It pays off to know Nicolas Winding Refn’s back catalogue before walking into Only God Forgives and expecting a follow-up to 2011’s Drive. Returning to the Croisette with his ninth feature, the Danish auteur reveals himself to be the obsessive, style-driven director we saw in Valhalla Rising (2009). The first press screening was greeted with cheers and boos, a measure of how divisive this is playing out among critics, and a bad sign for its commercial potential in America.
Author Alex Griffith
What Bob Dylan did to folk music, the Coens have done to Bob Dylan. Ripping the biopic out of stodgy fact-checking, the Coens have reinvented the Dylan story by following the adventures of a singer-songwriter who could have become Bob Dylan. Cyclical, discursive, and entirely original without seeming esoteric or packed with inscrutable references, Inside Llewyn Davis might magically win over both critics and audiences, both Cannes and the coming Oscars. That is no mean feat.
Perhaps there is a required fossilization period before a genre’s tropes are considered classic rather than clichéd. In 2010’s 13 Assassins, Takashi Miike told a samurai story straight and from the gut (no seppuku pun intended). The ronin canon is ancient when compared to the police drama, the scene of the crime for Miike’s latest release. There is little classic Miike in Shield of Straw, a predictable, inert procedural that has no place in the Competition.
“And they descended upon earth to strengthen their ranks” appears onscreen at the start of Alex van Warnerdam’s Borgman, a Dutch dark comedy that undercuts its serious epigraph before circling back to high-minded allegory. When Borgman is funny, its jaw-droppingly, funny, a breath of fresh evil in an otherwise pretty heavy Competition. When it’s not funny, it unsettles you with small touches of surreal thrills.
When Borgman is funny, its jaw-droppingly, funny, a breath of fresh evil in an otherwise pretty heavy Competition. When it’s not funny, it unsettles you with small touches of surreal thrills.
The push to get reviews out early does some disservice to complex Cannes films. There could be a slim chance Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian is a secretly great movie, hiding its Freudian undertones under a bland super-ego of wooden dialogue and overloaded flashbacks. But unlike the murky process of psychoanalysis, Arnaud Desplechin’s new drama appears all too understandable and surprisingly conventional for an entry in the Competition.
What do A Touch of Sin and Django Unchained have in common? Both are about the downtrodden, explore fantasies of revenge, and both are made by directors who know how to shoot violence. Finally, both are twenty minutes too long.
“You’re not really serious when you’re seventeen.”
In the second entry in the Cannes Competition, François Ozon (Swimming Pool, 8 Women) delivers a subtle, non-judgmental exploration of sex work and female sexuality.
Anyone decently versed in Mexico’s drug war will find Heli an intriguingly filmed recap of familiar headlines. Director Amat Escalante, writer/director of Sangre and Los Bastardos, continues his preoccupation with drug culture and the Mexican working class. He pulls off some interesting shots and crafts one of the most intense torture scenes in quite a while, but the characters and subject matter remain pretty familiar.
No one walks out of a Ki-duk Kim movie without being offended. Offense is a Kim trademark, and for many people, the fun stops there. At his weakest, the Korean auteur preys on our good taste for shock value. But at his strongest – and here he rivals Haneke or other dreadmasters – he uses offense to create some of the richest emotional moments you will ever see on screen.
Uli Gaulke, the director of As Time Goes By in Shanghai, tells stories through images and mood, making jazz music a nice fit for the former film projectionist who grew up in East Germany. “I wanted to bring this kind of storytelling with images in a documentary format… You can tell a story only with words, but this is not a film.”