Friday, May 22, 2015

Cannes 2015 Day 9

American fashion model Kendall Jenner 

Brazilian model Ana Beatriz Barros

Isabelle Huppert flanked by Norwegian director Joachim Trier (left) and Irish actor Gabriel Byrne

Another look at Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara

Salma Hayek and her billionaire French husband François-Henri Pinault

South Korean actress Gianna Jun

Cannes Film Festival President Pierre Lescure greets the new arrivals

Jury member Sienna Miller looking sporty

Jury member Sophie Marceau having a moment

Jury member Xavier Dolan having a moment of his own

Jury member Rossy de Palma hamming it up with Cannes director Thierry Frémaux

Dressing up with the competition jury

Jury presidents Joel (left) and Ethan Coen, looking surprisingly distinctive from each other

Un Certain Regard jury president Isabella Rossellini

Isabella having a bit of fun with the photographers

…and the result is fabulous

And of course Arnold adorns the streets of Cannes with his otherworldly presence

A collection of pieces from The Hollywood Reporter:   

Red carpet photos from PopSugar: 

Best dressed from Vanity Fair:   

Cannes photos from The Telegraph: 

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

Photo gallery from The Daily Mail: 

Also here: 

also vintage earlier looks of 18-year old model Charlize Theron: 

A glamorous view from the Business Insider: 

Celebrities arrive for the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, from The NY Daily News: 

Vogue guide to Cannes:  

Also here: 

Elle fashion photos:    

Photo Gallery from E-Online:  

Los Angeles Times gallery photos: 

Fashionista blog: 

Daily list of best dressed at Cannes from Blouin Art Info: 
Best Cannes festival dresses of all time, from Marie Claire:

Best and Worst fashion choices from International Business Times: 

Most Memorable Moments ever at Cannes from The Huffington Post: 

Also the most iconic moments at Cannes from The Huffington Post: 

also seen here: 

and still more here: 

Most Stylish Day Ever: Cannes Film Festival 1975, from GQ magazine: 

Harper’s Bazaar at Cannes: 

Hollywood Life photo gallery:  

Another large gallery of photos: 

People magazine hits the Cannes red carpet: 

while also performing a running behind-the-scenes diary style: 

Gaspar Noe's 3D Porn Movie 'Love' Lands In Cannes: “This Co  Gaspar Noe’s 3D Porn Movie ‘Love’ Lands In Cannes: This Could Never Have Been Made In America, by Pete Hammond from Deadline, May 21, 2015

Leave it to the Cannes Film Festival to try and raise a little controversy this year by presenting, as part of the official selection, the first 3D porn movie ever to play the festival. No wonder the crowds were so big early Thursday morning when Gaspar Noe’s Love premiered at the Grand Theatre Lumiere at 12:15 AM. And later, at the press screening today, every seat was taken a half-hour before start time.

Apparently the Cannes crowd enjoyed the uh, coming attractions for this one — so to speak. Reviews have been tepid overall for the director’s latest attempt at stirring things up here. He’s certainly done it in the past with violent, sexual and controversial entries like Irreversible (2002) and Enter The Void (2009), so he shows up on the Croisette every six years or so with something even more daring. But from critics so far, not much love for Love.

So why this time have I gotten the feeling that Love just isn’t creating the same kind of scandalous talk Noe’s films, and others working in the same kind of sector, have gotten in the past? Is it trying to do something like this in the age of the anything-goes Internet?  Does nothing shock this fest anymore? Even though one critic labeled Love the director’s tamest film, it hardly is that, considering the numerous, extremely graphic sex scenes in which nothing is left to the imagination. And putting it in 3D (can Imax be far behind?) with one bodily discharge aimed directly at the audience, among other salacious scenes, didn’t even cause a ripple — at least with the jaded press.

As for Noe, he says he wasn’t just out to make a sex movie. Been there, done that. He wanted something different, and so he started toying with the 3D idea. And presenting it first in Cannes. “Being in Cannes is a lot of fun. I spent 20 hours a day shooting the film and the fact that it is in Cannes scared me, so I thought I better do six months work in one (to get it ready),” he told the Cannes news conference following the press screening. “We sold the project as a mellow pornographic film. I thought it would sell like hotcakes, but then (the producer) said to me, ‘as soon as you say pornographic, people  get scared.’

“I read lots of pornographic books when I was young. But the film talks about being in love from a sexual stance. And of course to represent sex it is hard not to film the genitalia. We’ve seen Lars von Trier’s film (Nymphomaniac). There’s some things that loom larger than life. There’s all sorts of things in my film, some are real , some are fake.”

But why 3D? “There’s something childish about 3D. It’s like a game. It’s hard to beat Enter The Void in terms of filming. I thought, what’s the next game I have never played that might be fun? The idea of making a film showing these very erotic scenes didn’t excite me very duly. I have done shorts that showed that kind of thing. I thought, ‘What can I do that will amuse me? What new language can I find?’ ” he said. “The film was shot with a tiny little budget (about $3 million). We used 3D cameras. Maybe the fact that it is in 3D makes it a film that looks like it is from Hollywood. And it is in English to boot. But that’s not the case. We shot it really fast.”

There’s not much story here (do we really need one?). Noe tends to work without much of a script (seven pages here), so there was lots of improvisation — especially, it appears, in the three-way sex scenes. Some of this seems to be autobiographical, but it’s a gray area and only aspects of it reflect Noe. At any rate, he wastes no time getting to the heart (and other body parts) of the matter, opening on full frontal sexual activity practically before the Cannes Film Festival logo is off the screen.

The lead male actor in the film is in fact an American named Karl Glusman. The female leads, Aomi Muyock and Klara Kristin, are French, and the film was shot completely in Paris, the City of this Love. The actors said at first they had complexes regarding the nude scenes but got used to it. “The first day of shooting Gaspar decided to start us off with a close-up of my genitals. And I was in the bathroom looking in the mirror thinking I should get to the airport and run back to the United States, that this is the end of a very short career,” Glusman said. “I was very uncomfortable at first. Each camera takes three technicians and a lot of the nude scenes we shoot two cameras at once, so that’s a minimum of six people focusing on private parts…Pretty soon it felt very normal.”

