CANNES 2014 ROUND-UP

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So, as my last post explained, I had spent the last two and a half weeks at the 67eme Festival du Cannes. I had a great time throughout, having finally reached a place that I’ve always wanted to visit and meeting and networking with as many people as possible and watching films I had no clue at all about.

I had a lot of fun and felt like I learned a lot and made some good connections. It was an incredible experience and I finally figured out what I wanted to do in the industry and what I wanted to never sink towards in the industry. It was a very eye-opening affirming experience.

But ain’t nobody got time for that. You guys want to know about the movies I saw.

BEST FILM I SAW AT CANNES
Sophie (2014/dir. Liz Fisher/USA) – An adorable short film I saw as part of a collective feature screening that had a story very poignant and resonant to even adults who have to realize they grow up and find the world changing around them – only this time communicated in the form of an 8-year-old child discovering simply that the Easter Bunny and Santa and the Tooth Fairy don’t exist and having an existential crisis resultant from it, making it accessible to all possible ages. Sweet, funny and pretty much a surprising treat of a film I didn’t expect after having to endure an otherwise almost entirely lackluster collection of short films…

WORST FILM I SAW IN CANNES
Bourbon in the Bathtub (2014/dir. Sara Kubida & Andrea Hall/USA) – This being one of those lackluster short films. A practically nonsensical and pretty much boring stream of consciousness of storytelling, it seems as though the short was assembled through bits and pieces of conversation I’d expect the writers overheard and tried to shove context, while forcing quirk through the eye-rolling setting of having the two central characters sit in a bathtub drinking bourbon for the majority of the short and call it romantic. I almost dozed off, my friend actually did.

BEST DIRECTOR
While the Jury is not considering really short films for the awards (while I gave my best film to a short film), I still have to give Best Director to Sarah Wilson Thacker for The Bright Side. A surprisingly ambitious short that lends itself fully to the romantic imagery of 1940s Hollywood, balancing naturalistic cinematography with an otherwise pretty cut-and-dry romantic story. Add to that how much the visuals lend themselves to the mood and editing to the tempo of the music used, especially when I got pumped up by the usage of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside”, and we got something pretty extraordinary.
And I’m not just saying this because I met both the director and cinematographer, Ryan Broomberg, beforehand. But that’s worth acknowledging and noting that it has no weight on my opinion.
My friends know I’m too brutal.

BEST ACTOR
I thought Timothy Spall was fantastic in Mr. Turner, but he didn’t take the cake for me. And as much as I would like to say Robert Pattinson’s role in The Rover made me forget the fact that I made fun of him for the many Twilight-ridden years, my real heart goes to Steve Carell for Foxcatcher. I went into the movie blind to what it was about, but upon hearing the name John Du Pont and Mark Schultz, I already knew the story that the film was going to depict.
I only find it a genius of craft to have had John du Pont portrayed in such a manner as to make the character at first glance slightly humorous (as many of the audience members I was with were laughing at otherwise disturbing moments) until the fact of his mental disruption brings drastic consequences. When a character can be so consistently make you laugh to make gasp, I find it to be a great manipulation to be recognized, especially when it doesn’t seem uncharacteristic.

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BEST ACTRESS
I’ll go with what the Festival went with and big it up to Julianne Moore for playing wasted so well in Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars. Even when it’s nothing we haven’t seen before from her, she has fit herself so well into the shell of trashy and washed-up (just as well as she can be elegant or cleaned up) that by this performance around we get a deeper look inside this persona than we usually could stand.

