Cannes

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flipp525
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Re: Cannes

Postby flipp525 » Mon May 19, 2014 3:01 pm

Sabin wrote:It seems like whenever Hillary Swank is good, she wins an Oscar. I doubt she'll win a third one, but could she be nominated? Eh, sure. Last year was an awful lineup of Best Actress nominees. I'm sure she could have fit in there.

Awful? Really? There've been much worse. It wasn't 2005, or even 1975 for that matter.
"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."

-Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

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Re: Cannes

Postby Sabin » Sun May 18, 2014 5:46 pm

It seems like whenever Hillary Swank is good, she wins an Oscar. I doubt she'll win a third one, but could she be nominated? Eh, sure. Last year was an awful lineup of Best Actress nominees. I'm sure she could have fit in there.
Philomena is one of the year's best Philomenas!

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Re: Cannes

Postby ITALIANO » Sun May 18, 2014 3:31 pm

Big Magilla wrote:
ITALIANO wrote:In the meantime the Italian press has found its favorite for the Best Actress prize (at least till now). And - surprise - it's Hilary Swank for the Tommy Lee Jones western! For once it seems that she's actually impressive, but it's good that the Academy has rarely been a fans of western, so a third Oscar should be impossible.

Ah, but then those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Let's not forget that Walter Brennan won his third Oscar for a western.



True.

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Re: Cannes

Postby Big Magilla » Sun May 18, 2014 2:37 pm

ITALIANO wrote:In the meantime the Italian press has found its favorite for the Best Actress prize (at least till now). And - surprise - it's Hilary Swank for the Tommy Lee Jones western! For once it seems that she's actually impressive, but it's good that the Academy has rarely been a fans of western, so a third Oscar should be impossible.

Ah, but then those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Let's not forget that Walter Brennan won his third Oscar for a western.

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Re: Cannes

Postby ITALIANO » Sun May 18, 2014 12:09 pm

In the meantime the Italian press has found its favorite for the Best Actress prize (at least till now). And - surprise - it's Hilary Swank for the Tommy Lee Jones western! For once it seems that she's actually impressive, but it's good that the Academy has rarely been a fans of western, so a third Oscar should be impossible.

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Re: Cannes

Postby Mister Tee » Fri May 16, 2014 8:17 pm

Variety weighs in, with enthusiasm.

Winter Sleep
Chief Film Critic
Justin Chang
Chief Film Critic @JustinCChang

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is at the peak of his powers with “Winter Sleep,” a richly engrossing and ravishingly beautiful magnum opus that surely qualifies as the least boring 196-minute movie ever made. Following Ceylan’s sublime 2011 drama “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” this equally assured but considerably more accessible character study tunnels into the everyday existence of a middle-aged former actor turned comfortably situated hotel owner — and emerges with a multifaceted study of human frailty whose moral implications resonate far beyond its remote Turkish setting. Simultaneously vast and intimate, sprawling and incisive, and talky in the best possible sense, the film will be confined to the ultra-discerning end of the arthouse market thanks to its daunting running time and deceptively snoozy title, but abundant rewards lie in wait for those who seek it out at festivals and beyond.

Deep in the central Anatolian region of Cappadocia, a poor boy, Ilyas (Emirhan Doruktutan), throws a rock at a moving truck and shatters the front passenger window, startling the two men in the vehicle as well as the audience. Not long afterward, Ilyas’ surly drunk of a father, Ismail (Nejat Isler), nearly comes to physical blows with the driver (Ayberk Pekcan), while the other man, Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), hangs back at a timid distance. It may not be immediately clear, given how the scene plays out, but this is, in fact, Aydin’s story, and what we’ve just seen is a minor example of his complacency and casual indifference to the suffering around him.

Something of a small-town celebrity due to his earlier acting career and the regular columns he now writes for the local newspaper (Voices of the Steppe), the grizzled, gray-haired Aydin leads a more idyllic life than most. Educated and wealthy, with an abundance of knowledge about Turkish theater that he hopes to turn into a book someday, he runs a small hotel with his much younger wife, Nihal (Melisa Sozen). He is also Ismail’s landlord, and has recently had to send around a debt collector — a humiliation not lost on Ismail’s brother Hamdi (Serhat Kilic), an eager-to-please imam who brings young Ilyas around in an attempt to make amends for the (now-explained) glass-breaking incident.

