Jessica Chastain doesn't like the way women were depicted at 2017 Cannes Film Festival, so Jury gives Best Director prize to Sofia Coppola's good, but not great "The Beguiled"


Oh, give me a break Jessica. You know, I love you and all, but this is going a little too far, so is giving Sofia Coppola a Best Director prize for a film that has her remaking "The Beguiled," a film that wasn't even that essential in the first place. 

I saw all 19 movies in competition and, yes, there is obviously a gender issue at work, but we are already seeing a change, every year more and more female directors are finding work. It's a great time we live in, but, in all honesty, I see Coppola winning the Directing prize like a big slap in the face. It was a protest vote, pure and simple. I really look forward to watching "The Beguiled" again, in a more rested, non-chaotic state as compared to the chaos of Cannes, but I can name you 10 or more directors in the competition that deserved that prize more than Sofia.

Jessica says this:

This is the first time I watched 20 films in 10 days, and what I really took away from this experience is how the world views women,” Chastain says. “It was quite disturbing to me, to be honest. There were quite some exceptions. I was surprised by the representation of female characters on film.
I think if we include more female storytellers, I hope we have more women that I see in my own day-to-day life. They just don’t react to the men around them. They have their own point-of-view.

Marvel congratulated Jurassic World for besting its box office record with a pic of Chris Pratt riding a Mjolnir-holding T-Rex. It's a move that hearkens back to ads Spielberg, Lucas, and Cameron would place in the trades.



There's been a history of studios congratulating another studio with ads in the trades, here are a few others:







'The Square' Deservedly Wins Palme D'Or

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I'm all for this win. "The Square" had the best moments of any of the 19 competition titles I saw the last two weeks at Cannes. Yes, it's around 20 minutes too long, but that's fine. The ambition is there and this win will likely have more attention payed to its positives. More to come from Cannes tomorrow.

Last week I wrote:

"The brilliant moments in "The Square" should come as no surprise to well-seasoned cinephiles, Ostlund was marked as a talent to watch after "Force Majeure," his 2014 festival hit, put him on the mark with critics worldwide. In that film he used a more subtle tone for his own cringe worthy cinema to focus on the collapse of male manhood in Swedish society. Nevertheless, that film shares many similarities to "The Square" in terms of the tone and unabashedly sardonic wit that Ostlund displays towards his characters and story."



2017 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS
Palme d’Or: “The Square” 

My take: Well-deserved.
Grand Prix: “120 Beats Per Minute” 

My take: Passionate, but by the books filmmaking that, nevertheless, has a beating heart, which isn't something I could say for many of the compeition titles.
Jury Prize: “Loveless” 

My take: Should have been in contention for the Palme D'or, at least Grand Prix, but, as I was stating last week, it's too puzzling for the Will Smiths of this world.
Best Actress: Diane Kruger, “In the Fade” 

My take: In my review I said that if it weren't for Krueger the film would be one of the worst compeition titles. With Krueger it's just mediocre, but it proves just how underused and talented an actress she is.
Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix, “You Were Never Really Here” 

My take: The actor of my generation, there has been no other that has come close to the staggering greatness of Brando, De Niro and Nicholson than Phoenix.
Best Director: Sofia Coppola, “The Beguiled”

My take: a protest vote. Pure and simple. Underserved.
Best Screenplay: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and “You Were Never Really Here” 

My take: Odd choices, especially since these are movies that rely on visuals more than words.
Camera d’Or: “Jeunne Femme/Montparnasse Bienvenue,” directed by Leonor Serraille

My take: didn not see it

'Logan Lucky': Welcome Back Steven Soderbergh!



“Logan Lucky” is Steven Soderbergh’s first film out of his so-called retirement, which always seemed like an extension of Soderbergh performance art.  In the meantime,  he’s been concentrating on television, most notably his excellent FX show “The Knick.” Now that it’s been, frustratingly, cancelled, Soderbergh is back and ready to add more to an impressive filmography which includes “Traffic,” “The Limey,” “Out of Sight,” Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “Erin Brockvich,” and “Ocean’s Eleven.” “Logan Lucky” is a heist movie, set in the NASCAR world, starring Daniel Craig, Adam Driver, Channing Tatum, and Hilary Swank, among many others.

"Logan Lucky" comes out on August 18th.

