Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cannes 2013 Day 8

Old friends Roman Polanski and Sir Jackie Stewart (The Flyng Scot), former Formula One race car driver, meet up on the red carpet

Kristin Scott Thomas poses for photographs with Thai co-star Vithaya Pansringarm from Only God Forgives

Thai actor Rhatha Phongam from Only God Forgives strikes a pose

Director Jane Campion is also the Jury president of Cinéfondation and Short Films 

Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (from left), French actor Anais Monory and Chadian actor Souleymane Deme from the film Grisgris

My Sweet Pepperland actress Golshifteh Farahani smiles for the cameras

All Is Lost on the red carpet from The Guardian:

Only God Forgives on the red carpet from The Guardian: 

Julie Miller on the red carpet from Vanity Fair:

A French site that lists daily galleries of red carpet photos, by date, offering regular or giant sized photos: 

People magazine hits the Cannes red carpet:

red carpet photos from The Telegraph:

mire red carpet fashion from The Telegraph:

Director Claire Denis

French director Claire Denis in Cannes, flanked by Chiara Mastroianni and Vincent Lindon from her film The Bastards 

Kylie Minogue and French director Léos Carax arrive for The Bastards 

Claire Denis is one of the best directors working today, as her attention to detail in many ways resembles that of a novelist, where despite international acclaim, her film was not selected In Competition, was instead chosen to play in the second tier Un Certain Regard.  Someone with the stature of Claire Denis, for instance, could probably have screened her film in Competition, but may have had her own reservations, as she does not seek the limelight, and could have indicated this to programmer Thierry Frémaux.  We never get that behind the scenes info, where women may simply not have the same super egos as the men, who prefer to be seen and be the center of attention.  That does not describe Denis at all, which is one reason I tend to really like her films.

Among the more humorously interesting revelations about the origins of the film is from Barbara Scharres at the Ebert blog,

French director Claire Denis (“Chocolat,” “Beau Travail”) is a darling of international critics and festivals. Her films have often been at Cannes, but never in competition (Not that I’m suggesting her new one “Bastards” should be, despite the fact that female directors are traditionally few and far between in the official competition). Playing in “Un Certain Regard,” “Bastards” is an incomprehensible puzzle, written, she admits in the press notes, in a week on a challenge from her sales agent.

A review of the new Claire Denis film Les Salauds (The Bastards) by Keith Uhlich from Time Out New York:

I surely won't forget the experience of Claire Denis's The Bastards. At a packed late-night screening attended by the likes of Catherine Deneuve, Jane Campion, Leos Carax and Kylie Minogue, I found myself drifting dreamily in and out of this bleak tale of a French family undone by the machinations and perversions of a wealthy businessman named Edouard Laporte (Michel Subor). Marco Silvestri (Vincent Lindon) is the ostensible lead, a ship's captain who abandons his post to seek revenge on Laporte. But good luck figuring that out on a first view: Denis undermines traditional narrative at every turn, preferring elliptical, patience-testing opacity to moment-by-moment decipherabilty.

That may sound like a criticism, but far from it. Like Denis' sublimely impenetrable The Intruder (2004), the point is to get hopelessly lost in the film's eerie, unsettling flow. (Frequent Denis collaborators Tindersticks assist by contributing another of their hypnotic, mood-enhancing scores.) The themes of sexual exploitation, monetary manipulation and class indifference slowly emerge from Denis' masterfully woozy play of image and sound until a stunning, shocking final sequence—a 240i res homage to William Faulkner's lurid Sanctuary—snaps this punch-drunk nightmare into full-on, fearsome clarity.

Another by David Jenkins from Little White Lies: 

Claire Denis' new film may not be playing in the Cannes competition, but that doesn't prevent it from being a masterpiece.

It may not have been selected for the main competition at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, but that in no way prevents Claire Denis' narcotic noir deconstruction, Bastards, from being the best film to play here. Perhaps the unrelenting bleakness of its tone accounts for why Denis has been ignobly busted down to the Un Certain Regard strand for what is undoubtedly a major work, one which easily holds its own among a near-defectless oeuvre which includes such modern greats as The Intruder, Beau Travail and 35 Shots Of Rum.