BEST SURPRISE
Mommy (2014/dir. Xavier Dolan/Canada) and White God (2014/dir. Kornel Mundruczo/Hungary). If you had told me that the best feature films in Cannes would have been a movie about a violent ADHD child and The Birds as done with dogs, I would have laughed in your face. But goddamn, did both turn out to be freshly done and engaging as can be with less than enticing concepts. I have to say Xavier Dolan is especially going places considering his age and how many features he has made already.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT
Lost River (2014/dir. Ryan Gosling/USA) – I have the most to say about this one movie…

I really really wanted to like it. I thought it was a valiant effort by Gosling to pay homage to Refn and Lynch (both Gosling and Refn were in attendance by the way). But what Gosling seemed to fail to realize was that Lynch and Refn are inspired by thematic undertow before inventing a style to their films – its what makes Lynch one of my favorite filmmakers… That he decides what he wants to say and then how he wants to say it afterward.

Gosling seemed to be more inspired by stylization before inventing a style based on it. The result is a film with a plot that could have been condensed in 40 minutes as opposed to two hours, lacking any true thematic substance beyond hammering down its basic caged bird overtures.

Benoit Debie can do a hell of a lot better. While there were some pretty good looking shots as always from him, but there are also some that I’m sure were forced by Gosling, sideways looks and oversaturations that dare you to be infuriated but by the end of the movie are just annoying. The transitions though are very great, with each transition meant to deliberately jar us – a testament to an editing style that had its ups and downs. The self-indulgent nature keeps popping up in the film’s technical aspects and it definitely dilutes any damn I could have given the film.

Speaking of editing, I hope whoever did sound for the movie was fired as fuck. And if it was deliberate, I hope Gosling never directs another movie. I had to read the French subtitles half the time to understand the film. This is amateur work akin to a 4 year old child on a god damned mixing board or film school graduates who spent too much time on the imagery to realize there’s more to cinema than that.

The cast was mainly inconsequential to me – Saoirse Ronan, Ben Mendehlson and especially Matt Smith are the main standouts that kept the movie from feeling like a rehash of Blue Velvet. Smith was a definite presence of foreboding dread and shock that calls to Hopper’s Frank Booth without feeling plagairistic.

And I did like the music. Hints of Badalamenti and Cliff Martinez that I’d like to have on my IPod, even if its obvious in the movie and supposed to be apparent, something I find obnoxious when it comes to scoring films.

Lost River

FILM I CAN’T WAIT TO WATCH AGAIN
The Target (2014/dir. Chang/South Korea) – South Korean cinema is obviously making a huge comeback in the international scene and The Target, while not being anything really as mindblowing as ThirstMemories of Murder or The Good, the Bad, the Weird still kept my adrenaline running and was fast-paced in all the right amounts and yet not too long or short.

MOVIE I WAS MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING BUT DON’T THINK DESERVED THE PALME D’OR
Winter Sleep (2014/dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan/Turkey) – My love for Once Upon a Time in Anatolia left me immensely anticipating the next picture of Ceylan’s. While it was essentially presented in the same sort of material (sleepy little dialogues that reveal characters while also working as their own little monologue vignettes), this movie didn’t really have a primary plot to keep the conversations interconnected this time around and, while still remaining an impressive movie, didn’t engage me half as much. I honestly feel its win is mainly political in consideration of the Gezi conflicts and the mining disaster (as well as the fact that it is the 100th anniversary of Turkish cinema).

BEST MOMENT(s)
I met Timothy Spall and realized that he’d probably win Best Actor for the delightful film Mr. Turner right then and there and I saw Quentin Tarantino introduce Pulp Fiction  for its 20-year anniversary from winning the Palme d’Or (though I still maintain Kieslowski should’ve won that award, Pulp Fiction is always a hell of a lot of fun to watch – especially with friends).

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WORST MOMENT(s)
Our trip was at one day severely dampened by bad news one of my companions received and by my own bad attitude towards being ditched (either inadvertently) by another one at the Pulp Fiction screening.

With all that, I really enjoyed the hell out of the trip.

Can’t wait to make a new short film and go back next year. Dare I say, I might one day make a feature film to be entered there. Fingers crossed, always hoping.

Anyway, I also have now graduated and am now in the middle of working on multiple things more frequently to keep myself alive… But it also means an ability to post more, so expect me.

