Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The 65th Cannes Film Festival

The 65th Cannes Film Festival ends on Sunday, and with it, the ever-interesting speculation about one certain Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s weight gain and her (im)possible red carpet appearence too comes to an end. So are the discussions surrounding what is perhaps the world’s most recognisable film festival. As always, Cannes sets the tone for what we are going to see for the next one year. (For example, in the last edition of the festival, a small black&white silent film from France, titled ‘The Artist’ premiered here, and a year later, it took home the best film Oscar.)

In reality, Cannes is four different film festival rolled into one. Apart from the Official Competition, there are also Un Certain Regard, the Semaine Internationale de la Critique (Critic's Week) and the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (Directors' Forthnight). The festival also has the biggest film market including the Producer's Network for upcoming films.

So, thus ends another year. Now, the cinephiles, who weren’t lucky enough to visit the small French town to be there, wait for the films to open where they can see them. Meanwhile, here’s quick recap about this year’s highlights.

Cannes has always been a site of controversy. Every year, there’s one picture, or one person who creates a controversy which gains worldwide importance. Last year, it was Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier’s comments on Hitler. Some years back, it was the sexuality of Von Trier’s another film, ‘Anti-Christ’. Compared to these past controversies, this years festival was little tame. There was hardly any controversy. Critics liked some films, did not like others, but none felt very strongly about any films, except pershps three films — Carlos Reygadas’ ‘Post Tenebras Lux’, Ulrich Seidl’s ‘Paradise: Love’ and Leos Carax’s return to cinema after 13 years, ‘Holy Motors’.

On the last day, Carlos Reygadas won the prize of best director for ‘Post Tenebras Lux’, literally, Light After Darkness. But, the film is anything but illuminated. Critics said that it’s Mexican filmmaker Reygadas’ most difficult film till date, and it’s saying a lot. I have seen two of his earlier three films — ‘Japon’ and ‘Battle in Heaven’, and the one word I can use for both the films is ‘sinister’. I’ve seen his most accessible previous film, ‘Silent Light’. Reygadas is perhaps one of the few modern filmmaker who is also supremely original visual artiste. It’s not easy to sit through a Reygadas film, with its slow paces and static camera, close to nothing narrative input, not to mention scenes of unsimulated sex which are at best uncomfortable to watch, especially in ‘Japon’, where an old woman undresses before the filmmaker’s unblinking camera. Critics say, ‘Post Tenebras Lux’, which is partly based on the director’s own life, is all these and more, more oblique, more inscrutible, and increasingly wonderous to behold, including a sence of orgy in a Parisian bathhouse.

Ulrich Seidl’s ‘Paradise: Love’ was also criticised for depiction of sex, this time between fat and older white women and thin and young black man in the beach of sex tourism in Kenya where older European women visit to play the roles of Sugar mama. The film is a study of colonialism in reverse, where Seidl refuses to take sides, as both the parties are exploiters are beneficiaries at the same time. The subject matter is not new. The french film ‘Heading South’ with Charlotte Rampling, set in Haiti, had the same theme of heterosexual sex tourism. Unlike the melodrama of ‘Heading South’ Seidl bring is sense of cynicism while discussing the meaning of love in a commercialised world, and in his trademark style, presents this narrative film as if, it’s a documentary.

Leos Carax’s ‘Holy Motors’ is a heady trip to the world of the absurd, and in once sense the tribute to the art of cinema itself. It also a showcase of Carax protogonist Denis Lavant’s marvellous acting skills. A long time back Carax made the wonderful and heartbreaking ‘Lovers on the Bridge’ with a young Juliet Binoche and Lavant as the doomed lovers. Here, Lavant plays 13 characters, all of it while travelling on a white stretch Lino (which by the way can talk) in a single night in Paris. It’s a film you cannot talk about, but needs to be seen.

