Saturday, 31 May 2014

10 YEARS AT THE MOVIES: BEST FILM #1 - I AM LOVE (LUCA GUADAGNINO)


Several years in the making, I Am Love, Luca Guadagnino's exquisite melodrama seems destined to become celebrated as one of the defining films of its time. A sensory delight par excellence, there's not so much as a shred of mediocrity in the film, from its sumptuous aesthetic to its beguiling soundtrack, from its marvellous cast to its thematic depth. Evident in I Am Love, which doesn't just withstand repeat viewings but improves with them, is the immense care given by its creators to every detail herein, not only to their mere inclusion but to the level of quality attainable. It's a display of love for the medium of film, and worthy of as much love in return by anyone who shares it.

REVIEW - THE WIND RISES (MIYAZAKI HAYAO)


A fanciful flight, rather than a flight of fancy. Largely ditching the magical and spiritual aspects of his other works, aspects which have defined his career, Miyazaki Hayao grounds his reportedly final film in the sky. And dreams. And a vibrant, wandering mind. And so, for all its ostensibly human concerns, and its foundation in historical fact, The Wind Rises is not so much a departure for the great animator. The tone, this time, is measured and melancholic, with the spirited vigour of Miyazaki's style giving way to a contemplative mood that, by necessity, he cannot temper with optimism this time out. The film is punctured with jolts of horror, rendered in abstract, heart-stopping brutality. Combined with a newfound need to develop his plot, due to its roots in reality, Miyazaki denies himself the whimsy that audiences expect from him, though not the wonder. Seldom has he discovered so great a canvas for exploring the beauty of nature, realised here in a mix of photo-real vistas and a vivid colour palette, masterfully applied to create spectacular animated imagery. Even for Miyazaki, these are breathtaking designs, and while they may be mere ornamentation upon his more stoic, stable narrative structure, they serve as gracious artistic interludes, brief but brilliant. His eye cast inward, onto himself, The Wind Rises is actually one of Miyazaki's most sedate, restrained films, despite its expansive settings both in place and time. What he is able to achieve, then, is an emotional intimacy he's rarely even considered before; a bedside scene in the film's final stretch is one of the most touching he's ever done, not despite its lack of trickery and wizardry, but due to it. In the final stretch of his career, Miyazaki Hayao has located his ability to induce wonder without whimsy. And it's with that small, satisfying revelation, on a note of tonal ambiguity, that he closes.

REVIEW - AN EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF AN IRON PICKER (DANIS TANOVIC)


In manufacturing so little, in exerting minimal control over the content of his film, Danis Tanovic has achieved a new, truer style of naturalism than the cinema is accustomed to. It is pessimistic, but only justifiably so, not bleak. It is occupied with plot and action, in that same manner that we human beings are both in our lives and in our taste in art. Tanovic has, possibly unintentionally, constructed a hybrid of documentary and narrative filmmaking, as fiction is enacted in fact. It is the most accurate and relevant affirmation that I can recall of fictional film as a documentary of its actors at work. Its power as polemic is, thus, reduced in traditional terms, since Tanovic can't be seen to stress any agenda here, nor even to stress the absence of one. As its own entity, though, divorced from traditional terms of storytelling in cinema, An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker is a succinct, potent attack on social inequality, racism and state-sponsored means of perpetuating both. This, from an Eastern-European director who has broadly shunned the more esoteric styles adopted by filmmakers from neighbouring nations. One wouldn't expect it, but Tanovic doesn't just attempt it, he conquers this naturalistic approach, refashioning it in the process. He, in fact, draws it even further away from stylised sensationalism, and renders it closer to reality. Even the film's title eschews pretension for plainspokenness; again, succinct and accurate. There's no arguing with An Episode's brief runtime (75 minutes) - this would be a film of equal magnitude at half the length or double it. Tanovic's vision is honest and heartfelt, without ever having to assert itself as either. Succinct, potent, accurate, it speaks for itself.

Friday, 30 May 2014

10 YEARS AT THE MOVIES: BEST PERFORMANCE #1 - CATE BLANCHETT (I'M NOT THERE.)


Cate Blanchett's incarnation of Bob Dylan was one of the most startling things I saw in a movie released in the last ten years, and one of the most fantastic. And that's just up to that final lingering look, straight down the lens. She did it again in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - one of her most underrated turns - staring not just into the camera but into your soul. This chick has it down. #down. Cate surpasses even her marvellous performances in films like Elizabeth, Veronica Guerin, Coffee and Cigarettes, The Aviator, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Blue Jasmine with this superb portrayal of folk music's most iconic artist.