Noe isn’t too worried about censorship, in fact flippantly suggesting people fly to Paris to see it if it is banned in their country. But he adds, “this film could not have been done in America. No way. That’s why we brought an American actor to make it look American.” Alchemy picked up the movie for distribution in the States, and execs there say they have absolutely no intention of presenting anything less than the vision of the filmmaker. Noe mentioned he hasn’t toned it down with the exception of one ejaculation scene that was cut (but just one). It will go out NC-17 or without a rating, but it will be interesting to see which art house bookings it gets or if it has to cross over to mainstream 3D-equipped theaters to make the gimmick work.

Meanwhile, no one is storming out of Love screenings in disgust — no one seems shocked. The bigger scandal this year was the security guards kicking women off the red carpet for not wearing heels. You gotta love this town.

The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever  Nikola Grozdanovic from The Playlist, May 20, 2015

The Cannes Film Festival has built a reputation over seven decades as one unafraid of controversy. The boos, heckles, and jeers from the audience have become a Cannes tradition whenever a film is deemed unworthy of the festival’s lofty standards. This year has already seen Gus Van Sant’s “Sea Of Trees” eviscerated by critics (including us). While there are different shades to every controversy, each genuinely controversial Cannes title has earned the right to referred as such. For example. calling Atom Egoyan’s “The Captive” "controversial"’ would be unduly praising an otherwise utterly forgettable movie.
Whether we're talking about great or not-so-great works of cinema that caused a scandal because of their envelope-pushing nature, or hotly anticipated films from big name directors that confounded critics to the point of dominating conversation throughout the entire festival, controversial Cannes titles are fascinating. So here are  ten of the festival’s most controversial films ever. Those expecting a paragraph on Lars Von Trier calling himself a Nazi in 2011 or the unfortunate feud between Abdellatif Kechiche and his “Blue Is The Warmest Color” actresses should note that this feature keeps its focus on films per se, and whatever controversy each riled up according to how they were initially acknowledged.

"Viridiana" (1961)
In hindsight, it's not difficult to see why "Viridiana" stands out as a sublime highlight in Luis Buñuel's illustrious filmography. The film plays out like a fiercely comical coming-of-age tale told by an absurd humanitarian, one who's not afraid to satirize the Catholic belief system and inspect the beneficial outcomes of charity with a raised eyebrow. Over the years, the film has grown infamous for a number of reasons, and two scenes in particular —Viridiana's (Silvia Pinal) paupers running amok in the house and striking the "Last Supper" pose for a photo, and the scorching sexual innuendo in the closing moments between Viridiana, Jorge (Francisco Rabal) and Ramona (Margarita Lozano)— are today considered to be prime examples of Buñuel's genius. But when the film premiered at Cannes in 1961, two powerful parties were substantially less enthused by Buñuel's provocative pokes at religion and class values. In a rare case of a Cannes film inciting controversy due to its positive reception (as opposed to vitriolic derision, in the case of most other titles coming up on this list), General Franco's Spain tried to withdraw "Viridiana" from competition. Failing in this (the film ended up sharing the Palme d'Or with Henri Colpi's "The Long Absence"), "Viridiana" was banned in Bunuel's home country and was only released there after Franco's death in 1977. The Vatican's official newspaper called the film "blasphemous," which prompted the staunch atheist Buñuel to famously quip, "I didn’t deliberately set out to be blasphemous, but then Pope John XXIII is a better judge of such things than I am." Bless him.

"Do The Right Thing" (1989)
Spike Lee has never shied from controversy, even if some of his more recent remarks border on self-parody. The somewhat unsavory public perception of Lee began after "Do The Right Thing" screened to a stunned Cannes audience in 1989. Taking place over the course of the hottest day of the summer in Brooklyn, the film centers around Sal's Famous Pizzeria, owned and operated by the Italian-American Sal (Danny Aiello) with his sons Pino (John Turturro) and Vito (Richard Edson) helping out. Lee infamously portrays Mookie, the Pizzeria's delivery boy who brings the news from the neighborhood after his rounds. Roger Ebert wrote that "Do The Right Thing" "comes closer to reflecting the current state of race relations in America than any other movie of our time," but some critics (namely, former New York Magazine critic David Denby, former New York Magazine political columnist Joe Klein and former Newsweek critic Jack Kroll) feared that the film would incite riots from black audiences, causing Lee to single out their reviews and articles as "pure, uncut, unfiltered racism.” At the festival itself, Jury President Wim Wenders said that he didn't award the film the Palme d'Or because he thought Lee’s character Mookie was unheroic, to which the director retorted: "I've got a Louisville Slugger at home with Wim Wenders' name on it." Instead, the award went to a somewhat puzzled 27-year-old Steven Soderbergh and his breakout film "Sex, Lies, and Videotape." Soderbergh was reportedly worried about Lee's reaction, seeing as how he too thought 'Do The Right Thing' would (and should have) won. None of this takes away from the film's monumental power and undeniable cultural significance.

"Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" (1992)
When David Lynch came to Cannes in 1992 after his and Mark Frost's wonderfully cryptic TV show "Twin Peaks" finished its run on ABC, he unveiled 'Fire Walk With Me;' the hotly anticipated hybrid prequel/spinoff that focuses on Laura Palmer's (Sheryl Lee) life one week before her murder (which is the entire premise for the TV show). Time has been much kinder to "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" —it's largely considered to be a vital component in Lynch's canon, but back when it screened at Cannes, first impressions were mired in vitriol and disappointment. It's an especially noteworthy and controversial reaction because the heckling didn't only occur when it finished, but throughout the entire course of the movie. Among the displeased audience members who walked out were Quentin Tarantino, who would later go on to explain (in a prescient moment of the pot calling the kettle black) how "David Lynch has disappeared so far up his own ass that I have no desire to see another David Lynch movie until I hear something different." Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman likened it to a "Nightmare on Elm's Street" episode as directed by Antonioni (not really meant as a compliment, though some could take it as such), and in a piece he wrote for a German magazine later that year, Lynch began with: "At the Cannes Film Festival, I've always been asked the same question: Why did you make 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me?'" Since its initial premiere, the film has gained much critical respect, ensuring that the black sheep on the Lynch farm is still very much "Dune," but it remains as one of the most derided Cannes premieres of the '90s.

"Crash" (1996)
For a story that focuses on those peculiar souls known to fetishize car accidents, it would've been much stranger had David Cronenberg's "Crash" not sparked immediate controversy following its premiere at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. Based on J.G. Ballard's equally-scandalous 1973 novel, the story centers on commercial film producer Jeffrey Ballard (James Spader), a husband who loves his promiscuity as much as his wife Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger) does, and who literally crashes into Helen Remington (Holly Hunter) one night. Ballard and Remington subsequently descend into a depraved and perverted affair, as they bond over a shared fetish for car wrecks under the tutelage of the mysterious and scarred cult-like leader Vaughan (Elias Koteas). With a premise like that, "Crash" is the kind of film that unambiguously courts controversy. When it premiered on the festival's last Friday night, the film left exhausted audience members fundamentally befuddled at what they've just seen. Variety's Todd McCarthy called it a "forbiddingly frigid piece of esoteric erotica," while LA Times' Kenneth Turan wrote that it’s "so intentionally disconnected from any kind of recognizable emotion, that by comparison David Lynch's removed 'Lost Highway' plays like 'Lassie Come Home.'" And Turan's review came a year after the film's Cannes premiere, a year which saw the kind of censorship and ratings issues one can expect for a film as relentlessly perverse and emotionally detached as Cronenberg’s "Crash." Today the film holds a rotten 58% critical consensus, and is generally considered lesser Cronenberg (especially when compared to the director's more lauded body-horror films like "Naked Lunch" and "Videodrome"), but many (among them Martin Scorsese) have come out in the film's defense, admiring the way it presents people's unhealthy obsession with technology.

"Baise-Moi" (2000)
The surest way to stir up some controversy? Call your film "Fuck Me" and premiere it at Cannes. This is the English translation of Virginie Despentes' and Coralie Trinh Thi's 2000 provocative French film, which centers around two women who rebel against their misogynist surroundings in graphically violent, cringe-worthy ways. When it premiered in Cannes' Un Certain Regarde sidebar, the explicitness of the film's violence (a scene features the two women murdering an entire swingers' club, and anally penetrating one of the patrons with a gun before killing him, so… yeah) and its anarchic narrative brimming with drug addicts, prostitutes, rapists and two decidedly anti-heroic protagonists successfully disgusted most audience members, especially the French press who seemed collectively ashamed that a film like this was a product of their country. After a short-lived theatrical release, the French authorities officially banned it, making it the first film in 28 years to get such an extreme reaction. Controversy was shaped by outside factors as well, chiefly due to Coralie Trinh Thi's real-life experience as a porn actress and the use of porn actors in the film (including the two actresses who play the central roles, Karen Lancaume and Raffaëla Anderson). As such, many misappropriated the film’s genre as pornography, but anyone who's seen it knows that to be a silly assessment. The film itself is a poorly-shot example of the kind of exploitation meant to incite anger for its own sake, but thanks to the resulting controversy, it's become a notorious example of the "French New Extremity" wave of the early 2000s, and one of the most studied cases of contemporary cinema censorship, especially when examined through a feminist microscope.

"Irréversible" (2002)
"If outraged viewers (mostly women) at the Cannes Film Festival are any indication, this will be the most walked-out-of movie of 2003," wrote Newsweek's David Ansen of "Irréversible," Gaspar Noé's sophomore feature film. It competed for the Palme in 2002 and prompted Roger Ebert (who nonetheless admired its reverse-chronological structure) to call it "a movie so violent and cruel that most people will find it unwatchable." Those who've seen it know all too well why this movie incited such rancorous reactions from the Croisette. It's the story of Alex (Monica Bellucci) and her boyfriend Marcus (Vincent Cassel), told around the ill-fated night when Alex is attacked and raped in an underground tunnel and Marcus' uncontrollable compulsion to get revenge on her attacker. It's the kind of subject that can make you cringe, but with Noé's dogged determination to burst through boundaries and confront audiences with the pain of such human suffering as closely as possible, "Irréversible" becomes much more powerful. Noé uses cinematic techniques to push the envelope and infuse his film with an unapologetically nihilistic vibe; the restless camera finally settles down at the most painful moment in the film. That stationary, uncut, take of Alex's rape is very possibly the most uncomfortable and inflammatory scenes in contemporary cinema, one which Bellucci and Noé had to defend in interview after interview. For better or worse, the controversy of having a film like this officially selected to compete for the coveted Palme d'Or fed Noé's notoriety as an artistic provocateur, a reputation that today builds a potent mix of anticipation and anxiousness for the director's upcoming projects. This year's "Love," screening in Cannes' Midnight selection, is no exception.