Cannes Review: "In The Fade"

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Fatih Akin's comeback vehicle will have to wait. For a moment, the 43 year-old writer-director helming from Germany, and known for tackling topics on his Turkish roots, had amassed a few critically acclaimed hits ("The Edge of Heaven," "Head-On") but lately he's been struggling to find his voice, first making the somewhat likable, but simple-minded comedy "Soul Kitchen,"  and then back to back dramatic strikeouts with "The Cut" and "Goodbye Berlin." The Cannes competition title "In The Fade," is a mediocre revenge drama that means well, but is bogged down by conventional narrative tropes.

The film opens with a wedding. Shot in home-video style and set in a prison, Katja (Numan Acar) is marrying Nuri (Numan Acar), who is in jail for dealing drugs. Akin shoots their civil wedding with brilliant panache, the camera feels vitally alive as Nuri passes by every cell giving high fives and handshakes to inmates as he walks down the hallway of the prison to marry his bride.

Flashback a few years later and Yuri is a reformed drug-dealer, he has a stable job, working as a legal adviser to the Turkish communities in Germany, and a son, Rocco (Rafael Santana), which Katja conceived while he was in jail. Then the bombing happens and the movie changes, while Yuri and Rocco are in the office, a planned bike bomb, stationed right next to their work, explodes.

Katja begins her grieving process and is aided by her mother Annemarie (Karin Neuhauser) and Nuri’s parents Ali (Asim Demirel) and Hülya (Aysel Iscan). The the Neo-Nazis are caught and trial soon begins, one in which the best dramatic moments of the movie occur. In fact, it would have suited this film better if the courtroom drama was extended a bit before it headed down its less interesting path.

 The Nazis’ defending counsel, an arrogant, but brilliant Johannes Krisch, far outweighs the brains of Katja’s well-meaning lawyer, played by Denis Moschitto. They find loopholes, laws that render any evidence pointless and, bam, the perpetrators are free to go. 

Katja is considerably outraged when her parents tell her to move on, and her lawyer says he wants a mistrial and she will likely be back in court for a second round. She wants none of that, in fact she’d rather just take revenge herself. That is where the film starts to struggle and feels, rather, ineffective. She starts searching online for ways to make a bomb, herself starting to radicalize herself against society. 
Krueger, a great actress, does the best she can with her role. Katja is an underwritten part that she fully fleshes into moments of heartbreak, but the screenplay, by Akin and Hark Bohn, is filled with contrived clichés that we’ve seen before. There’s happy times, tragedy, grieving and revenge in “In the Fade,” but nothing that has not been seen or done before.

Making the perpetrators neo-Nazis is no coincidence, especially when you consider that Akin based the story on research into the growing number of Nazi race-hate attacks that have been happening lately to minorities in Germany. A perfectly reasoned decision to make a movie about this relevant topic, but the villains in the movie are barely fleshed out and this isn’t the story to tell for any kind of message to come across.

The villains of the film say a word here, say a word there, but there really is no side to their story. We know this was a racially-motivated attack, but would have loved to have had their characters a little more fleshed out and less caricatured. Their lack of dialogue in the screenplay has the viewer less involved and less willing to go along with Katja on her journey.

The questionable final act will no doubt have people talking, but it comes at the expense of a director that sought out to tell an important story about his country and his roots, but is instead bogged down by an overzealous mindset that leaves his own beliefs to the viewer in questionable disarray.

Cannes: Michael Haneke's 'Happy End' polarizes Cannes

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Michael Haneke's "Happy End" was, across the board, the most anticipated film at Cannes 2017. Coming off his last two films, "The White Ribbon," and "Amour," which both won the Palme D'O'r, expectations for this latest film were sky high. Some were saying they never saw a lineup, outside the famous De Bussy theater, as big as the one for last evening's press screening.

"Happy End," as it turns out, will be divisive, but it's also the film that Haneke needed to make at this stage in his career, a sort of reinvention that tackles his obsessive, familiar themes, but feels purposely polarizing and creatively freeing for Haneke. in its lack of a narrative structure. Yes, "Happy End" even has comedic moments, a rarity for the venerable Austrian filmmaker whose reputation has been that of heavy, morosely-driven dramas. The film stars Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Matthieu Kassovitz and revolves around a dysfunctional family falling apart. Each have their own problems and, yet, the represent what is wrong with the bourgeoisie these days: all pent-up, airless frustration at the most unimportant topics. The film is reminiscent of a Luis Bunuel's provoking cinema of the 1970's. The film might as well be called "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie."

