Friday, May 30, 2014

Palo Alto

PALO ALTO               B                     
USA  (100 mi)  2013  d:  Gia Coppola 

Gia Coppola is the latest edition of the Coppola Film Factory, much like the exiled Makhmalbaf’s from Iran, currently living in Paris, or the infamous Barrymore family from the days of early Hollywood, all descended from cinema royalty.  Gia is the daughter of Gian-Carlo Coppola (who died in a speedboating accident at the age of 22), the oldest of Francis Ford Coppola’s three children, which makes Francis her grandfather, while Sofia Coppola is her aunt.  Stylewise, Gia graduated from Bard College with a fine arts degree in photography, where her moody visualization is much closer to Aunt Sofia, a mere 25-years old when it was shot, a year or two younger than Sofia when she shot her first feature, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (1999), painting her own impressionistic portrait of rich, overly indulgent high school kids by adapting James Franco’s Palo Alto:  Stories, a collection of 11 short stories taking place in his upscale Northern California hometown.  Like Robert Altman adapting nine Raymond Carver short stories (and a poem) into the ensemble piece SHORT CUTS (1993), Coppola also blends several of the stories into a composite whole, mostly centered on four main characters.  As Gia is herself a California child of privilege, it’s interesting to get her take on today’s youth, which is looking younger than ever, but still plagued by sex, social cliques, infatuations, getting stoned, drunken parties, and boredom.  Parents are largely absent or unseen, while kids have their own cars, and marijuana is the drug of choice for both teens and parents alike.  The casting is inspired, keeping it in an extended Hollywood movie family, where Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric, niece of Julia, and something of a stretch at age 23) plays April, a shy and sweet-natured girl caught up in the enveloping trouble surrounding her, reminiscent of Jamie Lee Curtis in HALLOWEEN (1978), though perhaps not as resilient, while Jack Kilmer, son of Val, who appears as April’s perpetually stoned stepfather in the film, is something of a revelation as Teddy, a stoner kid with artistic tendencies, looking very much the part of a River Phoenix reincarnation from a Gus van Sant film, like My Own Private Idaho (1991).  April and Teddy are drawn to one another, but they’re teenagers that don’t know how to express it, so instead we get a series of longing looks from afar, where they instantly cover up any hurt feelings by getting involved in some other mischief. 

The near plotless but largely entertaining film is a swirling choreography of kids making typical high school mistakes, where the most troubled kid is Teddy’s friend Fred (Natt Wolff), an obnoxious, overly aggressive jerk that spends most of his time putting everybody else down, making fun of the world around him, taking nothing seriously, getting high as often as he can, pretending he’s the life of the party, but in truth he’s the most hurt and alone.  Challenging him for low self-esteem is Emily, Zoe Levin from Beneath the Harvest Sky (2013), the girl who will have sex with anyone, thinking it will fill the emotional abyss she has to live with every day.  The delicacy she brings to the character is part of what makes this film matter, as we’ve seen all these kids before, perhaps in better movies, but their exquisite performances stand out in what is otherwise stereotypical territory.  It’s hard to care about rich kids that don’t care about themselves, who abuse their time on earth, economically privileged children who have it all, but despite their advantages, they’d rather toss their lives away, where we’ve already seen the spoiled and wasted kids in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring (2013) or Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (2012, which actually stars James Franco, by the way), where we can’t help but think—why should I care?  But then we get the painfully honest teen portrayals in The Spectacular Now (2013) or The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), where it’s hard not to share in the heartbreak of adolescent growing pains.  Coppola attempts to draw us into this disturbing teenage quagmire by reminding us how alienated kids are from themselves and one another, portraying them as collisions waiting to happen, where they have to continually pretend life doesn’t hurt, and nothing matters, while deep down they are wounded disaffected souls with no words to express their pain and anguish.  While we’ve all been there, hopefully most of us survived intact, but this film is a painful reminder of a time in our lives when we often could barely tell the difference between right and wrong, where often impaired judgment was held together by a slender thread of common sense and luck.  If one was not so fortunate, many adult lives have been ruined or destroyed by the regrettable actions of one’s youth.  While we’re watching the rebellious antics of so many needlessly discarded teenagers, who are treated like so many disposable parts, it’s hard not to think of how they might end up.

