Cannes Film Festival

The Immigrant

James Gray has steadily gained a head of steam over the four pictures he has released to date, culminating with the grand critical success of his compelling 2008 romantic drama Two Lovers. With another film again appearing In Competition at Cannes, Gray raises the curtain on what is easily his most-anticipated work to date, The Immigrant, which has previously gone by the names The Nightingale and Lowlife, though has no doubt landed on its final moniker for ripe positioning by the Weinstein Company in the impending awards season. As soon as Polish immigrant Ewa Cybulski (Marion Cotillard) and her sister Magda (Angela Sarafyan) arrive in the United States, their circumstances are dire. Magda is immediately quarantined with tuberculosis, while Ewa is questioned for reportedly being a “woman of bad morals,” due to her apparent conduct on the ship over from Europe. Appearing sympathetic to her plight, Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix) bribes an official to allow Ewa passage, at which point he introduces her to his Prohibition-era bar and theater, and soon enough has her turning tricks in his employ. As Ewa finds little possibility to escape from this life, only Bruno’s magician cousin Orlando (Jeremy Renner) seems to offer any respite, locking the two in a fierce battle over the woman.

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inside llewyn davis 04

Three-hour lesbian drama Blue is the Warmest Color was announced the winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, a choice that many foresaw as likely but not a sure thing. The jury that awarded the honor was led by Steven Spielberg and also included Nicole Kidman, Ang Lee, Christoph Waltz and Lynne Ramsay. For the second place Grand Prix winner, they picked the latest from the Coen Brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis, while for Jury Prize (considered the third biggest deal) they chose Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s Like Father, Like Son. Like Father, Like Son was also recipient of an honorable mention from the Christian-based Ecumenical Jury, whose top prize went to The Past — the star of which, Bérénice Bejo, was named Best Actress by the main Cannes jury. Blue is the Warmest Color also earned multiple honors from the fest, taking the critic choice FIPRESCI Award for the In Competition category. The biggest surprise of today’s announcement seems to be Spielberg and Co.’s naming of Bruce Dern as Best Actor for the new film from Alexander Payne, Nebraska. After the jump, you can find a full list of main jury winners (from the festival website) and other honorees announced over the weekend accompanied by links to our review of the film where available.

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review grigris

Mahamat-Saleh Haroun‘s fifth film to date tells the tale of Souleymane (Souleymane Deme) – known as Grigris to his friends – an immensely skilled dancer living in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. Due to a debilitating leg injury, however, he struggles to hold down even manual labor, while seemingly the only joyous aspects of his life are his dancing and a nascent romance with a local prostitute, Mimi (Anais Monoroy). When his step-father wracks up hefty medical bills, Grigris decides to start skimming shipments of gasoline from the illegal racket he works for as a runner, yet when his boss finds out, he’s given just 48 hours to pay the funds back, on threat of death. Haroun smartly throws us straight into the African milieu from the get-go with an entertaining scene of the titular character showing off his exceptional dancing skills, made only all the more characteristic by his disability. This is suddenly juxtaposed with Grigris’ more provincial home life, taking pictures for the locals and helping out around the village. There is a constant to-and-fro of aspiration and adversity being depicted, while the city’s economic and religious specifics – the latter including numerous references to Allah and the Qu’ran – are more subtly cossetted into proceedings.

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review wakolda

Argentinian filmmaker Lucia Puenzo shot onto the scene in 2007 with her startling directorial debut XXY, which conveyed the quest for an intersex individual to discover their definitive gender identity. Regrettably, however, though eying up a curious enough premise again this time, Puenzo can’t prize anymore than a cursory level of intrigue out of it, the result being a disappointingly flaccid, forgettable drama that was capable of so much more. Taking place in Patagonia in 1960, the story follows an Argentinian family traveling along a 300km desert road, as they encounter a German doctor who asks to tag along. While at first taken with the man’s charm, wit and money, things take a disturbing turn when he begins sizing up the family’s 12-year-old daughter, Lilith aka Wakolda (Florencia Bado), who has bones that are too small for her age. Gradually, the family discovers the man’s dark past, dating back to one of the most heinous atrocities in recent human history.

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sarah_prefere_la_course

French-Canadian director Chloe Robichaud makes her feature film debut in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard branch with a highly unique tale that has echoes of downtrodden sports films like The Wrestler, though wraps itself in a vivid, swooning tale of nascent romance. Sarah Prefers to Run (Sarah Prefere la Course), above all else, paints both filmmaker and leading lady as sure talents to watch in the future. As you can doubtless glean from the title, 20-year-old Sarah (Sophie Desmarais) likes running, and as a standout on her local track team, decides to see if she can make it in the big athletic leagues of Montreal, moving there with a young man she barely knows, Antoine (Jean-Sebastiene Courchesne). However, things soon enough become complicated when Antoine suggests that they get married for the financial incentives, while he has a far sneaker plan in mind – to make her fall in love with him. Sarah, meanwhile, struggles to reconcile her feelings about this, while trying to keep pushing herself on the track.

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review bastards

Revered director Claire Denis brings to the Croisette easily one of her least-accessible jaunts yet with the impenetrable Bastards, an ill-organized revenge tale that unfolds in needlessly incoherent fashion, and despite a rather salacious, sexy premise, fails to get the pulse racing in all other departments. Marco (Vincent Lindon) is one half of the film’s beguiling sibling equation, a man who learns that his brother in law, Jacques (Laurent Grevill) has taken his own life, while niece Justine (Lola Creton) has been taken to hospital after suffering from severe mental trauma. In an attempt to make amends with his estranged sister Sandra (Julie Bataille), Marco moves into the same apartment block as the shady businessman she believes caused Jacques’ suicide, and embarks on an affair with his mistress, Raphalle (Chiara Mastroianni).

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As I Lay Dying

James Franco has proven himself an ambitious sort in recent years, branching off from merely working as an actor to studying for a master’s degree part-time, and now turning his talents towards directing. Franco certainly set the bar high for himself the first time on the horse, in adapting William Faulkner‘s notoriously challenging 1930’s work As I Lay Dying. Regrettably, Franco captures neither the sardonic wit of the novel nor any particularly compelling snapshots of his own in this rather muddled mess of a film, which is easily one of the weakest showings at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Addie (Beth Grant) is soon to be dead, and so her children Cash (Jim Parrack), Jewel (Logan Marshall-Green), Dewey Dell (Ahna O’Reilly), Vardaman (Brady Parmenter), and Darl (James Franco) begin to make the relevant preparations alongside their father, Anse (Tim Blake Nelson), for her burial. Set in rural, downtrodden Mississippi, the trek to bury their mother and wife in the far-away town of Jackson proves an arduous one, one with more destructive implications for the family unit than they could have expected.

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review behind the candelabra

Steven Soderbergh has for years been a director who continues to work entirely in spite of himself; he presses on, releasing a film a year (if not more) while constantly expressing frustration with the industry and claiming that his next will be his last. With his latest effort – a production from the increasingly prestigious HBO Films banner – it appears that the director might finally be sticking to his word, and if so, he goes out with quite the belter to his name. Doing huge justice to the oft-sneered at TV film delegation, Behind the Candelabra is a studious project shot through with the high production quality, dedicated craftsmanship and superior acting of a great theatrical feature, and went down a storm at this morning’s world premiere. Soderbergh trains his focus on the final decade of Liberace’s (Michael Douglas) life, from meeting his most prolific lover, Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) to his eventual death from AIDS. After a chance encounter backstage, the two embark on a whirlwind romance that sees each confide more in each other than they ever have another person. Of course, complications inevitably arise, but their bond is one that endures at different levels right to the singer’s final deathbed conversation with Scott.

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A Castle in Italy

As the debate continue to rage about the place – or rather, the lack thereof – of female directors in Hollywood, the trend seems to be little different at the Croisette; in Cannes’ coveted In Competition bracket, of the 21 films screening, only a single one, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi‘s A Castle in Italy, is directed by a female. This has already earned it plenty of pre-buzz as a dark horse for the Palme D’Or, and while Bruni Tedeschi, who also stars in the leading role, may well be a top contender for the Best Actress award, the film itself is likely too milquetoast to catch the allure of jury head Steven Spielberg. Louise (Bruni Tedeschi) is a middle-aged actress who is taking some time out from acting to take care of herself, at which point the news arrives that the luxurious mansion she and the other family members maintain may have to be liquidated or sold on to settle sizeable tax fees. Louise also has to deal with a brother, Ludovic (Filippo Timi) suffering from AIDS, and Nathan (Louis Garrel), a young suitor who persistently pursues the actress across Paris; one scenario can indicate only impending death, while the other might signify the arrival of a new life if Louise gets her way. A Castle in Italy is wryly, dryly funny, and sure to be remembered as something of a divisive acquired taste. While it begins by examining the destabilisation of an upper-class family base, it soon enough splinters off […]

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Guillaume Canet earned the goodwill of many with his immensely potent 2006 thriller Tell No One, before the misjudged – and like this film, much too long – Little White Lies came along and eroded plenty of that promise. However, Canet returns with his latest feature, and the busload-full of skilled actors he has brought with him damn near ensures a compelling sit, even if the film’s ponderous pacing and resulting length do detract somewhat from its finer qualities. A remake of 2008’s French film Rivals – which starred Canet himself – Blood Ties begins in 1974 New York as Chris (Clive Owen) is released from prison after a 12-year-stint for murder. While welcomed warmly by his father (James Caan), Chris is received less so by his brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), a respected policeman who is nevertheless called upon by his family to take him in. Adding to the drama is the litany of anguished lovers sitting on the periphery; Chris shacks up with a gorgeous young receptionist named Monica (Mila Kunis), much to the chagrin of his drug-addled hooker ex-wife Monica (Marion Cotillard), while Frank continues to pine for a former flame he broke it off with, Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), whose current relationship with the dangerous Scarfo (Matthias Schoenaerts) is on the rocks.

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Blind Detective

Tone is one of the most important though less-commonly discussed facets of filmmaking, one that is almost entirely disregarded in Johnnie To‘s fascinating mess, Blind Detective, an entry into the Cannes Film Festival’s small MidnightScreenings branch. Chong (Andy Lau) is the titular blind detective, a formerly-sighted member of his profession who, in light of the blinding incident, takes on missions of his own accord, much to his frustration. His partner is Tung (Sammi Cheng), an incompetent rookie cop who wants to enhance her detective skills, and so goes about trying to solve the 1997 disappearance of her childhood friend Minnie. Along the way, the pair encounter far more than they bargained for, making this would-be training exercise a very real assignment indeed.

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Shield of Straw

Takashi Miike is a director fast becoming a regular fixture at the Cannes Film Festival, despite his notorious work-rate of often several films a year and the frequently inconsistent level of quality that this doubtless invites. Miike stands as one of very few directors who would be able to land a populist – at least for the standards of the festival – action thriller In Competition. As such, Shield of Straw is a refreshing palate-cleanser amid the more stereotypical festival fare, and on its own standing, coheres as a sharp thriller even as it weathers its fair share of flaws. Following his murder of a 7-year-old girl, serial killer Kunihide Kyomaru (Tatsuya Fujiwara) has a billion-Yen bounty placed upon his head by the child’s grandfather, Ninagawa (Tsutomu Yamazaki), with the peculiar condition that the murder be state-authorised (a rather oblique term never properly explained). As the tension rises, Kyomaru hands himself in to the police, yet with even the authorities aiming their sights at the man, it comes down to five outnumbered, outgunned cops, led by Lieutenant Kazuki Mekari (Takao Osawa), to protect a man they ostensibly cannot stand. Few of Miike’s films are ever quite the same, and here in both style and tone he seems to be moving towards the very much in-vogue Christopher Nolan style of filmmaking; high budget, boasting an accomplished look, portentous musical score, and sweeping themes that avidly echo Greek tragedy (but unlike Nolan, it’s bloody).

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review monsoon shootout

“Midnight screening” – these are two words associated with high-octane, fast-thrills entertainment, the sort of movie you might check out after imbibing a few (or more than a few) pints and heading to your local cinema. The Cannes Film Festival is no different, and their small strand of Midnight Screenings are typically reserved for anticipated, exotic movies that nevertheless would not sit pretty in the main branches of the fest. Monsoon Shootout might by title alone sound like a worthy addition to that canon, though writer-director Amit Kamur‘s first turn behind the steering wheel proves wildly unsatisfying and technically slapdash. In downtown Mumbai, a serial killer known as The Axe Man, real name Shiva (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), is running rampant, carrying out hits for his boss, known only as the Slum Lord. Rookie cop Adi (Vijay Varma) is one day faced with taking Shiva down, though the choices he can make – to wound, kill or arrest the perp – have wildly varying consequences, as we learn over the course of the film.

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bends 04

Bends, the feature debut from writer-director Flora Lau, isn’t a film that, with its potent framework of famial dissaray, should struggle to engage on an emotional level. Yet this slight, deliberate tale of strained families keeps the audience at a distance, making it a curiously uninvolving sit that rarely engages on even the most basic level. A story revolving around two families which become ever more intertwined, the first half of this equation is Anna Li (Carina Lau), a housewife who has married into money, and when her businessman husband is away, she kills time by lunching around Hong Kong with her friends. Driving her from place to place is Fai (Chen Kun), a lower-class sort living across the border in Shenzhen, and almost simultaneously the pair’s troubles seem to coincide; Anna’s husband suddenly disppears without a trace, while the urgency for Fai to get his pregnant wife into a Hong Kong hospital — while avoiding their violation of the one-child policy — reaches its fever pitch as her gestation progresses.

