Cannes Film Festival (#110 of 197)

Cannes Film Festival 2017 A Man of Integrity and 24 Frames

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Cannes Film Review: A Man of Integrity and 24 Frames

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Review: A Man of Integrity and 24 Frames

Mohammad Rasoulof’s slow-burn conspiracy thriller A Man of Integrity, a character study about one man’s quixotic struggle to get revenge or monetary compensation after his fish nursery is poisoned by an unnamed corporation, is defined by a righteous kind of fatalism. That tenor is apropos given that the film was shot by Rasoulof in secret, while he waited for his prison sentence of six years—later reduced to one—to be carried out.

Rasoulof’s films, among them the fable-like Iron Island and The White Meadows, have never screened in his native Iran, and maybe never will. They’re caustic yet lyrical allegories that dig deep into the filmmaker’s growing certainty that Iranian society is systemically corrupt and that the only people who try to live by a strict moral code in this context are bound to either regret their stubborn decisions or become crooked themselves.

Conversely, Abbas Kiarostami’s final film, 24 Frames, is more bittersweet than it is flat-out bitter. As Kiarostami passed away shortly before he could finish the project, a collection of four-and-a-half-minute tableaux vivants based on preexisting paintings and photographs, it was left to his son, Ahmad Kiarostami, to complete it based on notes that the auteur left behind. As in A Man of Integrity, a sense of impending doom hangs over 24 Frames, though it also exhibits a refreshing awe for life, and for the gentle passage of time.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Yorgos Lanthimos’s Killing of a Sacred Deer

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Cannes Film Review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A24

Cannes Film Review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A blackly comic performance by Colin Farrell provides the emotional anchor for Yorgos Lanthimos's The Killing of a Sacred Deer. As clinically detached surgeon Steven Murphy, Farrell effortlessly switches from arch, quasi-robotic line readings to frantic, plate-smashing furor. His skillful transition from deep-in-denial emotional repression to manic rage is crucial to the film's success, as Lanthimos and co-screenwriter Efthymis Filippou's characters don't talk like anyone you've ever met in real life.

When Steven, his family, and a mysterious friend, Martin (Barry Keoghan), speak to each other, they fixate on nothing of real importance. They dwell on trivial subjects, and the questions they ask each other—about everything from gauging someone's fondness for lemonade to whether or not someone else prefers leather or metal as a watchstrap—are bleakly funny when you consider that the film begins with a confrontationally gross close-up of a beating human heart, exposed during one of Steven's characteristically dangerous procedures. It's clear right away that this atmospheric horror-thriller's dramatic stakes are as high as life and death. So why is it that these characters can't stop talking about food and household chores?

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Michel Hazanavicius’s Redoubtable

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Cannes Film Review: Redoubtable

StudioCanal

Cannes Film Review: Redoubtable

Michel Hazanavicius never has trouble coming up with bad ideas, and turning the romantic life of Jean-Luc Godard into a screwball comedy will be hard for him to beat. One good thing comes out of this, at least in part: the casting of Louis Garrel as the Nouvelle Vague pioneer. His is a credible on-screen representation of JLG, though less because of the actor's performance than his look, which incorporates a falsified receding hairline and a pair of dark eyeglasses. But each time Garrel's pop facsimile deviates from that look, especially when he takes off those shades, the illusion is instantly broken.

The comedic action is superficially entertaining at the start, with Garrel lisping his way through a self-aware imitation of Godard and Hazanavicius playfully stitching together scenes of marital discord and sociopolitical bickering with brisk editing rhythms and rapid-fire dialogue. But as that effort continues to reduce the bold ideas and philosophies of Godard's “revolutionary” period—as well as the toll his ideologies took on his personal and professional relationships—into fodder for dopey, simple-minded parody, Hazanavicius once again outs himself as a shallow opportunist, and Redoubtable as another empty exercise in borrowed style.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Michael Haneke’s Happy End

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Cannes Film Review: Happy End

Sony Pictures Classics

Cannes Film Review: Happy End

The latest slow-burn drama from Michael Haneke, Happy End, initially appears to strain for focus. Haneke takes an otherwise compelling theme—every member of the affluent Laurent family is unhappy, most of them unwilling to admit or dwell on their loved ones' pain—and develops it through sketch-thin characterizations. But as it becomes increasingly clear, Haneke is showing us the various familial influences that contribute to the alienation felt by troubled 13-year-old Eve Laurent (Fantine Harduin), a despondent loner who's forced to live with her estranged father, Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz), after she poisons her biological mother. By juxtaposing various bite-sized vignettes of Eve's family as they confront various moments of personal grief or weakness, Haneke tells us all we need to know in order to make up our own minds about why Eve behaves the way that she does.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories

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Cannes Film Review: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Netflix

Cannes Film Review: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Centered around a bitter patriarch and his three alienated children, Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) feels lived-in despite its glaringly mannered dialogue and charmingly eccentric characterizations. After all, there aren’t that many people like bitter also-ran sculptor Harold Meyerowitz (Dustin Hoffman), clingy musician turned stay-at-home father Danny (Adam Sandler), depressed control freak Benjamin (Ben Stiller), and Danny and Benjamin’s pushy but kind step-sister, Jean (Elizabeth Marvel).