FIRST CLIP FROM BERTRAND BONELLO'S SAINT LAURENT


Despite reportedly being one of the weaker competition offerings at Cannes 2014, I'm nevertheless excited to see Bertrand Bonello's Saint Laurent, not least with Jalil Lespert's biopic of the designer falling as flat as I'd heard. Remember when House of Tolerance was met with middling responses there three years ago and then turned out to actually be a masterpiece?! No release dates in English-speaking territories have been announced as of writing.

REVIEW - MALEFICENT (ROBERT STROMBERG)


It is the vogue at Disney these days to throw computers at everything and let CGI do all the heavy lifting. And to what end? Consistency of vision? Alas, the essence of live-action filmmaking is that real people and real objects are photographed by real cameras, and no matter how seamless the compositing, these real eyes of yours and mine can spot that fundamental inconsistency in each and every frame. The overload of visual effects in Maleficent is at the expense of true, tangible production. There's barely a brick or a blade of grass that feels like one could reach out and touch it, in 3D or not, in person or in the front row. Barely so much that feels like the actors could either. It's shallow spectacle, designed to dazzle us; director Robert Stromberg is, himself, a whiz with both CGI and real-life production design, though his team here falls short on both. That's the kicker: even their computerised creations lack imagination, and are repetitive. This alternative version of the famous Sleeping Beauty story wisely elects to root its narrative deviations in thematic elements, not in arbitrary attempts to distinguish Maleficent as a unique and purposeful 're-imagining'; thus, it actually becomes exactly that. Linda Woolverton doesn't only stray from archaic convention, she also strays from contemporary convention, readjusting our expectations and our requirements from a Disney blockbuster. She gets away with a lot of her clumsiest dialogue in modelling Maleficent as fairytale stock to its core, though this is undoubtedly one aspect of her writing which needs similar, serious readjustments. As the titular villain, Angelina Jolie is mesmerising, commanding the screen with a stillness that is equally stoic and charismatic. She conquers the hefty emoting with ease, and displays a deadpan humour that tops even her grandest hissy fits as film's fiercest fairy. Maleficent's strongest asset isn't CGI. It's flesh and bone.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

CLIP FROM LISANDRO ALONSO'S JAUJA


Jauja, from Lisandro Alonso, was one of the biggest critical successes at this year's Cannes Film Festival. This clip, in Danish with French subtitles, is the first look at the mysterious drama, starring Viggo Mortensen and Ghita Norby.

STEVEN KNIGHT TO PEN WORLD WAR Z SEQUEL


World War Z was supposed to be just a disaster. It was actually a pretty good disaster movie. Written by about a million screenwriters in the end, the sequel now has itself just the one scribe attached. Steven Knight, whose star has risen considerably in recent years, will adapt from Max Brooks' novel, with The Impossible's (now that was a true disaster movie, however you want to look at it) Juan Antonio Bayona to direct.

TWO CLIPS FROM MATTHEW WARCHUS' PRIDE


If this isn't at least twice as big as The Full Monty, I'll fucking... Don't even... Never mind being better made, which it obviously is - by far - Pride also appears to be coming from a much better place. Winner of the Queer Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. Released in the UK on the 12th of September.

10 YEARS AT THE MOVIES: BEST FILM #2 - BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (ANG LEE)


As impeccable an example of great craft in emotional storytelling as I've seen, Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain is not only a landmark in LGBT cinema, but a landmark in cinema. Designed and directed with an extraordinary level of empathy, a depth of feeling perhaps only those brave enough to make a 'gay Western' might feel confident in exploring, this understated but overwhelming film represents almost every member of its principal cast and crew at the very peak of their artistic ability. In technical terms, Brokeback Mountain earns every last tear it wrings out of you, and rewards them with some beautifully heartfelt filmmaking in all regards.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS - TRAILER


As you do, Happy Christmas is being released on the 25th!! Of July. After a 26th of June VOD release. Admitting defeat or embracing modern methods of distribution? Joe Swanberg looks to replicate the success of Drinking Buddies, and reviews thus far from festivals have been fairly positive on the film.

BOX OFFICE REPORT: FROZEN FREEZES OUT ALL OTHER 2013 RELEASES


Just about nobody, this time last year, would have expected Frozen to make over $400 million in the US. Hell, there were few who ever expected it to even make $200 million. It ranks third there for 2013, and 19th all-time. The worldwide news, however, is even better. Now celebrating its 11th weekend atop the Japanese box office, it's hurtling toward that $200 million mark there, and ranks fourth all-time - quite something for a country with its own supremely-successful animation studio. With such incredible grosses in the Far East, Frozen has now reached fifth on the all-time worldwide chart, handily passing Iron Man 3 with plenty of gas left in the tank. With $1.219 billion in total so far, it's over $150 million higher than its closest animated rival, Toy Story 3, in twelfth place.