In fact, this is Haneke's most meta movie, a self-referential farce about all the themes that he's tackled so far in his illustrious career. At this morning's press conference for the film, journalists were eagerly waiting to ask the pertinent, answer-less questions the film asks and, of course, Haneke refused to abide and said the art spoke for itself "I do not want to answer that kind of question. I have shown this at times and it is up to you to have your own interpretation. In my staging, I try to give clues to the spectators and leave the work in the hearts of the spectators. I hope that I go through life with open eyes. And we can not talk about today's society without mentioning the blindness in which we live. I never look for a theme, it bothers me. One must be touched by something to be able to write things a little deeper."

Although it is better not reveal too much of the story, the film has a particularly memorable scene involving refugees at a wedding. What does Haneke have to say about the presence of the refugees in that particular scene and the fact that it's located in the well known refugee encampment of Calais? The director left us again with an ambiguous response "Naturally this film leaves a certain bitterness in the way in which one lives. But this is not a film about a French problem. Calais, it is everywhere in Europe. Our subject is rather our way of life."
The film tackles many topics, especially the way we communicate through gadgets, and the many ways social media has made the world a far more connected place, but, also, one where feelings and emotions can go numb through indirect contact. The film's characters text profanity and violence, but never are condemned or reprimanded for their actions Haneke isn't surprised by this fascination for the topic as he has always spoken in his films about the way communication can blur the lines between right and wrong: "Since my first film I've had themes and the media and the way we communicate, but that isn't the principal theme of the movie, in fact, I hope the viewer comes out of it thinking there isn't a principal theme to my movie."

Although he's always been secretive with how his creative process works, how does such a polarizing script come to be created? According to Haneke it was a freewheeling style of writing that made "Happy End" happen, one in which simplicity and provocation had to merge: "We collect colors for a character and at the same time, we are building a real plot. Although in this film there is no real plot, it is a story that is finally quite simple. With each film, I work differently. But before writing the scenes and the dialogues, I try to have the architecture of the scenario. My goal is always to tell as little as possible to provoke the maximum in simplicity."

Almost every question was directed at Haneke or was about Haneke. Jean-Louis Trintignant had nothing, but praise for his director, whom he also worked with in "Amour," a film which "Happy End" is almost a spiritual sequel to in the way it deals with the grieving process "it doesn't matter if it's only one line, i'll do everything for Haneke" said the legendary 86 year-old actor whose performance in the film is better than his work in "Amour," "It's a pleasure to work with Michael, that's all I have to say. I find that he makes his films according to the data of this current political climate."

Isabelle Huppert and Matthieu Kassovitz, playing husband and wife in "Happy End," both spoke eloquently about the master. Huppert has now made 4 movies with Haneke and, based on her past and current experience, she says the creative freedom on-set with Haneke is contagious "There is a great deal of detail in what Michael suggests to us. But total freedom is the corollary of precision, as with any great director. It's very easy to work with him. What characterizes him is the precision of the frame. I made four films with him. What I feel physically is how this framework induces this way of playing. It is framed with such precision that there is a completely natural circulation between the actors. From this precision, one feels completely free." Kassovitz, on the other hand, has made his first movie with the director and says that he grew as an actor on-set: "We were a little sponges to be able to understand what he wanted and try to reconstitute it in the most free way possible. I think we must love the films of Michael Haneke to shoot a film of Haneke. And to have attended the manufacturing process made me better understand the films I have already seen. There is a true pure love of cinema that I rarely saw in a director. For any actor who works with a master, these are things that make you grow."

As for the film's perplexing final few scenes, which involve the kind of dark comedy that has not been attempted by the director since the 1990's, Trintignant explained how those days of shooting went: "We shot the end of the film in three days. The ending is rather ambiguous, maybe it's a happy ending or an unfortunate ending, but my rule is anything Michael (Haneke) does will be good!" Trintignant exclaimed as he and the audience laughed. The actor went on to say that the film's final scene, which had him shooting in not the most convenient of condition for a man his age, was met with hesitation at first from the legendary actor, but was eventually done after the actor gave Haneke one condition that had to be met "if we shoot it, can we please skip Cannes?"

Cannes Review: '120 Beats Per Minute'

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Sometimes a movie doesn’t need much character development to make an impact. The ensemble cast of Robin Campillo’s  AIDS activists in “120 Beats Per Minute” all work together to be the same voice. Campillo tries to create a force that resonates more in message than in any of the conventional, dramatic sparks you might find in a Hollywood drama. This is one of the most political movies to come around in quite some time. Campillo stages heated strategy sessions between the activists of ACT UP like a Godard cinematic political essay post-“La Chinoise.” The activism on display here is inspiring enough to have you all riled up to leave aside whatever you’re doing at home and try to make a difference in the world.

