Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cannes Day 7

US model Cassie arrives on the red carpet

Ken Loach, director of The Angel's Share, is seen here with the actors Jasmin Riggins and Siobhan Reilly

Documentary filmmaker extraordinaire Raymond Depardon (front row center in the white shirt) joins the press corps at Cannes

While the Nato Summit has wrapped up and all the dignitaries have gone home, the city of Chicago itself has gone to great ends to congratulate itself and commend its police department, where the Mayor and Police Superintendant were seen shaking the hands of literally hundreds of police officers on Monday. 

But lost in the self-congratulatory and glorifying moment was a side of the story that went unreported by mainstream news broadcasts which simply parroted whatever the police press reports said, suggesting "professional out of towners" were brought in to sabotage the Summit and smear the good name of Chicago, exactly the same strategy the South used to disparage the influence of the northern white "professional out of towners" that attempted to work for Civil Rights in the 60's and help integrate the South, where the label "outside agitators" seems to reflect their spin on it.  Governors George Wallace used it in Alabama, Ronald Reagan used it in California, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and Mayors Richard J. Daley in the 60's and now Rahm Emanuel of Chicago in 2012, a long line of tradition here, while the Chicago media never even attempted to report on what was happening on the ground, where Chicago knows as little about the Occupy Movement now as they did before the Nato Summit, where it's as if they were never here. All the reporting attention went to the Anarchist black bloc, who were fictitiously held responsible for every tawdry and violent incident - - while the police were never held accountable.  Here is Natasha Lennard from Salon summarizing what's significant about the police actions:

While thousands of NATO protesters streamed out of Chicago following Monday’s final day of organized marches and rallies, the Chicago Tribune concluded that the summit had ended “without giving Chicago a black eye.” And, indeed, although shocking images of heads bloodied by police batons have emerged, the city did not devolve into 1968-style unbridled chaos. This weekend’s street scenes may not leave a lasting mark on the Windy City, but raids, police intimidation, protesters facing terrorism charges and reports of police entrapment leave a chilling imprint in the summit’s wake.

I wrote here last week, following up on a Rolling Stone piece by Rick Perlstein, about the proliferation of FBI entrapment schemes aimed at activists and anarchists in the past decade. Following the arrest of five individuals in Chicago over the weekend who now face terrorism charges, the question of entrapment perpetrated by law enforcement seems more important than ever.

According to an exhaustive report from Firedoglake’s Kevin Gosztola,”three Occupy activists raided on May 16 and disappeared for a period of time by Chicago police were brought before a bond judge [on Saturday] and officially charged with material support for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism and possession of explosives or explosive or incendiary devices.” The young men’s lawyer, Michael Deutsch of the National Lawyers Guild, described the charges as “fabricated” and “based on police informants and provocateurs which is a common pattern that we have seen against people who are protesting.”

Deutsch has gone so far as to suggest that infiltrators from the Chicago Police Department actually planted materials for making Molotov cocktails in the apartment before the police raid and that his clients did not even take the bait. Meanwhile, rumors abound, including claims that elaborate weapons like throwing stars were retrieved from the raided apartment. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit of information fueling the rumor mill is whether the three suspects have been targeted because of a candid video they shot and released the previous week, showing CPD officers searching their car and intimidating them as they entered Chicago. The video, which gleaned considerable online attention, showed one officer recommending that protesters receive “a billy club to the fucking skull.”

Meanwhile, two additional individuals were arrested and charged with planning to make explosives to use at the summit. The two reportedly stated that they possessed explosives that they intended to detonate, but no such devices were recovered when one of the arrestee’s homes was searched, and the police did not perform a search on the home of the other. Nonetheless, he was arrested for discussing the ingredients for making a pipe bomb (presumably with a police informant, but this remains unclear).

