Monday, May 16, 2016

Cannes 2016 Day 5

Kendall Jenner    

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

Marion Cotillard

Riley Keough

Sasha Lane

Jim Jarmusch

Ruth Negga

Ana de Armas

Flora Coquerel, Miss France 2014

Geena Davis

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis

Thelma and Louise

Thelma and Louise revisited

A collection of pieces from The Hollywood Reporter:

Red carpet photos from PopSugar:

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

Celebrities arrive for the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, from The NY Daily News: 

Daily list of best dressed at Cannes from Blouin Art Info:            

People magazine hits the Cannes red carpet:,,21005726_30489946,00.html

Thierry Frémaux

The massive festival benefits from a contrast of artistic sensibilities rather than pushing one agenda.

"What is cinema?" That's the question posed by the title of collected writings by French critic Andre Bazin nearly 50 years ago. These days, it's a particularly tough question: TV overshadows feature films in the cultural landscape, while digital advancements range from social media to virtual reality. Now more than ever, we need a festival to clarify the changing identity of cinema. 

Just don't tell that to Thierry Fremaux, the festival's poker-faced director.

"In Cannes, our role is to defend film — to show both its power and vitality," he wrote me in an email this week, asserting that virtual reality installations belong in the Cannes marketplace rather than its official selection of films. "That is its role," he said. "But Cannes is a film festival."

And television, he added, deserves a separate context. "We must invent a special festival for it," he said. "However, movies are doing well — as you'll see from the geographical selection this year." 

Naive? Stubborn? Maybe, but the program supports Fremaux's resistance to anything but the purest definition of the movies. The 50 titles in the official selection, whittled down from some 1,800 submissions, represent dozens of countries along with filmmakers new and old. Collectively, they speak to a common understanding of movies as distinct artistry.

Day four, for example, finds Steven Spielberg's Disney-financed children's novelization "The BFG" screening for the press and industry just a few hours after Korean director Park Chan-wook's erotic thriller "The Handmaiden." That same day, Chilean director Alejandro Jodoworsky's surrealist ode to his youth, "Endless Poetry," premieres in Directors Fortnight, and British filmmaker Andrea Arnold's teen runaway drama "American Honey" surfaces in the evening. One 12-hour period at Cannes is a self-contained argument for the medium's vitality. 

Fremaux himself clearly has his favorites, repeatedly singling out German director Maren Ade's relationship drama "Toni Erdman" and Brazil's Kleber Mendonça Filho's mysterious "Aquarius" as two major highlights. But others who have seen some selections in advance — such as Edouard Waintrop, who programs Directors Fortnight — have their own preferences. Waintrop touted two French films in competition, Bruno Dumon's "Slack Bay" and Alain Giraudie's "Staying Vertical," along with "Train to Busan," from Korea's Yeon Sang-Ho.

His own section's highlights include "Risk," the latest documentary from "Citizenfour" director Laura Poitras, which the festival added at the last minute. It was one of several entries that the programmer described as a surprise this year; another was "My Life As a Courgette," a Swiss animated film that he randomly encountered at a special screening near his home in Geneva. "We cross the world to see movies, but one of the best I've seen was almost shown to me in my living room," Waintrop said. 

For Waintrop, the joy of programming comes from his personal satisfaction with the films in the selection. "The first criteria for a movie to be selected is the pleasure it gives us," Waintrop said. "This is a subjective criteria that we brandish as a banner." 

Charles Tesson, artistic director of Cannes' Critics Week section, expressed a similar sentiment. His festival's seven-film selection — with one new title premiering each day — "is not intended to illustrate one day of cinema, but to offer several ways of seeing it across a wide spectrum."

Which is to say: Embrace the contrasts. Social media may have sped up and simplified the terms of the conversation, but nothing stimulates a dense series of far-reaching debates about the state of the movies like Cannes. "The festival belongs to everyone," Fremaux wrote me. "So everyone has their own opinions about it. Sometimes they're great; sometimes, they're stupid. When you do this job, you must be able to accept everything." 

And that may be the single reason why, in the decade that I have attended this festival, Cannes has remained a complete rarity on the world stage even as the medium continues to change. In an age that favors consensus, it celebrates a culture defined by opposing sensibilities. The festival flings 21 competition titles at a jury of filmmakers and actors — this year headed by George Miller — and forces them to argue through their favorites. 

