Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cannes 2013 Day 3

Victoria’s Secret Angel Doutzen Kroes

Chinese director Jia Zhangke and his wife actor Zhao Tao

Carina Lau carries off gold lamé

While the town is still buzzing over the audacious million dollar jewel theft at Cannes, that feels like the opening of a Brian de Palma film, namely Femme Fatale, or a job for Monte Carlo and the French Riviera con artists Freddy and Lawrence in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the show must go on, and the festival continues, though panic set in on the Croisette when gunshots broke out, by Martin Williams from The Guardian:

Cannes 2013: panic as shots fired during TV broadcast

Man fires shots from starting pistol during live TV interview with Christopher Waltz and French actor Daniel Auteuil

Actors ran for cover at the Cannes film festival on Friday after a man fired shots from a starting pistol during a live TV broadcast.

Oscar winner Christopher Waltz and French actor Daniel Auteuil were being interviewed by French TV station Canal+ on a beach-front set when two shots were heard.

"The bodyguards jumped over the barriers into the crowd and pulled him [the suspect] to the ground. The police arrived and told everyone to run because there was a grenade in his hand," one eyewitness told Reuters.

French authorities, who arrested the man at the scene, confirmed he was carrying a dummy grenade and a knife. A police source said: "It really appears to be a crazy guy."

Live footage showed actors and film crew scrambling from the seaside stage. The programme was taken off air temporarily, but continued minutes later after the programme's producer said: "The show must go on."

The host, Michel Denisot, said the shots had been blanks and that there were no injuries.

Waltz won a best supporting actor Oscar this year for his role as a bounty hunter in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.

The incident is the second security hitch to disrupt the 12-day film festival, after the theft of $1.4m worth of Chopard jewellery in the early hours of Friday morning.

A safe containing the jewellery was unscrewed and taken out of the Suite Novotel hotel in central Cannes.

Chopard later claimed the value had been exaggerated and added that items were not set to be worn by actors.

An Australian journalist who was at the festival said the sound of shots was completely unexpected. She said: "One minute everybody was happy and the next there was panic."

"People didn't know what was going on, many girls were rushing away crying, it was really scary. No one was sure what was going on."

also a video of the incident may be seen here from The Hollywood Reporter:

Bérénice Bejo on the red carpet from The Guardian: 

Red carpet photos from The Guardian: 

More Gatsby fashion photos from the era of the 1920's, from Vanity Fair: 

How about movie posters that never made it, that missed the final cut, from The Guardian:


More on Spielberg's yacht, by the way, from the Sun-Sentinel:

Dwarfed by the blue-hulled behemoth docked at Fort Lauderdale's Hyatt Pier 66, Mike Terry gave vent to his stupefaction.

"Absolutely fantastic," he said. "I'm awestruck, really."

The seasonal Pompano Beach resident and his wife, Tara, were gazing wide-eyed Tuesday at the Seven Seas, the massive megayacht owned by Oscar-winning film director Steven Spielberg. And the specifications of the vessel, which resembles a floating hotel, are sufficiently awesome.

At 282 feet long, it would soar 28 stories tall if set on end. Its cost: $200 million. It boasts luxury amenities for 12 guests, with a crew of 26. There is a large master stateroom with a study and private deck, a helipad, indoor cinema and an infinity pool with a 15-foot glass wall that converts to a movie screen so the director and his guests can take in a film while swimming.

The interior is adorned in walnut, teak and rosewood. The Cayman Island-flagged vessel can travel at 20 knots, and a special stabilizing system in the hull reduces seasickness, from which Spielberg reportedly suffers.

While other boaters said the Seven Seas has been docked along the Intracoastal Waterway for months, crew members loading supplies kept mum.
"I can't tell you anything about it," said a marina worker. "All details are private."

But reports from Los Angeles said Spielberg, his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, and some of their children are taking the summer off to cruise the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Pacific. They depart from Cannes, France, in May, after the annual film festival there. Their itinerary includes the locations of some of Spielberg's films: North Africa, Sri Lanka, Shanghai and Hawaii.

Tourists and locals dining at the marina's Pelican Landing bar gaped at the multi-leveled megayacht. "They think it's a cruise ship," said Nicholas Chapman, crew member of a nearby yacht. "It's a monster."

Sonny and Neecie Robbins, honeymooners from St. Louis, watched as crew members in white shirts and khaki shorts loaded dozens of boxes of produce. Sonny Robbins joked that the boat's $200 million price tag is just a tad out of his range.

"I could write a check," he said, "but he better not cash it."

Spielberg bought the vessel, custom built by a Dutch shipyard, about two years ago. And he's happy to share. If you crave the lifestyle of a Hollywood movie mogul, charters on the Seven Seas are available — for a modest $1.3 million a week.

