Britain’s Andrea Arnold won third place, the jury prize, for the American-set “American Honey,” while Jaclyn Jose of Brillante Mendoza’s “Ma’ Rosa” won best actress. The latter was also a surprise, since Isabelle Huppert wowed critics with her performance in Paul Verhoeven’s thriller “Elle.”
The Camera d’Or, which goes to first-time directors, went to “Divines,” which played in Directors’ Fortnight.
The ceremony capped a contentious festival, where many critics voiced strong opinions about the competition entries. The biggest victim of the annual barrage of vitriol was Sean Penn’s “The Last Face,” which ended up getting the lowest score in history from the critics featured in the British trade journal Screen International. It got only 1 star from two critics, and the rest gave it an “X,” or “F.”
Loach’s Palme winner, however, was in the middle of the critical pack. It has an overt political message, criticizing the bureaucracy that administers the British welfare system. It stars Dave Johns as Daniel Blake, a pensioner who faces loss of payments, and Hayley Squires as Katie, a single mother of two who is befriended by Daniel after she, too, loses battles with the welfare bureaucracy.
It’s a very touching, humanistic tale, as most of Loach’s movies are. But it treads dangerous ground in almost becoming too preachy — a turnoff for most critics. Still, it has heart, and Loach is a veteran, beloved filmmaker in Cannes.
Dolan’s victory was greeted with boos in the press audience. But his movie, which deals with a gay man who goes home to tell his family that he is dying, has been far underrated by critics, some of whom deride the 27-year-old for his early success. He first appeared in Cannes when he was only 19 and has become Canada’s filmmaking prodigy.
It’s too early to say which films from Cannes will be contenders for an Oscar. Certainly, Iran’s “The Salesman” should be among the best foreign language Oscar contenders, if Iran chooses to submit it. Variety and other American outlets have been predicting that Nichols’ “Loving” will also be an Oscar contender.
Two fine but very different movies — Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle” and Asghar Farad’s “The Salesman” — closed out the competition this weekend for the Palme d’Or in Cannes. And either one could get a major prize.
First, let’s talk about the deliciously evil and perverse “Elle.” Verhoeven, who brought “Basic Instinct” to Cannes in 1992, is back with another tale of a woman in danger who is also dangerous.
This time, it’s the brilliant Isabelle Huppert as Michele, a video game company founder in Paris who is raped by a man in a black ski mask in her luxurious home at the beginning of the film. Michele doesn’t act the way you might think. Once the rapist leaves, she calmly cleans up the broken glass from the floor. Then she takes a hot bath, not crying, just going about cleaning up in a methodical way.
She doesn’t call the police. At first, she doesn’t even tell anyone. She goes to work the next day and pretends nothing happened while giving instructions to her employees about how to build the suspense in a violent video game.
We slowly discover why Michele has an aversion to going to the police, and why she’s so determined to stay in control of life. When she was a child, her father went on a killing spree in Paris, and after the massacre, he came back home and asked his girl to help burn up the family possessions. She did, and as her father was being arrested, she was photographed in front of the fire, with ashes on her face. Ever since, she has been associated with the murders and has fought hard to build a prosperous life.
The rapist has her cell number and starts texting her, and she suspects that the perp might be someone who works for her. But we’re kept guessing.
She has a loser son, Vincent (Jonas Bloquet), who works at a fast-food joint. The husband whom she divorced is named Richard (Charles Berling), and he’s a frustrated writer. Her best friend is Anna (Anne Consigny), who co-founded the game company with Michele. And her next-door neighbors are the stockbroker Patrick (Laruent Lafitte) and his religious wife Rebecca (Virginie Efira).
All of these characters are introduced with skill by Verhoeven, but the movie centers on Huppert’s Michele, who is in every scene.
The movie is full of suspense, irony and, surprisingly, many laugh-out loud moments. Most of these come from Michele’s bluntness about those around her, and her peculiar take on life — that she’s going to live her life in freedom and not be constrained by societal norms.
In no way does the movie suggest that she’s come to terms or is OK with the rape, as some have suggested. Far from it. She plots to figure out who the rapist is, and then she carefully maneuvers the man, who knows that his identity has been discovered. And rather than immediately turn him in to police, she begins a rather unnerving game. It’s not a revenge thriller, necessarily, although you might end up interpreting it that way. But there’s more ambiguity than you might think. And the movie is very French. It’s hard to imagine anyone except, perhaps, Sharon Stone, playing such a role in an American film.
