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.