Initially the focus is on April’s secret crush for Teddy, but Fred continually gets in the way with his annoying behavior, claiming Teddy as his best buddy, usually plying him with dope or alcohol or bad ideas, where the two are seen as drifting knuckleheads with an air of indifference about the consequences of having no boundaries to speak of.  While Teddy would walk away from trouble under normal circumstances, exhibiting better sense, in Fred’s company he acts just as screwed up.  One of the highlights of their young lives is attending raging, out of control parties with absent parents, where the kids are free to do anything they want with no restrictions.  Coppola has a knack for creating a naturalistic setting, allowing her hand-held camera to wander in and out of rooms, shot by Autumn Cheyenne Durald, where it’s not unusual for characters to be seen puking in the bushes.  Teddy draws April’s attention, eventually disappearing and wandering off with another girl, where he’s too blitzed to drive, but that doesn’t stop him from getting into a car accident, compounded by leaving the scene of the crime.  With the police waiting for him by the time he gets home, he avoids worse punishment by involuntary community service in a sentence handed down by the court, where amusingly the dispassionate offscreen voice of the judge is unmistakably that of Francis Ford Coppola in full lecture mode.  James Franco plays Mr. B, a high school soccer coach for a rather lackadaisical girl’s team, where instead of winning he keeps his eye on the young girls, veering into the uncomfortable territory where adults take advantage of the vulnerabilities of the young, where his persuasive charm couldn’t be more revolting as he clearly has a thing for teenage girls, yet April is the regular babysitter for his young son Michael (Micah Nelson), making her an easy target.  It’s quite a mood swing to go from showing the obviously excited young kid something he’s not allowed to watch on TV, the legendary Phoebe Cates bathing suit sequence baring it all in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982), to Mr. B seducing April on the same couch.  Her guilt afterwards is punishingly acute, as she has absolutely no one she can share her thoughts with, as her patronizing and overly complacent mother (played amusingly enough by the director’s own mother, Jacqui Getty) is too wrapped up in her own self-help mindset to know or care.  The depiction of aimless and often confused teenagers is not the lurid sensationalism one has come to expect, but is instead a tender and often poetic introspection of the moods and anxieties that thrive within the teenage community.  Consider this the director’s LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003) as she makes her way through the emotional minefields and marijuana haze of high school.   

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Beneath the Harvest Sky

USA  (116 mi)  2013  ‘Scope  d:  Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly         Official site

Good people make bad choices.            —Casper (Emory Cohen)

Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly worked together for five years following the lives of three senior citizens who spent years greeting nearly one million returning U.S. troops when they arrive at the tiny Bangor, Maine airport in the documentary THE WAY WE GET BY (2009) before finally getting married in a wedding profiled in The New York Times Vows Section.  Their documentary film experience clearly effects the meticulous detail expressed in this film taking place entirely in the small border town of Van Buren, Maine, becoming a portrait of the hardscrabble life in the bleak and economically deprived town where the French-Canadian accents are built into the everyday language.  Infused with the best traditions of the American indie film style, which are often hampered by monetary restrictions, they make up for it in the authenticity of the experience, where the film offers a genuine view of what it’s like to grow up in the world of rural poverty, as afterwards the audience is likely to feel a familiarity with this tiny rural town with a population of less than 2000 inhabitants, as if we’ve been there, where there’s a comically derogatory reference to the movie FROZEN RIVER (2008), which covers similar territory.  The film immediately captures one’s attention by a scene in a high school classroom where they are studying S.E. Hinton’s 1967 teen novel The Outsiders, a novel published when the author herself was only 18, a realistic portrayal of poor teenagers from the wrong side of the tracks featuring the likes of characters named Sodapop and Ponyboy, who may as well be the leads in this film, featuring two fiercely loyal high school friends that couldn’t be more devoted to one another, Casper (Emory Cohen) and Dominic (Callan McAuliffe).  While Dominic is spending the summer helping out his parents with the potato harvest, he’s a smart kid with a bright future, but he continually gets drawn into the troubled affairs of Casper, a hothead Alpha male that plays by his own rules, thinking he’s infallible, making him a bit of a small-time hood with ambitions to get out of town, where their shared dream is to move to Boston (seemingly a million miles away) where they can watch Red Sox games.  

At the urging of others to stay away from Casper, as he’s always up to no good, Dominic is forced to constantly defend his friend, claiming others just don’t understand, yet their friendship feels reminiscent of the Biblical Cain and Abel saga, paralleled by two other brothers in the film.  The film is seen through the eyes of Casper, who is mostly a despicable character, someone we’ve all encountered at one point or another in our lives, the kind of guy destined for the penitentiary or death by the age of 25, as the only decisions he knows how to make are the wrong ones, where he makes a living glorifying the persona of being rebellious, almost always seen on the wrong side of the law.  We see him break into people’s homes and steal their prescription medicine, making him part of an underground, pharmaceutical black market network that transports pills across the border to New Brunswick, a business that’s been in his family for generations, where they pride themselves in being able to move contraband without detection.  Casper has a 15-year old girlfriend Tasha (Zoe Levin) who quickly becomes pregnant, where the adolescent tension is only aggravated by the fact that he orders her around, continually berates and belittles her, while both continue to live with their parents.  The feeling of being trapped is at the heart of the picture, as essentially every character plays into this dead-end scenario, with the potato harvest as the only thriving business in town, where there’s just no future for these kids unless they can get out.  Illustrating this point is Dominic’s short term relationship with Emma (Sarah Sutherland, aka Kiefer Sutherland’s daughter), a girl that’s already visited prospective colleges in Vermont, where she’ll soon be moving on, making their relationship tenuous at best.  The looseness of the film’s structure is part of its appeal, as it’s a highly impressionistic, stream-of-conscious mosaic connected by the raw and achingly lonely songs from musician Dustin Hamman, the front man of the group Run On Sentence, moving from unpretentious moments of raucous street euphoria to the saddest and darkest feelings of despair (the musical soundtrack can be heard in its entirety here: pre-order). 