TRAILER FOR BEFORE YOU KNOW IT


It's been a long time coming, but PJ Raval's LGBT documentary finally receives a non-theatrical release tomorrow, the 30th of May. It's be out in the US, so make sure you catch it if it's reaching a theatre near you, and perk those box office numbers up so people in all corners of the world can get a chance to see Before You Know It.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

10 YEARS AT THE MOVIES: BEST VISUAL EFFECTS - LIFE OF PI


Were it for the stunning vistas alone, the visual effects in Life of Pi might still have been my favourite of the last ten years in film. But then there's Richard Parker. It's well known, though perhaps not well known enough, that only five shots of the tiger were of a real live animal - the remaining several dozen were all CGI recreations, with a level of depth and accuracy so high that it's nigh impossible to tell which shots are real and which are not without foreknowledge. And then there are the other animals, and there's the ship, and there are the subtle details you'd barely even think were VFX. It's a combination of dazzling creations, breathtaking realism and seamless application that makes the visual effects in Life of Pi my favourite, not only of the ten years since I started my movie obsession, but of all time at the cinema.

CLIPS FROM TOMMY LEE JONES' THE HOMESMAN


Having met mixed responses in Cannes, Tommy Lee Jones' sophomore directorial effort has been acquired by Saban Films with a guarantee of an awards campaign for US distribution. Not certain how much use that'll be, given the film's reportedly non-commercial qualities and Saban's lack of experience in mounting such a campaign. A warning, the third of these clips contains what I believe (not having seen the film) to be a spoiler, and I mean a motherfucking SPOILER!! Out in the US on the 3rd of October.



MAY 23-25 BOX OFFICE REPORT: THE FUTURE'S BRIGHT FOR DAYS OF FUTURE PAST


Superheroes fought their way to the top of the North American box office once again over the weekend. X-Men: Days of Future Past was, predictably, the weekend's top earner and represented, predictably, a recent financial high point for the X-Men franchise. $90.8 million three-day (with $110.6 over the four-day Memorial Day frame) was, however, lower than The Amazing Spider-Man 2 earlier in the month, and also lower than 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, so there's a hint of disappointment around these figures for the film that was intended to reinvigorate the series. Still, it did much better than Adam Sandler's latest flop: Blended made it into third place, with a $14.3 million ($17.7 million four-day) gross that was even less than half of hard-falling Godzilla in second. Poor word-of-mouth and tough blockbuster competition has sen Gareth Edwards' film take a tumble since its opening, one which is likely to continue from here on out. There were expansions into the Top 12 for both Chef and Belle, which made it over $2 million and $1 million over the three-day weekend, respectively. The biggest non-wide opener was Bollywood film Kochadaiiyaan in 16th; among other new releases, Words and Pictures made more per-theatre than the more-hyped Cold in July, despite the Fred Schepisi film also showing in more screens than Cold, while Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Dance of Reality was soft but still strong in two theatres, starting in 53rd place.

Top 10
  1. X-Men: Days of Future Past ($90,823,660)
  2. Godzilla ($30,946,416)
  3. Blended ($14,281,031)
  4. Neighbours ($14,022,660)
  5. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($7,823,388)
  6. Million Dollar Arm ($6,968,980)
  7. The Other Woman ($3,710,407)
  8. Rio 2 ($2,467,206)
  9. Chef ($2,266,586)
  10. Heaven is for Real ($2,033,488)
Maleficent and A Million Ways to Die in the West will both be hoping X-Men falls hard next weekend so they can each make a claim on first place. Kelly Reichardt's terrific Night Moves will also make a long-awaited limited debut.

SECOND CLIP FROM XAVIER DOLAN'S MOMMY


Palme d'Or and Grand Prix be damned, the Jury Prize was enough to ensure that Xavier Dolan's Mommy would be this year's breakout hit at Cannes. This is the second of two clips to surface online since Cannes closed on Saturday past. You can find the first, rather longer one, right here. Still no release date info available.

REVIEW - YVES SAINT LAURENT (JALIL LESPERT)