Cannes: Ultra-Violence Peppers Competition Selection, by  Scott Roxborough and Patrick Brzeski from The Hollywood Reporter:

Spiked liberally with brutality, the festival preview trailer draws gasps at the "Gatsby" premiere and has many wondering whether this year’s line-up is inordinately grisly.

Before the pageantry got into full swing Wednesday at the opening-night screening of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, the A-list festival crowd in the Grand Lumiere was subjected to a jolt: scenes of shockingly graphic violence.

As per tradition on the Croisette, a trailer showcasing the year’s official selection preceded the main screening, but according to several attendees — who asked not to be named — this year’s promo reel was spiked with ultra-violence and elicited as many gasps as smiles of anticipation.

First came a scene from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, showing Ryan Gosling smashing a glass in the face of a bargoer. Later was an explosive sequence of execution-style shootings from Johnnie To’s Blind Detective. Wrapping up the promo reel with a bang: Forest Whitaker getting stabbed through the ear and pinned to a wall in a choice segment from Jerome Salle’s closing film Zulu.

The Cannes higher-ups were quick to distance themselves from the trailer Thursday. Asked to comment, organizers said festival director Thierry Fremaux “deplored” the impression the trailer gave that this year’s lineup is excessively violent, saying it does not reflect the spirit of the selection. Laurent Rivoire, deputy director of the festival film department, said the trailer was “done in a hurry due to some very late deliveries” by Canal+, which produced the opening ceremony.

The films’ production companies themselves provided the clips.

Cannes has never been shy about scheduling the artfully bloody and brutal — festival favorites Quentin Tarantino and Lars von Trier come to mind — but this year’s lineup does seem to offer more than the usual allotment of onscreen viciousness. Early reviews of Amat Escalante’s Heli noted its torture sequences, including one scene that involves a male character having his private parts set on fire. Japanese genre master Takashi Miike promises plenty of bloodshed in his competition entry Shield of Straw. And even Chinese director Jia Zhangke, known for his slow-paced social realism, appears to have indulged his dark side in A Taste of Sin, the online trailer for which surfaced this week, hinting at a bloody stabbing and shooting.

Pushing the envelope furthest is Atrocity Exhibition, showing in the Short Film corner, which its director Ebadur Rahman has described as “Cannes’ first snuff film.” Says Rahman: “Cannes has been showing fake ‘extreme content’ for ages: Any film by Tarantino, Takeshi Miike, or Kim Ki Duk is at least as violent as mine. What’s different about Atrocity Exhibition is, I didn’t fake it.” Asked whether viewers might have to look away during screenings, Rahman says: “I would hope so.”

While the sales potential for Atrocity always was going to be minimal, the abundance of blood in the official selection could present marketing challenges. When it comes to selling internationally, violence can be a mixed blessing, say veteran buyers. Broadcast regulations in Europe mean films with graphic violence can only be shown after 11pm, reducing their commercial potential. “For video sales it can actually be a positive, the bloodier the better,” says Dirk Schweizer, managing director of German distributor Splendid Films. “But for TV it’s different. Anything that has an FSK 16 [R rating equivalent] or worse is almost impossible to sell to television unless you have huge stars attached.”

One of the two films I am most looking forward to seeing this year at Cannes, the other being the Clair Denis film, The Bastards (Les Salauds), neither one playing In Competition, another all male affair with one exception, and even that choice is questionable due to the director's family lineage with the former French first lady. Her previous film Love Like Poison, a tender French coming of age drama seen at the Film Festival and never screened anywhere afterwards, which featured a drop dead amazing Belgian women's choir version of the Radiohead song Creep over the end credits (Scala and the Kolacny brothers), the same group played another chilling version of Metallica's Nothing Else Matters in the trailer to Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, but was not in the actual film.  This time the aptly titled Leonard Cohen song from the 60's plays over the end credits, last heard in a movie (other than concert footage) during Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves (1996).  The film is reviewed by Catherine Shoard from The Guardian:

This up-tempo drama from a young French woman director is acutely observed and at times almost unbearably moving

There may be only one female director with a film in competition at Cannes this year, but new work from women opened both the Un Certain Regard and Critics' Week sidebars. Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring (which kicked off the former) was all swag and slebs; Suzanne could hardly be less concerned with shopping. The second feature from 33-year-old Katell Quillévéré, it's the sort of woozily shot, remorselessly emotional, acutely observed socio-realist soap that both confounds and confirms chick-flick prejudice.

Baldly recalled, it sounds like a telenovela: Suzanne and her elder sister, Maria, live with their widowed father in the Languedoc. We see them first in primary school, then as Suzanne (Sara Forestier) is about to leave secondary and announces she's pregnant. Flash forward five years and Charlie is part of the family (his father is never seen or spoken of) and Suzanne works in the office of the trucking company that employs dad. Then she falls in love, with Nicolas (Paul Hamy) who feels the same, but he's a small-time gangster, and when he must leave, Suzanne must choose between him and her family.