Though the title imparts aggression and violence, Bastards is a more intoxicating and sensual work, enveloping its black heart inside a puzzle-box narrative conceit that merrily wrong-foots until the shocking final frames. An incredible opening shot announces Denis' formal hopscotching, with driving rain photographed with a strobe effect to make it look like scratched celluloid passing through a projector. As with all of her films, Denis demonstrates the myriad ways in which the banal minutiae of life and the thoughts that remain locked inside peoples' heads can be gorgeously aestheticised and extrapolated via the medium of cinema. Here, every shot seems to epitomise that creed.

The basic story is not so different from some kind of trashy Euro revenge movie like Taken, but Denis elevates its hardboiled mechanics and fluid morals to the level of high art. It stars Vincent Lindon, the lead in her 2002 erotic traffic jam movie, Vendredi Soir, whose weather-beaten visage, unkempt sideburns and craggy forehead make him the perfect "hero" for a film which presents the doggedly unglamorous filpside to blood revenge.

Because much of the film's pleasure derives from the way in which Denis carefully orders and juxtaposes information, it's hard to discuss the particulars of plot without giving too much away. Yet it's so immaculately constructed that you're constantly being challenged to decipher the cause and effect of the apparently interconnected events that are being dangled before you. Though Denis – god knows how – had managed to make a film that desiccates narrative chronology while simultaneously working as a simple linear tale. Geography and temporality are – for a stretch – rendered null and void, though you never get the sense that the material is ever spiralling into the realms of the experimental.

Bastards is a film which examines the sordid peccadilloes of the super rich, here chillingly embodied by Denis regular Michel Subor. But the film also possesses a light Marxist undertow, presenting the moral and financial disintegration of the working class and placing it up against the a monied elite who can now apparently operate beyond the tenets of the law. This film depicts the realities of class war, the degradation of penury and various methods people can employ to escape the suffering of their lives. It also looks at the clashing dispositions of men and women, particularly within the context of marriage and parenthood.

Also, the film cements one of the greatest and most intuitive director-cinematographer relationships in modern cinema, with Denis working once again with the peerless Agnès Godard, a woman whose camera always manages to locate more interesting and exotic focal points than just standard one/two shots. We glide across surfaces and bodies, extracting rich expression from places that aren't just the eyes and the face.

Pictorially, it's beautiful and repellant at once, with the sublime technique at the service of images that are militantly downbeat. The film's dreamlike quality – and this is a movie where much of its plot could be a dream – is enhanced further by Stuart Staples droning synth soundtrack. Put simply, Bastards offers confirmation were it needed that Denis remains one of the most exciting and innovative directors working today.

Jessica Chastain stuns in a fully beaded purple Givenchy (by Riccardo Tisci) that complements her pretty red pony at the All is Lost premiere

Mike D'Angelo on the J.C. Chandor film All Is Lost, from The Onion A.V. Club: 

If anything, advance word about J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost underplayed the starkly elemental nature of this one-man survival tale. I’d heard that Robert Redford is its sole cast member, which is true, and that he gives an essentially wordless performance, which is also true (just some attempts to communicate via a broken radio and one pent-up, anguished “FUUUUUUCK!!!!”). But I was pleasantly surprised—gobsmacked, actually—by the film’s total rejection of context, backstory, characterization, or any other writers’ crutches. Apart from a fairly vague goodbye letter read in voiceover at the outset, which mostly apologizes for failings never specified, we know absolutely nothing about the unnamed man (Redford, obviously) at the helm of the Virginia Jean, a small boat drifting 1,700 nautical miles from the nearest land. Disaster strikes before the movie even begins: We first see Redford awaken to find that a shipping container full of tennis shoes has punctured a large hole in his craft, and we never learn how it happened, why he was out there, who the hell he is, or much of anything else. The entire movie is simply a record of his strenuous, increasingly desperate efforts to stay alive, with no bloodstained volleyballs or hungry tigers to serve as a distraction or “humanize” the protagonist. Margin Call showed off Chandor’s talent for snappy dialogue, but here he succeeds in paring the struggle to its purely visual essence, allowing Redford the freedom to literally let action define character. It’s hard to say if this is a great performance—arguably, it’s too single-minded to achieve greatness—but it’s precisely what the movie requires, and Redford commits himself wholeheartedly to the Mamet-approved technique of performing each necessary action as simply and directly as possible. A few moments in which the score becomes obtrusive are regrettable (mostly there isn’t any score, so it’s jarring when strings suddenly swell), and I’m torn regarding the last minute or two, which end the film on an ambiguous note that strikes me, at least on first viewing, as a tad cute in its Christian iconography. On the whole, though, this is a uniquely thrilling stunt, as well as proof that most backstory is unnecessary bullshit. May Hollywood take note. Grade: A-

