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 shouldn’t be all this exciting, but it’s hard not to be excited for a multi-million dollar glitter-strewn unveiling of the year's big events in world cinema. It’s also a consumer’s 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.
It’s a pretty good guide, too – this year’s 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.
We’re impatient here, though, so we’re 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.
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: They’re certainly doing better jury-wise than 2010’s Burton-led sausage-fest, but we’ll get to that aspect of the 2014 festival in a bit.
Judah: I’m 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 wasn’t 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 Cronenberg’s married the casual aesthetic of Don McKellar’s Last Night to the eXistenZ’s ‘weird shit going on’, all while Julianne Moore revisits her atrocious performance in Freedomland. There’s 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, it’s pretty bang-on that a fair bit of In Competition is exciting. There’s Tommy Lee Jones’ new Western, Mike Leigh’s bold period piece about British Romantic artist JMW Turner, with the severely underappreciated Timothy Spall in the lead, Bennett Miller’s bizarre true-crime story Foxcatcher, and a new Jean-Luc Godard (though at this point that film’s got a 50:50 chance of being not shit).
But the film I’m most looking forward to In Competition is Winter Sleep, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s follow-up to Once Upon A Time In Anatolia. There’s not much info around about it right now – all we know is it’s 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 it’s 196 minutes long. But if Winter Sleep boasts something like the hypnotic pace, quiet landscapes and keenly-observed conversations that made Anatolia so compelling, I’m there.
Hell, I’m there even if it’s not like that. It’s 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.
I’m amped for most of those too, Adam (the exception: JLG’s 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 isn’t quite through with that brand of rant just yet).
I’m 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 one’s feelings about Kristen Stewart) and Mommy, the latest from prolific wunderkind Xavier Dolan, who is now [finally] eligible for the Palme D’or after a couple years of sitting at the kid’s 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 Dolan’s follow-up Tom at the Farm has been garnering solid acclaim out of Venice), so I’m 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 can’t 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 Noe’s go-to D.P and the wizard responsible for shooting the shit out of Harmony Korine’s 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 Gosling’s metamorphosis into a Caro/Jeunet-style auteur one of the festival’s more fascinating reveals, definitely. There’s some recently-released shots that make Lost River look like City of Lost Children or Delicatessen shot through with Debie’s hyper-fluoro style, and I’m 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 Heer’s third film with Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, Charlie’s Country, which sees the director turning his slow, observant style to Gulpilil’s life and the life of Aboriginal communities in contemporary Australia.
Or take, Run, first-time director Philippe Lacôte’s collaboration with Isaach de Bankolé, who was so charismatic and so impressively deadpan in Jim Jarmusch’s enchanting spy film about the bits in between the spying, The Limits of Control. Run’s 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.
There’s also the obligatory South Korean entry I go wild about, which this year is July Jung’s Dohee-ya (A Girl at my Door). While Dohee-ya boasts one of Un Certain Regard’s many tired loglines (a police officer tries to protect a girl from her abusive stepfather BUT GETS IN TOO DEEP), it’s 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, let’s talk about Cannes and let’s talk about women.
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 year’s jury is dominated by fantastic women – Campion's pretty much New Zealand’s 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 Fremaux’s 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 Valloatto’s Caricaturistes and First World War anthology film Les Ponts de Sarajevo. Credit where it’s 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 Fremaux’s claiming a bit of a hollow victory here, twisting the stats in order to combat (pretty justified) allegations that, historically, Cannes hasn’t been friendly to women directors. 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.
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.
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 Yimou’s Coming Home. Zhang’s 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. It’ll be interesting to see how Zhang tackles the Cultural Revolution in 2014 – it’s not like he’s avoided the subject in the past, but it’s been 20 years since 1994’s sad, cynical To Live, the last of Zhang’s 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 I’m optimistic that Zhang’s political fire hasn’t dulled post-Olympics.
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