It weighs in at just 90 minutes, but Quillévéré crams in 25 years of life, with chiming between the early and late scenes; it takes time to absorb. The rapidity of the jumping between years cuts both ways: the pace is kept tight, but you're often left reeling, not given space for events to settle before their repercussions have already become bread-and-butter to the characters. It's a device that lends the film unusual oomph but after a few too many slaps can feel manipulative.

Yet the brilliance of Quillévéré's direction is in the performances she coaxes from her cast, and the clear-eyed, non-judgmental way she presents them. François Damiens, a Belgian actor previously seen bumbling about in the likes of Heartbreaker and Delicacy, is brilliant as the father: almost unbearably moving in a courthouse scene in which a roll-call of minor charges are levelled at his daughter, whom he hasn't seen for years. As the sister who moves from tearaway to matriarch, Adèle Haenel is terrific, too; but Sara Forestier is just indelible in the lead, brimful of feeling and sympathetic stupidity, now depressed, now quixotic, never obvious or vain.

Mostly, Quillévéré manages to match her lead (there's a brilliant shot from a window of Suzanne and her boyfriend parting), but from time to time the switchback tempo and on-the-button music cues (the Leonard Cohen song is reserved for final credits) highlight Forestier's brilliance by comparison.

Another film you may not have heard about, Mark Cousin's A Story of Children and Film, review by Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian:

This has to be one of the most beguiling events at Cannes, appropriately presented in the Cannes Classics section. Mark Cousins's personal cine-essay about children on film is entirely distinctive, sometimes eccentric, always brilliant: a mosaic of clips, images and moments chosen with flair and grace, both from familiar sources and from the neglected riches of cinema around the world. Without condescension or cynicism, Cousins offers us his own humanist idealism, as refreshing as a glass of iced water.

He presents movie texts which illuminate and challenge what we imagine to be the "performance" presented to the camera by a child, what we take to be the nature of childhood and by implication the unexamined "adultness" of those grownups variously appearing in, making or watching the film. He suggests that as an artform, cinema has paid more attention to children than any other, perhaps because it is itself in its infancy. Using extracts from movies as diverse as ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table (1990), Yasujiro Ozu's An Inn in Tokyo (1935) and Ken Loach's Kes (1969) – and many more – Cousins creates light-flashes of insight by the hundred which amount to a pointilliste work of scholarship.

Just as in his colossal documentary TV series The Story of Film, Cousins takes ideas and runs with them, bobbing and weaving, hopping lightly from movie to movie, free-associating and bopping around but without ever seeming slick or glib. Cousins coolly repudiates parochial Anglo-Hollywood bias; he juxtaposes contemporary films with ones from the distant past, and places emphasis on cinema from Iran, India and Africa. Just as Puck put a girdle around the world in forty minutes, Cousins zooms happily around the circumference of world cinema in an hour and 40.

Taking as his starting point a meditation on the artistic gaze of Vincent van Gogh, and then artlessly showing us a film of his niece and nephew Ben and Laura mucking about with toys, he embarks on a subject whose impossible vastness never daunts him. His approach moves away from the conventional idea that movie kids are either horribly mannered, beribboned child stars or saintly simple souls, luminous with non-professional purity and authenticity. The truth is more complex: kids on screen are often wary, blank and guarded – it is their reserve which creates the electrical charge of drama. But they are often "performative" (as Cousins phrases it), simply showing off and acting out, and it is this entirely natural tendency which can be harnessed for the camera.

Elegantly, Cousins gives us a clip of Shirley Temple in Curly Top (1935), singing "When I grow up in a year or three …", and instead of taking the Graham Greene line of acidly knowing irony, he gently juxtaposes Temple with the theatrically minded children in Bergman's Fanny and Alexander (1982) and then brings in Vincente Minnelli's Meet Me in St Louis (1944) and Judy Garland (so recently a child star) singing Under the Bamboo Tree with Margaret O'Brien, and suggests that O'Brien is believably out of tune and that this famous scene is very much like a wedding video. I'd never thought of it like that before.

Some of the most powerful or debatable moments are when Cousins shows us children under threat, or themselves offering a threat. In a rather remarkable-looking Polish film called Wrony, or Crows (1994), directed by Dorota Kedzierawska – another hidden gem which I now feel the need to experience in its entirety – a 10-year-old child is effectively kidnapped by an older child. Another type of film-maker in the Anglo-Saxon journalist tradition might have decided at this point to discuss the darker themes of exploitation, maybe bringing in the Bulger case (itself partly triggered by a horror movie called Child's Play 3). But this is not Mark Cousins's style. It arguably opens him to charges of naivete, but perhaps it is also that his affirmative insistence is a corrective to our 21st-century news-junkie reticence and fear.

Either way, this film is a treat. I have only one modest footnote to offer. Mark Cousins shows us his nephew Ben smashing things up and wonders if this is a boyish trait. Well, I wonder: Ben is squaring his shoulders and shoving his fists down into the ground in a very familiar way. Surely he is impersonating cinema's most destructive and brattish green child, the Incredible Hulk?