J.C. Chandor's flashy directorial debut "Margin Call" contained a complicated plot involving financial turmoil, an ensemble of name actors and numerous locations. His followup, "All Is Lost," takes place at the complete opposite end of the production scale: Robert Redford spends its entire duration fighting for his life while lost at sea, hardly speaking at all, and barely given much definition. While simplistic to describe, however, the movie is an impressively realized work of minimalist storytelling that foregrounds Redford's physicality more than any other role in his celebrated career. His performance defines the movie to an almost shockingly experimental degree.

Whereas "Margin Call" involved a vaguely defined economic disaster,  "All Is Lost" revolves around a different sort of crash rife with symbolic intent. In the opening voiceover, Redford reads a dire note to no one in particular, ostensibly written by his unnamed character, while a title card situates the action 1700 miles from the Sunda Strait in the Indian Ocean. Speaking in abstractions, Redford makes it clear that he has made peace with his impending doom, concluding that "all is lost here except for body and soul." Indeed, in its strongest moments, Redford's compelling screen presence and the implications behind his increasingly desperate situation infuse each scene with an overarching profundity.

But it takes time to settle into the rhythm that allows the emotion to take hold. Even as the introductory bit establishes imminent catastrophe, little happens by surprise; in more than one prolonged sequence, Chandor merely observes his character coping with the urgency of his surroundings.

Still, with the anticipation of an end in sight, "All Is Lost" creates the palpable anticipation of a climax, kicking off the tension with a flashback to eight days earlier. After his yacht crashes into passing flotsam, the man scrambles to patch up the hole and keep his vessel steady. For a time, he succeeds, but the sudden arrival of harsh weather quickly introduces several new challenges. Veteran cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco, who shot "Margin Call," capitalizes on the intimate setting with an unobtrusive approach -- save for a few crane shots to hint at the surrounding desolation, the camera rarely ventures far from Redford's face. The actor delivers, his expression shifting from astonishment to anger and grief with credible subtlety.

The movie can be interpreted as an eloquent treatise on the aging process itself: Redford's handsome visage and its now wizened details reckon with the fleeting nature of youth, a concept that takes on intriguing ramifications in the context of stardom. Virtually each shot is a reminder, decades since Redford appeared onscreen in a truly challenging role, that he's one of America's great actors. "All Is Lost" doesn't reinvent his appeal so much as amplify it. 

On a less impressive scale, "All Is Lost" trudges along capturing the minutiae of the seafarer's experience. Yet as Redford hustles to fix a broken radio, construct a lifeboat and find ample supplies, "All Is Lost" fits nicely into an admittedly basic metaphor for life's ups and downs. Among the ingredients complicating that reading, the wreckage responsible for his initial conundrum may have fallen from a passing ship that's his best chance of salvation.

In retrospect, "All Is Lost" conveys fundamentally religious connotations. Fortunately, Redford never blatantly says anything about any higher being that giveth and taketh away, but one can find it there. The same force that put him in this situation has the power to take him out of it, but he's largely left to his own devices, i.e., free will. On occasion, Alex Ebert's intrusive score overstates that sentimental conceit, threatening to turn "All Is Lost" into a preachy movie by implication. But Chandor smartly avoids an obvious buildup to the conclusion in favor of foregrounding the passage of time, creating the feeling of drifting along with the survivor, sometimes to disorienting effect.

