Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cannes 2014 Day 8

Leanna Ferrero, Miss Cannes 2014

Anaïs Demoustier

Sophie Marceau

Bérénice Bejo

Ryan Gosling

Christina Hendricks

can never get enough of the iconic Gong Li

A collection of pieces from The Hollywood Reporter:

A French site that lists daily galleries of red carpet photos: 

Alonso’s Jauja

The hypnotic magnificence of "Jauja"  Kong Rithdee from The Bangkok Post, May 19, 2014

The fifth day of the 67th Cannes Film Festival turned out to be the richest. No, not because of the much-anticipated "Maps to the Stars", a clammy Hollywood satire by David Cronenberg featuring joyless limo sex between Julianne Moore and Robert Pattinson — God bless California. The riches, instead, came from a small Argentinean film "Jauja" by Lisandro Alonso, who’s now confirmed his place in the rank of cinema visionaries. I seriously hope that one of the film festivals in Thailand would bring this gem to our shores, because the hypnotic magnificence and Patagonian inferno of "Jauja" only works best on the cinema screen. 

For a start, the film was shot in the vintage academy size (or the square size), with the four edges smoothened as in an ancient picture frame. This isn’t a stylistic quirk, but a choice that complements the spatial and temporal concept of the film. Taking place in 1882 in the vast expanse of Patagonia, the story centres on Captain Dinesen (Viggo Mortensen), a Danish engineer who arrives at this remote part of the Earth with his teenage daughter. When the daughter runs away with a local soldier, Dinesen sets out into the unknown territory, scarcely populated and yet infested by rumours and myths, and probably by the melancholic ghosts of the past as well as the future.

Like most films that dream their way to transcendence, "Jauja", which is the name of a mythological land believed to be full of happiness, defies easy description. This film is a history (or memory?) of the place and the time locked inside it - and in that way Alonso has joined his kindred spirits such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Bela Tarr and Lav Diaz. And for all its eccentricities and quiet magic, “Jauja” is also one of the most beautiful and touching films showing at Cannes this year. (Well, it should be noted here that the film is not in the main Competition, but the second-tier Un Certain Regard, where things have become more interesting each day).

Jean-Luc Godard

Godard’s Goodbye to Language

Cannes, Day Eight: Jean-Luc Godard's "Goodbye to Language"  Barbara Scharres from The Roger Ebert Site, May 21, 2014

Oh, Jean-Luc Godard, you crafty rascal, you’ve done it again! Once more you’ve been the catalyst for Cannes-mania. The festival seems to lose its head in proximity to any work by this top dog of world cinema. I don’t use the term dog loosely or without implied honor, seeing as a dog is very much the hero of Godard’s new film "Goodbye to Language," which premiered in competition today.

There are some directors whose status is such that any screening of new work will guarantee a frenzied mob. Godard is one of those directors, possibly THE director represented at Cannes this year whose film everyone and anyone wanted to see. In a go-figure move, the festival scheduled just one screening combining the press screening and the official red carpet premiere in one event. The result was predictably a kill-to-get-in sort of madhouse. A theater that holds more than 2,000 was completely full thirty minutes before the film began. They spent the intervening time guarding the doors.

Funny thing, but Cannes pulled a similar move when Godard’s "Film Socialisme" premiered in 2010. Godard himself, who’s not here in person, would probably love the thought of the scrambling, the confusion, the administrative jumble, and the subsequent mad efforts at interpretation of this highly cryptic work by thousands of the world’s critics.

Another funny thing, but with "Goodbye to Language" I think Godard is messing with us big-time, just as he did with "Film Socialisme," and I don’t mean that in a bad way. He’s 83-years-old; he’s top dog; he’s the legendary Jean-Luc Godard, and I think he feels the boundless freedom to do and say what he wants on the screen without giving a hoot how it’s interpreted or whether it’s interpreted.

"Goodbye to Language" is in 3D, and a very challenging 3D at that. The film is structured in numbered sections that repeat themselves with different or overlapping content, and there are brain-scrambling superimpositions, texts, clips from old films, solarized images, and footage shot with low-res cameras. There’s even a costume-drama sequence depicting Mary Shelley and Lord Byron. The sense of experimentation is extravagant, and the 3D effect achieves such notable depth of field that this little movie puts mainstream mega-bucks productions like "The Great Gatsby" to shame.