For many, ‘Holy Motors’ was the best film of this year’s festival and was tipped to be the front-runner in winning the top prize. It’s a shame it did not get any awards. The top award, Palme d’Or, was given to Michael Haneke’s ‘Love’ (Amour). This is Haneke’s second Palme d’Or (which puts him in the league of just a handful of directors who have won the prize twice). He got the award for his last film ‘The White Ribbon’ in 2009. He also won the Grand Jury Prize in 2001 for ‘The Piano Teacher’ and the Best Director award for ‘Caché’ 2005 at Cannes. The film tells the story of two retired music teachers in their eighties and their bond of love. In one sense, this is where Haneke mellows down, and makes his first remotely emotional and optimistic film, compare to his cold, and unflinching, often obscure and difficult story telling. I’ve not seen any of his films completely, he just drains your engery and leaves you utterly black and despondent. I could finish seeing his English version of ‘Funny Games’, and Isabelle Huppert’s crazy ‘The Piano Teacher’. So, all we can say is that when Haneke talks about love, it’s certainly not your run-on-the-mill stuff.

Romanian director Cristian Mungiu’s ‘Beyond The Hills,’ which took prizes for best screenplay and best actress (for both Cosmina Stratan and Christina Flutor). This was Mungiu’s first film since his Palme d’Or winner ‘4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days’ (2007), the acclaimed abortion drama. This time the church takes the centre-stage.

It seems this year, it was the playing field of the past winners, where Matteo Garrone took the same prize for ‘Reality,’ the Grand Prix (or runner-up for the Palme), which he took some year ago for the Italian crime drama ‘Gomorrah’ (2008).

The American film ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ by Benh Zeitlin won the Camera d’Or (best first feature). The film was a breakout hit at Sundance earlier this year and has been a critic’s darling ever since. The film about a young girl and her father who live afloat in a swamp-like place in an unidentified place called The Bathtub, and travels from hyper-realism to surrealism in one sweeping beathe is very difficult to discuss, and that’s the beauty of the film.

The Prix du Jury (jury prize) was given to Ken Loach’s whiskey heist comedy set in Ireland, ‘The Angel's Share’. Like several of his earlier films, this one too is written by his long time collaborator, the very talented Paul Laverty (their last effort was ‘Route Irish’, a film I liked immensely), and deals with a reformed con who finds a tongue for testing whiskey and plans one last heist to spiralling consequences.

The surprise, or shall we say, the glamour highlight of the festival, was Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen winning the best actor award for his role as a very nice man accused of child abuse in Thomas Vinterberg’s taut psychological thriller ‘The Hunt’. It was surprising and heartening at the same time, especially, for the English-speaking world which has seen him as a two-penny villain in Hollywood blockbusters (including being a Bond villain in ‘Casino Royale), or a sidekick to the hero (‘Clash of the Titans’).


Day One: Wednesday, May 16
"Moonrise Kingdom," Wes Anderson (opening night film)

Day Two: Thursday, May 17
"Rust and Bone," Jacques Audiard
"Baad el mawkeaa," Yousry Nasrallah

Day Three: Friday, May 18
"Reality," Matteo Garrone
"Paradies: Liebe," Ulrich Seidl

Day Four: Saturday, May 19
"Lawless," John Hillcoat
"Beyond the Hills," Cristian Mungiu

Day Five: Sunday, May 20
"Amour," Michael Haneke
"Jagten" ("The Hunt"), Thomas Vinterberg

Day Six: Monday, May 21
"You Haven't Seen Anything Yet," Alain Resnais
"Like Someone in Love," Abbas Kiarostami
"In Another Country," Hong Sang-soo

Day Seven: Tuesday, May 22
"Killing Them Softly," Andrew Dominik
"The Angels' Share," Ken Loach

Day Eight: Wednesday, May 23
"On the Road," Walter Salles
"Holy Motors," Leos Carax

Day Nine: Thursday, May 24
"The Paperboy," Lee Daniels
"Post tenebras lux," Carlos Reygadas
"In the Fog"

Day Ten: Friday, May 25
"Cosmopolis," David Cronenberg
"In the Fog," Sergei Loznitsa

Day Eleven: Saturday, May 26
"Mud," Jeff Nichols
"The Taste of Money," Im Sang-soo

Day Twelve: Sunday, May 27
"Therese Desqueyroux," Claude Miller (closing night film)

