Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Sundance London 2017 - Dina by Dan Sickles & Antonio Santini


It’s a credit to Dogwoof and their impressive output that they have yet to release a single film this year that could be considered below par. The latest offering from this tireless outfit is every bit as exhilarating as the rest of their releases.

Presented as part of Sundance London Film Festival, Dina is a fantastic piece of filmmaking. This fascinating documentary is not only touching, funny and genuinely engaging, but it also deals with themes that not many filmmakers would dare approach.

Sundance London 2017 - A Ghost Story by David Lowery


David Lowery has become a Sundance little darling. His latest feature, A Ghost Story, was a festival sensation last January in Park City. In fact, the queue for the press screening was immense, despite the heavy snow outside the tent. The organisers soon realised they had to open a second room for the screening as they didn’t want to let the critics down. This week, A Ghost Story has its UK premiere and the filmmaker is coming to London for a talk. You can check the festival schedule here. But before you make any plans, let’s investigate this fever. Is A Ghost Story really extraordinary?

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - Awards & Comments


The jury has just handed over the awards at the Cannes Film Festivals. This year more than ever, there has been a real split between the French and the international press. The former favoured 120 Battements Par Minute and The Day After, the latter Loveless, The Square and (to a lesser extent), The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and the jury was more in tune with them. The real surprise came not so much from the films that featured in the list of awards, more in the order they were given awards for.

As for last year, I did not predict a single award correctly, although I had one nearly right as I knew Nicole Kidman would not leave empty-handed, she was just rewarded in an unexpected and rather brilliant way. I did have most of the winning films in my list of predictions, but had the actual awards they received the wrong way round.

Cannes 2017 - Awards Predictions


This edition has been a solid year, with few real clunkers (even Le Redoutable did not end up being the disaster we had all somehow predicted), but not quite on par with 2016, which had been exceptional, and it would have been foolish to expect 2017 to match it. Since the awards are decided by a small jury (this year made up of such wildly different artists as Pedro Almodovar, Will Smith, Maren Ade, Paolo Sorrentino etc...), it is fiendishly difficult, and somehow pointless, to try to second guess what their tastes in films might be based on their own work and personality. After all, who expected 2013 President of the Jury Steven Spielberg to fall in love with Blue Is The Warmest Colour? Yet this is precisely what I am going to do, based on the films I saw and the general "vibe", despite my near total failure at predicting any of the awards last year.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - Marlina The Murderer In Four Acts by Mouly Surya


Despite Indonesia being the fourth most populated country in the world, its cinema has rarely made much of an impact outside its borders, and with Marlina The Murderer In Four Acts by Mouly Surya, which just screened at Director's Fortnight, this is only the third time the country has had a film in Cannes in any strand, and the first in twelve years.

Marlina (Marsha Timothy), a recently widowed woman living in a small house in the arid countryside of Sumba Island, is attacked by a group of men, only for her to take matters in her own hands by killing them all in self-defence. She sets on a journey to the police to report the crime while the rest of the gang goes in her pursuit.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - Nos Années Folles by André Téchiné


French director André Téchiné was given a tribute at this year's Cannes Film Festival, as part of their 70th birthday celebrations. Most of the legendary actresses he has worked with were present, probably one of the biggest concentration of French acting legends outside the French Film Awards: Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Sandrine Kiberlain, Juliette Binoche... and many more (but no Adjani!), all of them sat on the same row, one of those Cannes moments that makes you want to pinch yourself to check you are not dreaming. The festival also presented the director's new film, Nos Années Folles.

Nos Années Folles is based on a true story, one whose premise is so unlikely that it proves yet again that life is stranger than fiction: World War One deserter Paul (Pierre Deladonchamps, seen in Stranger By The Lake (2013)) goes into hiding in the basement of the house occupied by his wife Louise (Céline Sallette) and her mum rather than face the front once more. Seeing her husband grow restless at his lack of freedom, Louise devises an unlikely plan, dressing up Paul as a woman to allow him to leave the house, an arrangement he is reluctant to accept at first, only to fully embrace it for years to come, even when the war is over and the threat of imprisonment is long gone, having become a celebrity in the process.

Cannes 2017: The Villainess by Jung Byung-gil



Review by Laurent de Alberti


South Korean films seem to form the staple of the Midnight Screenings at the Cannes Film Festival, and understandably, considering their directors' mastery of genre cinema, coupled with their formal skills. There has been some fodder over the years though, but not The Villainess, presented this year, oh no, not The Villainess!

In The Villainess, Sook-hee (Kim Ok-Bin) was trained to become an assassin since childhood. She is brought to the attention of South Korea's Intelligence Agency after a particularly bold act of vengeance, and recruited among their black ops all female team of assassins, with the promise to be sent back to civilian life after ten years of service, and of a better life for the daughter she is soon to give birth to. A man from her past reemerges however, and her loyalty is put to the test.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - How To Talk To Girls At Parties by John Cameron Mitchell


A sci-fi comedy set in Croydon in the 70's with Nicole Kidman as an ageing punk called Boadicea? When that was announced, I was first in the queue! Then I realised who the director was, and I winced, but kept faith. None of John Cameron Mitchell's films have worked for me, and he often seems to hide his lack of talent between a strong, flashy premise (Hedwig) or graphic scenes (Shortbus).

In How To Talk To Girls At Parties,  adapted from a short story by Neil Gaiman, a trio of young punks led by Enn (Alex Sharp) is invited to an afterparty in a house after a concert, populated by strange dwellers whose unusual antics make the boys think they have come across a cult at first. Little do they realise that they are actually aliens, and one of them, Zan (Elle Fanning), wants to break free from her world of conformity, embracing Earth and falling for Enn.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - Loveless by Andrey Zvyagintsev



Andrey Zvyagintsev made an impact in Cannes in 2014 with the bombastic, Kafka-esque nightmare Leviathan, and walked away with the award for best screenplay. He is back this year in competition with Loveless (but then you'd expect his new film to be called Loveless).

In Loveless, Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Alexey Rozin) are going through a messy divorce, having both found a new partner already. Their son Alyosha is the last "detail" to be sorted before they can move on with their new lives, but in the midst of a particularly acrimonious fight, he vanishes (not that they even notice at first!).

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - Ismael's Ghosts by Arnaud Desplechin


There had been much noise when Cannes regular Arnaud Desplechin was turned down for the official selection in 2015, and ended up at Director's Fortnight, by the same critics who complain that "it's always the same people", proving that Cannes can never do right in the eyes of some. The French director is back in the official selection, but not in competition, his film Ismael's Ghosts opening the festival this year.

Ismael's Ghosts is a tale of two stories, focused on both the artistic and love life of film director Ismael (Matthieu Amalric). His first wife Carlotta (Marion Cotillard) disappeared twenty years ago and is presumed dead. After years of womanising, he meets then marries Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg), only for Carlotta to reappear out of nowhere. We also follow the incredibly erratic shoot of his latest film, an espionage story based on the life of his younger brother, Ivan (Louis Garrel).