Posts Tagged ‘Un certain regard’

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

 

Plan 75 (2022) Un Certain Regard

Dir: Chie Hayakawa | Japan, drama 115′

In a world rapidly filling up with an ageing population, have the young any right to ask them to politely move on?

That’s the premise of this first feature from Japanese filmmaker Chie Hayakawa, whose old people look more in their nineties than their seventies but conceal a latent anger with the usual Japanese decorum as they share food in a clinical looking care home, forced smiles painted on their wrinkly faces.

The Plan 75 in question is a state initiative to offer a financial incentive to prompt mid-septuagenarians plus to shuffle off their mortal coil. And there’s a lot to be said about it. Why waste time financing your life while friends die around you, bodily functions start to fail and aches and pains only get worse. Particularly if family has ceased to become a concern. As the director points out: there’s always been an honour in death the Japanese way (Hari Kari anyone?).

A slow-burning and thought-provoking contemplation that proceeds with measured dignity. The veteran actress Chieko Baisho is Michi, a woman with no next of kin who opts for the plan, but then there’s a plot twist as two interweaving narrative strands come into play involving a Plan 75 salesman (Hayato Isomura) and a Filipino worker, contrasting the various pro cons. A well thought out and chewy debut to mull over but no great surprises on the mise en scene front. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

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

 

 

The Blue Caftan (2022) Un Certain Regard

Dir/Wri: Maryam Touzani | Cast: Saleh Bakri, Lubna Azabal, Ayoub Messioui | Drama 118′

The ancient craft of caftan styling is at the heart of Maryam Touzani’s sophomore feature, a slow-burning sensuous Magrebi menage a trois competing in the this year’s Un Certain Regard sidebar at Cannes Film Festival. 

Halim (Bakri) and Mina (Azabal) run a traditional caftan atelier in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas. Fashions are constantly changing and the married couple are aware of a need to cater for a more demanding clientele. But their decision to take on a new apprentice (Messioui) will have intriguing consequences for the business and their own relationship. Saleh Bakri and Lubna Azabal have a mesmerising chemistry as the couple at the centre of the story, but Messioui is also captivating in his feature debut performance as the gifted but impetuous young apprentice very much in tune with modern sensibilities.

The Blue Caftan is a drama as indulgent and intricately woven as the silky garments themselves. Touzani’s first feature Adam focused on love in a Casablanca bakery and this is another domestic tale of local craftsman that speaks to tradition while keeping pace with the modern world. Esentially a three-handed chamber piece the film occasionally ventures out into the sunbaked streets and hazy hammams of its coastal location, Touzani delicately teasing out her layered character study that will reveal a subtle love story that works both as a gay awakening piece and a testament to enduring marital love. And apart from the meticulous lensing the clever premise is why this sumptuous drama is so enjoyable, albeit a little over-wrought – like the old-fashioned caftans themselves – in the final heart-rending scenes. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 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

Harka (2022) Un Certain Regard

Dir: Lofty Nathan | Cast: Adam Bessa, Najib Allagui, Salima Maatoug, Iqbal Harbi | 90′

French Tunisian actor Adam Bessa gives one of the most powerful performances of the festival so far as a young man dreaming of a better life but ground down by frustration and poverty in a Tunisia still down on its knees in the aftermath to the Arab Spring.

Making its world premiere at Cannes Un Certain Regard, Harka is the feature debut of US Egyptian filmmaker Lofty Nathan (12 O’Clock Boys) who won the Red Sea Souk Award at Saudi Arabia’s inaugural Red Sea Film Festival in December 2021.

Ali is making a pittance by selling gasoline, when his dreams of migrating to Europe are shattered by the news of his estranged father’s death from cancer. His two younger sisters are now entirely his responsible as his elder brother has since moved his own family to the tourist resort of Hammamet to run a restaurant. But there’s a sting in the tail when he discovers his father’s unpaid debts will mean losing the family home. 

The dust, heat and grime are potently palpable elements here along with police corruption and government bureaucracy, making it hard for the poor and semi illiterate Ali to make a living from anything but hand to mouth grifting with his illegal contraband activities. Ali fails in an attempt to take up his father’s old job at the local government offices. He then tries his hand at another black market endeavour that proves highly lucrative until the police catch up with him. Nathan keeps us engaged in a well-paced arthouse gem that plays out like a thriller with a strong dramatic arc, and although Ali is not a particularly likeable character, we feel for him in his plight. 