"The Brown Bunny" (2003)
One year after Noé successfully outraged a large portion of Cannes audiences, actor-turned-director Vincent Gallo came to the French Riviera with a little indie flick called "The Brown Bunny" as if to say "Irrevers-err, what? Wait 'til you see this." Premiering at Cannes in its full 118 minute form, "The Brown Bunny" tells the melancholic story of motorbike racer Bud (Gallo) and his inability to connect with other people due to the haunting memories of his ex-girlfriend Daisy (Chloe Sevigny). Upon its very first screening, the film became instantly controversial because of one specific scene towards the end of the film, when Sevigny performs unsimulated fellatio on Gallo and swallows his semen. Sevigny's agency Williams Morris dropped her even before the film screened, concerned that she tainted her entire career by agreeing to perform acts that were not that far removed from pornogaphy, while Sevigny defended herself and the film in the name of art (and Andy Warhol). More famously, the film spurred a beef between Gallo and Roger Ebert, after the critic proclaimed "The Brown Bunny" to be "the worst film in the history of the festival." The war of words got personal, as the two traded insults over the course of the next few months, and included Gallo calling Ebert a "fat pig with the physique of a slave trader," and Ebert responding with, "It is true that I am fat, but one day I will be thin, and he will still be the director of 'The Brown Bunny.' " It was all settled when Gallo entered a new cut of the film at the Toronto Film Festival (26 minutes shorter, but blowjob scene intact), which Ebert respected much more. While it's not very good, the film will forever be remembered for that scene, but thankfully it never ended up actually ruining Sevigny's career.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" (2004)
One of the promotional posters for Michael Moore's anti-Bush administration documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" sees the director holding hands with the photoshopped President on the lawn of the White House, the cheeky tag-line reading "Controversy...What Controversy?" in unmissable print. So, here we are. The documentary is very much a product of its time, riding on the coattails of the ever-growing unpopularity of President George W. Bush's "War on Terror" in Iraq and his hunt for Osama Bin Laden. "Fahrenheit 9/11" sees Moore mercilessly confronting the Bush presidency; spending considerable time examining the disputed vote count in Florida in 2000 and Bush's immediate response to the 9/11 attacks, and essentially building a case to support a theory that —if proven factual— would have been clear grounds for impeachment. The facts in the documentary caused its own hurricane of controversy after Cannes rolled back the carpet, but it all started when Jury President Quentin Tarantino (!) awarded the film the Palme d'Or, the first such awarded to a documentary feature since 1956, dividing the global film industry into supporters and attackers. And we're talking about the same Cannes Festival that saw Park Chan Wook's "Oldboy" (Grand Prix winner) and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Tropical Malady" (Jury Prize winner). The film reportedly received a 15-20 minute standing ovation, and went on to bulldoze the competition in that year's Oscar season, but many attacked Tarantino's decision to reward the film with the festival's highest honor, including Cannes director Gilles Jacob, who believed that in the case of "Fahrenheit 9/11," "it was a question of a satirical tract that was awarded a prize more for political than cinematographic reasons, no matter what the jury said." Tarantino defends his jury's decision to this day, but the film will likely remain as the festival's most controversial Palme d'Or winner.

"Antichrist" (2009)
We all know that Danish director Lars von Trier is a walking-talking controversy generator by now, a reputation cemented when the Cannes Film Festival had its fill of Von Trier's inflammatory antics and branded the director a "persona non-grata" after his Nazi remarks during the "Melancholia" press conference in 2011. Leaving aside the director's antics, there's no avoiding him in an article about controversial Cannes titles. Two years before his banishment, the director caused an outpouring of outrage, innumerable walk-outs, and more than a couple of fainting episodes when his "Antichrist" screened In Competition at the 2009 festival. It's the depressing story (the first in the director's "Depression" trilogy) of a man (Willem Dafoe) and his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) coping with the death of their infant son by spending some time in a remote cabin. It's the wife who seemingly can't handle the grief, resulting in her gradually losing her mind and inflicting unimaginable pain on her husband and herself. Joining a few other movies on the list, "Antichrist" contains very specific scenes that cross certain moral, ethical and ideological boundaries (genital self-mutilation, bloody ejaculation, that sort of thing), whirling Cannes audiences into a frenzy and prompting the festival's ecumenical jury to give the film an "anti-award," calling it "the most misogynist movie from the self-proclaimed biggest director in the world." Gainsbourg deservedly picked up the Best Actress award for her soaring and deeply-felt portrayal, but the controversy stirred up by the film itself became the most significant talking point of the festival, even overshadowing Michael Haneke's first Palme D'Or ("The White Ribbon"), and other hotly anticipated competition films that year, including Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds" and Noé's "Enter The Void." 

"Only God Forgives" (2013)  
Nicolas Winding Refn's gorgeously shot, over-stylized, hyperviolent and drastically antiformal movie, "Only God Forgives" certainly qualifies as one of the most divisive films to screen at the festival in recent memory. The anticipation surrounding the film's premiere reached fever pitch levels, largely thanks to Refn's success at the festival two years prior, when he won the Best Director award and a ton of praise for his neon-thriller "Drive." Refn returned to the Croisette two years later, having re-teamed with his A-list "Drive" star Ryan Gosling and sailing on a marketing campaign that highlighted his new film's resplendent aesthetic and photogenic Bangkok location. But all expectations were stunned into one collective WTF when the film screened, inciting copious amounts of debate over Refn's directorial abilities and Gosling's acting choices. While some booed and walked out, others stood up and applauded; The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw praised it with a perfect five out of five stars, Variety's Peter Debruge called it a film "devoid of feeling, a venality even “Drive” fans likely won’t be inclined to forgive," Grantland's Wesley Morris dismissed it as "regressive junk," while our own Jessica Kiang found herself somewhere in middle: "On paper, “Only God Forgives” is exactly the movie we might have wanted —a re-visitation to the dark, fetishistically violent world of "Drive," with added local color and occasional, acid dialogue. Onscreen it’s that too: just that and no more." Though it has its supporters, as more and more people confess that the film has been largely misunderstood, "Only God Forgives" remains at the tip of most everyone's tongue when it comes to recent controversial titles to screen at Cannes. Refn probably wouldn't want it any other way.
Through the festival’s seven decade-long history, there have been many titles that caused some kind of controversy. Some caused dissent purely based on how god-awful they are, including Lee Daniels’ abysmal “The Paperboy,Richard Kelly’s over-bloated mess “Southland Tales” and last year’s wretched festival opener Olivier Dahan’s “Grace Of Monaco.” Others were appreciated by critics and Jury members, but taken with a healthy dose of salt considering each film’s challenging nature, Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece “Taxi Driver” and Abel Ferrara’s sleazy character study “Bad Lieutenant,” among them. Others raised plenty of dust back on home soil after their Cannes premiere, similar to “Viridiana,” includes Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” and Jiang Wen’s “Devils on the Doorstep.
Any major controversial Cannes movies we've missed? Do you think "Sea of Trees," or something else from this year's festival will have the honor of appearing in an article like this one day? You know where to go. 