After its initial narration, "All Is Lost" contains hardly more than a single vulgarity among its dialogue, a feat that puts the movie in a class of its own. While the premise encourages easy comparisons to "The Old Man and the Sea" (not to mention "Life of Pi"), Chandor crafts an ominous feeling tied to each individual moment rather than the larger task of survival at hand. Whether he's wading through the watery boat in search of his supplies, fumbling with a sexton to figure out the right direction, or dreading another bout with the traveling storm, the sense of peril maintains a constant forward momentum. Each moment that Redford manages to stay alive represents a tiny victory even as he faces the same fate that awaits us all. Chandor leaves plenty of time in his patient narrative to let the big ideas sink in.

Nevertheless, even as "All Is Lost" expands Chandor's range with a far more engaging and determined work, the true auteur of "All Is Lost" is Redford himself. As the camera hovers inches from his iconic blue eyes, the actor takes hold of the material and infuses it with a mortality that demands no explanatory dialogue. Getting close to the actor and watching him work, Redford delivers something we've never seen him do before by boiling down the essence of his career into a cavalcade of frantic looks. Criticwire grade: A-

Adèle Exarchopoulos

We may have found a Best Actress candidate in Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue Is the Warmest Color, by Jordan Mintzer from The Hollywood Reporter:

Blue is the Warmest Color (La Vie d’Adele, Chapitres 1 et 2) may be the title of Tunisian-born French director Abdellatif Kechiche’s latest sprawling drama, but the emotions—and the sex, of which there is beaucoup—definitely run red hot in this deeply moving portrait of a young girl’s climb towards adulthood in the arms of another woman. Surely to raise eyebrows with its show-stopping scenes of non-simulated female copulation, the film is actually much more than that: it’s a passionate, poignantly handled love story which, despite an unhinged 3-hour running time, is held together by phenomenal turns from Lea Seydoux and newcomer Adele Exarchopoulos, in what is clearly a breakout performance.

After taking a stab at historical tragedy with the biopic Black Venus, Kechiche returns to the roots of his 2003 sophomore effort, Games of Love and Chance, focusing once again on adolescent angst, class discrimination and thwarted love, albeit of a very different kind. So although the 175-minute cut of Blue screened in competition at Cannes will definitely have to scale some hurdles (or employ a pair of scissors) to find distribution outside France, there’s a simple enough story at the film’s core for audiences to connect with, while several heart-rending moments make the long haul worth it.

Loosely adapted by Kechiche and Ghalya Lacroix from the prize-winning Gallic graphic novel by Julie Maroh, the script is separated into two sections (the “chapters” of the French title) spanning a decade in the life of high school student Adele (Exarchopoulos), who lives in a blue-collar home in the northern city of Lille. We’re first introduced to her in class—in a scene reminiscent of Games—during a lecture on Pierre de Marivaux’s novel La Vie de Marianne, for which the teacher wonders aloud: “How do you understand that the heart is missing something?”

That’s the question the film tries to answer throughout its long and winding narrative, as we follow Adele during her first, unsuccessful relationship with a charming fellow student, Thomas (Jeremie Laheurte), and then, into the embraces of the mysterious, blue-haired art school chick Emma (Seydoux), who she connects with in a lesbian bar after having seen her earlier on. As it soon becomes clear, whatever Adele’s heart was lacking with Thomas is soon enough filled by her burgeoning affair with Emma, and despite suffering the wrath of her gay-bashing buddies, she’s clearly hooked from the start.

And it’s easy to see why. Because once the two girls get into bed together, they forge a sexual bond that Kechiche captures in ways few directors have done before him, allowing their lovemaking to play out in extended takes that definitely cross the barrier between performance and the real deal. Yet, the bedroom scenes are a far cry from softcore porn or art-house exploitation: what they show—amid various positions, moaning and exposed flesh (not to mention suggestive oyster slurping, in one playful sequence)—is that sex and love can, in the best cases, become one and the same, uniting two people who may actually have less in common than they believe.

