Cannes Film Festival

Maps to the Stars Movie

Canadian auteur David Cronenberg has a well-documented fascination with seeing social systems disrupted by chaos, whether they be romantic (The Fly), domestic (A History of Violence), psychological (A Dangerous Method), criminal (Eastern Promises), automotive (Crash) or technological (Videodrome, eXistenZ) in nature. Just as his suffocatingly stilted Cosmopolis set out to skewer the folly of capitalism in a long limo ride across Manhattan, Cronenberg’s latest, Maps to the Stars, seems explicitly crafted to serve as its West Coast counterpart, taking to task the wealthy, self-involved ranks that populate Hollywood. It may not be the sharpest of satires, but perhaps that unruliness is simply a matter of form reflecting content.

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Les Films Seville

When Diane Després (Anne Dorval) signs her name to have son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) released from a teenage care facility, she scrawls her nickname — “Die” — before dotting the I with a heart. That tiny touch speaks volumes about the crossroads between ominous and ostentatious that Xavier Dolan’s Mommy calls home. A borderline operatic melodrama that emphasizes the emotional states of Solondz-like misfits with Sirkian flair (and a needless near-future setting), it follows the ADHD-afflicted Steve back into Diane’s reluctant care. As a widow, she can hardly hold a job down without having to attend to his latest vulgar or violent outburst, and the schools won’t have him back. Enter Kyla (Suzanne Clément), a mousy neighbor with a bit of a stutter who can withstand Steve’s mood swings. In fact, by tolerating him, the newly empowered Kyla levels out the emotional extremes between mother and son, if only for a while.

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Lost River Movie

As an Oscar-nominated A-lister, Ryan Gosling pretty much had carte blanche to make anything he wanted for his first feature, and for all its flaws, Lost River has a go-for-broke swagger about it as the writer/director cobbles together an ode to some of his favorite filmmakers. The works of Nicolas Winding Refn (whose Drive and Only God Forgives he previously starred in), Gaspar Noé and David Lynch all inevitably come to mind over the course of his grimy urban fable, and silly though the story may be, there’s little denying the florid style on display. Set in a never-dingier Detroit, River tracks Bones (Gosling lookalike Iain De Caestecker) as he scours the abandoned homes in his neighborhood for copper to strip and sell, occasionally running afoul of the tyrannical Bully (Matt Smith, mostly loud) in his efforts to help single mom Billy (Christina Hendricks) support him and his brother. It’s not enough, though, and before long, Billy has reluctantly accepted an offer from loan officer/nightclub owner Dave (Ben Mendelsohn, supremely creepy) to work in his bloody burlesque.

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Island Short Film

Cannes is a great place for cartoons. That may sound odd, given the festivals’s reputation as a towering arbiter of high-minded auteurist cinema, but it’s true. The Palme d’Or for short film (which is a thing!) has been given to many, many animated short films over the years. As is also true of the Best Animated Short Film category at the Oscars, Canada’s National Film Board has done quite will for itself. In 1955 the very first official Palme d’Or du Court Métrage went to Norman McLaren for his experimental his experimental Blinkity Blank. That said, the more interesting story is a Cold War one. The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries were powerhouses of animation for much of the latter half of the 20th century. The films never quite broke into American awards, but time and again juries at Cannes chose to recognize their brilliance. Russian, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian, and Czechoslovak animators brought home gold from the Croisette. In 1973 Soviet animator Fyodor Khitruk won the Palme d’Or du Court Métrage for Island, a perfect example of the power of a cartoon to break through both censorship and international barriers of understanding. Like most of the award-winning animated shorts to emerge from behind the Iron Curtain it is essentially wordless. Its images are generic and therefore universal. And its message, at least on the surface, is very generically philosophical. Beneath this veneer of comedy and harmless pacifism, however, is a wry critique of the world that includes the Soviet Union.

