Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Archive for the tag “Cannes”

Amour

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 24 February 2013

By now, Michael Haneke aficionados will know that Amour won the Palme D’Or at Cannes last year, won the BAFTA for Best Foreign Film, and is highly likely to take a prize at today’s Oscars (it’s up for Best Film, Original Screenplay, Actress, Foreign Film and Director. My bets are on the latter two).

The premise is simpler, yet even more devastating, than the Austrian director’s previous films. But while the couple in Amour are named Georges and Anne after their Hidden (Caché) counterparts, this plot is everyday, devoid of a whodunnit mystery or overt psychological cruelty, and the characters’ relationship much more solid – a true example of how love, felt over decades and into old age, can be.

The elderly couple live a comfortable life in a culture-filled apartment in Paris. Anne suffers a stroke, and Georges embarks on the long and painful journey of devotedly tending to his wife. Life is punctuated by visits from their self-centred daughter (a terrifically believable performance by Isabelle Huppert) but for almost the entire running time we are cocooned in the daily life of Georges and Anne, artfully echoing the growing suffocation of Anne’s world.

There’s no denying, this is a tough watch. The film has been receiving universally high star-ratings and accolades around the world. Emmanuelle Riva is making history as the oldest Best Actress nominee – she turns 86 on the day of the Awards! – and notwithstanding her powerful performance, for someone of that age to embody this subject matter makes her quite extraordinary. This speak to Haneke’s incredible talent for casting great actors who take themselves (and us) deep into the world of their character, and for creating an atmosphere that is on the one hand entirely natural, while also completely enthralling. Something as simple as Georges (the legendary Jean-Louis Trintignant, a worthy partner to Riva) recounting a tale from his youth, has us hanging on every word.

Those who appreciated Hidden will recognise Haneke’s style, shooting scenes from a static camera position, quietly listening in on his actors, or from a distance through doorways that neatly frame the action as if not wanting to intrude. The long-held shots allow for complete immersion in the performances, more like theatre than film. Like the closing shot in Hidden, this film starts with a long takes shot from a distance, your gaze searching out the leads who are inconspicuously present amidst a crowd – everyday people, to whom everyday things will happen.

Without doubt, Amour, for all its emotional devastation, is a superlative film. If you have the stomach for such truths as it unveils, it is a deeply rewarding watch.

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POLISSE film review

The French make excellent crime dramas, and this rendition of life working in Paris’ Child Protection Unit is comparable to TV series Spiral and The Wire with its gritty social and professional realism, an engaging ensemble cast, and harrowing episodes of real-life trauma.

Writer/director Maiwenn is well known in France as a child star who grew into a striking-looking woman intent on stepping behind the camera to make meaningful films. Her fourth film, the Cannes award-winning Polisse (an intentional misspelling which evokes the film’s juvenile subject matter), is part thriller, part police-procedural, equally educational and shocking in its portrayal of children who are abused and exploited.

French rap star Joey Starr is Fred, the member of the CPU most resistant to having photojournalist Melissa (played by Maiwenn herself) tasked with following them around. With his own family problems to contend with, his is one of many examples of the team members’ intense professional lives filling the vacuum where private lives are falling apart.

The script was created from research into the CPU’s daily work and actual cases of child abuse. The result is an enthralling, often disturbing and sometimes perplexing rollercoaster ride (the officers oscillate between depression over one case, then a rousing celebration in a nightclub following good news) and the interviews conducted with suspected abusers are as astounding as they are infuriating.

The Angels’ Share

If your sense of a “Ken Loach film” is one of gritty social realism, you may be relieved to know he’s been knocking out some gritty-but-lighthearted hits in recent years. Looking for Eric caught many by surprise in 2009, when actual-footballer-cum-actor, Eric Cantana, turned up in a substantial supporting role. (Legend has it Loach kept the fact from his lead actor, too, whose surprise as seeing Cantana in their first scene together was captured on film.)