Such contrasts are explored in the film’s second half, which picks up after Adele and Emma have moved in together, with the former working as a kindergarten teacher and the latter pursuing her career as a painter. Having already hinted at the girls’ class differences during two family dinner scenes, Kechiche begins revealing how their disparate personalities and backgrounds, especially when it comes to art and culture, are gradually driving them apart—a reality that comes to the forefront at a party where Adele appears as the apron-wearing housewife among Emma’s friends.

It’s a compelling way to shift the story’s focus from issues of gender and sexual identity to questions of social belonging, and Blue winds up going beyond the original comic book to provide a sharp commentary on how couples struggle, and don’t always manage, to overcome their innate differences, even if the sex is still really, really good. And so when things eventually explode between the two lovebirds and Adele faces an arduous chagrin d’amour in all her blubbering, snot-dripping glory, Kechiche brings us back to the question posed by Marivaux, answering it in a way that's utterly convincing.

Less concerned with classic storytelling than with creating virtual performance pieces on screen, the film features dozens of extended sequences of Adele and Emma both in and out of bed—scenes that are virtuously acted and directed, even if they run on for longer than most filmmakers would allow. But such a technique is precisely why Kechiche belongs in the same camp as John Cassavetes or Maurice Pialat, eschewing narrative concision in favor of the messy realities of life, and creating works that can be as ambitiously bloated as they are emotionally jarring.

Despite some of the longueurs, the central turn from 19-year-old Exarchopoulos (Carre blanc), who DP Sofian El Fani captures in every state possible, manages to hold it all together, and the actress can really make you feel things only suggested at in other movies, especially when it comes to the ecstasy and agony of a first relationship. Playing opposite her, Seydoux (also in Cannes film Grand Central) shows how much she’s matured from a gorgeous It-girl to a daring young talent, and this is clearly some of the best work in her short career.

With four credited editors (including co-writer Lacroix) shaping all the footage into a workable whole, the pacing and performances never slow down despite the running time, while the story feels like it could just keep going. Perhaps this is what Kechiche intended with his open-ended French title, although, as the film’s moving final sequence suggests, this chapter in Adele’s life has definitely closed.

The Cannes Criterion Forum is up and running: 

While Les Etoiles de la critiques is up and running as well, where The Past (Le Passé) is the highest rated film, followed by the Coens, followed by A Touch of Sin. In Un Certain Regard, it's a tie between Stranger By the Lake and Grand Central.  Without a numerical rating, my quick criteria is counting how many films get 3 or more stars:

also Ioncinema's Critics' Panel 2013, where the leaders are a tie between The Past and the Coens averaging 3.7, followed by A Touch of Sin at 3.3, and three films tied at 3.1 :

Screendaily also has their Jury Grid, actual page 16 (Digital page 18) of the Screen Edition for Day 9 dated May 23, 2013, start on the link provided, click on the bottom right of the image, and there are two sets of multiple photos displayed on the bottom, where what you want is the first group, almost all the way to the right, where page 18 does the trick, click on that page until you display the largest viewable image.  Currently only one film rates above a 3 rating, as the Coen brothers averages 3.3, The Past and Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty are at 2.8, while Like Father, Like Son and Behind the Candelabria are at 2.5: 

While Neil Young from Jigsaw Lounge maintains the odds for winners: 
to win the 2013 Palme d’Or
which have been shown to press in Cannes are in bold 

5/1  Kore-eda, Hirokazu – Like Father, Like Son
11/2  Farhadi, Asghar – The Past
11/2  Kechiche, Abdellatif -- Blue is the Warmest Colour
7/1  Sorrentino, Paolo — The Great Beauty
9/1  Coen & Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis
9/1  Haroun, Mahamat-Saleh -- Grigris

9/1  Gray, James – The Immigrant
10/1  Payne, Alexander – Nebraska
- – -
16/1  Jia, Zhangke – A Touch of Sin
16/1  des Pallières, Arnaud – Michael Kohlhaas
18/1  Soderbergh, Steven – Behind the Candelabra
20/1  Desplechin, Arnaud – Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian
- – -
40/1  Ozon, Francois – Young and Beautiful
50/1  Van Warmerdam, Alex – Borgman