But while the film will eventually return to that matter before the coda, what’s remarkable is the manner in which the script (written by Ceylan and his wife, Ebru) steers away from run-of-the-mill plot mechanics in favor of a more revealing and no less absorbing immersion in the conversations — long, glorious, generously overflowing, superbly scrulpted and acted conversations — among Aydin and his friends and family. Some of these run for several minutes on end, as when Aydin gets into an extended argument with his recently divorced sister, Necla (Demet Akbag), which steadily devolves into viciously personal character attacks that are clearly not being lobbed for the first time.

Individual character, in fact, is what interests Ceylan most here, and without registering as overly didactic, the moral positions debated in “Winter Sleep” cannot help but rouse similar questions among attentive viewers — about the decisions we make, the images we present to the world, and the degree of grace and empathy we choose to extend to those in need. As soon becomes clear from his sister’s bitter tirade, Aydin is a man whose selfish pride and complacency have largely deadened him to matters of faith and feeling, and who has effectively buried his emotions beneath a carapace of intellectual superiority and practiced cynicism. “I wish my threshold of self-deception was as low as yours,” Necla tells him witheringly.

Still, it’s Nihal who really draws blood when she gets the chance, spurred by a disagreement with Aydin over a charity project she’s undertaken to improve conditions at local schools. Ceylan has captured relationships coming apart at the seams before, notably in 2006′s “Climates,” and the long marital-spat sequence he stages here is a revelation. So is Sozen, who simply mesmerizes in her role as Nihal; within a matter of minutes, the actress lays bare the essence of a beautiful, intelligent, passionate young woman who gave up nearly everything she cared about in order to take a husband many decades her senior, and who resents his interference with one of the few opportunities for personal fulfillment she still has available to her.

Nihal has since come to the irrevocable conclusion that Aydin is, for all his many indisputably fine qualities, “an unbearable man” — arrogant, judgmental, stingy and ultimately misanthropic at heart — and it’s a measure of the integrity of Bilginer’s performance that he does full justice to the charge. Whether he’s strategically deflecting his wife’s criticisms or responding with a patronizing chuckle, he never seems to be making an overt bid for audience sympathy at the expense of emotional truth, and yet he never sacrifices the underlying charm that has no doubt been crucial to his success. A well-known face in Turkish cinema who has racked up several English-language credits over the past few decades (including “Ishtar” and the British soap “EastEnders”), Bilginer brings Aydin fully to life onscreen, making him eminently rewarding company even at his most indefensible.

Uneventful as all this may sound on paper, it will prove entirely involving onscreen for viewers who love the increasingly rare spectacle of vibrantly conceived, fully fleshed-out human characters delving into the emotional muck and mire of their relationships. Aydin and Nihal may be speaking in rapid-fire Turkish, but viewers of any background will pick up on the seething language of emotional warfare, the relentless verbal thrusts and parries, and may well find themselves cringing in recognition.

The film’s tone does shift and broaden unexpectedly in its third and final hour, as Aydin decides, for the sake of his marriage, to retire to Istanbul for the winter. The consequences of the decisions he and his wife make during their time apart are alternately humorous and wrenching, building to an emotional climax that seems to rebuke the characters for their naivete even as it enfolds them in a tender final embrace. Particularly crucial here are the exceptional performances of Isler and Kilic as two very different brothers who, thanks to their everyday struggles with failure and poverty, cannot even afford the luxury of Aydin and Nihal’s bickering self-reflections.