The Angels’ Share delivers a similarly delightful, whisky-tasting, crime caper against the backdrop of working class Glasgow.  When Robbie (newcomer Paul Brannigan) joins up with other young miscreants to do his community service, their kindly supervisor introduces them to the pleasures of the wee dram.  This epiphany takes the larrikins on a journey of alcoholic discovery which culminates in an unlikely scheme to make some money.

The youthful actors convey realistic performances with deadpan humour, while the adult roles include the prolific Roger Allam as a snobby whisky connoisseur and brilliant Loach regular, John Henshaw, as the inspirational Harry.  Part of the fun of the film is getting your ear “tuned in” to the accents – the Scots in the audience will be laughing the hardest – but, as with Trainspotting, the fast pace and high energy narrative carries you along regardless.

The Angels’ Share is a bundle of laughs, best enjoyed with a glass in your hand and all prejudices left at home.

 

Killing Them Softly

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 14th October 2012

First thing to note: there’s a killer line-up.

Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini are comfortably cast as gangsters, dragging behind them the baggage of their greatest cinematic and televisual creations. Australian Ben Mendelsohn (star of the brilliant Animal Kingdom) gets to keep his antipodean accent as a similarly unhinged and sinister crook on the make; little-known Scoot McNairy is the kid-with-a-squeaky-voice who has more guts than we realise; and the wonderfully doleful Richard Jenkins is the “suit” who manages these criminals’ shenanigans, reporting to the corporate bosses and ruling everyone’s budgets.

And of course, there’s Brad. But while some may be tempted to brand this “the new Brad Pitt movie”, on those grounds I caution: Viewer Beware. As in his previous collaboration with director Andrew Dominik, here Pitt is understated and captivating. When he explains how he doesn’t like all the emotion wrapped up in killing someone at close range, you know he’s still ready to put a bullet wherever he’s paid to. The film’s R16 certificate is well earned for its visceral, blood-drenched violence, the brutal language and its bleak view of the criminal underworld.

It’s a story we know well: baddies knocking about with baddies, double-crossing one another, maintaining loyalties to a point, getting the job done and causing plenty of bloodshed in the doing.

Dominik has adapted the 1974 novel Cogan’s Trade and transposed it several decades to the eve of Barack Obama’s election as president.

The film juxtaposes the global financial crisis in America with the business of conducting criminal activity, taking recourse against thieves, and (in the movie’s slightly lighter moments) how even assassins have to take a pay cut in these difficult fiscal times.

To prove his point that the economy parallels the mercenary approach of criminal organisations, Dominik underscores several scenes with TVs and radios blaring footage from the presidential debates of the period. It’s not subtle, but the argument is valid.

The film is beautifully framed and shot, consistent with Dominik’s second film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (in which Pitt played the legendary outlaw). The complex characters are well portrayed by their weighty actors – Gandolfini’s killer spends most of the time drunk and whining about women; Pitt doesn’t want to get touchy-feely about the operation of his job – and there are delightful moments in the albeit longwinded script in which bad-asses riff about things perceived to be outside the realm of usual bad-ass concerns.

This said, it’s easy to beat up on Dominik’s crime drama, packed as it is with criminal stereotypes. It’s more derivative than it is original, evoking Scorsese and Tarantino, using slo-mo photography of bullets shattering a man’s body and the drug-addled haze of a hapless wannabe.

Yet, purely because it acquits itself so well, this one deserves to be untied from the chair and let free.

Cannes -the final countdown

I had better back up a little, and talk about the last films of my festival.

Friday morning was Cosmopolis. I’ve been saying “eagerly awaited” but perhaps more by my companions from Cronenberg’s homeland of Canada than the general populace. Mind you, anyone who has read Don Delillo’s novel will have high hopes. The director (aptly called le realisateur in French, which subscribes to the auteurist view that the director creates and is responsible overall for the film – a philosophy that understandably riles writers, editors and cinematographers! – but in this case and others where the director has also written or adapted the script, it’s not so outrageous) has spoken in interviews about the challenges of creating a visual movie from the author’s brilliantly worded and wordy story. Interestingly, Cronenberg said this was easier than coming up with an original idea, as it took him 6 days to write this screenplay, whereas new stories can take years. To this end, he has lifted whole excerpts of dialogue straight from the book, and right from the opening scene where Robert Pattinson gets into his limo, he sticks to Delillo’s “script”.

