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Michel Hazanavicius (#110 of 23)

Jerusalem Film Festival 2017 Siege, Redoubtable, The Beguiled, On the Beach at Night Alone, & More

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Jerusalem Film Festival 2017: Siege, Redoubtable, The Beguiled, On the Beach at Night Alone, & More

Jerusalem Film Festival

Jerusalem Film Festival 2017: Siege, Redoubtable, The Beguiled, On the Beach at Night Alone, & More

Jerusalem is a city of beige and tan, a vast barren sprawl that is, despite the brutal heat and muted colors, quite beautiful. Its odd mix of orthodoxy and modernity pair like sand and cement to create something singular and undeterrable. There’s a kind of delirious, heat stroke-induced grandeur to its aesthetic uniformity, the caramel-colored homes enclosing you and the occasional swaths of trees providing much sought-after shelter from the sun, the tan and green recalling the colors of Israeli military uniforms. All of the buildings are finished with Jerusalem Stone (which is mostly made up of limestone) to marry the new to the old, to transcend date and age. A parched and pale sky settles over sun-baked façades stacked upon sandy expanses. Feet wrapped in leather sandals slap against the sidewalk and air conditioners spittle from above. “Drink water,” everyone advises. At its apogee, the sun abuses unrepentantly, with cruel omnipotence, yet people persist and keep going where they’re going, water bottles in hand. They are stubborn.

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 2014: The Search Review

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Cannes Film Festival 2014: <em>The Search</em> Review
Cannes Film Festival 2014: <em>The Search</em> Review

Having displayed his penchant for tinkering with the conventions of Euro-spy movies and silent films, Michel Hazanavicius takes on the horrors of war in this remake of Fred Zinnemann’s 1948 film The Search. It’s as though Hazanavicius, fresh from the international success of his award-magnet The Artist, had every intention of proving to the world that he really is one. Zinnemann’s film would seem to be the perfect vehicle for such purposes, with its equal-opportunity combination of hard-nosed realism and life-affirming humanism.

Whatever its merits, Zinnemann’s film belonged to a genre that came to be known as rubble films. These were intimate dramas of loss and devastation set against the literal ruins of Old Europe (Roberto Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero is a notable example). Rubble films, in other words, addressed themselves to vital contemporary concerns. Hazanavicius’s The Search, conversely, is an unabashed period piece, set back in 1999 at the onset of the second Chechen War, a far safer vantage point from which its main character, EU human rights activist Carole (Bérénice Bejo), can wag her finger self-righteously at the dismaying spectacle of European indifference. Of course, the timing of Hazanavicius’s film, one suspects, has a lot to do with the current situation in the Ukraine, and the fact that The Search name drops Putin as an accessory to its story’s war crimes only solidifies this impression.

Oscar Prospects: Beasts of the Southern Wild

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Oscar Prospects: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Oscar Prospects: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Will the Academy really go for a star-free, Sendak-esque allegory, whose rugged charms are tied to its loose lack of answers? At this point, it certainly seems like it. There will be those who’ll struggle with what’s behind the journey of young Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), but the openness of this film’s metaphors (ecological statement? simple coming of age?) grant it a broad accessibility, with oodles of obstacles represented by those encroaching horned hogs. What’s more, the movie is anchored by a powerful father-daughter story, which steadily stops short of piling on mush, and brings gracious warmth to a tough and unforgiving film environment. Beasts of the Southern Wild is this year’s all-bases-covered, Oscar-y indie, boasting worldly subject matter, a standout lead performance, dizzying critical acclaim, and true originality of vision. It ably fills a necessary slot in the Best Picture field, and the refreshing truth is that it’s also arguably the year’s best film thus far. Backlash is inevitable, and already well underway in certain circles, but it’s hard to imagine any major buzz derailment. Films with this much widespread love historically reach the finish line, and thanks to a recent media push from Oprah Winfrey, you could say that any levees restraining the movie’s influence have officially been broken.

