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Posts from May 2012

Cannes 2012 - Sunday 27 May

Posted Thursday 31 May 2012 by Catharine Des Forges in Festival Reports

It's Sunday and time for the repeats. They are all lined up like superheroes, Loach vs Salles, Audiard vs Haneke. It's quite difficult to decide what to watch and I keep changing my mind. You also have to take into consideration the timings - get it wrong and you have blown the rest of the day or rather you might have backed the wrong horse. For this reason my first choice is the Loach, The Angels' Share, because it's the shortest and means I can see everything else in my masterplan. This is out fairly soon in the UK which is why I wouldn't normally have chosen to see it here but Loach is a filmmaker who never disappoints (me anyway).  This was engaging and genuinely funny, has the spirit of Gregory's Girl and is amazingly, unequivocably feelgood which should ensure it does well at the box office.

Next is Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly, which has all the violence of Chopper but is not quite up there with the sublime The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.  Nevertheless, I thought this was great filmmaking - an exceptionally well-written sharp script starring Brad Pitt as a hitman called on to exercise retribution on the small time hoods who rob an illegal craps game. Its' scope is much greater than this however, as it uses the 2008 Bush/Obama goverment change as its backdrop and ultimately the land of the mobsters, as analogous to the rest of the world hit by spiralling recession, financial meltdown and mismanagement. It's thoroughly engrossing and very witty with some great performances and reminiscent of The Sopranos, Mamet's Heist and more.

Back to the Palais for Haneke's Amour, widely touted as the best film in the competition, I have to agree in general terms (although I haven't seen them all). Haneke is a filmmaker at the height of his powers, such a master that everyone else must want to give up and go home. This is fantastic - emotional, bleak, and like all of his films somewhat minimalist, seemingly pared to the bone but scoring a huge emotional punch by the end. Essentially a love story and an examination of old age and the ravages of time, it reminded me of Bergman and classics such as Winter Light, examinations of a loss of faith and meditations on mortality.

Amour by Michael Haneke
Amour by Michael Haneke.

For my final film of the festival, I am torn but eventually go with the Reygadas, Post Tenebras Lux,  mostly because Simon is such a fan and also because it seems to have divided critics and hardcore cinephiles. Ever since Japon, Reygadas has had some very dedicated champions and he is certainly a filmmaker of originality and distinction. I don't really understand why it has attracted some of its vitriol - it's such confident, ambitious filmmaking beautifully made and deeply resonant. I can only assume it's because of its more anti-realist or should I say more bonkers moments? It reminds me of Latin American traditions of magical realism - I think you just have to go with it ultimately but it's a very beautiful film.

I manage to get to the airport early which may be a first for me and take my leave of Cannes which seems to end as it started, with a huge thunderstorm and torrential rain. Now I see why everyone seemed a little glum in the first week.

Cannes 2012 - Saturday 26 May

Posted Thursday 31 May 2012 by Catharine Des Forges in Festival Reports

I am very impressed by our flat which is the nicest place I've ever stayed in about 15 years - it's bigger than my kitchen for a start. Even more impressively, it's 2 mins from the boulangerie which means you can collect a pain au chocolat on the way to the Palais. I think they should put that in the marketing blurb.

On to Mud directed by Jeff Nichols, which is this morning's competition screening. Nichols directed Shotgun Stories, which I loved as well as well as Take Shelter, which I haven't seen. This has quite a starry cast - Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Sam Shepherd included and a setting in Nichol's Arkansas roots.  It centres on the friendship of two teenage boys, Ellis and Neckbone,  and their discovery of a fugitive on an uninhabited island in the Mississippi where Ellis and his family make their home.  The fugitive goes by the name of  Mud, (played rather well by McConaughey), and is back in the neighbourhood to meet his childhood sweetheart, Juniper.  The boys, particularly Ellis, seize upon this romance and enthusiastically work towards a successful tryst for the couple but reckon without the band of heavies and the law, who are on Mud's trail.

Mud by Jeff Nichols
Mud by Jeff Nichols.

This is a sophisticated, ambitious and superior film with a great script which eschews the obvious for subtlety and nuance. The domestic travails of both boys is a backdrop to narratives about fatherhood and kinship, as in Shotgun Stories, and Nichols is a director who is fearless when faced with a broad canvas. For me, the resonances were Great Expectations, Whistle Down The Wind and Stand By Me.  In the last several years there have been a number of festival hits based in small-town Americana, I'm thinking principally of such films as David Gordon Green's Undertow, and although I'd love to see this succeed at the box office I don't know if it will manage to break out.

After Mud, I meet a friend from the Guardian, who tells me that Matthew McConaughey is a nice man which is always nice to know about Hollywood stars...Then onto Im Sang-Soo's The Taste of Money, a stylish thriller about a powerful but morally bankrupt family and their employees. There's a lot of sex, nudity and cash, some humour and good touches but ultimately it's very unsatisfying, more than a little shallow and actually not very interesting.