UK's Clio Barnard's film The Selfish Giant played in the Director's Fortnight, reviewed by Charlotte Higgins from The Guardian: 

also Peter Bradhsaw from The Guardian:


One of the perennial questions at Cannes, why are women so underrepresented in the movie industry?  The Backlash Continues: Women Onscreen Falls to a Five Year Low, by Melissa Silverstein from indieWIRE:

Make no mistake about it, no matter what you read or what people try and make you believe, things are not all roses and candy for women onscreen or behind the scenes in hollywood.  In a brand new five-year study from Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Marc Choueiti, Elizabeth Scofield, & Dr. Katherine Pieper at the USC Annenberg Center, they found that "females are grossly underrepresented on screen in 2012 films. Out of 4,475 speaking characters onscreen, only 28.4% are female."  And it also should be no surprise that when a female is present, she is usually younger than the male character.  Overall, for every single female character we see onscreen we see 2.5 male characters.

The study goes on to say that women make up only 16.7% of the 1,228 directors, writers, and producers across the 100 top-grossing films of 2012. Women accounted for 4.1% of directors, 12.2% of writers, and 20% of producers.  (Keep in mind that these numbers differ from the statistics from the Center for Study of Women in TV and Film at San Diego State as they calculate the top 250 grossing films and add more behind the scenes positions in their data.) The grim news is that for every woman working behind the scenes in 2012, five dudes were employed.  

And the worst news is that these numbers are not improving, in fact they are getting worse.  2012 was the lowest year for women in front of the camera, and there was very little change at all in the numbers over the study.  They started out pathetic and stayed there.

And to piss me off even further, as if I needed any push over the edge, girls and young women onscreen are becoming more and more hypersexualized with a HUGE jump in 2012.  Females from 13-20 are more likely to be hypersexualized ie (exposing at least some skin in the breast, midriff, or high upper thigh area) than older women in all demographic groups.  Teenage girls wearing sexy clothes increased 22% between 2009 and 2012.  So if you were thinking that girls and young women looked barely dresses in the movies you were right. It's not just in your mind.  It's right there on the screen.

However, there is some good news in the study.  When there are more women behind the scenes, there are more women onscreen and they are less objectified.  So women hire women.  (Not to diminish this very positive statistic, but we need to keep in mind that in Hollywood, women are given opportunities to write and direct certain kinds of films and those have a tendency to skew towards women.)   But the numbers are clear, when there is a woman director, 40% of the films have women onscreen compared with 30% when there is no female director.  And when there is a female writer, women characters appear onscreen 37% of the time compared with 29% of films without a female writer.

Here's the takeaway.  Things are not moving in the right direction for women onscreen.  The numbers are stuck at around 30%, yet remember, we buy 50% of the tickets.  The numbers continue to show that Hollywood doesn't care enough about women.  They believe that sexualizing girls and women sells tickets. And they are right.  Because the hypersexualization is going up.  It is up to us to take control of this situation. it's up to us to make sure we buy tickets for films where there are women onscreen in strong roles not just for the purpose of looking like eye candy.  Empower yourself.  Know what you are going to see.  But also know if you see a film written and directed by a woman that the film will probably have a female character and there is a better chance that she will be less sexualized. 

By the way, our own illustrious Gabe Klinger, cinema wunderkind from days of yore, recalled as a 16-year old kid passing out hand designed Hou Hsiou-hsien pamphlets at a Film Center screening of The Puppetmaster, has made his own first film, and has generated a kickstarter campaign to help pay for the expenses:

Gabe writes: 
You may have heard by now that I've directed my first feature-length film, a documentary portrait of Richard Linklater and James Benning -- together! -- for the French "Cinema of Our Times" series.

I shot last month, using my own personal savings to rent gear and hire a crew, hoping that a distributor or sales company would take the project on and assume some or all of the expenses. 

Unfortunately, funding possibilities haven't surfaced so far (one of my producers, André S. Labarthe, is negotiating with French TV), and in the meantime I've resorted to a shameless Kickstarter campaign:

Please pitch in, if you possibly can.

My God, I'll have to make a space for him as a filmmaker at my forever developing mammoth website (cranes are flying online film project). More can be seen over here at Mubi:

The Cannes Criterion Forum is up and running: 

While Les Etoiles de la critiques is up and running as well: 

also Ioncinema's Critics' Panel 2013: 

While Neil Young from Jigsaw Lounge maintains the odds for winners:

to win the 2013 Palme d’Or
nb: films which have been shown to press in Cannes are in bold