Many film festivals have similarly complex visions of the art form, but only Cannes achieves it on such a massive scale. The festival may offer no single definition for cinema or a reliable prediction of its future, but over the course of 10 days, it offers a dramatic assertion of the art form's resilience. Let the arguments begin. 

Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun at Cannes in 2013

Hissein Habre: a Chadian Tragedy documentary, due to premiere at the event, sheds light on one of Africa’s least-known mass killings

There is a heart-stopping moment in a new documentary about the survivors of Chadian dictator Hissène Habré’s torture chambers, when one of the torturers kneels down in front of his victim and begs for forgiveness.

“I had to follow orders,” mumbles the man, now living on the streets as an outcast. “Then why did you have to beat me so badly?” his victim asks, handing the former gendarme the rubber pipe he used to flail his prisoner’s leg to a pulp. “Your superiors told you to stop, but you went on and on,” adds the victim, who lost a leg as a result of the beating.

The scene is typical of the muted but unflinching encounters that fill Hissein Habre, A Chadian Tragedy, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s film about one of Africa’s least-known mass killings, which premieres at the Cannes film festival on Monday.

Some 40,000 people were murdered during Habré’s eight-year reign of terror between 1982 and 1990, while the west looked the other way, more worried about the cold war and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

Habré was an ally of the Americans at the time. French money even paid for the country’s political police, the feared DDS, who committed torture on an industrial scale, according to Clément Abaifouta, who leads a survivors’ group in the capital N’Djamena.

Abaifouta’s group has spent 15 years trying to bring the former rebel leader – who was deposed in 1990 – to trial. Habré will finally be judged later this month at a special tribunal in neighbouring Senegal, where he had fled into exile.

One of the victims featured in the film, Adimatcho Djamai, who was tortured so badly he spent more than two decades forced to lie on his back, died the day he was due to testify at Habré’s trial.

Haroun said he wanted to cast a light on what he calls “this genocide” largely ignored by the outside world “because it was some business of the blacks” carried out behind closed doors.

The director uses Abaifouta as his narrator, visiting his fellow survivors and gently coaxing the horrific stories of their torture from them.

Abaifouta says he would sometimes wake to find another inmate dead beside him and “be glad that it meant a little more space. That is what we were reduced to” he said. “We were beasts.”

Haroun said most of the people who were rounded up by Habré’s DDS henchmen “were innocent. They were arrested for no reason, the random victims of a bloodthirsty regime.”

Haroun – Chad’s foremost filmmaker whose film Grigris competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2013 – said he wanted to see “if was it possible to still live together after such monstrosities. Can survivors still find a place for forgiveness in their hearts?”

Youth is not exactly wasted on the young, even when the young are as wasted as they frequently are in Andrea Arnold‘s nectar-hued, poignant, yet propulsive “American Honey.” It’s more that youth is impossible to experience when you’re young — it is an unexamined state that has no frame of reference to anything else. So in real life, you can’t ever really “feel young,” but you can at the movies. Especially if that movie is “American Honey,” into which it feels like Arnold distills the very essence of youth, and along with a never-better Robbie Ryan as her cinematographer, serves up golden image after golden image as though dispensing amber shots of hard liquor. It will make you drunk, it will make you giddy, it will make you high, and at 2 hours 43 minutes, it will eventually make you tired, but even with the hangover,  “American Honey” is a glorious mezcal bender. Eat the worm.

Popping onto the screen in a fabulous 4:3 aspect ratio which already kicks against the impulse to track the open spaces of middle America in widescreen vistas and godlike panoramas, from the first scene you are plunged headfirst into Arnold’s immediate style, and allied entirely to the point of view of her star, the aptly named Star, played by the film’s revelation, Sasha Lane. In messy dreadlocks and a cheap tank top with a couple of kids almost certainly not her own in tow, 18-year-old Star is digging through a dumpster and scores a chicken still in its packaging. Then, after a few abortive attempts to get the three of them home by hitchhiking, a white minivan stuffed with people, and a pair of mooning buttocks in the back window, drives by. Star locks eyes momentarily with the guy in the passenger seat, and when it pulls into a nearby supermarket shopping lot, she goes over to engineer a prickly introduction in which the attraction is clearly reciprocated.

The guy is Jake (Shia LaBeouf, reminding us all, for the most part, that he’s a good actor despite sporting the most appalling hairdo) and he suggests Star join the boisterous group who, it turns out, sells magazine subscriptions door-to-door in what’s basically a borderline pyramid-scheme scam. They work under the watchful eye of their manager Krystal (Riley Keough, whose performance here coming so soon after her astonishing turn Starz’ “The Girlfriend Experience” is similarly shark-eyed, monetary and almost animalistically alpha-female) whose relationship with Jake gives the film its very loose love-triangle stakes. The outfit essentially operates like a little tribe, or a cult, with its own rituals and traditions, bonded together fairly ferociously but less by affection than by the shared acknowledgment that none of them have anyone else.

Indeed, outside of our three main stars, the rest of the troupe, aside from Pagan, played by Arielle Holmes (“Heaven Knows What“), about whom we get a little personal detail, aren’t particularly differentiated aside from their hairstyles and body types. Largely played by first-timers, they are there more for the choral vibe of authentic youthfulness they collectively give off rather than for individual characterization.

Arnold’s eye for the miraculously skewering detail is as sharp as ever and the Robert Frank-style Americana of this road trip allows dozens of lovely touches: shots of wasps rescued from drowning in swimming pools, peeing dogs in Superman capes, and curling faded photographs tacked onto squalid walls. And in other ways she seems to have developed, too, perfecting the kinetic, dynamic cutting that she displayed in her terrific “Fish Tank,” that can be adapted for the purposes of tension, as Star gets herself into situations that could easily turn ugly, or of celebration, as in the film’s many exuberant dancing, party and music scenes.

And the music is something else again — a great soundtrack composed largely of songs many of us wouldn’t be caught dead listening to under normal circumstances, Arnold finds frequent use for everything from Southern rap to Bruce Springsteen to Rihanna (in fact, this is the second recent outstanding anthemic film about young womanhood, after Céline Sciamma‘s “Girlhood,” to capture the alchemical effect of Ri-ri’s music on disenfranchised millennial females). And if occasionally the soundtrack lands a little on the nose (Jake and Star literally find love in a chain supermarket — a hopeless place if ever there was one), the clever way the sound is designed compensates, with massive party tracks cutting out abruptly on an edit to give a sense of next-day hangover, and most unexpectedly, at the film’s lovely close when Star has a private moment of baptism during a lakeside party, and after all the noise and clamor she is reborn in quiet.

It is indulgent in its length and relative plotlessness, though there’s no point at which the bravado of Arnold’s filmmaking, Lane’s riveting performance or Ryan’s stunning Polaroid-shaped lensing ever flag. And there is a slight issue with LaBeouf, so good in the early stages, especially when being used as a pawn in the tacit territorial battle between Krystal and Star, in that it’s jarring when he gets to be all Shia LaBeouf-y and beat up a living room, then roar away on a motorcycle.

But for the most part, Arnold has a tight grip on what she wants her loose-limbed film to be: a thrumming blood-rush firsthand experience of youth, of aimlessness and love, with the top down and the radio blaring and the certainty that you are so indestructible and so eternal that you don’t even need to hold onto this moment because everything is always going to be just like this. And that’s the loveliness of the transient but heady “American Honey”: It captures the experience of being young in a way that you don’t get to experience when you are young. Ephemerality is both the beauty and the tragedy of youth — it’s what gives it meaning but it’s also what snatches meaning away. With Arnold’s film, we don’t get to hang on the feeling forever, but we do get to trap it like a wasp under a glass, and to examine it a moment before setting it free. [B+/A-]

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Cannes critics ratings, a composite of 7 different critic scores: 

The Cannes Criterion Forum is up and running:  

Screendaily Jury Grid (Page 56 from Digital edition from Day 6), where Toni Erdmann, which has been bouyght by Sony pictures, has set records for high scores, Cannes: 'Toni Erdmann' sets Screen Jury Grid record

Ioncinema Critics Panel:

Les Etoiles de la critiques is up and running as well (click on image to obtain a full screen):

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

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The round-up of various links covering Cannes:

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

The Hollywood Reporter at Cannes: 

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

The Film Center’s Barbara Scharres, Ben Kenigsberg and Chaz Ebert at Cannes from the Roger Ebert blog: 
a round-up of Cannes news and reviews from indieWIRE: 

The Guardian collection of reviews: 

Mike D’Angelo back at The Onion A.V. Club:

Sophie Monks Kaufman and David Jenkins from Little White Lies: 

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

Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa: 

Sukhdev Sandhu and Robbie Collins from The Daily Telegraph: 

Slant magazine at Cannes: 

Eric Lavallee and Nicholas Bell from Ioncinema: 

