Friday, May 25, 2012

Cannes Day 9

Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, from Buddha Mountain (Guan yin shan), in a dress that is inspired by Chinese elements from the Qing Dynasty

Berenice Marlohe, the new Bond girl, arrives on the scene for Skyfall.

Nicole Kidman, “an oversexed Barbie doll,” (I know, it’s a stretch) who did her own hair and make up due to budget restraints in Lee Daniels’ raunchy sex comedy, The Paperboy

And whoah? What do we have here? In the photo that has hung in the West Wing for three years, President Obama looks to be bowing to 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia, his arm raised to touch the president’s hair — to see if it feels like his: 

Cannes photos from The Guardian:

and here, the Nicole Kidman review:

Cannes photos from The Hollywood Reporter:

Fashion photos from The London Telegraph:

Critics Week winners announced:

"Aqui y Alla" -- the debut film from Spanish director Antonio Mendez Esparza -- has received the Nespresso Grand Prize from the 51st Critics' Week.

The Critics' Week Visionary award went to "Sofia's Last Ambulance," a documentary about Sofia, Bulgaria (which has twelve ambulances and more than two million people). "God's Neighbors," an Israeli theological thriller from Meni Yaesch won Gaul's Society of Authors.

"The Wild Ones," the directorial debut of Alejandro Fadel, received ACID/CCAS support for distribution.

Critics' Week is the oldest parallel section at the Cannes Film Festival. The jury is mostly made up of critics, who were led this year by Bertrand Bonello. Its Visionary section was led by "Tomboy" director Celine Sciamma.

Scott Roxborough from The Hollywood Reporter:

Cologne, Germany - Acclaimed Hungrian director Bela Tarr is shutting down his Budapest-based production house, TT Filmmuhely, after nine years in operation.

"We have no choice but to acknowledge that despite all our efforts our situation has become untenable," Tarr said in a statement. "We feel deeply sorry for not being able to support and realize projects we believed in and into which we have invested a lot of energy."

The firm, which produced several of Tarr's films, including 2007 Cannes Competition entry The Man From London and The Turin Horse, a Grand Jury prize winner at Berlin last year, will close down at the end of the month. In addition to producing his own work, Tarr and TT also backed projects from other Hungarian filmmakers, including the omnibus feature Hungary 2011, which included short films from directors such as Benedek Fliegauf, Simon Szabo and Agnes Kocsis;  and Gyorgy Palfi's The Final Cut - Ladies And Gentleman, which is screening in The Cannes Classics section this year and which is billed as a love story cut together from scenes from 500 cinema classics.

"In the past nine years we have been working with responsibility and honor to the best of our knowledge and we have done our utmost to contribute to the development of the Hungarian and universal art of cinema" Tarr said. "We tried to support all initiatives and ambitions which – in a film industry shifting more and more toward show business – had little room and could not breathe."

Tarr has been an outspoken opponent to recent reforms of Hungary's film financing laws, reforms spearheaded by Hungarian-born Hollywood producer Andy Vajna (Die Hard With A Vengeance). Vajna and his team overhauled the indebted local funding body the MMKA and introduced new funding guidelines which also include commercial considerations.

In his statement, Tarr appeared to get in a final jab at Vajna and the reformers.

"Our films and all our manifestations were full of respect for human dignity. We have always stood by the side of humiliated and crippled people and we have defended them by using our own means," he said. "We are confident and convinced that the time will come when freedom of the arts and their independence of politics will be accepted and respected."

Manohla Dargis notes the obvious from The New York Times:  (excerpt)

At one point in “On the Road,” Walter Salles’s respectable, muted take on Jack Kerouac’s ecstatic American story, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), who’s trailed after his friends Carlo and Dean, watching them cavort in a handsomely lighted gutter and atmospheric slum pads, delivers what should be a cri de coeur. “The only people that interest me,” Sal says in voiceover, with Mr. Riley scatting out the famous words, “are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing…but burn, burn, burn like Roman candles across the night.” Yet these boys scarcely simmer.

Viggo Mortensen makes things jump with his sepulchral growl as Old Bull Lee (William S. Burroughs), and Elisabeth Moss and Amy Adams pump juice into sidelined wives. But Mr. Salles, an intelligent director whose films include “The Motorcycle Diaries,” doesn’t invest “On the Road” with the wildness it needs for its visual style, narrative approach and leads. This lack of wildness – the absence of danger, uncertainty or a deep feeling for the mad ones – especially hurts Dean, who despite the appealing Mr. Hedlund (Dean Moriarty, aka: Neal Cassady), never jumps off the screen to show you how Cassady fired up Kerouac and the rest. Dean hauls around a tattered copy of “Swann’s Way,” but, unlike Sal, he can’t turn the reading, driving and fornicating – his life on the road – into transcendence and neither can this film.