Campillo’s film has the members of France’s late ‘90s ACT UP movement stage riots, interventions, parade and, even, ambush pharma offices in the greater France area by throwing balloon-filled blood on windows and, even, at pharma people. It's all about the message they want to send. There isn’t any attempt here by Campillo to tell a story as much as to give us a bird’s eye view of activism at its most passionate and, yes, sometimes militant. If anything, the closest we have to a story is when one of the main characters starts dying of AIDS and Campillo switches the last half hour of the film on this character’s fight to survive. The brilliantly edited finale takes your breath away and pummels you in its raw power.

Campillo hasn’t really made a splash as a director over the years, unless you count 2013’s vastly underseen, at least Stateside, “Eastern Boys.” No, instead he’s made a name for himself as the writer of Laurent Cantet’s excellent dramas, especially the masterful “The Class,” and “Time Out.“ "120 Beats Per Minute” isn’t bringing anything new to the game, its brilliant moments lie in the humanity that exists in people wanting to make a difference in the harshest of times. ACT UP is an organization that first started in the late 90’s in New York, while that city was battling the epidemic in personal, harrowing and frustrating ways, and was meant to fight AIDS and the corrupt powers that delayed any attempt at a cure.  The organization eventually built different branches, including one in France, which this film is based on.
If there is a main character in the film it is Sean (Nahuel Perez Biscayart), a loudmouth of verbal passion that gets at the center of every debate in the group. His rebel fireworks ignite the rest of the group into wreaking havoc all across the city for the sake off change. He falls for Nathan (Arnaud Valois), a newly added member of ACT UP, who decides to join in their debates and public demonstrations. Sean and Nathan eventually start seeing each other and the sexual chemistry they have is palpably shown in brilliantly edited sequences which show the erotic fervor this couple has for each other. The intimacy Campillo displays in the sex scenes is groundbreaking for an LGBT film and recalls the similarly lengthy and explicit sequences of 2013’s Palme D’Or winning “Blue is the Warmest Color”
The aforementioned invasions, of various different pharmaceutical offices, are the highlights of the film, bringing a docu-style feel with shaky hand-held camera, the writer-director makes sure we feel the danger that comes with such tactics, especially when the cops show up and try to bend the rules of the law to send a clear cut message to the group: These kind of actions won't fly. There’s no question that Campillo fully endorses the tactics on display as he, too, was a part of a similar group back in the early 90’s. His camera seems to be backing up the group every step of the way as they embark on a mission to have their message heard loud and clear. Campillo similarly channels the group he's portraying by taking risks and never backing down, even at the most controversial of topics, all for the sake of change. 

Cannes: 'Redoubtable' and 'The Meyerowitz Stories' in tweets




Cannes Review: 'The Square' is unlike anything you've seen before at the movies

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The Square" is a movie that dares to challenge political correctness in its ferociously unhinged tackle of human psyche. What exactly binds us to communicate and be civil to each other is what its writer director Ruben Ostlund asks. The answer is much more complicated than a simple answer and, it seems, that by the movie's end he still hasn't really found the answer to his own question. The episodic nature of "The Square" recalls a hybrid mix of "Leos Carax' "Holy Motors" and Maren Ade's "Toni Erdmann" in its unrestrained attempt at a comedy of manners. It works brilliantly, for the most part, as Ostlund stages one crazed set-piece after another, upping the ante with every one until we arrive to a high-Brow museum dinner featuring a monkey-man terrorizing its guests. I will say no more. In fact, the less you know about "The Square," the better it will likely be.

“The Square” is set in Stockholm, and has its chief curator, Christian (Claes Bang), coasting through life with a succesful job, any woman he wants and the confidence of loyal staff and friends. However, from the opening scene something is not right. An air of overstuffed confidence reigns over an enlarged ego, to make matters worse, he seems to look down upon people that don't share his own white-privileged lifestyle.

The title of the film comes from the Museum's new exhibit called The Square, which Christian concots along with his team of resourceful minds. The genesis and meaning of the project has to do with social mdia,  a literal square  representing the space everyone in society shares responsibility to care for each other but, through a series of highly entertaining, but unfortunate events in the film, Christian will realize that his idea of The Square is a bit naive, for there is darkness and betrayal that looms in human nature. 

