Jean-Pierre Dardenne

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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Michael Haneke on set of Amour (Love)

As we all know, “Palme d’Or” is French for Feather Button Hand of Gold Achievement. Or something. Google Translate wasn’t loading this morning. Regardless, it’s as prestigious as awards get, although it hilariously almost never lines up with the Oscars (for good reason). Past winners include Barton Fink, Taxi Driver, MASH, The Third Man, Black Orpheus, La Dolce Vita, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and nearly one hundred other films that should be on a rental queue somewhere. That list also includes Michael Haneke‘s The White Ribbon which took the price in 2009 and, as of yesterday, his latest film Love (Amour). That’s 2 wins for the director in 4 competition years. It ties him for Most Palmes d’Or Ever (no director has won more than two), where he joins Alf Sjoberg (Iris and the Lieutenant, Miss Julie); Francis Ford Coppola (The Conversation, Apocalypse Now); Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror, The Best Intentions); Emir Kusturica (When Father Was Away on Business, Underground); Shohei Imamura (The Eel, The Ballad of Narayama); and The Dardenne Brothers (Rosetta, The Child). It’s a stellar achievement deserving of a long standing ovation than the one that The Paperboy got. The full list of winners (from the festival website) is as follows:

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With this year’s Cannes Film Festival quickly coming round the bend, now’s as good a time as any to officially start the FSR pre-festival coverage, and as if by magic, perhaps sensing that I was about to do so, the good folks on the south coast of France have announced that Tim Roth will lead the jury of the festival’s secondary competition. The Un Certain Regard competition seeks to offer films with some intriguing hook or selling point, setting a different tone to the main competition and occasionally unearthing some genuine gems thanks to its agenda of championing new talents. It is that competition that the British actor, famed for such roles as Reservoir Dogs and lately Lie To Me, will preside over, perhaps bringing his own stamp to affairs. So, we can probably expect violence and facial intensity to play a big part – and if Roth’s own The War Zone is anything to go by, we can also expect another trip down the abuse avenue that featured so heavily in the films screened last year.

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Foreign Objects - Large

Cyril is looking for his dad. The boy was dropped off at a state-run foster home by his father and told it was just a temporary thing while the man got his act together financially. But the days became weeks, and now when Cyril tries calling he gets a recording that the line has been disconnected. He runs away from the home eventually making his way back to where he used to live. But his father is long gone. The Kid With a Bike offers up a sad story, but it avoids melodrama through honest writing, beautiful acting and Cyril’s sheer force of will. The boy refuses to accept his abandonment at face value and pursues the truth regardless of the walls erected in his way. It’s alternately heartbreaking and hopeful, and it’s never less than engaging. Most surprising for a simple drama, the movie is easily one of the year’s most suspenseful as Cyril’s fate and future hang precariously in the balance.

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