Huppert does so with wry glee. There’s a disturbing glint in her eye, and you come to understand that she’s completely amoral, in an almost scary way. But that’s why the movie is deliciously perverse. Huppert and Verhoeven are a great team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t walk away with the best actress prize at Sunday’s awards ceremony. Her main competition: Ruth Negga of Austin director Jeff Nichols’ “Loving,” or possibly Kristen Stewart of “Personal Shopper.”
The other late standout in Cannes is Iran’s “The Salesman,” which follows the fate of Rana (Taraneh Aliodoosti) and her husband Emad (Shahab Hosseini). The two work at a local school, and both are starring in a play, Arthur Miller’s “The Death of a Salesman.” One day, Rana thinks the person ringing her high-rise bell below is her husband, coming home from practicing the play, and she buzzes the caller in without asking. She starts to shower, but ends up being attacked by an intruder. She hits her head on the bathroom glass and goes unconscious, and neighbors discover her lying on the floor as the intruder runs down the steps.
When Emad gets home, he discovers that his wife is in the hospital, possibly with a concussion. But his wife won’t tell Emad exactly what happened. He suspects the worst, possibly a sexual assault, but his wife refuses to discuss the matter. She’s scared, and she doesn’t want to stay in the apartment any more.
While Rana tries to return to normalcy, her husband becomes obsessed with finding the attacker. It turns out that the man left his keys to his truck, a cellphone and some money behind. And Emad finds the truck and waits for the owner to come back to claim it, planning on a confrontation.
To say much more would give away some key plot points, but the director, whose previous films include “The Past” and “A Separation,” is masterful at building tension between the wife and husband, leading us to wonder where all of this will go.
With the premieres of “Elle” and “The Salesman,” the race for the major prizes on Sunday becomes more complicated. Some think “American Honey,” from British director Andrea Arnold, will score big. Others think Nichols’ “Loving” has a shot at a major prize. Some, including me, think Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” has to be among the contenders. And it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Germany’s Maren Ade become the second woman to win the Palme d’Or, for “Toni Erdmann.” Jane Campion is the only other woman who has won such an honor in Cannes, for “The Piano.”
There are several people, mainly among the European press, who think Olivier Assayas’ “Personal Shopper,” starring Stewart, will be among the award winners. And it would not be a surprise to see Kleber Mendonca Filho of Brazil win something for his Brazilian tale of a widow fighting a corrupt developer in “Aquarius.” And, no, you can’t rule out the Dardenne brothers, who premiered “The Unknown Girl” and are longtime Cannes favorites.
Sunday should be interesting.
Tonight, the winner of Un Certain Regard, the prestigious sidebar event, will be named.
Sean Penn told the Financial Times that he had a lot riding on the Cannes premiere of his new directorial effort, “The Last Face.” If he was counting on gaining support in Cannes for his film, he’s in a lot of trouble. It was one of the worst receptions of a film I’ve ever seen in Cannes, and he still has to do a press conference later in the day. Here are a few reasons why the movie failed so badly.
Here’s a film about the ravages of war in Africa, mainly in Liberia and the South Sudan. But unlike last year’s “Beasts of No Nation,” there are no significant roles for black people.
Instead, Penn focuses his story on a love affair between two doctors who work in refugee camps. They’re played by Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem, and the central argument in their relationship is whether they could do more good at the United Nations in Switzerland or helping the wounded in Africa. Theron’s character prefers the halls of the U.N., while Bardem prefers the camps. They argue and argue. But the dialogue is dreadful. And most of the words spoken in the film are mumbled voiceovers.
The supporting cast is equally awful, including poor Jean Reno, who utters some of the most ridiculous lines ever penned for the screen.
The movie features lots of surgeries, with an approach that almost seems like war-wound porn. We see legs being chopped off. We see a Caesarean section done in the jungle, on a woman who has had her throat slit. We see gaping wounds in legs and stomachs and elsewhere. It’s rather clear that Penn is trying to show us the horrors of war, but he goes too far.
