Cannes is a lot like a series of emotions, ranging from meh, to yeah, to nope.
First, the “meh.”
Hou Hisao-Hsien is one of China’s most artful directors. His framing of scenes is flawless, and he embraces the singular Chinese aesthetic of stillness.
That’s a wonderful thing, up to a point. And it’s especially wonderful in some of the scenes in “The Assassin,” a martial arts tale that takes place in 9th-century China. Some of the unspoiled landscapes are beautiful to behold. But Hou holds them and holds them and holds them.
After the screening, two North American critics said that it was like watching paint dry. Yet they acknowledged that there were moments of beauty.
But since this is a martial arts movie, shouldn’t there be some good action? Yes, there should. But no, there wasn’t.
The story centers on Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi), who was abducted as a child by a nun and raised to be a vengeful assassin who will eliminate corrupt local officials at the behest of Dame Tian (Zhou Yun). But when Tian tells her assassin to kill a local official from her hometown, the assassin begins to have second thoughts. That becomes even more clear when the man she’s assigned to kill turns out to be the same man to whom she was “promised” as a child.
There are a few slice-and-dice scenes early on that catch your interest, but the choreography of the later fight scenes is rather fake-looking, with lots of swooshing sound effects replacing viable swordplay.
It’s hard to guess how the jury will react to this one. But I was squirming in my seat, debating whether to get up and leave. I stayed, mainly because I needed to meet several fellow critics after the screening for dinner. And then I was bombarded by Chinese TV crews asking my opinion as I left the theater. I declined to speak.
Don’t expect this film to have much of an impact in the States.
The successful “yeah” movie is French director Jacques Audiard’s “Dheepan.”
The main character, Dheepan (Jesuthasan Antonygthasan), is a former Tamil freedom fighter in Sri Lanka who has moved to Paris in an attempt to leave his violent past behind. He takes a woman and a little girl with him, and they try to begin a new life as a family. After a series of setbacks, he finally gets a job as a caretaker of a housing block in the suburbs. But his past begins to haunt him, in violent ways.
If you’ve seen David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence,” then you’ll notice the similarities. But “Dheepan” has more social relevance, especially in France, where the troubles of immigrants have loomed large in recent years.
U.S. moviegoers can expect to see this one show up in arthouses, and it could well win one of the major prizes that will be handed out on Sunday.
The big “nope” movie is Gaspar Noe’s “Love.” Few movies have arrived on the Croisette with as much buzz. The midnight screening, which I did not attend because of dinner plans, was reportedly packed, and more than 500 people were turned away from the Lumiere theater, which holds about 2,000, one L.A.-based critic said Thursday morning.
So the only press screening on Thursday was jammed.
Karl Glusman stars as Murphy, an American who’s attending film school in Paris. He talks and talks about his goals as a filmmaker, saying that he wants to portray loving sex on the screen and doesn’t understand why there isn’t more of such things in cinema.
He meets a young artist, Electra (Aomi Muyock), and they proceed to have a passionate affair, with lots of explicit sex. It’s rare to see so much male genitalia in a movie, but there’s a lot of it. And since this is a 3-D film, you can probably imagine, if you wish, some of the 3D special effects.
At any rate, Murphy and Electra are quite the couple, experiencing everything from sex clubs to three-ways to encounters with transgendered prostitutes.
Most of these scenes are told in flashbacks, since Murphy got another woman pregnant and their affair broke off. Murphy is remembering Electra because he got a call from Electra’s mother, saying she was missing.
I’m not sure what the director is trying to do with “Love,” unless it’s what the aspiring director in the movie says: to portray loving sex on screen. But scene after scene of lovemaking gets old, especially when the plot focuses on nothing but getting to the next sexual encounter.
There has been much speculation among the media as to whether the movie will even be shown in the States. It probably will, but it’ll probably be released without a rating. All I can say is, don’t waste your time. The dialogue is lame. The sex scenes aren’t that hot. And this kind of “Love” is a rather big bore.