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Two Days One Night

“The only way to stop crying is to fight for your job.” One can rarely accuse Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne of cutting to the chase, but less than ten minutes pass in Two Days, One Night before Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) plainly explains to Sandra (Marion Cotillard) — and the viewer — what she must do: spend the weekend convincing her colleagues that they should forsake their bonuses so she can keep her job at a local solar panel manufacturer. It’s the closest thing the Dardennes have had to a high-concept premise. These Belgian brothers specialize in unscored, handheld dramas about their country’s working class, and while Days is no exception in its naturalistic depiction of low-key economic concerns, it does offer a simple hook and a bonafide movie star. One can hardly say the same for L’Enfant or The Kid with a Bike (no offense, Cécile De France). However, said hook can be a hard one to swallow. Unless European companies specialize in pitting their employees against one another, the premise is both contrived and repetitive, as Sandra must urge a majority of sixteen co-workers to leave their much-needed thousand-Euro bonuses on the table. It’s not their fault, after all, that boss Dumont (Baptiste Sornin) has forced them to make such a harsh choice, or that foreman Jean-Marc (Olivier Gourmet) has convinced some that they’ll be on the chopping block should she stay.

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Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson in THE ROVER

Robert Pattinson is an idiot, or at least he plays one in The Rover. A dopey criminal with a mealy mouth and a gunshot wound, he’s the Lennie to Guy Pearce’s George as the reluctant duo hit the road in a vaguely post-apocalyptic Australia. Here’s what we know: ten years after an ill-defined economic and social collapse, the Seventh Continent has attracted all manner of men seeking to capitalize on its mineral-rich resources. Bearded loner Eric (Pearce) doesn’t seem so ambitious; all he has is his car, and all he wants is his car back once a robbery goes south, prompting ringleader Henry (Scoot McNairy) and his panicked partners to steal Eric’s silver sedan and leave Henry’s little brother, Rey (Pattinson), behind. And so Eric and Rey give chase, with the former displaying little sympathy for the latter’s slowness or general well-being. To be more precise, our protagonist is a single-minded sociopath whose reasons for so prizing his vehicle are left unanswered for much of the film’s running time. A series of vignettes ensue, often comprised of the same few questions (“Where is my car?” “Have you seen my car?” etc.) and riddles in return, alleviated by the occasional evacuation of brain matter from its natural home. If Animal Kingdom was director David Michôd’s character-driven love letter to classic crime family films, then his much-anticipated follow-up evokes any number of precedents: the near-future desolation of The Road and The Road Warrior, the Old West grit of The Proposition and 3:10 […]

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

2010’s How to Train Your Dragon threatened to be a rather conventional secret-pet kids’ flick, but for several reasons — the undeniably cute creature at its center, John Powell’s rousing score, genuinely immersive 3D flying sequences and an ending with unexpected emotional heft — it managed to be both a pleasant surprise and a financial success. Shocking as it sounds, DreamWorks Animation went ahead with not just a sequel but the middle chapter in a newly fashioned trilogy, inventively titled How to Train Your Dragon 2. We return to the island of Berk five years after its Viking occupants have learned to tame the local dragon population following decades of mutual destruction. Rather than heeding advice from aging father Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler) on leading his kingdom when the time comes, 20-year-old inventor and preeminent dragon trainer Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) has left responsibility behind in order to explore the farthest reaches of the horizon aboard his preferred means of transportation, Toothless. However, these expeditions soon lead to encounters with a pair of heretofore unknown dragon masters, Valka (Cate Blanchett) and Drago (Djimon Hounsou), each with their own plans for the creatures. The result is plenty colorful and amusing enough, but in contrast to the film’s admirably simple charms involving a codependent companionship built on fear and trust, writer/director Dean DeBlois ladles on the usual sequel mentality. There are more characters, more beasts, more battles, more gadgets and more family-minded developments, and yet none of those elements carry quite the […]

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The Captive Movie

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a grizzled father clashes with a troubled detective as they search for the former’s missing daughter in the dead of winter, in this thriller from a Canadian director. You’re stopping me? Great. We’re not talking about Denis Villenueve’s strikingly moody, logically suspect Prisoners, though, but Atom Egoyan’s similarly titled and thoroughly lunkheaded The Captive. Before the opening credits have ended, we meet not only the captive herself, a teenage girl named Cassandra (Alexia Fast), but her captor, Mika (Kevin Durand), a preening real estate developer with a suitably pervy mustache. It’s been eight years since Cassandra’s abduction near Niagara Falls, but Mika has only recently begun taunting her estranged parents, Matthew (Ryan Reynolds) and Tina (Mireille Enos), covertly broadcasting their renewed anguish for an unseen audience and still stumping the authorities, chief among them Detectives Dunlop (Rosario Dawson) and Cornwall (Scott Speedman). For Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter), mysteries involving grief, guilt, obscured truth and voyeurism are his bread and butter. The past few years have seen a downward slide in quality, with Adoration and Where the Truth Lies proving to be overwrought retreads of his motifs and techniques in addition to the relatively anonymous Devil’s Knot. Only 2010’s Chloe delivered anything close to knowingly tawdry thrills; if only that weren’t too high a bar for The Captive to clear.