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bite the dust 01

It might surprise many to learn that Bite the Dust is the single Russian film in this year’s Official Selection, and consequently expectations are understandably high for the apocalyptic comedy farce, which nevertheless misses most of the marks it so haphazardly aims for. Though it has faced some stiff competition so far, this is presently the worst film screening at Cannes this year (even if it is early days yet), and it will take some doing to beat. Taking place in a remote, provincial Russian town, debut director Taisa Igumentseva‘s film depicts the madcap efforts of the town’s residents to come to terms with and prepare for an impending apocalypse, coming by way of a magnetic cloud guaranteed to wipe out the majority of the world’s population. Think of it as a quirky Russian arthouse take on Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, minus any potent humor or heart.

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seduced and abandoned 01

James Toback and Alec Baldwin‘s fascinating documentary Seduced and Abandoned opens with a quote from Orson Welles, which attests that 95% of the time and energy expended making a film is actually devoted to securing funds rather than, you know, actually making the film. Toback and Baldwin aim to put this to the test here in a film detailing their visit to last year’s Cannes Film Festival to try and sell a Last Tango in Paris-esque jaunt starring Baldwin (ostensibly, in the Brando role) and Neve Campbell. Toback and Baldwin both attest that what we’re watching is neither a full-out documentary or narrative feature, but rather a crude amalgam of the two. What is certain, however, is that it’s a downright hilarious subversion of the act of filmmaking itself. Toback was smart to choose Baldwin as his brother in arms, because the 30 Rock star consistently steals the show here, trading witticisms and razor-sharp, self-deprecating jibes with the acclaimed director.

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grand central 01

Lea Seydoux and Tahar Rahim are unquestionably two darlings of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, taking front and center in two films a piece (the respective others being Blue Is the Warmest Colour and The Past), coming together for Rebecca Zlotowski‘s sophomore feature, the bizarre and unsettling romantic thriller-drama Grand Central. Gary (Rahim) begins the story unemployed and desperate for work, when he begrudgingly takes an assignment as a decontaminator of nuclear reactors. The real drama, at least initially, comes after hours when Gary meets a gorgeous, provocative co-worker named Karole (Seydoux), and an uneasy romance begins to blossom. As the tensions rise in both the nuclear reactor and the relationship, it heads towards a dangerous payoff in both the literal and figurative senses.

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jimmy p 01

The clunkily titled Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian (aka Jimmy P.) is Arnaud Desplechin‘s first film in a whole five years, though disappointingly proves a shakily uneven return for the director, entrenched in the more laborious, bone-dry methodology of its famous case study rather than probing the complex emotional state of the titular character. Resolutely a work of special interest and little else, of all the In Competition entries to screen so far, this is the one that can most easily be ruled out of the running for the Palme d’Or. The true story on which this film is based revolves around Jimmy Picard (Benicio Del Toro), a Blackfoot Indian who returns from service in World War II and begins suffering from headaches, sight loss and countless other ailments. While American doctors are quick to diagnose him as mentally ill, it is the arrival of anthropologist-turned-psychiatrist Georges Devereau (Mathieu Amalric) that changes everything, as he manages to unlock past traumas in Jimmy’s life to arrive at the root of the problem.

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review stop the pounding heart

The toxic effects of religious indoctrination have been dutifully exposed in eye-opening documentaries such as Jesus Camp, yet in the gritty and authentic drama Stop the Pounding Heart — the finale in Roberto Minervini‘s Texas trilogy — it gets a more pragmatic if still unnerving depiction. If only the director were to rein in his insistent style and streamline his narratives, this might have amounted to something more than a flaccid disappointment. The drama unfolds largely within one family, the Carlsons, whose 14-year-old Sara (Sara Carlson) is the center of the piece, and finds herself gradually gravitating away from her strictly biblical upbringing towards Colby, a young local bull rider to who she, against the teachings of her parents, is undeniably attracted. The lustful frisson is slight but surely there; it is simply a case of whether Sara will decide to act upon it or not.

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like father like son 02

Like Father, Like Son is a film almost guaranteed to have gone down well with this year’s head of the In Competition jury, Steven Spielberg, what with its shared focus on riveting drama concerning an increasingly destabilising family unit. For all of the visual pizzazz of Spielberg’s blockbusters, his films almost always return to matters of the family, and as such, it’s easy to see how the latest offering from I Wish director Kore-ada Hirokazu would very much appeal to his sensibilities if not also those of the rest of the jury. Nonoyima and Midori are a certifiably middle-upper class couple who have provided a life of privelige for their 6-year-old son, Keita. However, early on they are summoned to the hospital in which he was born and informed that, in fact, Keita is not their son; he was somehow switched with another at birth. They soon enough meet the parents of the other child, the Saikis, who have in effect been raising their biological son for the last 6 years. Inevitably, the question of what to do rears its head: maintain the status quo, or return the sons to their rightful parents?

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