8 posts categorized "Cannes Film Festival"

May 31, 2017



Jessica Chastain Dumps On All The Films In Competition At Cannes

Jump to 04:08 to watch Jessica Chastain whiteladysplain how poorly female characters were represented in the films-in-competition this year at Cannes. Sadly, Ms. Chastain is unable to articulate examples from the undisclosed films that she ham-fistedly calls out. As a result, no one has any idea what she's talking about. When Chastain opines about not seeing female characters she "recognizes," it begs the question of who exactly who the wealthy actress imagines — possibly the neighbors in her apartment building next to Central Park. It's a good thing that her refurbished Manhattan apartment only set her back $5.1 million. Refurbishing the 19th century apartment cost more. 

Chastain's dubious intention seems to draw attention to herself, rather than to the matter at hand. It just doesn't pass the BS detector test as the facial expression of female interpreter sitting behind Chastain evinces. This is clearly not Jessica Chastain's finest hour. 

Chastain at Cannes

That Chastain's buzzkill remarks come during a year when two women filmmakers were recognized with major awards at Cannes — Lynne Ramsey took home the Best Script Award for "You Were Never Really Here," and Sofia Coppola won the Best Director Award for "The Beguiled" — further blunts Chastain's point. Perhaps it would have served the press conference better to celebrate the female filmmakers whose (ostensibly) ethical artistic efforts stood in opposition to depictions of women characters Chastain disapproved of in the unnamed films that she cast aspersions on.

A little preparation for making her point might have served her better. When taken in the context of the daggers being shot by Pedro Almodovar's translator, it seems that such whiteladysplaining isn't everyone's cup of tea. And I'll take Vera Farmiga, as an actress, over Jessica Chastain any day of the week. If you haven't checked out "Bates Motel," I highly recommend it. Farmiga runs circles around Chastain with acting chops that match Naomi Watts, another polished actress who outperforms Jessica Chastain. I could go on. Have you seen what Gina Gershon can do? Whew. I guess it brings us around to Kirsten Dunst, whose performance in "The Beguiled" didn't pass the Bechtel test. 

Agnes Jaoui

Fortunately, Agnes Jaoui took over the baton to reduce the issue to meeting the criteria of the Bechtel Test — wherein in two female characters discuss something other than a male. Admittedly, that's setting the bar pretty low. Wait, Noah Baumbach's movie "The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)" didn't pass the Bechtel Test? — Shocker. Take it up with Noah.

Will Smith pitched in to clean up Chastain's mess by noting that having a couple of black folks (filmmakers in competition) "wouldn't be a bad thing either." Smith may fill the shoes of a boisterous American abroad, but he nevertheless presented a suave and worldly representative of Global Culture. Cheers to Will Smith as a responsible envoy of cinematic culture to put a pin in Chastain's entitled Trumpian version of truth. 

Will Smith

October 06, 2016




























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June 01, 2015



Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 3.45.27 PM

YouthOnly two of my predictions for Cannes’s feature film awards held any note of accuracy. As certain as I was that Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth” would take a prize (either Michael Caine for Best Actor or a Jury Prize for the film) it came up empty handed. Still, the film’s provocative poster will surly help ensure that it find its audience far and wide.

I did manage to predict better than half of the Best Actress award however. Not only did I foresee Rooney Mara winning for her splendid performance in Todd Haynes’s “Carol” but I also guessed that the honor would be shared with another actress, even if I did fall short on foretelling that Emmanuelle Bercot (“Mon Roi”) would be the other selection (I supposed Cate Blanchett would split the prize).

DheepanWhile critics such as The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw feigned indignation at Jacques Audiard’s social realist drama “Dheepan” for winning the Palme d’Or, I had it down to win Best Screenplay (that award went to Michel Franco for “Chronic”). “Dheepan” (played by Jesuthasan Antonythasan) is the name of a Tamil Tiger, a freedom fighter in the Sri Lanka Civil War. Dheepan flees the country for Paris with two strangers (a mother and daughter). Upon settling into a rundown Paris suburb, the makeshift family discovers a different but equally violent social condition that requires Dheepan to once again take on the role of a tiger.

AssassinTaiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien has been a household name in Cannes for many years. His 1987 film “Daughter of the Nile” premiered in the Director’s Fortnight at the 1988 festival. Hsiao-Hsien’s 1993 film “The Puppetmaster” won the festival’s Jury Prize that same year. That the much-admired director should be awarded this year’s Best Director Palme for “The Assassin” seems fitting. The film is a visually lush story about Nie Yinnaing, a general’s daughter abducted by a nun to be trained as an efficient killing machine. Ordered to kill the man to whom she was once promised Yinnaing must choose between two opposing ways of life. It isn’t a martial arts film per se, but the action scenes fit the storyline with blinding economy and breathtaking ferocity.

Vincent LindonFrench native Vincent Lindon’s win in the Best Actor category, for his skillfully understated performance as an unemployed French family man who finally finds a job working as a security officer at a department store (in Stephane Brize's "The Measure of a Man"), is in accord with this year’s thematic through-line of films in the festival regarding social injustices in France. Lindon's persuasive bearing as a seen-it-all French everyman conveys a rare breed of integrity, well deserving of the Best Actor honor for which he eloquently thanked the Cannes jury. 

Son of SaulIt isn’t often that a first-time filmmaker captures the imagination the way Laszlo Nemes did with his Grand Prize-winner “Saul Fia” ("Son of Saul"), a devastating holocaust drama about a Jewish Hungarian father (Geza Rohig) forced to work in the Nazi extermination machinery. The prestigious award should aid in bringing audience attention to this powerful movie that impressed everyone who saw it at the festival.


CANNES 2015 — DAY 7

Cannes Day 7

Neither Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario” nor Stephane Brize’s “The Measure of a Man” was able to hold a candle to Todd Haynes’s latest masterwork “Carol.” Although “Measure” features a solid performance from Vincent Lindon as Thierry, an unemployed French father trying desperately to get a job to provide for his wife and special-needs son, the script doesn’t go far enough toward addressing the systemic issue of joblessness currently crushing the lives of millions, if not billions, of people around the globe.

Cannes Birdy
“Sicaro” gives the muscular Emily Blunt space to stretch as an actress but the politically vague script, about corruption on all sides of America’s trademarked drug war with Mexico, drags and settles into a cheesy revenge-plot. Benicio Del Toro plays Alejandro, the “hitman” of the film’s title. Del Toro’s character plays all ends against the middle to avenge the brutal murder of his wife and daughter by a Juarez drug-lord who has learned every skullduggery technique the CIA has been busy teaching by example for decades.

Open-secretHot on a lot of people’s list is Amy Berg’s documentary “An Open Secret,” about young boys sexually abused by Hollywood managers, agents, and casting directors. The picture has been picked up for U.S. distribution; it opens on June 5th in Seattle and Denver, before rolling out to 20 other cities thereafter.   

One of the great pleasures of the festival is its beach screenings of select classic films. What could be better than reclining in the sand in a beach chair and watching a film such as the one playing tonight, Bo Widerberg’s 1971 “Joe Hill,” about the

Still to come is Hou Hsiao-Shien’s “The Assassin” and Guillaume Nicloux’s “Valley of Love,” a two-hander starring Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu.



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CANNES 2015 — DAY 5

32015 is the year that art-house directors loaded their competition chances in Cannes by utilizing Hollywood A-listers to beef up their movies.

Matteo Garrone (“Tale of Tales”), Justin Kurzel (“Macbeth”), Michael Franco (“Chronic”), Paolo Sorrentino (“Youth”), Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario”), Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”), Gus Van Sant (“The Sea of Trees”), and Danish auteur Joachim Trier (“Louder Than Bombs”) all feature big name American stars in films that are about as far from typical Hollywood productions as you can get.

Still, not even Matthew McConaughey’s presence can do much for Van Sant’s latest snooze fest. Speaking of sleepy movies, Natalie Portman's directorial debut "A Tale of Love and Darkness" caused more than a few audience members to go into snore-mode.

Cannes Day 5With three features under his belt, Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos keeps improving in baby steps. Each film gets a little bit better than the last. “The Lobster” is his best film to date, behind such time-wasters as “Dogtooth” and “Alpes” but decent performances by Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz can’t elevate “The Lobster’s” flawed source material. The movie is mediocre at best. Perhaps, in another five movies, Lanthimos will make a good one.