It comes as no surprise that the director’s regular cinematographer, Gokhan Tiryaki, has produced another treasure trove of exquisite widescreen images, taking particular advantage of the Cappadocian landscape as it’s being pelted with snow. And yet, for all the region’s visual wonders — eerie cave formations, buildings cut directly into rock, wild horses galloping freely about — the supreme visual achievement of “Winter Sleep” may well be the beauty it finds in the crags and contours of its actors’ marvelously expressive faces, sustained and magnified at every turn by Ceylan and Bora Goksingol’s crisp, seamless editing. The film’s long midsection will likely have at least a few viewers thinking back to “Scenes From a Marriage,” and indeed, there is something of Bergman’s artistry in the heightened intensity and sensitivity with which Ceylan scrutinizes his characters, though transfixed by their every expression and word.

Musically, the director borrows a page from still another European master: The only accompaniment we hear is a recurring non-diegetic snippet from Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 20 — a direct allusion to Bresson’s “Au hasard Balthazar,” one of the greatest spiritual laments for the human condition ever committed to film. Ceylan’s bracingly humanist vision may not be quite up to that exalted standard, but a tip of the hat feels more than fully earned.

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Re: Cannes

Postby Mister Tee » Fri May 16, 2014 7:31 pm

P.S. Atom Egoyan's film The Captive is rivaling Grace of Monaco for hostile critical response.

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Re: Cannes

Postby Mister Tee » Fri May 16, 2014 6:57 pm

Hollywood Reporter on Winter Sleep (Variety & Screen International very slow to post).

Some people are touting this as a masterpiece, but at least some of them seem to be people who came in with that hope -- huge fans of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, which I have to admit didn't totally float my boat.

'Winter Sleep' ('Kis Uykusu'): Cannes Review
12:16 PM PDT 5/16/2014 by Deborah Young

Winter Sleep,' Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Competition)

The Bottom Line
If Chekhov made an extremely long film, this would be it.

The rich and the poor clash in Turkish Cappadocia in Nuri Bilge Ceylan's epic story of a marriage.

The esoteric world of masterful Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan proves as vibrant and uneasy as ever in Winter Sleep, a Chekhovian meditation on a marriage that returns to the mood of the director’s early films like Climates and Clouds of May. This is not necessarily good news for fans of his last two very particular murder mysteries, Three Monkeys and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, where the barest hint of genre offered viewers a tentative inroad into a long, slow-moving exploration of the human soul.

Here, things are different. The 3½ hour running time takes no prisoners even among art house audiences and demands a commitment to attentive viewing that, despite the film's sometimes terrible longeurs, pays off in the end. But the challengingly long dialogue scenes, shot in brazenly elementary shot-countershot style, will further challenge audiences who lack excellent subtitle-reading skills. Its bow in Cannes competition offers the kind of showcase that can make a difference, and some kind of awards recognition could signal roomier niches later on. Ceylan has already won the Grand Jury Prize (for Distant) and the best director award (for Three Monkeys.)

The story is set in one of the most picturesque corners of the Earth, the steppes of Cappadocia, where ancient mushroom-like caves dot the stony landscape. Aydin (Haluk Bilginer), a local landowner who has retired from an acting career, has converted one of these into the trendy Othello Hotel. The name turns out to be a red herring, because jealousy has nothing to do with the quiet domestic crisis that follows between the gray-bearded Aydin and his lovely young wife, Nihal (Melisa Sozen).

Driven to "the village" by his faithful factotum Hidayet (a commanding Ayberk Pekcan), Aydin falls victim to a rock-throwing boy who nearly gets them into a car accident. The boy's father is a poor jailbird and drunkard, and their meeting is highly unpleasant. Aydin retreats to the solitude of his tasteful studio, where he works on writing his high-principled weekly column for the local gazette.

Long-winded dialogues with his divorced sister Necla (Demet Akbag) offer painfully true insight into Aydin's irritating, better-than-thou character and introduce one of the film's principal themes: the cynicism of the rich toward the poor. While Aydin tends to bury his head in the sand on the gulf that separates his lifestyle (actually modest by most standards) and that of his dirt-poor tenants in arrears with the rent, Nihal takes concrete steps to improve her community by collecting donations for the local school. When he finds out what she’s doing, Aydin butts in and tries to bully her out of her charitable intentions.

Rather than show Aydin and Nihal slugging it out, Ceylan and his regular co-scripter Ebru Ceylan describe their clashing characters in dialogue, a risky approach that at times skirts somnolence. Yet their bickering, nagging back-and-forth, which also involves Necla, is revelatory and wincingly on target.

