Those who Cannes, go
As the Twilight fans screamed for K-Stew, I headed off to rewatch Roberto Rosselini’s devastating Voyage to Italy on the big screen, restored and in English, just because I could. It’s a gutting tale of a marriage disintergrating (at least, this is my take from the husband’s apparent apathy and the wife’s wounded bitterness), and most interesting is the fact that Rosselini was directing his then wife, Ingrid Bergman, while their own marriage was falling apart. It is too easy to read into the lines of the script the director’s inner feelings on the situation, but I suspect papers have already been written on the subject, and I speak with no knowledge or insight, only a sad sense of what it feels like on the screen. Dreadful but riveting. If some of it resonates with personal experience, more’s the better/worse.
All very improving, but nice to leave the cinema knowing that there were some contemporary, unexplored films to enjoy the following day. Which brings us to The Paperboy.
Director Lee Daniels shot to fame (or at least success) with his hard-hitting Precious a couple of years ago – the film that garnered singer Mo’nique a well-deserved Oscar and provided a launching pad for the career of newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, in a brutal, nasty, yet realistic and gripping story of the abuse suffered by a young woman with no prospects living in Harlem. Grim doesn’t even begin to describe it, so quite how I thought that just because Daniels’ new film stars Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman it’s bound to be light-hearted, I do not know.
The Paperboy does start light, however, or at least, kooky. Kidman has a fun time playing a trashy Southern belle who writes letters to death row inmates, falling in love with John Cusack’s grotesque killer and agreeing to marry him. His case is not deemed sound, however, and Efron’s big brother in the newspaper trade comes down from Miami to investigate the case and attempt to free the wrongly convicted Cusack. With Matthew McConaughy, a surprising turn from Spooks‘ Danny (David Oyelowo) and Macy Gray providing the staple black-singer-turned-actor-in-a-Daniels-movie, the cast and their individual performances make for initially amusing viewing. The story (based on a novel, like half of the films In Competition this year) is a bit all over the place though, as is the style (I’ve heard objections to Daniels’ use of several different cinematic techniques while not committing to any one, and someone else here “of influence” merely described his direction as “incompetent”; get a bunch of critics in a room and they don’t sugarcoat it!). Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed this nasty little tale, despite its technical and artistic flaws, though one perhaps sensed a coolness from the cast (all of the aforementioned) who appeared at the press conference. So far it seems to be universally critically panned, so its future may lie in the balance. One thing’s for sure: it’s not a ‘Zac Efron movie’ and teenage girls and young men & women of a certain age are best warned. But it gives Cusack an opportunity to rid himself of the 80s and 90s movies that saw him the thinking teen’s heartthrob, and it showcases Kidman’s considerable talents.
What better to follow up a nasty little crime picture than a documentary about a nasty miscarriage of justice. The Central Park Five recounts the 1989 travesty of five black and Latino youths convicted of the brutal rape and beating of the Central Park Jogger, a case that horrified NYC at the time, and latterly horrified those who came to realise the boys had nothing to do with the crime. The film seems twenty years too late in a way, but since the key turning point occurred in 2002 in a very dramatic turn of events (though sadly completely underplayed in the movie), perhaps it is only a decade late. As shocking as the facts are, the film fails to deliver the punch it should, despite beautifully shot footage and eager inteviewees. It is worth checking out, but pales in comparison to the recent Paradise Lost trilogy about a similarly outrageous true story.
A third film on Thursday (as panic sets in that Cannes only has a few days left to run!) – a Russian movie called In The Fog. Touted as a war film which eschewed battle scenes in favour of a gripping tale of a moral dilemma, I was intrigued (I love a good moral dilemma, me). Three reluctant soldiers are traipsing through the bleak forest in various stages of freedom. One is assumed to have betrayed his fellow Russians to the occupying Germans. Another is charged with killing him. The situation is turned on its head. Sounds OK, right? All the more so given the director’s clever use of very long takes to build connection between the players and grow tension. Much of the time it is a bit like watching a very dry Russian play, the dialogue initially sparse but latterly slowly conveyed. It is a peaceful film as far as war films go, but loses its way in the fog somewhat as it finds its conclusion. An interesting exercise which I will let settle before knowing how/whether to recommend.
Finally, rounding off a busy day, had a fantastic dinner out with the fine Canadian family I have been hanging out with (film critics and journalists all) before crashing out past midnight and then getting up before seven again for Cronenberg’s eagerly awaited Cosmopolis…