Steve Chagollan from The New York Times:  (excerpt)

For filmmakers trying to capture the spirit of the Beats, there has always been the pressure — stated or not — of their work living up to the legends. Survivors of the movement, and the scholars who chronicled their every move, are certain to cast an unforgiving eye. 

It has been no different for Walter Salles, the first director to finally wrestle Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” to the big screen more than five decades after its publication caused a literary sensation and launched a thousand road trips, not to mention innumerable road movies.

Mr. Salles’s answer was to endear himself to virtually every living Beat poet, artist and philosopher with a stake in the book’s legacy while literally retracing Kerouac’s crisscrossing of the country with a Super 8 camera. In other words, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Among the Kerouac contemporaries Mr. Salles interviewed were the poets Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Diane di Prima and Amiri Baraka, as well as the Kerouac biographers Gerald Nicosia and Barry Gifford, who served as consultants on the film. The process consumed five of the eight years that the director has been toiling on the project, which had its premiere this month at the Cannes Film Festival and is expected to reach theaters in the fall.

It’s no coincidence that “On the Road” is being made by the same international creative team — including the director, who is Brazilian, and the Puerto Rican screenwriter José Rivera — behind “The Motorcycle Diaries,” about another road trip undertaken by a thoughtful introvert (in this case Che Guevara) with a rambunctious traveling mate. Mr. Coppola explained that early on in his history with “On the Road,” which he first optioned in 1978, “I decided I wasn’t the right man for it,” and that “it wasn’t until the advent of Walter Salles that we felt enough of the elements came together so that we could make it happen.”

Russell Banks, whose novels-turned-movies include “The Sweet Hereafter” and “Affliction,” also tried his hand at a script for Mr. Coppola seven or eight years ago. He views “On the Road” as a metaphor for “the end of American innocence” and felt the script needed the framework of the turbulent events of the late ’60s, “on the other side of disillusionment that those characters didn’t know was coming,” he said by phone.

To do this, Banks bookended his story with an incident from his own life, when the 45-year-old Kerouac blew into Chapel Hill, N.C., in 1967, two years before he died, and spent a week at Mr. Banks’s house, boozing it up, telling stories and generally causing a ruckus. “He was at that point very far gone,” Mr. Banks recalled. “He was ill physically and mentally, too.” The interpretation that finally made it to the screen is set in the late ’40s and ends in 1951. It doesn’t shy away from the story’s homoerotic underpinnings or Moriarty’s activities as hustler, adulterer and thief. He also exhibits the physical prowess of a college athlete, the sexual swagger of a midcentury Casanova and the bighearted optimism of a saint.

Dave Calhoun from Time Out London:  (excerpt)

The film is characterised by quick and frenetic storytelling, an energetic jazz soundtrack, a free and unobtrusive attitude to sex and drugs and performances that are zesty and immediate. Yet still 'On the Road' entombs its era's zeitgeist more than it lives it. It feels long and tedious, as if we've dropped in on someone else's party without knowing or caring who these folks are, knocking back the whisky and barbiturates as regularly as they're knocking off each other.

Partly that's because Salles mutes the in-the-moment mania of 'On the Road' by both relying heavily on Sal Paradise's narration and pulling back often to soak up a good-looking cityscape or landscape (shot beautifully by Eric Gautier). Both tics come at the expense of properly examining Paradise and Moriarty's relationship beyond initial hero worship that fades to reveal a gulf of responsibility and maturity between the two. Hedlund is strong in scenes of musical mania, especially one in which he dances at a club with Stewart, but there's a lot of sturm und drang to his performance and not a great deal of soul. Riley is more passive, and his feels like a character observed rather than explored.

Salles nods to themes of abandoned women and absent fathers, but these feel like late attempts to offset the vanity and recklessness of the characters by saying something more considered about them. A late shot, too, of Kerouac bashing out the manuscript further complicates the tension between the writing of the book and the book itself, and between the attitudes of the time and the benefit of hindsight. The rebel yell of 'On the Road' now sounds muted and even a little embarrassing.
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And finally Geoff Andrew on the return to Cannes by Bernardo Bertolucci from the Sight & Sound blog.  A similar depiction, by the way, is characterized by Aureliano (Babilonia) Buendía, bastard son of Meme and Mauricio Babilonia, raised on his own in a closet until age 12, becoming a scholar obsessed with knowledge, even memorizes the encyclopedia, never leaving his birth home until he's grown, the last surviving character in his family, in Gabriel García Márquez's infamous novel 100 Years of Solitude:

There was a gap of nine years between Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers and Me and You, due mainly to the fact that the back problems which have long plagued the director eventually meant that he became a wheelchair-user. Having come to accept his diminished mobility, he found a subject – in Niccolò Ammaniti’s novel Io e Te – that suited his purposes: the meeting of teenage boy, hiding out in the basement of the apartment block where he lives with his parents, with the 25-year-old half-sister he barely knew existed.
It’s more or less a two-hander, then, though Bertolucci opens the movie with Lorenzo (Malcolm McDowell-lookalike Jacopo Olmo) reluctantly undergoing a session with a psychiatrist (himself also, as it happens, in a wheelchair). Judging by the boy’s tantrum when he insists his mother let him out of the car at some distance from the bus where his schoolmates are gathered to go on a skiing trip, it’s clear that Lorenzo has his problems – though the real reason he wants to be dropped off away from the kids is that he’s no intention of joining them at all; he’d rather relax in secret in the cellar, alone with his books, music and ants for a week.

All that changes when Olivia – a junkie going into cold turkey – turns up out of the blue, looking for long-lost belongings. Inevitably, sharing both the cramped space and revelations about their father’s familial arrangements makes for conflict… but also, in time, for mutual support and even intimacy. As alert (and largely sympathetic) as ever to the confusions, curiosity, vitality and delusions of youth, Bertolucci makes the most of the pair’s few days together; since Lorenzo had already embarrassed his mother with some transparently Freudian questions, it’s hardly surprising that there’s a sexual element in the siblings’ responses to one another. (Fascinatingly, when we first glimpse Olivia, it’s a little difficult to tell if this hieratically handsome creature is a woman or a transvestite.)

Bertolucci explores the strange, subterranean realm of these enfants terribles with characteristic visual flair: décor, costumes, colour and camera movements combine to create a faintly feverish atmosphere. Interestingly, however, the mise en scène is not especially baroque; though expressive, it’s carefully controlled so that the style suits the parameters of the story.

A modest film, then, but enjoyably so: the two lead turns are spot-on, and the use of a reworded Italian version of ‘Space Oddity’ (but still sung by Bowie) deftly captures not only the dynamics of the pair’s brief encounter but the aching, fragile hopes of a boy in need of a friend.
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indieWIRE provides a Guide to All the Cannes films:

Scott Foundas and Gavin Smith review what's played so far at Cannes from an audio segment (16:27) from Film Comment:

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 Thursday's edition, where Audiard's Rust and Bone and Haneke's Amour still remain the best reviewed films so far:  Interestingly, despite the alleged critical acclaim, Holy Motors is rated five 4 stars, three 3 stars, two 2 stars, three 1 stars, and one less than 1 star on the French critic vote.

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, Walter Salles On the Road is 2.7, 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 9), and forward through the pages by clicking on the bottom right page, to around page 22.

While at Jigsaw Lounge, Neil Young is sticking with Kiarostami as 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, five 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 any top prize.  Young's predictions seem to be erratic and are in a constant state of flux except his insistence of Kiarsotami at the top.  Neil Young with the current odds at Jigsaw Lounge:

5-2 : LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE  - Kiarostami {prediction : Palme d’Or}
11-4 : AMOUR - Haneke {prediction : Grand Prix,
… and 65th Anniversary Award – for the actors}
5-1 : HOLY MOTORS - Carax {prediction: Best Actor}
8-1 : COSMOPOLIS - Cronenberg {prediction : Best Director}
11-1 : BEYOND THE HILLS - Mungiu
12-1 : IN THE FOG - Loznitsa {prediction : Jury Prize}
12-1 : YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET! - Resnais {prediction : Best Screenplay}
16-1 : RUST AND BONE - Audiard
22-1 : KILLING THEM SOFTLY - Dominik
25-1 : PARADISE : LOVE – Seidl {prediction: Best Actress}
28-1 : POST TENEBRAS LUX - Reygadas
28-1 : THE HUNT – Vinterberg
33-1 : MOONRISE KINGDOM – Anderson
50-1 : REALITY - Garrone
50-1 : AFTER THE BATTLE - Nasrallah
50-1 : MUD - Nichols
66-1 : ON THE ROAD - Salles
80-1 : THE ANGELS’ SHARE - Loach
100-1 : LAWLESS – Hillcoat
150-1 : THE PAPERBOY – Daniels

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:

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:

Today was highlighted by a pair of first-rate, deeply unsettling films, each featuring a decent individual victimized by a malicious assualt on their character that turns an entire community against them in a most vile and reprehensible manner.  One was a 40-year old, somewhat depressed, divorced guy who teaches kindergarten in a small Danish town.  The other was a teen-aged middle-class girl who has just moved to Mexico City from Puerto Vallarta with her father after her mother is killed in an automobile accident.