The story is a challenge in itself: city moneyman Eric Packer wants a haircut, meaning his limo must cross town during a series of demonstrations and security hindrances caused by the President (“Just so I’m clear,” he asks his driver “which President?”) being in town. Pattinson does an excellent job of being neither British nor Edward Cullen, as a rolling cast of players in his life are brought forward for their scene. Most of this takes place in the car which has been rebuilt in very Cronenbergian fashion to accommodate a rich man’s daily requirements, including doctor’s appointments, financial updates from staff, and not-so-random sex.

And so it goes. Talky talky it sure is, initially thrilling and inviting us to listen intently, though I admit to being distracted by other things during Samantha Morton’s strange monologue (not dissimilar, in delivery, to her omniscient android in Minority Report. Which, for this film, is not really a compliment). But there is something of a plot trajectory, and several very well conceived set-pieces, including a simultaneously hilarious and moving funeral for a rap superstar. The actors are generally terrific, and even those playing people we’ve seen before manage to be commanding (Paul Giamatti, I’m talking to you). Mostly it just looks bloody great, sounds terrific, and is something of a return to Cronenberg’s earlier, creepier work prior to the excellent and violent A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. If this sounds like you, it’s a must-see.

Saturday was a big film day, since time was running out. First up, Jeff Nicholls’ follow-up to Take Shelter, with Matthew McConaughey as the eponymous Mud, a man in hiding on an island in a remote part of Mississippi. Billed as a modern-day Huckleberry Finn, Mud is befriended by a couple of adventurous young boys, one of whom (a superlative Tye Sheridan who starred in last year’s Palme D’Or winner The Tree of Life) is captivated by his purported love story and commits to helping Mud. It wasn’t as good as people hoped (ie. as amazing as Take Shelter) but it is a good movie, and no doubt we’ll get a bite of this cherry come festival time.

Straight out of that screening and into the premiere of the ten short films in competition, one of which Night Shift was directed by NZ’s Zia Mandviwalla, who waited nervously with the other young filmmakers before going up on stage to great applause, prior to the screening. Of the ten films, I loved three: (with absolutely no bias) the NZ entry is a wonderful, subtle, curious and ultimately moving 14 minutes of a reality for many New Zealanders, delivering a terrific revelation that I didn’t see coming. The Australian entry was far from subtle, but showed bombast and was affecting and exhilarating (even if the manipulations were obvious); and finally, one of the ten actually made us laugh (it would seem it’s easier to come up with a gritty, challenging mini-movie than something for laughs). The French-Canadian film was brilliant, and I spoke briefly to the protaganist outside the cinema after, mainly to thank her for the light relief. Of the rest of the ten, I found two to be actually pretty poor – not technically so much (the wonders of digital seem to eliminate that complaint) but I didn’t like either story, found takes to be held too long, acting to be a bit “acty”, dialogue unrealistic, and even 13 minutes felt too long. As it happened, one of my “Yeah, that was pretty good”s eventually won the prize: sparse on dialogue, aptly called Silence, a Turkish film about Kurds suffering and struggling to make ends meet in a difficult family situation.

To round off the cinematic day, I went to see the pre-screening of the Festival’s Closing Film, an adaptation of the French novel Therese Desqueroux, starring Amelie‘s Audrey Tautou and hearthrob Gilles Lelouche. I studied the book at University – well, I say “studied” but I suspect I read the English translation and missed the nuances – but Claude Miller’s last film seems a fairly straightforward rendition of a tale of a feisty woman who marries into a life that eventually feels like imprisonment, and goes to desperate means to free herself. It’s fine; the Bridgeway crowd will love it; I suspect the critics at Cannes were underwhelmed.

And then it was the last day of camp. Cannes thinned out enormously in the final days, and you could discern a feeling of sadness tinged with relief that we’d all soon be going home. I’d been warned Cannes would be exhausting, and it’s true that while sitting in a cinema isn’t inherently tiring, racing from place to place and being on a timetable and eating dinner at 10pm and getting up just after 7 can be. Hence my taking off to Italy for 10 days rest.

