponsot, Mai and Cosmo Gernay-Fouquin; France 2021, 99 min.

This ‘Men behaving badly in Paris’ buddy movie reunites Maxime Roy with the cast of his short film Beautiful Losers. It’s a world where drugs and alcohol fuel physical and psychological abuse for the punk generation Francois Creton – who co-wrote the script – plays 53-year old bruiser Michel, who has fathered a baby called Arno despite his longterm addiction to Meths, Although he’s spend the last six months on the waggon.

Michel’s meets up with a close coterie of friends at the classic AA meeting, where he breaks down cursing himself and the world in general. But a visit to the hospital doctor confirms the damage wreaked on his body. Although his friends exhort him to ‘grow up’ on a regular basis: he does not want and therein lies the problem. ,

He sees himself as the perpetual Peter Pan character freewheeling through life in an alcoholic daze of music, drugs and his motorcycle. Reality – he feels – has conspired against him. And he’s fallen with nearly everyone, not least Arno’s mother Hélène (Couran) whose advice is: “Do your son a favour, get out of our lives”. Michel’s mother committed suicide and his relationship with his father Claude (Bohringer) – who has anger management issues and is dying of cancer – is even is more fraught, the two men have a big blow up, accusing each other for her death. Despite the bust up, Claude tries to get his son a job as a welder with a friend, but Michel is too proud to go on the training course.

Claude lives with Josiane (Ascaride), who is trying to broker a truce between son and father but even she give up in the end, along with Michel’s oldest son eighteen year-old Leo (R. Creton) who finds out that the fatherly role model is a cul-de-sac, and soon moves out. Michel has a softer side, supporting his AA pal Lily (Ponsot) who can’t face the first hour of alcohol free existence

This this richly textured character piece is no hyper-realist film in the Ken Loach tradition. Nothing could be further from the truth: Roy shows Michel’s depravity in all its glory but opts for a European form of Magic Realism, connected to the South American tradition of Glauber Rocha or Alejandro Jodorowsky.

DoP Balthazar Lab’s fluid camera captures moments of pure poetry: the baby sleeping serenely while a water leak causes mayhem in Michel’s flat.  The motorcycle sequences, shot often at night, are also particularly impressive, when the baby, again, is oblivious to the danger, while his mother is doing her nut. Bohringer and Ascaride triumph along with a talented ensemble cast steered by finely tuned Roy’s finely-tuned direction  in this darkly comic French tragedy that’s competing in this year’s Camera D’Or in the Cannes Special Screening sidebar. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | CAMERA D’OR.

Anaïs in Love (2021)

Dir: Charlene Bourgeois-Tacquet | Cast: Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi, Anais Demoustier, Denis Podalydes, Jean-Charles Clichet,

Anaïs in Love is light, fluffy but real in its depiction of a young girl enjoying her Parisian life, flirting and indulging in a varied sex life while trying to pay the rent – and who better to play her than a gorgeously flip and froufrou Anais Demoustier who strikes just the right chord between frivolousness and concern for her mother, recently diagnosed with cancer, as the titular Anaïs, who can shed a tear although a smile is never far from her pouting red lips.

This is French filmmaker Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s feature debut and she writes and directs with confidence and a lightness of touch in a freewheeling narrative that sashays gaily around Paris in the summer. Of course, it always helps to have Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi in this sort of upbeat sweet-hearted drama, and she adds a touch of class in her usual slightly ‘distraite’ style as Emilie, a vaguely blue-stocking woman who lectures on creative writing at a summer school that piques Anais’ attention. The two bond immediately, drawn together  by the stylish allure they both exude, and a strong sexual attraction.

Of course, Anaïs is short of cash and has to blag herself onto the class where upfront payment is de rigueur. Here she meets Yoann whose father has just died of cancer, reminding Anaïs to write to her mother (cue John Ireland’s mournful score of “When I am dead”). But it’s Emilie who holds the strongest interest for the young Anaïs, until it turns out that they also share the same man, in the shape of much older Daniel (Denis Podalydes) who turns up unexpectedly to join the fun in this enjoyable literary-themed romantic drama with its scarlet aesthetic and vibrant lesbian twist. MT

COMING TO CINEMAS ON 19 August 2022

La Traviata – Mes Frères et Moi (2021) Un Certain Regard Cannes 2021

Dir/Wri: Yohan Manca | Cast: Jael Mouin Berrandou, Judith Chemla, Dali Benssalah, Sofian Khammes | Drama France 108′

A 14-year-old  boy broadens his cultural horizons caring for his bedridden mother in this fresh and lively family drama from France’s Yohan Manca.

Nour – a fresh-faced Jael Mouin Berrandou – has just finished school for the summer, but going on holiday is not on the cards. Sharing a council house with his four brothers brings tensions the usual tensions as the four of them struggle to look after their mother whose love of opera music – particularly La Traviata – fills their cramped home in the South of France.

When Nour crosses paths with Sarah (Manca’s real life partner Judith Chemla), who is teaching an Opera summer school, he finally finds the opportunity to come out of his shell and explore new horizons. Manca directs with real joie de vivre in this charming cinema verite crowdpleaser, his characters coming alive despite the challenges of the setting. There’s a raw energy connecting the men to their mother who while desperately sick still acts as a stabilising loving influence for her argumentative family. Chanelling a message of hope with its positive depiction of life’s challenges this is an upbeat feelgood contender for this year’s Un Certain Regard and Camera D’Or. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | UN CERTAIN REGARD

 

 

The Employer and the Employee (2021) Quinzaine – Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Manolo Nieto; Cast: Nahuel Perez Biscayart, Christian Borges, Justina Bustos, Fatima Quintanilla, Carlos Lacuesta, Virgine Mendez, Manuel Guedes; Uruguay 2021, 105 min.

Another big screen treat from South America in this year’s Quinzaine selection, this time from Uruguay stars trailblazing Argentine actor Nahuel Perez Biscayart who has been the toast of the international festival circuit for Persian Lessons, Beats Per Minute, and See You Up There. 

Elegantly paced and thoughtful despite its rather cumbersome title this ‘upstairs downstairs’ parable unfolds in a rural community in the north Eastern part of Uruguay near the Brazilian border where the magnificent widescreen landscape is very much the star of the show.

Uruguayan writer/director Manolo Nieto’s family affair has strong magic realist undertones: his titular boss and employee are not conventional by any means – and neither are their other halves. DoP Arauco Hernandez Holz conjures up lush, languid images in a richly textured slow burn tragedy in the style of Bunuel and Nuri Bilge Ceylan Greek where servant and master are forever bound together in a paternalistic system.

The way we meet Rodrigo (Biscayart), the titular boss, is symptomatic of all the main characters: caught at the border with some weed, he looks like your typical university dropout, and not a clever one at that. A  family doctor swings by to get his baby boy Bautista to sleep in the most unorthodox way possible. Wife Federica (Bustos), a blue eyed blonde, is concerned about Bautista’s health, and later they will take him to hospital for tests, in a nice little tense undercurrent that burbles on til the film’s finale.

Uruguay’s agricultural production had to change from traditional animal farming to soya planting, and only a few labourers can manage the sophisticated machinery for the harvest. Rodrigo sets out to meet the old retainer and farm hand Lacuesta (Lacuesta) who puts forward his teenage son Carlos (Borgoes) for the job. The young man also has a baby daughter with Estafania (Quintanilla) but lacks experience or any real commitment, preferring the more glamorous job of looking after the horses, and one in particular is Hidalgo, a race horse destined to be sold to the Arabs, if it does well in a 115 km marathon race. Carlos hopes to be selected as his jockey. But clearly he’s not up to the job of driving a tractor and a serious accident reveals his shortcomings as an employee.

Surprisingly, Rodrigo gives him another chance, even taking him to a brothel, where Carlos blacks out. The situation becomes even more bizarre when Rodrigo invites Estafanie to work on the hacienda as a maid. Federica and the young woman nearly come to blows over baby Bautista’s care. But Rodrigo is in a bind: the Farmworkers’ Union has filed a lawsuit against him as the boss with overall responsibility for the tractor accident, and so he promises Carlos can ride on Hidalgo at the famous race in Santa Fe where loyalties explode in a racy finale. Manolo Nieto delivers a calmly-paced and contemplative modern thriller that ponders on the past and the present in his native Uruguay. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | QUINZAINE DES REALISATEURS

Lingui (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir/Wri: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun | Achouackh Abakar Souleymane, Rihane KHALIL ALIO BRAHIM Youssouf DJAORO FANTA Briya GOMDIGUE | Chad, Drama, 87′

Visual storytelling at its most resplendent Lingui is a simple tale gracefully crafted by a director at the top of his game and brought to life by his talented cast.

In a landlocked Muslim country Lingui (The Sacred Ties) follows Amina an observant single mother living on the margins of a male-dominated society with her teenage daughter Maria. The men not only hold sway, they hold themselves above the law, laying it down harshly for their womenfolk. So the women are forced to play them at their game as we discover when Maria falls pregnant and cannot, by law, have an abortion.

With his vibrant compositions and exquisite framing the director keeps dialogue to a minimum in this filmic ‘whodunnit’ relying on strong cinematic language and a propulsive occasional score by Wasis Diop to show how moments of pleasure occasionally break into the harsh realities of life in Chad’s main city of N’Djamena, where a tribal society has given way to strictly enforced Islam with mosque attendance ‘de rigueur’. Woman are expected to the subservient and cover themselves up in public, ritual circumcision is routinely practiced and performed by the women themselves when the girls are still very young. To be an unmarried mother is considered sinful whatever the circumstances and so for Maria the future looks especially bleak. And rumours spread fast.

Amina makes metal household equipment which she sells for a pittance by the roadside, but not enough to pay for illegal medical intervention. Maria is a typical young teenager: proudly defiant and living by her own modern standards, but her pregnancy will take her back to the dark ages of backstreet abortions and sham. Worse still, she won’t reveal the truth behind her pregnancy until circumstances suddenly a solution. MT

Born in Chad, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun first won critical acclaim for his short films before directing his first feature, Bye-bye Africa (Best First Film, Venice Film Festival 1999). He then went on to direct Abouna (Our Father) (Director’s Fortnight, Cannes 2002), Daratt, Dry Season (Special Jury Award, Venice Film Festival 2006), A Screaming Man (Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival 2010), Grigris (Vulcain Prize for Best Cinematography, Official Competition, Cannes Film Festival 2013). Hissein Habr , A Chadian Tragedy, his first documentary film, was selected at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Official Selection – Special screening. A Season in France, is his first feature film shot in France, starring Eriq Ebouaney and Sandrine Bonnaire. Selected at the Toronto International Film Festival 2017 – Special Presentation. New York paid tribute to Mahamat-Saleh Haroun by hosting two retrospectives of his films: in 2006 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and in 2018 at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). In 2010, he received at the Venice Mostra the Robert Bresson Award for his complete works and in 2013, the Fellini Medal awarded by UNESCO.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | IN COMPETITION | WORLD PREMIERE

Cinema de la Plage | Cannes outdoor cinema 2021

This year’s Cannes Film Festival certainly promises better weather with its July slot taking over the usual rainy May programme when nvariably grey skies threaten to scupper the Cinema de la Plage – this year it’s going to be hot, hot, hot, with temperatures already in the 30s. So prepare for some balmy evenings watching films.

In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-wai (2000, 1h38,

Hong Kong/China)
Awarded at the Festival de Cannes in 2000, Wong Kar-wai’s major work is one of the greatest romantic films of all time, set in a hypnotic and colourful universe with an enchanting original cast. A restored copy will be screened before its re-release in France on July 21, 2021 and worldwide starting in the summer of 2021.

Wednesday, July 7, 9:30 p.m.

Scarecrow by Jerry Schatzberg (1973, 1h52, USA)

Ten years ago, the photo of Faye Dunaway taken by Jerry Schatzberg was featured in the Cannes Festival poster. At the age of 94, as senior member of filmmakers still in service, Jerry will be in attendance on the Croisette to present the film that won the Palme d’or in 1973. One of the gems of great American cinema of the 1970s, with Al Pacino and Gene Hackman in a picaresque American road movie, it is an ode to freedom and to film.
Presented by Jerry Schatzberg

Thursday, July 8, 9:30 p.m.

Tom Medina by Tony Gatlif (2021, 1h40, France/Switzerland)
World premiere – Official Selection Cannes 2020
Ciné-Concert !

A “Camargue Western”, the new film from the great Tony Gatlif, winner of the Best Director Award at Cannes in 2004, will also bring us, prior to the screening, his trademark kind of surprise: the “Tom Medina Concert”, rock, flamenco, gypsy music performed by thirteen musicians, including Karoline Rose Sun, Nicolas Reyes, Manero, Norig, Cécile Évrot and flamenco dancer Karine Gonzales.
The evening is presented and moderated by Tony Gatlif

Friday, July 9, 9:30 p.m.

Black Cat, White Cat by Emir Kusturica (1998, 2h10, Germany/France)

A family adventure, funny and fantastical, with eccentric – one could say “kusturician” – characters, for a plunge into the depths of the colourful, musical and poetic world of Emir Kusturica, a two-time Palme d’or winner at Cannes.

Saturday, July 10, 9:30 p.m.

The Summit of the Gods (Le Sommet des Dieux) by Patrick Imbert (2021, 1h34, France/Luxembourg) World premiere – Official Selection Cannes 2020

Adapted from the famous manga by Jirô Taniguchi, himself inspired by the novel by Baku Yumemakura, The Summit of the Gods is an extraordinary animation film, a great adventure and an investigation into the thrilling realm of conquering the world’s most challenging peaks.
Presented by Patrick Imbert

Sunday, July 11, 9:30 p.m.

JFK (Director’s Cut) by Oliver Stone (1991, 3h25, USA/France)

The most famous film about the event that traumatized America in 1963. The investigation carried out on a drum roll on the assassination of President Kennedy: suspense, politics and history. Oliver Stone presents his personal thesis, with conviction and often convincing, that there were several killers and that it was a plot against America. Screened in its full version, as Oliver Stone wished, it will also raise the curtain on the next day’s screening in Official Selection of the world avant-premiere of another fascinating documentary: JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass.
Presented by Oliver Stone

Monday, July 12, 9:30 p.m.

Fast and Furious 9 by Justin Lin (2021, 2h23, USA)
European avant-première

For the return of the Festival in Cannes and of film in our hearts, Universal Studios is offering the Cannes audience a magnificent gift and one of the highlights of the summer: opus 9 of the motorized saga, screened in avant-première in France prior to its release on July 14. Vin Diesel and his band, the family, harrowing stunts and crazy car chases. The blockbuster of the summer.

Tuesday, July 13, 9:30 p.m.

Fast and Furious 9 by Justin Lin (2021, 2h23, USA)

Rain check date in the event of bad weather the previous evening. If the July 12 screening is held normally, then another film will be screened on July 13.

Wednesday July 14, 10 p.m.

Bastille Day – Fireworks put on by the City Hall of Cannes.

Thursday, July 15 9:30 p.m.

Lovers Rock by Steve McQueen (2020, 1h08, UK)
Official Selection Cannes 2020

In the 2020 Official Selection, and at long last on the big screen in France, the Small Axe anthology is like a long trance, a slow combustion of desire on a backdrop of reggae in London of the 1960s, that represents almost everything you weren’t allowed to do under physical distancing. In this summer of 2021, this is the perfect film by which we can come out of confinement (cautiously)!
Presented by Steve McQueen

Friday July 16, 9:30 p.m.

Amélie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001, 2h01, France/Germany)
Thrust into the limelight two decades ago, Amélie depicted Paris and Parisians, Montmartre and garden gnomes, extraordinary actors (Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Jamel Debbouze) and a splendid tribute to French cinema of the 1940s. Jeunet at his best.
Presented by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Saturday, July 17, 9:30 p.m.

David Byrne’s American Utopia by Spike Lee (2020, 1h45, USA)Spike

Lee’s latest film, never released in France. A percussive concert of extraordinary beauty by New York singer David Byrne, directed by the 2021 President of the Jury. The best way to close the Festival: with music!

ALL SCREENINGS TAKE PLACE ON THE BEACH | ALL WELCOME

Where is Anne Frank? (2021)

Dir: Ari Folman | With voices of Emily Carey, Ruby Stokes, Neil Barlow, Skye Bennett, Sebastian Croft, Stewart Scudamore | US Animation 109′

On a dark stormy night in Amsterdam a red-haired beauty breaks into the city’s Holocaust Museum and steals a diary from a crystal showcase. The woman is Kitty and the daybook belonged to the famous woman who created it, Annelies Marie Frank (1929-45).

Ari Folman’s latest animation is a playfully evocative take on the tragedy of Anne Frank (Emily Carey) whose final months are reflected through the eyes of her gadabout muse and confidante Kitty, vividly brought to life here by Ruby Stokes. Bristling with ideas that buzz around like fireflies in the vibrantly rendered animations, this clever imagined drama offers a slice of European social and political history pulsing to an upbeat syncopated score, but doom is never far away.

Ink spots on the diary implode to expose episodes of Anne’s daily life before and after her Jewish family’s confinement in the Amsterdam attic, Folman reveals a tense and introspective young daddy’s girl (her father Otto was the sole survivor) escaping into her imagination, pushed away by an unloving mother, an envious elder sister (Margot) and a collection of unsuitable boyfriends in the shape of Herman Kupman and Rob Cohen, growing up in wartime Amsterdam. Finally she settles for the gentle unassuming hypochondriac Peter van Daan, thoughtfully voiced by Sebastian Croft.

In the present day, Kitty comes alive as an inquiring young ‘girl about town’ desperate to find out what happened to her creator, who disappeared nearly eighty years ago. Gradually the past and present collide through a kaleidoscope of comic and tragic touchstones: flashbacks to Anne’s final birthday with a cake and bottle of ‘4711’ cologne; Nazi troops marching into the city as supersized Darth Vader monsters shrouded in black; the ‘Occupy Europe’ era. The current immigration crisis shoehorned in as a pivotal plot twist is inspired, but somehow a step too far.

More convincing is the film’s ‘cancel culture’ theme that sees the wan and prickly teenage Anne confessing to missing the cinema as she huddles with her family in their attic hideout while the Nazis set fire to the city, banning Jews from everywhere in the ensuing mayhem. Her dream that Clark Gable will scoop her up on a white charger and save her from the macabre encroaching enemy feels real and poignant with its nod to the pandemic.

In their hideout the Frank family are joined by the genteel Van Daans. This allows Folman to make some amusing observations about living in close quarters with strangers: how do you cope with flatulence when your diet consists largely of cabbage? Then there’s the well-worn  hypochondria theme seen through Peter’s penchant for staying in bed all day feigning illness.

After Anne’s ‘disappearance’ Kitty files a ‘missing person’s report’ and meets little Ava who has managed to enter Europe by boat courtesy of her sailor father. The police are ever vigilant, one officer has an Israeli accent, but the shadow of the death camps darkens the film’s final segment in haunting widescreen animations picturing trains travelling East to Westerbork transit camp where Anne and her mother are briefly united before she goes with Margot to Bergen Belsen and beyond.

There is a romantic scene towards the end that captures Anne and Peter kissing under a frosty star-strewn sky, set to Chopin’s Piano Etude #3 In E. this is the loveliest memory of a film that occasionally dazzles with its trove of thoughts and memories of a terrible time in history when Europe was divided as it is, once again, today. MT

IN CINEMAS FROM 12 AUGUST 2022

Evolution (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir: Kornél Mundruczó, Kata Weber | Hungary Drama 97’

In a blistering follow-up to Pieces of a Woman, Kornél Mundruczó and Katia Weber return with this powerful drama tracing three generations of a family, from a surreal memory of World War II to modern day Berlin, unable to process their past in a society still coping with the wounds of its history.

False memories, real memories, recollections and reminiscences still haunt those affected as they surface, bob along or drown in a tide of feelings haunted by the past and connected by the Hungarian filmmaker’s evocatively visual imagery and Weber’s thoughtful storytelling.

Drawing on her Hungarian Jewish roots Weber crafts a three stranded story, the first, entitled Lena, is one of the most unusual opening scenarios of recent years set on a second world wartime battlefield, the second is about Lena, a discursive two handler that sees a mother recounting her Holocaust early months as a baby born in Auschwitz, and the third is set in modern Berlin where her own daughter is now living with a son Jonas who is having a difficult time at school. While generational traumas find new expression in the present, the family in EVOLUTION looks towards a more hopeful future despite its troubled past. MT

Retour a Reims (Fragments) (2021) Cannes Film Festival, Quinzaine 2021

Dir.: Jean-Gabriel Périot; Documentary with a narration by Adèle Haenel; France 2021, 83 min.

Adèle Haenel is the force behind this sober big screen essay film from French writer/director Jean-Gabriel Périot, based on the autobiography of philosopher and author Didier Eribon (*1953) Retour a Reims (2009) it works as a social and political commentary of the past 100 years.

Eribon is a controversial figure in French literary circles winning the prestigious Brudner Prize, which he later returned. Retour has also been adapted for the stage by Laurent Hatal in 2014.

Périot successfully avoids talking heads and instead overlays Adèle Haenel’s narration of the text with a 83-minute collection of French newsreel, documentary and feature film clips from the 20th century. As the camera slowly pans over a working class district of the city, Retour a Reims opens with a discourse on the family’s history, recounting how his grandfather, who died aged 54, kept it all going with to two jobs during the 1940s when the average live expectancy of manual workers was around 59. There then follows a long diatribe about a reconciliation with his mother, visiting her for the first time in 30 years, after the death of his homophobic father. “My hatred for him has been forged by the violence of the social world. His fate was determined by his upbringing. leaving school at fourteen like all working class kids of his generation. The powers that be knew that Culture was a corrupting force, controlled by the middle and upper classes, they were kept apart from the workers”.

An interview during the 1950s documents the power of this ruling ideology: “At work I can be free, in school we had to be quiet, but at work, we sing, talk and so on.” As in much of Europe, only the privileged entered higher education. Working class parents could not help their children with home work, they could not even, as one of the mother recalls tearfully, give the children fruit.

Eribon’s parents started their marriage in a single room without a bath. Their family was completed with two sons. In the 1950s illegal abortions were common, so some couples put their sex life on hold. After his mother’s insistence paid off, the family was given a two-bedroom apartment in one of the new estate on the city’s border. Later, his father was made redundant, and his wife was forced to work in the factory.  Traumatised by losing control of the earning power, he joined other men in the local bars near the factory gates to see if their wives were being faithful.

Most working class men had a privileged position in the family set-up: their wives managing the domestic routine often holding down part-time jobs as well as child and home care. Meanwhile the men were away for long hours of social life in the bars and fishing “to get peace from the noisy family life”. Eribon’s parents voted Communist during the 1950s and 60s. This was not so much a political project, but a reaction to the hardship of every-day life. “We don’t know what happy ness is, because we do not have it”.

The advance of the National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the early 1970s, was fuelled by the deep-seated racism of the white working class. “A million unemployed means a million immigrants too many”. The replacement of the Communist Party of France by the NF as the main party of the French proletariat is mirrored in a scene from a feature film: in a bar full of French workers, a mixed race couple as accosted, the white woman called a “whore”. One of the workers has a grim message: “I would simply drop an A-bomb on Algiers”. Another one has a better solution:” No bombs. What we should do is put all immigrants onto planes, and then open the doors over the sea”.

Eribon “adopted the racism against the workers from North Africa”. After his mother ‘confessed’ to having voted NF, Didier told her “that Le Pen’s Party was against abortion rights”, but she went on complaining about the hordes of immigrant children.” They have to learn that these places here are not like the hovels they have back home”. After his parents moved away from the estates, her son comes to the conclusion that “the NF is the last bastion of the working class to preserve the identity against those politicians from the right and left, who have trampled on it.” And “My mother’s racism was a compensation for her own repression, so that she could feel superior to those even worse off than herself.” But isn’t the stance of the disenfranchised? The outlook, according to Eribon, is not rosy; somebone painting a slogan on a shop window after the 2017 election “Macron 2017, Le Pen 2022”.

What makes Retour so fascinating is the mixture of personal memory and historical research. Somehow, the author’s guilt at becoming a “class traitor”, seeps below the surface of his studied distance. But most intriguing is the parallel rail of film and commentary: the seventh art as a witness of history. Brilliant. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | QUINZAINE 2021 | SUNDAY JULY 11, 2021

Small Body (2021)

Dir: Laura Samani Wri: Marco Borromei, Elisa Dondi, Laura Samani | Cast Celeste Cescutti, Ondina Quadri | Italy / France / Slovenia – 2021 – 89′ – Friulan and Venetian dialect

A spiritual journey into the unknown is at the heart of this haunting debut feature from Laura Samani whose work explores the mystical connection between faith and womanhood in her native Italy.

Celeste Cescutti is the determined female driving force of this eventful odyssey that starts in a fishing community on the shores of the Adriatic at the turn of the 20th century and culminates in the lofty Dolomite mountains. She is Agata a young woman celebrating the imminent arrival of her first child with special ceremony that takes place on the seashore.

The small body of the title refers to her stillborn child – a baby girl – who is buried by her husband before Agata even has a chance to see or hold her. In the Catholic faith, baptism is only for the living, and the local priest denies the child a Christening, leaving its soul languishing in Limbo. When Agata hears about a holy sanctuary in the mountains where infants can be baptised, she courageously sets off with the recovered body of her daughter to ensure she has a place in Heaven, against the odds.

Essentially a two-hander, Small Body (Piccolo Corpo) is an assured feature debut for Samani whose sensitive style echoes the lightness of touch in Corpo Celeste and The Wonders by fellow Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher. The film explores the mystique of religious devotion and its links to folklore and ancient tradition, making use of magic realism in a way that feels tonally convincing transporting the story into the realms of spirituality despite the harsh realities of Agata’s mission in difficult conditions and a hostile terrain.

Rather like Jesus Christ’s journey into the wilderness, Agata’s ‘pilgrimage’ north is hampered by highwaymen, unsavoury characters and adverse weather. She also has to convince her mysterious guide (Quadri) not to abandon her, luring them on with a secret package, and promising to share its precious contents if the mission in successful.

Quadri, who has already won awards for a role in Ariana, joins a cast of non-pros as the rather enigmatic wayfarer Agata meets on her journey north. The two rebels bond without altogether trusting one another as they pursue their individual goals. An original score by Frederika Stahl adds a sinister undercurrent to proceedings in this mystical drama lensed by Slovenian DoP Mitja Ličen whose magnificent landscapes of Venezia Friuli Giulia and the Italian Dolomites create a surreal sense of place. @MeredithTaylor

NOW ON BFI PLAYER | SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Tom Medina (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Tony Gatlif; Cast: David Murgia, Slimane Dazi, Karoline Rose Sun, Suzanne Aubert, Lyes Ouzeri; France 2020/21, 95 min.

The latest from French, Algerian born director/writer Tony Gatlif is a passionate portrait of a young drifter, the titular Tom Medina, who fails to adjust to life in the romantic surroundings of the Camargue.

Drawing on his ethnic heritage as a Romani, Gatlif shows Tom in permanent transit transported by magical landscapes, DoP Patrick Gheringhell conjures up a parallel universe where Tom is much more comfortable than in reality.

Tom is a petty criminal on the run from his family heading for Spain where he hopes to become a matador. But his identity papers are in disarray and his gothic rock star daughter Stella (Rose Sun) and father are still bemused by his sudden disappearance. Now on probation along with his sidekick Bob, (Ouzeri), a marionettist who entertains everybody with his witty performances, the two are entrusted to the care of Ulysse (Dazi), a horse trainer cum probation officer, with a penchant for Provençale literature. The journey south kicks off at a bullring where Tom watches the matador leaving the stage, having crossed paths with a black cat. Tom tries gamely to replace him, but the animal gets the better of him.

In a small town not far away, Tom meets up with Suzanne (Aubert), his female alter ego. She sells bunches of rosemary in the town square, but really longs to be united with her baby-daughter who now lives with foster parents in Montpelier. On this spiritual journey of sorts the motley crew find themselves in all sorts of scrapes but luckily Ulysses always manages to save the day, Tom eventually finding satisfaction, redeemed by the power of love.

Transcended by the wild beauty of the Calmargue, the feature centres on a core collective of loveable idiosyncratic oddballs. The episodic nature of the narrative is possibly not really about to sustain the running time, but the performances are entertaining enough to capture our imagination for a while, and Gatlif directs with great sensibility and paternal care for his assorted oddballs. A Misfits for our time. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Are You Lonesome Tonight (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Wen Shipei; Cast: Eddie Peng, Sylvia Chang, Wang Yanhui, Zhang Yu; China 2021, 95 min.

Memory and obsession dominate the debut of Chinese director/co-writer Wen Shipei in a contemporary version of Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’.

Taking its title from the iconic Elvis tune which is rendered by numerous artists on various media outlets, Are You Lonesome Tonight smoulders with hallucinatory visuals from Andreas Thalhammer, most of the action taking place night in an old fashioned trippy experience.

Xue Ming (Peng) tries to get by as an air-con engineer, but hardly makes ends meet. His much younger girl friend (Peiyao), is dismayed when he misses another date in the local cinema, without even apologising. Driving along in a clapped out mini-van Ming runs over a man, and decides to dispose of the corpse rather than alert the authorities. His victim is Mr. Liang; his widow Liang Ma (a brilliant Sylvia Chang) puts up ‘Missing Person’ posters all over town. But it soon turns out Liang was also a smalltime gangster, and the lucrative spoils from life of crime are hidden in a locker at the railway station. Ming finds a key but is unaware of the fortune.

As it happens, Liang Ma’s air conditioning breaks down, and Ming is only too willing to repair it for free, in an effort to assuage his burgeoning guilt for her husband’s death. Liang Ma reveals that the police have found her husband’s body and identified his killer. Meanwhile Peng becomes obsessed with his crime and the surviving victim, following Liang Ma everywhere, desperate to make a clean breast of it, and finally finding the courage to confess.

Enter Detective Inspector Chen (Yanhui), who gets obsessed with the case. The chase and shootings that follow are the weakest part of the feature, which redeems itself with the last part, after Peng’s release from the prison after an eight-year sentence in 2005.

A non-linear structure underpins this episodic feature, so whenever Shipei shifts into action mode, the narrative loses its integrity: the key to the treasure in the railway station is merely a McGuffin, and Shipei would have done better to treat it exactly as such. Ma Liang’s guilt at wishing her husband dead, before he left on that fateful evening, is as lingering as Ming’s guilt for killing the unsavoury husband.

Detective Chen is the third member of this rimorse-ridden trio, trying to avenge the death of his partner. Their struggle to liberate themselves is a long one, but there is hope for all of them.

Are you Lonesome is a brilliant exercise in aesthetics. Fewer conventional action scenes would have made more impact in this  impressive-looking modern drama. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Softie – Petite Nature (2021) Semaine de la Critique

Dir.: Samuel Theis; Cast: Aliocha Reinert, Antoine Reinartz, Melissa Olexa, Izoa Higelin, Jade Schwartz, Mario Gallo, Romane Esch, Abdel Bensehendikh; France 2021, 93 min.

Class and gender politics are delicately explored in this sophomore feature from writer/director Samuel Theis, graduate of the famous La FEMIS film school and co-director of Party Girl (2014) which won the Camera d’Or at Cannes.

The film explores how boys process and absorb ideas of self and masculinity through ten year old Johnny (Reinert) who lives on a council estate in Forbach near the German border. Highly intelligent and mature for his age, he’s already a star pupil at the local primary school and very much the prodigal son of his broken family, taking care of little sister Melissa (Schwartz) and tearaway teenage brother Dylan (Gallo). His mother Sonia (Olexa) has just shacked up with a new boyfriend  (Bensehendikh) and now works as a shop assistant in a grocery store.

But everything changes when a new teacher arrives at the school, taking Johnny under his wing. Jean Adamski (Reinartz) lives with his partner Nora (Hegelin) in a posh suburb – light years away from Johnny’s estate. Off they all go on visits to the local museum in Metz, where Nora works. Johnny even spends the night at the couple’s home, where Nora teaches him all about body language. This short encounter has serious consequences. Johnny tries out Nora’s ideas on Jean, kissing him on the lips. Jean is horrified, and shuts down all contact with his pupil. Johnny’s life soon spins out of control.

In his debut Aliocha Reinert gives a stunning performance as Johnny. With long blond hair, his androgynous look hints at gender identification issues, even though these are mostly ambivalent. But the social gap is always made transparent, Jacques Girault’s luminous camerawork keeping things light despite the thorniness of the core themes. The rough and tumble of life on the estate, and the modest but artistic household are clearly on different planets. Theis directs with great sensitivity, always giving the actors enough leash to express themselves naturalistically. Who is afraid of the second film, then? AS

CANNES SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | 2021

Bruno Reidal: Confessions of a Killer (2021) Semaine de la Critique, Cannes 2021

Dir: Vincent Le Port | Cast: Roman Villedieu, Jean-Luc Vincent, Dimitri Dore | France, Drama 101′

Some things you never forget. And for young Bruno Reidal it was the traumatic annual pig slaughter at his family farm.

Competing for this years Camera d’Or this classically told period drama is the feature debut of Vincent Le Port who shows with dispassion and meticulous detail how a killer is made from early childhood through his introverted sullen central character evocatively played by Dimitri Dore.

Mulling over themes of guilt, masturbation and Catholicism, there’s actually a touch of the Bruno Dumont’s about this elegant and captivating period chronicle that gracefully explores the grim genesis of murder (Jean Luc Vincent also appeared in Camille Claudel 1915 and Slack Bay).

Based on the real writings of a convicted murderer at the turn of the last century, the film opens in 1905 with a gruesome murder, the camera focusing on the strenuous efforts of young Bruno as he decapitates a child – we later see the headless body lying arms up-stretched in its leafy grave.

Bruno (Dimitry Dore) then gives himself up to the authorities denying to doctors that he a criminal or insane. So despite the serious nature of his crime, the investigating doctor Lacassagne (Vincent) puts the pasty-faced boy into a bare room and orders him to write down his life story. Meanwhile an invasive interrogation by a team of doctors forms the backbone to a lushly dramatised chronicle of Bruno Reidal’s life.

Bruno was born in rural Raulhac, Cantal (Auvergne) on June 12,1888, one of six children of modest but intelligent farming stock, his formal and undemonstrative parents were hard-working, his father would die before  Bruno even reached puberty. Taking over farming duties one summer’s day Bruno suffers a coup de soleil. And this along with the traumatic annual pig slaughter at the family farm makes an horrific impression on the boy’s rather sensitive frame of mind, seemingly turning his thoughts to matters macabre. All this is negativity is enforced by an unloving early sexual experience – he is interfered with by an old wayfarer one day in the fields and this becomes the blueprint for his obsessive need to masturbate connecting sexual pleasure with violent intent. His mother then sends him away to a Catholic seminary where the ascetic religious education sees Bruno continually haunted by terrible thoughts of killing and torturing his fellow students, and of course, masturbating. And then he meets fellow student Blondel.

The verdant rolling countryside of the Auvergne provides a glorious pastoral setting for this serene and solemnly paced drama, contrasting wildly with its cruel and murderous narrative and perverted central character of Bruno who we feel a strange pity for despite his cold and calculating personality. MT

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

Medusa (2021) Quinzaine – Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Anita Rocha da Silveira | Cast: Bruna Linzmayer, Thiago Fragoso, Lara Tremouroux, Mariana Oliveira | Brazil horror 127′

Woman are supposed to be the fairer and more gentle sex. But not according to Medusa. This psychedelic female-centric psychodrama makes florid use of magic realism to expose the rank hypocrisy still rife in modern day Brazil through a group of friends who pretend to be morally whiter than white. Of course, quite the opposite is true as we discover in this trenchant take down of hyper-feminism and religious devotion under right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro.

In her follow-up to Mata Me For Favor (2015) Anita Rocha da Silveira’s jagged sociopolitical satire is an eye-popping yet strangely serene selection of episodes that invite us to take a walk on the wild side with its unusual characters – mostly women – who occasionally break loose when they’re not being ultra demure. The reason is to attack other women who they consider  out of order on religious or moral grounds.

Medusa kicks off with a mob scene that sees masked women at war with each other, accusing them of debauchery, during a blackout in the north-east of Brazil. The women have a band, ‘The Princesses’, which preaches obedience to men and eternal love for God. The narrative is centred around the lead singer of ‘The Princesses’, Michele (Tremoroux), and newcomer Mariana (Oliveira). The men form a cabal called ‘The Watchmen’, clad all in bright green. The spiritual leader is the narcissistic Pastor Guilherme (Fragoso), who loves the sound of his own voice.

Mari sets out to find Melissa Garcia (Linzmeyer), an actress, who, some time ago, suffered an acid attack at the hands of ‘an angel-like woman’. Both have since disappeared. Bible reading and book-burning go hand in hand, whilst at the same time – in a contradictory twist – the women must be immaculate dressed and coiffured. Disfigured by a tragic accident Mari is then sacked from her job at the beauty clinic, and work in a sinister clinic caring for comatose victims of plastic surgery, where she falls for a male nurse Lucas (Fazao), even though he is one of the ‘wordy’ men because he enjoys sex.

But Guilherme suffers a heart attack whilst exorcising a demon stage, but is saved. Whilst Mari finds clues to what happened to Melissa, Michele becomes embroiled in a fight with members of her band, and falls into a pond. After a passionate kiss with Mari, a grand finale will answer some of the many open questions, after Guilherme asks Michele to marry her and the latter refuses.

Medusa is all about grand theatre: its shock factor fired up by a potent brew of horror and over-the-top performances. DoP João Atala has a field day with his roving camera in a film that overstays its welcome in the final stretch. Da Silva certainly drives home her message, but less would have been more. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

 

 

Cannes Classics 2021

As every year, the Festival de Cannes presents a selection of the best restored prints and invites us to explore again the history of Cinema.

The curtain rises with Mark Cousins’ pre-opening documentary; the rediscovery of director-actor Kinuyo Tanaka and Spanish director actress, screenwriter and producer Ana Mariscal; a tribute to director and actor Bill Duke; a close-up on the first African-American director Oscar Micheaux; the 1959 Palme d’Or; the 70th anniversary of Les Cahiers du cinéma; the modesty of Jacques Doillon; two wonders from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger; Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation and the World Cinema Project; Tilda Swinton’s first role; cinema from the Ivory Coast, former Yugoslavia, Italy and former Czechoslovakia; Alain Resnais’s film at Cannes in 1966; Irène Jacob by Krzysztof Kieślowski and Jeanne Moreau by Philippe de Broca; some French thriller; “soviet” films welcomed in competition at Cannes; Orson Welles’s magic, the style of Max Ophüls; four outstanding documentaries on the great producer Jeremy Thomas, Satoshi Kon, Luis Buñuel and Yves Montand; a docudrama full of cinephile fury; and twenty years later, the unsolved mystery of Mulholland Drive…

Here is Cannes Classics 2021

A Tribute to Bill Duke

The director, actor (for John McTiernan, Samuel Fuller, John Landis or Steven Soderbergh) and producer, in Competition at Cannes with A Rage in Harlem in 1991, returns to the Croisette with his first film as director, presented at the Semaine de la critique in 1985.

THE KILLING FLOOR by Bill Duke (1985, 1h58, United States)

Presented by Made in U.S.A. Productions, Inc. The UCLA Film & Television Archive facilitated in-house 4K scanning of the film’s 16mm original picture negative, which is vaulted in the Archive’s Sundance Institute Collection. Under the supervision of film’s executive producer/co-writer, Elsa Rassbach, Made in U.S.A. Productions completed the 4K restoration with color grading by Alpha-Omega digital in Munich and Planemo post-production in Berlin. In addition, the soundtrack was digitally restored by Deluxe Entertainment Services Group from the film’s original 35 mm audio mono mix mag track. The film was restored in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Chicago Race Riot.

Director Bill Duke and executive producer and co-screenwriter Elsa Rassbach in attendance.

Kinuyo Tanaka, actress and filmmaker

Kinuyo Tanaka, one of the greatest Japanese actresses, made her first film in 1953, entering the Cannes Competition in 1954. She returned in 1961 and 1964 as a performer. She was the only active filmmaker of the golden age of Japanese cinema and her second feature film, presented here, is a reflection of her immense talent. This new version restored in 4k by Nikkatsu inaugurates the Tanaka event, a forthcoming retrospective of her 6 films.

Tsuki wa noborinu – THE MOON HAS RISEN by Kinuyo Tanaka (1955, 1h42, Japan)

Presented by Nikkatsu and distributed in France by Carlotta Films.
Restored from the original 35mm positive preserved by Nikkatsu Corporation. 4K restoration by Nikkatsu Corporation and The Japan Foundation at Imagica Entertainment Media Services, Inc laboratory.

Ana Mariscal, Spain in the feminine form

Pioneer director of Iberian cinema, Spanish actress, screenwriter and producer Ana Mariscal directed ten rich films, as non-conformist as they are visually splendid. As a foretaste of her work, here is a nostalgic chronicle of a modest Spanish village in the 1960s.

EL CAMINO – The Path by Ana Mariscal (1964, 1h31, Spain)

Presented by David García Rodríguez. 4K digitalization and restoration supervised by Ramón Lorenzo Sierra from the original edited negative and vintage dupe. Sound restoration from the original sound negative. Laboratory: Vivavision (Madrid). Theatrical distribution in France: Karmafilms Distribution. Release in France: October 2021. On video in France: UHD collector edition, November 2021.

Oscar Micheaux

The first African-American director in the history of American cinema is honored in a sublime restored copy of one of his greatest films accompanied by a fascinating documentary.

MURDER IN HARLEM by Oscar Micheaux (1935, 1h36, United States)

Presented by Cineteca di Bologna. Restored in 2021 by the George Eastman Museum and Cineteca di Bologna in association with the Film Foundation, Quoiat Films and Sky from a 35mm nitrate print in the SMU/Tyler Film Collection, SMU Libraries, deposited at the George Eastman Museum. Restoration performed at George Eastman Museum Film Preservation Services and L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. Followed by:

Oscar Micheaux – The Superhero of Black Filmmaking by Francesco Zippel (1h20, Italy) – Director Francesco Zippel in attendance

Orfeu Negro, Palme d’or in 1959

The Cannes Film Festival continues to explore the Palmes d’Or that have marked its history. This year, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice will be revisited by Marcel Camus in Brazil and set to music by Antônio Carlos Jobim to bossa nova, samba and jazz. Dazzling.

ORFEU NEGRO – Black Orpheus by Marcel Camus 1959, 1h45,

Presented by Solaris Distribution. Presented by Impex Films and Tigon Film Distributors. 4K digital restoration by Impex Films and Tigon Film Distributors with the help of the CNC, from the original 35mm negative. Original monophonic sound digitized from a viewing print which was also used as reference for color grading. Laboratory: Hiventy Classics. Theatrical distribution in France: Solaris Distribution, to be released in France by the second semester of 2021.

Rossellini and Les Cahiers du cinema

While the Cineteca di Bologna continues its visit to Rossellini’s work, the Cahiers du cinéma celebrate their history in Cannes. André Bazin, the co-founder of the magazine was even a member of the Jury in 1954 and kept a diary recounting this experience.To celebrate the anniversary of the mythical monthly, what better way than to screen a film by Roberto Rossellini? He was assisted by François Truffaut, Bazin considered him a major figure in the same way as Renoir, Hitchcock or Hawks and this work signed by the Italian director was reviewed in the first issue in April 1951.

FRANCESCO – GIULLARE DI DIO – The Flowers of St. Francis) by Roberto Rossellini (1950, 1h27, Italy)

Presented by Cineteca di Bologna and The Film Foundation. Restored in 2021 by Cineteca di Bologna and The Film Foundation, in association with RTI-Mediaset and Infinity+, at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. Restoration funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation.

All the restored films of Cannes Classics 2021

LA DRôLESSE (The Hussy) by Jacques Doillon (1978, 1h30, France)

Presented by Malavida. 2k scan and restoration made from the negative image, by Éclair Cinéma laboratory. Sound restored from the negative by L.E. Diapason. Restoration made by Gaumont with the support of the CNC. In preview of the retrospective « Jacques Doillon, jeune cinéaste » starting on November 3rd 2021.
Director Jacques Doillon in attendance

I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING ! by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
(1945, 1h32, United Kingdom)

Presented by the Film Foundation. Restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation in association with ITV and Park Circus. Restoration funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. Additional support provided by Matt Spick.

LUMUMBA: LA MORT DU PROPHETE  (Lumumba: Death of a Prophet) by Raoul Peck (1990, 1h09, France / Germany / Switzerland / Belgium / Haiti)

Presented by The Film Foundation within the framework of the World Cinema Project. Restored by the The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata/L’Image Retrouvée in collaboration with Velvet Film and supervised by Raoul Peck. Funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. This restoration is part of the African Film Heritage Project, an initiative created by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers and UNESCO – in collaboration with Cineteca di Bologna – to help locate, restore, and disseminate African cinema.

FRIENDSHIP’S DEATH by Peter Wollen – (1987, 1h18, United Kingdom)

Presented by the British Film Institute (BFI). The 4K remastering by the BFI National Archive was from the original Standard 16mm colour negative. The soundtrack was digitised directly from the original 35mm final mix magnetic master track. The remastering was undertaken in collaboration with the film’s producer, Rebecca O’Brien and cinematographer, Witold Stok.

Actress Tilda Swinton in attendance

BAL POUSSIERE by Henri Duparc – (1989, 1h33, Ivory Coast)

Presented by the CNC and the Henri Duparc Foundation. Restoration of the original 16mm negative image by the CNC laboratory. 2K scan. Color grading: Hiventy. Sound restoration from the original 16mm magnetic: L’Image retrouvée.

THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE  by Krzysztof Kieślowski (1991, 1h38, France / Poland)

Presented by MK2. Restoration carried out by Hiventy from the original negative in 4K, supervised by director of photography Sławomir Idziak. Theatrical distribution in France by Potemkine.
Actress Irène Jacob in attendance

F FOR FAKE by Orson Welles (1973, 1h25, France/ Iran / Germany)

Presented by Les Films de L’Astrophore and La Cinémathèque française in collaboration with Documentaire sur grand écran. Restored by Les Films de L’Astrophore and La Cinémathèque française in collaboration with Documentaire sur grand écran, the Cinémathèque suisse and the Audiovisual institute of Monaco, with the support of Hiventy and the company foundation Neuflize OBC. Restoration work, image and sound made by the Hiventy laboratory, from the original negative and at L.E. Diapason Studio from the 35mm magnetic track.

YASHAGAIKE (Demon Pond) by Masahiro Shinoda (1979, 2h04, Japan)

Presented by Shochiku. Digital remaster by Shochiku Co., Ltd. For the 4K remaster, the original 35mm negative was provided by Shochiku, sound remastered by Shochiku MediaWorX Inc. and the image remaster conducted by Imagica Entertainment Media Services, Inc. French distribution in theaters: Carlotta Films.

LA GUERRE EST FINIE  (The War is Over) by Alain Resnais. (1966, 2h01, France)

Presented by Gaumont. First digital restoration in 4K presented by
Gaumont with the support of the CNC. Restoration made by Éclair Classics laboratory.

ÉCHEC AU PORTEUR (Not Delivered) by Gilles Grangier, (1957, 1h27, France)

Presented by Pathé. 4K scan and 2K restoration from the original safety negative (negative image, a standard dupe, a negative optical sound). Work made by L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory (Paris-Bologne). Restoration with the support of the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC).

CHERE LOUISE (Louise) by Philippe de Broca (1972, 1h45, France / Italy)

Presented by TF1 Studio. New 4K restored version by TF1 Studio and Warner Bros. from the original negative image. Digital work made by Vdm laboratory in 2021. Theatrical release to come: Les Acacias. Blu-ray collector release: Coin de Mire.

Napló gyermekeimnek (Diary for my children) by Márta Mészáros
(1983, 1h49, Hungary)

Presented by National Film Institute Hungary – Film Archive. The 4K digital restoration was carried out as part of ‘The long-term restoration program of Hungarian film heritage” of the National Film Institute – Film Archive. The restoration was made using the original image negatives and magnetic tape sound, it was carried out at the National Film Institute- Filmlab. The Digital grading was supervised by Nyika Jancsó, DOP of the film.
Director Márta Mészáros and DOP Nyika Jancsó in attendance

Až přijde kocour (The Cassandra Cat) by Vojtech Jasný
(1963, 1h45, Czech Republic)

Presented by the Národní filmový archiv, Prague. 4K digital restoration based on the intermediate positive was done by L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Bologna, 2021. The donors of this project were Mrs. Milada Kučerová and Mr. Eduard Kučera. Restored in partnership with the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. French distribution: Malavida Films.
Actress Emília Vašáryová in attendance

MONANIEBA (Repentance) by Tenguiz Abouladzé
(1984, 2h33, Georgia)

Presented by Georgian National Film Center. Interpositive: goskinofond. 4K scan and color grading: UPP Prague. Digital restoration, sound work and DCP: Studio Phonographe, Tbilissi. Funding: Georgian National Film Center.
Actor Avtandil Makharadze and screenwriter Nana Janelidze in attendance

Dan četrnaesti (The Fourteenth Day) by Zdravko Velimirovic

(1960, 1h41, Montenegro / Serbia)
Presented by Crnogorska kinoteka, Podgorica & Jugoslovenska kinoteka, Belgrade. Digitally restored film from a 2K scan of the original black & white negative.

IL CAMMINO DELLA SPERANZA (The Path of Hope) de Pietro Germi
(1950, 1h45, Italy)

Presented by the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca Nazionale. Restored by Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca Nazionale from the original 35mm negative made available by
CristaldiFilm, completed by a dupe of the Cineteca Nazionale and optical sound of a positive by the Cineteca Nazionale.

LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN  (Lettre d’une inconnue) de Max Ophüls (1948, 1h27, United-States)

4k restoration from the original negative image and a 35mm positive. Sound restoration from the original negative. Work done by Technicolor for the image and Chace Audio by Deluxe for the sound, under the supervision of Paramount Pictures Preservation.
Theatrical release by La Rabbia, february 2022.

MULHOLLAND DRIVE by David Lynch – (2001, 2h25, United-States)

Presented by Studiocanal. Restoration made by Criterion and Studiocanal from the original negative, scan in 4K at Fotokem, sound remastering from the original 5.1 sound. Sound and image were validated by David Lynch, in Cinéma and HDR format. French distribution by Studiocanal, with a theatrical release and a collector Blu-Ray UHD box set.

Cannes Classics 2021 : the documentaries

THE STORMS OF JEREMY THOMAS by Mark Cousins (1h29, UK)

A yearly drive with the famous British producer Jeremy Thomas from London to Cannes, on his way to the… Festival de Cannes. A life in the service of cinema, a journey towards the discovery of new films and talents in the company of the cinephile director and author Mark Cousins.
Presented by David P. Kelly Films. Produced by David P. Kelly with Creative Scotland, Tim Macready and Visit Films.
Jeremy Thomas and Mark Cousins in attendance.

SATOSHI CON, l’illusionniste by Pascal-Alex Vincent
(1h21, France/Japan)

A subtle portrait of Japanese director Satoshi Kon by the specialist of Japanese cinema Pascal-Alex Vincent and a dive into a rich work. With interviews of the greatest Japanese, French and American directors inspired by his work.
Presented by Eurospace and Genco (Tokyo) in collaboration with Carlotta Films et Allerton Films (Paris).
Director Pascal-Alex Vincent in attendance

Buñuel, A SURREALIST CINEASTE by Javier Espada
(1h23, Spain)

Luis Buñuel and the Festival de Cannes is a great love story – the theater where the films of Cannes Classics are screened is called Buñuel itself. The documentary is filled with culture and is dedicated to the screenwriter, who was so close to the Spanish filmmaker and wrote many films with him, Jean-Claude Carrière. The documentary brilliantly explores the themes of the genius filmmaker.
Presented by Tolocha producciones.
Director Javier Espada in attendance

ALL ABOUT YVES MONTANT by Yves Jeuland
(1h40, France.)

As an actor in Le Salaire de la peur (Grand Prix in 1953) or in La Guerre est finie presented this year, President of the Jury in 1987 (Maurice Pialat received the Palme d’or), Yves Montand has left a mark on the Festival de Cannes. Yves Montand has left a mark as strong in cinema as in music hall. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 30th anniversary of his death, Montand est à nous is an exceptional documentary.
Written by Yves Jeuland and Vincent Josse.
Presented by Zadig Productions. Film produced by Zadig Productions, in coproduction with Diaphana Films, with the participation of France Télévisions.
Director Yves Jeuland and co-writer Vincent Josse in attendance,

Et J’AIME A LA FUREUR (Flickering Ghosts of Love Gone By) by André Bonzel (1h50, France)

A very personal self-portrait of André Bonzel, co-director of the cult film C’est arrivé près de chez vous, based on images from amateur films that he has always collected, including some shot by his great-great-grandfather, a familiar face of the Lumière brothers. A unique, moving film that tells the story of a family cinephilia over several generations, set to music by Benjamin Biolay.
Produced by Les films du Poisson.
Director André Bonzel in attendance

CANNES CLASSICS | Cannes Film Festival 6- 18 July 2021

Olga (2021) Semaine de la Critique | Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir: Elie Grappe | Wri: Elie Grappe, Raphaelle Desplechin | Cast: Nastya Budiashkina, Sabrina Rubtsova, Jérôme Martin

It’s 2013 and a 15-year-old gymnast is torn between Switzerland – where she is training for the European Championship in preparation for the Olympics – and Ukraine, where her widowed mother is a controversial anti-government journalist, reporting on the Euromaiden revolt.

As much a sports film as a character drama Grappe and his co-writer Raphaelle Desplechin (sister of Arnaud) keep dialogue lowkey leaving the film’s strong visual aesthetic to drive the story forward, Lucie Baudinaud’s widescreen camerawork making the locations – particularly of the built environment – a star of the show, adding a strong docudrama feel to the feature along with the ample news footage of the ongoing riots that enforce in Olga a strong sense of national pride, despite her new Suisse nationality.

The female centric narrative portrays the tough physical and emotional challenges women face in their careers. It all gets off to a stunning start when Olga and her mother’s car is hit by an unidentified object on the way to dinner one night, spinning out of control in the centre of Kiev. This sets the tone for a feisty confrontation over their respective work priorities. Olga also has a fraught relationship with her French trainer who works her hard, but draws firm boundaries – the training rapport is similar to that in the recent Slalom

When she’s not training tough cookie Olga (a strong-featured Anastasia Budiashkina) must study and speak French with her fellow elite gymnasts and it’s during these online sessions that she sees her mother caught up in the violence back home, pictured in new clips. Although she channels her negative emotions into her training routines the stress clearly has a destabilising affect on the resilient teenager but often erupts into violence in the changing rooms amongst the other girls. A fiercely feminist film that packs a punch with its intense storyline and appealing visual aesthetic. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE 2021

 

The Story of Film: A New Generation Cannes Film Festival (2021)

Dir/Wri: Mark Cousins | Doc, UK 160′

A decade after The Story of Film: An Odyssey, comes Mark Cousins’ latest deep dive inquiry into the state of filmmaking in the 21st century. The Story of Film: A New Generation, sees Cousins focus on the past decade in a fascinating reflection on world cinema from 2010 to 2021. The film opens with Joker and Frozen showing the transformative power and its ability to bring stories from the desperate and disenfranchised on the world stage. Cemetery of Splendor features heavily in this exploration of recurring themes and emerging motifs, from the evolution of film language, to technology’s role in moviemaking today, to shifting identities in 21st-century world cinema.

Cousins’ research is encyclopaedic as he confidently talks us through a staggering array of films – not just from the last ten years but reconnecting to examples that demonstrate connections with the past that have influenced filmmakers of the present and future. Rather like fashion and architecture, cinema is an eternal reimagining of what has gone before marking out trends and themes only to reinvent them to appeal to a new generation, weaving in historical touchstones such as Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter as the world responds to its environment.

Plundering the archives for those iconic features there is everything from Jonathan Glazer’s visually and thematically groundbreaking Under the Skin to reworked upstairs/downstairs satires such as Parasite and Us which explores the dark and light sides of the human psyche through the an invasion thriller. In With films like Lover’s Rock and Moonlight Cousins identifies films, filmmakers and communities under-represented in traditional film histories, with a particular emphasis on Asian and Middle Eastern works, as well as boundary-pushing documentaries and films that see gender in new ways.

The streaming age has taken us from ‘cinema on show’ to ‘cinema on demand’. Cousins tracks the latest trends of the digital age with viewers calling the shots, a trend accelerated in the light of the recent pandemic. He looks forward to the future but what remains is a recurring motif that drives cinema forward: our profound desire to escape and travel beyond the ordinary, or see ourselves reflected through the medium of the silver screen as we are transported to a place of wonder and euphoria.

The Story of Film: a New Generation will be showcased to the press and festival attendees in the afternoon of Tuesday, July 6th in the Debussy Theatre of the Palais des Festivals.

Babi Yar. Context (2021) Ukrainian Conflict

Dir: Sergei Loznitsa | Documentary, 120 min, b/w and colour, 2021 | The Netherlands, Ukraine

History comes back to haunt us in this recent documentary from Ukraine’s Sergei Loznitsa. It reconstructs the events leading up to the massacre of over 30,000 Jews in German-occupied Kyiv in September 1941, and the aftermath of the tragedy and other genocides committed by the German Army, Gestapo and SS soldiers during the occupation of  Ukraine between 1941 and 1943. The prolific Ukrainian documentarian also mentions the collaboration of the huge majority of Ukrainian citizens in the crimes. His aim is to “plunge the viewer into the atmosphere of the time”.

 

After the invasion of Soviet Ukraine by German in June 1941, the vast majority of Ukrainians actually supported the invaders. Banners were put up, proclaiming “Glory for Hitler and Melinek”. In Lviv (formerly Lemberg), Ukrainian Auxiliary Forces helped to round up Jewish citizens of the city on 1st of July. The Jews were accused of collaboration with Soviet Forces and the Secret Police of the NKDW. A month later, the population greeted Hans Frank, the General Governor of Poland, to celebrate the incorporation of Galicia into the German controlled governance with Poland.

Hitler salutes of the Ukrainians, coming across as entirely genuine, and the women dance enthusiastically in their traditional costumes. Ukrainian men parade on horses, and the women offer up their flowery tributes to the Nazi leader. Banners again proclaim “Long Live Adolf Hitler the Leader of the German people”. Flags with the Nazi Party symbol are put on trams, so are photos of Hitler, proclaiming him the Liberator of ‘the Ukraine’.

On Monday, 24th of June 1941, all Jews in Kyiv are ordered to gather at 8 am at the corner of Melnikova and Dokterivska Street, bringing their valuables and warm clothing. The proclamation is stark: “all Jews not obeying will be shot immediately.” “Citizens breaking into Jews’ homes will be shot”. On September 29/30 the ‘Sonderkommando 4a of the ‘Einsatzgruppe C, assisted by two battalions of the Police Regiment South and the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police – without any resistance from the local population – shoot 33, 771 Jews in a ravine in north-west Kyiv. The local press celebrates the massacre, talking to about 150 000 Jews who have left the capital, so that hour by hour, life in the city can revert to normal: “Kyiv is liberated from oriental barbarians, finally a new life begins.” The Jews of Lubny, Poltava, Kharkov, Kremchug, Borispol and Lugotin among others, will follow. Vasily Grosman talks mournfully about the centuries of Ukrainians and Jews living peaceful together.

In November 1943 Soviet troops re-take Kiyv, not many turn out to greet the liberators. Courts hear cases of genocide, one is simply called Nr. 1679. One of the accused is SS man Hans Isenmann, his military rank would be Sergeant. He goes into details of the murders as if describing a sporting event, in which he played a winning part. “I had to round up and shoot Jews. We divided them into groups of seventy to ninety, then later into smaller groups with six men to be shot, and six to be guarded. In the end, 45 to 50 were led to the ravine. We used one machine gun, two sub-machine guns and rifles. I shot with the sub-machine gun of Unterscharführer Rennert and killed 120 Jews. The valuables of the Jews were collected by Special Commandos, but I do not know what happened afterwards.”

Witness Dina Pronicheva, an actress, told of her narrow escape – so many things had to go according to plan for her to be able to serve as a witness. She lied to a Ukrainian policeman, so she would not be shot immediately, but could sit with a group of women near the massacres, hoping to escape in the evening. But a German commando picked up the whole group, and led them to the ravine to be shot. Pronicheva jumped at the right moment and landed on the pile of corpses. Then the Germans scattered soil over the dead, and Pronicheva nearly suffocated. The Germans, wanting to keep the massacre ‘under wraps’, sent a commando unit down into the ravine to kill off the few who were still breathing. One of the SS men stood on Pronicheva’s chest and arm, the nails in his boots piercing her skin. By now it was dark, and she managed to crawl out from under the rotting corpses, the Germans had gone and she fled into the night.

On February 2nd 1946, thirteen men were hanged publicly on Kyiv”s Kalinin Square. Among them was Hans Isenmann. About 1.4. million Jews were murdered in Ukraine; even now new mass graves continue to surface. The ravine of Babi Yar is now a reservoir for liquid industrial waste.

Loznitsa’s impressive ‘Trauerarbeit’ seems even more relevant at a time when some want to re-write history and emerge as the sole victims in today’s new conflict. But like in the case of the Baltic States, mass graves do not lie.

BABI YAR. CONTEXT is Loznitsa’s 7th film presented in the Official Selection of the Festival de Cannes. Loznitsa decribes his feature as “a film about our past, it’s about our present and, possibly, about our future.” Sadly his words have come true. AS

Produced with the support of the BABYN YAR HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL FOUNDATION. The film screened in the Séance Spéciale strand of the 74th edition of Cannes Film Festival.

Drive my Car (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir/Wri: Ryusuke Hamaguchi | Cast Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Masaki Okada, Reika Kirishima, Park Yurim, Jin Daeyeon | Drama, Japan

Ryusuke Hamaguchi follows Wheel of Fortune and Fame with another thoughtful love story this time Hidetishi Nishijimia is Yusuke Kafuku, a stage actor and director preparing to direct Uncle Vanja at a theatre festival in Hiroshima.

Daily rides to and from work in a stylish red Saab with his shy young driver Misaki (Miura) provide a safe space to share his feelings as a tentative relationship develops between the two lonely hearts as secrets from the past and heartfelt confessions gradually surface.

Based on the short story Drive My Car in Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami, the Japanese director is still riding high on his feature Wheel of Fortune and Fame that won a Silver Bear earlier this year at Berlinale 2021. Once again this explores loneliness and the intense human need to share and be understood. Kafuku is a passionate and highly relatable character whose professional skills and strong sense of self belie his deep longing for a kindred soul to complete his happiness.

Modest in terms of his material needs Kafuku has a complex psyche with a rich emotional inner world and his soul is often laid bare during intimate chats with female chauffeur Misaki. She is a woman whose harsh and extreme life has afforded her a maturity beyond her years. And although the two comes are from different generations Hamaguchi’s textured script and layered characterisations show them to be highly intuitive and emotional intelligent.

The film’s ample running time allow for an indepth understanding of what it is to be lonely while also a complete human being from a intellectual and professional point of view. It’s a subtle, engrossing and enjoyable piece of cinema showing Hamaguchi at the top of his game as one of the world’s leading auteurs

 

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | WINNER | BEST SCRIPT 2021

 

A Radiant Girl (2021) Semaine de la Critique

Dir/Wri: Sandrine Kiberlain | Cast: Rebecca Marder, Ben Attal, India Hair, André Marcon, Anthony Bajon and Florence Viala.

Garlanded actress Sadrine Kiberlain makes her debut behind the camera with this wartime drama about a young Jewish woman living in Paris in the early days of the German occupation in 1942.

Comédie-Française actress Rebecca Marder who recently starred in Spring Blossom, the debut feature of Kiberlain’s daughter Suzanne Lindon. She plays 19-year-old Irene whose passion for acting is only dimmed by the shadow of war.

Far too often cinema pictures the plight of Jews under the Nazis, the latter dominating, the production design getting the lion share of the budget, the victims very much stereotypes. Kiberlain offers a refreshingly different approach and appears to have solved the conundrum: her middle class Jewish family in the Parisian summer of 1942 lives under occupation, but the emblem of evil only appears for a few seconds.

Irene (Marder) is nineteen years old and lives with her older brother Igor (Bajon) in a flat with her grandmother Marceline (Widhoff) and Andre (Marcon), a father figure, Irene’s biological father is an unnamed “public accountant”. We learn this when Andre begs Irene’s drama tutor to classify her as “half Jewish” for the forthcoming audition for the Conservatoire of Dramatic Arts. By then we are more than half way through the film, which starts with rehearsals for Marivaux’s ‘La Meprise’ (The Misconception), in which Irene has a part as well as her love-interest Jo (Attal), who is also Jewish.

Irene is playful, the Marivaux rehearsals are much more dominant in her life than Marceline’s struggle: Andre had to go to the police to have a red “J” stamped in all of their identity-cards. The agnostic Marceline finally relents and gives Andre the documents, after hiding them. Andre is relieved: “Nothing will happen to us, we are French. I heard of Madame K. being arrested, but she was Polish”. Irene meanwhile feels dizzy and has fainting spells. Doctor V. prescribes vitamins and an eye test, conducted by Jacques (Metzger). Irene falls for him, since Jo has disappeared. Best friend Viviane (Hair) dresses up as a boy to take Jo’s place in the play.