50/1  Escalante, Amat – Heli
50/1  Winding Refn, Nicolas – Only God Forgives

50/1  Polanski, Roman — Venus In Fur
80/1  Jarmusch, Jim – Only Lovers Left Alive
100/1  Bruni-Tedeschi, Valeria – A Castle in Italy
175/1  Miike, Takashi – Shield of Straw

Best Actor
7-2 Inside Llewyn Davis: Oscar Isaac
9-2 Behind the Candelabra: Michael Douglas
….. (solo, or with Matt Damon)
6-1 The Great Beauty: Toni Servillo
13-2 Grigris: Souleymane Deme

8-1 Nebraska: Bruce Dern
….. (solo, or with Will Forte and/or Stacy Keach)
- – - 
10-1 Like Father, Like Son: Masaharu Fukuyama
10-1 The Immigrant: Joaquin Phoenix (solo, or with Jeremy Renner)
12-1 Borgman: Jan Bijvoet
12-1 The Past: Ali Mosaffa and/or Tahar Rahim
14-1 Mathieu Amalric and/or Benicio Del Toro*
16-1 Michael Kohlhaas: Mads Mikkelsen
- – -
35-1 A Touch of Sin: male ensemble
40-1 Only Lovers Left Alive: Tom Hiddleston
40-1 Only God Forgives: Ryan Gosling and/or Vithaya Pansringarm 
50-1 Heli: Armando Espitia 
50-1 Shield of Straw: Takao Osawa and/or Tatsuya Fujiwara
* any combination of Amalric and/or Del Toro in Jimmy P. and/or Amalric in Venus In Fur

Best Actress
EVENS Blue is the Warmest Colour: Adèle Exarchopoulos
5-1 The Past: Bérénice Bejo

11-2 The Immigrant: Marion Cotillard
14-1 Venus In Fur: Emmanuelle Seigner
20-1 Only God Forgives: Kristin Scott Thomas 
25-1 Young and Beautiful: Marina Vacth  
25-1 Borgman: Hadewych Minis
35-1 Only Lovers Left Alive: Tilda Swinton and/or Mia Wasikowska
40-1 A Touch of Sin: female ensemble
50-1 Heli: Andrea Vergara
66-1 A Castle in Italy:  Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi
80-1 Grigris: Anaïs Monory

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: 
Cannes Diary from Film Comment: 
Kevin Jagernauth and Jessica Kiang the indieWIRE Playlist: 
Drew McSweeny and Guy Lodge & others from HitFix: 
a round-up of indieWIRE reviews: 

Andrew O'Hehir from Salon:

Richard Porton and others from The Daily Beast:

Daniel Kasman, Adam Cook, and likely others at Mubi: 
The House Next Door at Cannes: 
Mike D'Angelo at The Onion AV Club: 
Keith Uhlich offering rival reviews from Time Out New York (Mike D'Angelo's former employer): 
Cannes Fest at Time Out London: 
The Guardian collection of reviews:

The Guardian Cannes commentary:  

David Jenkins from Little White Lies: 
Eric Lavallee and Nicholas Bell from Ion Cinema: 
Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa: 
Richard Corliss from Time Magazine: 
Various writers at Twitch: 

Sukhdev Sandhu and Robbie Collins from The Daily Telegraph: 