As a welcome, though unflattering, reminder of the great art that inspired this otherwise entirely uninspired biopic, some of the designs of the late M. Saint Laurent are paraded down the runway and past the camera lens. It's a bona fide delight for fans of fashion to witness these works presented as they once were, though we might have been better served by a film consisting solely of YSL runway recreations, and as might the great designer too. Representing pivotal junctures in his life and career, Jalil Lespert's Yves Saint Laurent is curiously light on staging these shows (was he denied access to larger portions of the house archives?), and their sporadic interjections come off as frustrating. They're enveloped from both sides by conventional dramatic sequences characterised by a pretty polish to the aesthetic design, and utter inertia virtually everywhere else. The insultingly cynical screenplay relies on our empathy as much as our stupidity, in devising scenes of monumental ludicrousness, whether for their sense of canned, rehearsed action, for the insincerity of their emotional content, or for the bluntness of the dialogue. Not a word is wasted in Lespert's phony evocation of the era, in incessant talk of politics and catharsis, or in the obligatory cameos from familiar names. This is one of those films where the soundtrack too neatly matches the period, and where one Karl Lagerfeld cannot just appear, he must be announced. Coffee tables the world over quiver with recognition, and everybody thinks how clever they are! As Yves, Pierre Niney is dumped into the most dreary of scenarios time after time, like the cute bit where he tries drugs! Then the bit where he has a breakdown! Then the bit where he's still in a third-rate biopic! Niney's studied performance is very convincing, but the film itself is not. It's as stiff as double-faced brocade and as old as M. Dior's A-line. Jalil Lespert's film is so not in.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

CLIPS FROM SISSAKO'S TIMBUKTU


Abderrahmane Sissako's Timbuktu is one of many films to have begun a healthy online presence since a healthy Cannes debut over the last two weeks. There, it won the Ecumenical Jury Prize. English subtitles in the clip above; those below feature French subtitles only, though even my paltry knowledge of the language of love carried me through them, at least part of the way.


10 YEARS AT THE MOVIES: BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN - HUO TING XIAO (CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER)


I dare anyone to even try to dispute this in earnestness. Because there is utterly no topping the sets that Huo Ting Xiao designed for Zhang Yimou's underrated action melodrama Curse of the Golden Flower. Alongside Yee Chung Man's equally extravagant costumes, and shot by Zhao Xiao Ding at his very best, Huo's gobsmackingly gorgeous production design ranks as one of the greatest aesthetic achievements in cinema history. I wasn't even alive for most of cinema history and I can still say that, indeed, in total earnestness!

CHARLIE'S COUNTRY - TRAILERS AND CLIP


David Gulpilil won the Best Actor prize in Un Certain Regard at Cannes last week for this film. I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to suggest that he thoroughly deserved it. Hopefully some international release dates will be confirmed shortly for Charlie's Country, which Gulpilil co-wrote with the film's director, Rolf de Heer.



LUC BESSON'S LUCY - POSTER


Scarlett Johansson's currently on something of a career high, having increased her public profile with a prominent part in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and having impressed critics with Under the Skin. She'll be hoping to continue this strong streak with July's Lucy, from Luc Besson. American distributors Universal recently bumped this up a week from the first weekend in August.

MELANIE LAURENT'S RESPIRE - TRAILER


Respire was greeted with strong reviews at Cannes last week, with critics praising Melanie Laurent's film for its talented actors and some interesting developments in the plot. I can't find any confirmed release dates online at present.

REVIEW - WITCHING AND BITCHING (ALEX DE LA IGLESIA)


A rousing rebuttal of the conventions it initially flaunts, Alex de la Iglesia's feminist horror comedy is, in its gender-political stance, notable for casting men in its lead roles. As physical farce turns to verbal humour, Witching and Bitching loses none of its satirical edge, instead more subtly (expect that to be the last time I use that term in any de la Iglesia review) mocking and denouncing the casual chauvinism of the dialogue. To those already attuned to it, it's pretty overt, but it's a delightful designation of de la Iglesia's characteristic flippancy, as he gently subverts our expectations of the genre, whatever that may be. For soft-pedalled slapstick, the post-opening credits sequence is a knockout (literally, at one point), and one which the remainder of Witching and Bitching can't ever live up to. de la Iglesia maintains his signature broadly comedic tone throughout, gratifyingly not too broad mostly, but while he keeps the spirit of that opening ticking over, much of what follows does lack a little of its zest. Though as his emasculating antics take over, the film attains a somewhat different quality. Given the locational and narrative restraint displayed in the first act, one may not expect an escalation into full-blown lunacy as occurs in the third - think the ending to Dario Argento's Mother of Tears, only good - though one would be unwise to expect anything less. The light-hearted tone and consistent commitment to de la Iglesia's charmingly absurd vision justify the length of this third act, which is the film's weakest, despite some strong gags and inventive ideas. And that commitment is channelled perfectly, on those qualities which reflect best on this wonderfully wicked comedy: sharp, snappy, unselfconscious humour, and a vibrant streak of feminism.

SCREEN ON SCREEN CONVERSATIONS: CANNES WRAP-UP PODCAST


Otherwise known as 'Power Bottom Podcast' or 'Pants Off Podcast'. The second in my fledgling Conversations series stars myself and Awards Daily's Ryan Adams, as we chat about the recent Cannes Film Festival. Since neither of us even attended the festival, we also find a good hour or two to talk about Godzilla. What do you care?!