But there is still time on Day 12 to see any of the Competition movies one may have missed. So thankfully I went to see Michael Haneke’s Amour, already the buzz of the festival and most-likely-to-win. Eschewing the outright nastiness of many of his recent films, it is still a devastating story of how far love will take you in the care of your loved one. Two central performances by elderly French actors, with support from the omnipresent Isabelle Huppert. It is quiet, meaningful, slow without once losing our engagement, and completely non-judgmental. A flawless film, expertly made, and highly recommended to those who are up for it. That said, I will not be seeing it again for a while, and there are people I know to whom I will be advising caution. But a deserved win from a line-up of admittedly mixed films this year. (Get me! I say that like I’m a regular! But really, even I could tell there were more average films this year than one would expect in a festival of this renown.)

So that was Cannes. The city packed down on Sunday night, I had one last pizza dinner with my Canadian family, and Monday morning I boarded the first of eventually five trains over a ten and a half hour journey into Tuscany.

I have been vowing not to see a film for the next week, but this evening I noticed the wee cinema here in Lucca is showing Dark Shadows (it has received lukewarm reviews, but it can’t be that bad, surely??)…

The jury is back – Cannes awards its winners

As I write, the keen members of the international press (ie. those who didn’t go home on Saturday morning, but stuck around until tonight’s Closing Ceremony and prize-giving) are writing madly, trying to beat one another via Twitter and live blogs in announcing the winners of the 65th Festival de Cannes.

I’m aware that for readers at home, it’s all a bit academic at the moment.  But odds are we will get to see the Palme D’Or winner, if not in this year’s film festival (though I expect so) then as soon as it is available for a general release.  So you can look forward to Michael Haneke’s Amour, a film I am relieved to say I saw this afternoon, which is typically eleventh hour of me.  Thankfully, the Festival screens all the main films In Competition on the final Sunday, so you can catch the one(s) you slept through after a late night on the tiles (I didn’t have any such evenings, but I can’t remember why I missed Amour earlier in the week).  As often happens with these awards, however, it’s neither thrilling nor surprising.  The critics here have been united in their praise of Haneke’s latest since the Cannes-winning The White Ribbon of a few years ago.  A friend of mine was adamant that The Hunt could or should win, though I don’t agree, but I was delighted to see Mads Mikkelsen ascend the stairs, his hair seemingly damp and unkempt from the thunderstorms we’ve been hit by this afternoon, to modestly dedicate 82% of this award to the director, Thomas Vinterberg.  Two actresses won Best Actress, playing against one another in Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills (the one I didn’t want to see because I thought it would be depressing, and which I am still happy to believe is brilliant without needing to prove it to myself.  Since I came here for fun and at my own expense, I’m allowed to do that).  I did, however, see Matteo Garrone’s Reality and he won the equivalent of 2nd prize, so that’s awesome.  More about the ins and outs of that very clever and topical film nearer the time of its NZ release!

So, that was today. I am about to head off for a last hurrah dinner with the Torontans who took me under their wings, then tomorrow I catch four trains into Italy and settle in Lucca for a few nights and absolutely no movies (not even television – notwithstanding Italian TV is a bit rubbish). Buongiorno i miei amici prosecco e pasta!

(PS – I will use my day of train-ing to write up Cosmopolis, the Short Film selection that our Zia Mandviwalla was nominated in, and the late Claude Miller’s adaptation of Therese Desqueyroux.)

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

A Perdre La Raison and On The Road

The sun came back on Tuesday. We’d had two really crappy days, but I tend to think these things are sent to make us more appreciative of the good weather when it returns. I know I am not the only person here who celebrated with her first ice cream of the holiday.

