Christoph sent me notes from Cannes:
Well, as expected the festival lives up to its status as being hectic, crowded and sounding mor promising than it turns out. Mighty pricey place, too, but at least some bonding with the int. critics crowd makes up for it. Kent Jones – one nice and funny guy. In the spirit of the fest, very short three-liners about the movies, accompanied by ca. grade. May expand on some later point.
Hollywoood Ending D
Bad start: poor pacing, incredibly unfunny premise, aged Woodman indulging in slapstick that´s more painful than amusing. “An artist that was commercial” is said about Hitch at one point; this is neither. Opening film, believe it or not.
Balzac and the Chinese Seamstress (walked out)
Chinese cultural revolution as backdrop for Euro-coproduction cutesy. Hard work ain´t that bad if you play Mozart as peasants songs or so. Almost saved by the cute chick from Suzhou River, but not really.
Blissfully Yours A-
Quintessentially puzzling second feature by Apichotpang Seethaweerakul who previously did Mysterious Object At Noon
. Starts of brittle-absurdist, after the credits (45 mins in) the main characters hang around in a georgeous wood, doing nothing (i.e., having sex, eating, lying around), but its so goddamm sensual that I wish it never ended. Major talent to watch.
Bowling for Columbine B- (competition)
Michael Moore does his shtick, this time using the US gun frenzy as starting point. As usual with his work, totally one-sided, if entertaining (a South Park
import on American History in 2 mins is particualrly inspired) and unavoidably stumbling onto something right now and then. Damn self-aggrandizing, though, right down to the final “unmasking” of Charlton Heston. A colleague: “You can´t help but plugging for Heston at that point.”
Marie-Jo and her 2 Lovers B- (competition)
Good work by Marseille regionalist Robert Guedigan that gets the milieu right. Unfortunately he wants to makie his menage a trois really moving now and then which besmears his otherwise sympathetic film with embarassing use of music and a way-out ending. Actually better than the Moore, but whattheheck, who believes in grades anyway.
This year´s Memento
, maybe even slightly better: a fundamentally hollow, expertly shot piece of methaphysical thriller-babble from Spain whose genre-bending storyline is so full of genuinely crazy ideas that you don´t mind its emptiness right up to the end. Watch out for a streamlined and thus completely uninteresting Hollywood remake in a theatre near you soon.
The Hour of Religion C (competition)
Marco Bellochio nconfirms his status as old master by shooting a satire on religion that might have meant something 30 years ago. Sergio Castellito in the lead and permanent weirdness keep you dazedly hooked, but it only threatens
to become interesting at some point.
Sex Is Comedy B-
Or C+, I dunno: navel-gazing by Catherine Breillat, using the shooting of the sex scene from Fat Girl
as starting point for a reflection on how Catherine Breillat movies are made (including shameless self-portrait telegraphed via Anne Parillaud). For the converted; with the occasional deadpan joke that works: didn´t fulfill my hope raised by the title that the director might confess she´s an all-out jokester which I had suspected due to her previous work.
All Or Nothing B+ (competition)
Strong, at times close-to-great work by Mike Leigh which suffers from being slightly overfamiliar in the miserable working class territory (otherwise an A- would be more appropriate). No less than 16 brilliant performances with Ruth Sheen managing to steal the show nevertheless. How Timothy Spall turns his massive body into a wordless shell that deflects all humiliation while his eyes talk about the pain is just one example. Don´t miss.
The Uncertainty Principle B- (competition)
Will either drive you up the wall in boredom or let you rave (I did both a times). Slowly paced conversation piece that turns a thriller plot into a philosophical meditation. Theatrical in a totally filmic way: Manoel de Oliveira remains paradoxical and unpredictable. Seen in very sleepy state, might have bumped up the rating a notch otherwise. Even the boring parts are beautiful to look at, though.
24 Hour Party People B- (competition)
Chronicle of the Manchester music scene during the last twenty years that manages to be completely entertaining and say nothing at all (which is why it claims to be something different every three seconds). Confirms that Winterbottom has no worldview, only craftsmanship. Good acting (especially in the lead), wacky ending, forgotten the moment you see it. No pain involved in watching it, about which I´m glad at this point of the festival already: Great stuff for the no-attention-span generation.
10 Minutes Older B-
A kinda-grade, as this is typical omnnibus throwaway stuff: First five shorts have something to be commended, leave something to be desired. Kaurismäki´s films are deadpan, Erice´s beautiful, Herzog´s alienated, Jarmusch´s minimalist, Lee´s engaged, as if you didn´t know. Having found out that, leave before you endure the final two segments: Wenders´ dumb film-schooler sketch and Kaige´s absolutely horrible shenanigans.
Cry Woman (walked out)
For the first half hour or so, this looked like a good, slightly polished version of yer typical Chinese neorealist pic, Orphan Of Anyang
-style. Then the mode switches to comedy and that is so debile I jumped up and fled at the second instant they tried to be painfully funny (the first time around I had hoped it was only a temporary glitch).
Demonlover A (competition)
The first film to deserve the description cyber-thriller, Olivier Assayas´ film is the first to go beyond what Videodrome
achieved 19 yrs. ago. Possibly the riskiest film of the last 19 yrs., too. Can´t do it justice in a capsule: Mind-blowing and, no coincidence, the critically most hated film so far.
(Yeah, I missed P.T. Anderson´s new one because of Mike Leigh interview, thus blowing the chance to be incredibly hip; trustworthy colleagues claim it’s a sympathetic update of Jerry Lewis-comedy stuff, just managed to get to the starting-slightly-later new film by German New Wave Dandy Werner Schroeter.) Didn´t understand a single scene, but use of music and mise-en-scéne kept me interested throughout. Watch out for the finale (if you make it) where Isabelle Huppert (double role) eats her alter ego´s vomit to an old Austrian ditty. Interesting mess, thy name is Two
Fuck digital moviemaking. 70mm-images (restored print!) give the impression depth of field is endless. Still the greatest film of all time. Embarassing presentation with official rah-rah, including Michel Piccoli doing an awkward Mr. Hulot-impersonation.
Divine Intervention B- (competition)
Prankster look at the Isreali-Palestinian situation that wears out its welcome deadpan humor with monotony. Impressive for political incorrectness (Palestinian Babe sudenly kicks Israeli ass in digital Matrix
-style, I kid you not), less so for blatant symbolism. (Final image, methaphorical for the conflict: a pressure cooker, I kid you not).
(Saw 15 minutes of the new Lynne Ramsay film, which didn´t look bad and Samantha Morton promising in the lead, but was so unconcentrated because I had to do some official writing that I left to work. Wouldn´t mind seeing it, though).
Heavy-handed, clunky and pathetic stuff by Atom Egoyan who wanted to make a great film and ended up with a laughable one instead. (Good I didn´t get the interview.) Usual topics meet Armenian issues which may explain the wearisome pacing, but not the bad writing (unbelievably constructed plot-turns abound). Two reedeming facets: Elias Koteas´ De Niro-parody and the fact you´re glad that you´re watching this and not the even worse movie-within-the-movie.
Ten B (competition)
Maybe B+, if I hadn´t been so tired. Minor work, consisting only of shots of a (female) driver and the shots of the changing persons on the shotgun seat. Sounds not too inventive, but the well known Kiarostami-is-it-doc-is-it-fiction-riddle gives it some aesthic spin while the discussions (about the female situation in Iran) contain some of the most outrageous statements I´ve ever heard in a movie from that country.
(Crammed inbetween: Marty Scorsese gives a heartfelt tribute lecture to Billy Wilder and presents 20 mins footage of Gangs Of New York
which look visually stunning, but are lowered to trailer aesthetics by the Miramax marketing department and a horrible score. Can´t wait, though).
Spider B (competition)
In many ways even more minor than the Kiarostami, if good-looking. Cronenberg has wasted the last three years for making this absolutely moody, absolutely shopworn and assuredly executed low-key psychodrama. Somnabulist genre work, exceedingly well-done, but somehow very unworthy. Good that Assayas had made the Cronenberg film of the festival already.