Truthout’s Steve Horn, who has been following the story closely on the ground in Chicago, noted that two undercover informants, working under the pseudonyms “Mo” and “Gloves,” appear to be “thread” linking the five activists now facing terror charges. Details of the cases continue to emerge, but Perlstein’s Rolling Stone article last week is reminder enough that accusing authorities of entrapment is unlikely to work in the defendants’ favor, even if evidence is on their side. “Not a single ‘terrorism’ indictment has been thrown out for entrapment since 9/11,” he noted.

a photo of undercover cops Mo and Gloves

And while the facts surrounding the five arrestees remain murky, the furor surrounding the raids, arrests and charges in the past week are enough to illustrate the immediate impact of alleging terrorist threats during mass activist mobilizations. Twitter was abuzz with unsubstantiated, nervous rumors about pending police raids and lurking, unmarked vans. And once again, the terms “anarchist” and “Occupy” have been linked to terrorism in the media and public consciousness. Even if, as the NLG argues, the charges are “fabricated,” the suggestion of terrorism stokes fear and upholds the good protester/bad protester narrative that has long haunted Occupy groups nationwide.

So while the Tribune may be right, that the NATO summit and surrounding protests did not leave a “black eye” on the city, even the worst bruises heal fast. Something more damaging may, however, remain: the ongoing persecution of anarchists and activists with entrapment, intimidation and trumped-up charges.

And in something of a contrast, here are Cannes photos from The Guardian:

and more here:

more photos from The Hollywood Reporter:

Fashion photos from The London Telegraph:

Dave Calhoun from Time Out London does his halftime assessment:

As he did for Haneke, Mike D'Angelo praises the Resnais film, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet, from The Onion A.V. Club:

Not since Altman went out with A Prairie Home Companion has a director fashioned such a natural swan song, assembling most of his regular actors (Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azéma, Lambert Wilson, etc.) to play themselves in a structural hall of mirrors that allows him to implicitly hand the torch to the next generation.

At the outset, each actor receives an identical phone call informing them that a (fictional) playwright friend has just died, and that they’ve been requested to attend the reading of his will. Upon arrival at his home, they’re shown a videotaped message in which the deceased asks them to view videotaped rehearsal footage of a new theater company that wants to produce his play Eurydice (an actual 1941 play by Jean Anouilh that updates the Orpheus myth). As they sit watching very young actors playing roles they once inhabited themselves, the ensemble gradually, almost involuntarily joins in—at first just reciting lines along with the onscreen cast from their seats, then standing and engaging in a full-fledged performance on magical greenscreen sets. What’s more, multiple actors had in the past played the same roles, so at times we’re watching a scene performed simultaneously by as many as six different people, with Resnais fluidly cutting among both different actors and separate media.

Amy Taubin on the Resnais film, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet, from the Sight & Sound blog:

Death is inescapable at Cannes this year. In the best film so far, Michael Haneke’s Amour, two legendary French actors, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, play respectively a dying woman and the husband who is her caregiver 24/7. But no one watching this unsparing and compassionate film could doubt that the actors, with over 50 years of their careers behind them, were rehearsing, before our eyes, the way that death might come to them as well as to their characters.

The 90-year-old Alain Resnais does it differently, couching death as the essential element of a great romance as well as of an absurdist comedy. Resnais’ previous film, the surrealist manifesto Wild Grass, is one of his greatest; You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet is slighter by comparison, but still has many ravishing moments that are at once poignant and exhilarating. It was rumoured to be Resnais’ final film, but happily he is already embarked on another. Nevertheless, the governing concept of YASNY is that of the posthumous work, a concept that is then overturned, and perhaps overturned again.

A group of actors have been summoned to what they believe is the wake for the writer of Eurydice, a modern adaptation of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which they all performed. They are asked to view an experimental film version of the play, but, being actors, they are incapable of sitting still and watching a movie; instead they are irresistibly drawn into recreating the characters they played when they were much younger. Film space and theatrical space merge and separate and merge again until who knows which is which.