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Foxcatcher

“Fame makes a man take things over.” There couldn’t be a much more obvious needle drop for a scene of newly minted champions celebrating over champagne in a well-adorned trophy room, but more than one line from David Bowie’s “Fame” suits the grander themes of the terrific sports drama, Foxcatcher. Landing at the logical crossroads between Moneyball’s quest for sports-minded superiority and Capote’s chilly portrait of the criminal mind, director Bennett Miller’s third narrative feature revisits the eventually tragic real-life involvement of Olympic wrestling champs Mark and Dave Schultz with eccentric millionaire John du Pont. By 1987, 27-year-old Mark (Channing Tatum) had already earned an Olympic gold medal, but as he lectures bored students for a pittance and commits to his umpteenth meal of instant ramen while older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) raises a proper family, it’s clear that the glory has faded. Out of the blue comes a call on behalf of Mr. du Pont (Steve Carell), a wealthy ornithologist, philatelist and philosopher eager to sponsor the Schultz brothers if it means bringing the gold home to America once again.

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Mr Turner Movie

What’s crueler to witness: a force of nature that sinks a great many ships, or a tide of opinion that destroys a lone artist’s reputation? Nineteenth century landscape painter J.M.W. Turner often concerned himself with the former subject on his canvas — sunrises, shipwrecks and such — but leave it to writer/director Mike Leigh to make room for the latter in his latest period piece, Mr. Turner, an emotionally muted biopic less beholden to Leigh’s similarly set Topsy-Turvy than one might initially assume. After all, in a career defined almost entirely by present-day character studies set in working-class Britain — Happy-Go-Lucky, Another Year, Secrets & Lies — only these two stand out as stately reflections of artistic anguish. However, Topsy-Turvy addressed the burdens of a stagnant creative partnership between a composer and a playwright, and by extension an entire theatre company, whereas Turner is more mindful of the man’s often solitary struggles with navigating the mundane and depicting the sublime, two qualities which Leigh has hardly ever kept mutually exclusive. Amid the expectedly impeccable costume and production design of an early 1800s setting, we’re given brash reminders of baser human instincts at play as Timothy Spall’s grunt-heavy interactions with all who cross his path suggest that the Romantic figure was himself far from the portrait of sophistication. Not long after doting father and assistant William Turner Sr. (Paul Jesson) has shaved a pig’s head with it does the same razor blade make its way to Turner Jr.’s porky visage. When the […]

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Grace of Monaco Movie

Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco opens with a big fat asterisk: “The following is a fictional account inspired by real events.” Many biopics take liberties with their subjects’ lives, but beyond Grace Kelly’s marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco and the Prince’s later stalemate with President Charles de Gaulle of France over the colony’s status as a tax haven for big business, the majority of Monaco is a hokey fiction that imagines that the beloved actress may have been key to fending off French forces as a solution to her concurrent personal, professional and political crises. It’s 1962, and Grace (Nicole Kidman) is ill at ease with her new duties as European royalty. The locals don’t care for her philanthropic efforts, her husband (Tim Roth) doesn’t want her to return to Hollywood despite Alfred Hitchcock’s offer to star in Marnie, and the French government’s efforts to tax Monaco residents in order to afford an ongoing war in Algeria threaten the small country’s stability. On top of that, a traitor in their midst appears to be leaking private matters to the public. What’s a princess to do?