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

Eight days and fifty-six films and I have yet to discover that jaw-droppingly great movie that awes and astonishes me and affirms the greatness of cinema as an art form. I know it awaits me. Cannes never fails to deliver at least one of those "WOW" experiences. Sometimes it comes on the last day as with "The Class." Sometimes I find it in the Market as with "Man On Wire." Sometimes it turns up in Un Certain Regard" as with "The Death of Mr. Lazarusco," Or the Director's Fortnight as with "Tarnation."
But usually it is a Competition film such as "A Prophet" or "Tree of Life" or "We Need to Talk About Kevin" or "Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days." There is no denying when it happens. It leaves me overwhelmed for days and stays with me to the present. I had a few hints of the sensation this year with "The Past," so far the most powerful film I've seen so far, but it couldn't sustain it. I am lagging behind with the Competition films having seen only eight of the fourteen that have played with six to go. They are all being repeated three of the next four days, so I will see them all before the festival concludes.
I was hoping for a "wow" experience today with Nicolas Winding Refn's "Only God Forgives" as I had two years ago with his "Drive," both starring Ryan Gosling. But this Bangkok crime-thriller had none of the adrenalin rush of his previous film that won him best director honors. He seemed to be self-consciously trying to live up to that best director award going overboard with stylish effect not unlike Gaspar Noe with "Enter the Void." Gosling is more of a presence than an actor this time. Kristin Scott Thomas somewhat steals the movie with her commanding performance as his blond-haired monstrous mother.
It is immediately obvious that she is someone not to be trifled with when she is incensed that her room at a Bangkok hotel is not ready for her. She has just flown in to retrieve the body of her oldest son, who was murdered. She's not happy at all that Gosling has yet to revenge the murder, scoffing at his assertion that he may have deserved it for killing and raping a young prostitute. She tells him that he gave signs even when he was in her womb that he would be difficult and that maybe she should have had him aborted.
This was one of my two movies today that served up excessive violence and had a boxing connection. The other was "Diablo," a black-comedy from Argentina. Gosling manages a kick-boxing gym in Bangkok that serves as a cover for the family drug business. Diablo is a former champion boxer who has retired after killing someone in the ring played by Jorge D'Elia with a tour de force performance. He is hiding out at a friend's house. Two thugs manage to tie him up and use him as a punching bag. He manages to extricate himself and then beats them to death. He tortures a couple of guys trying to find out who sent those guys. His torture rivals that of "Heli," with its dousing someone's testicles with lighter fluid and then igniting it. He forces ice into his victim's mouths, then sticks a funnel in and pours boiling water from a tea kettle down their throats. The violence of this movie was much more gruesome than that of "Only God Forgives" and had people fleeing the small market screening room.
There was excessive violence and brutality as well in "My Sweet Pepper Land" that takes place in the gorgeous mountain scenery of Kurdish Turkey. I can certainly testify that the region is synonymous with violence. It is the cliched story of the local resistance to a young woman who has come to teach in a small isolated village. Not only is she unwelcome as a teacher but as a single woman. Her family sides with the locals not thinking it is appropriate behavior for a woman who ought to be married. Her five brothers come to take her away. The local chieftain spreads rumors that she is having an affair with the new police chief, who he is also trying to intimidate ans tame. The plot does not rise above cliche. The only reason it was selected to play in Un Certain Regard is because it looked so good and was very well cast.
"Soldier Jane" and "End of Time" were also unrealized, lesser efforts in the Market. Both featured women alone in the forest for at least a spell. "End of Time" takes place after a comet has hit the earth and wiped out much of the population. A young woman foraging for food in a forest stumbles upon a house with some canned goods. A young guy discovers her. They first attack each other but then team up. There was very little credibility to what follows.
"Soldier Jane" from Austria was an absurdist story of a 40-year old woman who is evicted from her luxury apartment after not paying rent for three years. She withdraws all her money then burns the wads of 500 and 100 euro notes in the forest. It was just one of a series of senseless acts that might have had some meaning if this script had had some sort of cohesion.
Two guys pedaling a swan-boat for 160 miles through the narrow waterways of England after an initial foray in the English Channel made for a pleasantly wacky documentary aptly titled "Swandown." Their destination was London and the Olympics. Along the way they are joined by various writers and artists who shared their out-of-whack philosophical bent. This was a fun little diversion of a movie.
Ken Loach offered up a deeply serious documentary endorsing socialism as the answer to society's woes. "The Spirit of '45" raises the point that there was full employment during WWII, so there is no reason other the corporate meddling that there isn't full employment now. The film is rich with post WWII celebratory footage and then the struggles of England to recover from the war. He interviews an array of people with personal post-war experience as well as present day authorities on how socialism is the humane approach.

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