Godard leads the chase through the world of ideas with a barrage of quotes by philosophers, writers, and artists including Monet. Some statements are layered over the images and a narrator voices others. Words like "democracy," "terrorism," "unemployment," "economy," and "war" are heard. Some of the images that repeat at intervals include a crowded tour boat on a body of water, an open-air book stall, a man with a cell phone and a maple tree with bright yellow leaves.

A friendly dog’s wet nose pokes toward the camera lens about the same time a naked man and woman begin to appear frequently enough that a very slender narrative is implied. The dog, rather clearly Godard’s pet, makes more and more appearances in all its moods and adventures.There’s a lot that can be read between the lines: Frankenstein/dog; man/woman; master/servant.

I suspect that Godard had a whale of a time making "Goodbye to Language."  He’s once again the cinema wizard, and his wizardry extends to putting 3-D through paces that no one else has ever tried, and putting it all together with a trickster’s magic.

Xavier Dolan


Dolan’s Mommy

Cannes 2014 review: Mommy - dearest work yet from Xavier Dolan  Peter Bradshaw finds yet another award contender, from The Guardian, May 20, 2014

The 25-year-old film-maker Xavier Dolan brings white trash and black comedy to the Cannes competition – with a grey area of tragedy and heartbreak in between. The theme of mothers and sons returns this director to the motif of his first film J'Ai Tué Mon Mère (2009). But now it's the mother who feels like doing the killing.

It's an uproariously emotional movie, to all appearances painfully personal and featuring performances which are almost operatic in scale. These are real heart-on-sleeve performances; even heart-on-straightjacket performances. The film has its flaws, relating to an indulgent length and a reliance on an imagined near-future in which there is a specific new Canadian law which makes the plot work. But Dolan's energy and attack is thrilling; his movie is often brilliant and very funny in ways which smash through the barriers marked Incorrect and Inappropriate.

From the first, an oddity strikes you – the screen's aspect ratio is reduced to the "portrait" shape of a selfie taken on an upright mobile phone. Later Dolan will show, poignantly, that this screen-shape relates to the characters' restricted horizons.

Anne Dorvak plays Diane, a widow making ends meet with cleaning jobs: she is feisty, lippy, sexy and dresses like a teenager. The cross she has to bear is her teenage son Steve, who has ADHD and is aggressively unstable with boundary issues, and an inability to stop swearing, fighting and touching women. Yet when calm, he is intelligent and sweet-natured.

Steve has just been discharged from a care facility and now Diane must care for him at home – and this is a chaotic and horribly hilarious nightmare. Antoine Olivier Pilon's performance as Steve is tremendous: he is entirely, hilariously out of control.

But then a miracle happens for both mother and son. They befriend a lonely woman next door called Kyla (Suzanne Clément), a shy schoolteacher recovering from a breakdown which left her with a stammer. Yet she has an instant rapport with Steve, and helps him with his schoolwork – and their friendship even seems to calm her speech problems.

The trailer-trash humour is superbly transgressive, but then evolves into something else: an involving, heartfelt story. You might expect the narrative to develop in sexual ways, and so it does, but not in a predictable style. All three actors give it everything they've got, which is a great deal. These performances are arguably too broad occasionally with a touch of daytime soap. But it is a pleasure to see acting – and directing – which is blasting away on all the emotional cylinders. Full strength, but under control. It is another notable triumph for Dolan. Prodigies don't get much more prodigious than this.

Cannes Review: Xavier Dolan's F'd-Up, Profane And ...  Jessica Kiang, with terrific accompanying photos, from The Playlist, May 20, 2014

We remember watching a directors' roundtable one day and the question was asked of the assembled filmmakers "what is the hardest part of directing?" They all agreed that the hardest thing was to create a sense of life: inside a frame where everything included therein is a choice, the hardest thing is to make it feel part of a wider world, unmanufactured, organic, alive. They should maybe just hang around mopping up the spillover from "Mommy," the tremendous new film from Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan, because, by some distance his best film, it is also one of the most vibrant, intoxicating, illuminating films of this or any Cannes, and it's a little like we can still feel it thrumming through our veins.