As the film goes along, you realize that the museum is more about the bottom line and monetizing than it is about making a difference through the power of art. Ostlund creates a scathing satire of the modern art world through the eyes of a corrupt curator. The marketing for the exhibit is also absurd. His social media team concocts a YouTube video that they intend to be a vial sensation, and it does become just that, but at the expense of a major scandal that could have Christian lose his job. In the video,a poor homeless girl is blown up in the middle of a square as a way to sell the “compassion.” Even worse, a trendy, high-class dinner is set-up for promotion, with the 1% of Sweden showing up. To say it backfires would be an understatement. The provocation Christian intends that evening, featuring an “ape man” (Terry Notary), is nevertheless mesmerizing for the viewer as we watch the evolutionary process take place. It's fight and flight mod for the elites and they can't escape it. To say more about this sequence, the "piece de resistance" of the film, would do a disservice to the surprises it springs. 

The aforementioned sequence, which happens around the 2 hour mark, is so absurdly disgusting, shocking, and need we mention brilliant, that Ostlund just doesn't have anything else to top it off with after that. The last 20 or so minutes of this outrageously inventive film have Ostlund struggling to knit his vision together into a satisfying ending. At that point in the film Ostlund had invited us to, with every passing frame, expect the unexpected. The last 20 minutes of the film the writer director decides to take a step back from his antics and build up some kind of emotional substance to his characters and story, a well-intentioned mistake. The brilliant moments in the film should come as no surprise to well-seasoned cinephiles, Ostlund was marked as a talent to watch after "Force Majeure," his 2014 festival hit, put him on the mark with critics worldwide. In that film he used a more subtle tone for his own cringe worthy cinema to focus on the collapse of male manhood in Swedish society. Nevertheless, that film shares many similarities to "The Square" in terms of the tone and unabashedly sardonic wit that Ostlund displays towards his characters and story.

Tom Hardy will star as 'Venom', Ruben Fleischer to direct

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Breaking news rarely happens in Hollywood during the Cannes Film Festival, any deal that happens usually occurs at the French croisette. So here I am, hitting another Cappuccino shot, when somebody breaks me the news, very reliable source, that Tom Hardy will star as Venom and Ruben Fleischer will direct.

The news is going to be revealed any day now, but this seems to be a perfect fit for both actor and director. Fleischer directed "Zombieland," and I've been clamoring for him to nab a superhero gig as that 2009's zombie comedy proved that he really is a gifted visualist for action. Why is Tom Hardy a perfect fit? Well, he's Tom Hardy, an indisputably great actor, but, also, he is supposedly a HUGE fan of "Venom." Who would have thunk it? 

Scott Rosenberg (“Jumanji”) and Jeff Pinkner (“The Dark Tower”) will write the script for “Venom.

“Venom” is set to hit theaters on Oct. 5, 2018.

Cannes: Director Arnaud Desplechin talks Bergman, Hitchcock and his latest film 'Ismael's Ghosts' [Interview]



Opening the 70th edition of the Cannes film festival, and presented out of competition, "Ismael's Ghosts" is a Pandora's box of a film which stars two of the best French actresses around: Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg. It's his most ambitious film to date, a loosely-inspired remake of Renoir's "Providence" as directed by Bergman and Hitchcock. Mathieu Amalric stars as, let's all admit it, Desplechin's doppelganger, a film director shooting his latest picture and living a happy, solemn life with wife Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Enter Carlotta (Marion Cotillard), his, supposedly, deceased ex-wife, who suddenly reappears at their beach-fronthome after going missing more than 20 years ago.

Cannes opens with an overtly-stylized film that pays tribute to some of the legends of the medium and Arnaud Desplechin couldn't be happier to walk up the stairs of the Lumiere theater with his two bombshell stars by his side. I spoke to the venerable writer-director of such great films as "A Christmas Tale," Kings and Queens," and "My Golden Days" about his influences, Cannes and whether Ismael really is his doppelganger. 


Did you choose for the film to be out of competition?

I consider Thierry Fremaux and [former president of Cannes] Giles Jacob as my friends. It's an idea that came from Thierry, an idea that really moved me because it's 70th anniversary of the festival. It's a lot of pressure because usually very light films are chosen, but this is an auteur movie so I found that to be a very beautiful gesture. It was also quite agreeable to not be part of the competition. I saw it as an honor and it was very emotional for me.

Usually, of late, it's a Woody Allen movie that opens the fest and there is that Woody-esque neuroses in the film.