Just as everything seems clear and black-and-white, the film tosses the characters up into the air and lets them fall in quite different places. The final half-hour is a joy to watch, as turning points follow in rapid succession. There are even a few moments of humor, like the foreman slipping on his icy boots, or a hilarious drunken revelry by the village teacher (Nadir Saribacak) that are welcome breaks from the solemn mood of a marriage coming apart at the seams.

Given the fact that Aydin is an actor, he appears in many guises throughout the film as husband, writer, philosopher and landowner, and Bilginer runs through a repertory of attitudes and postures, to the extent of looking very different from scene to scene. As the young wife, Sozen is smart and cool, every bit as analytical as her manipulative spouse, but not without her own faults. The well-chosen supporting cast is very fine, including extended scenes with the simpatico local Imam Hamdi (Serhat Kilic), who is himself fighting debt and poverty, and Nejat Isler as his proud, penniless brother who shocks Nihal to tears in a superbly shot climax.

As in all Ceylan’s flms, the landscape plays such a key role it should have an agent. Here the unearthly panorama of giant stones and blowing grass, dotted with Disney-like fairy-tale houses, is home to wild horses. At first the fog rolls in, then it begins to snow, giving DP Gokhan Tiryaki a landscape of the soul to mold with light.

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Re: Cannes

Postby Mister Tee » Thu May 15, 2014 9:20 pm

And now, Timbuktu.

Screen Daily
Timbuktu

15 May, 2014 | By Dan Fainaru

Dir: Abderrahmane Sissako. France-Mauritania. 2014. 97mins

At a time when the entire world is shocked by the shocking acts of the Boko Haram cohorts in Nigeria, Abderrahmane Sissako’s film quietly, but forcefully, suggests that the new scourge of Africa seems to no longer be colonialism but the bloody terror inflicted on its innocent habitants by Muslim extremists all over the continent. Several times featuring in the Un Certain Regard section; having served in more than one Cannes jury and after shining in an out of competition slot with Bamako (2006), Sissako finally lands - and most deservedly - in the festival’s main competition with a film whose uncanny timeliness will not be lost on its audiences and might easily find itself with an award.


Sissako’s precise, economic, style looks almost monastic, but unsurprisingly obtains a far more powerful effect.

The screenplay is based on an incident that took place a couple of years ago in a small city in the north of Mali. In 2012, during the brief spell they ruled the region, Islamic Jihadists executed a couple for living together and bringing up their children, without having been properly married. Working out of this basic premise, the script draws a firm line between the simple, pious but reverential faith of the locals and the brutal, inhuman conduct of the invaders, who claim, though they are neither saintly nor really observant, to perpetrate their horrors in the name of God.

Brandishing guns, driving madly through the desert into peaceful villages and espousing the rules of Sharia, they tell their unsuspecting victims - who did not quite understand what was happening to them - that music is forbidden; walking in the streets means loitering; women with face, hands or feet uncovered are sinful and all transgressions of the law are punishable either by lashes administered in public places or by actual stoning, with the condemned buried up to their neck in the sand and the executioners flinging stones at them until they die.

Though the plot revolves around a couple, Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed) and Satima (Toulou Kiki), who live peacefully on a dune outside town until a nearby fisherman kills one of their cows, Sissako draws a larger and more elaborate network of details, offering a composite picture of innocence trampled over by fundamentalist craze, which has less to do with religion or faith and much more with the thirst for unlimited power, using religion just as an excuse to crush any kind of insubordination.

Calm, controlled and confidently displaying his visual language, the backdrop of Sissako’s film paints on the one hand a powerfully well balanced picture of an almost animistic indigenous society – though officially their religion is Muslim – with glimpses of the Western world breaking in every once in a while, for instance in a lively argument about the respective qualities of soccer superstars Zinadine Zidane and Leo Messi.

On the other hand, the intruders who do not speak the language of the local tribes (communication difficulties are underlined all through) and are completely alien to their traditions and way of life, but empowered by the might of the rifles they hold in their hands, and the belief that they have the right to arbitrarily enforce their own rules and punish anyone who does not submit to them.