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The Film Experience List Challenge: Cannes

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I’m going to Cannes this week.

It’s been a dream of mine. I’m fucking excited. I have nothing showing there (as I’d hope to one day have), but I am going to be networking like crazy and shoving my business card in everyone’s face and it will be the greatest feeling in the world to come straight out of college graduation with the opportunity to THE world’s film festival is positively overwhelming to me.

‘Course I just keep it together in front of my friends and colleagues, but like a 16-year-old girl, I’m using this post to let out my feelings.

Anyway, The Film Experience put out a challenge to have a Top Ten list based on what are the winners of the Palme D’or, the highest honor at the Cannes Film Festival. And so, I ideally I present my Ten Favorite winners of the award with some Honorable Mentions

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10) The Wages of Fear (1953/dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot/France & Italy)
Clouzot is no stranger to gripping tension, Diaboliques proved that in spades, but La Salaire de la Peur drags you against your will in a very terrifying manner without being a horror film and really is the thrill ride at its most potent. It’s suspenseful, shocking and original – just waiting to explode.

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9) The Conversation (1974/dir. Francis Ford Coppola/USA)
The 70s were the true harbingers of paranoia, breathing in that deadly feeling of dread and dishonesty like a blessed oxygen. Coppola wanted to make you think that it was all in your head and Coppola did it magnificently – his control over the situation and perception tricks us into thinking we’re truly seeing what we want to see rather than we’re meant to see. Nevermind Gene Hackman giving his greatest most reservedly charged performance of his whole career.

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8) Barton Fink (1991/dir. Joel & Ethan Coen/USA)

The Coen brothers’ most frustratingly abstract picture is also their most thematic fleshed-out magnum opus. Their uncertainty expressed through their frustrations and writer’s block, their fullest characterizations lie in this film. And it looks great too, but man, does this movie ever make me not want to make movies (and makes me want to make movies at the same time).

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7) The Piano (1993/dir. Jane Campion/New Zealand)
It is an unfortunate rarity of cinema to be granted such a very complex and hypnotic character study but this film works from one of the finest leading female performances I have ever seen and how unassuming it is of its metaphors – which are there nonetheless.
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6) The White Ribbon (2009/dir. Michael Haneke/Germany)
I’m not too much of a fan personally of overly moralistic works, but sometimes they portray themselves in a style that is impossible to ignore. Das Weiss Band is most certainly one of them with brilliant black-and-white photography, but also with its completely sobering and un-righteous tone feeling more observational than most movies trying to pass off a message. It’s a dark and cruel picture, but it earned its right to be cruel.
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5) The Leopard (1963/dir. Luchino Visconti/Italy)
An escapist and attractive look at the bourgeois pretending they are not declining, even though they know they are a dying breed, it’s a great indulgence for me to participate in watching this movie without outright.
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4) Kagemusha (1980/dir. Akira Kurosawa/Japan)
I can’t lie: I am on the road to devaluing Akira Kurosawa. It had been the case ever since I got myself more involved with the films of Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi and Shion Sono and realized in those artists a true glance at Japanese culture while Kurosawa, a still-Master filmmaker, is merely a guy like me: A non-American who wants to make American films.
But that doesn’t make him any less of a filmmaker, it just says more about my tastes.
And Kagemusha is immune to this criticism. It’s neither Westernized nor Japanese, but the strokes of paintings in the beautifully contructed nightmare sets and the true struggle displayed of pretending to be a man for the sake of his own country is totally from the soul of Akira Kurosawa, devoid of nation.
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3) Apocalypse Now (1979/dir. Francis Ford Coppola/USA)
This is a masterpiece of fucking disaster. It’s got a charm in being a bombastic loud mess of a film that adds to the film’s personality and character – particularly when the film deals with madness, it only makes sense that the film itself is a mad bark by a madman. It’s hallucinatory, nihilistic and megalomaniacal, all the things a growing boy needs to be told you’re fucking crazy.
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2) The Third Man (1949/dir. Carol Reed/USA)
It’s a very very pessimistic worldview that is treated with too much fun to be taken too soberly, but the consequences are still there. Largely anchored by the gravitas of Orson Welles’ presence in the movie (at least that was so when I saw it back in high school), every single scene is unforgettable with its jampacked composition in each shot, its snappy dialogue and its mysterious allure to the fate of the one Harry Lime.
And it’s one of my favorite screenplays ever written.
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1) Taxi Driver (1976/dir. Martin Scorsese/USA)
The end-all, be-all of the character study as De Niro completely demolishes all other performances done with his absolutely lived-in Travis Bickle; the frustrations and fears of the denizens of American society finally given a voice through the typing of Paul Schrader and the zeitgeist of a generation captured and locked forever in the mohawked stature of the man by Martin Scorsese’s subjective lens.
This is the reason movies are made exactly.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in chronological order)

