The Cannes Film Festival is underway, and though, sadly, I’m not on the Croisette, from lowly Toronto I can still provide daily updates on the buzz of the Festival. I'll be compiling a scorecard on all the Competition and En Certain Regard films playing each day, with snippets of reviews as they flood in.
It all got kicked off with Pixar’s “Up” on Wednesday. Unanimous praise once again is flooding in, for what likely will be another massive hit.
Thursday is when the real films started screening, the hunt for the gems which we all hope will emerge and astound us.
FISH TANK (UK) dir. Andrea Arnold
Fifteen year old Mia’s life is turned on its head when her Mum brings home a new boyfriend. It appears to be the first gem right off the top.
Eugene Hernandez of Indie Wire hails newcomer and lead actress Kate Jarvis, “the discovery of the festival… Shot in sequence and in the hand-held tradition of other British realism… The often bleak story of a troubled and isolated fifteen year old girl who lives with her heavy-drinking mother and smart-talking younger sister in a dreary British council housing complex.”
Sukhdev Sandhu of UK’s Telegraph concurs saying, the film "draws a magnificent performance from newcomer Katie Jarvis, who plays Mia, a fierce-tempered, beer-guzzling teenager…Shot with a terrific eye for pointillist detail and panorama, Arnold opens up the council estates of Essex, revealing the myriad ways in which they cramp but never entirely extinguish the spirit and imaginations of the people who live there."
Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian calls it "a powerfully acted drama, beautifully photographed by cinematographer Robbie Ryan, who intersperses bleak interiors with sudden, gasp-inducing landscapes like something by Turner."
CHUN FENG CHEN ZUI DE YE WAN (aka. SPRING FEVER) (HK, France) dir. Lou Ye
Luo Haitao has been hired by Wang Ping’s wife to spy on the passionate relationship between her husband and another man, but slowly loses control of the situation. With his beautiful girlfriend, Li Jing, he is drawn in to the affair, overcome by the fever of drunken spring nights. All are possessed by an exhilarating madness of the senses, a dangerous malady that leads the heart and head astray...
Howard Feinstein of Screendaily says, “The screenplay is so convoluted and contains so many loose ends that the intense style (fragmented editing, jerky, handheld camera) only highlights the movie’s occasional lapses into incoherence. Add to that relatively explicit sex scenes between males, and the result is small chance of finding an audience in most markets, including Lou Ye’s native China.” Though he also calls it “poignant”, with "astonishing camerawork".
Derek Elley of Variety agrees, saying it’s for "the hardcore arthouse crowd, this overlong and very Euro-flavored “Spring” won’t make many B.O. wickets bloom". The tone feels “more of autumnal melancholy than of spring fever.”
Mike D’Angelo of the AV Club says, “it’s hard for me to imagine anyone getting behind this deadly soap opera".
KUKI NINGYO (aka AIR DOLL) (Korea) dir. Kore-Eda Hirokazu
Hideo, who lives alone, owns a life-size “air doll”, which suddenly finds herself with a heart. Everything is new to her in the world outside Hideo's house. She meets all kinds of people. The world is filled with so many beautiful things, but everyone seems to have some kind of hollowness, just as she has. In the morning, she pumps herself up, and takes a walk. One afternoon, she meets Junichi who works at a rental video store, and instantly falls in love with him. A first date. New words she learns from him. She starts working with him at the store, enjoys talking and being with him. Everything seems to be going perfect, until something unexpected happens to the doll. A sad yet happy fantasy. This is a story about a new form of love.
Dan Fainaru, Screendaily, says its "a philosophical and poetic essay on such weighty matters as innocence, solitude, women as sex objects, the proximity of life and death and the uniqueness of human beings. It wants to be light, airy, smiling and sad at the same time – just like real life. Although the bill may be too ambitious and Kore-eda’s approach too diffused, Air Doll does offer food for thought, poetical imagination galore, a touching performance by Korean actress Bae Doo-na in the lead part and superb, crystal-clear images provided by Hong Kong cameraman Mark Lee Ping-bing (In the Mood for Love)"
AV Club's Mike D'Angelo says "the film is a little too cute and scattershot to achieve real profundity, with the doll-woman too often coming across like a playfully erotic version of Being There’s Chance the Gardener, defined entirely by her absence of guile."
Eric Lavallee, I On Cinema, seems to offer the opinion, "Actress Bae Donna plays the role of a blow up doll disturbingly well and I loved how Kore-eda visually enters the frames - the camera work is crisp. And for those who think this is like 'Lars and the Real Girl' will think that might actually be closer to 'Pinocchio'."
KASI AZ GORBEHAYE IRANI KHABAR NADAREH (aka NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT PERSIAN CATS) (Iran) dir. Bahman Ghobodi
Bahman Ghobodi's ("A Time of Drunken Horses") film is portrait of Tehran, shot in a rush and without authorization, a story of Iranian youth fighting against repression and being bullied around. As his two heroes, underground musicians, desperately try to get papers to go to Europe, Bahman Ghobadi shows the secret life of this city's cultural energy, despite violent repression by the authoritie
Sukhdev Sandhu of the Telegraph calls this En Certain Regard entry, “Scrappy and overlong, it works better as a documentary than as a drama, though its ending is both unexpected and deeply moving"
Alissa Simon of Variety, says its "is unlikely to be screened legally in the Islamic Republic but should enjoy a healthy fest life offshore, with niche arthouse in some territories...Ghobadi employs rapidly cut-to-the-beat montage sequences (like earnest MTV) that show gritty aspects of Tehran life. Powerful lyrics work better to convey Iran's current stifling atmosphere for rebellious youth."
Howard Feinstein, Screendaily, discusses the freshness of this new Iranian film, "Anyone who considers the Iranian Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi solely a practitioner of long-take chronicles about rural Kurdish life needs to reconsider...Although it’s hardly a mainstream effort, this film’s fast pacing and hip soundtrack are potential draws for the youthful audiences distributors crave."
Coming up tomorrow, look for coverage on Jane Campion's BRIGHT STAR and Chan Wook Park's THIRST.