After all the orgiastic brutalities Hollywood indulges in to show the mean streak of the human race, Sissako’s precise, economic, style looks almost monastic, but unsurprisingly obtains a far more powerful effect, whether it is an amazing long shot ending the encounter between Kidane and the fisherman; the scene of a woman cruelly whipped for having dared to sing or a couple stoned to death for sharing the same room after dark. The casting works perfectly, both for the professionals (mostly playing jihadists), or amateurs, and the camerawork of Sofiane El Fani (who shot Blue Is The Warmest Colour) confirms she is a bright new force, equally gifted when handling intimate portraits or large landscapes.


Variety

May 14, 2014 | 10:34PM PT

Abderrahmane Sissako confirms his status as one of the true humanists of recent cinema with this stunningly shot and deeply empathetic drama.

Jay Weissberg

In the hands of a master, indignation and tragedy can be rendered with clarity yet subtlety, setting hysteria aside for deeper, more richly shaded tones. Abderrahmane Sissako is just such a master, and while previous films have showcased his skill at bringing magnetic dignity to his characters, “Timbuktu” confirms his status as one of the true humanists of recent cinema. Set in the early days of the jihadist takeover of northern Mali in 2012, the film is a stunningly shot condemnation of intolerance and its annihilation of diversity, told in a way that clearly denounces without resorting to cardboard perpetrators. The film’s Cannes berth and critical acclaim will translate to strong Euro arthouse play with niche Stateside appeal.

Most news reports from the time focused on the destruction by foreign Islamic fundamentalists of Timbuktu’s cultural heritage sites — unconscionable acts that scar a people’s psyche. Sissako powerfully alludes to this within the first few minutes, as a truckload of jihadists machine-gun traditional masks and statuettes. It’s a perfect way of suggesting the laying waste to centuries-old traditions while allowing the director to then focus on people, rather than artifacts.

As in his previous pics (“Bamako,” “Waiting for Happiness”), Sissako offers a choral structure, here designed to convey the multicultural makeup of the area where city dwellers of various ethnicities and the nomadic Tuareg people coexist in generally respectful fashion. Newly arrived Arabic-, French- and English-speaking jihadists patrol the city and its environs (shooting was actually done in the Mauritanian cities of Oualata and Nema), enforcing bans on music, soccer, most socializing, and uncovered women. The local imam (Adel Mahmoud Cherif) calmly argues against their narrow, ultra-orthodox dogma, but he has no influence over these intruders, a rag-tag bunch composed of doctrinally committed leaders and their largely irresolute young followers.

Rather than turning the jihadist captains into stereotypical demons, “Timbuktu” shows them as men who have not entirely forgotten their hearts but encased them in steel, projecting an outward sympathy while holding to a strict interpretation of scripture that denies self-realization, especially for women. Abdelkrim (Abel Jafri) drives to the tent of a Tuareg family to convince the strong-willed Satima (Toulou Kiki) to cover her head. Her neighbors have already fled, and she tells her loving husband, Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed), that they should move closer to other people, but he wants to stay put.

A goat and cattle herder, Kidane is the proud father of Toya (Layla Walet Mohamed), 12, and guardian of orphan Issan (Mehdi AG Mohamed). While driving the herd to water, Issan loses control of his charges and a prize cow gets caught in the nets of fisherman Amadou. Furious, Amadou spears the beast (the animal’s demise is tenderly shot); Kidane arrives packing a pistol merely as a threat, but their physical struggle makes the gun discharge, and the fisherman is killed. The sequence has a startling emotional grip yet also a protean beauty, capturing the action in a long shot of the shimmering lakeside expanse.

Punishment is swift, not just for Kidane but also for others who have transgressed the fundamentalists’ interpretation of sharia law. In town, soldiers arrest four people for making music, subjecting the singer, Fatou (Fatoumata Diawara), to 40 lashes. She kneels, dressed in a black abaya, tears staining her face, gently crying out and softly singing. It’s impossible not to compare this with Patsey’s flogging in “12 Years a Slave,” which was pitched at a far more hysterical level as the camera registered her grotesquely flayed flesh. Steve McQueen’s scene is painful to watch and emotionally draining, yet Sissako renders a similar sequence with significantly more discretion and makes its effect far more profoundly felt.