4/1  Kore-eda, Hirokazu – Like Father, Like Son
5/1  Farhadi, Asghar – The Past
6/1  Haroun, Mahamet Saleh — Grigris
6/1  Gray, James – The Immigrant
8/1  Payne, Alexander -- Nebraska
- – -
11/1  Jia, Zhangke – A Touch of Sin
12/1  Soderbergh, Steven – Behind the Candelabra
12/1  Coen & Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis
16/1  Kechiche, Abdellatif – Blue is the Warmest Colour
16/1  Sorrentino, Paolo – The Great Beauty
- – -
20/1  Ozon, Francois – Young and Beautiful
20/1  Winding Refn, Nicolas – Only God Forgives
25/1  des Pallières, Arnaud – Michael Kohlhaas
25/1  Desplechin, Arnaud – Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian
25/1  Escalante, Amat – Heli
33/1  Bruni-Tedeschi, Valeria – A Castle in Italy
33/1  Van Warmerdam, Alex — Borgman
40/1  Polanski, Roman — Venus In Fur
50/1  Jarmusch, Jim – Only Lovers Left Alive
80/1  Miike, Takashi – Shield of Straw

Best Actor
4-1 Grigris: Souleymane Démé
9-2 Nebraska: Bruce Dern
….. (solo, or with Will Forte and/or Stacy Keach)
11-2 Borgman: Jan Bijvoet
7-1 Like Father, Like Son: Masaharu Fukuyama
9-1 The Great Beauty: Toni Servillo (solo or with others)
- – -
10-1 Behind the Candelabra: Matt Damon and/or Michael Douglas
10-1 The Past: Ali Mosaffa and/or Tahar Rahim
12-1 The Immigrant: Joaquin Phoenix and/or Jeremy Renner
12-1 Mathieu Amalric and/or Benicio Del Toro*
16-1 Michael Kohlhaas: Mads Mikkelsen
18-1 Shield of Straw: Takao Osawa and/or Tatsuya Fujiwara
- – -
20-1 Inside Llewyn Davis: Oscar Isaac
22-1 Only God Forgives: Ryan Gosling and/or Vithaya Pansringarm
22-1 A Touch of Sin: male ensemble
33-1 Only Lovers Left Alive: Tom Hiddleston
33-1 Heli: Armando Espitia
40-1 Blue is the Warmest Colour:
….. Jérémie Lahuerte and/or Aurélien Recoing
40-1 A Castle in Italy: Louis Garrel
* any combination of Amalric and/or Del Toro in Jimmy P. and/or Amalric in Venus In Fur
Best Actress
2-1 The Past: Bérénice Bejo

9-2 The Immigrant: Marion Cotillard
5-1 Only God Forgives: Kristin Scott Thomas
- – -
10-1 Young and Beautiful: Marina Vacth 
11-1 Venus In Fur: Emmanuelle Seigner
14-1 Blue is the Warmest Colour:
….. Adèle Exarchopoulos and/or Léa Seydoux
18-1 Only Lovers Left Alive: Tilda Swinton and/or Mia Wasikowska
20-1 The Great Beauty: Sabrina Ferilli
22-1 A Castle in Italy:  Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi
25-1 A Touch of Sin: female ensemble
- – -
28-1 Inside Llewyn Davis: Carey Mulligan
33-1 Grigris: Anaïs Monory
40-1 Like Father, Like Son: Machiko Ono (and/or others)
40-1 Shield of Straw: Nanako Matsushima
40-1 Heli: Andrea Vergara

The round-up of various links covering Cannes:

Screendaily still has paywalls, but if you click on the reviews, they are open to the public: 

The Hollywood Reporter at Cannes:

David Hudson does all the links for each review at Fandor:

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, Adam Cook, and likely others at Mubi:

The House Next Door at Cannes:

Drew McSweeny and Guy Lodge from HitFix:

Mike D'Angelo at The Onion AV Club:

Keith Uhlich offering rival reviews from Time Out New York (Mike D'Angelo's former employer):

Cannes Fest at Time Out London:

Cannes Diary from Film Comment:

The Guardian Cannes commentary:

The Envelope, the Cannes Blog from The LA Times:

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

Richard Corliss (though there may be a paywall) from Time Magazine:

Karina Longworth at LA Weekly:

Movieline Cannes Coverage:

Various writers at Twitch:

Melissa Anderson at ArtForum:

Julie Miller at Vanity Fair:

Sukhdev Sandhu and Robbie Collins from The Daily Telegraph:

Alex Billington from First Showing:

Michael Phillips at Cannes (though there may be a paywall) from the Chicago Tribune:

The Huffington Post:

Emanuel Levy:

Eric Lavallee Ion Cinema:

Brad Bevet from Ropes of Silicon:

Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa:

Charles Ealy at the Austin Movie Blog:

David Jenkins from Little White Lies:

We have another on-the-ground viewer at Cannes this year, Robbie Miller, a film student taking classes at Columbia College, where his reports will be added as well when they come in:

Greetings from Cannes,

I'll keep this brief as I'm exhausted.  Here are my reviews thus far; I've gotten into every competition film screened plus Un Certain Regard, market screenings, Fortnight and classics (no critics' week films seen yet).  I still need to write about FRUITVALE STATION (I'm not really too sure just how I feel about it), Asghar Farhadi's pensive post-divorce drama THE PAST, Jia Zhangke's bizarre and uneven film A TOUCH OF SIN (which I don't know if I can write about after one viewing), extremely sexually explicit homoerotic thriller THE STRANGER BY THE LAKE (a groundbreaking film that was compared to LA GRANDE BOUFFE in its introduction, received a 6 minute or so ovation and is quite remarkable in its own right), and Marcel Ophuls' fascinating trip down memory lane UN VOYAGEUR, from the fortnight, which also received about a 4 minute ovation.  Tomorrow I'll (hopefully) be seeing JIMMY P., Desplechin's English debut, and Hirokazu Kore-eda's LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, among others of which I am not yet certain.  I'll keep you informed.



KISS OF THE DAMNED (Xan Cassavetes, Marché du Film)
Written and directed by the daughter of John Cassavetes, considered by many to be the father of independent film, this vampire film is in sync with the popularity of that genre in recent years and is purportedly inspired by the extremely low budget erotic vampire movies of Jean Rollin.  However, while the movies of Rollin are improvisational in style and have a purposefully controlled, artful sublimity to their sleaziness, always maintaining some degree of ironic self-recognition, Cassavetes' film seems to exist solely for the purpose of showcasing sex and graphic vampiric bloodlust.  Overlooking the fantastic premise of the film, every element from the acting (the performances are mostly unconvincing and uncomfortable, to say the least) to story and setting (the portrayal of vampires as embedded in the upper crust of society is laughable) seems contrived.  Where the films of Rollin implicitly present themselves as ridiculous and campy from the opening frame, KISS OF THE DAMNED seems to take its own premise a bit too seriously for its own good.  Where the sex in Rollin is humorous, the sex in this film is gratuitous and serves no purpose other than the ability to show sex on screen.  Nothing here is organic to the story, and this is what damns the film to a cinematic trash heap - or at least the dollar bin at the video store.  C  74


YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL (JEUNE ET JOLIE) (Francois Ozon, Main Competition)
The second film within one year from Francois Ozon, whose IN THE HOUSE won the top prize at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in September 2012, the story follows an apparently discontented 17 year old high school girl from a wealthy background who decides to prostitute herself.  Reminiscent of BELLE DE JOUR and somewhat tangentially of JEANNE DIELMAN, 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE, 1080 BRUXELLES, the lead of Isabelle is played by 23 year old model Marine Vacth, who brings an emotional detachment to the role that reinforces the character's distance from her actions, an apathy that becomes all too apparent when a sudden event disrupts her self-prostitution and forces her to face the humanity of her relationships with her johns.  Strong psychosexual themes penetrate the entire film, from vaguely implicit questions about Isabelle's relationship with her absent father to the opening shot of Isabelle lying topless on the beach - seen through the binoculars of her younger brother.  Obviously close with her brother, there is a sense of attraction between them, seen, for example, in the personal interest in each other's sexuality that is just a bit too prying and uncomfortable.  At one point in the film, Isabelle asks her brother if he masturbates, and later when their stepfather walks in on him masturbating, one cannot help but wonder who he might have been fantasizing about.  Slightly emotional music provides a light melodramatic, almost operatic, touch to the story, which spans one year and is divided up into four seasons (beginning and ending in the summer, around the time of the protagonist's birthday).  Overall, the film provides a compelling story of Isabelle's adolescent turmoil with a strong screenplay that provides subtlety and a rich but not overbearing psychology for the characters.  It is an understated film whose impact slowly grows stronger after one has left the theatre.  A- 94

HELI (Amat Escalante, Main Competition)
Co-produced by Escalante's mentor and compatriot, Mexican director Carlos Reygadas, whose last three films have all won prizes at Cannes (most recently, POST TENEBRAS LUX won Reygadas the Best Director prize at last year's Festival), HELI presents the story of a Mexican family that becomes the victim of a drug cartel by a combination of unlucky happenstance and judgment.  Before that, however, Escalante presents a uber-realist portrayal of the family's life, always keeping his camera static and trained on his subjects and filming in a style reminiscent of the uncompromising portraits of Ulrich Seidl's PARADISE trilogy and of Seidl's compatriot and fellow "sado-modernist" Michael Haneke.  While there are some moments memorable for their brutality (one instance had most of the 2,300-seat Lumière theatre in a collective gasp of horror), others are memorable for the sheer curiosity and creativity of imagery.  These include a 12 year old girl being lifted like a barbell by her 17 year old boyfriend and car lights behind a car in which the camera is placed creeping up closer and closer in suspense.  Also of note is some of those credited with thanks, including Buñuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière and director Bruno Dumont, whose bare, naturalistic and also uncompromising style could easily have server as a source of Escalante's inspiration.  Finally, the film fills a void of cinematic portrayals of the iron-fisted rule of the drug cartels of Mexico, at some points terrorizing the audience with cringe-worthy imagery to drive home the terror of the Mexican people's experience of the unflinching oppression they face.  A- 90