When the day arrives for the results to be handed out much has changed: The families’ radio and binoculars have been confiscated, Andre finds a note asking him “to please enter the building by the backdoor”. At the bakery the family is not served: “sold out” says the shop assistant, with the racks bulging with baguettes. Igor’s long time girl friend Heloise suddenly cancels her invitation to spend the Shabbat with the family, and the only non-Jewish guest, Josiane (Viala), is no great help either: “I like Jews personally, and find other cultures interesting, like travelling”. Students share their dreams about what they will do if selected. Vivienne and Irene (now wearing the Yellow Star) have the highest hopes, when Vivienne spots something and the screen goes dark.

Kiberlain’s minimalist approach has been shot in contemporary Paris, focusing on the Germans’. psychological tactics of isolating Jews and leaving them in fear what will happen next. In spite of all this, A Radiant Girl is often playful like its titular character. We are reminded of Rivette’s La Bande des Quartre, with four treasure hunting young women also being in a Marivaux play: ‘La double Inconstance’.

Rebecca Marder is pitch-perfect: just hitting the right notes between romantic innocence and provocative wilfulness. DoP Guillaume Schiffman’s images capture the sunset of the family, conjuring  up a bourgeois Paris, where the victims are shunned by their own class. A passionate and mature debut. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

 

 

Amparo (2021) Cannes – Semaine de la Critique 2021

Dir/Wri: Simon Mesa Soto | Sandra Melissa Torres, Diego Alejandro Tobon, Luciana Gallego, John Jairo Montoya | Colombia, Drama 97′

In the early 1990s Medellín, in Colombia, was the most violent city in the world. The homicide rate reached unprecedented levels not least because of notorious cocaine baron Pablo Escobar who used Medellin as a base for his cartel. Young men were also being swept off the streets and drafted into an army, particularly in the poorest and most deprived parts of the city. And this is where Simon Mesa Soto’s feature debut Amparo takes place. It’s a cruel-eyed, claustrophobic drama that keeps a tight grip on its eponymous heroine, following her relentlessly through the backwaters of Colombia second largest city where she struggles to bring up two children from men long since gone. Her feisty mother is the backbone of the family with her finger on the pulse. The voice of Colombia’s strong matriarchal tradition she sums up her daughter’s life in a nutshell: two kids from two different fathers, one roaming the streets with no job and no money. She thinks the army may be the making of aimless Elias. But Amparo thinks differently, and Sandra Melissa Torres plays her with a gritty but glum sense of resignation.

Amparo is not a particularly likeable single mother. Worn down by the years of worry she couldn’t care less about her little daughter Karen (Gallego) but is devoted to her spoilt monosyllabic son Elias (Tobon) whose hopeless plight drives the story forward. In the opening scene he is being interrogated off camera by an officer from the army. Soon he will be transferred to a dangerous base in the southern outpost of Caqueta, rumoured to be a point of no return. Amparo will do everything in her power to keep him at home.

Simon de Soto Mesa establishes a sense of slow-burning steely determination in his world weary characters in this atmospheric first feature burnished by Juan Sarmiento’s voyeuristic camerawork that plays along with a secretive society built on transactional relationships, corruption and greed. Every single character is open to persuasion and manipulation in this dog eat dog world, but Amparo keeps her eye on the end game – to secure the release of her much loved son. And it’s a race against time where human nature is laid bare in all its depravity. But one thing stands out – a deal is a deal, even in Godforsaken Medellin. And Amparo must bargain with the men in control to let Elias go. And despite a rather predictable outcome this is an evocative thriller masterfully told. MT

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES 2021

 

Prayers for the Stolen (2021) Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2021

Dir/Wri: Tatiana Huezo | Cast: Ana Cristina Ordonez Gonzalez, Marya Membreno, Norma Pablo, Mayra Batalla, Eileen Yanez, Emeo Villegas Olivia Lagunas | Drama 100′

Making its premiere at this year’s Un Certain Regard sidebar this lush and haunting tale of friendship and survival draws us into the vortex of oppression and fear felt by three girls growing up during wartime in rural Mexico.

Based on the 2014 novel by Jennifer Clement this is the latest human drama from Tatiana Huezo who has been quietly raising the profile of social and personal abuse for woman all over Latin America – from Civil War in El Salvador (in El Lugar mas pequeno in 2011) to human trafficking in Mexico (Tempestad (2016)). This is her third and most accomplished feature to date.

In a tight-knit community nestled in the Mexican mountains, we first meet eight year old Ana (Ordonez Gonzalez), digging a hole in the ground with her mother Rita (Batalla). Ana will hide here when the guerrilla soldiers come to kidnap the local girls. They will be turned into captives and slaves. In the bosky remote hillside violence is an everyday part of growing up. So Ana and her two friends create their own impenetrable parallel universe where they play at being women, comforting each other with an affectionate bond of friendship, singing and painting their lips with beetroot. Soon Ana’s long hair will be cut into a boyish crop to avoid detection. On lonely days she hides out in the empty houses of villagers who have long disappeared or fled, such as Juana and Don Pancho, whose abandoned flock of cows now roams free in the village.

Strong on atmosphere the film is cinematic study of what it means to grow up as a girl in a hostile environment where men are almost constantly the enemy. Ana’s father is supposedly working on the other side of the valley but he has not sent money back for several years and so Ana and her mother are forced to fend for themselves on the brink of poverty. One surreal scene pictures Rita desperately trying to get a mobile signal on the top of a mountain, along the other abandoned women whose ‘phones light up the darkness like mini torches in the gloom.

Five years later, at thirteen, the girls become teenagers as they face the harsh reality of what being a woman really entails in this toxic climate of war and macho culture. Abstract danger becomes an inescapable threat, as a Russian roulette plays out one day when soldiers arrive to take Ana, forcing her into the dugout as her mother is threatened with death.

Some films are moving but this rich character drama is actually harrowing too, as we become emotionally invested in the girls’ story, joining them in their descent into traumatised hell as a daily experience. The casual involuntary abuse from Ana’s mother is echoed by the disorientating fear she feels from the outside threat. Ana – both as a child and a teenager – is impressively performed by two newcomers (Ordonez Gonzalez and Membreno), and is matched by Huezo’s assured direction and luminous camerawork by Dariela Ludlow. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD | Cannes Film Festival 2021

 

 

Compartment Number 6 (2021)

Dir: Juho Kuosmanen | Cast: Yuriy Borisov, Seidi Haarla, Dinara Drukarova, Vladimir Lysenko | Finland, Drama 107′

Compartment Number 6 sees two unlikely strangers thrown together in a train journey from Moscow to the Arctic Circle port of Murmansk.

Inspired by Rosa Liksom’s award-winning novel this two-hander needs charismatic support from his cast to keep us entertained for nearly two hours. And it certainly gets it, in the shape of Russian actor Yuriy Borisov and Finland’s Seidi Haarla, who won Best Actress for her role at Cannes 2021. A feisty chemistry soon develops between the world-weary Laura, and the maverick miner Ljoha as the film flies from the confines of the original page with a Lesbian twist bringing this upbeat and playfully imaginative road movie right up to date.

Finnish director John Kuosmanen was last in Cannes to win the top prize at Un Certain Regard with his black and white debut feature, boxing drama The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, This is a more contained drama – we don’t get much in the way of scenery as the train chugs its way north, instead the camera is close up and personal as the two become acquainted in the cramped compartment number 6. Vadim’s coarse behaviour and disgusting eating habits sees Laura retreating into the dinner carriage or onto the platform on the train’s frequent stops. And it’s here that we get a flavour of a Russia still reeling from Sovietism where Finnish archeologist Laura has been studying Russian at Moscow University. She now wants to spread her wings and explore the rock formations (petroglyphs) around the Barents Sea, on a break from her lover Irina (Dinara Drukarova). Their affair is finally severed during a telephone chat during a train stop in St Petersburg station.

The journey is eventful with various newcomers breaking the tedium of the shared compartment: a woman with bawling kids is not so welcome, and a guitar playing drifter is not want he seems. Down in the dumps Laura then warms to Ljoha’s invitation to spend the night in his foster mother’s house, at an overnight stop, enabling her to see a different side to the rough and ready vodka drinker with surprising effect.

Ljoha is also going to Murmansk for work reasons and cannot fathom why Laura would want to go there for pleasure during the Russian winter – it’s still early March. And when the train finally grinds into the station the two part company, at least for a while.

The film really takes off in the final part when the unsophisticated couple embark on another journey – this time into unknown and perilous territory. Once again Kuosmanen offers up a rumbustious feelgood film, not quite as visually alluring as his first feature, with the same touching joie de vivre and an atmospheric score of 1980s hits: rousing French tune “Voyage Voyage” by Desireless, topping the bill. MT

NOW ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Cannes Selection…now complete

There are always a few last minute additions to the official film line-up at Cannes Film Festival, and today Thierry Fremaux completed the Official Selection for the 74th ‘all live edition’ running from 5 -18 July 2021with FROM AFRICA WITH LOVE. Nicolas Bedos, Jean Dujardin and Pierre Niney star in the Final Screening of the 74th Festival de Cannes!

By renaming the closing film as the “Final Screening”, the Festival de Cannes aims to rekindle the tradition of the last screening, drawing inspiration from huge evening galas gone by like the screening of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (in the old Palais in 1982) or Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise (in the new Palais in 1991).

This year, the 74th Festival will round off with the premier of the latest chapter in the adventures of Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, code name OSS 117, played by Jean Dujardin who will appear onscreen alongside Fatou N’Diaye, Pierre Niney, Natacha Lindinger and the late Wladimir Yordanoff.

Gaspar Noe is back with a docu-drama Vortex, starring Dario Argento, and focusing on the final days of an elderly couple. Press queued all evening at the Marriott Hotel for his previous film Climax in 2018, but this – by its very nature – promises to be a more sober affaire, although with Argento at the helm one never knows.

Once again the films are distinctly Gallic in flavour with three music-themed outings joining the party: TraLaLa is a musical comedy from Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu, and Supremes looks at the French band NTM, directed by Audrey Estrougo. Of the Special screenings New Worlds, The Cradle of a Civilisation is Andrew Muscato’s musical documentary, set in Athens, Greece. It captures the final performance of Bill Murray and Jan Vogler’s European “New Worlds” tour.

Mi iubta Mon amour is the directorial debut of actor-turned-filmmaker Noemie Merlant whose smouldering performance in Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire was one of the highlights of Cannes 2019.

For his latest film Where is Anne Frank? the Oscar-nominated Israeli animator Ari Folman has gained special access to the diaries of the tragic young Jewish girl who went into hiding in wartime Holland. Seen through the eyes of her imaginary friend Kitty, to whom Anne dedicated her diary, she wakes up in contemporary Amsterdam and tries to find Anne in modern day Europe. The film plays out of competition.

Mes Freres Et Moi by Yohan Manca completes the line-up at the Un Certain Regard sidebar.

Jodie Foster will receive an honorary Palme d’Or. Spike Lee will preside over the Jury, and the world premiere of Annette with Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard will open proceedings.

OUT OF COMPETITION

Where is Anne Frank ? by Ari Folman (Israel)

Animated film

CANNES PREMIERE

Vortex by Gaspar Noé (Argentina – Italy)

starring Dario Argento, Françoise Lebrun and Alex Lutz

UN CERTAIN REGARD

Mes frères et moi by Yohan Manca (France)

starring Sofian Khammes, Dali Benssalah, Judith Chemla, Maël Rouin Berrandou

First feature

MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS

Tralala by Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu (France)

starring Mathieu Amalric, Mélanie Thierry, Bertrand Belin, Maïwenn, Josiane Balasko, Denis Lavant

Suprêmes by Audrey Estrougo (France)

starring Théo Christine, Sandor Funtek

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Bill Murray’s party: New Worlds, the cradle of a civilization by Andrew Muscato (Greece-USA)

starring Bill Murray and the musicians from New Worlds: Jan Vogler, Mira Wang and Vanessa Perez

Mi iubita, Mon amour by Noémie Merlant (France)

starring Gimi-Nicolae Covaci and Noémie Merlant

First feature

Les Héroïques by Maxime Roy (France)

starring François Creton, Richard Bohringer, Ariane Ascaride, Clotilde Courau, Patrick D’Assumçao

First feature

Are you lonesome tonight ? by Wen Shipei (China)

starring Sylvia Chang, Eddie Peng

First feature

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | 6 – 18 JULY 2021

 

Directors’ Fortnight | Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (2021)

Cannes Film Festival is only weeks away and the Directors’ Fortnight selection has just been announced screening from 7 to 17 July 202. It’s surprising how many new filmmakers feature in this year’s slate with Britain’s Clio Barnard and Joanna Hogg joining the party with her sequel to her personal feature Souvenir (2019). 

Other noteworthy directors are Romania’s Radu Muntean (One Floor Below), Italy’s Alice Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro), who joins fellow directors Pietro Marcello (Martin Eden) and Francesco Munzi (Anime Neri) in a documentary portrait of Italy’s up and coming generation. Also to look forward to is the latest from Portuguese auteur Miguel Gomes (Arabian Nights).

A Chiara – Jonas Carpignano 98′

A Night of Knowing Nothing Payal Kapadia (debut) 90′

Ali & Ava – Clio Barnard 93′

Clara Sola – Nathalie Álvarez Mesen (debut) 108′

De bas étage (A Brighter Tomorrow) – Yassine Qnia (debut) 86′

Diários de Otsoga (The Tsugua Diaries) – Miguel Gomes, Maureen Fazendeiro 108′

El empleado y el patron (The Employer and the Employee) de Manuel Nieto Zas 108′

Entre les Vagues (The Braves) d’Anaïs Volpé | 99’1h39

Europa de Haider Rashid – 1h15

Futura de Pietro Marcello, Francesco Munzi, Alice Rohrwacher 105′

Întregalde – Radu Muntean – 1h44

Jadde khaki (Hit the Road) – Panah Panahi (Debut) 93′

Les Magnétiques (Magnetic Beats) de Vincent Maël Cardona (debut) 98′

Luaneshat e kodrës (The Hill where Lionesses Roar) de Luàna Bajrami
(debut) 82′

Medusa d’Anita Rocha da Silveira 127′ 2h07

Mon légionnaire (Our Men) de Rachel Lang 106′ Closing Film

Murina d’Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović (debut) 92′

Neptune Frost de Saul Williams, Anisia Uzeyman 105′

Ouistreham (Between Two Worlds) – Emmanuel Carrère 107′ Opening
1h47 – Film d’ouverture

Re Granchio (The Tale of King Crab) d’Alessio Rigo de Righi, Matteo Zoppis 90′

Retour à Reims (Fragments) – (Returning to Reims (Fragments) – Jean-Gabriel Périot 83′

The Souvenir Part II de Joanna Hogg – 106′
1h46

Yong an zhen gu shi ji (Ripples of Life) de Shujun Wei – 120′

The Sea Ahead d’Ely Dagher (debut) – 116′

SÉANCE SPECIALE
The Souvenir de Joanna Hogg – 120′

QUINZAINE DES REALISATEURS | 7 -17 JULY 2021

 

Petrov’s Flu (2021) | Cannes 2021

Dir: Kiril Serebrennikov | Cast: Semyon Serzin, Chulpan Khamatova, Yulia Boris and Yuri Kolokolnikov | USSR, Drama

Petrov’s Flu, the new film by Kirill Serebrennikov marks the third time in a row for the Russian director at the Cannes Film Festival, uniting him once again with Semyon Serzin, the star of his 2018 drama Leto. His standout thought-provoking religious drama The Student (2016) screened at Un Certain Regard and won that year’s Francois Chalais Award.

Based on the novel “The Petrovs In and Around the Flu” by Alexey Salnikov, PETROV’S FLU is a deadpan, hallucinatory romp through post-Soviet Russia. With the city in the throes of a flu epidemic, the Petrov family struggles through yet another day in a country where the past is never past, the present is a booze-fueled, icy fever dream of violence and tenderness, and where – beneath layers of the ordinary – things turn out to be quite extraordinary.

Set somewhere between reality and imagination, PETROV’S FLU is a visually arresting experience: rough, funny, violent and psychedelic, and yet tender and poetic. A tale that is going to stick in the viewer’s mind for a long time after the credits roll. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | COMPETITION

 

Cannes Film Festival | Programme 2021 announced

Thierry Fremaux looked proud and relaxed to confirm that the 74th Cannes Film Festival programme will go ahead from 6 – 17 July, two months later than its normal May edition.

Only one journalist looked on at the Paris Press conference as Thierry announced this year’s programme during a cosy chat with Festival president Pierre Lescure. The two Frenchmen laughed and bantered voluably – it seems that all is well on the Cote d’Azur, so far. It remains to be seen whether the British press corps and distributors will be able to make it due to government restrictions.