A few takes on Youth, by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, one of the creative forces working today. 
Cannes Review: Youth « Movie City News  Jake Howell from Movie City News, May 20, 2015

It seems like a lot of Paulo Sorrentino’s work is steeped in the truth that it doesn’t matter what age you are, because the grand narratives of life seem to more or less remain the same. At least that’s one of the complex takeaways from Youth, the latest Competition entry from the Oscar-winning Italian auteur that was met with a mix of loud cheers of bravo and candid bellows of booing this morning, if that means anything at all (it doesn’t).

In a lot of ways, Youth feels like it is set down the slopes from Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria, to be specific, except that Sorrentino’s film is philosophically up, up, up way higher—and shining a little brighter—on the dichotomies of life, in terms of aging and art and what it means to live. I mention Assayas’ film because Paulo Sorrentino’s sumptuous Competition entry feels like a continuation of its themes—but also certainly images, as both pictures share the same sweeping valleys and Swiss mountains that visualize the highs and lows of our existence.

Youth unfolds at a fabulous retreat at the foot of a mountain, and it’s where we begin. Opening with a beautiful rendition of “You’ve Got The Love,” a song photographed up close on a rotating platform with audience members in bokeh focus, this ditty is one of many nightly entertainments that Sorrentino’s characters are privy to each night, including a cast of Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, and Paul Dano, each of them playing an artist in a state of flux (with an additional cameo from a brief-but-brilliant Jane Fonda).

The most reflective of the trio is Michael Caine, portraying a wry—though not very spry—composer who is known primarily for his “Simple Songs,” a collection of melodies written for his now-invalid wife. His daughter-turned-assistant (Rachel Weisz) has anxieties of her own in the shadow of her famous father, who despite a career of excellence as a maestro, his most basic work is also his most popular.

It’s a reality he seems to have gotten over, but Paul Dano hasn’t, as he’s bitter that his filmography as a character actor is best known for “Mr. Q,” an iconic robot from what sounds like a meaningless action film. He sits quietly in courtyards trying to ignore this as he studies his fellow guests for an upcoming role (eventually revealed in a hilarious, bizarre gag).

Meanwhile, Harvey Keitel’s aging screenwriter—potentially a hack—is trying his best to crank out an ending to his latest script, the premise of which sounds like a middling Sundance dud. He sits with his team of younger scribes pondering the ending, wink-wink, and Sorrentino builds the film around the delivery of these drafts.

There are other instances of this kind of career-based ennui—a knock-out supermodel, for example, is a lot smarter than one character expects her to be—and the film mines and explores this theme with a cracking wit and a pang of sadness that was touched upon in Sils Maria, but not to this effect or poignancy. Or with imagery this evocative of the meaning.

Because adding to the great beauty of Youth is the cinematography, as Sorrentino is one of the only filmmakers in this year’s Competition to, with every scene, remind us bombastically that cinema is a visual medium (Mr. Haynes and Carol being the other entry to do so). Featuring a commitment to engaging mise-en-scene throughout and a variety of framing decisions that are inspired (and certainly relevant to the subject matter), Youth never grows old to watch.

Despite a few cracks at the medium itself (Jane Fonda steals the show at one point), this is a film that I found myself missing lines of dialogue from because I was so interested in the visual motifs of scaling and descending—a levitating monk, an earnest mountaineer, it goes on—and the dramatic facial expressions from the cast.

If I learned anything from Youth, it’s not the art that is the most visible is the most meaningful. The art that is the most meaningful is the most meaningful, and that’s all that matters once we’re old and gray, lowered into the ground to ascend beyond the corporeal.

'Youth': Cannes Review - The Hollywood Reporter  Todd McCarthy, May 20, 2015  

Paolo Sorrentino's second English-language feature stars Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as two aging artist friends with different ideas about how to wrap up their creative careers.

Youth is a voluptuary’s feast, a full-body immersion in the sensory pleasures of the cinema. A film about old artists by a much younger man, Paolo Sorrentino’s second English-language feature is an immeasurable improvement on his first, This Must Be the Place, standing much closer to the level of his 2013 triumph, The Great Beauty, as it takes on potentially heavy material in a disarmingly whimsical, intelligent and keen-witted manner.

Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, both at the top of their games, wonderfully carry this spirited look at two aging artist friends with distinctly different ideas about how to wrap up their creative careers. Luring younger audiences to a film about mostly older folk at a Swiss spa will be a challenge, but a decent commercial career looks possible with critical support and a knowing distributor’s expert massaging.

Given that the central characters are a retired 80-year-old composer-conductor and a veteran film director anxious to launch yet another picture, one might reasonably expect to encounter these old gents in autumnal, summing-up mode. Or if it were a Hollywood production, perhaps a farcical old-age comedy.

But Sorrentino does nothing so obvious, establishing an oddly paradoxical tone of relaxed rigor that embraces his characters’ unpretentious reflections on their advanced years and artistic legacies while filling the screen around them with fanciful and bizarre characters reminiscent of Sorrentino’s stylistic forebear Fellini but with none of the latter’s grotesquerie.

A stunning revolving opening shot of a singer performing produces a sensual rush that is remarkably sustained for the next two hours. First and foremost among the odd assortment of wealthy guests at a large hotel spa in the Swiss Alps is Fred Ballinger (Caine), a long-eminent musician being entreated by an emissary of the queen (a very fine Alex Macqueen) to return to London to conduct one concert of his most celebrated composition, “Simple Songs,” in exchange for a knighthood. He adamantly refuses and will not say why.