The movie is so didactic that it ends with a lecture, given by Theron at a gathering of philanthropists, where she talks of the dreams of refugees and how they’re just like us. But lets make this clear: While Penn’s intentions might be good and warm-hearted, his movie is woefully tone-deaf. Cannes is the temple of art films, and there’s an artful way to tell the tragic story of African wars. See the aforementioned “Beasts of No Nation.” This is didacticism at its worst. It’s hard to believe that Penn, who has been known for his philanthropic works, hasn’t been warned about the “white savior” complex. But he walks right into it in “The Last Face.” He might want to return to acting.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s “The Neon Demon” premiered at Cannes Thursday night, and it has to be one of the strangest takes on the horror genre ever made. Here are five things you need to know before seeing it.
It’s bound to be unrated. Refs has always pushed boundaries, but this stylish film also features necrophilia from no other than Jena Malone. She works in the coroner’s office and puts makeup on the dead, when she’s not working for fashion executives.
The movie’s tagline should be: If you can’t beat them, eat them. Yep, we’re talking supermodel cannibals.
Elle Fanning seems like such a nice girl at first, but something goes terribly wrong with her. She knows all the other supermodels want to “be” her. So she really should be a bit more careful about choosing her friends. She says she’s not as innocent as she looks, but can she do battle with vicious supermodel cannibals?
The soundtrack by Cliff Martinez is fantastic. He’s reportedly coming to Austin in June for interviews, and it’s time to brush up on his past. He worked with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, fyi.
Refn thrives on controversy, so he probably won’t be too sorry to hear that his movie got wild boos on Thursday night at its press premiere. The press conference is on Friday. Be there or be eaten.
U.S. director Matt Ross has a winner in his Un Certain Regard entry at Cannes, “Captain Fantastic.”
The movie stars Viggo Mortensen as Ben, a left-wing father who is raising his family in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, where he’s home-schooling them in the ways of anti-capitalist, anti-fascist thought. His big hero is Noam Chomsky, and the family celebrates Noam Chomsky Day rather than Christmas. All the kids long for a serrated gutting knife, knowing that they’ll one day be required to stalk a deer and kill it, thus becoming a grownup.
These kids are smart. They’re physically fit. They can survive in the wilderness. And they have elaborate routines to fill their day, with plenty of reading time. Even the young ones are reading books like Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov.” And one young woman is reading “Lolita” and being asked to analyze its morality, especially that of the older man who seduces the young girl.
It’s fascinating to watch, but you begin to wonder where the mother is. It turns out that she has a bipolar disorder and has moved back in with her parents in the American Southwest. But even this attempt to seek treatment doesn’t work, and she ends up slashing her wrists.
Ben tells his children the truth, and they’re devastated, of course. But Ben and his merry troupe decide that they must attend the mother’s funeral, so they hop into an old bus and begin venturing out into civilization. And that’s where the real fun begins, as the children marvel at everyone being overweight.
The movie strikes a delicate balance between some of the children who are fascinated by video games and others who are fascinated by the variety of choices at a restaurant. But the most touching moments involve the oder son, Bo (George Mackay), who has no idea how to respond to a young woman’s flirting. It reveals what the kids have been missing, and it’s a beautifully handled scene.
The big problem for the family is this: the mother’s parents, played by Frank Langella and Ann Dowd, want to have a proper funeral and traditional burial for their daughter. But Ben has his wife’s will, and she wants to be cremated and have her ashes flushed down a public toilet. This doesn’t sit well with the parents, of course.
So the oddball family arrives at the funeral, in the scene pictured above, and fireworks ensue.
Ross not only directs but also wrote the screenplay. And it’s wonderfully funny, full or little kids quoting philosophers and the great thinkers of the past. It makes you wonder about our educational system, even while making you also wonder about the merits of raising children in the wilderness — far from the socializing influences of public or private school.
Whatever your views, the dialogue is crisp, and the performances are wonderful, even from the little kids. There’s full frontal nudity, so this isn’t for the whole family. It is, however, a perfect film for anyone who questions the values of consumer culture.
I knew I’d be in the minority about French-Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s new film, “It’s Only the End of the World,” which premiered in competition Wednesday night.
I liked it, but it was savaged on Twitter moments after the press departed the Palais. It’s these kinds of things that are so disheartening, but part of the game these days.
What’s the movie about? A gay man returns home after a 12-year-absence to tell his mother, brother and sister that he’s going to die soon. It could be AIDS, or some other disease. It’s not specified. But the son, Louis (Gaspard Ulliel), is a successful playwright who’s gay, and it’s obvious that his brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel) is quite resentful of Louis and his success. Antoine makes tools for a living. Louis is featured in glossy magazines.
If you want to get literary, and that’s actually appropriate since the movie is adapted from a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, it’s basically a story of The Prodigal Son who returns home but soon realizes that there’s no responsible adult parent. The father is dead. The mother (Nathalie Baye) is a kook. The older brother (Cassel) is vindictive; his wife (Marion Cotillard) is confused; and his sister Suzanne (Lea Seydoux) has never really known her brother well but is desperate to change things.
In case you didn’t notice, that’s an all-star French lineup of actors, and they’re quite good.
Most of the criticism has focused on the histrionics, the yelling, the claustrophobic scenes. But that’s typical of a play that’s being adapted into a film. (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” anyone?).
And yes, Dolan is gay, and yes, Dolan uses lots of closeups for Ulliel, whom he clearly thinks is gorgeous. But if you gotta pick a buy for closeups, you could do far worse than Ulliel. And that’s beside the point.
Here’s the deal. If you don’t think the controversial dialogue and rejection of the “prodigal son” is real, then you weren’t paying attention during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s onward. Many a “prodigal son” was rejected. And many went through this kind of scene.
So, the question is: Why are so many people hating this movie? Part of it probably has to do with Dolan’s early successes and his visual stylings. I’m sure many people will have reasoned judgments to contradict what I’ve said. That, too, is part of the game. But never underestimate envy.
As I’ve written before, I once asked Jim Jarmusch about the notion of grace and whether Bill Murray was searching for it in “Broken Flowers.” Jarmusch replied that he didn’t believe in grace and that he stopped going to the Catholic Church when he was 12. At the time, his cat had just died, and he was mourning and asked his priest whether the cat would go to heaven. And the priest said cats didn’t have souls, infuriating Jarmusch.
I was talking to Jarmusch on Wednesday in Cannes because he has a fantastic new movie, “Paterson,” starring Adam Driver.
I explained that I realized I was probably wrong to think about Catholic notions such as grace and that I’d probably have been more correct if I’d used a Zen Buddhist term, and that’s certainly an undercurrent in “Paterson.”
This brought back memories for Jarmusch, although he said he couldn’t remember whether it was his cat or his dog that died. At any rate, he confirmed that he’s more of a Buddhist, although not a strict, practicing one.
He said he does tai chi, and that he’s currently reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead because his mother is old and ill, and he’s trying to prepare himself for her death, at least mentally.
And then he launched into a reverie about his respect for life and energy in all living things, including plants and animals, and said he thinks our big problem is that we have become to “human-centric.”
He does not, however, have a similar attitude toward inanimate objects. “I have a terrible time with them. I’m always breaking a teacup or something, and I have to stop and do tai chi so I can accept that my house is full of broken things,” he says.
He also spoke glowingly of Nellie, the English bulldog who stars in “Paterson,” saying that the initial impulse was to go with a Jack Russell terrier. “She was adorable and looking out for the film,” he says. Nellie passed away two months ago, and was in what Jarmusch considers to be a groundbreaking transgender role as Marvin in “Paterson.”
And, that folks, is the essence of Jarmusch’s droll wit.
Cannes is always full of odd happenings and strange controversies. Here are few to savor:
At the screening of “Carol” last year, keepers of the red carpet prevented women who were wearing flats to walk the stairs. Heels are supposed to be mandatory, and men must wear tuxes. But last year’s huff caused a couple of funny moments this year. Susan Sarandon, who is always outspoken, reportedly wore flats on her trip up the carpet. And Julia Roberts, who was here for the “Money Monster” screening, took off her heels and walked barefoot. It was probably more a matter of practicality than protest.
Lots of disputes still surround British director Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey,” which was shot in the U.S. and features mostly unknown actors, except for Shia LaBeouf. A Variety critic speculated that it could be a contender for the Palme d’Or. But others still dismiss the film as overlong and repetitive. It features a group of kids going around the country, selling magazine subscriptions. They have lots of sex, do a lot of drugs, and get drunk no matter the time of day. It offers a fairly dim view of young adulthood in America, And some Americans have been huffy that Arnold is misrepresenting life in the States. That’s not my concern. At nearly three hours, it’s simply too long and repetitive for me. Sasha Lane of Texas has the starring role, even though she’s a newbie to the film scene. She was reportedly discovered on a scouting trip by Arnold’s team to Panama City, Fla., during spring break.