“Sicario” is Denis Villeneuve’s drama about a lawless no-man’s-land between America and Mexico where Emily Blunt’s FBI agent Kate Mercer is brought in to battle America’s wrongheaded war on drugs. Benicio Del Toro also stars in what promises to be a gritty political thriller.

It remains to be seen whether the ever-annoying Jesse Eisenberg can pull off a naturalistic performance in Joachim Trier’s “Louder Than Bombs,” which also stars Amy Ryan, David Strathairn, Gabriel Byrne, and the ubiquitous Isabelle Huppert.

YouthMore promise lies in Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth,” which features Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as a couple of old friends facing the last days of their lives on vacation in a plush hotel in the foothills of the Alps. If I were placing odds on which of the 18 films competing for this year’s Palme d’Or has the best chance of winning, I’d put my money on “Youth.”


CANNES 2015 — DAY 3

In spite of the fact that there isn’t a lounge for critics and journalists to hang out and drink free beer like there used to be in the pre-austerity days of Cannes, you can pick up on conversations if you have good ear.

Cannes Day 3
MarylandAlice Winocour’s Un Certain Regard film “Maryland,” about a French ex-Special Forces soldier suffering from PTSD who gets a bodyguard job protecting a wealthy Lebanese businessman, is getting talked about. It doesn’t hurt that the film stars the versatile Matthias Schoenaerts and secret-weapon-actress Diane Kruger.

Cannes Style 4Every other girl on the croisette favors the Amy Winehouse eye-make-up style of heavy black eyeliner turned up at the outer edges. From the looks of it, director Asif Kapadia has a surefire hit on his hands for “Amy,” the documentary for which he and his team interviewed around 80 of Amy Winehouse’s friends, associates, and family members.

Auro 3D AudioMovie technology has a presence on the beach with Auro 3D Audio CEO Wilfried Van Baelen giving private exhibitions of the sound technology he masterminded. The process was used on the latest “Spider-Man 2” movie, and it truly does deliver on its promise of “immersive sound.” Just don’t get the loquacious Wilfried going on how his technology is not related to any “channel or object-based technology,” you might miss that screening of Natalie Portman’s directorial debut “A Tale of Love and Darkness.” Still, she’s hard to miss on the red carpet.



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May 13, 2015

CANNES 2015 — DAY 1

During the festival there are more exotic fast cars per square kilometer in Cannes than anywhere else in the world. Lamborghinis, Ferraris, McLarens, and Maseratis ostentatiously rev their engines through Cannes’s crowded narrow streets. Scooters and motorcycles somehow manage to slip past. Driven by brawny young men busy talking on cellphone headsets, or by statuesque women with big hair, the flashy cars embody all of the glamour, celebrity culture, and excess of Hollywood on the Rivera.

Cannes Day 1
It’s ironic then that the film that opened this year’s festival should be a reflection of France’s unsteady future in the face of rampant unemployment. Following the horrific Charlie Hebdo attacks, the festival heads made a conscious decision to deviate from its usual habit of giving the opening night slot to a piece of Hollywood tripe in favor of “La Tete Haute” (“Standing Tall”), a French social realist drama from director Emmanuelle Bercot. “Tete” avoids clichés as it digs into deep-seeded problems of psychological and social conditions. The powerhouse casting of Catherine Deneuve as a juvenile detention judge centers the film. Benoit Magimel more than pulls his weight as Yann, a counselor assigned to guide the rehabilitation process of Malony, a troubled victim of terrible parenting. The fiction that all mothers are innately good people is given a proper trouncing here.

Newcomer Rod Paradot is a revelation as Malony. His gut-wrenching naturalistic performance is as good as it gets. Paradot owns the movie with an instinctive portrayal that’s up there with Marlon Brando’s best work. If some critics recoil from “Standing Tall,” it says more about their inability to grapple with the genre than it does about the movie. “Standing Tall” is the kind of uncompromising film Ken Loach would love.

Cole with Peanuts
There were fireworks on the first night, but the cumulative emotional power of the films in this year’s festival promises to leave indelible memories and lessons far greater than burning bits of paper in a night sky.


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