Monday, 26 May 2014

AMOUR FOU - TRAILER


Hahaha! Gosh, this does look good, doesn't it? A hit in Un Certain Regard at Cannes recently, Jessica Hausner's Lourdes follow-up received some fine notices from critics. It may very well receive one from me too... when I see it obvs. No release dates are yet known.

1:1 CLIP FROM MOMMY


Xavier Dolan is the topic of much discussion in my upcoming Cannes-related podcast, as he has been for many film writers and enthusiasts since Mommy screened to much acclaim at the festival last week. I'll reserve judgement on Mommy until I actually see the whole film. That's all I'm saying. For now.

10 YEARS AT THE MOVIES: BEST FILM #3 - SHAME (STEVE MCQUEEN)


No film these last ten years provoked a greater emotional response in me than Steve McQueen's Shame. And the remarkable thing is how McQueen achieved such a reaction. His is not the way of tugging at heartstrings, but of evoking great depths of feeling via technical and artistic mastery of his craft. Perceptive direction and brilliant performances combine to create a film even more formally admirable than Hunger and even more devastating than 12 Years a Slave. Whether possessed of the occasional flaw or not, the immensity of McQueen's achievements in Shame make it one of recent cinema's finest works.

CLIPS FROM GRACE OF MONACO


Alas, even poor Grace Kelly got it better than Nicole Kidman's getting it atm. Was Harvey Weinstein to know this would be less the Rear Window of 2014 and more the kick up the rear? Released in the UK on the 6th of June. No US release has been confirmed yet. Don't hold your breath.

TheReelWord.net on YouTube has a couple more clips.

TRAILER FOR ANDRE TECHINE'S IN THE NAME OF MY DAUGHTER


Andre Techine's new drama might have been intended to be a true breakout film for Adele Haenel from Water Lilies and House of Tolerance, but reviews out of Cannes weren't particularly pleasant to In the Name of My Daughter. Its French title is L'Homme Qu'On Aimait Trop, which I prefer in both French and English. No US of UK release dates have been set, but it's sure to be seen on both sides of the Atlantic at some point.

REVIEW - IN BLOOM (NANA EKVTIMISHVILI AND SIMON GROSS)


Violence as a virus in post-Communist Georgia, though who'd know. Eka and Natia must navigate their adolescence, with its usual turmoils and tribulations, in a society that has already abandoned them. Their generation lives an existence already disconnected - from their elders, from their responsibilities, even from each other; Eka's disconnect is double, as she is confronted with the burden of acknowledging the challenges this generation faces alone, as her peers fall into pre-destined roles, wholly unaware. As stringent societal strictures cut through what few, menial advancements these two and their compatriots in youth are capable of exacting, an unspoken but unavoidable struggle is born between past and future, what one is bound to do and what one endeavours to do. Nana Ekvtimishvili leaves us unsure if Eka and Natia will ever be capable of making these advancements they evidently endeavour to make, in a country still clinging to its past, comfortable in its pre-destined role. But while it accepts its violence and abuse, it cannot ignore their repercussions, as characters mete out vengeance on others, paying forward crimes committed against them. Our passive and impassive protagonist becomes more reactionary as she is delegated responsibilities of her own, both by adults who seem to expect her to be equal parts obedient child and independent adult, and by Natia, whose questionable influence makes for the greatest adjustment Eka must manoeuvre. How she elects to apply her new, largely self-imposed duties as a mature individual forms the foundation for much of In Bloom's drama and tension, and it's riveting as a result. A scene where she demonstrates as much via traditional dance is utterly captivating, and may make you want to applaud. Performances from young Lika Babluani and Mariam Bokeria are outstanding.

REVIEW - FADING GIGOLO (JOHN TURTURRO)


In the chronicles of meta-cinema, little can compare to basing your entire movie on the works of another filmmaker, and then casting said filmmaker in said movie. John Turturro's Fading Gigolo stars Woody Allen as Woody Allen, essentially, while John Turturro plays the role Woody Allen would have liked for himself. And let's not even get into the misogyny. Actually, no, let's. It's easy to write this off as wish-fulfillment, and no doubt it is, but there's an unmistakeable carelessness to Turturro's depiction of women. His avenging angel, of sorts, is Vanessa Paradis as a widowed rabbi's wife. Her sweet presence, and the retro delicacy with which Turturro approaches her scenes, tempers the film's more caustic undertones. If it weren't for the crass conclusion he finds to her storyline, it'd have enough old-school warmth and whimsy to elevate Fading Gigolo beyond its otherwise trivial reach. Not that I resent films like this - simple, unpretentious, casual comedies with no aspirations to greatness and a dedication toward their idiosyncratic sense of humour. And, with Mr. Allen on board, John Turturro's (semi-)own sense of humour has all the authenticity it needs to work and all the validity it needs to stick. Turturro is particularly benevolent (when he's not portraying himself as a sex god for the ages) in affording Allen his archetypal role, replete with his trademark wit. His aping of his iconic costar's sexual politics, however, is less than benevolent to his audience. Sharon Stone, bestowed just one scene worthy of her dramatic gifts, is lumbered with a part she ought to have sniffed out was a parody of her most famous ones, and the less said about Sofia Vergara's lamentable role the better. It's something Turturro's laidback humour can't quite overcome, and, honestly, thankfully so. Fading Gigolo wears its sexism on its sleeve. All the better for us to identify it!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