The twenty four films selected from almost 20,000 will include festival regulars Hong Sang-soo, Arnaud Desplechin, Mathieu Amalric, Asghar Farhadi and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Sean Penn will also be there with Flag Day  – his previous feature The Last Face screened to mass walkouts back in 2016.

Appropriately, female directors are there in force, and Spike Lee will finally get a chance to head up the main jury after last year’s fiasco was cancelled due to the pandemic.

French director Leos Carax is also back with the festival opener Annette – also in competition – his last Cannes feature was the astonishing Denis Lavant starring Holy Motors (2013, now a firm cult classic. And Finnish director Juho Kuosmenan whose breakout Un Certain Regard winner The Happiest Day in the Life of Olii Maki enters the main competition with Compartment Number 6. Justin Kurzel is also back with Nitram after his stunning version of Macbeth, in comp five years ago.

Britain will also feature with Andrea Arnold’s latest Cow, and Mothering Sunday, based on a novel by Graham Swift (who also wrote Last Orders and Waterland), forming part of the new Cannes Premiere strand, dedicated to first features.

From the US, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, will also finally get a premiere, after missing its chance last year. And Todd Haynes will be there with a new documentary The Velvet Underground. 

The Un Certain Regard sidebar, the home for edgier competition fare features Kagonada’s latest After Yang, Alexei German Jr’s follow up to Dovlatov, Delo (House Arrest) and Tatiana Huezo’s Noche de Fuego.

Competition

Annette – Leos Carax (also opening night film)
Benedetta – Paul Verhoeven
Bergman Island – Mia Hansen-Love
Drive My Car – Ryusuke Hamaguchi
A feleségem története (The Story of My Wife) – Ildikó Enyedi
Flag Day – Sean Penn
La Fracture – Catherine Corsini
The French Dispatch – Wes Anderson
Ha’berech (Ahed’s Knee) – Nadav Lapid
Haut et Fort (Casablanca Beats) – Nabil Ayouch
Un héros (A Hero) – Asghar Farhadi
Hytti Nro 6 (Compartment No.6) – Juho Kuosmanen
Les Intranquilles (The Restless) – Joachim Lafosse
Julie (The Worst Person in the World) – Joachim Trier
Lingui – Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Memoria – Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Nitram – Justin Kurzel
Les Olympiades (Paris 13th District) – Jacques Audiard
Par un demi clair matin – Bruno Dumont
Petrov’s Flu – Kirill Serebrennikov
Red Rocket – Sean Baker
Titane by Julia Ducournau
Tout s’est bien passé – François Ozon
Tre piani by Nanni Moretti

Un Certain Regard

After Yang – Kogonada
Blue Bayou – Justin Chon
Bonne Mère – Hafsia Herzi
Commitment Hasan – Hasan Semih Kaplanoglu
Delo (House Arrest) – Alexey German Jr.
Freda – Gessica Geneus
The Innocents – Eskil Vogt
Lamb – Valdimar Jóhansson
Moneyboys – C.b Yi
Noche de fuego – Tatiana Huezo
Un monde – Laura Wandel

Cannes Premiere

Cette musique ne joue pour personne (Love Songs for Tough Guys) – Samuel Benchetrit
Cow – Andrea Arnold
Evolution – Kornél Mundruczo
In Front of Your Face – Hong Sang-Soo
Mothering Sunday – Eva Husson
Serre-moi fort (Hold Me Tight) – Mathieu Amalric
Tromperie (Deception) – Arnaud Desplechin
Val – Ting Poo and Leo Scott

Out of Competition

Aline – Valérie Lemercier
Bac Nord – Cédric Jimenez
De son vivant – Emmanuelle Bercot
Emergency Declaration – Han Jae-Rim
Stillwater – Tom McCarthy
The Velvet Underground – Todd Haynes

Special screenings

Cahiers noirs (Black Notebooks) – Shlomi Elkabetz H6 – Yé Yé
JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass – Oliver Stone
Jane par Charlotte – Charlotte Gainsbourg
O marinheiro das montanhas (Mariner of the Mountains) – Karim Ainouz

Midnight screenings

Oranges sanguines (Bloody Oranges) – Jean-Christophe Meurisse

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 6 – 17 JULY 2021

Le Maman et le Putain | The Mother and the Whore (1973) Cannes Classics

Dir; Jean Eustache | Cast: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Bernadette Lefont, Francoise LeBrun | France, Drama, 215’

Three Parisians drink, smoke, copulate and talk, and talk, copulate, smoke and drink for three and a half hours. Much of the talk (in very basic language) is also about copulation, but, being an art movie from that brief, long ago idyll between the introduction of the Pill and before AIDS, no one actually seems to derive much pleasure from all this joyless rutting. For anyone whose first language is not French, keeping up with the subtitles is a daunting challenge throughout.

Jean-Pierre Léaud plays his usual self-centred, garrulous perpetual adolescent, and Bernadette Lafont disappointingly gets a fraction of the screen time of the other two corners of this particular triangle. Shot by Pierre Lhomme in what is presumably deliberately some of the ugliest black & white photography I’ve ever seen, it would be tempting to say that only in a movie could a prick like Alexandre find himself at the centre of a harem comprising two such formidable and willing females. But that, alas, is one aspect of the film that rings only too true. @RichardChatten

SCREENING IN CANNES CLASSICS | 2022

 

Spring Blossom (2020) Curzon

Dir/Wri | Cast: Suzanne Lindon, Arnaud Valois, Frédéric Pierrot, Florence Viala | France, Drama 78′

A delicate sensuous coming of age story from Suzanne Lindon who stars as the film’s subversive heroine who is also rather a dark horse.

In her directing and acting debut Lindon has clearly inherited her parents’ talents – she’s the 20-year-old daughter of Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain, but wrote the film when she was only 15. They clearly said: “write about what you know” and this is exactly what’s she’s done, Spring Blossom has a freshness of touch that perfectly compliments its subtle narrative.

Spring Blossom is slim but evocatively recherché – avoiding gauche thrills or flirty silliness it feels its way intuitively forward. There’s a palpable sensuality to the heady taste of first love that slowly simmers and smoulders between the stylish but vulnerable high-school girl and her older crush Raphaël (Arnaud Valois), an actor performing in the local theatre and experiencing the ennui of performance fatigue. In a sun-dappled Southern France the amorous feelings gradually well up in her teenage heart but Suzanne remains dignified and secretive around her parents, sharing the odd complicit tete a tete with her younger sister.

There’s a sense that Suzanne will grow up to be subversively sensual like Jacqueline Bisset or Charlotte Rampling, still retaining that edgy sexiness that sets women like her apart from the crowd. And in a way Lindon’s slight narrative plays to the film’s advantage, hinting at the mysteries of female sexuality as Suzanne’s febrile imagination considers the art of seduction.

There’s something provocative but eminently natural about this suggestive love affair that seems grown-up and plausible, each character possessing calm dignity and an alluring sense of self. Seen from the young woman’s perspective, there’s nothing smutty about the concept of a teenager with an ‘older’ man, although you’d hardly notice the age different, Raphaël not coming across as a lothario,  but a ‘bon chic bon genre’ type of guy. The pairing has very much the clean-cut top drawer allure of Joanna Hogg’s recent The Souvenir, but the brittle cruelty of Tom Burke’s Anglo Saxon public school boy turned roguish love rat contrasts with the rather lowkey laidback loucheness of Valois’Raphaël. This is very much a French love story with a hint of Louis Garel’s early films about it all. MT

ON CURZON ONLINE FROM 23 APRIL 2021

 

Slalom (2020) Curzon VOD

Dir: Charlène Favier | Writers: Charlène Favier, Marie Talon | Cast: Noée Abita, Jérémie Renier, Marie Denarnaud, Muriel Combeau, Maïra Schmitt, Axel Auriant | France, Drama

Noée Abita made a name for herself in Lea Mysius’ poignant drama Ava (2017) about a girl gradually losing her sight. In Slalom she stars alongside Jérémie Renier in a love story set in the snowy French Alps.

This coming of age sports drama is an impressive debut for writer-director Charlène Favier who made the Cannes 2020 official selection. Abita plays 15-year-old ski professional-in- training Lyz who falls for her sexually voracious power-tripping coach Max (Renier), already in a relationship with another team member (Marie Denarnaud), in a drama that echoes real life cases in the world of tennis and swimming in France and the US.

Favier and her co-writer Talon show how kids of that age are emotionally vulnerable and subject to hero-worshipping in a world where their collaborative and professional relationship is particularly vital, especially when they have little support from their parents. In this case her mother (Muriel Combeau) makes a new boyfriend a priority, rather than the stability and wellbeing of her daughter who she abandons to rush off on a romantic break over Christmas. Lyz is understanding heartbroken. But not for long.

Deftly interweaving the heart-pumping slalom competitions that will shape her into an Olympic hopeful, and the intense love story at its core, this snowbound affair is as hot as they come – especially when its focus is first love – set in the spectacular mountain scenery of the French Alps where Yann Maritaud creates a real sense of drama on the sparking icebound slopes and frosty moonlit nights-capes not to mention those intimate close-ups.

Lyz experiences a whirlwind of emotions from anxiety surrounding her sporting prowess, to confusion in lust-ridden days of wondering whether Max will be there for her in bed – and on the slopes. Of course, we can all see Max’s own adrenalin- fuelled turmoil as he barks orders, and commands his star pupil’s respect, while being confused by his own feelings.

Abita is terrific as she gradually develops stamina, independence and self-belief – physically, as well as mentally – straining every core of her body to reach peak performance, Her gamine insecurity gathers storm as she develops a fierce sense of pride and integrity. If there was ever a drama perfect for teenage girls – (or adult girls who’ve already been there) this is it!.MT

ON CURZON VOD from 12 February 2021

 

 

 

 

Falling (2020) ***

Dir/Wri: Viggo Mortensen | Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Lance Henriksen, Laura Linney, Sverrir Gudnason, | US Drama, 112′

In his first foray into filmmaking Viggo Mortensen writes and also stars in this insightful, semi-autobiographical story of family dysfunction. It sees an irascible old farmer (a feisty Lance Henrikson) gradually losing his grip to dementia as his bewildered gay son grapples for largely unwanted control of the family.

The subject of dementia is so increasingly widespread nowadays it almost needs a genre of its own. And as such this could have been more humorous in the style of Bruce Dern’s Nebraska, or even poetic and whimsical like Miroslav Mandic’s recent arthouse gem Sanremo, but that’s not the point. Falling is a well-made if sombre family drama exploring the fallout of this dread disease, and a decent debut for this seasoned actor. MT

NOW ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE

Downstream to Kinshasa (2020)

Dir.: Dieudo Hamadi; Documentary; Democratic Republic of Congo Belgium France, 90 min.

Twenty years ago a violent civil war raged in the Congo and was fought out between Rwandan and Ugandan forces, who supported the two Democratic Republic’s factions. Over four thousand Congolese lost their lives in Kisangani alone in a war that ignited in June 2000 and became to be known as the Six-Day war.

Acting as his own DoP, experienced documentarian Hamadi zeros in on the domestic detail and the wider issues arising from class structure which leaves a particularly brutal legacy in this post-colonial world. This is a place where life-changing injuries still haunt the victims: double amputees like Mama Kawale and Mama Bahingi, and quadriplegic Mama Kashinde have managed to make their days bearable by playing wheelchair basketball. The atmosphere is intense, and every shot at the basket counts: this is no feeling of competition except with themselves, and their individual scores bolster self-confidence.

Hamadi is familiar with the territory having grown up during the massacre. The victims of Kisangani’s war were thrown naked into mass graves, as one of the survivors recalls: “we are walking on corpses”. The survivors have clamoured for nearly twenty years for compensation from the Central government – in vain. Their plight and pain is never diminished, in fact it gets worse, and club together to select a delegation to travel downstream on the Congo river to the capital Kinsasha, where they will demand justice from government officials and their MP.

Intercut with the documentary are scenes from the Agit-Prop theatre of the survivors, which uses music and short scenes to bring home their message. Two simple boats are hitched together, and the delegation team buys food for the journey from vendors on little boats. Arriving in Kinshasa, the positive carnival atmosphere of the journey changes into disappointment when delegation is banned from accessing the government building. Their local MP is not there to engage with their concerns because of the approaching election. So they are put their time to good use raising awareness of their plight with brightly coloured banners – spelling mistakes corrected – before installing themselves in peaceful protest only to be drenched by torrential rain. It’s a pitiful sight, and we feel for them. Eventually they will have something to cheer about when the unsupportive president of the Republic, Joseph Kabila, is replaced by Felix Tshisekedi in the 2018 December elections. But Kabila leaves a legacy, allowing him to select the incumbent Prime Minster. In an elliptical ending, we return to the lively streets of Kisangani, with the delegation walking proudly with their heads high.

Downstream could be called a Road-Movie but that seems too trite a description for this pilgrimage of humanitarian relief and Hamadi reflects this in his poetic and lyrical visual treatment. Eschewing a sentimental approach as all times, Hamadi never victimises the survivors, but triumphs in their fighting spirit kept alive by their exuberant theatre work and their courageous journey to the capital. AS

DOWNSTREAM TO KINSHASA (EN ROUTE POUR LE MILLIARD) won the Golden Dove at the 63rd edition of the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film DOK Leipzig, as well as the Prize of the Interreligious Jury | 
ON RELEASE ON MAJOR PLATFORMS

Striding into the Wind (2020) *** Cannes Selection 2020

Dir.: Wei Shujun; Cast: Zheng Yingchen, Zhou You, Lin Kai, Wang Xiaomu; China 2020, 134 min.

Wei Shujun won a Special Award for his short film On the Border at Cannes 2018 and was back in the competition selection again this year with this eye-catching but flawed drama which overstays its welcome at over two hours.

Based on Wei Shujun’s own experiences, Striding Into the Wind is a footloose road movie that offers a snapshot of modern China through the life of two film school layabouts. Essentially a series of episodes that take place in and around  Beijing where restless sound technician Zuo Kun (Zhou) is taking time out from his final year studies behind the wheel of a beaten-up Jeep. Kun can’t seem to commit to anything – let alone a driving test – and we see him flouncing off in a fit of rage when things go wrong. The Jeep eventually becomes a liability: he is stopped for driving under the influence and ends up in prison, where his warden Dad is able to get him an early release.

Kun’s portly comrade in arms, Tong (Kai) is a junk food addict who rolls out of bed just in time for the college start at noon. The women is Kun’s life are more practical: his long suffering girl A Zhi (Yingchen) lends him cash, and his mother, a university lecturer, supplies exam papers which sell for good money on campus. A film shoot provides the opportunity for the pair to break loose and  decamp to Inner Mongolia where they attempt to lock down their film project and Kun makes a play for the Mongolian star actress.

What saves this from being an empty rant in celebration of juvenile delinquency is the imaginative visuals bringing to mind early 1980s features by Hsiao-Hsien Hou. Shujun’s sycophantic treatment of his two main characters adds to the overindulgent feel of a film where so much talent has been wasted on immature postering. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2020 | COMPETITION LINEUP | BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2020

    

Summer of 85 (2020) Mubi

Dir|Wri: Francois Ozon. France, Romcom, 100′

This upbeat breezy retro teenage love story is set in seaside Normandy over six weeks in the summer of Summer Of 85. As usual Ozon doesn’t take things too seriously but the romance feels real and the lively score of ’80s hits and memories of holidays in Normandy make this a sunny treat for everyone.

Aiden Chamber’s paperback original ‘Dance on My Grave’ took place in Southend-on-Sea but Ozon choses the Normandy coastal town of Le Tréport for his version of the tale with its strong emotional undercurrent stemming for the elation and them pain of first love showing how the central character discovers writing as a therapy for his broken heart.

Summer of 85 is more tragic than comic but Francois Ozon has a clever way spicing his dramas with subtle and subversive humour always leaving it open to individual interpretation. And there are random moments that may raise a smile, or may not. The balance is always delicately poised.

Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) is a cherubic blond 16 year-old, who hints in the opening scenes that see him in police custody, that the film will end in tears but we are not told why. And this is the enigma that hooks us into the plot driven forward by his literature teacher Mr Lefèvre (a moustachioed Melvil Poupaud)  disguise) who tries to persuade Alexis to write about his experience even if he can’t talk about it.

Gradually the story spills out in flashback narrated by Alexis who takes us back to the start of summer when he decided to take his friend’s boat for an afternoon’s sailing. Storm clouds soon gather and he is thrown into the water only to be rescued by another sailer in the shape of David Gorman,  (Benjamin Voisin) a dark-haired 18-year-old adonis who certainly knows the ropes.

Soon the two are back at David’s where a voluptuous Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi plays a welcoming Jewish mum Mrs Gorman who also runs a business specialising in sailing tackle. Admiring Alex’s own tackle she runs him a hot bath. Realising her son needs a close friend, but does realising yet just how close, the boy’s budding relationship blossoms, and he is offered a role in the business. But there’s good fun to be had — riding David’s  motorbike and sailing – not to mention between the sheets in this hedonistic affair that positively froths with youthful exuberance especially when a Kate (Philippine Velge) a frisky young au pair from England joins the party. Meanwhile Alex’s mother (Isabelle Nanty) and father are a more down to earth couple anchoring him in the reality of their working class set-up.

Summer in Normandy in always going to be a winner visually, whether down on the beach or in the verdant hinterland the setting is strikingly beautiful and DoP Hichame Alaouie conveys a retro feel with his Super-16 camerawork. And one of the best things about Summer of 85 is its rousing soundtrack of ’80s hits from The Cure’s ’In Between Days’ to Rod Stewart’s ’Sailing’. As David, Benjamin Voisin’s striking charisma carries the film: his confident intensity and effervescent charm set him out to be a star in the making. MT.

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Cannes Classics | Festival de Cannes 2020

In the Mood for love by Wong Kar-wai twenty years after, À Bout de souffle and L’Avventuraturn 60, great filmmakers (Wim Wenders, Federico Fellini, Bertrand Blier, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Glauber Rocha, Lino Brocka), Tilda Swinton’s first major role in a science fiction film, Muhammad Ali meets William Klein, rediscoveries from the Festival de Cannes ‘60, ‘68, ‘73 and ’81, the first color fiction of Chinese cinema, an unknown masterpiece from Sri Lanka, a Serbian comedy, the new wave of Russian cinema, from yesterday’s cinema to today’s world with the first film by Melvin Van Peebles and a stricking documentary on women from Brittany, a landmark film about Charlie Chaplin, an exceptional portrait of actor John Belushi, Bruce Lee revisited and a celebration to great Italian actress Alida Valli, here is Cannes Classics 2020.

In the Mood for Love (2000, 1h38, Hong Kong) by Wong Kar-wai

The 4k restoration of the film made from the original negative was lead by Criterion and L’Immagine Ritrovata under the supervision of Wong Kar-wai. In the Mood for Love, by Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai, made its lead actor Tony Leung win the Male Interpretation Prize.

French theatrical distribution: The Jokers Films, date of release: December 2, 2020.

Actress Tilda Switon in her first big screen role to pay tribute to film director and film theorist Peter Wollen. It will be the rediscovery of a rare work.

Friendship’s Death (1987, 1h12, United Kingdom) by Peter Wollen

Presented by the British Film Institute (BFI). The 4K remastering by the BFI National Archive was from the original Standard 16mm colour negative. The soundtrack was digitised directly from the original 35mm final mix magnetic master track. The remastering was undertaken in collaboration with the film’s producer, Rebecca O’Brien and cinematographer, Witold Stok.

The Story of a Three-Day Pass (La Permission) (1967, 1h27, France) by Melvin Van Peebles

Presented by IndieCollect and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The restoration of The Story of a Three-Day Pass (La Permission) was funded by a grant from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The original film elements were found by the IndieCollect team during its inventory of Melvin Van Peebles’ New York apartment and storage facility. To create the restoration, the IndieCollect team used a 5K Kinetta Archival Scanner to digitally capture the 35mm Interpositive of the American version and combined it with elements scanned from the French version. Color grading and restoration were completed in-house by Oskar Miarka, and the titles were recreated by Cameron Haffner. Sandra Schulberg translated the French dialogue and new English subtitles were created.

Lyulskiy dozhd (July Rain / Pluie de juillet) (1966, 1h48, Russia) by Marlen Khutsiev

Presented by Mosfilm Cinema Concern. Source material: negative. 4K digital restoration. Restored by: Mosfilm Cinema Concern. Producer of restoration: Karen Shakhnazarov. Year of restoration: 2020.

Quand les femmes ont pris la colère (1977, 1h15, France) by Soizick Chappedelaine and René Vautier

Presented by Ciaofilm. The film was scanned in 4K and restored in 2K from the original 16mm negative. Image works carried out by ECLAIR Classics and by L.E.DIAPASON for the sound under the supervision of Moïra Chappedelaine-Vautier with the support of the CNC, the Cinémathèque de Bretagne and the Région Bretagne.

French theatrical distribution in 2021. DVD / Blu-ray release by Les Mutins de Pangée and in VOD on Cinémutins in 2021.

Préparez vos mouchoirs (Get Out Your Handkerchiefs) (1977, 1h50, France) by Bertrand Blier

Presented by TF1 Studio and Orange Studio / CAPAC. 4K Restoration from the picture negative and the French magnetic soud track, supervised by Bertrand Blier. Digital works carried out by Eclair laboratory in 2019.

Hester Street (1973, 1h30, USA) by Joan Micklin Silver

Presented by Cohen Film Collection. The primary source element for the restoration of Hester Street was the original 35mm camera negative. Brief sections of duplicate negative, in particular the opening title sequence with burned in titles, were cut into the original negative in order to produce the original release prints. 4K scanning and restoration work was carried out by DuArt Media Services in New York.

Ko to tamo peva ? (Who’s Singing Over There? / Qui chante là-bas ?) (1980, 1h26, Serbia) by Slobodan Šijan

Presented by Malavida Films. Restoration from the picture and sound negative. Scanning: Arriscan. Supervision: Slobodan Šijan with Milorad Glusica. Sound restored by Aleksandar Stojsin.

French theatrical distribution: Malavida Films, date of release :  October 21, 2020.

Prae dum (Black Silk) (1961, 1h58, Thailand) by R.D. Pestonji

Presented by Film Archive Thailand (Public Organization). 4K Scan and 4K Restoration from the original 35mm negative (preserved by Film Archive Thailand). Restoration made and financed by Film Archive Thailand and Thai Ministry of Culture. Mastered in 4K for Digital Projection.

Zhu Fu (New Year Sacrifice) (1956, 1h40, China) by Hu Sang

Presented by Shanghai International Film Festival and China Film Archive. 4K Scan and 4K Digital Restoration from the original 35mm image negative and sound negative (preserved by China Film Archive). Restoration made by China Film Archive. Co-financed by Shanghai International Film Festival and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Mastered in 4K for Digital Projection.

Feldobott kő (Upthrown Stone / La Pierre lancée) (1968, 1h25, Hungary) by Sándor Sára

Presented by National Film Institute – Film Archive – Hongrie.

The 4K digital restoration was carried out as part of ‘The long-term restoration program of Hungarian film heritage” of the National Film Institute – Film Archive. The restoration was made using the original image and sound negatives by the National Film Institute – Filmlab. The Digital grading was supervised by Sándor Sára. Collaborating partner: Hungarian Society of Cinematographers.

Neige (1981, 1h30, France) by Juliet Berto and Jean-Henri Roger

Presented by JHR Films. First 4k digital restoration submitted by JHR Films with the support of the CNC et de l’image animée. The restoration was carried out at L’Image Retrouvée laboratory in Bologna and in Paris.

French theatrical distribution: JHR Films, date of release: spring 2021.

Bambaru Avith (The Wasps Are Here) (1978, 2h, Sri Lanka) by Dharmasena Pathiraja

Presented by Asian Film Archive. 4K film and sound restoration was carried out by L’Immagine Ritrovata using the sole-surviving 35mm film positive. The raw and restored 4K scans, a new 35mm picture and sound negatives, and a new positive print of the restored version of the film have been produced and are preserved by the Asian Film Archive.

Bayanko: Kapit sa patalim (Bayan Ko) (1984, 1h48, Philippines / France) by Lino Brocka

Presented by Le Chat qui fume. First 4k digital restoration submitted by Le Chat qui fume. Scanning made at VDM laboratory and restoration carried out by Le Chat qui fume in Paris.

French theatrical distribution and Blu-ray / UHD release: Le Chat qui fume, date of release: February 2021.

La Poupée (1962, 1h34, France) by Jacques Baratier

Presented by the CNC. Sound and image digital work of restoration executed by the CNC and carried out by Hiventy. Follow-up by the CNC and supervised by Diane Baratier. Digital restoration made from 4K scans of the original negative. A 35mm print from the digital restoration was released. French distribution: Tamasa Distribution.

Sanatorium pod klepsydra (The Hourglass Sanatory / La Clepsydre) (1973, 2h04, Poland) by Wojciech J. Has 

Presented by Polish Film Classics. 4k Scan and 2K restoration carried out by DI Factory and the reKino team by keeping the guidelines of DOP Witold Sobociński (this restoration is dedicated to him) who could eventually achieve the image he wished to obtain in 1973. Artistic supervision: cinematographer Piotr Sobociński Jr. Right-owners: WFDiF.

French Blu-ray release: Malavida Films, date of release: May 2021.

L’Amérique insolite (America as Seen by a Frenchman) (1959, 1h30, France) by François Reichenbach

Presented by Les Films du jeudi. Restoration carried out at Hiventy: 4K scan – 2K restoration from the original negatives.

Deveti krug (The Ninth Circle / Neuvième cercle) (1960, 1h37, Croatia) by France Štiglic

Digital restoration in 2K presented by Croatian Cinematheque – Croatian State Archives with the support of Croatian Audiovisual Centre. Restoration performed by Ater and Klik Film studios in Zagreb, Croatia.

Muhammad Ali the Greatest (1974, 2h03, France) by William Klein

Presented by Films Paris New York and ARTE. First digital 2K restoration from the original 16mm negative scanned in 4K carried out with the support of the CNC. Image works were carried out by ECLAIR Classics and by L.E.DIAPASON for the sound.

SCREENING AT CANNES and at the FESTIVAL LUMIERE LYON

The Oak Room (2020)

Dir.: Cody Calahan; Cast: RJ Mitte, Peter Outerbridge, Ari Millen, Martin Roach, Nicolas Campbell; Canada 2020, 95 min.

Breaking Bad’s R J Mitte plays a mysterious drifter who fetches up in this suspense-ridden snowbound psychodrama based on Peter Genoway’s stage play and directed by Cody Calahan.

The Oak Room brings to mind Bill Paxton’s breakout hit Frailty (2013), but goes a step further, blurring the lines between thriller and horror with a slew of sinuous twists and turns that bring violence to small-town Canada in a slow-burn game of mistaken identity, childhood trauma and transference.

It would be a shame to spoil the ending, so let’s stick to the bare bones of the story. Steve (Mitte) turns up at his local during a snowstorm to settle a score with bartender Paul (Outerbridge), a friend of his father Gordon (Campbell), who has recently died. Paul is angry Steve didn’t attend the funeral or contribute to the costs. Paul has Gordon’s ashes, and claims Steve forced his father Gordon into an early grave, selling his business to finance Steve’s further education. Clearly a waste of time, judging by appearances. Steve casts his mind back to the past, revealing childhood trauma surrounding an incident where Steve was forced by his father to kill to a piglet. The past has turned Steve into a troubled and violent man who goes on to wreak havoc on the other characters. These are stormy waters and the red herrings soon pile up, seemingly leading nowhere. But by the end we are so deeply entrenching in the complex web of deceit, transference and projection that mayhem prevails.

The film’s narrative structure is the key to its runaway success. Mitte is mesmerising as the drifter  hellbent on changing his destiny. But are his grievances real or brought on by false memory, Steven emerging an unreliable narrator par excellence, and we are forced into decoding the enigmas as the film plays out. The Oak Room is sort of ‘sleeper’ – lying low, drawing us into its spiral of sinister snowy doom. Motives rather than murders make the most impact in this paranoid tour-de-force. AS

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Gagarine (2020)

Dir.: Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh; Cast: Alseni Bathily, Lyna Khoudri, Jamil McCraven, Farida Rahouadj, Finnegan Oldfield; France 2020, 97 min.

The world’s first Space traveller Yuri Gagarin gives his name to this impressive debut from Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh. Cité Gagarine, a housing estate in the Parisian suburb of Ivry-sur-Seine, had a less illustrious time of things than its namesake, and has now been almost totally demolished along with other buildings of the HLM (habitation à Loyer Modéré), once home to many thousands.

This long version of the directors’ 2015 short starts with a newsreel showing Mr Gagarin (1934-1968), when he visited the site in 1963, enjoying a rapturous welcome from the tenants. Fast forward to 2019, and our new hero teenager Youri (effervescent newcomer Bathily) has not quite come to terms with losing his longterm home. His parents have long left the nest: his mother is now living with a new partner and baby. So his only close tie is with friend of the family Fari (Rahouadj) who will soon leave for pastures new in the South of France. That leaves Youri’s friend and sidekick Houssam (McCraven) and of course Diana (Khoudri), a teenager from a nearby Roma settlement, who shares Youri’s passion for Space travel.

When engineers from the council declare the block of flats unfit for habitation, Youri is determined to save his home, constructing an elaborate space shuttle within its walls. A solar eclipse is the ‘last hurrah’ before the old block is to be detonated. After a valedictory night of passion, Diana goes on her way, Youri agreeing to take care of the dog, renaming it Laika. Everything is now set for the great detonation, and the former residents assemble outside for the final time. Suddenly, a coordinated light show flashes from their former home. Diana and Houssam realise Youri must still be hiding inside in some outlandish act of denial.   

This French film is a revitalising tonic after so much drab British sink estate realism: Yes, bad things happen, but there is always love, and dreams. Even the drug dealer (Oldfield) is not the “bad guy” sent by central casting, but a rather disturbed young man with suicidal tendencies.

Youri’s escapist new ‘home’ is a marvel of imagination and gives DoP Victor Seguin the basis for imaginative ‘space travel’ in Youri’s parallel world. And there’s astringent humour here too: Diana having to help her acrophobic lover up the ladder to the command unit. Ever the optimist, Youri sums it all up with his starry-eyed observation “we are neighbours with the moon”.

Gagarine gives us hope at the end of the rainbow that stretches beyond our day-to-day tunnel of trauma, to infinity and beyond. Youri shows we all have the power to re-create another universe, however parlous our life may be. Far from idealising poverty, Gagarine is proof that escapism offers redemption – we just need to explore our own imagination for salvation in these unworldly times.

NOW IM CINEMAS NATIONWIDE | CANNES COMPETITION SELECTION |  2020     

https://vimeo.com/430708413

Magic Mountains (2020) **** Cannes Market 2020

Dir: Urzula Antoniak | Thriller, Holland/Poland 82′

Poland’s Urzula Antoniak follows her enigmatic displacement drama Beyond Words with another spare and haunting psychological thriller that relies on magnificent mountain settings, evocative lighting and intense atmosphere to explore the complex aftermath of love and longing for a couple whose relationship lies in tatters.

Dutch actors Thomas Ryckewaert and Hannah Hoekstra play Lex and Hannah, still on speaking terms despite their recent break-up, instigated by Hannah for reasons unknown. In order to lay his own emotional demons to rest, Lex makes the unusual request of asking Hannah to join him in a final climbing holiday, led by Voytek (the Polish actor Marcin Dorocinski (Anthropoid, 2016) whose unsettling presence lends a sinister vibe to this doomed emotional exploration fraught with vertiginous moments of its own.

Quite why Hannah decides to continue on this challenging odyssey is anyone’s guess. But mesmerised by Voytek’s mysterious allure and Lex’s ambivalent motivations, she presses on increasingly disturbed by her strange companions and the dizzying surroundings. Magic Mountains is a simple but effective metaphor for our troubling times. Antoniak’s enigmatic storyline and Lennert Hillege’s atmospheric visuals provide the needling tension fuelling this complex mood piece that takes us to the unknown reaches of the human mind with a  devastating finale. MT

Cannes 2020 | The Official Selection | 73rd Festival de Cannes 2020

Cannes Festival grandees announced the fifty six competition titles that should have screened during this year’s 73rd Celebration from 12 – 23 May 2020, had it not been for the Covid 19 Crisis: these films will be released in cinemas and other festivals during the remainder of 2020/21. 

There are some much anticipated films in this list – although the usual strand of Un Certain Regard comes as part of the main programme this along with the newcomers, comedies and documentaries. There are no Italian films because naturally they are now saving themselves for a showing at Venice in September.

Summer Of 85, François Ozon (France), 1h40′

Ozon is true to his provocative style in this Normandy-set story of love and passion between two young boys at the height of the 1980s. Scored by hits from Bananarama and The Cure, the film releases on 15 July 2020.

DNA, Maïwenn (Algeria, France), 1h30′

This follow up to Mon Roi, sees the director reliving her own Algerian heritage, Fanny Ardant playing her mother, Marine Vacth her sister and Louis Garrel as her best friend in a film fraught with memories and melodrama.

Love Affairs, Emmanuel Mouret (France), 2h

Passionate stories of love and tenderness seen through the eyes of an eclectic cast including Vincent Macaigne, Emilie Dequenne and Camelia Jordana

Rouge, Farid Bentoumi (France), 1h26′

Bentoumi’s sophomore feature looks at the human aftermath of an ecological scandal in Algeria.

Gagarine – Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh (France), 1h35′

In this promising debut drama a teenager shares his name with the well-known cosmonaut who was the first human to travel to outer space.

Spring Blossom, Suzanne Lindon (France), 1h13′

Arnaud Vallois (Beats per Minute) stars in this rites of passage drama that allows the director to reminisce on her teenage hood suffused with delicate memories of films, music and plays on the era.

Vaurien, Peter Dourountzis (France), 1h,35′

The human face of a serial killer is captured in this impressive debut drama that stars Ophelie Bau (Mektoub My Love).

My Best Part, Nicolas Maury (France), 1h48′

Nathalie Baye is back in a central role in this tortured debut that sees her self-mocking son desperate not to lose the love of his life.

A Good Man, Marie-Castille Mention Schaar (France),

Making her debut in the Official selection Mention Schaar tells a love story with insight, humans and universal appeal, and one that will set tongues wagging.

Teddy, Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma (France), 1h48′

A werewolf movie styled by the Boukherma Brothers’ “Grolandish’ atmosphere experienced in the first film Willy and featuring ‘man of the moment’ Vincent Macaigne

Slalom, Charlène Favier (France),

Jeremie Renier stars in this vertiginous thriller about things that go downhill between a trainer and his protegee.

Médecin De Nuit, Elie Wajeman (France), 1h40′

Once again Vincent Macaigne takes centre stage as ‘patron saint of the broken’ dashing round Paris on a mission to heal in Elie Wajeman’s third feature.

Josep, Aurel (France) | Josep, Animation, 1h20′

Jump-cut animation, alternating stills and animated images make this first film from cartoonist Aurel stand out from the crowd. It tells the lesser known story: that of the Retirada, an era when refugees of the 1939 Spanish War made an Exodus to France.

Ibrahim, Samuel Guesmi (France),

The ever popular theme of father/son relationships is the crux of this debut drama that will resonate with at least half of the audience.

9 Jours À Raqqa, Xavier De Lauzanne (France) | Documentary

We all know how the Kurds have suffered, and continue to suffer in Syria where they form the largest ethnic minority. This is a film about the feminist point view, seen from the gaze of Leila Mustapha, the Kurdish mayor the Former Islamic State capital.

Cévennes, Caroline Vignal (France), 1h35′

Caroline Vignal is back for the first time in 20 years since her feature Girlfriends  (2020) in a film described as an anti-love affair comedy based on the theme “the important thing is to travel, not to arrive”.

Les Deux Alfred, Bruno Podalydès (France),

Technology gets the better of two brothers in this moving yet upbeat comedy that stars Sandrine Kiberlain.

The Big Hit, Emmanuel Courcol (France)

Drama staged in prison is nothing new. But this film sees Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot staged in way that’s entertaining for all.

The Speech, Laurent Tirard (France)

A tender comedy about love and lost love based on the novel by French writer Fabrice Caro.

L’origine Du Monde, Laurent Lafitte (France)

Origine du Monde is a 1966 painting by Gustave Courbet. Laurent Lafitte’s debut as a director takes it as his inspiration for a daringly dark comedy.

Home Front, Lucas Belvaux (Belgium)

The past comes back to haunt the veterans of the Algerian war in this drama set in a small close-knit village that stars Gerard Depardieu, Catherine Frot and Jean-Pierre Darroussin.

El Olvido Que Seremos, Fernando Trueba (Spain)

Trueba combines colour and black and white to rep present and past, in this historical epic of childhood’s paradise lost, shot in Colombia and based on a sonnet by Jose Luis Borges.

Ammonite, Francis Lee (UK), 2h (below)

Fossilised coldness and human love and tenderness coalesce in this historical drama based on the life of palaeontologist Mary Anning, from God’s Own Country director Francis Lee.

Mangrove, Steve McQueen (UK), 2h04′

In the first of his Cannes Film competition hopefuls, McQueen returns to the subject of racial tension in the UK with this story of Notting Hill’s Caribbean locals and their fight for respect in the face of putative Police harassment.

Lovers Rock, Steve McQueen (UK), 1h08′

His second film is a more stylish trance-like drama that explores the Swinging Sixties through music.

Limbo, Ben Sharrock (UK), 1h53′

There are echoes of Ulrich Seidl and Roy Andersson to Ben Sharrock’s bittersweet second film that looks at the refugee problem on one island in Scotland.

Another Round, Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark), 1h55′

Danish Dogme filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg explores midlife identity crisis through a series of thoughtfully crafted broken characters in this tense and unsettling film. Regulars Marie Bonnevie, Thomas Bo Larsen, and Mads Mikkelsen join the star-studded cast.

Flee, Jonas Poher Rasmussen (Denmark) | Animation,

The other Danish film in this year’s selection is an animation that follows an Afghan family through Russia to Europe.

Sweat, Magnus von Horn (Sweden),1h40′

The Swedish director follows The Here After (Directors’ Fortnight, 2015) with a timely saga that addresses the taboo subject of loneliness through the portrait of a social influencer and fitness coach.

Pleasure, Ninja Thyberg (Sweden),1h45′

Swedish filmmaker Ninja Thyberg expands her Cannes Canal+ award-winning short into a full blown female portrait of becoming a porn star in the world of men.

Enfant Terrible, Oskar Roehler (Germany), 2h14′

Reiner Werner Fassbinder had a short but prolific career as a filmmaker during the 1980s. Oskar Roehler takes a deep dive into the director’s quixotic personality in a film that explores the crazy world of this highly creative genius.

In the Dusk, Sharunas Bartas (Lithuania), 2h05′

Bartas uncovers a valuable story from his native Lithuania that mines the dramatic potential of the First World War, putting the focus on small countries crushed by larger ones –  in this case the USSR – to create a timely portrait of oppression that threatens and fascinates at at the same time.

February, Kamen Kalev (Bulgaria), 2h05′

A journey from childhood to adulthood is explored in this ethereal and elliptical drama from the award-winning Bulgarian director.

Heaven: To The Land of Happiness, Im Sang-soo (Korea), 1h40′

This social satire on the South Korean modern day commercialism is given a dollop of slapstick and stars Cannes veteran Min-Sir Choi.

Peninsula, Yeon Sang-ho (Korea), 1h54h

A fast-paced genre piece from the director of Train to Busan offers thrills and spills in a sci-fi outing to make John Carpenter proud.

True Mothers, Naomi Kawase (Japan), 2h20′

Marmite filmmaker Naomi Kawase brings another offering to Cannes in this sensuous humanistic tale of adoption and motherhood set in her native Japan.

The Real Thing, Koji Fukada (Japan),

Fukada follows Harmonium with this epic odyssey fraught with emotion in the style of the K-list contemporaries Kore-eda, Kurasawa and Kawase.

Aya And The Witch, Goro Miyazaki (Japan) | Animation

Goro Miyazaki follows in the footsteps of his father with this digital animation  that quails away from manga and into the realms of the great Studio Ghibli. Ostensibly a childhood tale with its idiosyncratic adult undertones and disturbing often surreal characters, this is a very much anticipated film.

Souad, Ayten Amin (Egypt)

A wonderfully exquisite coming-of-age story that fluidly follows the hopes of dreams of young Egyptians born of tradition, but looking forward to the modern world in sumptuous Alexandria where so much potential is waiting to flower in the realm of Egyptian filmmaking.

Passion Simple, Danielle Arbid (Lebanon)

Based on the best-seller by Annie Ernaux, Passion tracks the doomed relationship between a powerful Russian diplomat and a woman whose raisin d’être is gradually corroded behind her rose-tinted view of their love. Laetitia Dosch (Jeune Femme) stars

Here We Are, Nir Bergman (Isreal)

A love affair between a father and his autistic son carries us into a different world haunted by melodrama, poignant lows and illuminating highs. Always surprising and ultimately moving.

The Death Of Cinema And My Father Too, Daniel Rosenberg (Isreal)

The final days of a parent are intensely personal and sensitively sketched out in this acutely poignant Israeli study of the end of life.

Broken Keys, Jimmy Keyrouz (Lebanon)

A pianist tries to escape his persecuted Middle-Eastern town where radical Islam holds sway. The emotional power of music speaks for itself here in a drama that seeks to denounce religious dogma in favour of humanity.

Beginning, Déa Kulumbegashvili (Georgia)

After her short film Invisible Spaces was nominated for the Palme d’Or in 2014, Kulumbegashvili offers up a study of oppression that contrasts tradition with the changing face of Georgia.

Should The Wind Fall, Nora Martirosyan (Armenia), 1h40′

From Armenia comes this impressive debut that mesmerises both visually and in its pervasive atmosphere of tension. Gregoire Colin plays an engineer in charge of the airport opening in Nagorno Karabakh, the self-proclaimed Caucasian Republic.

Striding Into The Wind, Wei Shujun (China), 2h36′

Another complete surprise arrives from China – but this is a good one and very welcome in its refreshing inventiveness.

The Billion Road, Dieudo Hamadi (Democratic Republic of Congo) | Documentary

A bright but streetwise documentary that sees a group of men fighting for their rights in the modern day Rep of Congo.

Casa De Antiguidades, João Paulo Miranda Maria (Brazil), 1h27′

The light and magnificent beauty of Brazil is magically captured in this extraordinary film that shows through a lyrical story of loneliness and disenfranchisement how countries and places own us, rather than the other way round.

Septet: The Story Of Hong Kong, Ann Hui, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Ringo Lam, Patrick Tam, Johnnie To, Hark Tsui, John Woo, Woo-Ping Yuen (Hong Kong),

A film that speaks for itself through a variety of local filmmakers.

The French Dispatch, Wes Anderson (USA) (below)

An international cast of stars get together in this unpredictable drama that assembles a series of vignettes telling the history of cinema.

Last Words, Jonathan Nossiter (USA)

Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling, Nick Nolte and Alba Rohrwacher are the barnstorming stars in Jonathan Nossiter’s latest, an imagined drama about the relevance of film and survival. A film that had a particular resonance in these days of pandemic and crisis.

John And The Hole, Pascual Sisto (USA)

A coming of age thriller from Ignacio Inarittu’s regular scripter Nicolas Giacobone, the action plays out in the titular hole.

Falling, Viggo Mortensen (USA)

Viggo Mortensen is the star of his directorial debut that sees a traditional dad moving in with his gay son. Laura Linney and David Cronenberg also star.

Soul, Pete Docter, Kemp Powers (USA) | Animation

A musician who loses his passion for music must reinvigorate his craft through the helpful soul of a child.

The Truffle Hunters, Gregory Kershaw, Michael Dweck (USA) | Documentary

The white truffle of Piemonte is prized by chefs and connoisseurs all over the world. And this documentary charts the history of its fascination and the secret that holds its persistent hunters in thrall.

Nadia, Butterfly, Pascal Plante (Canada)

From Canada comes a drama that tackles the thorny subject of Olympic has beens. What happens when top swimmers are forced finally to throw in the towel? Katerine Savard plays a former bronze medal winner in this valedictory exploration of physical prowess from Quebec director Pascal Plante. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 12 – 23 MAY 2020 

Cannes 2020 | Festival update

The 73rd Cannes Film Festival is not the only celebration to be postponed by the 2020 pandemic that has derailed the film calendar sending some editions online.

This is the first time Cannes has been cancelled since the Second World War, although it was also curtailed in May 1968 due to the student uprising. To think that 75 years ago we were celebrating the end of hostilities across the World, it now seems inconceivable that a human tragedy of such enormity could once again intervene.

In an interview with the trade magazine Screen Daily, festival president Thierry Fremaux spoke of plans to announce an Official Selection of films that would have taken part this year. That will hopefully come at the beginning of June 2020. All these films are scheduled to be released theatrically sometime between now and 2021, and have remained faithful to Cannes, rather than moving on to Venice or San Sebastian .

The Film Market will still go ahead with sales companies showing their Cannes 2020 slated films to buyers and professionals in a virtual line-up. But as for the Main Competition, rumours continue to circulate about possible collaboration with future festivals such as Venice, Toronto, San Sebastian and Zurich.

As for the real live festival this year’s President of the Jury, Spike Lee, intends to make back to head up next year’s 74th Edition.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2020 | 12 -23 MAY 2020

Gilda (1946) | Cannes Classics 2024

Dir.: Charles Vidor | Cast: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready |USA 1946 | 109 min.

Two of Hollywood’s most iconic films, both directed by Hungarians, share a rather haphazard way of shooting: Michael Curtiz’ scriptwriters for Casablanca, Philip and Julius Epstein and Howard Koch, waited every day for a new development during WWII, trying to get the newest changes on the front into their script; meanwhile producer/ scriptwriter Virginia von Upp delivered the script for Vidor’s GILDA (based on a short story by E.A. Ellington) at the rate of one or two pages at a time – usually on the day of shooting.

Gambler Johnny Farrell (Ford) is saved by casino owner Ballin Mundson (Macready) after the losers in his last card game try to rob him of his winnings. Mundson employs Farrell as his assistant while he is away working as frontman for a Nazi organisation in South America. Mundson, a misogynist like Farrell himself, returns with a bride in the shape of Gilda (Hayworth).
Farrell seems to be employed to look after Gilda, making sure his boss’s prize possession doesn’t meet other men – while falling for her himself. After Mundson fakes his own death, Farrell and Gilda marry – but he wants his new wife, to remain faithful to her first husband. When Mundson, very much alive, learns about the marriage, he wants revenge – but a lavatory attendant kills him with his own stiletto.

Before shooting started on September 7th 1945, the marriage of Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles was already on the rocks, and an announcement was made that the couple was divorcing – even though there was a late reconciliation (for the time being). Columbia boss Harry Cohen was keen to stick to the Hayes Codes to the point that the film did not make any sense (Gilda turned out to be a lady and not the tramp). He fostered a romance between Hayworth and Glenn Ford for the newspapers. Ford and Hayworth led him a merry dance, staying on the studio long after shooting: the money conscious Cohen asked them to leave: “I can’t keep the studio open all night. It costs money. Now, get the hell out of here and don’t forget to switch off the lights when you leave.” The pair had another drink on Harry.

GILDA is full of sexual innuendos: when Gilda and Johnny are dancing she says: “I have to keep dancing, Johnny, as long as I have my arms about you, or else I might forget how to dance. Push my hat back, Johnny’”. The people in the Hayes Censorship office had obviously never heard that the star’s hair is used as a sexual metaphor. Neither did they object to Hayworth (or better Anita Ellis) singing “Put the blame on Mame”, stripping off her long gloves, and asking the audience to help her with her striptease: “I’m not so good with zippers”.

GILDA changed Hayworth’s image for good: she was no longer the gaiety girl from the musicals but one of the new breed, the deadly femme fatale of the film noir, in the footsteps of Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon), Clare Trevor (Farewell my Lovely), Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity) and Lana Turner (The Postman Always Rings Twice).

Glenn Ford was not keen on the director: “Mr. Vidor was a very strict, demanding director who had a streak of sadistic, Hungarian love-hate understanding, and he sort of nurtured that aspect. His instructions, before we did a scene or werr thinking of doing it, were pretty incredible – even in today’s market. I can’t repeat the things he used to tell us to think about. They are marvellous images to hold.”

Apart from Hayworth, Polish born DoP Rudolph Mate (To Be or Not to Be), was the other stars of Gilda. The black and white images literally glitter when the camera trails on Hayworth: the light plays with her, treating her like a dark, dangerous creature illuminated by star light. Her floating presence alone is the total subversion of the Hayes Code. AS

100 years of Columbia Pictures
GILDA
Charles Vidor
1946, 1h50, United States

A Sony Pictures Entertainment presentation. Restoration from the original 35mm nitrate negative and a 35mm nitrate internegative. 4K digitization and digital image restoration by Cineric, Inc. Audio restoration by John Polito at Audio Mechanics from the sound track of the original 35mm nitrate negative. Color correction, conformation, additional image restoration and DCP creation by Motion Picture Imaging colorist Sheri Eisenberg. Restoration supervised by Grover Crisp.
Screening during CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2024 in the presence of Tom Rothman, President of Sony Pictures Entertainment

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