Abdelkrim shoots off the top of a tree in the dip between sand dunes, as if even nature is immodestly exposing herself. Individuality is being snuffed out, and though momentarily protected by her eccentricities, the brightly robed Zabou (Kettly Noel), part Lady of Shalott, part madwoman, surely won’t be allowed to keep flouting the authority of the self-designated Islamic police. “Timbuktu” makes very clear that this wave of intolerance isn’t grown from Malian soil, even if the relationship between nomadic shepherd and rooted fisherman is fraught with its own tension. “We are the guardians of all deeds,” says a jihadist to the imam, thereby dismissing any attempt at freedom of expression and movement.

Sissako states he was unbearably moved by an online video of an unmarried couple buried up to their heads and stoned to death; he includes a similar scene, showing just enough to make the viewer wince, yet not so much as to feel like a gory spectacle. It’s part of the power of “Timbuktu,” which endows its characters with pride and love, shows their dignity stolen, and respects their humanity enough to refuse a pornographic clarity when they’re beaten, or worse. As always in the director’s films, women are wise, forceful presences, far too often victims of men’s headstrong impulsiveness.

Performances are mesmeric, even the smaller roles, and Sissako’s unfailing sense of color, contrasting with the pale desert landscape, holds the eye without distracting from the story. D.p. Sofiane El Fani creates stately compositions quite removed from the neorealism of frequent collaborator Abdellatif Kechiche, and the music, with its combination of traditional Malian melodies and more Western orchestral accompaniment, is beautifully suited to the images.

Hollywood Reporter
12:12 AM PDT 5/15/2014 by Deborah Young

Timbuktu,' Abderrahmane Sissako (Competition)


The Bottom Line

Superbly evocative and heart-breaking.

A loving desert family is torn apart by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Africa in Abderrahmane Sissako’s poetic social outcry.

Timbuktu is a name that conjures up exotic adventure; an important trading post for the Mali empire, in its Golden Age it was a university center of Islamic learning. But after watching Abderrahmane Sissako’s devastating drama, it's likely to become a synonym for the worst excesses of Islamic fundamentalism, which are mercilessly depicted in all their everyday cruelty, horror and stupidity. Despite some narrative weaknesses that dilute the overall emotional impact, Timbuktu is a hard film to forget and once again brings Sissako to the center stage of African cinema. It is also an eye-opener on the methodical spread of Jihadist influence in the sub-Sahara in spite of popular resistance.

The film’s methods are boldly unorthodox and its constantly alternating moods and shifts in tone from drama to humor, joy to tragedy can be disconcerting. It’s not a film for all audiences, but despite its eccentricities it is always watchable, thanks to strongly drawn characters and the soul-stirring poetry of its imagery.

As the film opens, the fundamentalists hold control of Timbuktu, presented not as a city (the film was shot in Mauritania) but as bits and pieces of solid red mud walls rising into a blue sky. Outside the town lies the vastness of the desert. Though many of their neighbors have fled, Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed ) and his wife Satima (Toulou Kiki) live in a traditional open tent with their 12-year-old daughter Toya. The fourth member of the family is Issa, an orphaned boy who tends Kidane’s small herd of eight cattle.

In town the Islamists run around with loudspeakers announcing their latest prohibitions in the name of Allah: music, soccer and smoking are banned outright, and women have to wear socks and gloves in the sweltering heat. A later edict ridiculously bans doing "any old thing in a public place." Underlining the foreignness of these new impositions is the fact that the “Jihadists” don’t speak the local lingo and have to be translated from Arabic into French and English to even make themselves understood. Making them even more unpopular with the locals (who are shown as normal, God-fearing, life-loving Muslims) are the automatic weapons that they look for any excuse to use. When they arrogantly barge into a mosque full of men in prayer, they’re told off by the local imam. But the guns they tote talk with a loud voice and allow them to impose the harshest Shariah laws in kangaroo courts.