Centered on an incredible performance from Ann Dorval, with whom Dolan reunites after "Laurence Anyways" and a no less revelatory one from Antoine Olivier Pilon as her son, the film is brimming with the kind of directorial tics and tricks that would in most other contexts be loathsome, but practically every single one of them works here. From the boxlike, 1:1 aspect ratio (which changes at certain key junctures, rather like Dolan did with his last film "Tom at the Farm," but for a completely different effect) that makes close ups of faces look like beautifully composed passport photos, to the engineered, artificial and awesome use of slo mo and montage, to the soundtrack, which is an extraordinary example of making audience members' hearts sing through the careful application of wuss rock and MOR Mom music, time and again we were left a little winded at the sheer degree of (well-earned) directorial confidence on display.

There are a couple of things that don't quite land, like the unnecessarily overwritten, almost sci-fi-ish prologue which tells us that we're in a "fictional Canada" in the year 2015 when a law has been signed into effect that means a parent can easily consign any child to an institution, which somewhat leadenly introduces the gun in the first act that has to go off in the third. And the film does feel slightly overlong at 140 minutes, losing a little momentum toward the end when it starts to feel like Dolan simply can't bear to leave the characters, even though the story is done. To be honest, he's got a point; characters this good, this flinty and sparky and full of all the good and bad energies of the universe, should live forever.

Diane, or "Die" as she's known (Dorval) is the mother of troubled 14-year-old Steve (Pilon), who at the beginning of the film is being discharged from a detention centre because he set fire to it, scarring another child badly in the process. From the first second of meeting Die, we're a little in love with her, her brazen fishwife language, her aggressive, no-bullshit manner, her ferocious anger and even more ferocious love. But it's her relationship with her son that is the spine of the film; he is as capable of acts of joyous mischief and even grace as he is of acts of extreme violence and cruelty, often alternating one with the other in a frighteningly unpredictable, uncontrollable pattern. Into this loud, argumentative, maybe even life-threateningly torrid relationship comes Kyra (Suzanne Clement, a vet of both "Laurence Anyways" and "I Killed My Mother"), the next-door neighbor who, having recently developed a stutter due to some sort of psychological issues, is as quiet and hesitant as Die and Steve are brash and voluble. After a fantastic reveal of her own fangs in one memorable scene, Kyra becomes a stabilizing influence on Steve, a conspiratorial best friend to Die, and is herself remade by her exposure to their unconventional lives.

There are ups and downs and soapish highs and lows, but what stops this from ever becoming a telenovela is the riveting wonder of the performances and the sheer brio of the filmmaking. There are moments of intense humor, including one of the most infectiously laugh-along scenes of drunken female bonding that we've ever seen and right down to tiny details like Steve doing the Macauley Culkin "Home Alone" face when looking in the bathroom mirror. And there are moments of utter desolation, like the slow realization of a terrible truth that dawns on Steve at the film's end in unflinching closeup—everything happening in Pilon's extraordinary blue eyes.

And then there's that soundtrack. If you'd have told us yesterday that we were ever going to have this many feels for a film that uses Oasis' "Wonderwall" over a "we're getting our lives back together" montage we'd have consigned you to a Canadian mental institution ourselves. But from Dido's "White Flag" to Andrea Boccelli, to what we think is a Celine Dion French-language song to Eiffel goddamn 65, the hits we hate just never stopped coming and never stopping being used to revelatory effect. In fact, Counting Crows' "Colorblind" playing over a scene of Steve on his longboard clearly listening to rap actually made us laugh aloud, while an early scene of Steve returning from the supermarket, riding the shopping trolley and clearly on one of his manic highs while the music swells, the suburban sky so blue behind him and him so bursting with youth, well, that was the point at which we started to fall hard for "Mommy," and while the end trespassed on our indulgence a tiny bit, we otherwise never really stopped.

Undoubtedly a major contender for the Palme d'Or (it screened in the same slot as last year’s winner, conspiracy fans), and undoubtedly one of our top films of the festival, nothing in Dolan's previous work, which we have liked to varying degrees, really warned us that he was going to so comprehensively slay us with a story this warm, human and humane. Subtle it is not, (there are suicide attempts and straitjackets and glassings and excruciating karaoke) but subtlety can suck it when the result is this vibrant and vital. And does this mean we can finally retire the "enfant terrible" sobriquet from Dolan's bio? He may be but a whippersnapper, but no one who has as much compassion for his characters as Dolan clearly does for his three central creations here, whom he by turns judges and condemns and then continually, everlastingly forgives, can ever again be termed terrible. [A]

Cannes critics ratings, a composite of  7 different critic scores, where some of the highest ratings might surprise you:

Screendaily Jury Grid (Page 24 from Digital edition #8), where currently the highest rated films are Mr. Turner at 3.6 and Winter Sleep at 3.4, with the latest Dardennes film, Two Days, One Night, rated an even 3.  None of the other films are rated above 3:

While Les Etoiles de la critiques is up and running as well, where the highest rated films are now the latest Dardennes film, Two Days, One Night, with 12 reviews at 3 or above, with 8 declaring it a masterpiece, Winter Sleep, with 10 reviews at 3 or above, and 5 declaring it a masterpiece, Timbuktu, with 11 reviews at 3 or above, with 4 declaring it a masterpiece, and Foxcatcher with 9 reviews at 3 or above, and 2 declaring it a masterpiece:

The Cannes Criterion Forum is up and running:   

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

Awards and Best Actor predictions
7/2 Winter Sleep (N.B.Ceylan) Palme d’Or
5/1 Leviathan (A.Zvyagintsev) Grand Prix
- – -
7/1 Mr Turner (M.Leigh) Best Director
9/1 The Wonders (A.Rohrwacher) Best Screenplay
9/1 Goodbye to Language (J-L.Godard) Special award
10/1 Mommy (X.Dolan) Prix du Jury
12/1 Timbuktu (A.Sissako)
- – -
14/1 Still the Water (N.Kawase)
14/1 Foxcatcher (B.Miller) Best Actor
14/1 Two Days, One Night (Dardenne & Dardenne) Best Actress
16/1 Maps to the Stars (D.Cronenberg)
20/1 Clouds of Sils Maria (O.Assayas)
- – -
28/1 The Homesman (T.L.Jones)
33/1 Jimmy’s Hall (K.Loach)
50/1 Wild Tales (D.Szifrón)
- – -
125/1 Saint Laurent (B.Bonello)
150/1 The Search (M.Hazanavicius)
200/1 The Captive (A.Egoyan)

6/4 Two Days One Night – Marion Cotillard
4/1 Mommy – Anne Dorval (/Suzanne Clement)
6/1 Maps to the Stars – Julianne Moore (solo or with Mia Wasikowska)
8/1 The Wonders – Maria Alexandra Lungu
14/1 Still the Water – Jun Yoshinaga
16/1 Winter Sleep – Demet Akbag / Melisa Sozen
20/1 Timbuktu – Toulou Kiki
20/1 Leviathan – Elena Lyadova
20/1 Clouds of Sils Maria – Juliette Binoche (/ K.Stewart and/or C.G.Moretz)
25/1 The Homesman – Hillary Swank
33/1 Mr Turner – Dorothy Atkinson
33/1 Wild Tales – Erica Rivas (/female ensemble)

5/2 Foxcatcher – Steve Carell (/ C.Tatum and/or M.Ruffalo)
4/1 Mr Turner – Timothy Spall
6/1 Winter Sleep – Haluk Bilginer
7/1 Leviathan – Alexey Serebryakov (/ Vladimir Vdovichenkov)
8/1 Timbuktu – Ibrahim Ahmed
10/1 The Search – Abdul-Khalim Mamatsuiev
16/1 Jimmy’s Hall – Barry Ward (/ Jim Norton)
16/1 Mommy – Antoine-Olivier Pilon (/Patrick Huard)
22/1 Two Days One Night – Fabrizio Rongione
22/1 Saint Laurent – Gaspard Ulliel
25/1 The Homesman – Tommy Lee Jones
25/1 The Wonders – Sam Louwyck
25/1 Still the Water – Nijiri Murakami
28/1 Wild Tales – Ricardo Darín (/ male ensemble)
33/1 Maps to the Stars – Robert Pattinson (/John Cusack and/or Evan Bird)

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:, also:    
The Hollywood Reporter at Cannes:  

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

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

Kevin Jagernauth, Oliver Lyttelton, and Jessica Kiang the indieWIRE Playlist:   

Daniel Kasman, Adam Cook, and likely others at Mubi:

The Guardian collection of reviews:

The Guardian Cannes commentary: 

David Jenkins from Little White Lies:   

Eric Lavallee and Nicholas Bell from Ion Cinema:

Drew McSweeny and Guy Lodge & others from HitFix: 

Various writers at Twitch: 

Sukhdev Sandhu and Robbie Collins from The Daily Telegraph: 