Now time to catch up with Cosmopolis, where I have to diverge from critical taste (as espoused by the broadsheets). I pretty much hated it, found it theatrical and tiresome. It's extremely hot in the cinema and so bad body odours are the order of the day. If I wasn't sitting in the wrong place I would have left - I find it mystifying that it's garnered such critical praise. Taking aside my own views it's definitely for a niche audience; wordy, intellectual and without much visual pleasure or indeed, robust narrative. It's not just fans of Twilight who I think will be disappointed...

Finally today I manage to catch up with Sergei Loznitska's In the Fog, again strongly rated by the critics and compared to Elem Klimov's war classic Come and See.  This is very accomplished filmmaking and typical of the masters of Eastern European cinema, beautifully shot, mise-en-scene exquisitely rendered and with the sparest of dialogue. It's set in German-occupied Soviet Russia during World War II and centres on Sushenya, a Russian railway worker, wrongly accused by partisans of collaborating with the enemy. After he's taken from his home by two of the footsoldiers of the movement to be executed one night, the film follows their journey through the forest with flashbacks to the circumstances that have brought them together. This falls short for me of an out-and-out classic, but it's still admirable filmmaking and as it's been picked up by New Wave, destined for UK cinemas in the near future.

Cannes 2012 - Friday 25 May

Posted Thursday 31 May 2012 by Catharine Des Forges in Festival Reports

Hoorah! it's not raining, it is in fact quite sunny but true to form, despite the best efforts of Simon to get me a golden ticket for Cronenberg's Cosmopolis they won't let me, or the 100 or so other  people at the tail end of the queue, into the screening. Never mind, this is only to be expected, it makes me feel at home..! Instead I join Simon in the queue for the Mishima film (11/25. The day Mishima chose his own fate!). Simon was a big fan of Koji Wakamatsu's United Red Army and an even bigger fan of Mishima so I am told I am not allowed to leave.  This is quite frustrating as it turns out however, as the film doesn't really deliver on all fronts, leaving out more than it leaves in and overall seeming a lost opportunity given the unique source material.

We move on to Catherine Corsini's Three Worlds, showing here as part of Un Certain Regard. This unlike the Mishima film is engrossing, a very well-made drama about a hit-and-run accident and its impact on the perpetrator, victim and witness as well as their extended families.  I think it will hit British screens almost definitely, as it's the kind of high class French cinema that appeals to audiences.  It also has the requisite number of beautiful actresses, which makes one wonder if there are any unattractive people in France?

Three Worlds by Catherine Corsini
Three Worlds by Catherine Corsini.

By this time it's dinner time which is always good and we have a great post-mortem of the week and all the parties I've missed over some fantastic food.

Cannes 2012 - Thursday 24 May

Posted Thursday 24 May 2012 by Becky Clarke in Festival Reports

Amazingly after 2 hours sleep we make it to the 8.30am competition screening of The Paperboy. It’s a testament to how engaging the film is that, none of us doze off, even for a second. Directed by Lee Daniels (Precious), the film stars Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, John Cusack and Nicole Kidman. It’s quite a strange mix of actors but The Paperboy provides some of the most interesting roles that most of them have had a chance to explore of late. The story is narrated by Macy Gray, who plays the maid and surrogate mother of Jack (Zac Efron), as she looks back over a summer in the late 60s, where Jack and his brother (Matthew McConaughey), Ward, a journalist from Florida, try and help a man on death row who they feel has not been given a fair trial. It sounds like the standard all-American tale of fighting injustice, but The Paperboy is much darker and haunting than it originally seems, as the prejudices of 60s American society bubble to the surface of each of the characters and lead to a very noir like conclusion.

The Paperboy by Lee Daniels
Nicole Kidman in Lee Daniels' The Paperboy.

Hoping to stave off tiredness, Simon goes in search of breakfast for us all, as Sarah and I make our way to the queue for the Walter Salles film On The Road. Unfortunately the queue finally defeats us and we don’t make it into the screening. So Sarah and I head back to the apartment as she is leaving Cannes today, and I gather some composure and plan my next move.

After bidding goodbye to Sarah, I head off to a screening of 7 Days in Havana. This is a film made up of 7 short chapters, directed by 7 different directors (Benicio del Toro, Pablo Trapero, Julio Medem, Elia Suleiman, Gaspar Noé, Juan Carlos Tabio and Laurent Cantet) and tries to capture the spirit of the city in a particular moment in time, given the inevitable changes coming to Cuban society in the near future. I’m impressed by all of the shorts, and they seem to knit together well to give you a taste of Cuba and its people at this transitional point in its history.

This is my last day in Cannes, so I decide to round it off with a classic. My colleague Simon and I head off to watch a restored version of Jaws on the beach, and it’s just as good as we anticipate. There are jumps and screams amongst the audience and at the end some people even brave to go into the water. Not me, I’m suitably terrified once more of what lies beneath, so I head back to our apartment to get ready for my departure in the morning. Bon voyage Cannes, it was a fantastic trip.

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