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inside llewyn davis 01

Editor’s note: Our review of Inside Llewyn Davis originally ran during this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens today in limited theatrical release. The eighth In Competition banner for the Coen Brothers at the Cannes Film Festival is their first in six years, since their eventual Best Picture Oscar winner No Country for Old Men. Though there isn’t a chance for the intrepid filmmaking duo to repeat the same success here, the feeling coming out of Inside Llewyn Davis is that the brothers would not have it any other way. Indeed, while terming their latest work the worst thing they’ve put out since The Ladykillers might send alarm bells ringing, when you consider their body of work since — No Country, Burn After Reading, A Serious Man and True Grit – it begins to seem not quite so bitter a pill to swallow. Tackling the New York folk music scene of the 1960s, the Coens’ latest sees the titular character (Oscar Isaac) stumbling through the city by the seat of his pants, trying to make it as a musician in an ostensibly difficult niche. Hopping from sofa to sofa, LLewyn drifts through life, propelled almost singularly by a desire to meet music maestro Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham) while his personal life, namely a surprise pregnancy by way of occasional partner Jean (Carey Mulligan), crumbles around him.

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The Great Beauty

Editor’s note: Our review of The Great Beauty originally ran during this year’s Cannes film festival, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens in limited theatrical release today. Paolo Sorrentino‘s latest film, The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza), opens with a sizeable quote lengthy enough that the English subtitles at this evening’s Cannes Film Festival screening had to zoom through it at lightning speed, giving non-natives a chance only to speed-read the mounting context of the piece. Still, it isn’t long before a character brings us up to speed with the film’s focal question – “what do you enjoy most in life?” Jep Gambardello (Tony Servillo) finds himself trying to answer this for most of The Great Beauty, which opens with a bizarre sequence in which a man taking snaps around Italy suddenly drops dead, hitting the thematic nail on the head right from the first frames. The scene soon enough changes to a seductive, lengthy montage set inside a club, a regular haunt of the 65-year-old Jep, now entering the final stages of his life and getting a little dewey-eyed about it. While still having trysts with beautiful women, he no longer enjoys it in the same way, and his existential crisis reaches its apex when he learns that his old flame Elisa has died suddenly.

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review nebraska

Editor’s note: Our review of Nebraska originally ran during this year’s Cannes film festival, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited release today. From the old-school Paramount logo that opens the film, it’s clear that Alexander Payne‘s latest has no aspirations to being a hip meditation on the turmoils of modern life in much the same way that his previous film, The Descendants did. More a quaint drama with modest ambitions that nevertheless hits a sure stride, Nebraska should please the Payne devout despite this being the first of his films which he did not also write (instead relying on a deft screenplay from Bob Nelson). Needless to say, while entrusting the words to a confidante, this is another coolly controlled, wickedly funny and subtly heartfelt drama from the master filmmaker. Cantankerous, alcoholic, senile old Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) has become convinced that he has won a million dollars on account of a (clearly phony) sweepstakes certificate mailed to his home. Son David (Will Forte) and wife Kate (June Squibb) try to talk sense into Woody, but he’s having none of it; he’s going to head to Lincoln, Nebraska no matter what, so David volunteers to drive him all 850 miles, in the hope that they might get to spend some quality father-son bonding time together along the way.

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Blue

Editor’s Note: Our review of Blue Is the Warmest Color originally ran during this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release. Lea Seydoux has been one of the toasts of the Cannes Film Festival this year, what with her stellar work opposite Tahir Rahim in Un Certain Regard entry Grand Central, and now, In Competition, she delivers the stronger of her two performances in the sweeping, epic, sexy romance Blue is the Warmest Color. The bigger story here, however, might just be the coming out party for newcomer Adele Exarchopoulos, who is sure to become an in-demand young actress overnight. Adapted from Julie Maroh’s graphic novel, Blue follows a young high school student, Adele (Exarchopolous), through the passage of adulthood as she attempts to come to terms with her sexuality. After a failed relationship with a classmate, Thomas (Jeremie Laheurte), Adele seems to find that which was missing in her heart with Emma (Seydoux), a blue-haired, older art student who she chances upon at a lesbian bar after an initial sighting.