I love his films.
I know it's been a tradition for you to show a classic, theme-related movie to your cast and crew before the shoot. Did you show anything this time around? I didn't actually. Marion [Cotillard] and Charlotte [Gainsbourg] were so busy with other movies that they couldn't meet until the initial day of shooting. Charlotte was in New York, Marion actually, she was shooting that gigantic Robert Zemeckis movie that just never seems to finish, which has just consumed her. However, I do know what I would have shown: Alain Resnais' "Providence." The 1977 film! Yes! For the fury going on in the head of John Gielgud and the torture of the wife dying of cancer. He's stuck in this house just like Ismael. He dreams of chapters from a novel and with those chapters he tries to find meaning in his life again. It's a visually splendid work of art. That movie just enveloped me when I came to Paris at the tender age of 17. It became this monster that just consumed my life. Actually that's a great movie to have as an influence on "Ismael." That constant clash between reality and fiction ... Yeah, exactly. Somebody like Ismael who totally just loses it later in the film. He locks himself up and just builds everything in the basement with tread and needle, which quite clearly is metaphor for the mindset he has going on. Yeah, he makes a real mess out of that basement. The string is all over the place. Just like him. He can't connect the dots anymore. You mentioned Renoir, but I was so thinking of Bergman as well with this latest movie. Yes, especially "Persona," and "Shame," really, any of the films he's shot during that time period in Faro. Before we started on this movie I thought to myself I have Ismael and I have these women with him, it would really be too obvious, so I quickly hopped off any Bergman that was looming in my head and went straight into Alfred Hitchcock's arms. Hitchcock was protecting me from Bergman and Bergman was protecting me from Hitchcock. That's good protection Sure is. I actually stole a few shots from "Persona." I noticed that. The hospital scene? You're good. The other one? Can't think of it at the moment, probably missed it. It was very subtle nod to the two faces merging. You could blink and miss it. Yeah! Actually, come to think of it, both actresses could have switched roles and the movie would have still worked. Very much like in "Persona." Yes, even if both roles are the opposite it would still work and that would make a whole other movie. Of course, there's also, as mentioned, Hitchcock. "Vertigo" is all over this movie. The theme of this film is taken directly from "Vertigo." Carlotta comes from nowhere, in fact it looks like she came from the water. When she's dressed up in her white coat, all I could think of was Kim Novak in that movie. But, unlike Novak, Cotillard plays it straight and real. There's no pretending who she is. How was it working with her? You know, Marion is a star, she really is. She can go from making a Christopher Nolan movie back to a Dardennes. It's really incredible to watch. Did you always want Carlotta addressing the viewer? She explains how it started with Ismael. I didn't want the story told by a man, I didn't want any male privilege or male dominated standpoint. I wanted a woman to do it. She also narrates the epilogue, which wasn't written until the very last day I had to submit the script to my producer. I fell in love with "My Golden Days" and I feel like with that movie and this latest one you're really pushing the boundaries in terms of structure. I had such an immense pleasure doing "My Golden Days," it was just overwhelmingly joyous for me. After that shoot I said ok I made a film on these absolute beginners, just starting their lives, and we shot it with actors that weren't really professional. I wanted to do something that had the opposite effect, with actors that will impress me with their world class experience. The line in "Ismael" that says it all is when Carlotta says "Life just happened to me." You can't hang on to what happened in the past and you have to live in the present which is the opposite of what the characters in "My Golden Days" are doing. It's that second chance people have when they enter their 40's. Back to the intricate structure of these films, the editing must have been intense Very tough. The narrative structure was complex, but, at the same time, it was my job to make sure you're not lost. Once Ismael goes crazy in the film so does the movie. Then that's where it becomes complicated and you have instead all three characters that were in the same house, they're now separated and that's where it becomes incredibly difficult to edit it in a way that makes sense. I actually have a theory that Ismael is your alter ego [pauses and smiles] Let's just put it this way, Ismael is everything I would love to do that I'm too scared of doing. I'm shy, he's arrogant. I wear suits, he's a dirty dresser. I only drink water, he drinks alcohol. He swoons the ladies and I don't. It is all disguise, he doesn't really want to be those things, he's hiding.

Cannes Review: Bong Joon Ho's messy and ambitious 'Okja' entertains, provokes ...

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Cannes Review: 'Jupiter's Moon' wants to be 'Children of Men' but fails

"White God" premiered a few years back at Cannes and proved to be an acclaimed hit at the fest. What was most exciting was the emergence of a new talent, director Kornél Mundruczó, who tackled his native Hungary's socio-political struggles through the eyes of a mixed breed canine named Hagen. The kinetic and frenetic over-stylization might have turned off a few timid souls, but Mundruczó made his mark, put a stamp on the fest if you will, and many were anxiously awaiting his next cinematic step forward.

