An assortment of atypical Cannes Reviews
Find out more about each of these films by clicking through the title link to IMDB.
Spooks: The Greater Good (UK)
Terrible and terrible where it matters most: the script and casting. I won’t write anymore other than this: the film deserves a star for credible action sequences and technical ability. I apologise for this inconvenience. 1/5
You might just experience elements of amnesia watching this film. I’ve forgotten most of it and it was dealt like a blank deck of cards. Two interesting characters of different ages and backgrounds gently form a bond that will never become the reality that is perhaps so desired. An interesting starting point for a tale, but extremely underplayed here. The capital crime of drama scores the highest marks: passivity. One could potentially see the complete opposite: the films greatest feature is that real life can often be this boring! 1.5 /5
The Sea of Trees (US)
There is the jungle and the home. The events in the jungle feel contrived and painfully engineered, while the motionless flashbacks to the old procedures of a failing marriage actually carry some weight. Naomi Watts and Matthew McConaughey react together with a dynamic that is strikingly consistent with a floundering relationship. They are both great actors who can always go the distance in expressing a tortured soul, so while there is nothing we haven’t seen before, there is at least something special between them.
The film does not create a lasting impression. Given the plotline it should be a devastating film and under such circumstances it should linger. Why not? There is no secret ingredient that can answer this; it must surely be a whole culmination of factors. Though, in particular, the crosscutting to home and back didn’t have any effect for me, and the suicidal colleague of McConaughey was a tricky plea along with McConaughey himself relinquishing his prerequisite with death in order to take up an action adventure of sorts. Furthermore, the music melted over the top of the images like some ghastly peroxide drawing attention to it. It was not poetic even in its desperation to appear so and finally we can just say it’s all a bit messy. 2/5
A Perfect Day (Spain/Mexico)
A perfect day spent searching for rope in an armed conflict zone with the hopes of returning a humongous dead body from a deep well leads to no avail. This remains true throughout the course of the film, and whilst all rather a bit tedious, there are more than a few laugh out louds to be had, namely from the caricatures of Tim Robbins and Benicio del Toro. Robbins is wonderfully strong as a pitiful misfit, but stunning Olga Kurylenko is used simply as a means to be stunning and as cause for a little extra controversy between the groups. Though in most cases, the range of performance is significantly left unstirred.
A few poignant moments highlight the treachery and heartache of warfare, of which involve the caught-up adventures of a local boy showcasing his innocence. Although, still there is little to really focus us on these events and no real purpose is served other than the few laughs previously mentioned. The actors are enough to keep one engaged and the panoramas that encompass them duly create a nice spot of photography. 2/5
Diary of a Chambermaid (France)
Léa Seydoux is always remarkable and she is no less wonderful here, but it arrives amidst the unfortunately shambolic retelling of the enchanting Buñuel/Renoir classics. Célestine, the conniving servant, is irrational and lets her emotions spark the narrative in different directions, yet thankfully we are given the sufficient insight to understand the intentions behind such desperate actions; a tribute to Seydoux’s performance that does offer an enjoyable viewing experience. However, the situation of this retelling ultimately had it doomed from the beginning, it is near impossible to be unbiased considering what has come before. The design and locations are rich and fanciful and the film certainly has an allure, a voyeurism, and elements of intrigue, but nothing groundbreaking for French cinema. 2/5
Raging Rose (France/Poland)
The opening sequence had me sold: thought-provoking work and a very dependable lead performance. However, the film quickly banishes a clear direction and tries to achieve too much with its interaction, yet this is not necessarily a fault and is made up for by an interesting take on naturalism and complimentary achievements in cinematic gallantry. A few instances of nonsensical character developments and other such flaws, but perhaps they are element to the bubbling rage and irregularity of being a teenager. Fundamentally interesting if anything else. 2.5/5
The film has its powerful moments from the extreme veracity and horrors of the drug trade to the subtler and more poignant performance from Emily Blunt, but it is steadily lacking in any resolute plot development or regular reason of events. To the films merit, it places us on the side of Blunt where we are forced to make sense of the bravado and corruption that make up the characters of Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro. We are constantly made to feel fear and anything deeper than this is somehow left behind. Blunt’s fear can feel artificial at times and perhaps it is due to living amidst and acting out too much fear!
The visuals lensed by Roger Deakins also carry the film and the layers of sequencing and viewpoints that make up the action are at times staggering. However, these scenes of car squads pursuing through Mexican towns for half an hour or so with their almighty presence lend to an action, or tension, that is overtly too consistent to have the preferred punch. A captivating fondue of warfare indeed, but missing something, a guess could be a touch of the human spirit: a richer connection between the lines of this interesting conflict. 2.5/5
The Assassin (China)
Apart from nodding off for five or ten minutes mid-way through (a merit to the films magic I might argue), The Assassin is a stunning spell of filmmaking that looks back beyond the ancient roots of storytelling and the moving image. Olympia screen one also has some cushy new leather seats, which are considerably appealing after an urgent and clammy stride down the Croisette seconds away from midday sunstroke.