10 YEARS AT THE MOVIES: BEST COSTUME DESIGN - YEE CHUNG MAN (CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER)


Can we just... Do I even... I mean... Fuck the last ten years, these are the best film costumes of all time. Like, srsly. #srsly

REVIEW - IN SECRET (CHARLIE STRATTON)


Whom am I to suppose about a filmmaker's intentions? Goodness knows they didn't make their film for me, and if I am incapable of discerning precisely what they wished to communicate within that film, then whom am I to criticise them? Well, actually, I'm whomever I want to be in that situation, since no film, to me, is as it was intended to be. It's what I appreciated it to be. Perhaps Charlie Stratton audaciously intended to design out of Emile Zola's Therese Raquin an abstruse, tonally inconsistent piece of insipid chick-lit, broad and obvious in its tonal construction yet baffling in its presentation of its characters. Perhaps In Secret is the ultimate in bad taste, defiling a major artistic work from a literary giant in crudely combining pompous highbrow affectation with a mundanity of style that too often comes as part of the package with period adaptations. Perhaps so, but I appreciated no evidence to support any of that, and thereby did not feel admiration for Stratton's audacity since it doesn't exist here. Indeed, In Secret is a cold, clean rejection of audacity, turning a blind eye to all opportunities for creative filmmaking, repeatedly favouring the kind of lifeless, airless style that must have came with the corsets. True to form, then, the film is handsomely designed, yet to so little consequence, since that's so entirely expected. Florian Hoffmeister's cinematography is pleasant, but of no apparent narrative purpose beyond making sure we can see what's happening; Gabriel Yared's score is genial, but derivative (does Gabriel Yared of all people actually need to rip from other composers?). Their efforts are monumental, however, when held against Stratton's. He shuns the philosophical depth that was an innate part of Zola's prose and thrusts all of his characters' actions to the front of their minds and the tips of their tongues. Major character shifts appear to occur, with no motivation offered, no reason supplied. If it was his intention to leave us in the lurch, then fine. Here's my review, direct from the lurch.

REVIEW - GRAND CENTRAL (REBECCA ZLOTOWSKI)


It's script's soap opera tendencies may be wearying, but Rebecca Zlotowski's Grand Central isn't about what happens. It's about how what happens affects those to whom it happens. Had Zlotowski been more generous with the length of her film, she might have been able to allow for her acute sense of empathy to be as keenly felt as it is applied. As Grand Central stands, though, its bluster and its brio capture the bewilderment of its protagonist with verve, as he is so quickly accepted into a social fold after taking on work at a nuclear power plant. Those with less to live for often make more out of life, and these low-paid men in high-risk employment have no need for negativity - they are aware of the detriments of living so close to others when relations are sour. Nor does Zlotowski judge, crafting scenarios as they might appear to a fly on the wall or a deity observing from above - she is the camera, the nonentity in the space, and she permits her actors to shape their performances as they see fit. The vibrancy this spawns in the collective work of the cast is striking and compelling. It's messy too, but in a refreshingly familiar manner. All of the soothing neatness of conventional cinema, in this regard much more soap opera-esque than Grand Central, has been excoriated from the naturally unkempt dramatic core of everyday existence. If this is administered, then, to storylines straight out of the cheapest paperback novel, that's of little consequence, since Zlotowski's film is, as aforementioned, not about what happens but about how that affects those to whom it happens. And there'd be no honest way to tell that story otherwise.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

CANNES 2014 AWARDS ANNOUNCED - WINTER SLEEP WINS PALME D'OR


In the 100th year of Turkish cinema, Nuri Bilge Ceylan dedicates his Palme d'Or win to those who have lost their lives in recent unrest in his nation. One of the favourites to win the Cannes Film Festival's top award, Winter Sleep beat other hotly-tipped titles such as Xavier Dolan's Mommy, which tied the Jury Prize with the work of a filmmaker over three times his age. Julianne Moore adds a Cannes Best Actress prize to her equivalent awards at both Venice and Berlin fests. Broadly, there were few surprises.