The version of Eurydice that Resnais employs is a condensed version of the 1942 play by Jean Anouilh. In the press booklet for the film, Resnais recounts seeing the original production and afterwards riding around Paris on his bicycle in an extremely emotional state.

What he doesn’t mention in his notes or dramatise in You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet is that the play has a subtext that is specific to the Nazi occupation of France. It’s a play which was virtually written in code. Anouilh’s Eurydice isn’t simply the damaged woman who would become the object of desire in the noir films that Resnais loves; the specific sin for which she can’t forgive herself is that of sleeping with the enemy, albeit she did what she did to save people she loved. And while the Occupation may be nearly as far in the past as ancient Greece, the play seems a bit lightweight without that frame of reference.

Nevertheless, the film is more than the play. Most of all, it gifts us with its actors, the most memorable of whom are Mathieu Amalric and Michel Piccoli.

Barbara Scharres reviews the first return for Leos Carax at Cannes in over a decade, since his utter catastrophe that was Pola X (1999), offering views of his new film Holy Motors, where he may have become the Harmony Korine of France:

"Holy Motors," the return to the screen of bad boy French director Leos Carax after a long absence, premiered in competition tonight. Cannes loves a film that gets people worked up, and this one did it, ending to a roar of enthusiastic shouts, hoots, applause and boos all mixed together so that it was impossible to tell whether the shouters and hooters were for or against. This is the one that everybody's going to be debating until the end of the festival.

Some will call "Holy Motors" a holy mess, others will call it a masterpiece. It's very much a wild, mythic enigma, and the pieces don't fit together with any conventional logic. A mysterious white stretch limousine travels though Paris carrying one man, and driven by Celine (Edith Scob) a blonde woman in a white suit. The traveler in the car has many lives to live and many missions to carry out. In between, he transforms himself in the back of the car with wigs and makeup as if he were an actor about to make his entrance.

The man, Mr. Oscar, is a businessman, a knife fighter who transforms his victim into a replica of himself, the father of a young girl attending her first party, a hitman, a dying uncle, a forlorn lover, and more. All are played by seasoned actor Denis Lavant, who has starred in Carax films including "Boy Meets Girl," "Mauvais Sang," "Lovers on the Bridge," and the Carax sequence from the omnibus film "Tokyo!," in which he played Merde, the twisted red-haired dwarf who emerges from a Tokyo manhole to run riot in the streets with cruel, demented pranks.

Lavant reprises the role of Merde in one of the most bizarre sequences of "Holy Motors." He emerges from a manhole and disrupts a fashion shoot in a Paris cemetery, throwing the passive model (Eva Mendes) over his shoulder and limping through ancient tunnels to his underground cave, where the beauty and the beast appear to reach an understanding.

Halfway through this chaotic narrative Carax throws a handwritten intermission card on the screen and cuts away to one of my favorite parts of the film. A lone accordion player (also Lavant) wanders among the shadows of the stone pillars of one of Paris's great churches. Other accordion players appear behind him, and the crowd of musicians grows larger and larger as the wheezy, haunting strains of their music reach a crescendo in the echoes of the church. It's pure magic.

Mr. Oscar has a date with his past when his car meets up with another white stretch limousine bearing Jean (Kylie Minogue), a woman with a list of special missions of her own. The two avatars (or whatever they're meant to be) enter the beautiful old Samaritaine department store building, now empty and gutted, to climb to the roof, where Jean has a date with destiny. She bursts into a romantic ballad on the way, and characteristic of the way Carax can shift the tone of a scene in a flash, the song ends with the sound of Mr. Oscar violently kicking the head of an abandoned mannequin into a wall.

Why the avatars perform the function they do, and to what end is a complete mystery. Much of "Holy Motors" is a complete mystery, holding the meaning of its entrancing beauty and challenging ugliness just beyond reach.