SPIRIT OF '45 (Ken Loach, Film Market)
This documentary explores the collective enthusiasm of the British people after the end of World War II to fully provide for each citizen's basic needs, exploring life for the impoverished before the war through talking head interviews and archival footage, moving through time to the rise of Thatcherism and Thatcher's massive government cutbacks and privatization of public goods.  An interesting and worthwhile film from Loach that nevertheless does not stand out as anything more than that.  B- 80

THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (Jacques Demy, Cannes Classics)
I won't rehash this one as it's already been written about many times and I am already behind on writing about the new movies I've seen.  This screening, though, was the premiere of the 2K restoration, and for the occasion Demy's widow (and Camera d'Or jury prez) Agnès Varda was present (sitting a row behind and three seats over from me) as was Demy and Varda's son Mathieu, composer Michel Legrand (sitting directly behind me), and competition juror Christoph Waltz.

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

I was turned away from only one film today, the least so far, and it wasn't the Tour de France film that the program stated was for Buyers only. It only took some minor convincing to talk my way into the screening. I told the film's representative that I was an avid fan of The Tour and that I had ridden The Tour route the last few years and planned to do it again this year. I showed her a photograph of me with The Devil at The Tour and told her that this was the film I was most looking forward to seeing in the festival. I'm not sure which impressed her the most, but she said to wait a few minutes until she was sure the theater didn't fill with buyers and she would let me in. There weren't any non-buyers such as me hanging around and there was no rush of buyers either, so my day, and maybe the festival, was made.
I has a similar experience at the Berlin film festival nearly fifteen years ago with "Phantom Pain," a German film that is one of the best bicycle movies ever, right up there with "Breaking Away" and "Two Seconds.". It was buyers only the too, but there weren't a great number of them so I was allowed in. If this movie, "Tour de Force," (the French title is more appropriately, "La Grande Boucle," the French euphemism for TheTour de France) was in its class, it wouldn't matter how good the films were the next nine days, the festival would be a great success. That was a tall order to fill. Unfortunately, this film was more like "Premium Rush," last summer's hokey bicycle messenger movie, than "Phantom Pain." Like "Premium Rush" it had some authentic bicycling footage and understood the sport, but deflated the movie with a nonsensical plot.
The premise showed promise. A 40-year old guy who works for a large chain of sporting good stores that sponsors a The Tour de France team is offered the dream assignment just before The Race starts of driving one of the team cars during The Tour. At the team presentation he accidentally bumps into the team's star and ruins his lucky necklace. The star is infuriated and demands that he be fired. To compound the guy's misery his wife is quite angry that he didn't tell her that he had just been given the driver assignment, as they had vacation plans, and once again allows The Tour to take precedence over her. She disappears with their teen-aged son and leaves him a note not to call.
He decides to fulfill a life-long dream of riding The Tour route on his own ahead of the racers. So far this is somewhat plausible other than the star throwing such a fit over his lucky talisman. At the team presentation, he is befriended by a former great team director, someone known as a "cycle-whisperer," a cycling version of "horse-whisperer." It is said that he whispered something into Greg LeMond's ear when he was struggling in the 1986 Tour, and that was how he won The Race. This crusty old character has just served two years in prison, taking the fall for a team owner. He offers to help this guy ride The Tour route. On the first stage the rider is befriended by a Dutch husband and wife and their 20-year old daughter who are following The Tour in an RV with a course marker in their front window as they have done for many years. They are such tour fanatics that their daughter was conceived as they followed The Tour one year. They feed him and give him massages and theirs daughter occasionally rides along with him. All good.
After a few stages the former team director arranges a TV crew to do a story on this guy's efforts and also arranges some sponsorship. His exploits become a national story covered on the Tour broadcast every day. It upsets the star and owner of the team who fired him that he is getting more attention than they are. The star challenges him to a personal race as he's being interviewed. The touring cyclist makes no pretense that he is competing with the riders, but on a rest day they square off in a mini-team time trial, something that would be utterly preposterous. Even more so, the fired guy enlists the help of Bernard Hinault and Laurent Jalabert, two retired great French riders who are part of The Tour entourage every year, to be his teammates in this showdown.
The movie was filmed during The Tour two years ago. There is much footage taken from that race and others, shown on TVs in the background and also simply as part of the story. Since he is riding a day ahead of the racers, stage starts and finishes that have been set up are included in the movie. It is full of authentic detail. It also captures the superlative French scenery. Like "Phantom Pain" there is a dramatic cresting of the Tourmalet. One of the more grievous faults of the movie though is the pathetic double they used for The Devil, rather than including the real one.
