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Cannes you dig it? Yes, we Cannes!

Friday 2nd May 2014

Adam: It’s just under two weeks ’til the Festival De Cannes!

Cannes really shouldnt be all this exciting, but its hard not to be excited for a multi-million dollar glitter-strewn unveiling of the year's big events in world cinema. Its also a consumers guide of sorts, a list of films that might be at the NZIFF, might get a limited release next January, might get a tiny DVD run in 18 months time; a list of films to anticipate the maybe release of.

Its a pretty good guide, too – this years jury is headed by Jane Campion, and also has awesome people like Willem Dafoe, Jeon Do-Yeon, Gael Garcia Bernal, Leila Hatami and Jia Zhang-ke. 

Were impatient here, though, so were gonna chat a little bit about the fest, starting with the Official Selection – which doesn't seem to be all that stacked, to be honest.

the heads of Adam Goodall, Judah Finnigan, Jane Campion, and Ryan Gosling, photoshopped onto a still from hte Wizard of Oz. With the text

Judah:  That jury though, man. Seeing the line-up the other day, I was just struck by how insanely cool that would be. Sure, you do have the immense, exhausting responsibility of fairly distributing what are arguably the most sought-after, esteemed awards for filmmaking that one can receive, but the thought of Campion, Coppola, Winding Refn, Garcia Bernal, Dafoe, Hatami, Zhang-ke, etc, all just hanging out and watching movies really makes me wish I were an acclaimed internationally recognised filmmaker/actor of some kind. Also, great to see Fremaux and co. consciously countering the lack of women from previous years.

Adam:  Theyre certainly doing better jury-wise than 2010s Burton-led sausage-fest, but well get to that aspect of the 2014 festival in a bit.

IN COMPETITION

Judah: Im personally pretty keen on a fair chunk of those films In Competition, as well a handful of features in the other categories. Let’s talk Maps to The Stars.

David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis was pretty divisive on the Croisette back in ’12, but I was definitely in the camp taken with it, so I’m thrilled to see Cronenberg returning to the ennui of messed-up rich people with a scalpel. The trailer is online, and from first glance, it looks suitably elliptical and weird – almost like David Lynch adapting Bret Easton Ellis’ nightmares or something – and I’m pretty eager to see how it pans out, assuming it will probably do so in his typically slippery fashion of course..

Adam:  I wasnt that taken with the trailer for Map to The Stars, pretty much entirely because it looks like it was cut by a third-year film student. The trailer suggests that Cronenbergs married the casual aesthetic of Don McKellars Last Night to the eXistenZs ‘weird shit going on, all while Julianne Moore revisits her atrocious performance in Freedomland. Theres the voice in the back of my mind, always a reliable dude, going “don't trust the marketing you dumbass” but that footage has cooled my jets.

Over three hours of gorgeous, Tarkovskian long-takes and dark, ponderous reflections on morality and malaise and human existence? Yeah, all right. Keen.

Speaking of cool, its pretty bang-on that a fair bit of In Competition is exciting. Theres Tommy Lee Jones new Western, Mike Leighs bold period piece about British Romantic artist JMW Turner, with the severely underappreciated Timothy Spall in the lead, Bennett Millers bizarre true-crime story Foxcatcher, and a new Jean-Luc Godard (though at this point that films got a 50:50 chance of being not shit).

But the film Im most looking forward to In Competition is Winter Sleep, Nuri Bilge Ceylans follow-up to Once Upon A Time In Anatolia. Theres not much info around about it right now – all we know is its about an hotel owner who leaves his family at the start of the Anatolian winter, that the gang from Anatolia – cinematographer Gokhan Tiryaki, editor Bora Goksingol, co-writer Ebru Ceylan – is back in the saddle, and that its 196 minutes long. But if Winter Sleep boasts something like the hypnotic pace, quiet landscapes and keenly-observed conversations that made Anatolia so compelling, Im there.

Hell, Im there even if its not like that. Its Ceylan, fcs.

Judah:  Over three hours of gorgeous, Tarkovskian long-takes and dark, ponderous reflections on morality and malaise and human existence? Yeah, all right. Keen.

Im amped for most of those too, Adam (the exception: JLGs films have increasingly become these dense, inscrutable essays that frustrate more often than they fascinate and something about the title of his latest tells me he isnt quite through with that brand of rant just yet).

Im also open to some more keenly-observed social realism from the Dardenne Bros, with added Cotillard star-power (always welcome), the latest Binoche-led Olivier Assayas picture (whose added star-power might be a deterrent depending on ones feelings about Kristen Stewart) and Mommy, the latest from prolific wunderkind Xavier Dolan, who is now [finally] eligible for the Palme Dor after a couple years of sitting at the kids table (because Un Certain Regard at age twenty-one is such a dispiriting setback). Laurence Anyways emerged as one of my favourites of ’12 (and Dolans follow-up Tom at the Farm has been garnering solid acclaim out of Venice), so Im quietly hoping his art-directed-to-smithereens visual panache (ravishing smithereens, mind you) and psychosexual dissections finally coalesce into that masterpiece he’s been trying to make since his teens.

As much as I’m keen on that hunk’s little fantasy film, there are others that are grabbing my attention more. 

UN CERTAIN REGARD

Judah: In terms of Un Certain Regard, I cant help but find Lost River the most intriguing effort on offer. The directorial debut of smoldering meme-magnet Ryan Gosling is certainly enough of a hook to pique interest for most, but the premise of a fantasy neo-noir starring Christina Hendricks and an underwater utopia, presumably shot to hypnotic effect by ace cinematographer Benoit Debie (Gaspar Noes go-to D.P and the wizard responsible for shooting the shit out of Harmony Korines lurid drug-trip Spring Breakers) and new music from Johnny Jewel is too much of a promising thing to shrug, regardless of what impossibly-handsome mug is behind the camera.

Adam:  Ryan Goslings metamorphosis into a Caro/Jeunet-style auteur one of the festivals more fascinating reveals, definitely. Theres some recently-released shots that make Lost River look like City of Lost Children or Delicatessen shot through with Debies hyper-fluoro style, and Im totally up for that.

As much as I'm keen on that hunk’s little fantasy film, though, there are others that are grabbing my attention more. Take Rolf de Heers third film with Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, Charlies Country, which sees the director turning his slow, observant style to Gulpilils life and the life of Aboriginal communities in contemporary Australia.

Or take, Run, first-time director Philippe Lacôtes collaboration with Isaach de Bankolé, who was so charismatic and so impressively deadpan in Jim Jarmuschs enchanting spy film about the bits in between the spying, The Limits of Control. Runs about an assassin flashbacking through his life as he flees the scene of the crime, and its synopsis makes the flashbacks sound surreal enough to grab my attention.

Theres also the obligatory South Korean entry I go wild about, which this year is July Jungs Dohee-ya (A Girl at my Door). While Dohee-ya boasts one of Un Certain Regards many tired loglines (a police officer tries to protect a girl from her abusive stepfather BUT GETS IN TOO DEEP), its playing a good hand otherwise, with Bae Doo-na (The Host) in the lead and a trailer full of gorgeous, windswept seaside photography.

On Jung, though, lets talk about Cannes and lets talk about women.

THAT

Adam: Festival head Thierry Fremaux blew his own trumpet at the unveiling of the Official Selection, boasting that 15 female directors were represented among the 49 titles picked for the Official Selection. On top of that, this years jury is dominated by fantastic women – Campion's pretty much New Zealands greatest filmmaker, and Jeon Do-yeon is one of the best actors working today, end of sentence.

It’s great to see the Festival bods letting more women compete for some of world cinema’s most prestigious awards, but, all the same, I’m not really buying what Fremaux’s selling.

But Fremauxs grandstanding is a bit odd. Of the films In Competition, only two are directed by women; in Un Certain Regard, there are seven female directors across six films. The remaining six women have two films out of competition between them – Stéphanie Valloattos Caricaturistes and First World War anthology film Les Ponts de Sarajevo. Credit where its due, there has been a jump in Un Certain Regard in the last couple of years (eight women had films in the 2013 line-up, as opposed to one, two or three from 2009 to 2012), but Fremauxs claiming a bit of a hollow victory here, twisting the stats in order to combat (pretty justified) allegations that, historically, Cannes hasnt been friendly to women directors. Its great to see the festival bods letting more women compete for some of world cinema's most prestigious awards, but, all the same, I'm not really buying what Fremauxs selling.

Judah: Yeah, agreed: it’s pretty hard to argue with the numbers (for the eight female directors in Un Certain Regard last year, there was only one In Competition) but I think underlining what progression there is at least helps to ensure that this attention on female filmmakers will continue to take root, and establish a standard. The current weighting of the Jury is certainly a step in the right direction at least.

MOST ANTICIPATED

Judah: I’m too torn between all the prospects to be definitive with a Most, so I guess I’ll just make mention of David Michod’s The Rover, since neither Adam or I have yet. Slated for a midnight screening, Michod’s apocalyptic thriller looks to be soaked in a similar vein of taut, atmospheric mood as his outstanding debut Animal Kingdom was, and I think that alone is roughly all that needs to be said.

Adam: My two most anticipated are Winter Sleep and The Rover, but rounding out the top three is Zhang Yimous Coming Home. Zhangs reuniting with Gong Li and Chen Daoming, two of the greats in Chinese cinema, for the story of an intellectual who flees to America to escape a marriage he's been forced into, only to be sent to a labour camp on his return. Itll be interesting to see how Zhang tackles the Cultural Revolution in 2014 – its not like hes avoided the subject in the past, but its been 20 years since 1994s sad, cynical To Live, the last of Zhangs films about the Revolution to get distribution in the West. All that said, Coming Home looks every bit the sad and epic melodrama To Live was, and Im optimistic that Zhangs political fire hasn’t dulled post-Olympics.

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When he isn't writing about film or television, Judah avidly watches it, discusses it and attempts to pen his own for the screen. He graduated from Victoria University with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Media Studies, and has yet to adjust his lifestyle.
Adam makes a living at the Dunedin District Court, but makes a life as a playwright, director and writer. He writes The State of Things with Judah Finnigan.
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