There is an online Criterion Forum discussion on the films at Cannes:

A big thank you shoutout to George the Cyclists's West coast friend Matt Langdon ( and for mentioning the Cannes coverage at this blog on the Mubi Forum:

Les étoiles de la critique is a scorecard of French critics, through Tuesday's edition, where Audiard's Rust and Bone and Haneke's Amour remain the best reviewed films so far:

Over at Screendaily, the highest scores are Mungiu's Beyond the Hills, rated 3.3, and Haneke's Amour, rated the same, with Audiard's Rust and Bone, Dominick's Killing Them Softly, and Vinterberg's The Hunt rated 2.9.  After that, Loach's The Angel's Share is rated 2.8, while the Resnais You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet and Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom are both rated at 2.6, while the Kiarostami scores 2.4.  You can find the Digital Jury Grid Ratings Page here.  Click on the most recent Day (currently Day 8), and forward through the pages by clicking on the bottom right page, to around page 34. 

While at Jigsaw Lounge, Kiarostami still remains the favorite to win the Palme D'Or prize.  One should review the French Cahiers critical reviews of Kiarostami from Les étoiles de la critique, where 2 stars is the highest rated review, 4 rated it 1 star, and 3 less than 1 star.  Mungiu's Beyond the Hills similarly has one 4 star, five 3 stars, four 2 stars, three 1 stars, and one less than 1 star - - in other words all over the place.  This would not seem to indicate Kiarostami has the critical backing to win the top prize, but he is still the favorite, and has been since the outset, similar to Haneke the year he won with White Ribbon, but unlike here, Haneke's critical acclaim was uniformly positive.  Neil Young with the current odds at Jigsaw Lounge: 

3-1 : LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE  - Kiarostami {prediction : Palme d’Or}
7-2 : AMOUR (aka LOVE) - Haneke {prediction : 65th Anniversary Award – for the actors}
4-1 : POST TENEBRAS LUX - Reygadas {prediction : Grand Prix}
6-1 : BEYOND THE HILLS - Mungiu {prediction : Best Director}
10-1 : RUST AND BONE - Audiard {prediction : Jury Prize}
10-1 : YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET! - Resnais {prediction : Best Screenplay}
11-1 : IN THE FOG - Loznitsa
12-1 : COSMOPOLIS - Cronenberg
16-1 : HOLY MOTORS - Carax {prediction: Best Actor}
16-1 : PARADISE : LOVE – Seidl {prediction: Best Actress}
20-1 : ON THE ROAD - Salles
20-1 : KILLING THEM SOFTLY - Dominik
33-1 : THE HUNT – Vinterberg
35-1 : MOONRISE KINGDOM – Anderson
40-1 : REALITY - Garrone
50-1 : MUD - Nichols
50-1 : THE PAPERBOY – Daniels
66-1 : THE ANGELS’ SHARE - Loach
80-1 : LAWLESS – Hillcoat
80-1 : AFTER THE BATTLE – Nasrallah

Shortening the list to just the basic necessities, Screendaily still has paywalls, but if you click on most reviews, they are open to the public, though some still remain mysteriously unavailable:

or even better:

The Hollywood Reporter at Cannes:

David Hudson (formerly of Mubi) does all the links for each review at Fandor:

Variety at Cannes:

I’ve added a new link to the Sight & Sound blog (thanks Matt!!):

Matt Zoller Seitz and Kevin B. Lee at Press Play from indieWIRE

the indieWIRE Playlist:

indieWIRE reviews, with grades listed:

Robert Koehler from Filmjourney:

Daniel Kasman at Mubi:

The House Next Door at Cannes:

Drew McSweeny and Guy Lodge from HitFix:

Mike D'Angelo at The Onion AV Club:

The Film Center's Barbara Scharres from the Roger Ebert blog:

Richard Corliss from Time Magazine:

Karina Longworth at LA Weekly:

Cannes Fest at Time Out London:

Cannes Diary from Film Comment:

The Guardian Cannes commentary:

And, of course, George is back at Cannes this year, where he finds off the beaten track film fare:

I made my first dabble with the Critic's Weekly and Director Fortnight sidebars today in repeat screenings, one recommended and the other because I was shut out of the Debussy at the end of the day and had no other choice.  I didn't realize "Augustine" was a Critic's Weekly selection otherwise I would have waited to see it on awards night, as it could well be its winner.