With the improved weather came the superior films. Tuesday afternoon I settled in for A Perdre La Raison, irritatingly (and erroneously) translated on the press materials as “Our Children” but otherwise known as Loving Without Reason. (I had a chat with an intepreter about this and we didn’t have time to come up with a better title, but neither of the English translations really works.) Written and directed by Belgian filmmaker Joachim Lafosse, it concerns the intensely passionate relatonship of two young people who marry and have a family, while becoming increasingly reliant on and under the wing/thumb of the husband’s adoptive father (played with enormous restraint and appropriate ambiguity by A Prophet‘s Niels Arestrup). The story leads to a great tragedy that, while forseen, ultimately left me and other audience members horrified and numbed.

It is quite simply a superb film, and my greatest relief/joy/admiration for the writers is that they have crafted a completely realistic, unhysterical portrayal of a situation that could conceivably happen anywhere, to anyone. (The story was prompted by a real-life event in Belgium, but the characterisation and detail of the tale created from scratch.)

I then had the good fortune this afternoon to get a one-on-one interview with the director, during which I was able to commend his film’s excellent handling of difficult subject matter, and ask him detailed questions about the choice of music. And then directly after, I joined a Serb and a Lebanese journalist to interview the leads, Emilie Dequenne and Tahar Rahim, who shot to fame for his debut role in A Prophet with Arestrup. Very fruitful, and I will be able to give a few insights in a later review. I hope we get this film in the NZFF, I think it is a hugely important issue, handled brilliantly, and NZ audiences will respond well. Apparently Belgian audiences have not been as warm.

Last night I had dinner with a family of Toronto-based film writers and journalists, at a fantastic little Italian place. An amazing fireworks display greeted us as we left towards midnight, and we ambled home with the smell of gunpowder in the air.

Up early again for the eagerly anticipated adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, starring Tron‘s Garrett Hedlund (with his intense stare and charismatic gravelly voice), Twilight‘s Kristen Stewart, and the wonderful Sam Riley, whose talent was evident from the opening frames of Control and who can now add this to his growing list of well-played roles. I’ve not read the book, but Peter Howell from the Toronto Star has, and he thought it was terrific. I liked it a lot, and think there are many good things about the film (in particular the performance by young Brit Tom Sturridge as beat poet Carlo Marx) and Walter Salles’ proven success with the road movie genre (The Motorcycle Diaries) confirms him as the perfect person to bring this difficult novel/memoir to the screen. Perhaps for me it suffers simply for being faithful to its source material and being a bit drawn out and lacking a prominent narrative arc. Based as it is on a (portion of a) life story, there are no murders or explosions (I am fine without them, but I am just saying), but a lot of driving and drug-taking and sexual activity and riffing of poetry, and all this is very diverting and impressive the first few times, but does wear a little thin. Perhaps I missed my On The Road moment years ago, and so, without harbouring an attachment to the classic book, I don’t connect so much with the content. That said, the performances are great and often the energy in a scene imbues in the viewer a longing to just jump in a car and take off. As the protaganist Sal Paradise (Riley) is asked at the beginning, “You goin’ some place? Or are you just goin’?” – the film clearly articulates the book’s philosophy that it’s the goin’ that counts.

As I write, the young stars are walking the red carpet below me to excited screams from the crowd. Kristen is telling the reporter she is “in love with the book” (how’s that post-Twilight credibility working out for ya?) while Sam and Garrett just look pleased to be en route to their premiere.

And then the rains came

…and so I went to see Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale to most of you, but to the cognoscenti – and let’s face it, that’s who I’m mingling with here – he was also the star of many a Danish wunderfilm, including After the Wedding, plus the NZ Rialto Cinema-goers will know him from Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky) – ANYWAY, he is the star of Jagten (The Hunt) which I’d be pretty sure will make it down to the Southern Hemisphere, and which I think festival audiences will enjoy. I admit it, though – I left the cinema in something of a fury, railing against the film for various moments in the script or narrative that I felt to be unrealistic or just plain wrong, and feeling generally very annoyed. My reaction was at odds, however, with the two young men from North America who I saw it with, and who “loved” it. So I let it percolate overnight, and next morning I got to watch the press conference with the director Thomas Vinterberg, Mads, and many of the other actors, at least three of whom are massive stars in Denmark. And I must admit, as the press asked their questions and interrogated some of the issues in the film and the rationale behind some of the action, I felt slightly less cross and found myself nodding “ah, OK then, I see where you were going with that”.

