It's not showing in Official Competition at Cannes, but J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost is nevertheless one of the best-reviewed films to have shown there so far this year. They say never to work at sea, but it both looks and sounds like Chandor and Redford have done a darn good job of it. I'm marvelling at the detail of the photography and the sound mix in this clip. And the last two shots are terrific. If nothing else, though, just a hint of that cerulean sea and I'm so there.
Thursday, 23 May 2013
Nebraska is Alexander Payne's first film to show at Cannes; it's also the first film he's helmed without having (co-)written the screenplay, which is by Bob Nelson. In Cannes, critics have been complimentary, although nothing more.
'A tame but lightly endearing drama', writes Eric Kohn in IndieWire. Also in IndieWire, Jessica Kiang's review in The Playlist strikes a similar tone, which is quite consistent with the critical consensus at the festival. Slightly better reports come from British critics, with Total Film's Jamie Graham and The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw both giving the film good write-ups, but not without some reservations. This opens in the US in November, surely primed for awards consideration.
As far as a high-concept and some stylish visual effects can get you, Upside Down almost goes. It doesn't get there (and it isn't even that far) due to just about every other elemental component of filmmaking, which is to say that Upside Down succeeds on an aesthetic level and utterly no further. Indeed, whereas rote writing and mediocre plotting may have held this film back, diabolical writing and tedious plotting drag it back with such ignominious force that this half-baked product of Juan Solanas' imagination induces a sense of embarrassment in the viewer, above and beyond anything else. What he has is the germ of an idea, which requires far more intelligent and coherent development than he has provided it. No amount of nifty effects, and there are certainly many, can erase the irritation caused by all the haphazard science, all the implausibilities, all the loose ends. No amount of charisma from leads Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst can diminish the glaring lack of detail in their roles, which are employed as mere narrative devices, there to facilitate a range of impressive production and post-production design features. Solanas is unswervingly in the service of his imagery, throwing his mundane plot for a loop or two in tone and pace if one location might require an action sequence or, bizarrely, a dance sequence (mercifully brief). When Solanas yields to the temptation of inducing tension through action, it's a sorry moment, although not completely unsuccessful. I would have preferred more attention on the central romance between Sturgess and Dunst, which is the (purported) propulsion behind all the events herein, and which is too thinly drawn to assume the level of significance it ought to. And, for all of the film's subtexts of acceptance and integration, Sturgess makes a damn good case for the segregation of actors based on their nationality in his accent alone. The script may be hideous, but so is his American pronunciation.
Wednesday, 22 May 2013
Is it just me or did that feel like it went on for days? I think there's a half-decent drama in here, but that's already been done in Shame. Joseph Gordon-Levitt thought he'd cast himself in the role of super-hunky babe-magnet 'Don Jon', a part he wrote for himself and then directed himself in. K fine, we get it, you're hot, now what? He's kindly censored the film for us poor uncultured audiences after personal fears that it mightn't get past the MPAA without an NC-17. If there's one thing I hate more than state censorship, it's self-censorship in the fear of state censorship (it's not exactly state censorship, but you get what I mean). This will be an October release in the US, November in the UK.
That picture's definitely not cropped. Definitely not. Anyway, Stephen Frears' drama, which is about Muhammad Ali but doesn't actually feature him outside of archive footage (think George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck.), has been met with lukewarm reactions in Cannes. Rich old men sitting in dark rooms doesn't often go down well, I guess.
It's all about Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue Is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d'Adele) at Cannes right now, as audiences rave over the film. It's hella long, and reportedly features some graphic sex scenes, so it's no wonder the Cannes crowd is eating it up right now like Adele Exarchopoulos munching away on Lea Seydoux's kebab.
Variety's Justin Chang offers up a rave, and singles out the two lead actors, particularly Exarchopoulos, which is a common feature of a great deal of responses online today. And Jordan Mintzer in The Hollywood Reporter is also very complimentary of the film, which seems to have taken frontrunner status in the race for the Palme d'Or. From Twitter, Craig Kennedy and Jordan Hoffman are yet more voices in the choir. It now looks like a case of not whether or not Blue Is the Warmest Colour will win awards on Sunday but of how many it will win, at least if the critics are to be believed. But, as often occurs at Cannes, the jury could swing the other way entirely.
Based on her novel, Lucia Puenzo's Wakolda is the story of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele in Argentina in 1960, and it's showing in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes. Critical responses have been generally positive, although not exclusively.
The best response comes from Mark Adams at Screen Daily, who has nothing bad to say about Puenzo's third feature film as a director. Celine Louis writes the film up well in the Live Orange Blog. But rather unimpressed is Film School Rejects' Shaun Munro, who grades the film a poor D. And Catherine Bray on Twitter gives it an A-.
I'm far from the biggest fan of Woody Allen's dramas, but if there's anyone who can make me like them, it's Queen Cate. And then there's my boys Alden Ehrenreich and, joy of joys, Peter Sarsgaard aka the future Mr. Mulholland (fuck off Maggie). And anyway, even the worst Woody Allen films have their better moments.
This was initially supposed to be directed by John Crowley, who directed breakthrough performances such as Cillian Murphy in Intermission and Andrew Garfield in Boy A. He's out, due to scheduling conflicts, and Todd Haynes is in. Patricia Highsmith's source novel is based in New York in the 1950s - Mia Wasikowska will play a 20-something department store employee, and Cate Blanchett, whom Haynes so memorably directed to an Oscar nomination in his last feature film, 2007's I'm Not There., will play an unhappy wife.
Your first feature is a dialogue-heavy, plot-driven ensemble piece. It gets you an Oscar nomination. What do you for for your second? If you're J.C. Chandor, you make a mostly-wordless, mostly-plotless one-man-show. Sophomore risks are common among up-and-coming filmmakers, but few pay off like Chandor's seems to have, as the responses from critics at Cannes have been exceptional.
John Bleasdale has nothing but praise for Chandor and his leading man, Robert Redford, in his five-star review in CineVue. An A- review from Eric Kohn at IndieWire, noting the film's awards potential. And Tim Grierson is also impressed in Screen Daily. Twitter reactions from Scott Foundas and Sasha Stone follow suit.