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

For ninety minutes today Sophia Loren was on stage in the intimate 300-seat Bunuel theater conducting what the festival calls a "Master Class" recounting her storied career.  The ever radiant 79-year old actress was interviewed by a white-haired, female Italian critic interspersed with clips from her many movies, including fourteen by Vittorio De Sica, who as Loren, was from Naples.  Joining the line to get in an hour ahead of time was just enough for me to gain entry, facilitated by those of us waiting being quarantined on the small fourth floor landing outside the theater, with guards at the stairwell not letting anyone else up after the landing had filled.  Loren mostly spoke Italian, though she occasionally lapsed into French and apologized, thinking it wasn't fully fluent.  The audience was provided with headsets to listen in English or French.

She has been attending Cannes since the 1950’s shortly after she began her career.  She was such an icon early enough in her career that she served as the jury president in 1966 for the twentieth anniversary of the festival, giving "A Man and a Woman" the top prize.  She appeared in twelve films with Marcel Mastroianni. She had such a close bond with him she choked on tears as she recalled their friendship.  She said she could feel his presence, especially as he graces this year's festival poster.
It would have taken a great, great film for anything other than this program to be the highlight of the day, if not the festival. Nothing came close today.  The day's opening Competition film, "The Search," most realistically recaptured the chaos and upheaval caused by the 1999 Chechen war. Bérénice Bejo, last year's best actress winner for "The Past" and wife of the film's director Michel Hazanavicius, plays a UN representative assessing the situation.  She takes in a lost young boy whose parents were killed by the Russians and is so traumatized that he refuses to speak.  His older sister is searching for him.  The director must have thought he was making another silent film, not recovered from his last Competition film "The Artist," as the film was undermined by the overly melodramatic elements of a silent film and heavy-handed and preachy dialogue. 

Jean-Luc Godard offered up the day's other Competition film.  It was up against Loren, so I was spared it. Ralph had an Invitation, but he cut it too close, arriving during the red carpet promenade of Godard and  was among more than 100 ticket holders turned away.  He had needlessly stayed to the end, as I had, of the English drug-drama "Snow in Paradise."  This separates itself from standard such fare with the lead character, a young former boxer being drawn into the world of big-time drugs as his father had been, potentially being saved by becoming a Muslim.  It lacked that magic ingredient to transcend beyond the ordinary.

Our previous film, "Fantasia," also an Un Certain Regard entry, did have it, partially thanks to its very artful cinematography making the large Chinese city Chongqing along the Yangtze River look appealing.  It was a companion to the Dardennes movie with a wife going to family and friends asking them to help her pay for her husband's monthly blood transfusion combating leukemia, as the factory where he works cut his health benefits by half.  Their son stops going to school to work against his parents knowledge and wishes and their daughter starts working as a prostitute.  This was pleasingly sincere and honest.

John Boorman also offered up a sincere and fairly honest autobiographical film, "Queen and Country," of his two years of conscription into the military starting as an eighteen-year old in 1952.  It was too gentle and lighthearted for Thiery Frémaux, even though Boorman has had four films accepted into Competition, so was relegated to the Director's Fortnight. Boorman's intellect spared him from being sent to Korea, as he was assigned the duty of teaching typing.  He had a rebellious attitude standing up as much as he could to his career superiors.  There are just a couple of nods to his love for cinema, one attending "Rashomon" with an older woman he is pursuing.

There was nothing but absolute, undiluted realism in "Maiden," a 130-minute documentary on the Ukrainian  uprising this past winter in Kiev that left over one hundred dead.  Sergei Loznitsa sets up his camera in various spots in the huge central plaza of Kiev, known as Maiden, that was thronged with as many as half a million demonstrators and just lets it run.  There are no interviews or talking heads other than speeches heard in the background or songs sung by the masses.  There was a steady trickle of people out of the packed Bunuel for this Out of Competition selection, but for many it was a most mesmerizing film.

For the first time Ralph and I ended our day with different films, as he is more committed to making sure he sees all the Competition films and not willing to risk seeing those he's missed when they are all replayed at the end of the festival.  So he passed on Boorman and saw "Mommy."  He restrained giving his reaction, not wishing to affect my viewing.  Boorman's film ended at 12:30.  Eight hours later Ralph and I would be back at the Palais for Ken Loach's latest and then right after I would have at "Mommy."  Always some seminal cinema to look forward to.

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