  • Brief Encounter (1945/dir. David Lean/UK) – The captures of post-war casual affairs and the complete emotional turn regarding it, the manipulation of David Lean is too impressive not to remark on it.
  • The Lost Weekend (1945/dir. Billy Wilder/USA) – What the fuck is the deal with Cannes giving that many Palme D’ors that year? But this harrowing-still tale of addiction and submission to a demon is a total sweep to me for that, namely thanks to a no-holds-barred display by leading actor Ray Milland.
  • Marty (1955/dir. Delbert Mann/USA) – For being one of the sweetest and simplest tales of romanticism ever put on screen without losing its honesty in its ending and happy-go-lucky performance by the late great Ernest Borgnine.
  • The Cranes Are Flying (1957/dir. Mikhail Kalatozov/USSR) – For striking images of brilliant black-and-white cinematography that can take a soul entirely by storm.
  • Blowup (1966/dir. Michelangelo Antonioni/Italy) – Basically The Conversation in hipper form and taking place in a more naive time.
  • The Tin Drum (1979/dir. Volker Schlondorff/Germany) – Cacophonous and jarring to me, I give huge props to a film that will stand tall to change the world with a scream and a bang on a drum.
  • Wild at Heart (1990/dir. David Lynch/USA) – It’s weird as shit, but it’s just as crazy as love makes you. The heart and spirit of a true romance is completely captured in this film like no other, so why hate on it like the critics do?
  • Pulp Fiction (1994/dir. Quentin Tarantino/USA) – C’mon, it’s just a really fucking cool movie. It’s got style, it’s got pizazz, it’s a movie for the cool guys to feel cool watching.
  • Taste of Cherry (1997/dir. Abbas Kiarostami/Iran) – Very brilliantly moving commentary on death and waiting on life to turn itself around, but with a stillness to it that can be frustrating for many viewers.
  • The Pianist (2002/dir. Roman Polanski/France & Poland) – The morality behind Polanski behind, this film is extremely empathetic and a lot more harrowing knowing that the conditions portrayed are personally memories of Polanski’s childhood.
  • Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004/dir. Michael Moore/USA) – Do I think this movie is better than Oldboy? Come on, son. No. Just no. But it’s still, thanks largely to its editing, a shockingly brilliant display of evidence (although it’s heavily inaccurate and people should recognize that) and it incites discussion – that is a testament to the power of cinema and how manipulative and presentational it can be in its content and context. Also, I honestly think Moore is funny. I don’t watch it for its politics, I watch it for its cinematic impact.
  • The Tree of Life (2011/dir. Terrence Malick/USA) – Just for proving that an ambitious passion project is not completely impossible; for completely holding me overwhelmed by its sheer scale.
  • Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013/dir. Abdellatif Kechiche/France) – For Lea Seydoux, a performance attractive to anyone with a pulse watching the film, and Adele Exarchopoulos, a candid and manipulated but real portrayal, able to help make the film tolerable even through its self-indulgence.