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review all is lost

Editor’s note: Our review of All Is Lost originally ran during this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens today in theatrical release. J.C. Chandor follows up his sturdy 2011 debut Margin Call with a staggeringly ambitious if niche project that will appeal most to fans of its star – and, in fact, its only actor – Robert Redford. If the actor is better known for his iconography than his acting prowess these days – though is highly respected as a director and founder of the Sundance Film Festival – he delivers what is easily one of his all-time best performances as a lone man lost at sea. Much hype has followed the film considering the claim from Redford that the drama unfolds free of dialogue, and aside from a brief opening narration, a desperate plea to a fuzzy radio signal, and an enraged expletive, this is true. Chandor’s minimalist effort begins with the man discovering a hole in his boat, and finishes with the very end of his predicament – whether that is death or rescue will be the prime question occupying viewers’ minds.

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Nothing Bad Can Happen

Editor’s note: Our review of Nothing Bad Can Happen originally ran during this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but we’re re-running it here as it plays Fantastic Fest. One of the most loudly-jeered though curiously little-discussed films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival was first-time director Katrin Gebbe‘s Nothing Bad Can Happen, the single German film playing at 2013’s fest. For sure, it’s controversial material, guaranteed to divide audiences on whether or not it is in fact a criticism of religious sectarianism or merely a depiction of humanity’s dark heart. Tore (Julius Feldmeier) is a young man who has fallen in with so-called Jesus Freaks, a punk Christian sect basing themselves out of a house in Hamburg. Though an awkwardly unassuming sort, Tore one day makes acquaintance with an affable family man, Benno (Sascha Gersak), and decides to move into his home, where he meets and forges a connection with Benno’s young daughter Sanny (Swantje Kohlhof). However, this bond is tested once Tore discovers the sinister nature of this family unit; Benno’s dislike for Tore’s fastidious religious beliefs notwithstanding, the patriarch is an abusive sexual deviant with a short, violent temper.

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The Bling Ring

On the balance of probabilities, Sofia Coppola‘s fifth feature is likely to be one of her most commercial; not only is it based on true events (in more certain terms than her edgy if sketchy Marie Antoinette), but the real life tale’s rooting in the cult of celebrity will almost certainly ensure that it earns its fair share of fans. Disappointing it is, then, that Coppola can’t wring much of interest out of the people behind the story, while the eminent appeal of Emma Watson in yet another boundary-pushing, post-Harry Potter presence is almost completely squandered in a throwaway supporting role. Though The Bling Ring is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, it is still very much the sort of feature audiences would expect from the director, crowded with an indie rock soundtrack and featuring long, deliberate takes in order to focus on the existential ennui of the characters therein. Despite doing little with them, it is the characters which Coppola peculiarly decides to focus on instead of the facts of the case itself. The titular collective of criminals is headed by Rebecca (Katie Chang), who leads her friends to the homes of their favorite celebrities to make off with their most expensive and illusive wares.

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Cannes 2013

The Cannes Film Festival is all wrapped up for another year; the awards have been given out, and pundits are busy working out what’s going to go the distance in the coming awards season, and what will fall by the wayside. In my first time at Cannes, I managed to watch 41 films, including all 20 films In Competition, and have arrived at the 10 films that I feel were the best of show. Put simply, these are ones to watch out for:

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michael-kohlhaas

Arnaud des Pallieres’ take on Heinrich von Kleist’s novella, Michael Kohlhaas, has all the makings of a riveting, party-crashing entry into the Cannes Film Festival’s In Competition banner, what with its focus on adventure and righteous vengeance. Disappointing it is, then, that while it features Mads Mikkelsen in as game a mode as ever, and the landscapes are sumptuously shot, the soporific narrative pulse has kept this oddly forgettable film clear of festival discussion pretty much altogether, which many could argue is even worse than it being an alright flop. The story begins as the titular character (Mikkelsen), a merchant, is forced by a local Baron (Swann Arlaud) to relinquish two of his prized horses as collateral on the way to the market due to him not having the proper documentation. When Kohlhaas returns to discover that the steeds are of ill health and Cesar (David Bennent), the man he left behind to tend for them, has been attacked by the Baron’s guard dogs, he seeks reparations from the courts. However, given the Baron’s social stature, Kohlhaas loses the case immediately. Devastatingly, his wife, Judith (Delphine Chuillot), also winds up murdered while travelling to plea the case, and so Michael teams up with the local social outcasts to launch an attack against the Baron and his army.

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