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.

Tuesday 24 May 2022

Cannes 2022 - Crimes of the Future by David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg returning to full blown body horror, a subgenre he is arguably one of the most famous representatives of and with a star cast, reuniting with Viggo Mortensen and with Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart joining his universe, it sure did not get more exciting than that. His style has been copied by so many, including his own son who does not seem to be able to get out of his shadow so there was the risk of him retreating too familiar grounds, perhaps even delivering a self-parody... yet we should not have worried!

Cannes 2022 - Triangle of Sadness by Ruben Ostlund

After a long period of gestation, Palme d'or Winner Ruben Ostlund was finally ready to unleash his latest film at the Cannes Film Festival with a synopsis that promised to be anything than subtle given the subject: announced as a fashion satire as well as the story of a cruise for the über Rich with a Marxist captain... One had to wonder how these scattered elements were going to coalesce into a coherent story...

Monday 23 May 2022

Cannes 2022 - Les Amandiers by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi

The name of Patrice Chéreau does not mean much to international audiences, perhaps better known outside France for La Reine Margot with Isabelle Adjani but he was also a man of the stage and much beloved in his country for his important work in both disciplines. Actor/director Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi was a student at his acting school Les Amandiers and those years she spent with him are the subject of her new film called after that film school.

Cannes 2022 - Return to Seoul by Davy Chou

Putting the spotlight on the lesser known case of children born in South Korea but who were adopted by French parents when their own  were unable to look after them, Return to Seoul follows Frédérique (Park Ji-min) as she travels back to the country of her birth to learn more about her origins and to try to find her biological parents.

Cannes 2022 - R.M.N. by Cristian Mungiu

When R.M.N. starts we meet Matthias (Marin Grigore), a Romanian immigrant in Germany just as he travels back to his home town in Transylvania after an acrimonious end of his employment where he received some xenophobic abuse. Yet there are problems there too as the local population has not taken kindly to some newly arrived Sri Lankan workers.

Cannes 2022 - Holy Spider by Ali Abbasi

How do you follow the undefinable and wonderfully weird Borders, Ali Abbasi's second film that really brought him into the international film circuit's attention with scenes that elicited gasps and admiration? The director chose a relatively more straightforward story without leaving his social conscious on the side. Holy Spider is the true story of a serial killer in Masshad who went on a so-called moral crusade by preying on and killing women in the early 2000s.

Sunday 22 May 2022

Cannes 2022 - La Nuit du 12 by Dominik Moll

La Nuit du 12 opens with a chilling scene: as a young woman leaves a party at night and walks back home, she gets accosted by a stranger who splashes her with gasoline before setting her on file. From this chilling crime that is based on a true story, Dominik Moll (Lemming) has created a patient police drama, weaving in several social topics in the process. Get good intentions don't always make a good film.

Saturday 21 May 2022

Cannes 2022 - Three Thousand Years of Longing by George Miller

Three Thousand Years of Longing is an adaptation of a novella by A.S. Byatt and a passion project for George Miller who was given a sizeable budget and the freedom to do whatever he wanted after the success of Mad Max Fury Road. In it, narratology professor Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) unwittingly releases a djinn (Idris Elba) from his bottle while in Istanbul, who offers her three wishes but also some cautionary tales about the hazardous business of wishing. 

An intriguing, ambitious proposition, the film sadly unravels quickly. As the djinn relates the stories of those who came into possession of the bottle in flashbacks, it is apparent that on this occasion, the cult Australian director lacks the visual inspiration to truly pull it off with an aesthetic that is more advert for a luxurious shower gel than a world of magic of wonders, not helped by some questionable CGI effects. One can only imagine what a true visionary auteur such as Tarsem Singh could have done with this, although even he might not have been able to save that script.

Cannes 2022 - Plan 75 by Chie Hayakawa

The premise of Plan 75 feels like a arthouse, social Logan's Run: in the near future, the Japanese government has launched Plan 75 that encourages senior citizens who do not have the resources to look after themselves to be euthanised. 

Cannes 2022 - EO by Jerzy Skolimowski

From EO by veteran Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski, we did not know what to expect in terms of genre or even narrative, with just a slightly enigmatic featuring a donkey on a bright red background. A tribute to Au Hasard Balthazar perhaps? The presence of Isabelle Huppert in the casting credit was also exciting.