The Meyerowitzes are rich oddballs: Danny somehow can afford to not work for long stretches of time; Harold tellingly quibbles about the merits of his colleagues’ work right before he beams proudly about bumping into a celebrity (Sigourney Weaver!); and Harold’s fourth wife (Emma Thompson) secretively combats alcoholism while binging on expensive hummus, and serving rarefied dishes like shark and pigeon. But while these individuals may not talk like the people you know, they obsess, kvetch, and ache in ways that make it seem as if you’ve known them for years.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Bruno Dumont’s Jeanette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

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Cannes Film Review: Jeanette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

Memento Films

Cannes Film Review: Jeanette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

Bruno Dumont follows his oddball 2016 Cannes competition entry Slack Bay with the bold and more divisive rock opera Jeanette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc. And as with Slack Bay and 2014’s Li’l Quinquin, Jeanette’s provocations—sacred subject matter paired with pounding death-metal bass drums—add to its sense of humor. A sample scene: a sheep bleating off screen while an earnest hymnal is sung into the camera. Even the frequently out-of-tune singing and chintzy synthesizer soundtrack add to a sense of levity and play, a tone Dumont’s never pulled off as comfortably as he does here.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Claire Denis’s Let the Sunshine In

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Cannes Film Review: Let the Sunshine In

Sundance Selects

Cannes Film Review: Let the Sunshine In

Claire Denis's Let the Sunshine In is an exquisite romantic comedy whose laughs are sad and whose sadness is funny. Denis isn't a filmmaker who lets the complexity of the human emotions that she either captures physically or insinuates psychologically settle into easy interpretation and understanding, and Let the Sunshine In, her lightest film to date, shades its relationship dynamics with existential panic, insecurities, unabashed biases of class, and, of course, an intimate understanding of the sexual politic.

Juliette Binoche provides the perfect gateway drug for Denis into the realm of the rom-com. In both body and mind, the actress's Isabelle—a divorced Parisian artist who flits rather fickly from one romantic partner to the next—always commands the audience's attention and curiosity. And Denis meets her star's quixotic, swooning screen presence with subtle adaptations of her filmmaking to this new genre form. A scene of escalating banter between Isabelle and the rude, married business man that she's been hate-fucking offers a variation of the shot-reverse-shot grammar that the actors' blocking would typically call for, as Denis opts for a single take that floats back and forth in dreamy fashion but also with a sense of needling anxiety.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Bong Joon-ho’s Okja

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Cannes Film Review: Okja

Netflix

Cannes Film Review: Okja

Ten years on from his breakout hit, The Host, South Korean film director Bong Joon-ho seems intent on recreating the crossover appeal of his genre-bending monster flick for a Western audience. Okja, Bong’s Netflix-produced, environmentalist-themed adventure fantasy, also draws from 2013’s Snowpiercer, the filmmaker’s first English-language effort, specifically in its clear contempt for dehumanizing capitalism.

Bong has proven capable of uniting a variety of different tonal ambitions with some razor-sharp satire and impeccable craftsmanship, but Okja feels jarringly disorganized and rudderless for much of its runtime. Even at its best, the film merely musters convincingly imitative set pieces, the highlight of which is a chase scene—cut ironically to the John Denver ballad “Annie’s Song”—that ends with the unimaginative recycling of an action beat from The Host’s funniest sequence. Bong’s filmmaking is so singularly impressive that even at its most derivative, Okja feels like a momentous spectacle, but it’s the first film of his ever to give the impression that the spectacle is masking an otherwise underdeveloped, often incoherent, concept.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck

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Cannes Film Review: Wonderstruck
Cannes Film Review: Wonderstruck

Full as it is with ideas from, and allusions to, Todd Haynes’s other films, Wonderstruck still represents the director’s most dispiriting work to date. This story of children finding themselves through their discovery of art and the past is adapted from Brian Selznick’s Y.A. novel of the same time, so it inevitably bares some resemblance to Martin Scorsese’s 2011 film Hugo, which was also a Selznick adaptation. But the better comparison, ludicrous as it sounds, is an entirely different Y.A. adaptation, one released the same year as Scorsese’s: the execrable Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Haynes, with a film light on dialogue and entirely too reliant on Carter Burwell’s impressive, ever-expanding and changing but nonetheless incessant score, draws on the hollow sentimentality of his premise rather than the emotional specificity of his characters’ engagement with the art and history that saves them.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismael’s Ghosts

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Cannes Film Review: Ismael’s Ghosts

Le Pacte

Cannes Film Review: Ismael’s Ghosts

The opening-night film of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Ismael’s Ghosts gives us a more unhinged Arnaud Desplechin than we’ve had in a while. As in later Alain Resnais or Raúl Ruiz films, it simultaneously collapses and expands a director’s body of work, like an uncontainable popup book. It borrows character names and identifiers liberally from Desplechin’s filmography, but plays fast and loose with the inter-film narrative continuity. It’s worlds away from 2013’s formally and dramatically disciplined Jimmy P., and it builds on 2015’s My Golden Days, which positioned itself as a prequel to 1996’s great My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument.