Cannes 2013

borgman 01

Editor’s note: Our review of Borgman originally ran during last year’s Cannes Film Festival, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in limited release. Alex van Warmerdam‘s Borgman is the first Dutch film to play In Competition at Cannes in just shy of 40 years, and with its daring, deeply dark yet also rib-ticklingly amusing subject matter it unquestionably proves the country’s cinematic worthiness. Early reviews emerging from the Croisette have already compared the film to both Yorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth, and the more severe works of Michael Haneke, two touchstones that absolutely hit the mark. Borgman is absolutely a film best approached with only a cursory knowledge of its plot — not that van Warmerdam gives much away himself. The opening images show a disheveled middle-aged man, Borgman (Jan Bijvoet), being disturbed while sleeping in an underground compartment, at which point he flees and knocks on the door of married couple Richard (Jeroen Perceval) and Marina (Hadewych Minis). Richard turns him away after administering a harsh beating, but Marina takes sympathy and allows him to recuperate in the guest wing. However, little does she know quite what she has invited into her home. 

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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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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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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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miele 02

Miele is directed by Valeria Golino, best known to English-speaking audiences as Topper Harley’s sexy, exotic girlfriend in the popular Hot Shots duology. That description, however, might be a reductive summation of her talents, because two decades later, she demonstrates what must be a higher calling as a director of challenging, thought-provoking drama in a film that should surely have landed In Competition — instead appearing in the still-esteemed Un Certain Regard cachet — and is presently the film to beat of not just the festival but the entire year. Going by the pseudonym Miele, Irene (Jasmine Trinca) is an angel of death, helping to give the terminally ill a peaceful means to leave this world, usually with the assistance of a loved one. To perform these euthanisations, she typically travels from Italy to Mexico to procure a barbiturate used to put dogs down and then implores said patient to drink it with vodka. However, one patient, who wishes to die but is not terminally ill, tests the mettle of Irene’s resolve, causing her to confront the very nature of her work.

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