Friday 20 May 2022

Cannes 2022 - Armageddon Time by James Gray

What is it going to take for Cannes regular James Gray to get noticed outside the festival and a group of critics (but not all!). Even his more mainstream recent effort with A-lister Ad Astra did not exactly set the box office alight and was met with mixed reviews (yet it was one of the 2019's finest films...).

In his latest, Armageddon Time, he tackles the semi-autobiographical coming of age, with a starry cast, an interesting proposition from him, more accustomed to violence, physical and emotional. This kind of subject makes you fear the worse with many directors, with the worry they might turn sentimental and a personal subject making them forget to write a compelling story. No such thing here however...

Thursday 19 May 2022

Cannes 2022 - Tchaïkovsky's Wife by Kirill Serebrennikov

You never quite know what to expect with Krill Serebrennikov, his recent films each so different to each other with Leto (2018) documenting the Russian '80s rock scene and Petrov's Flu last year and its very topical title a wild blur between reality and fantasy. 

His latest, Tchaikovsky's Wife in yet another departure came across as more traditional when it was announced in the official selection. In Tchaïkovsky's Wife, to put an end to some rumours about his personal life, the famous composer agrees to marry a young, smitten woman despite his romantic inclinations, a decision which will cause her untold misery.

Wednesday 18 May 2022

Cannes 2022 - Final Cut by Michel Hazanavicius

When Final Cut was announced, a French remake of the cult Japanese low budget zombie horror comedy with a twist One Cut of the Dead, it sounded like one of the most unlikely projects this year. Did such an idiosyncratic film need to be remade? There was the risk that at best it would be a close if unnecessary retelling, at worst losing what makes the original so special. Then the film was announced as the Cannes opening film and what a fantastic decision that was, only a few years after The Dead Don't Die, in a similar sub genre but that directed by a true auteur, Jim Jarsmusch whereas the idea of all the local dignitaries and their notoriously low tolerance for any unusual films being exposed to the least salubrious corners of genre cinema was exciting indeed.

In Final Cut, jobbing film director Rémi (Romain Duris) and his crew tackle the shoot of a low-budget zombie horror film that has to be done in one shot and broadcast live online, bringing its share of technical difficulties and trials with just one imperative: keep going no matter what happens...

Thursday 14 April 2022

Apollo 10 ½ by Richard Linklater

Late in Richard Linklater’s 2014 magnum opus, Boyhood, his young protagonist leaves for college and his mother bursts into tears — not because she is losing her son, but because the mundanity of such a moment is passing by without exclamation. In her words: “I just thought there would be more.” Hers, and ours, is a struggle with time, and the slow realization that our lives are not narrativized, but endlessly present. Linklater’s cinema ponders this philosophical dilemma, and a handful of times he has crafted masterpieces that give us an answer. In his hands we are reminded that the present, the spaces in between our big life moments, are where “magic” is found. 

Thursday 24 March 2022

X by Ti West


If the slasher film has slowly creeped its way back into horror in the 2020s with the Fear Street trilogy, Halloween Kills, Malignant, and the Scream re-quel, then it has announced it is here to stay with Ti West’s Texas-set mashup of porn and horror cinema. Promising a body count that revels in the history of the slasher film and delights in the filmmaking process of the porn industry, West’s film is about the blurring lines of these two lurid types of film — and how they’re deeply American enterprises.

Thursday 27 January 2022

Sundance 2022 - Emily the Criminal by John Patton Ford

Mainly known for her part in the popular American sitcom Parks & Recs, American actress Aubrey Plaza has also carved herself an interesting career in the indie world, eschewing the sirens of big studios for some really interesting parts in films such as Safety Not Guaranteed (2012), Life After Beth (2014), Ingrid West (2017) and now Emily the Criminal.

The premise could be one of a black comedy: a young woman who is struggling financially and stuck in the gig economy embarks on a life of crime. Except that it is nothing of the sort. Nor does the film attempt to glamorise life on the wrong side of justice, far from it even! John Patton Ford does not even try to go all A24 on us and deliver a high octane, stylised crime odyssey.