The Dane is falsely accused of molesting the daughter of his best friend in Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt" that screened in Competition several days ago.  The community furor slowly builds, with all but one or two of his friends standing by him, along with his teen-aged son who pays an unexpected visit.  He's driven out of the local supermarket beaten by the burly butcher, one of a gallery of Nordic Viking types with rugged, chiselled features that make up the town's population.  A rock is thrown through his window while he's preparing a meal in his kitchen with his son.  His dog is killed.  He evicts his new girl friend from his house when she expresses her doubts. It gets worse and worse.  The little girl regrets the holy terror she has unleashed and tries to retract her accusation, but no one will let her.  No one would want to be in his predicament, but how can he escape it?

The Mexican girl suffers a similar hell in "After Lucia" when a classmate films the two of them having sex and then posts it on the internet.  Every student in her private school sees it.  Boys and girls make her a pariah.  Two girls wrestle her to the floor and cut off her hair.   A couple of guys follow her into the school bathroom and force their way into her stall with dropped trou and recorders going on their phones.  Unlike the Dane, she has nary a defender.

The other exceptional cinema event of the day was a conversation between 97-year old Norman Lloyd and Todd McCarthy with Pierre Rissient sitting in.  Lloyd is celebrating 80 years in show business ater getting his start in the theater in New York in 1932.  His first film role was in Hitchcock's "Saboteur" in 1942.  There were no film clips as usually included in these "Master Classes" as there was no holding Lloyd's stories back of working with Hitchcock and Welles and Elia Kazan and Chaplin and Kubrick and countless other cinema legends.  He was a tennis playing partner of Chaplin's before he recruited him for "Limelight."  Also in the audience at this seminal event were Alexander Payne and Abbas Kiarostami, both introduced by Thierry Fremaux.  McCarthy's fellow critic and Telluride regular Scott Foundas also knew this was an event not to be missed  even though the the 300-seat Bunuel theater was only two-thirds full.

I sacrificed seeing "Beyond the Hills" the Romanian film I'm eager to see for it, putting that off until Sunday.  I did catch up though with two other Competition entries, "The Paperboy," which had its debut today and "In Another Country."  "Paperboy" was the fourth film with Hollywood connections in Competition, the most in a while, all very stylish and full of star-power.  This too oozed with a pizz-zazz and sterling performances by Nicole Kidman as a gorgeous bimbo who has fallen in love with the creepy John Cusak, imprisoned and facing the death penalty for killing a cop.  Two reporters from the Miami Herald have come to this small  very racist southern town to try to save Cusack.    Every character is given outrageous eccentricities that go way too far, undermining the credibility of the story.

Rather than outrageous, over-the-top behavior, the characters in South Korea's Hong Sang-soo's movie are always awkward, semi-buffoonish nebbishes.  That was the case once again in "In Another Country."  Even Isabelle Huppert, who is featured in the three separate segments of this film, is forced to behave in such a manner.  There is an occasional laugh and commentary on the human condition, enough to make Hong's films Competition regulars.  Like Kaurasmaki films his are an acquired taste for his small cult of devotees.

I squeezed in "Le Grand Soir" after Gary mentioned that it has a delightful cameo from Gerard Depardieu playing a seer who predicts the future peering into cups of sake.  Its not a Cannes festival without seeing Depardieu,  and I had managed to avoid him in the over 50 films I have seen so far.  He was a delight in this dark comedy of two brothers of polar opposites, one a mattress salesman and the other an unemployed punk with a mohawk haircut who goes around terrorizes innocents begging for money in supermarket parking lots, even hopping into their cars and refusing to leave until they give him some of their food, even a mere container of yogurt.  His brother suffers a breakdown and is fired from his job and joins in his brother's antics.

"Sightseers" was an even darker comedy.  It would make a good companion piece to "God Bless America."  A British guy and his new girl friend go off in a camper and become serial killers.  It was quite humorous until one of their victims is a touring cyclist, though one who was pulling a space age capsule trailer that he sleeps in.

This over-the-top comedy was quite a contrast to the Cannes Classic reprisal of George Launter's French '60s gently spy spoof "The Great Spy Chase."  Launter was wheeled on stage for a lengthy introduction.  It almost went on so long that Ralph and I were among the last handful of people to get into "Sightseers" immediately afterwards over at the Arcades to end another Great Day of Cinema.

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