Saturday, 25 May 2019
With such a strong line up and so many potential choices for the top prizes, we knew there were going to be some surprises ahead and we were not disappointed in that respect! It was obvious early on that the jury had struggled to decide, which Iñarritu commented on his opening speech and indeed, not only did they split the jury prize in two, they also added a special mention prize.
This special mention prize to It Must Be Heaven by Elia Suleiman felt a bit like a consolation prize and it did not look as if the director was all that thrilled about it! Then came the joint prize winner, to Les Misérables by Ladj Ly, which had made a big impact when it screened early on and more surprisingly to Bacurau by Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles. The latter is a thrilling Brazilian film that blends in genre elements that would not be out of place in an early film by John Carpenter (to which it is heavily indebted) as well as some very contemporary social concerns. That was to be the first surprise of many.
What a fabulous edition this has been, something that even the usual naysayers agree on. The masters have delivered some of their finest work, those rising stars have confirmed all the hopes placed upon them and there have been several discoveries too, even in the official selection which is a daunting place to debut your first film. There were very few clunkers, which I charitably will not mention and there were also mercifully few of those manufactured and ridiculous outrages that a certain kind of media gets drunk on every year.
Predicting which films a small jury with nine members will hand awards to is such a difficult exercise. All jury members are artists and their potential choices less easy to assess than those of critics. There is also no point basing awards predictions based on the kind of cinema jury members make (who would have thought Steven Spielberg would fall in love with Blue Is The Warmest Colour in 2013?!), as this would assume their vision of films is somehow narrow. Yet I am going to attempt some awards predictions all the same. With so many films deemed deserving of the top prize and no consensus on one in particular, there is bound to be some surprises...
Sunday, 19 May 2019
Robert Eggers made a big impact with his first film, period horror The Witch and the concern for a young director with an acclaimed debut is to retreat into similar territory for their sophomore effort, which seemed to be the case when his second film was announced as, you guessed it, a period horror, for which an evocative still was released. Except that he had a few tricks up his sleeve...
Set in the 1890's, The Lighthouse sees the young Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) takes his position as an assistant to caretaker Thomas (Willem Dafoe) in a lighthouse on an island off the coast of New England, a position that is only supposed to last four weeks.
Friday, 17 May 2019
In Zombi Child, in present day Paris, Haitian emigrant Melissa (Wislanda Louimat) has been struggling to make some new friends in her prestigious French school when a group of schoolmates welcome her in their sorority. Meanwhile in Haiti, through flashbacks we follow the fate of a young man who becomes the victim of a voodoo spell and is turned into a zombie, forced to work for free in plantations as a mindless drone whose memories have deserted him.
Bertrand Bonello tacking the zombie genre (just like Jim Jarmusch did this year with festival opener The Dead Don't Die), that was an interesting proposition when we first heard about this, even though we knew this would not be be straightforward genre fare!
Thursday, 16 May 2019
In Kabul in 1998, Atiq, a former moujahidin reconverted as a prison guard leads a disillusioned life, remaining faithful to his cancer ridden wife who is living her last few weeks. Meanwhile, the young Zunaira and Moshen are in love and trying to live their passion despite the heavy restraints put upon every aspect of their lives by the extremist religious regime in place.
The Swallows of Kabul is adapted and co-directed by French actress turned director Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobbe Mevellec and this is the kind of cinema that can come across as critic-proof, in the sense that a heavy-going, topical social or political subject can make it difficult to criticise it so there was that concern before getting into this screening.
Wednesday, 15 May 2019
In Bull, Kris (Amber Havard), a teenager in Texas from very modest social environment, seems to have her life already mapped out in front of her with very few opportunities, until she meets ageing rodeo wrangler Abe (Rob Morgan) and strikes an unlikely friendship with him.
Bull, presented in the Un Certain Regard sidebar selection in Cannes, will most probably suffer from an unfair comparison with Chloe Zhao's arthouse sensation The Rider (2017), because of a somehow similar premise and the fact that both are directed by women, which seems a little easy and unfair.
Jim Jarmusch truly is an unmistakably independent director, at a time when the term seems to have been packaged and monetised by certain film studios that offer the same aesthetic and crowd pleasing social themes. It is hard to think of any director with such an incredible run from his early career in the 80's until now and such a unique, timeless style, evidently free from any studio interference yet never self-indulgent. Having recently tackled vampires recently in Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), this time he turns his focus on zombies with horror-comedy The Dead Don't Die.
In The Dead Don't Die, the small town of Centerville, USA is under siege by a hordes of living dead, and it is down to its small police force to try to save the population, with a bit of help from mysterious newcomer Zelda (Tilda Swinton).
Friday, 10 May 2019
Corruption can take many forms. From Milton’s Paradise Lost to Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, characters are corrupted, losing parts of themselves along the way as they continue to descend into the depths of their own darkness. This kind of corruption runs through the veins of Birds of Passage, a film about the drug trade that shows the destructive nature that evil can have on individuals and communities.
Thursday, 2 May 2019
The transitional months between 2018 and 2019 have seen a significant number of formidable female-led musical films, and Brady Corbet’s much touted follow-up to his feature directorial debut The Childhood of a Leader has already earned a great number of fans over in the States. Finally, Vox Lux makes its way into British cinemas and on demand.
Vox Lux, unlike Corbet’s debut, is set much closer to modern times, and begins with a young man carrying out a school shooting. From there, we follow Celeste, a survivor of this shooting, who decides to perform an original song at a local memorial to articulate her response to the atrocity. With a sense of what feels almost like inevitability, Celeste’s performance becomes a national sensation, and she’s set on an inexorable path of musical megastardom.
“There’s nothing to solve you know. It’s silly wasting your energy on something that doesn’t matter.” a girl casually says to Andrew Garfield’s Sam after he suggests there’s a hidden message in a song that will help him find a missing woman. He doesn’t listen to her lol. David Robert Mitchell’s Under the Silver Lake is an odyssey of pop culture that dives headfirst into Hollywood’s secrets, but it’s not really about that.