Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cannes 2011, and my reactions.

Announcements are literally coming out as I post this. Some quick thoughts on films in Competition:

Paolo Sorrentino's THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, yay! But ... I can't think of another upcoming film made by a filmmaker I love I'm so nervous about. Some of the stills of Sean Penn as an aging rocker have a faint air of ludicrousness about them, and there's always danger in my opinion when a filmmaker dives into English for the first time. (One thing about being a fan of foreign cinema: you often can't tell just how bad, say, line delivery or dialogue is, at least not with my tin ear.) But: Sorrentino made THE CONSEQUENCES OF LOVE, which is something close to a freaking masterpiece, and his last film IL DIVO is a stunningly propulsive film that might also be a masterpiece, albeit not as accessible for those of us for whom Italian politics is not in the foreground of our mind. He also made THE FAMILY FRIEND, striking and odd in equal measure. Also: shot in my hometown of Detroit. Also: named after a gorgeous Talking Heads song. All up? I'm there when it's here, and hoping for the best.

Takashi Miike is remaking HARAKIRI in 3-D. I REALLY don't know how I feel about this. HARAKIRI may be my favorite samurai film - yes, including all the Kurosawa - but so much of that comes down to his impeccable photography. I'm sure this Miike film will be a totally different beast. Whether that's a good thing? Who knows. I run hot and cold with Miike - given the sheer volume of films he produces, I don't even feel like I have a basic handle on what to expect from him these days. OTOH, being in Competition is a big deal - I think this may be Miike's first time there. Also, is this the first 3-D film in competition ever?

Lynne Ramsay's WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. Wow, this will be the world's most depressing afterparty. The book is amazing, despite or because of the fact that I almost choked on the bile of it. Ramsay's a filmmaker who I've admired more than love, but her elliptical nature and impeccable eye combined with this intense material could make this an unforgettable, scarring film.

Terrence Malick. THE TREE OF LIFE. I can't see this soon enough. It seems almost unfair for it to be in competition. Unless it's a disaster, if it doesn't win, the film that wins will almost surely be burdened with "I can't believe THAT beat the Malick film". Weirdly, it's opening (at least in England) before Cannes, so I guess there will be at least some consensus going in as to its worth. So that last sentence may not be true after all.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan has made it with ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA. He's a filmmaker that I haven't seen as much of as I liked, but CLIMATES was an understated but searing drama that reminded me of Bergman in the best possible ways, and I suspect I'm a weekend of rentals away from considering him one of my favorite filmmakers.

Pedro Almodovar, THE SKIN I LIVE IN. I find it impossible to pre-judge films by Pedro Almodovar, as I'm almost always wrong. I haven't loved many recently, but TALK TO HER - which I had no expectations of - was one of my favorite cinematic experiences of all time. I can't think of many of his films being especially bloody (I'm sure I'm forgetting something obvious), but with this involving rape-revenge and a plastic surgeon, I don't see how it couldn't. Which is interesting.

Aki Kaurismaki, LE HAVRE. Kaurismaki is a guy who's drifted off my personal map lately, but I've loved a few of this deadpan Finn's films, most recently THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST.

Lars Von Trier's MELANCHOLIA, big surprise: but after the gratuitous freakshowoffery of ANTICHRIST and the ludicrous trailer for this, I'm just not in the mood for another provocation with characters who aren't recognizable as humans. Sorry. Will the director of THE BOSS OF IT ALL return, please?

Most of the rest of the competition entries are by directors I'm only vaguely familiar with, if at all. (The linked list, as of this moment, includes Woody Allen, but there seem to be conflicting reports as to whether he's in competition or not.) The exception is the Dardennes Brothers, Belgian realists, whose films I tend not to look forward to but then often wind up enjoying, if not in whole then at least for certain breathtaking sequences.

For me, the biggest news is the absence of the new film by Yorgos Lanthimos, the director of my favorite movie of 2009, DOGTOOTH. ALPS had been hotly tipped, and would easily be my most anticipated title (yes, even more than THE TREE OF LIFE or THIS MUST BE THE PLACE.) Supposedly there are more upcoming announcements, so I'll have my chance. I've only seen one film by Nicholas Winding Refn, and I'm not clear that VALHALLA RISING is remotely representative of what he'll have on offer.

As for Un Certain Regard:
- Hong Sang-Soo! He probably deserves a blog post all his own.
- Bruno Dumont, I've only seen one film by, but FLANDRES knocked me for a loop, though I don't get the impression my opinion is shared. I'm still hoping to see his highly regarded HADEWIJCH this year.
- I saw Ivan Sen's short films at Telluride in 2000 and loved them, but didn't gel with his first feature; here's hoping TOOMELAH realizes his potential.
- MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE by freshman director Sean Durkin (but produced by the director of the masterful, caustic AFTERSCHOOL, Antonio Campos) played to knockout reviews at Sundance, and I've been crossing my fingers for its inclusion in the NZFF for months.
- I've lost track of Kim Ki-Duk (3-IRON, SPRING SUMMER FALL WINTER AND SPRING) recently, but have heard some positive reviews of his recent, largely undistributed films. Hopefully this one's great and hopefully I get to see it.
- It took me a minute (well, and following a link) to place the name of Hong Jin-Na - he directed THE CHASER, a bloody, bleak, and very very good South Korean serial killer film. He appears to be returning to killer/action territory with this one, but if it lives up to THE CHASER, I'm fine with that.
- I feel negligent not having seen any films by Joachim Trier. I think I've had three chances to see REPRISE on the big screen, even.
- And who knows what Gus Van Sant is up to this time? He's UCR's Von Trier - equally likely to make a film I love or hate. Based on this trailer, I'm suspecting the latter.

(Also, as an aside: for lazy purposes, I've assigned these films to directors. I believe firmly in crediting screenwriters as well, but I haven't had time to research them all, since I'm just knocking this out before I collapse. No offense is intended.)

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