Now, my only problem with that is that the audience who sees the film won’t be privy to those inner thoughts and motivations, and may (though I concede may not) feel as I did initially – that the plot advances too quickly, too conveniently, leaves aside burning issues and potential turns, perhaps in the name of drama, but ultimately causing me frustration and making it harder for me to get carried away with the story.  So I have my work cut out for me, writing this review in due course, without giving away any of the key plot points but making an argument for whether and why audiences should go see it.  Watch this space! (well, don’t start watching now – but maybe around July/August with any luck).

Sunday was a slow, quiet day; I didn’t rise early (there was no 8:30 film that I wanted to see) and it started to rain, heavily and in the cold, which I must say is not at all what this trip to the South of France said on the can(nes). But it turned out to be a great day for networking and meeting new people.  Most importantly, I headed along to the NZ Film Commission office to interview NZ’s only competitor in this year’s festival (if you don’t count Andrew Dominik, described in Le Monde as an Australian – grrr – but who has not been brought here by the New Zealand team so doesn’t count).  Zia Mandviwalla is an Auckland-based, Indian-born, Dubai-raised filmmaker with enormous energy and a winning way about her – a delight to talk to about her journey to Cannes with the film Night Shift which is in the short film competition.  Understandably, Zia is excited to be in Cannes for the first time, and has been spending her days doing interviews with foreign press, donning a dress and abandoning her jandals for high heels (she makes a good point about the cobblestoned streets of Cannes being treacherous!) of an evening, and participating in the many sessions put on for film makers of the short- and feature-length kind. She acknowledges it’s a huge privilege to be in Cannes, but Zia’s film was selected out of 4,500 entries to be one in a category of ten in competition, so to be fair it is the creative talent of her and her team that has got her this far. Fingers crossed for an award next weekend.

Today, Monday – beaucoup plus de pluie, and sodden feet because I am still taking the “smart-casual” thing seriously, but honestly tomorrow I’m just going to wear sneakers. It is ridiculous to sit in the cinema with wet feet, not to mention I’m sure it’s not very French. A movie this morning, eagerly anticipated thanks to all the press materials I’d read about it – Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love.  Did. Not. Like. Well, it’s beautiful, and there are some lovely moments, and the acting is great, and the story could be SO engaging and enthralling even, if only it would get on with it… but, as much as it goes against “critical cache” to admit it, it was just too darn slow. I honestly kept expecting someone to suddenly get shot in the head (obviously I see too many of that kind of movie) but – SPOILER ALERT – they didn’t. Because it’s not at all that kind of movie.  Those who saw and loved Certified Copy may be happy with this one, but as I was torn about that too (for different reasons), I’m not your girl. It’s made by a hugely acclaimed Iranian director, as a French co-production, set in Japan and all the dialogue in Japanese. That’s all awesome. But the film was a disappointment.  I shall be interested to read what the cognoscenti say about it and realise how wrong I am (sic).

THEN on to something much more exciting – a quick Nutella and Banana panini (yes. That’s right.) then we hot-footed it down the Croisette to a panel discussion entitled Cronenberg: Master & Son or somesuchlike, since both David and his son Brandon are here at Cannes this year, both with films in competition (though not against one another). They were both witty, humble, amusing, interesting, and it was a terrifically enlightening hour, not least because in my previous post I somewhat meanly suggested Brandon couldn’t think outside of his father’s square [when picking a theme for his movie], and of course that was discussed right away and those assumptions put paid to. I’ve not yet seen Antiviral and would genuinely like to, but even if I miss out on that, I am busting to see Cronenberg Senior’s Cosmopolis later in the week. So more about both their press conference and their movies as the week progresses.

And finally, despite the rain and my natural inclination towards bunking off big occasions and going home to be cosy, I went to a party. The India Pavillion was hosting a cocktail party to celebrate and promote India’s latest major movie, Gangs of Wassepuyar, and I got invited, and so I went. Changed into a dress and heels and everything. And then I met some fantastic people, filmmakers from Hungary and Lithuania, bloggers and reviewers and short film promoters. Then a quick dash home to change out of awful shoes (I am sure the feminist argument has been made about high heels being a paternalistic mechanism to keep women in their place by limiting our ability to move, but that’s not for here).

Back into town in time to queue for a screening of a crazy documentary about The Shining called Room 237. Conspiracy theories abound, some convincing, some tenuous, and the film is a must-see for any Kubrick fan if they get the chance. I will review that in another post. But that’s quite enough for one day.

No rest for the over-stimulated

Well, it’s only Saturday afternoon, but it’s been a pretty interesting weekend already, so there’s time for a quick post.

Call me lacking in spontaneity, but today began as the previous Cannes mornings, with a pre-7am wake-up, coffee and a pastry for breakfast, then a speedy march along the waterfront to La Croisette, to climb the red stairs you’ve heard so much about. Incidentally, needless to say I am in flat shoes all day, but I learned that only heels are allowed on the tapis rouge for the evening premieres. One chap (an executive producer of Almodovar’s film, no less) got turned away last year because his shoes weren’t shiny enough! And when they say black tie, they mean dickie bow, not Reservoir Dogs; apparently there is a little man selling them for €20 at the edge of the carpet, where pressure dictates you won’t argue about the rip-off. I am thinking of setting up a shoe-shine stall next to him.

Anyway, thanks to the blue pass I made it into a screening of John Hillcoat’s (The Proposition) latest from the pen of Nick Cave, Lawless. There is plenty that’s real nice about this Prohibition-era story of three outlaw brothers doin’ a lot of bootleggin’ and killin’. Tom Hardy and Shia Laboeuf play the faces we recognise, with Jessica Chastain (sheesh, isn’t that woman getting tired yet??) and Mia Wasikowska as the womenfolk. Throw in some Gary Oldman and a terrifically creepy Guy Pearce as baddies (like, actual baddies, not the good-baddies that the brothers are) and you got y’self quite a cast there. It is actually potentially one of the film’s downfalls, so distracted are we by the star-spotting and comparisons with roles they’ve done before. That said, all are excellent, and though the story is a fairly standard and unsurprising Western tale, and Cave’s script is full of obvious cues (“You better be back here by eleven.” “Have I ever let you down?”…) it is well-told and engaging. Incredibly violent and downright gruesome (think Ryan Gosling in a lift and show that sort of thing several times over). But I liked it, and despite its lack of innovation, I think non-Cannes audiences will, too.

All of the above turned up for the press conference immediately after, all long hair and beards (the men), but I didn’t catch any startling insights, except Nick Cave argued with a journalist about its not being a western. Hmm, clinically I rather think it is, Nick. Anyway, nice to see people make the effort to come promote their film at Cannes! Speaking of which: last night there was a screening of the newly restored Once Upon a Time in America and someone I spoke to was sitting along the row from Robert De Niro, Ennio Morricone and Wes Anderson! You don’t get that down at Sylvia Park.

After a spot of lunch with two friends of a UK-based friend, the blue pass really proved its worth as I was herded past a long expectant queue into Alexandre Desplat’s music lecture. As I previously mentioned, Desplat (pronounced Dez-plat, we were told) is all over the soundtracks in this Cannes line-up. Instead of discussing his own oeuvre, however, he humbly talked us through his favourite examples of film music, showing clips from Chinatown, La Peau Douce, Cape Fear, and even Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, among others. I didn’t realise it would be in French and didn’t grab any earphones for interpretation, but concentrated hard and got most (well, enough) of it. He then took questions in French and English, but my waving hand was overlooked by the mediator. Not to worry. Someone French had quite possibly already made my point for me, I couldn’t be sure.

After an early dinner I will try to see Thomas Vinterburg’s The Hunt, mainly for Mads Mikkelsen, and then that will do for Saturday night unless I want to stick around for Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral (gosh, doesn’t sound like he’s at all influenced by his father’s work, does it?). Otherwise, we will be doing it all again tomorrow, anyway.

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