With all the glitz and glamour of the south of France, you’d think you might be able to go two weeks without thinking of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson. You’d be wrong. Robertson is in town to sell his new movie, “Torchbearer,” which had a screening in the market, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The trade daily reported that the poster for the film “shows Robertson clutching a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other, with a tagline that reads, ‘When man stops believing in God, he’ll believe in anything.’ ” He also reportedly misses Miss Kay’s cooking and predicts he’ll lose weight while here. No quiche for this dude.
Since 2001, a group of dog lovers have picked the best performance by a canine in Cannes, and this year’s frontrunner is the English bulldog from Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson.” The bulldog plays a crucial role in the film’s plot and makes all sorts of weird noises throughout the movie. The dog’s name is Nellie, although he’s in a transgender male role in “Paterson.” And if the dog wins, she won’t be able to accept the honor. She died a couple of months ago, says the “Paterson” star Adam Driver. Rest in peace, Nellie.
Kristen Stewart has gotten a bum rap in the United States because of her role in the “Twilight” series, which wasn’t exactly Oscar material. In French director Olivier Assayas’ “Personal Shopper,” she shows some of her overlooked acting talents.
It’ll be interesting to see how the movie plays in the United States. Its initial reception after the press screening on Monday night was not good. In fact, there were plenty of boos — something critics in Cannes are prone to do.
Part of that response was probably due to the ambiguity of the ending, which won’t be revealed here. But it’s safe to say that most audiences expect clear answers when watching a supposed genre horror film.
Still, Stewart gives a fine performance as a personal shopper for a wealthy woman in Paris. There’s much more going on, however, than just buying fancy clothes and jewels. Rather, Stewart’s character is a medium who is trying to make contact with her dead twin brother, Lewis.
She’s also addicted to her iPhone. And that’s the source of much of the movie’s mastery. She gets a message from an unknown number, and the messages begin to escalate, indicating that whoever is behind those messages is tracking all of her movements.
Most of the buzz in Cannes was somewhat insipid, focusing on Stewart’s topless scene, where she tries on one of the fetishistic breastplate harnesses that she has bought for her client. (The harness is to be worn underneath a sheer black dress.)
And there are a few less-than-artful uses of CGI to indicate the presence of a ghost.
To tell you the truth, I’m still not sure what to make of the movie. My initial response was negative, but I was sleepy and not fully engaged. “Personal Shopper” probably deserves another viewing. And I suspect it might be a good candidate for Austin’s Fantastic Fest.
British director David Mackenzie knows how to deliver a rip-roaring crime thriller, and he has an ear for West Texas idioms, too.
The movie stars Chris Pine as Toby, a divorced father of two boys, who has taken care of his mother before she died. He’s a good guy, but the ranch and home had to be mortgaged to cover her care, and the “kindly” bank has set a deadline to pay off the debt. But here’s the catch: Oil companies have discovered oil on the ranch, and Toby wants to make sure he can pass the land along to his kids in a trust so that they’ll escape the family’s cycle of poverty.
Enter brother Tanner (Ben Foster), who has just gotten out of prison and is ready to help. They decide to rob various branches of the bank that holds the mortgage, then give the money back to the bank by paying off the debt.
It’s sort of like Bonnie and Clyde, but it’s a brother act. And wow, is Tanner the brother. He’s a wild man, and he’s way too eager to use a gun. Toby, meanwhile, tries to keep him in check, with little success.
Naturally, the Law has to make an entrance, as the bank robberies multiply. And that’s where Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges) comes in. He’s old and wily and near retirement, and the spree of robberies gives him a chance to have a last bit of fun.
All three actors are fantastic, but Foster and Bridges have the showiest roles. Even then, they don’t own the movie. It’s pretty much stolen by a sassy waitress at a steakhouse, who asks the visiting Rangers what “they don’t want.” Turns out you’re gonna get a T-bone medium rare, and you need to decide whether you don’t want the corn or the beans. It’s hilarious. And I don’t have the name of the actress available, but she’s quite something.
The movie is scheduled to open in late summer in Austin, probably in August. It’s worth your time.