While the film is told out of time, it has a tendency to get lost exploring its many jagged side plots, often growing messy and losing narrative coherence, which may detract some viewers, but what it does beautifully establish is more local flavor into the film, where the town itself may as well be the lead character, expressed through a series of vignettes showing a farm community at work, populated entirely by secondary roles that tend to come and go, or move in and out of view, where we might even see a drunken late-night moose chase on the highway or a rather incredible performance by a heavy metal punk band that suddenly appears out of nowhere.  Only Casper is a fully developed character, but as he’s such a mischievous and thoroughly detestable soul, treating everyone around him like shit, thinking he’s above it all and impervious to criticism, where the glorification of his character, flaws and all, is a difficult and often unpleasant journey, especially when he remains at the centerpiece of the film.  He’s obviously a bright, if misguided kid, with few options, where he has a tendency to continually get ahead of himself, to act before he thinks, where he never foresees the murky trouble that lies ahead, mirroring the adults around him, thinking instead that none of the dirt and muck will stick to him.  As he gets deeper into his estranged father’s (Aiden Gillen) business, Dominic calls him on it, claiming he’s become an errand boy for his father, which is exactly what everyone in town expected from him as he was growing up, where only Dominic had faith that he’d make more out of himself and become something different.  This disappointment leads to a personal tragedy that resembles a similar fate of Ponyboy’s best friend Johnny in The Outsiders, a heartbreaking moment that draws attention to the significance of these young lives, each so terribly fragile, with dreams dissipating into thin air after high school when few opportunities await them due to the economic bleakness that pervades the vicinity.  Written, directed, edited, and produced by this artistic team, it has a distinctively autobiographical, though male-tinged flavor, where the filmmakers lure in the viewer, with both inhabiting the same shared space for a brief duration of time.  Like Shunji Iwai’s ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU (2001), another teenage angst film filled with brooding high school characters that get lost in an overpowering stylization, this is irrefutably impressive filmmaking, where the indie-style cinematography by Stephen Capitano Calitri is nothing less than mesmerizing at times, but there is a disconnect with so many of the people that inhabit this film, which may be the point, as the audience is left with an anguishing emptiness that literally stirs the soul in this barebones musical coda that brings down the closing credits, Run On Sentence "Wide Open Sky" YouTube (5:03). 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Far Shore (L’Autre Rive)

Tom Thomson's The West Wind, (1917)

Tom Thomson's The Jack Pine, (1916-17)

Canadian Group of Seven at the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto in 1920

THE FAR SHORE (L’Autre Rive)       B+                  
Canada  (105 mi)  1976  d:  Joyce Wieland

And there will be poets like this!  When the eternal slavery of Women is destroyed, when she lives for herself and through herself, when man — up till now abominable — will have set her free, she will be a poet as well!  Woman will discover the unknown!  Will her world of ideas differ from ours?  She will discover strange things, unfathomable, repulsive, delightful; we will accept and understand them.
—Arthur Rimbaud in a letter to Paul Demeny, May 15, 1871

The Far Shore is ... symbolically, a story about Quebec culture overwhelmed by the brute power of English Canada.  On the level of subject matter and symbolism, this may be the most densely Canadian movie ever made.
—Robert Fulford, Globe and Mail, 1997

One of the better films at expressing what is uniquely Canadian, using a fictionalized recreation of actual events, borrowing elements from the life of Canadian painter Tom Thompson (1877 – 1917), a forerunner to a group of Canadian landscape painters known as the Group of Seven, which, when seen in an archival photograph all sitting together in the same room, resemble a group of male academics at a business conference.  Nonetheless, they were a group that resisted commercial development on the open expanse of pristine land, believing in the concept of terra nullius, that land untouched by humans had no sovereign owner and thus remained distinctly and uniquely free.  Canada is such a vast territorial nation, most of it remaining untouched and inaccessible wilderness, where there is inevitably a belief in the mystique of the open frontier, like the Wild West, where original settlers were appalled by the thought of constructing fences on the open range.  Thomson worked as a guide in Algonquin Park, a place he and other artists would visit for inspiration, but they continued to venture into unsettled and unexplored regions further north, where Thompson eventually disappeared during a canoe trip on Canoe Lake in 1917, his body discovered a week later, where the official cause of death was accidental drowning.  Theories have proliferated through the years, some suggesting that Thomson may have committed suicide over his situation with a woman that spent her summers at Canoe Lake who was pregnant and carrying his child.  Many other theories abound as well, including some that suggest he was despondent over his lack of artistic recognition, that he may have been involved in a fatal fight, or perhaps killed by poachers in the park.  What is not in dispute, however, is the distinction of this group of Canadian artists who sketched the landscape or painted the natural splendor of an unspoiled nature.  Similarly, one of the film’s strength is its painterly qualities, contrasting the dark and claustrophobic indoor existence, with each object perfectly placed, to the sunlit spaciousness of the natural world outdoors, using visual composition to emphasize mood and psychological states of mind.  The often dazzling use of color heightens the expressiveness of the setting, illuminating the often under-appreciated décor, artworks, or unexplored world of possibilities surrounding them. 

