Thursday, 25 May 2023

Cannes 2023 - The Pot au Feu by Anh Hung Tran

It is fair to say that we all assumed the inclusion of The Pot-Au-Feu in the official selection and in competition this year was purely down to the star power of its lead and to inject a bit of glamour to the festival, just like with Firebrand a few days earlier. The premise made it sound like these "quality" made for TV dull period dramas yet could not have been further from the truth.

Set at the end of the 19th century, The Pot-Au-Feu relates the romance between Eugénie (Juliette Binoche) and Rodin (Benoît Magîmel) whose passion for food was only equalled by the passion for each other. It opens with a thirty minutes scene that instantly set the tone for the rest of the film: in it, Eugénie and Dodin meticulously prepare and serve a feast and it is serene and luminous, so far away from the usual stereotypes of feverish artistic creation and shouty cooking. There is a pervading gentleness to it that carries through the whole running time.

Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Cannes 2023 - Jeanne du Barry by Maïwenn

The Cannes Film Festival picked what some perceived as a controversial film for its opening this year. Jeanne du Barry stars Johnny Depp whose recent court case attracted plenty of attention and then shortly before the festival opened, the journalist Edwy Plenel made some allegations about an assault he was the victim of by director Maïwenn. However, while cinema does not exist in a vacuum (and more on that later), what is the film actually worth?

Sunday, 5 February 2023

To Leslie by Michael Morris

A single mother in Texas wins a sizeable amount at the lottery only to rapidly spend it all in a few years and find herself near destitute and turning to the bottle. She tries to reconcile with her estranged son and the friends and communities she left behind.

If that synopsis sounds melodramatic, it's because it is, purposely so. At times the narrative beats might sound like they belong to some old school made-for-TV movies but this is nothing of the sorts, rather To Leslie is a downbeat independent film that lays bare the misery Leslie finds herself in but the director is not interested in making this an issue film about an unfair, uncaring American society, it focuses instead on individuals and small communities. Similarly, this is not a film about alcoholism, nor is it used as a cheap narrative trope. 

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Cannes 2022 - Awards and Comments

What a year this has been for the Cannes Film Festival. Following the 2020 hiatus, then the delayed but exciting 2021 edition, the festival was back for the first time in as normal conditions as we could have hoped for, at its usual time of May and with an abundance of talents and films. Fears that film festivals might never be able to return to normal in a long time proven unfounded. The predicted superspreader event that had been predicted for the 2021 festival then this one did not happen and it was a celebration of both sides of cinema, the arthouse and the glamour, that was sorely needed!

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Cannes 2022 - Showing Up by Kelly Reichardt

Showing Up might not seem have the same emotional weight and narrative stakes as some of Kelly Reichardt's best films such as Old Joy and Wendy & Lucy at first, as we spend a few days in the company of Lizzie and the people in her lives, her family and a community gravitating around an art school in Portland. The most dramatic developments in the first half involve an injured pigeon and a catalogue not ready on time for her upcoming exhibition.

Cannes 2022 - Dodo by Panos Koutras

You never know what to expect from wonderfully eccentric Greek director Panos Koutras, the man who gave us creature horror Attack of the Giant Moussaka (!) and moving coming of age Xenia (Cannes 2014). He is back on the Croisette with a film called Dodo. About a dodo...

Friday, 27 May 2022

Cannes 2022 - Domingo and the Mist by Ariel Escalante Meza

The first Costa Rican film to be in the official selection in Cannes ever, Domingo and the Mist seems to thread some familiar ground at first, with its portrayal of a gruff old man who, alongside his neighbours, is targeted by some shady officials who are trying to pay them to leave their houses to be able to build a highway.