Critical Distance: The Artist

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Critical Distance: <em>The Artist</em>
Critical Distance: <em>The Artist</em>

Sometimes it’s hard to separate a movie from the hype. Anyone who’s followed the nauseating Oscar prognostication over the last several months knew full well that Harvey Weinstein’s Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist would win the Best Picture crown on Sunday’s telecast of the Academy Awards. Nonetheless, given its preordained victory, the critical dialogue about the film has become predictably antipathetic. As Scott Tobias observed recently, the political machine attached to frontrunners and winners often distorts our vision of them and renders reasonable discourse a challenge. Truth be told, these days the Oscar badge doesn’t hold much weight. The reason for this, Tobias concludes, is that Best Picture winners represent consensus over excellence. Oscar winners reflect more on the film industry’s own image of itself than the artistic significance of film. A.O. Scott articulates this in a recent piece in the New York Times, in which he and Manohla Dargis examine recent winners against the broader significance of the Oscars. Says Scott:

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Editing

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Editing
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Editing

When it comes to film editing, dubbed by so many as “the invisible art,” marveling at how rhythmically one shot feeds another is hardly sufficient in predicting an Oscar winner. If it were that simple, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, who linked motorbike zooms to serial-killer string-ups and helped The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo feel like half of its 158 minutes, would take this trophy in a walk. That’s just what the Fincher-backing duo did last year, for their equally riveting chop job on The Social Network. But Fincher’s latest is hardly a contender like his zeitgeist-y Zuckerberg epic, leaving it a tased and tatted victim of the politics of this race. If you’re not a Bourne Ultimatum or a Black Hawk Down or a Matrix, firing more dizzying, whiz-bang splices at the audience than obstacles in a first-person shooter, you’d best be a Best Picture frontrunner.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

So it is that the one year we didn’t stick to our frilliest-always-wins guns here, allowing ourselves to be blinded by the sheen of Keira Knightley’s emerald green dress from Atonement, we came up short. So, Anonymous for the win, right? That’s what my gut told me the morning the Oscar nominations were announced, except it wasn’t a good sign when the Costume Designers Guild didn’t follow suit by also nominating Lisy Christl’s garbs, and the last time a film won an Oscar without the guild’s seal of approval was, inexplicably, Moulin Rouge. Though Anonymous remains, on paper at least, the likeliest seeming winner, unlike recent victors in this category about royal women (from Marie Antoinette to The Young Victoria), the film may suffer in the end from the lack of QT afforded to its single greatest asset: Vanessa Redgrave.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Director

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Director
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Director

Less a race than a ping-pong match, this year’s battle for Best Director has shifted favor from an obvious lock to a popular spoiler and back again, leaving us one more not-quite-certain category to pay attention to on February 26. Not long after The Artist stormed out of Cannes, Michel Hazanavicius established a surge of directorial momentum that hardly let up, its reach even cracking the Indie Spirit lineup, which isn’t exactly known to invite the Oscar frontrunner to the party. But as the season stretched on, and a certain genre-defier (kids’ flick? Biopic?) began performing exceedingly better than expected, a Picture/Director split seemed more and more probable, with Martin Scorsese potentially benefiting from Hazanavicius’s lack of notoriety. A Golden Globe win strengthened suspicions about the Hugo helmer, as did a subsequent tally of 11 Oscar noms for the 3D cineaste fantasy. Could this be the year the Academy honors both men who blew the industry a nostalgic kiss? One of them certainly has the firm voter support to make the generosity possible. Still, as everyone from the DGA to the folks at BAFTA will testify, odds are the rise of Hugo was a mere bump on The Artist’s fated path to glory, which now looks like it may encompass Best Actor too.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Original Score

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Original Score
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Original Score

At the risk of milking a joke whose teets have been sore for weeks, The Artist’s musical score will do just fine without Kim Novak’s vote. In the hierarchy of Oscar scandals, which have a way of surfacing every season (just ask THR subscribers), the ire of an old Hitchcock muse is meager compared to blockbuster-bashing emails and history’s tackiest FYC ads. So, rest easy, Ludovic Bource, for your rape charges won’t take you the way of Herman Cain, and few Academy members will be able to resist the sprightly notes subbed in for Jean Dujardin’s dialogue. If anything, The Artist’s perfectly legal Vertigo sampling will strengthen that skim-off-the-cream nostalgia, which has yet to relent in its ability to charm the Depends off Novak’s peers.