Something of a cross between D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Bo Widerberg’s rapturousy beautiful ELVIRA MADIGAN (1967), Wieland decides to explore this period through a feminist take, as Federal authorities granted women the right to vote in Canada in 1918, two years before the United States and two years after the women in Manitoba became the first to vote at the provincial level.  Women in Québec, however, fared much worse, as both male legislators and leaders of the Catholic Church united against women to deny them the provincial vote until 1940.  By setting the film in Québec in 1918, Wieland and co-writer Bryan Barney emphasize a customary view of women as second class citizens, where not only are their views and opinions not recognized, but society was incapable of accepting women as artists.  Nonetheless, shot on 35 mm, this is given a gorgeous natural palette, much of it set in the pure and unspoiled wilds where nature looks much as it did centuries ago, unsullied by human hands.  A pre-opening credit sequence finds Eulalie (Céline Lomez) in her sun bonnet strolling the lakeside paths of a Québec country landscape of flowers and high grasses on a particularly beautiful summer afternoon in 1919, accompanied by a young girl and Ross (Larry Benedict), who attempts to make his affections and his intentions clear, using the most romantic of all settings to ask for her hand in marriage.  Using a combination of English and subtitled French, he initially misunderstands, where he needs the child to intervene and act as the interpreter, where he is then overjoyed to discover she agrees, moving her from her native Québec into his immaculate mansion in Toronto, complete with servants at their disposal.  With circumstances resembling Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940), what’s immediately clear is the suffocating atmosphere, as Ross is a wealthy engineer, the property owner of untold amount of lands, and a man used to having things his way, where a wife is little more than window dressing, a domestic fixture and household ornament that he can look at and have his way with whenever he desires.  He expects obedience and complete subservience, failing to recognize any of the unique attributes she displays.

Living the life of a bird in a cage does not sit well with Eulalie, who always dresses in ornate clothing with intricate flower designs, wearing hats adorned with feathers, a sophisticated woman who often sits at the piano and plays music she wrote, does her own embroidery and dress design, and often sings to herself, much to the displeasure of her husband who finds her habits annoying and disturbing.  She feels much more at home in the presence of a nearby neighbor, Tom McLeod (Frank Moore) in the Thompson role, as he’s an original painter, described by Eulalie as “a man who loves rocks, trees, and a bit of sky,” but he’s also worked for Ross as a guide, as he’s intimately familiar with the northern territory.  Complicating the picture is Ross’s longtime friend Cluny (Sean McCann), who was Ross’s commanding officer during the war, where the two remain devoutly loyal to one another, but Cluny is purely old-school, as he values Tom’s art only through any commercial value it can bring, seeing only the practical side of life.  This accentuates the cultural disparity between the seemingly educated and cultivated English-speaking and the more artistically inclined French-speaking Québec cultures, as the one is constantly at odds with the other.  Wieland emphasizes this through indifferent acting, where the alienated disconnect between characters creates an unworldly effect, only making their distance even more pronounced, where at times the human dimension actually feels uncomfortable to watch, balanced against the unwavering natural beauty of the world outdoors.  Wieland shows men not necessarily as they are, but as women perceive them to be, harsh and uncompromising, also petty, abusive, and unyielding, expecting women to be molded into the image of a man’s wishes, where she’s impertinent if she refuses, while hating herself even more if she complies with his wishes.  Eulalie’s ease with Tom and her obvious displeasure with her overcontrolling husband sends her husband, or more importantly Cluny into jealous rages, as both men (yes, Cluny as well) desire her sensuality, but feel she is flaunting her feelings for Tom in front of her husband, taking advantage of all that has been given to her, where she can live a life of ease and refinement.  That she should want more feels like a flagrant violation of nature to these men, whose innate desire to control women, to the point of rape and even murder, parallels their violation of nature, where in each case they haven’t the capability to comprehend the natural splendor, as all they can do in each case is destroy what stands before them. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cannes 2014 Day 12

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Asia Argento

French actress Marion Cotillard

Russian model Natasha Poly

Uma Thurman

Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor

more Kapoor

Chinese fashion model Liu Wen

English model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

Former Miss France, French actress Sonia Rolland

Zoe Saldana

Chloë Grace Moretz and Juliette Binoche

Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche after the screening of the film Clouds of Sils Maria

British Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton and American singer Nicole Scherzinger

Chinese director (and juror) Jia Zhang-ke and his famous actress wife Zhao Tao

A collection of pieces from The Hollywood Reporter: 

Cannes photos from The Telegraph: 

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

E Online photos: 

The Huffington Post: 

Elle fashion photos: 

Vanity Fair best dressed: 

International Business Times:  

Hollywood Life photo gallery: 

Another large gallery of photos:  

Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman

the last look of the fest is the elegance and breathtaking beauty of Gong Li

Cannes 2014: Nuri Bilge Ceylan's slow-burn Palme d'Or, and career  Steven Zeitchik from The Los Angeles Times, May 25, 2014

For more than a decade, the Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan has been reliably bringing a movie to the Cannes Film Festival every time he had a new one, starting with the odd-couple class drama “Distant” in 2002 and continuing with new works “Climates,” “Three Monkeys” and “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”, at intervals of about every three years. He won at least one prize each time out.

This year Ceylan premiered his new movie, the marital drama “Winter Sleep,” on the Croisette. And on Saturday he reached a career pinnacle, winning the Palme d’Or, Cannes and global cinema’s highest honor.

Given Ceylan’s deliberately paced Cannes ascent, it is fitting that he won the biggest prize of his life with “Sleep”--itself a slow-burn story that revels in the details, and then some, over its 3¼-hour running time.

“It’s not really okay now to do a movie this long,” he said. “Maybe 20 years ago it was okay. People today like to live fast‎.” He paused. “I like to go slower.”

Ceylan, 55, has a sweat shirt pulled up on a windy day as he talks at the beachside restaurant area of the Turkish Pavilion, the country’s headquarters in Cannes. It is a week before the director will learn his film’s epic length is a selling point, ‎or at least no obstacle, to the Jane Campion-led jury that will vote on the Palme. Still he is unapologetic, saying he believes people will stay with these characters -- particularly protagonist Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), an actor-turned-hotelier and newspaper columnist -- even through the dialogue scenes that can flatten and undulate many times over before they’re done.

Besides, Ceylan says, flashing a smile, impatient viewers should consider themselves lucky. "This is the shortened version. The original was 4½ hours,” he said.

Telling personal stories -- often about existential characters and dilemmas -- in an exotic setting has been Ceylan's calling card since he came on the scene (his first film was “Small Town,” which received accolades at the Berlinale when it premiered there in 1998). "Winter Sleep" offers maybe the most ambitious example yet of this admixture.

After an opening scene that lays out, in the movie’s picturesque Cappadocia town, class tensions between the wealthy landowning stratum (of which the middle-aged Aydin is a part) and the poor residents who see little but hopelessness and harassment from their unofficial masters‎, the movie shifts into a lower gear. Aydin soon gets into a series of extended one-on-one conversations with his younger wife Nihal (Melisa Sozen).and divorcee sister Necla (Demet Akbag) over their respective life choices and one's purpose on this earth generally.

Aydin has an earnest, righteous quality, but it is a peculiar brand of piety, brushed with arrogance as he admonishes Nihal for, of all things, her charity work. As these conversation unfold, one gains insight into Ceylan’s view on justice and life’s purpose even as small character details, not all of them savory, emerge.

Much of the movie continues in this fashion -- the sprawling Turkish countryside setting belies the film’s chamber-piece essence --‎ before a final-hour turn to Istanbul, where the plot quickens its pace.

"You had to include those conversations before sending Aydin to Istanbul‎," Ceylan said, offering an indirect explanation for the digressive, conversational nature of his film and a rebuttal to those who in these past few days have been pressing him on it.

How much Aydin‎ can or should be identify with is a question at the heart of the piece, since while he makes some defensible points, he also has a peremptory air that keeps him at arm's length from our sympathy and makes us ask questions about both his motives and our own.

“I’m interested in the timeless.  This is a story about the human soul. When you think about it, we know nothing about that,” said the director, who wrote the film with his wife and former acting collaborator Ebru Ceylan, a professional union that may help explain the movie’s preoccupations with marriage and partnership.

Ceylan has a ruminative style of speaking, filled with pauses, that is reminiscent of some of his characters. He said this film came out of a tension he felt between the way he and his peers live his life compared with working-class people, and a kind of crisis of conscience that came with that realization.

“We intellectuals like thinking about life more than living it.” he said. “It leaves you with a guilty conscience sometimes. Other people are living it.”

Indeed, also central in the movie (which does not yet have distribution in the U.S.) is the difficult position everyday people find themselves when economic prospects are bleak and class and religious tensions are high, as they are in modern Turkey, the personal made more dramatic by the political. It is no accident that Ceylan tossed a nod in his Palme acceptance speech to  "the young people in Turkey and those who lost their lives in the last year,” a reference to the economic and religious tensions the country has faced of late. The filmmaker's movies may not be overtly topical, but topicality is never far from his mind.

Turkey had not previously been a global-cinema power, but Ceylan has begun to change that. And if recent movies—including “Monkeys” and “Anatolia”-- have had more of a genre dimension, this film is more sweeping, he said, simply because a life, longer and more fully lived, leads to tougher questions and grander perspectives.

“I never wanted to make a film about one thing. I wanted it to be about life,” he said. “So I felt free to put everything in there. Other films [of mine] maybe are‎ more narrow. This is more divergent.”

That divergence can take time to develop. but as Ceylan learned Saturday, if it’s moving in the right direction it will one day be rewarded.

Cannes film festival: The most buzzed-about performances  Jake Coyle from The San Jose Mercury News, May 25, 2014

CANNES, France -- The 67th annual Cannes Film Festival featured a number of remarkable performances, many of them from big-name stars. These were among the actors that had Cannes buzzing:

-- Steve Carell: It was an open question which star of Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" turned in the most impressive performance. There's Channing Tatum as Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz, a physically potent but emotionally stunted man. And as his older sibling and mentor, Mark Ruffalo's brotherly physicality is also essential. But Carell, with a prosthetic nose and grayed hair, was the one to cause the biggest stir at Cannes for his dramatic turn as the creepy multi-millionaire John du Pont who's obsessed with the other two.

-- Kristen Stewart: There's a clever irony to casting one of the most famous American actresses as the assistant to a European star, played by Juliette Binoche. But in Olivier Assayas' "Clouds of Sils Maria," Stewart does more than wink at her fame. She's natural and intelligent in a way she hasn't been perhaps since the 2009 "Adventureland."

-- Timothy Spall: Great artists have often been given majestic big-screen incarnations. In Mike Leigh's biopic of British master J.M.W. Turner, Spall takes another route. His Turner is a humble, grunting worker whose grand artistry is hidden beneath his gruff manner.

-- Marion Cotillard: The Dardenne brothers have never before cast a major star as a protagonist, but they said they were smitten by Cotillard after a brief encounter. In their "Two Days, One Night," Cotillard proved (to most, although not all) that her stardom didn't interfere in telling a story about a working class woman trying to convince her co-workers to vote against a raise that will eliminate her job.

-- Robert Pattinson: The former "Twilight" star is beginning to put his teen heartthrob past behind him, and the early returns are encouraging. Along with a supporting role in David Cronenberg's "Maps to the Stars," Pattinson impressed as Guy Pearce's bloodied, not-all-there companion in David Michod's Australian thriller "The Rover."

-- Evan Bird: "Maps to the Stars," a midnight dark satire of Hollywood, offers up a lot of choice parts. Most notable is Julianne Moore as a star actress terrified that her status is slipping. But the 14-year-old Evan Bird breaks out playing a Justin Bieber-like child star with an ego far greater than his years.

-- There were others, too. The Italian family drama "The Wonders" was impossible to imagine without the gentle presence of the young Maria Alexandra Lungu. Alexey Serebryakov enlivened the Russian tragedy "Leviathan" with vodka-swilling fury. Ibrahim Ahmed rooted the Turkish "Winter Tale" with uncommon gravity. Jean-Luc Godard's dog also took a bite out of Cannes -- stealing the show in the French master's 3-D "Goodbye to Language."

From magical cinema to politics and emotion at the awards ceremony, here are some of my highlights from Cannes 2014:

-         Palme d'Or Winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan dedicating his award to the young people of Turkey died in clashes during the protest movements in the past year.

-         Canadian director Xavier Dolan gives a big Mommy hug to president of the jury, Jane Campion, after winning the Jury Prize jointly with father of the New Wave cinema Jean-Luc Godard.

-         Football choreography without a ball and with brightly coloured shirts in the Saharan sands, along with a supposed-jihadi dancing like a bird on the roof of the local madwoman’s house in Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu.

-         The whale skeleton and the ship skeletons on the shore of the Barents Sea in Andrey Zvyagintisev’s Leviathan.

-         Little Abdul Khalim Mamatsevi’s entranced dance scene in The Search.

-         Gilles Jacob bowing out gracefully at the awards ceremony after spending the best part of his 80-something years with the Cannes Film Festival and establishing the short film and Un certain regard sections to help foster new generations after new generations of filmmakers.

Cannes: The 2014 Palme de Whiskers  But what Cannes fest would be complete without Barbara Scharres and her memorable tribute to cats at Cannes, from the Roger Ebert site, May 23, 2014

All of Cannes is quivering in excitement in anticipation of the awards. The bestowing of the Palme d’Or is imminent. That means it’s time for the coveted Palme de Whiskers, my annual imaginary prize for Best Feline Performance.

I regret to say that the dogs have had their day in a big way at the 67th Cannes Film Festival. We cat lovers have had to tolerate insufferably flamboyant performances by dogs in countless films including "Saint Laurent" (disgusting little bulldogs), "White God" (killer canines), and Jean-Luc Godard’s "Goodbye to Language" (stereotypical slobbering pooch). Jean-Luc’s betrayal especially hurts, since a pair of kittens from his "Film Socialisme" were awarded the Palme de Whiskers back in 2010.