Two years later he is back at Cannes, this time in official competition, with the ambitious sci-fi religious epic "Jupiter's Moon." Clocking in at 122 minutes, the film follows Aryan, a Syrian refugee, trying to cross the border, who is shot multiple times by crooked border officer Laszlo, a demonically charged Szabolcs Bede Fazekas. Not only does Aryan survive, but he starts to levitate in the sky and discovers that he has some kind of miraculous power.

Nobody sees the levitation happen. Once Aryan plants himself back down to earth authorities find him and put him in a refugee camp where the film's main protagonist, Dr. Stern (Merab Ninidze), notices the levitation again in full view. He is stunned. Although his heart can be in the right place, and he does seem to care for Aryan, Stern is corrupt and owes debt to a family of suitors, which leads him to sneak Aryan away from the camp and exploit him. He makes Aryan perform the miraculous feat to willing and paying customers in exchange for the refugee's freedom and a reunion with his dad back home.

Tackling both pertinently timely issues, the refugee crisis, and very silly ones, the levitation is supposed to be seen a religious miracle, "Jupiter's Moon" feels like a superhero movie crossed with Mexican new wave cinema. The film will surely be one of the more unique moviegoing experiences of the festival, I doubt we'll see another film like it this or any other year, even if it is narratively inconsistent in both tone and execution.

The trafficking of Aryan's "miracles" brings an almost quasi-biblical nature to the film, albeit one that feels forced and pretentious. Which can also be said of Mundruczó's direction. A clear influence here seems to be Alfonso Cuarron's "Children of Men" and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Birdman," and "The Revenant" for that matter. In fact, the ambitious long take that opens the movie, one of many, has refugees caught crossing the water border and running for their lives and seems to be a direct riff on The Revenant's stunning opening sequence.

The movie doesn't lack in ambition, always a good thing, but it also doesn't seem to really find its own distinctive identity either. What does it want to be exactly? A superhero movie? A statement on the refugee crisis? A religious epic? Suffice to say that it probably wants to be all three, but that in turn makes for a messy, narratively incoherent ride. A good half hour could have been snipped to tighten the narrative's construct, maybe then "Jupiter's Moon" would have worked better. What we are left with instead is a film that has a collection of stunning sequences that don't add up to much, which eventually leads to repetitiveness and an anticlimactic finale.

Cannes Review: Todd Haynes' sentimental and mundane 'Wonderstruck' disappoints

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Todd Haynes is a filmmaker that I have grown to love over the years. His list of films is staggeringly impressive ("Safe," "Far From Heaven," "Carol") but watching his latest, "Wonderstruck," is an endurance test. In fact, while watching the film the question I kept asking myself was "Is this really a movie directed by Todd Haynes?" None of the director's visual panache or unsentimental agility are on display here. This is a film that tries to be like Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," except to be its complete opposite in tone and execution.

"Wonderstruck" is Haynes' most conventional picture and it isn't conventional in the oh it's still entertaining kind of way, nono, this is tediousness at its prime. A simplified and dumbed-down adaptation of Brian Selnick's (Also wrote "Hugo") critically acclaimed children's book that tries to pander to the masses, refuses to take risks and, instead, feels shallow and ill conceived.

The film is split into two interlocking stories, one has to do with a boy, Oakes Fegley as Ben, that is struck by lightning and ends up deaf. He runs away on a solo journey to 1970s New York City to find his long-estranged father. The second story is shot in silent black and white and deals with that same boy's mother at a younger age, Millicent Simmonds as Rose, she's also deaf and headed to New York City as well to find her long estranged mother. Eventually their fates meet, but I didn't need to tell you for you to realize all that.























One particularly interesting technical note is that Haynes shot the black and white footage in widescreen (2.35) b&w monochrome. Why not 1.33:1 aspect ratio? That decision ends up making the scenes look far less cinematic and rather modern-looking, which isn't what Haynes was looking for to achieve here.

Ben and Rose's journey is supposed to be enthralling and transporting, but what it instead feels like is never-ending. There are episodic parts that feel like retreads from other movies. Of course, Ben was going to find a friend on his journey, at some point he even helps him spell "friend" in sign language GOSH! Insufferably mundane, the film is aided by cinematography extraordinaire Edward Lachmann's lenses, but one can only imagine how beautiful the film could have been if Haynes had decided to shoot the black and white in the right format and not in pristine HD. 

