An assortment of atypical Cannes Reviews

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Find out more about each of these films by clicking through the title link to IMDB.

Spooks: The Greater Good (UK)
Kit Harington in SpooksTerrible 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

Amnesia (Switzerland/France)

amnesiaYou 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)

the_sea_of_treesThere 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)

the_perfect_dayA 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)

diary-of-a-chambermaidLéa 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)

raging-rose-crache-coeurThe 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

Sicario (US)

EmilyBluntSicarioThe 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)

the-assassin-cannes-film-festivalApart 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)

The_LobsterIt 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)

eisenstein-in-guanajuatoThe 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)

mia_madreNanni 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.

 LOVE

CHRONIC

Thanks for sticking with the madness and joy!

Cannes 2015 Entry #4 – The Market Screenings

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The best thing about market screenings – if you aren’t buying or selling – is some kind of ego formulation: “I could have made that better. How did this film even get representation? Let’s walk out and filter some conceited pleasure in doing so.” I have to admit, no matter how **** the film, I struggle to walk out, not for didactic reasons (though we all wish to support our fellows), but because my imagination insists on discovering more about the image. It’s like cutting the cord short, taking a leap off a tall building to your demise and never finding out the what if (I hadn’t jumped). It is a parallel with life; we all know this lays the foundation for the essence of cinema, or am I projecting too much here? Don’t we have to over-project anyway as a cinema spectator? Do I take cinema too seriously? Shouldn’t we take it seriously? Okay…

Exploring the depths of independent cinema – one minute you are watching a Cantonese language film about an old head schoolmistress having a social/economic crisis, and the next moment you might be watching a German adolescent pierce the skin of her thigh with a musical instrument (true story). There is a great range and while one might have to endure some painstaking hours, you will always find the hidden treasures (if you stay long enough) and make a new discovery on your journey through the galaxy of cinema. It’s like being a child at the fun fair and taking boundless lucky dips at the slots with no extra cost.

Occasionally, the sales agents will be hovering outside the entrance to cut off any slackers – people like myself who just want a bit more cinema and don’t stand as head of acquisitions for Lionsgate in the UK; what a festive job it could be as head of acquisitions… A representative gave me a slight look of madness when I said I wasn’t a festival programmer/director, sales agent or buyer, no consideration on her part for my willingness to explore and share their movie. The screening was practically empty and so ten minutes later the lady distressingly waved me through, yet to my distress, it meant I had missed the first ten minutes of the film – I can’t allow that to happen. Call it what you will, but again (taking cinema a bit seriously) it’s like forgetting to cut the umbilical cord; I’m left behind to miss the first crucial moments of a precious life. Okay, cinema might not be so drastic; it remains intact for what should be an eternity, but not allowing the imagination to play with opening moments causes a longing to return and an unsatisfied mind (promising a satisfied mind can exist). The counter argument to this would be that missing the beginning of a film makes one more focused, as they have to play catch-up, and give more attention over to what is really happening. Whatever… I don’t imagine the filmmaker wrote the first ten pages whilst thinking, “Yes, we can definitely cut this.”

Cannes 2015 Entry #3 – The Divide

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The paradox of this place is that everyone is searching for money and spending money they don’t have. Or rather, the .1% here has great yachts (probably not the filmmakers – the CEO of Dolce & Gabbana perhaps) and spends with all riches while the 12,000 filmmakers cobble on the sidewalks and plea for development money. Where is the middle ground? There is one, of course, but it is harder to spot, as is the case when one critiques any walk of life/society. A further paradox is that everyone has to look like they do have money – this is Cannes – and so returns home completely out of stock! I’ll be taking that suit back for a refund…

The hotels. I discovered that the festival hotels on the Croisette, the Majestic, Carlton etc. aren’t even top dollar for around here. They are popping with glam and sleaze, but the stars venture further down the strip to a place beyond any apparent humane reach. One can begin to suffocate amongst all the comfort, though saying that, the lifts in the festival hotels are surprisingly tight-nit – don’t overload! I don’t mean to sound too critical, I mean who wouldn’t bath in these suites given the chance? It’s the self-absorbed entourage that picks my stomach.

Then there are the folks who don’t even hold a festival badge. They stand outside the Palais holding banners for invitations. I can’t see how that has ever succeeded when Lumière tickets are so sparse – perhaps I will defy my own convention and find a ticket for the old lady wearing her tired blouse; it’s certainly respect for the dedication of a cinematic experience. Then watch out for the cronies who will line the sidewalks with sticks of legs coated in their latest euphoric lotions – the suntans. Their eyes, mouths and ears lap over the iron bars to banquet on the red carpet. Then brace yourself for the selfie sticks that appear in their thousands (need I go down that route?); you grit your teeth as you try to get past the hordes to your far more urgent meeting regarding a potential future source of income! Either that, or you may stop to gaze, at whom I am not so sure – the (male) attention has many conduits to wonder in Cannes!

Cannes 2015 Entry #2 – The Consequences

The Coen Brothers – These guys are serious hard workers (and miraculous filmmakers) who are now heading up the Jury at Cannes this year.

The consequences of the reality of the film industry are quite simple: hard work (past the expiry date). Yet, you might say hard work that hides in plain sight, as everyone appears to be having a very jolly time. I can’t think of another industry where one minute the work could produce feelings in the nature of a catastrophic disaster, and the next, make one whistle amongst the stars.

Here are a few reasons why I expect hard work to be the key to some shape of success. The competition is so fierce, there are some 12,000 filmmakers in attendance at the market, which means you need to stand out and that won’t happen without hard work. Remember, even a genius with talent smoking from their ears needs to work hard. The industry is constantly changing and strategies are evolving, so how else can one keep up with the trends? Consistently renewing one’s knowledge seems likely. There are a thousand other factors, but the hard work will surely bring those other factors into being, they couldn’t exist without it.

Now in relation to this blogisode (could that work?), we should be talking about Cannes. What are the consequences of Cannes for a beginning filmmaker? There are fountains of film posters looking you in the eye and saying, “hey, I’ve already been made, I have representation, and don’t you wish I was yours?” This is in relation to the market, a fascinating place, and it makes one realise that the film only begins its life here, not during any phase of production but afterwards. It highlights the importance of thinking about marketing and distribution from an early stage in the game. Of course, big ‘players’ know this and are even able to raise significant budget numbers in pre-sales, but for the truly independents it is easy to forget and dive head first into putting a picture on the screen. Liaise with a sales advisor and ask them how your film will sell, I am sure you can even establish a firing line from your very first treatment.

More consequences? Attend film festivals. They are passionate places with people as crazy as you are i.e. they consume unholy amounts of cinema and talk about not a whole lot else (this isn’t a criticism – it’s a blessing). It will inspire you and give you a clear-headed perspective on what is actually on offer, in regard to careers etc. Or, actually, as in my case, it may just confuse you more – “now, there are all these other jobs to consider?” Frankly, confusion, in this sense, or complications, is beneficial as it widens your horizons and by offering more pathways can only serve to sharpen the mind. Once the mind is sharpened, then you are ready to follow the heart and soul of you career choices. Okay, that last note was a tad sentimental; let’s stop before this post turns out like an pre-dated self-help guide…