Preparations are in place for a fabulous award ceremony at the glittering Palais de Kitty—cats along the Croisette, the Cannes seaside promenade.  The glamour-pusses of the Riviera are assembled in their finery, with rhinestone collars galore. Last year’s winner Ulysses, feline star of "Inside Llewyn Davis," stands ready to present the award.

Never has a more distinguished jury been assembled for the Palme de Whiskers. Some of the world’s most important film critics have sent their cats. From the U.K., representing Sight & Sound, editor Nick James’s mysteriously nocturnal Cleo is splendid in her ginger and white coat.  

Vogue magazine film critic John Powers and his wife, novelist Sandi Tan ("The Black Isle"), sent two fine judges. All the way from L.A. come grey-striped Chubs, his un-catlike tuxedo T-shirt a little tight around the belly, and elegant Nico, a snotty Siamese. "I don’t wear any fur but my own," she chortles throatily. Finally, there’s elderly Mr. Snuffleupagus, sent by Art Forum’s film critic Amy Taubin. He’s badly in need of a catnap due to the medication he took on the plane.  

The nominees are: [I’ve given names to those whom callous scriptwriters have failed to identify.]

From "Mr. Turner" by Mike Leigh, the fluffy trio of "Joe," "Mel," and "Will" get an ensemble nomination for walking on tables. Only two have lines, though, which might be a drawback for this jury.

From Pascale Ferran’s "Bird People," golden-eyed "Charlie," named for Charles de Gaulle airport where he has his big scenes, has a dramatic action scene in pursuit of a sparrow. Strong contender!

Asia Argento’s "Misunderstood" did some fine cat casting, most notably the sleek black male "Dac," as he is named in this saga of childood. The heroine said it all in describing her pet: "Pointy ears, electric whiskers, and a traitorous nose."

Also from "Misunderstood," there’s "Simon Le Bon," part-Siamese, who gets to lounge in a pink boudoir and flick her tail.

And finally, from multi-national omnibus film "Bridges of Sarajevo," there’s "Izzy," a little adolescent of mixed heritage performing cute stunts in her first role in the Isild Le Besco sequence of the film.

What a line-up! The discussions are intense. Mr. Snuffleupagus champions adorable "Izzy" but he’s lying on his side and snoring by the time the vote is taken. Chubs mentions that "Misunderstood" has one of the great cat lines of all time: "What a piece of pussy," but Cleo snidely points out that it doesn’t count because it refers to a human. Everyone is impressed with Charlie’s performance in "Bird People," but Nico rakes her claws across the ballot dismissively, snarling that the big stunt was mostly CGI. "And, his voice was dubbed," adds Cleo.

The moment has arrived. My own Miss Kitty is the mistress of ceremonies. She’s disconcerted for just a moment when Nico cattily asks if her red highlights are real, but Chubs gives a friendly wink. Odysseus, the Brad Pitt of the feline film world, leaps to the stage with an athletic bound. The winsome females in the audience are about go in heat in ecstasy at the sight of this handsome stud, and they’re invitingly treading the floor with their hind legs in excitement.

Odysseus claws the envelope open, his golden-striped paws gleaming. This year’s Palme de Whiskers goes to Dac, from "Misunderstood!" Asia Argento will be so proud. The jury pronounces him a cat role model for acting as a little girl’s best friend and guardian angel; extra points for being an extra-cuddly armful. Quite a good-looking tomcat himself, Dac gives Odysseus a friendly nod but scampers back to the audience, his eye on a few of those flirtatious lady cats.

The grand salon of the Palais de Kitty-cats is vibrating with purrs. The waiters are beginning to pass out the catnip appetizers, but these pussycats are high on a job well done. Take that, you festival dogs!

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

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

Les Etoiles de la critiques is now complete, where the highest rated films are now the latest Dardennes film, Two Days, One Night, with 12 reviews at 3 or above, with 8 declaring it a masterpiece, Winter Sleep, with 10 reviews at 3 or above, and 5 declaring it a masterpiece, Timbuktu, with 11 reviews at 3 or above, with 4 declaring it a masterpiece, Mommy has 10 reviews with 3 or above, with 4 calling it a masterpiece, while Foxcatcher has 9 reviews at 3 or above, with 2 declaring it a masterpiece.  The well touted Leviathan has only 7 reviews at 3 or above, with 4 declaring it a masterpiece.  What’s interesting in looking at this completed board is how the French critics barely watch any films from Un Certain Regard, concentrating all their energies exclusively on competition films:

The Cannes Criterion Forum is up and running:

The round-up of various links covering Cannes:

Screendaily still has paywalls, but if you click on the reviews, they are open to the public:, also:    
The Hollywood Reporter at Cannes:  

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

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

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

Roundtable discussion about the films from Film Comment:

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

The Guardian collection of reviews:

The Guardian Cannes commentary: 

David Jenkins from Little White Lies:   

Eric Lavallee and Nicholas Bell from Ion Cinema:

Drew McSweeny and Guy Lodge & others from HitFix: 

Various writers at Twitch: 

Sukhdev Sandhu and Robbie Collins from The Daily Telegraph: 

And, of course, George is back at Cannes this year, where he catches up with what he’s missed so far: 

It may have been wind-down Sunday, but people were still lining up an hour or more early for a final film they were determined to see.  There was no great need, other than for the Godard film, “Goodbye to Language,” as that was the only of my final six that played to a packed audience, drawing a crowd seething with that Cannes semi-desperate, must-see frenzy.  One even had to fight through the throngs pushing into the theater to grab a pair of 3D glasses.