By contrast, Fred’s old pal Mick Boyle (Keitel) has a staff of four young writers with him to help finish the screenplay to his upcoming project. The two men briefly compare notes on physical maladies, such as peeing and memory problems, and the famously womanizing Brit tries to get the equally experienced Yank to say whether he ever scored with the one woman who frustratingly eluded Fred. But mostly they simply enjoy just batting things around; as Fred later tells his daughter, "We only ever told each other the good things."

As ravishing images cascade onto the screen in what becomes a sustained torrent of great beauty, assorted other characters swim into view. There’s smart young American actor Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano), there preparing for a new role; an enormously fat man with a huge portrait of Karl Marx tattooed on his back; a masseuse with a variety of ambitions and skill sets; an old couple who never converse at dinner; a Miss Universe who thinks nothing of striding nude into a spa in front of the geezers; and Fred’s daughter, Lena (Rachel Weisz), a neurotic, touchingly wounded victim of her father’s frequent absences and a link to his long-suffering wife, whose fate is only clarified at the end.

Although Fred insists he’s retired for good, a hint that he doesn’t have conducting entirely out of his system surfaces in a funny sequence in which, on a stroll in the mountains, he "conducts" the moos and bell-clangings of a bunch of cows. Sorrentino has Caine wearing his longish hair combed straight back in the style of Toni Servillo, but it’s actually more disconcerting that the actor has been asked to sport virtually the same hat and, sometimes, sweater habitually worn by Woody Allen. Fortunately, Caine’s enough of his own man to get past this.

As scant as the film is on "plot," it gets by just fine on progression. A lovely scene has Fred listening to a young boy practicing one of the man’s compositions on the violin; a lewd music video features the new rock star girlfriend of Mick’s son, who has jilted Lena in the past; a second visit by the queen’s representative forces Fred to explain that he has only ever conducted "Simple Songs" with his wife singing them and he’ll never do otherwise, which provokes a moving reaction from Lena; and a scene in which Mick and his writers finally hatch the script ending for which they’ve been searching is beautifully and simply rendered in a single take.

But then comes the humdinger, an unexpected visit from the great veteran star Mick is counting on to play the lead and assure the financing of his new film. It’s never convincing when anyone less than a famous actor is asked to play one, so it’s supremely fortunate that Sorrentino was able to enlist Jane Fonda, who struts in deliberately over-made-up and foul-mouthed in Joan Crawford/Ava Gardner mode and brutally tells it like it is to a man who has directed her many times. In her wake, interesting surprises lie in store, for both Mick and Fred as well as for the viewer.

Most dramatists in film and the theater cannot tackle old age as a subject without piling on philosophical homilies about wisdom, loss, regret, acceptance, what’s most important in life, et al., so Sorrentino’s avoidance of these conventional postures proves enormously refreshing. Youth is sharp-witted and light on its feet, sober-minded and heady, nimble yet lush, mature and vivacious both.

Crucial to this success are the contributions of Caine and Keitel. Fred Ballinger would seem to represent an exception among musicians, in that composers and conductors in the real world rarely retire; they keep on until they can’t anymore (and sometimes even then, as with Delius). Entirely in possession of his faculties, Fred exhibits no evidence of turmoil over his voluntary withdrawal from creative work. The script pointedly offers reasons to believe his personal life has been tumultuous (including a period of homosexual exploration) and there have to be regrets, but it appears he’s successfully digested, submerged or, as he insists to Mick, forgotten much of it. A final revelation resolves at least part of his mystery, and Caine is at his unerringly truthful best in a climactic interlude.

As for Keitel, he has clearly been rejuvenated by the best part he’s had in a long time; he’s alive to the occasion at hand and to the opportunities of every scene. It remains unclear how and when men from such different creative spheres ever found the time to become such close friends, but the rapport and mutual understanding are absolute.

Weisz hits unexpectedly touching, and sometimes amusing, notes of distress as Fred’s emotionally unresolved daughter, while Dano is vastly entertaining as the actor trying to discover how to play his next character.

Of course there is no brew that is everyone’s drink of choice, but in its realm of accessible international art films, Youth will be, for some, entirely intoxicating in the way it forges its immense visual richness, musical intensity, actorly precision and unpretentious approach to thematic concerns. It’s like a great spa treatment for the cinematically fatigued.

This year’s Critics’ Week jury, presided over by Ronit Elkabetz (other members: Katell Quillévéré, Peter Suschitzky, Andréa Picard and Boyd van Hoeij) has presented the The Nespresso Grand Prize to Santiago Mitre’s Paulina. This “contemporary remake of the 1960 Argentinean classic La Patota contemplates the aftershock of sexual assault with a psychological complexity that extends beyond the victim to her family and friends, to the perpetrators and bystanders, and even to the justice system itself,” writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. “Driven by a powerfully internalized performance from Dolores Fonzi as the title character, Paulina eschews straightforward answers in favor of questioning observation. While some might find its subtle intensity distancing in relation to the brutality of the plot’s central event, the film is an affecting consideration of how one woman weighs the experience of rape against her social convictions.”

Writing for Sight & Sound, Chloe Roddick calls Paulina “a psychologically nuanced exploration of political idealism.” And at Cineuropa, Bénédicte Prot calls it “a beautiful tribute to female determination and humanity.”

The France 4 Visionary Award, presented for “outstanding creativity and innovation,” goes to Cesar Augusto Acevedo’s Land and Shade. THR‘s Jordan Mintzer: “A beautifully crafted, leisurely paced portrait of a Colombian family holding on while the world is literally engulfed in flames around them, Land and Shade (La Tierra y la Sombra) clearly belongs to what’s known as the ‘slow cinema’ genre, offering up some intoxicating visuals but taking its precious time in the storytelling department.” Alfonso (Haimer Leal) “is returning to the home he left many years ago, where the rest of his family has stuck by trying to make a living farming the nearby fields. But with fires burning every night to clear the land, Alfonso’s son, Gerardo (Edison Raigosa) has developed a deadly lung disease, leaving his wife (Marleyda Soto) and mother (Hilda Ruiz) to do the difficult work in his place. Capturing much of the action in a series of well-choreographed sequence shots, Acevedo and DP Mateo Guzman provide an array of roving, memorable images, including.. one involving a horse that’s straight out of an Andrei Tarkovksy movie.”

For Thomas Humphrey at Cineuropa, Land and Shade “spell-bindingly related a rural consciousness to its audiences. This was because the film abounds with aural rhythms, and it generates a gloriously enthralling sense of depth and movement. It does this by constantly having characters move towards and across the camera, whilst the camera itself always slowly creeps to and from the protagonists.”

The Sony CineAlta Discovery Prize, presented to one of the ten short and mid-length films in competition, goes to Fulvio Risuleo’s Varicella.

Then there are the awards presented by Critics’ Week partners. The Canal+ Award, also given to a short of mid-length film, goes to Andrei Cretulescu’s Ramona.

The SACD Award, presented by filmmakers that are members of the board of directors of the Authors Society, goes to Land and Shade.

And winning the Gan Foundation Support for Distribution is Clément Cogitore’s The Wakhan Front.

*          *          *          *

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

The Cannes Criterion Forum is up and running:   

Screendaily Jury Grid (Page 24 from Digital edition from Day 8), where the Todd Haynes film Carol is still the only film rated higher than 3 with a 3.5 average score 
Les Etoiles de la critiques is up and running as well, where Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre remains the highest rated film. (By the way, to open up the screen, click on the link [Edition mobile : cliquez ici pour afficher l'image]):

While Neil Young from Jigsaw Lounge maintains the odds for winners, making some early predictions for prize winners:                         

7-4 Hou- The Assassin
{prediction: Palme d’Or)

5-1 Nemes – Son of Saul {Grand Prix}
5-1 Haynes – Carol {Best Actress}
– – – – – – – – – – –
12-1 Jia – Mountains May Depart
{Prix du Jury}

12-1 Maïwenn – My King aka Mon Roi {Best Director}
14-1 Sorrentino – Youth
16-1 Audiard – Dheepan
16-1 Trier – Louder Than Bombs
{Best Screenplay}

20-1 Lanthimos – The Lobster
– – – – – – – – – – –
25-1 Garrone – Tale of Tales
25-1 Moretti – My Mother aka Mia Madre
28-1 Kore-eda – Our Little Sister

28-1 Franco – Chronic
33-1 Kurzel – Macbeth
40-1 Brizé – The Measure of a Man
50-1 Villeneuve – Sicario

– – – – – – – – – – –
150-1 Nicloux – The Valley of Love
200-1 Donzelli – Marguerite and Julien
1000-1 Van Sant – The Sea of Trees

5-2 Cate Blanchett and/or Rooney Mara (Carol)
11-4 Zhao Tao (Mountains May Depart)
5-1 Emmanuelle Bercot (My King aka Mon Roi)
8-1 Margherita Buy (My Mother aka Mia Madre)

– – –
11-1 any (or several) from Our Little Sister
12-1 Marion Cotillard (Macbeth)
14-1 Emily Blunt (Sicario)
– – –
22-1 Isabelle Huppert (Louder Than Bombs and/or The Valley of Love)
25-1 Shu Qi (The Assassin)
25-1 Rachel Weisz (The Lobster and/or Youth) solo
33-1 Anaïs Demoustier (Marguerite and Julien)
50-1 Jane Fonda (Youth) solo or with Rachel Weisz
50-1 The Lobster’s female ensemble

9-4 Vincent Lindon (The Measure of a Man)
7-2 Géza Röhrig (Son of Saul)
7-1 Michael Caine and/or Harvey Keitel (Youth)

– – –
12-1 Tim Roth (Chronic)
14-1 Antonythasan Jesuthasan (Dheepan)
14-1 Vincent Cassel (My King aka Mon Roi)
16-1 Colin Farrell (The Lobster)
16-1 any (or several) from Louder Than Bombs (Byrne, Eisenberg, Druid)

– – –
28-1 Toby Jones (Tale of Tales)
28-1 John Turturro (My Mother aka Mia Madre)

28-1 Michael Fassbender (Macbeth)
33-1 Liang Jingdong (Mountains May Depart)
33-1 Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

33-1 Gérard Depardieu (The Valley of Love)
50-1 Jérémie Elkaïm (Marguerite and Julien)
50-1 Ken Watanabe and/or Matthew McConaughey (The Sea of Trees)

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:

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

The Film Center's Barbara Scharres and Michał Oleszczyk, also Ben Kenigsberg and Chaz Ebert at Cannes from the Roger Ebert blog:

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

a round-up of indieWIRE reviews:

The Guardian collection of reviews:

David Jenkins from Little White Lies:   

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

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at Cannes for The Onion A.V. Club:

Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa:

Sukhdev Sandhu and Robbie Collins from The Daily Telegraph:

Eric Lavallee and Nicholas Bell from Ion Cinema:

Drew McSweeny and Guy Lodge & others from HitFix: 

International Cinephile Society:

Various writers at Twitch: 

Glenn Heath Jr. from the L-magazine:

Cannes Diary from Film Comment:

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

All seems peaceful and orderly at a rundown housing project controlled by a drug gang that a family of three Sri Lankan refugees are placed in on the outskirts of Paris.  The refugees aren't what they appear to be, nor is the seeming placidity of the housing project in Jacques Audiard's "Dheepan" that was today's opening Competition film.  This was one one of the more anticipated films of the festival, but Ralph and I had no problem getting into it, thanks in part to the first rain of the festival.