"7 Days in Havana," Benicio del Toro, Pablo Trapero, Julio Medem, Elia Suleiman, Juan Carlos Tabio, Gaspar Noe, Laurent Cantet
"11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate," Koji Wakamatsu
"Antiviral," Brandon Cronenberg
"Beasts of the Southern Wild," Benh Zeitlin
"Confession of a Child of the Century," Sylvie Verheyde
"Despues de Lucia," Michel Franco
"La Pirogue," Moussa Toure
"La Playa," Juan Andres Arango
"Laurence Anyways," Xavier Dolan
"Le grand soir," Benoit Delepine, Gustave Kervern
"Les Chevaux de Dieu," Nabil Ayouch
"Loving Without Reason," Joachim Lafosse
"Miss Lovely," Ashim Ahluwalia
"Mystery," Lou Ye
"Student," Darezhan Omirbayev
"Trois mondes," Catherine Corsini
"White Elephant," Pablo Trapero

"Dracula 3D," Dario Argento
"The Legend of Love & Sincerity," Takashi Miike

"The Music According to Antonio Carlos Jobim," Nelson Pereira Dos Santos
"The Central Park Five," Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon
"Garbage in the Garden of Eden," Fatih Akin
"Journal de France," Claudine Nougaret, Raymond Depardon
"Les Invisibles," Sebastien Lifshitz
"Mekong Hotel," Apichatpong Weerasethakul
"Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir," Laurent Bouzereau
"Villegas," Gonzalo Tobal

[Here is what AFP has to say about Mads]
Danish heart-throb Mads Mikkelsen clinched the best actor prize at Cannes on Sunday for his role in Thomas Vinterberg's taut psychological thriller "The Hunt". Italian jury head Nanni Moretti and his eight-strong panel handed the prestigious award to Mikkelsen for his turn as a man who watches his life unravel after he is falsely accused of molesting a child.
"Eighty percent of this is Thomas Vinterberg's prize," Mikkelsen said as he picked up the statuette. "Thank you for inviting me into this universe of collaboration and love."
Cannes jury member Ewan McGregor told reporters after the awards ceremony that Mikkelsen's "performance is subtle and marvelously well played."
Mikkelsen, 46, is best known to international audiences for his role as James Bond's nemesis Le Chiffre in 2006's "Casino Royale" and is now starring in the Scandinavian blockbuster "A Royal Affair".
He told reporters during the festival that the highly-charged material in "The Hunt" required a delicate touch. "We know for sure that way too many kids are being abused out there. We know that, we're not questioning that," he said. "But for us it was very much about when you love something as much as you can love a child, that love can turn into fear when something happens or might happen. And society... can implode with this fear."
With a controversial take on an intensely emotional issue, Vinterberg returned to cinema's top international showcase 14 years after scooping the Grand Prix runner-up prize with "Festen" (The Celebration). In the new picture, Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a divorced father of a teenage boy who is working at a creche. A young girl, the daughter of Lucas's best friend, develops a crush on him while in his care and when he gently explains the boundaries of their friendship, she begins to pout. Later, she tells the creche director that she doesn't like Lucas anymore and claims that she has seen his genitals -- an accusation she later tries to retract but only after suspicion has spiralled out of control. A witch-hunt ensues against Lucas, a hobby marksman, and as the mass hysteria takes hold, his life crumbles around him and he loses his job, his new lover, life-long friends and, potentially, access to his beloved son. Only the son and a close old friend stand by him as the community descends into paranoia and other children, getting swept up in the frenzy, accuse Lucas of molesting them as well.
Vinterberg described Lucas as "a portrait of a modern Scandinavian man -- warm, friendly, helpful and humble... castrated in a way," who is struggling to retain his dignity. Mikkelsen attended the Aarhus Theatre's Drama School and broke out from the pack with his first feature, 1996's "Pusher" by Nicolas Winding Refn, who captured the Cannes best director prize last year for "Drive".
He went on to star in the wildly popular television crime series "Unit One" which picked up an international Emmy award, and later showcased his comic talents in the 2006 hit "Adam's Apples".
The same year, he appeared in the Oscar-nominated "After the Wedding" by Susanne Bier and watched his international profile grow with turns in "Casino Royale", "Valhalla Rising", "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky", "Clash of the Titans" and "The Three Musketeers". He is soon due to co-star with Harvey Keitel in "Cut Throats Nine", billed as a "horror western".
More here.

Amour,’ a Wrenching Love Story, Wins at Cannes: The Warp-Up at the New York Times.

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