Palme d'Or
Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

Grand Prix
The Wonders (Alice Rohrwacher)

Prix du Jury
Goodbye to Language 3D (Jean-Luc Godard)
Mommy (Xavier Dolan)

Prix de la Mise-en-Scene
Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)

Prix d'Interpretation Feminine
Julianne Moore (Maps to the Stars)

Prix d'Interpretation Masculine
Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner)

Prix du Scenario
Andrei Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin (Leviathan)

Camera d'Or
Party Girl (Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis)

Palme d'Or for Best Short Film
Leidi (Simon Mesa Soto)

TIMBUKTU WINS CANNES ECUMENICAL PRIZE


The Ecumenical Jury was established 'to honour works of artistic quality which witnesses to the power of film to reveal the mysterious depths of human beings through what concerns them, their hurts and failings as well as their hopes'. It's kind of just very christian. They have awarded their Ecumenical Prize for the Cannes official competition to Abderrahmane Sissako's Timbuktu.

CANNES 2014: JURY AWARDS PREDICTIONS


Here are my predictions for tonight's Cannes awards. Master of ceremonies Lambert Wilson will preside over the evening, where Jane Campion will reveal the results of her jury's deliberation. 18 films screened for the nine jury members, who will hand out awards in seven categories. After what has been, my many accounts, a strong year at the festival, several highly acclaimed features will likely go home empty-handed. For example, it was with reluctance that I could not include Alice Rohrwacher's The Wonders or David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars in my predictions. Regardless, here's what I'm officially predicting will go down tonight, though I don't expect this to be the case by any accounts.

Palme d'Or
Mommy (Xavier Dolan)

Grand Prix of the Jury
Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

Prix du Jury
Leviathan (Andrei Zvyagintsev)

Prix de la Mise-en-Scene
Jean-Luc Godard (Goodbye to Language 3D)

Prix d'Interpretation Feminine
Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night)

Prix d'Interpretation Masculine
Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner)

Prix du Scenario
Damian Szifron (Wild Tales)

Best Short Film awards and the Camera d'Or prize will also be distributed at tonight's event.

CANNES REVIEW ROUNDUP


Here are some reviews for films which I didn't post full features on at Cannes, since published reports on them were scarce.

Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz's Gett, the Trial of Viviane Amsalem is reviewed by Leslie Felperin in The Hollywood Reporter and Jay Weissberg in Variety.

Melanie Laurent's Respire is reviewed by Jessica Kiang in The Playlist and Boyd van Hoeij in The Hollywood Reporter.

Philippe Lacote's Run is reviewed by Leslie Felperin in The Hollywood Reporter and Sasha Stone in Awards Daily.

Asia Argento's Misunderstood is reviewed by Deborah Young in The Hollywood Reporter and Barbara Scharres in RogerEbert.com.

Aida Begic, Leonardo di Constanzo, Jean-Luc Godard, Kamen Kalev, Isild Le Besco, Sergei Loznitsa, Vincenzo Marra, Ursula Meier, Vladimir Perisic, Cristi Puiu, Marc Recha, Angela Schanelec and Teresa Villaverde's Bridges of Sarajevo is reviewed by Andrew Pulver in The Guardian and Boyd van Hoeij in The Hollywood Reporter.

Tony Gatlif's Geronimo is reviewed by Jay Weissberg in Variety and Deborah Young in The Hollywood Reporter.

Bruno Dumont's P'tit Quinquin is reviewed by Boyd van Hoeij in The Hollywood Reporter and Nikola Grozdanovic in The Playlist.

Fabrice du Welz's Alleluia is reviewed by Fionnuala Halligan at Screen Daily and Gregory Ellwood at HitFix.

PRIDE WINS CANNES' QUEER PALM


Last year's Queer Palm was won by a film not in main competition - Alain Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake. The Palme d'Or was won by a film that was eligible for the Queer Palm - Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue Is the Warmest Colour. The same situation could happen this year, as Matthew Warchus' Pride has won the prestigious award for the finest gay-themed film at the festival this year, while Xavier Dolan's Mommy, which is hotly-tipped as the Palme d'Or frontrunner, was also eligible. Good job it didn't win this award, since there's fuck all gay about Mommy, apparently, save the sexuality of its writer-director. Also among the 13 films competing for the Queer Palme was Melanie Laurent's acclaimed drama Respire.

MATTHEW WARCHUS SHOULD BE PROUD OF PRIDE AT CANNES


Not a very big gay contingent at Cannes this year (unless you count John Travolta), but theatre director Matthew Warchus' film Pride has rather made up for the weak overall selection with strong reports from critics. You can read here what these ones had to say: John Bleasdale at Cine-Vue, David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter, Charles Gant at Variety and Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian.