The refugees gained entry to France masquerading as a family unit (husband, wife and young daughter) though they hadn't met until the refugee camp in Sri Lanka.  None of them speak much French.  The husband is given the position of caretaker/janitor at the project where they themselves live in a dump of an apartment.  The girl is placed in school against her will and one of the drug overseers of the complex gives the wife the position of cook and cleaning lady for an elderly guy whose apartment has been appropriated by the gang.  She is thrilled to be earning 500 euros a month.

The husband is very diligent and competent and knows how to cope in their circumstances.  The story pleasantly drifts along as they assimilate into their new environment learning its okay to drink the water and the "mother" kissing her "daughter" when she drops her off at school.  Then a turf war breaks out and this turns into an Audiard film.  The skills the caretaker gained as a gueriilla fighter in Sri Lanka burst forth as he appears to morph into another "Prophet" as in Audiard's film that won him best director honors here a few years ago.  It is a fine performance, but doesn't leap off the screen as in most of Audiard's films.  Janina has aspired to give a class on Audiard.  She will be happy to add this to her syllabus, though it is a much more subtle film than the rest of his oeuvre.  I had been hoping this would be Palme d'Or material, but probably not.

Today began two days of repeating all the Competition and Un Certain Regard films that have screened up til now. Unfortunately the two I most wanted to see,"Carol" and "Son of Saul," were in the same time slot as "Dheepan," so they'll have to wait until Sunday when all the Competition films are screened one last time.  The only other Competiton film that fit into my schedule today was Gus Van Sant's "The Sea of Trees" that was so reviled, receiving four zero star reviews from "Screen's" panel of ten critics, two more than have been given out to all the rest of the films that have been screened.  Some called it the worst film ever screened in Competition.  That was hardly the case.  The film actually had some merit and won't be a total box office fiasco.  This was simply a case of critic mob mentality, with a handful expressing disdain and it becoming a contagion.  And perhaps there is an underlying impulse to discourage anyone from seeing a movie on sucide, especially one that somewhat glorifies a forest in Japan that people come to from all over the world for their final act.  

Matthew McConaughey flying off to Japan on an impulse to commit suicide was a stretch, as he could  just as easily have downed a bottle of pills in his bedroom as he attempts in the forest.  The corpses he stumbles upon add to the stretch, as do some of his escapades in the forest.  The flashbacks, though, to his unhappy marriage with Naomi Watts are a fine portrayal of a typical couple savagely bickering over petty grievances.  Watts is upset, among other things, that her husband is content with his $20,000 a year salary as a college professor, forcing her to be the prime breadwinner as a real estate agent.  If I had seen this movie before the critics had  had at it, I too would have scoffed at some of its pretenses, but I would hardly have ridiculed it as has the critical mob.

The bulk of the rest of my day was repeat screenings of three Out of Compeition films that all tackled an interesting subject--the Turkish massacre of the Armenians, German guilt over WWII and sex.  "Don't Tell Me the Boy Was Bad" mercilessly indicts Turkey for its post WWI genocide of over a million Armenians.  It begins with the assassination in Berlin in 1919 of one of the Turks responsible for it.  The Armenian assassin is put on trial in Germany and is actually acquitted by the jury for his justifiable execution of the individual.  The assassin remains an Armemian hero.  His portrait hangs in the homes of many.  He is the inspiration for an assassination many years later of a Turkish ambassador.  An innocent bystander on a bicycle is severely injured in the car bombing and tracks down the assassin in Syria and asks for forgiveness.  The movie is mostly though an Armenian propaganda piece that will never be shown in Turkey, as it is a criminal offense in Turkey to raise the Armenian issue.

An older German woman has lived in isolation on a small Spanish island for forty years in Barbet Schroeder's "Amnesia," another film taking on a political subject of many years standing.  A young musician from Berlin moves into a nearby house.  They bond and he takes a romantic interest in her not realizing she's German.  She has never been happier but doesn't let their relationship go beyond a close friendship.  He is quite enraged when he learns her nationality.  She has never accepted Germany's WWII past.  When his parents come to visit, they reignite the debate, defending their nationality.  The debate flares out of control when the father tells of his experience during the war supervising Jewish girls at a factory.

The lack of sex in "Amnesia" was more than made up in Gaspar Noe's "Love."  The movie is a succession of explicit couplings straight out of a porn movie.  A young American attending film school in Paris seduces an aspiring painter who works at a gallery.  We never see them in class or at work, mostly just in bed.  The only evidence that the guy is an aspiring film director are all the movie posters in his apartment--Noe's favorite "Salo" among them--and the guy telling his girl friend that she has to see "2001" as they take a stroll through the Parisian peak that was once a quarry.  They are both sexually adventurous and go to a sex club that is filmed with dazzling effect.  The guy though can't  bring himself to join his girl friend in sex with a transvestite when his penis is presented to him.  He is all for a threesome with a woman, as is she.  Both would like it to be a blond.  When one moves into their building, she's in their clutches that night.  This was the third prominent movie of the fest with a baby being given a comical name. This time it was Gaspar, which got a laugh out of the audience.  There are laughs too when the American berates the French for not having won a war since 1918 and when a police officer tells him he shouldn't try to have his own way in all things like Americans do.  Its hard to say what audiences this movie will be made available too, but any fan of Noe will be pleased to see it.

Full nudity was also on prominent display in the Un Certain Regard wrap-up for the day- - "The Other Side" - - an Italian directed documentary that takes place in Hicksville, Louisiana.  A racist drug-addict and his addict girl friend remarkably allow a film crew into their life.  They bare all from their injections to their love-making and their innermost thoughts.  The guy has done time and promises to go back to prison when his dying mother goes, as it is only in prison that he can give up his addictions.  The woman too knows she must come clean, but isn't so eager.  I quickly lost interest in these deadbeats and was happy to nod off.  Ralph had had enough less than half way through and took his leave early, the first film he had walked out on this year.  

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