Posts Tagged ‘Palme D’Or’

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

 

 

Maborosi (1995) **** Blu-ray release

Dir.: Hirokazu Kore-eda; Cast: Makiko Esumi, Takashi Naito, Gohki Kashima, Tadanobo Asanao; Japan 1995, 110 min.

Born in 1962, Hirokazu Kore-eda studied literature at university with plans to become a novelist, later establishing himself as a documentarian in the late 1980s, working in television, were he directed several prize-winning programmes. Maborosi brought him and his DoP Masao Nakabori international acclaim, winning awards at Venice film festival. He would later win the Palme d’Or at Cannes with Shoplifters (2018).

Maborosi is a mature, poetic discourse on the meaning of loss and longing. Scripted by Yoshihisa Ogita and based on a novel by Teru Miyanoto. Maborosi takes its title from the Japanese word for mirage, and resonates with Feu Follet, Louis Malle’s feature about a suicide. Kore-eda was 34 when he shot Maborosi; contrasting modern and traditional life, rather like Japanese master Ozu.

In Osaka, Yumiko (Esumi) is content with her easy-going husband Ikuo (Asano) and their baby-boy Yuichi. One morning she finds the police on her doorstep: Ikuo has been killed on the nearby railroad tracks. Yumiko is shattered, the tragedy bringing back memories of the disappearance and death of her grandmother Kyo, when Yumiko was twelve years old. For a long time Yumiko lives in limbo, not able to accept the death of her husband. An arranged marriage brings her to the remote windswept coast of Uniumachi on the Noto peninsula. Her new husband Tamio (Naito) and his daughter live with an extended family and Yuichi (Kashima) bonds easily with the two. But Yumiko takes time to adjust to her new life, unable to forget her the deep affectionate love she shared with Ikuo. And when she returns to Osaka for a visit, all the old wounds open – particularly when she re-connects with Ikuo’s friends about the circumstances of his death. She goes back to Uniumachi but the past stays with her.

The hustle and bustle of city life in Osako contrast with the tranquil setting of the fishing village. Although in both places Kore-eda shows the warmth and humanity of close neighbours and the daily routine. Yumiko’s anxiousness and the barriers she puts between herself and a new life are palpable: for most of the film we see her as an observer, looking in from outside. The languid tempo also brings to mind Ozu, as do the frequent near static shots, featuring the rough landscape around the village. The feeling that fate could once again We observe this grieving process with a shared feeling of ambivalence: Yumiko has lost confidence in happiness, doom is constantly waiting round the corner. She is not yet ready to say goodbye to her former life and the limbo between the past and an unknown future, where “she brings death to the ones she is close to” – like her first husband and her grandmother.

Moborosi is a story that also paints an emotional portrait; music, light and weather express the heroine’s sate of mind while her serene persona is also deeply troubled. The spoken word is often replaced often by an inner monologue. In the end she has to make up her mind whether she, like Ikuo, wants to ‘listen’ to the siren songs in the light of death, or whether she is ready to progress with her life and new family. Like his compatriot Hsiao Hsien Ho, Kore-eda takes care of every frame: nothing is superfluous, everything is stripped down to the minimum. Kore-eda’s whole oeuvre is about using the screen to paint poetry, his protagonists seek to overcome their banal reality with something more meaningful which, as in this case, can also be destructive. AS

NOW ON BLU-RAY

 

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

Dir: Claude Lelouch | France Drama, 90′

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

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 14-25 May 2019

The Piano (1993) | Re-Release

Dir.: Jane Campion; Cast: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill, Anna Paquin; New Zealand, Australia, France 1993; 121 min.

As a landmark in film history, few features can measure up with Jane Campion’s epic The Piano: in only her third outing (after many successful short films) as full-length motion picture writer/director, she tackled all: feminism, racism and above all, sexual relationships. She won an Oscar for Best Director, The Piano got the nod for Best Picture and most wondrous at all, she was the first  – and, 25 years later – still the only woman recipient of the Palme d’Or, albeit sharing it with Chen Kaige’s Farewell my Concubine. 

Scottish widow Ada (Hunter) has been traumatised by the death of husband, who was killed, standing next to her, by lightning. As a result, she has lost her voice. Her father marries her off to Stewart (Neill), a farmer, living in the jungle: he picked her from a mail order catalogue. Ada, a former opera-singer like her late husband, arrives at the unwelcoming beaches of mid-nineteen century New Zealand with daughter Anna (Paquin) and her price possession: the titular piano. Stewart does not care about the instrument, and leaves its transportation to his second in command, Baines (Keitel), a native of the country. Ada, withdrawn from reality, falls in love with Baines, after the latter makes it clear to him, that she is more than a sex object for him. Stewart, jealous and out of control, extracts bloody violence; promising more, if Ada is seeing Baines again. One of the main features is the role of Ada’s daughter Anna, who, whilst loving her mother, sides with Stewart: she yearns for a stable home. Like young Helene in Chabrol’s Les Noces Rouges, she inadvertently gives away the game, whilst intending to help her mother.