TECHINE TAKES A HIT AT CANNES WITH IN THE NAME OF MY DAUGHTER


Andre Techine is one of France's most respected directors... usually. His out-of-competition screener In the Name of My Daughter, or L'Homme Qu'On Aimait Trop in French (a better title in either language) hasn't exactly set the Croisette alight, alas, even with Catherine Deneuve attracting strong write-ups in the lead role. Here's what the following critics had to say on the film: Barbara Scharres at RogerEbert.com, Mike D'Angelo at The Dissolve and David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter.

EDGAR WRIGHT DEPARTS ANT-MAN - 'DIFFERENCES IN VISION'


I like ants, but I don't like big insects. I have a particular fear of cockroaches. I don't even like to see the word, never mind type it. I hope they don't make Cockroach-Man. That would be unwise. I hope they don't make Ant-Man either. I don't know much about Ant-Man, but it doesn't sound like a project of much repute.

POSTER FOR P'TIT QUINQUIN


Is it a film? Is it a TV series? Is it pretty fucking awesome? I can't assure you of any of the answers to those questions, but I can assure you that I think the answer is probably yes to all three. This is a shitty poster, however.

GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D - POSTER


Jean-Luc Godard's curious comedy is in competition for tonight's Palme d'Or. With strong reviews, it stands a decent shot at an award from Jane Campion's jury. This is the poster for the French maverick's 3D film.

10 YEARS AT THE MOVIES: BEST SCREENPLAY - MICHAEL HANEKE (THE WHITE RIBBON)


Ingeniously interweaving a subtle and unsettling allegory of the roots of German fascism into the story of a series of disturbing events in a small German town in the early 20th Century, Michael Haneke's screenplay for The White Ribbon is the best of the last ten years. Disarming but never exploitative, suggestive but never abstruse, the effect of his film is slow to take hold over the film's runtime - slow, steady and superb. His dialogue is naturalistic yet imbued with much portent, his character development is rich yet true to the sense of simplicity he wisely insists on stringing through each and every scene.

MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS' THE SEARCH - TRAILER


The Search might just be the most drubbed film in competition at Cannes this year; Thierry Fremaux might want to think twice before including Michel Hazanavicius (and Atom Egoyan) in his selections in future. Here's the trailer for the Chechnyan war drama, starring Berenice Bejo and Annette Bening.

LIFE ITSELF TRAILER


Steve James basically has Roger Ebert to thank for his career. Ebert championed his 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams, and bemoaned the lack of attention it received from AMPAS. His Chicago-based 2011 doc The Interrupters was catnip for the Chicago-based critic, though he was one of many who praised James' work on that film, and Hoop Dreams, and many others. James' new film is entitled Life Itself, is released in the US on the 4th of July, and is about the late film criticism legend.

JOHN CARNEY AND U2 TEAM UP FOR SING STREET; WEINSTEIN ON BOARD


TWC has acquired distribution rights to Sing Street, an upcoming musical set in 1980s Dublin to be directed by Once's John Carney. Production is set to start in September on the film, which is about a teenage boy's musical experiences when he's forced to move from a posh private school to a public school. U2 are writing songs for the film, which is enough to put me off it immediately. Carney has Begin Again, with Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, coming into theatres soon - that's also a Weinstein product.

Friday, 23 May 2014

10 YEARS AT THE MOVIES: BEST PERFORMANCE #2 - MO'NIQUE (PRECIOUS)


'Precious! PRECIOUS! PRECIOUS! Get down here, bitch! You brought that white bitch up in my house? You wrong to bring that bitch up in here!'

#hellyes

THOMAS CAILLEY SETS NEW RECORD AT DIRECTORS' FORTNIGHT


Take that The Other Woman! A romcom has swept the awards slate in the Directors' Fortnight awards at Cannes. All three of the sidebar's prizes went to Thomas Cailley's Love at First Fight, alongside a fourth prize from FIPRESCI. This is the first time this has ever happened in Directors' Fortnight, despite this being the 46th edition of this section of the festival. Full details right below.

Directors' Fortnight Art Cinema Award
Love at First Fight (Thomas Cailley)


SACD Prize
Love at First Fight (Thomas Cailley)

Europa Cinemas Label
Love at First Fight (Thomas Cailley)

CANNES UN CERTAIN REGARD TOP PRIZE GOES TO WHITE GOD


Kornel Mundruczo's White God has beaten off stiff competition, including from FIPRESCI winner Jauja to win the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes. Jauja went home empty-handed, though the selection of winners was chock-full of popular picks. The full list of winners below:

Un Certain Regard Prize
White God (Kornel Mundruczo)

Jury Prize
Force Majeure (Ruben Ostlund)

Special Prize
The Salt of the Earth (Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders)

Best Actor
David Gulpilil (Charlie's Country)

Ensemble Acting Prize
Party Girl