The action is effortless and given a weightless quality that is retained by a strict and somehow expansive form of choreography. The characters feel re-born from 9th century China where the simple natured ways of living by the sword had reached their most potent. This is until our assassin becomes torn between the two worlds postured by family and foe, a conflict of dynasties and moralities. It is an efficient exchange of the cinematic language and one that lets it slowly seep into our growing hearts. The imagery of distant hills in the closing of daylight is also most pleasing (to wake to)! 3/5
The Lobster (UK/Ireland/Greece)
It is easy to be split into two minds over this film. The better side of you says that this whole game is repulsive, gratuitous and demeaning to the human race as an entirety. Or, the satirist in you will delight at the extraordinary world that Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos is somehow able to so credibly postulate. I stand between each for different moments in the film, making for still yet an extraordinary experience. Whatever one says, you will find yourself in fits of rapturous laughter and then in instants of utter silence and contemplation. The foundation of our sense of place, existence and the societies that we have formulated as living human beings is certainly raised from beneath the surface and this might not be such a bad thing.
If we consider the human being as a matter of decadent specie, or in reverse, an extra-terrestrial life form that has just been sponged onto this earth, then we have no reason to take the character’s actions at face value. We can therefore laugh at their incompetence and thank ourselves that we, back in our own nurtured reality, are better off. This is one way to justify the means and the other is to accept a film as a film, and still more precisely a film in which the world (the reality) belongs to Yorgos.
The film kicks off with fiercely witty dialogue and immediately creates a dangerous territory of deadpan humour beyond our wildest imaginations. This continues and eventually falls off to be replaced with more piloting adventure and demonstrative responses from Colin Farrell who excels in such a role. All the performances definitely crack the whip. However, there is little more to the film than these escapades and the crusade of lampooning. The course becomes more and more unsteady, but that said, the taunting and deliciously manipulative last few sequences are to be bestowed upon. 3.5/5
Eisenstein in Guanajuato (Netherlands/Mexico/Finland)
The film most definitely achieves one thing: it is “boxing for the freedom of cinematic expression”. This line uttered by Elmer Bäck, whose prodigious performance has more voltage than a bolt of lightning, is thrown back and forth between uncovering sexuality and the irate eccentricities that trump the traits of a genius. The film pays historical service to highlighting the constraints of a film industry concerned with an American audience and, of course, keeping the costs down! In one illustration, an important meeting with the head of a Hollywood studio is turned into a cat and mouse chase around Sergei’s prized chamber with items of clothing taking on a life of their own.
However, this film does not run away film industry tics and shortcomings. Peter Greenaway makes no exception to focus on exploring a man’s desperate search for identity in a world where the existence of film (in its hundreds of feet) is likely to contain the only meaning to anything. Some moment’s even form a satirical vantage point on the human sentiment, it is reached through the depth of Sergei’s character and is certainly open to many comical and very speaking interpretations. 4/5
Mia madre (Italy)
Nanni Moretti helms another sincerely honest portrait of late middle-aged overthrow and this time it is a female film director in an ever-brooding tumult over the approaching death of her terminally ill mother who does all the suffering. Despite the exploration of death and the pessimistic outlook on existence, the film is equally bursting with currents of joy and artistic freedom. The expression of John Turturro’s character seeks out nonconformity in the rules that apply to a film set and its rigorous motions. He is an annoyance to the director with all these foibles, but is also a distraction and counterpoint to what the director is really searching for – namely a truth and redemption. Turturro brings moments of real hilarity thanks to the sharp and clever dialogue that he navigates fully charged and by way of particular command.
Reality itself is inevitably put under great scrutiny. The film gestures towards a preferred reality in the medium of filmmaking and is definitely satirical to anyone familiar with the ordeal and magic of the process. Margherita, the director, is able to escape the fears awaiting her at home and launch her imagination elsewhere. However, this other reality constituted by the filmmaker is severely tested by the personal life and develops a very interesting mediation for telling a story with lots of laughs, perception and ideas. A director can smile on a film set and they can also look close to complete bereavement. The ending of this film suggests that it is the place to smile and that there would be little hope otherwise. For Margherita, and dare I say it in more general terms, being a film director gives connotation to an otherwise empty existence. 4.5/5
There are so many great films at Cannes and one can’t possibly schedule them all in or get admission. It is a dream factory of cinema exhibition, but it can seek to irritate, for example in the scheduling of four fantastic films within the same hour. Such is the explosion of filmmaking from around the globe and the riot of 12 days in Cannes to see 1200 movies.
Below are links to my two five star reviews/favourite and most memorable screenings this year.
Thanks for sticking with the madness and joy!