Cannes 2012 - Saturday 26 May

Posted on May 26, 2012 by Catharine Des Forges

Categories: 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 Nichol’s 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.

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