Ralph and I put the over/under on the number of people who would walk out at 50, although Ralph said it might be left up to me to make the count as he anticipated he'd be among those fleeing even though it was a mere 71 minutes long.  But Ralph endured and only about ten percent of the 300-seat theater left starting at after about half an hour when they'd had enough of the dialogue-free series of random scenes and images and pronouncements.  At least it was fast-paced and enlivened with music and 3D images poking out of the screen. It included occasional nudity and a dog and nature footage with brightly-colored foliage.  Bike lovers were rewarded with a scene from The Tour de France of a lone rider on a mountain stage climbing through a narrow gap of throngs of fans.  What meaning it had was beyond me, as were the other two bicycle images, one of a parked bike and another of a guy passing through an urban parking lot.  I'm not enough of a Godard scholar to comment on the significance of the bicycle in his oeuvre.

Our final day of cinema had begun at nine at the Debussy with "Turist," the only of the Un Certain Regard films to play in one of the larger theaters on this repeat weekend.  This Swedish film taking place at a ski resort was pronounced the second best film of its category by the Un Certain Regard jury.  It would be a natural for the Telluride Film Festival if it isn't deemed too dark by its directors.  A family of four on a six-day holiday in the Alps is brushed by an avalanche as they are eating lunch.  The father flees as it approaches while the mother stays to protect their two small children.  The mother is so mystified by her husband's behavior she can't mention it until that evening when they are having dinner with friends.  He denies abandoning them.  Over the coming days their marriage begins to unravel as they continue to grapple with this traumatic event.

My third film of the day also won an award--David Cronenberg's "Map of the Stars" for Julianne Moore's performance as a tortured famous Hollywood actress. She calls her personal assistant, played by Mia Wasikowska, her "chore whore," some of the barbed wit that has won this film some favor. It is one of three Competition films with a person of wealth and a lackey.  The other far superior films were those by Ceylan and Assayas.  Like "Mommy" it features a slur spewing kid, though their hate-filled venom doesn't match that of the teacher in "Whiplash."  If cinema is a mirror to the world we live in, it may be even worse than one realizes.  The plot of this indictment of Hollywood was almost as idiotic as that of Egoyan's film. Cronenberg put an embarrassing minimum of effort into his script. It was questionable whether it should have been recognized with any award, especially when there were other most worthy female performances--Cotillard, Swank and Binoche.

Fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling also dreadfully fumbled with his directorial debut "Lost River," a surreal account of a family losing their house in a run-down neighborhood that might have been Detroit.  The festival was willing to program this for his being the star in Competition films the past two years and despite his use of that disclaimer "pardon my French" after one of his characters uses the f-word.

No complaints though for Wim Wenders noteworthy documentary “The Salt of the Earth” in 2D this time of Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado that also won an award from the Un Certain Regard jury.   Wenders travels the world to many of the isolated places he photographed while narrating his fascinating life story giving up his promising career as a World Bank economist to devote himself to photography.

There was no Closing Night film this year, though the one I concluded with could have easily qualified if it had been a little more artful, rather than just a solid, straight-forward telling of a true story that took place just thirty miles down the coast at Nice.  "In the Name of My Daughter" by André Téchiné and starring Catherine Deneuve and the latest young French star Adèle Haenel, who also starred in the Director's Fortnight winner "Les Combattantes," is the story of a young woman who disappeared thirty years ago and her mother reopening the case to bring murder charges against her daughter's lover.  

Ralph somewhat regretted he had opted to see a South Korean violence strewn thriller, partially because it had a shorter running time, as his final film.  We had a nice festival rehash at a pizza restaurant that he frequented nearly every day.  It was another fine two weeks we both felt privileged to experience.  The films were great and so was our accommodations and camaraderie.  We were virtually prepared to put down a deposit the very next day.

Now it’s film withdrawal time.  We'll both do it through the bicycle.  My immediate destination is Toulouse to scout out the final two stages of The Tour de France before the peloton is transported back to Paris for its finale on the Champs Élysées.  Ralph will be taking the TGV back to Paris to retrieve his super light-weight bike.  He may take the train back to Avignon or Toulouse himself for a foray into the Pyrennees.  He travels without panniers, just a small bag, staying in hotels rather than camping, so our styles are too mismatched to ride together except for a possible short spell.  If we don't meet up again here, it will have to wait until Telluride come August.  But I at least have the joy of meeting up with Janina in three weeks in the UK before The Tour starts in Leeds.