Despite its many faults and the missed opportunity for another great cycling movie, I couldn't help but be pleased to see The Tour being showcased in a big budget movie with the story line of someone fulfilling the dream countless Tour fans of riding The Tour route. The movie is worth seeing if only for its opening, beginning with a toddler getting a bike for Christmas, then tracing his early career as a racer from a young tyke in home video type footage up through his teen-aged years. There is even a quick shot of a kid stopping along the road during a race to take a leak just like the professionals do. Another small delight was a French rapper by the name of Ame Strong. He takes the name because Armstrong was a bad mother-fucker. The son of the touring cyclist is a big fan of the rapper and runs away from his mother to attend one of his concerts. She calls her husband during the mock time trial worried about their son. He suspects where he has gone, so takes a beak from his Tour ride to go to the concert. The rapper is of course an ardent cycling fan and knows all about the touring cyclist following The Tour. That impresses his son and they have a reconciliation. He joins his dad for the rest of his ride to Paris. And there comes the final great great insult to the plausibility of this tale. The touring cyclist infiltrates the peloton, even though there is a squadron of gendarmes trying to catch him, and he is welcomed by the rider he had the rivalry with, who happens to be in the yellow jersey. There is some authentic race footage on the Champs Élysées mixed in with some credible footage of the guy racing along. The rider in yellow allows him to win the stage. His wife is awaiting him with open arms. A great movie could have been made of a touring cyclist following The Tour. It did not need all this brainless hocum.
This wasn't the only movie of the day with a rebelliousness teen-ager who flees her parents, causing them great consternation. The other was in the superb Competition entry "The Past," by Ashgar Farhadi, whose last film "A Separation," won the Oscar for best foreign film. This film has an almost equally intricate plot, tho on the service it just seems to be the simple story of the end of a marriage and the beginning of another. The Iranian husband of an Iranian couple returns to Paris after a four-year absence to finalize their divorce so his wife can remarry. The film is rich in bickering between the three principles. The wife is played by the star of "The Artist," and her boy friend by the star of "A Prophet," both Cannes award winners. The ten-aged girl isn't happy at all about her mother's new boy friend who has moved in with her. This was another movie with a pregnancy that has a strong bearing on the plot, as the woman is pregnant by her new boy friend, one of the reasons why they wish to marry. At 130 minutes, it may have been a trifle long, but it was a richly engrossing drama that could be worthy of best acting or script or more awards.
My only other feature of the day, along with four very mediocre documentaries, was the Un Certain Regard "Miele." The best part of this movie was the lead character getting around on her bicycle. She is a young woman who assists the terminally ill to commit suicide. The film takes place in Italy but she has to fly to Mexico periodically to get the barbiturates used to kill dogs for her clients. She is greatly upset when she discovers one of her clients isn't terminally ill and is just depressed. She tries to recover the poison she has sold him. Not much of this movie rang true.
When I was turned away from a repeat screening of the Competition film "Young and Beautiful" within eight people of getting in I greatly regretted having stayed to the end of the utterly stupid documentary "Shooting Bigfoot." This English production featuring several idiotic Americans who claim to have seen a Bigfoot and take the director for another citing was a complete waste of time. These Bigfoot fanatics were more moronic than conspiracy theorists, but there is enough interest in Bigfoot that these guys have websites and one has actually made four movies himself on his search. These guys were all so lame-brained not even Werner Herzog or Errol Morris could have made them interesting.
When I couldn't get into "Young and Beautiful" I filled in the time slot with a documentary on a town's recovery from the Japanese tsunami, "The Radio of Hope: After Tsunami 3.11." It had the noblest of attentions, but was very average film-making. It did more to represent the ways of the Japanese and their culture, than it did to she'd much light on its subject. The German documentary "Breath of the Gods," also did as much to show how it is in India as it did to elaborate on its subject, yoga. This movie would be a contortionist's delight with a considerable amount of archival footage of Indians twisting their bodies into extreme positions.
It is a shame that Spike Lee hadn't directed the documentary "Linsanity," as he would have certainly elevated this remarkable story to the heights it deserved, and gone easy on the religious angle, which was one of the prime thrusts of this effort. The movie seemed to have the full cooperation of Lin and his family. There are interviews with his parents and his brothers and home videos of Lin as a toddler and footage of his playing from youth leagues through high school and college and of course the pros. It is a conventional by-the-numbers documentary.
His rise to prominence was certainly phenomenal. Before he burst into international fame with the Knicks he had been cut by two teams that year and was about to be cut by the Knicks. He was only given a chance to play because the Knicks in that strike-shortened year we forced to play three games in three nights and were greatly depleted. Lin knew it was his last chance and he gave it his all. The 89 points he scored in his first three starts, including 38 against the Lakers and Kobey Bryant, were the most any NBA player had scored in his first three games in the modern era. As mediocre as this movie was, it was still nice to relive this incredible story that ended up earning Lin a three year 25 million dollar contract with the Houston Rockets.  

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