But seeing it now adds another film to the emerging festival theme of inappropriate, or at least ill-advised, sex.  Augustine is a young French servant girl in the 1800’s who has unexplained epileptic fits. She is being studied by a doctor.  He puts her on display for colleagues inducing her fits by hypnotizing her.  He wishes to disprove the theory that such fits are not evidence of being a witch.  The two of them give into their animalistic natures and fall into each other's arms and go all the way, leaving the doctor very disturbed.

If I had the time for a think piece I could write about all the other instances of such behavior in the close to 50 films I have now seen--a priest and a social work in the Argentinean film "White Elephant", an undercover cop getting a blow job from a prostitute he is investigating in "Code "37" and his superior, a woman, having sex with a witness to a crime she is investigating, all the flabby 50-year old women in "Paradise" having sex with young Africans...

Sex got the illustrator Tomi Ungerer in trouble when this prominent children's book writer started also doing erotic, getting all his books banned from libraries in the 1970s.  He made for an extraordinary subject in the documentary "The Tomi Ungerer Story--Far Out Isn't Far Enough."  He was most articulate and has had an extraordinary life growing up on the France/Germany border during World War Two before coming to America in 1956 with just 60 bucks in his pocket, making the most of the Land of Opportunity.  I was glad that Gary of Telluride recommended this. "Far out isn't far enough" was just one of his mottos along with "don't hope, cope" and ""expect the unexpected."

That was the first of four documentaries for the day.  I saw "The Last Projectionist" not by recommendation, but at the request of projectionist Kirk from Chicago. This UK production interviews a handful of long-time projectionists, five of them gathered around a table, and several others interviewed in their theaters, talking about their love of their dying profession.  They weren't as passionate or anywhere as interesting as Tomi Ungerer.  More than half the film is about the present state of movie theaters in the UK focusing on a couple of small renovated theaters with deluxe seating.

I also saw a pair of documentaries on trash, one that had played earlier in the festival in an out of Competition slot, as it was shot by the German-Turkish director Fatih Akin, who won a best script award from the festival a few years ago.  "Polluting Paradise" didn't receive the best of reviews, but I had an interest in it not only for its subject but also its location, a small Turkish tea-growing town overlooking the Black Sea.  Akin spent five years following the story of a town converting an abandoned copper mine into a dump.  It faced opposition from the very beginning and put a stench in the air that revolted all the residents and even the fishermen from the first load dumped into it.

"Trashed" had even more star power behind--Jeremy Irons-- and was also given a prized Out of Competition slot.  Irons not only narrated the film but served as a roving reporter going to dump sites all over the world--one just outside of Beirut along the Mediterranean, Iceland, agent orange victims in Vietnam, the huge swirl of garbage in the middle of the Pacific, Indonesia, San Francisco and elsewhere.  Irons was there to introduce the film, looking as suave as ever.

The star of the day though was Brad Pitt, on the red carpet for "Killing Them Softly."  I was there for its nine am press screening in the 60th Anniversary.  Pitt plays an enforcer who is summoned to New Orleans to find the people behind the robbery of a super high-stakes poker game.  Like "Lawless" earlier in Competition this is a very polished and sharply written genre piece with loads of stylized violence and entertaining low lifes.  There was one tension-filled scene after another.

My seventh and final film of the day was the Director Fortnight "3" from Uruguay.  It was at the Arcades which meant no English subtitles.  I have one such experience each festival.  I could cope well with this film picking out a few words of the Spanish dialogue and much of the French subtitles.  The dialogue wasn't too complicated in this story of a teenaged girl who is just awakening to her sexuality, giving hand jobs to her boy friend and flirting with somewhat dangerous guys a little older than her.  The lead was superbly cast.

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