Drew McSweeny and Guy Lodge & others from HitFix: 

Glenn Heath Jr. from The L-magazine:

Various writers at Twitch: 

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

Wild, exuberant, unpredictable, volatile youth highlighted my day’s two winning films, one taking place in Russia and the other in the US.  A small tribe of them galvanate across the US in a van selling magazine subscriptions and partying in “American Honey” by the fifty-year old Brit Andrea Arnold, who understands their mentality as if she is one of them.  The latest recruit to the bunch is Star, a rambunctious young woman who claims to be eighteen, but may be younger.  The film opens with her scavenging food from a dumpster with two children she is looking after for a friend.  Her daredevil spirit is attracted by a van of lively characters who moon her as she is trying to hitchhike and then pull into the Walmart across the street.  She tracks them down and is then invited to join them.  

She is taken under the wing of a fast-talking guy who is the best salesman of the bunch and the lover of the woman who orchestrates their movements, finding motels for them to stay at and locations for them to take their act to.  Star tries to remain herself and not make up the stories the others resort to saying their father died in Afghanistan or they are raising money for their college.  It loses her some sales but wins her others.  The energy of this three-hour film does not flag.  The acting is remarkable as well as the camerawork.  This may stray into the fancible, but it is a film to admire.  It is a film Harmony  Korine or Gus Van Sant could have made, except with a feminine sensibility.  It would a daring, but worthy choice, to award Sasha Lane Best Actress honors.  The festival appreciated her performance to such a degree that it put her on the cover of the program.

The Russian Bible-spouting student in “The Student” would be appalled by the antics and the attire of what he would consider the heathens of “American Honey.”  He knows the Bible backwards and forwards and like some Shakespearean character is continually spouting lines from the book that are annotated on the screen as they appear.  He rails against the bikinis and skimpy attire that the students wear in swim class as fostering lust.  He takes great affront to the sex education class demonstrating the use of condoms on carrots, and strips naked in protest.  The Bible preaches to go forth and multiply, not to use condoms he says.  The Bible quotations flow so naturally off his tongue, one might not recognize them as coming from the Bible if it were not for the quotation marks around them in the subtitles.   He is wild and rambunctious enough to be one of the Americans selling magazine subscriptions, but he is a rebel of an entirely different stripe.  His performance is as powerful and entrancing as that of Star and he is equally committed  to his ideals.  They are rare original cinematic characters.

The always brilliant Marion Cotillard, in the first of the two Competition films she appears in, carries “From the Land of the Moon.” She is a slightly mad young woman living a century ago who hasn’t found a husband and who her parents make wed a bricklayer they hardly know.  He is a good man and accepts she does not love him and is willing to visit prostitutes for his needs.  When she learns what he is paying them she says to leave that amount on her dresser and join her in bed.  He keeps hoping he’ll win her over.  He sends her to a sanatorium in Switzerland, where she falls in love with a fellow patient.  He doesn’t answer her letters when they are both released.  The movie goes on for decades more before it reaches a not surprise denouement. Ho-hum.

The rest of my day was three average documentaries whose running times and theaters they were playing in fit my schedule.  The first was the Danish “Bugs,” asking the question of whether bugs could answer the planet’s dietary needs.  It doesn’t reach a conclusion and is more interested in following a couple of young proponents of insects as food to Australia and Africa and Mexico where they dig for ants and tempted and other insects and give them a taste.

“Uncle Howard” was a polished enough effort to have been selected to play at Berlin and Sundance, though it was in the Market here. Howard is the filmmaker Howard Brookner who died at the age of 35 in 1989 after making an acclaimed documentary on William Burroughs and was in the process of making his first feature starring Madonna when he died of AIDS.  He inspired his nephew Aaron Brookmer to become a filmmaker and this is is ode to him, beginning with the discovery of reels of his films in Burroughs’ bunker.  Jim Jarmusch knew Howard.  He produced the film and joins the young filmmaker when he is finally given access to the treasure trove.  This is no “Finding Vivian Meier,” as the producers might have hoped.

“Shadow World”  indicts the weapons industry for having its way with government leaders around the world.  It’s chock full of clips of Thatcher, Reagan, Bush, Obama and many Saudi princes.  Even though it begins with the pronouncement that WWI created 21,000 millionaires thanks to all the weapons sold, it doesn’t pursue this or identify them other than a few of the corporations.  This film needed Michael Moore to give it some impact.

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