With his mental health at rock bottom Ali is prone to violent outbursts, darting hostile glances of savage mistrust at anyone close to him but (like the Kray Twins) reserving a tacit respect for his sisters whom he still cherishes, even buying the youngest a puppy in scenes that provide tender relief from the gritty social realism of a film that dwells on the social and political ills of a North African nation divided by wealth and abject poverty, the current affairs overhead in the coffee bars as men gather to shoot the breeze. But despite the overarching tone of anxiety and often brutal violence Tunisia’s arid landscape, vibrant colours and break-taking coastlines captured in Maximilian Pinter’s artful framing and camerawork make this a striking and emotionally moving first feature. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES 2022

La Civil (2021) Cannes – Un Certain Regard 2021

Dir: Teodora Ana Mihai | Cast: Arcelia Ramirez, Alvaro Guerrero, Jorge A Jimenez, Ayelen Muzo | Belgium. Drama 140′

La Civil is only the third Belgian Flemish feature of recent years to be included in the prestigious official Un Certain Regard sidebar at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Another startling episode in the history of Latin America was the inspiration for this feature debut from Belgian-Romanian director, Teodora Ana Mihai. This time we’re in Mexico channelling the tragic real life experience of Miriam Rodríguez through the character of a young mother Cielo who is desperately looking for her daughter abducted by members of a drug cartel. Once again, the authorities are not much use so Cielo (a feisty Arcelia Ramirez ) takes things into her own hands gradually turning from ordinary housewife into avenging activist, all for the love of her daughter.

Visually striking and packed with gritty authenticity thanks to a script from Texan born Mexican author Habacuc Antonio de Rosario the film comes alive in relating the ongoing horror of families blown apart by drug cartels, not unlike the British equivalent in the recent County Lines. At its heart La Civil is about unconditional parental love, a mother refusing to back down in the face of a venal enemy, prepared to do anything to save her child, rather like this year’s other Mexican survival drama Amparo playing in the Semaine de la Critique section.

Here the camera sees things from the victim’s point of view with strong atmospheric echoes of the US TV crime series Narcos. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD CANNES | JULY 12TH PREMIERE

Beanpole (2019) **** MUBI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIBERTÉ (2019) **** MUBI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Dir Christophe Honoré  | France, Drama 93′

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

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

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

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

CURZON WORLD | CANNES UN CERTAIN REGARD WINNER – BEST ACTRESS

 

 

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

Dir: Larisa Sadilova | Comedy Drama | Russia 80′

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

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019 | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2019

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bull (2019) *** Un Certain Regard

Dir: Annie Silverstein | Drama | 104′

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

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

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

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

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019

Cannes 2019 – Final additions…

COMPETITION SCREENINGS 

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIDNIGHT SCREENING

Lux Æterna by Gaspar Noé (50 min)

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

UN CERTAIN REGARD

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

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

Odnazhdy v Trubchevske by Larissa Sadilova (1h30)

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

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Chicuarotes by Gael García Bernal (1 hr 35)

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

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

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

Ice on Fire by Leila Conners (1 hr 38)

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

5B by Dan Krauss (1 hr 33)

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 14 – 25 MAY 2019 

Tulpan (2008)

Dir: Sergei Dvortsevoy | Drama | Kazakhstan | 120mins

If you thought that Borat had Kazakhstan sewn up then think again. Dvortsevoy won the Prix Un Certain Regard for this endearing picture of life on the windswept southern Steppe for a family of nomadic herders.

This film is so cute you’ll want to pick it up and cuddle it but preferably with gloves on. Apart from a touching script and great performances not least from the animals it features mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with a newborn lamb and gets down and dirty with camels, a real tornado, endless sandstorms and some very grim weather indeed. Powerful wide-angled visuals combine with the cosy interiors of the yurt, the tent where the all live.

Asa, the gentle boy with a vivid imagination, has completed his navel service and wants to join his family of herders. In order to become a shepherd he must find a wife and women are thin on the ground in this part of the world. Infact the nearest one for several hundred miles is Tulpan. She doesn’t fancy Asa largely because of his ears but it may be because he talks too much. With the help of his friend Boni he tries to win her over. The alternative is a move to the city where he wouldn’t have his family’s love and support let alone a reliable job.

In contrast to the incredible hardships that the herders suffer they are entirely without anger or aggression. Their gentleness and perseverance is totally inspirational. There is no alternative but to learn to live in harmony with each other and with nature as a whole and therein lies the magic of their existence. Dvortsevoy succeeds with skill and patience in eliciting both humour and compassion in this exquisite debut feature.

WINNER | PRIX UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES 2008

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