Two of our best actresses, Jullianne Moore and Michelle Williams, playing mothers in two different eras, are severely underused into what amounts to 10-15 minutes of screen time for each actress. That's just how this movie seems to roll, with one frustrating decision piled on after another. Moore's return with Haynes, a dynamic actress/director team that should have never seperated for the last 15 years, almost feels like a teasing cameo. This is not the promised return we were hoping for, in fact, it feels more like a friend helping another friend on a day off from work than an actual artistic purpose.

The fact that Haynes followed up his masterful "Carol" with this piece of junk is a major red flag as to whether or not th director might have lost a bit of his artful touch.

Cannes Review: 'Loveless' and Putin

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You could to go as far back as Shakespeare to truly witness just how important a work of drama's setting can be to the central themes and storytelling being told by the given author. Take for example "The Tempest," one of the Shakespeare's most accomplished works, which takes place on an isolated island, that isolation, the feeling of nothingness withered with a sense of loneliness, is used as an expressive political statement on colonialism and Western civilization's unhealthy addiction to settling land for political gain.

All of this brings us to Andrey Zvyagintsev's "Loveless," a profound and morose take on contemporary Russia from the director of "Leviathan," a film that made waves back in 2014 and which included a scene with its main characters playing a game of shoot the darts on a poster of Vladimir Putin. Putin is barely mentioned in this latest endeavor from Zvyagintsev, but his shadow looms in every frame. 

The film's seperated couple, Boris (Alexei Rozin) and Zhenya (Maryana Spivak), are soon to be divorced, all they have to do is sell their apartment and then they're off. They both refuse to take custody of Andrey (Matvey Novikov), their 12 year old son, a lonely boy stuck in the middle of the egotistical fight between these two reprehensible human beings. Hell, Adoption is spoken of as an option for Andrey. Zhenya had an unplanned pregnancy at 18 and, to escape her paranoid mother's wrath, decided to marry Boris at a young age. As you can imagine, It was not love at first sight, to Zhenya it was escape at first sight.

Zhenya barely acknowledges her son's presence at home, but when she does it is only done through verbal abuse. In a particularly powerful scene, the divorcees have another heated exchange in the living room, the camera slowly panning away, into Andrey's room and his powerfully moving sobbing face. It's an image that will haunt the rest of the movie as we'll see. There's a detachment and resentment in the way the 12 year old boy behaves that is inescapable. The last we see of him is when he runs out of his room, backpack in tow, and leaves the apartment building. Going where? We're not sure, but one imagines the words "anywhere, but here" roaming around the young boy's mind.

The carelessness of Zhenya towards her son, the scornful neglect of abandonment, is so profound that it takes two days for her to realize that he hasn't been home for the last 48 hours. What does she do? Phone Boris. Even with their son missing they still bicker, and it continually happens this way throughout the film. Authorities are not helpful and claim the boy will, the stats show they say, come back in "7-10 days" when he realizes that he "has it good at home." The parents don't say a word.The police forwards them to an all-volunteer organization which helps find missing children.

The search goes on, but so does the bewilderment of these "loveless" people. Which is where the film's Russian setting comes in. Russia should be considered a major character in "Loveless," as Zvyagintsev tries to show a society rotting at its core, one quite akin to the one we live in America, where people are hungry and desperate to climb the upper echelons of societal class and, you know, win, whatever that might mean, even if they might have to sell their soul, and dignity, in the process. Make no mistake about it, Zvyagintsev's decision to include multiple scenes of people glued to their cell phones, taking selfies, taking pictures of their food, is an indictment of the detachment, the vanity, the selfishness if you will, of a culture very much akin to our own. 

"Loveless" is, in the end, about western civilization turning into a numb, unemotional populace, one in which it is a burden to take care of a child and that your own happiness becomes more important than that of your own baby cub. The political establishment looms large in the film, like a big brother watching over these characters' every steps, watching lives being destroyed, but not caring one bit about the outcome.

When in Cannes ....



Being jet-lagged at a major film fest is never fun. Most of the time programmers will make sure the first day doesn't have anything major. Case in point this morning's screening of the opening night film Arnaud Desplechin's "Ismael's Ghosts." Most of Desplechin's filmograpy consists of cinema that can be qualified as an "ambitious mess," take his look at his best movies "A Christmas Tale," and "Mes Trois Souvenirs de Jeunesse" for further proof. But, this latest film takes that term in a whole other league. It really is a terrible mess, with subplots piling one after the other and story lines that just don't add up. It shares the neurosis and slight wit of lower-tier Woody Allen, which comes as no surprise when you realize Cannes tends to book Woody Allen's latest as the opener almost every year.

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