Sumptuously photographed by British cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh (who collaborated with Campion on An Angel at my Table and The Portrait of a Lady), and  an eerie score by his compatriot Michael Nyman, The Piano seems head and shoulders about contemporary cinema. Alas, Jane Champion would never again be so brave and daring: apart from the Henry James adaption The Portrait of A Lady (1996) and the Keat’s bio-pic Bright Star (2009), both more sturdy than innovative, little can be said of her more recent output. It seems, like she was frightened by her own boldness – like a comet who bloomed to early and imploded. AS

ON RE-RELEASE IN ARTHOUSE CINEMAS  in CELEBRATION of its 25th Anniversary | | 16th July 2018

  

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 8-19 MAY |BEST DIRECTOR AWARD

The Square (2017) Bfi player

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

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

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

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

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

ON BFI PLAYER FROM 19!May 2022

 

 

Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013) NOW ON DVD/BLU

w311_4133335_blueisthewarmestcolour7311x311Directors: Abdellatif Kechiche

Writers: Ghalia Lacroix and Abdellatif Kechiche

Main Actors: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Jérémie Laheurte

179 mins  French with English subtitles  France   Drama

On her way to meet her would-be boyfriend Thomas, Adèle passes a girl with bright blue hair in the street. The world seems to slow around her: Adèle is transfixed. In class, she has been discussing a passage in a book relating exactly to such fleeting glances, to love at first sight. Could this be what Adèle is experiencing? It certainly seems like it. It’s one of the weaker moments in Abdellatif Kechiche’s heart-breaking romantic drama, but it’s also a defining moment for Adèle.

During lunch with Thomas, Adèle will question whether it’s better to study books in class, or read them alone for pleasure. She likes to read, Thomas doesn’t. But later, when Adèle reconnects with the blue-haired girl – Emma – in a gay bar, we learn that her knowledge doesn’t extend to art. In fact, the only artist she knows is Picasso, in sharp contrast to Emma’s expansive knowledge as a Fine Art student. Their meeting in the bar seems, perhaps, a little too coincidental – but Emma doesn’t believe in chance, and maybe we shouldn’t either.

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As a relationship begins to form between the two women, Adèle becomes uncomfortable around Emma’s friends, feeling she is not their equal culturally. Adèle might know literature, but not art or philosophy, and Emma’s knowledge in the latter area allows the girls a cover story: to Adèle’s parents, Emma is a friend who is helping her learn philosophy. There is truth in this alibi. Emma is broadening Adèle’s horizons: sexually, culturally and socially. Emma’s values, and her sense of freedom (both as a lesbian and as an artist), come from Sartre, who has taught her that humans are defined by their actions.

Sartre’s ideas, then, become the philosophical underpinning of a tale about the journey into womanhood, sexual awakening and the construction of human identities. Adèle’s reaction to Emma’s cultured friends mirrors her earlier conversations with Thomas, but with the tables turned. Culture and society form a part of who we are, who we become. As Adèle grows, becoming a woman, the film’s protracted duration allows Kechiche to leisurely build a detailed portrait, both of her personal development and her relationship with Emma – which Kechiche portrays with warmth, humour, drama and sex.

Julie Maroh, author of the graphic novel on which the film is based, has condemned the explicit nature of the sex scenes, labelling them ridiculous and unconvincing – and there’s certainly no denying that they are graphic and prolonged (their duration often seems excessive). At times, too, the camera lingers or pans over bodies in a gratuitous manner. When Emma teaches Adèle to enjoy the taste of shellfish, one can’t help but wonder if it’s all a cheap, sleazy metaphor.

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But, the sex scenes aside, the film is a convincing and moving exploration of romance. Kechiche’s camera catches much of the action in close up and, if the visuals themselves at times seem rather unexceptional, the sterling work of lead actors Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle) and Léa Seydoux (Emma) more than makes up for it. The film’s original French title translates literally as Life of Adele: Chapters 1 + 2, and the thought of seeing further parts would be extremely tantalising, were it not for the reports of the ‘horrible’ experiences that Kechiche put his actors through on set. In response, Kechiche has even said the film shouldn’t be released, that it’s ‘too sullied’ – but that’s too far. The shoot may have been gruelling, but the results speak for themselves. Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a film that deserves to be seen. ALEX BARRETT

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