Their influence reaches even into the desert, where Kidane and Satima enjoy a little more freedom. Satima and Toya don’t cover their heads, for instance, and Kidane plays his guitar at night. In town such behavior leads to instant arrest and trial, resulting in public lashing or even stoning to death, glimpsed in a brief but horrifying scene. The delicate situation finally explodes over a banal quarrel between Kidane and a local fisherman when the family’s cattle invade his fishing nets. An elemental crime filmed in long shot lights the fuse for tragedy and delivers the characters to their fate in an unexpected finale.

None of this would be so extraordinary had Sissako not set the story in a highly convincing natural world bathed in sunlight and swept by sand. The women’s long flowing dresses add notes of bright color to the archaic scene, while cell phones, motorbikes and trucks remind us what century it is. But the horrors perpetrated by the so-called Jihadists are clearly aimed at casting the populace into the Dark Ages.

In contrast to their ideological cruelty, Sissako casts the human warmth of everyday citizens, like a fishmonger in the market who refuses point blank to wear gloves, and a young woman who sings through her tears as she is being lashed (Malian actress and composer Fatoumata Diawara.) And he chooses a girl who is anything but resigned to her fate, the daughter Toya played with natural maturity by child actress Layla Walet Mohamed, as the face of Africa’s future.

Though quite a different animal from the director’s last film Bamako (The Court), which used a mock public trial to educate audiences about African debt and economics, this film also reaches for moments of humor to lighten the drama. For example, a clownish Jihadist from Libya who sets himself up as a kingpin needs an interpreter to communicate the simplest things. Hypocritically, he smokes in secret and casts a lustful eye on Satima. There is also a delightful madwoman, played with regal aplomb by Haitian actress and dancer Kettly Noel, who to the audience’s delight liquidates the baddies with a single choice word and a small voodoo doll.

A great help is the palpably sensuous cinematography by Sofian El Fani who follows his fine work on Blue Is the Warmest Color with an open-air feast of sunlight and space. The musical selection from Amine Bouhafa is subtle and persuasive.

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Re: Cannes

Postby Mister Tee » Thu May 15, 2014 9:08 pm

Sonic gets up alot earlier in the day than I do.

Here (in installments) the Mr. Turner reviews:

Variety

Chief Film Critic
Scott Foundas
Chief Film Critic @foundasonfilm

English painting’s renowned master of light, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), gets a suitably illuminating screen biography in Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner,” an ecstatically beautiful and exquisitely detailed portrait of the artist as a cantankerous middle-aged man whose brilliance with the brush overshadows his sometimes appalling lack of social graces. Returning to the large-canvas period filmmaking of his 1999 Gilbert & Sullivan bio “Topsy-Turvy,” Leigh has made another highly personal study of art, commerce and the glacial progress of establishment tastes, built around a lead performance from longtime Leigh collaborator Timothy Spall that’s as majestic as one of Turner’s own swirling sunsets. A natural awards contender across multiple categories, the pic rolls out Dec. 19 Stateside via Sony Classics following a bevy of further fest appearances.

Leigh has long spoken of wanting to make a Turner film, and his affinity for his subject is palpable in virtually every frame of “Mr. Turner,” which concentrates on roughly the last 25 years in the life of the painter who pushed landscape painting towards the vanguard of impressionism. When the movie opens, it is sometime in the late 1820s (in a welcome departure from the norm, the pic eschews any onscreen titles to mark the passage of time), and Turner, recently returned from a painting expedition in Belgium, is settling back in the home studio he shares with his elderly father (Paul Jesson) and the forlorn housekeeper (an excellent Dorothy Atkinson) who doubles as Turner’s lover. Among the skeletons in the painter’s closet are an estranged mistress (Ruth Sheen), two grown daughters and a grandchild, whom he collectively pays little mind and whose existence he denies to the outside world.

The family life is clearly not for Turner. Rather, he goes wherever the wind and the light carry him — specifically, to the southeastern coastal town of Margate, whose azure skies would inspire many of his paintings (including the much-celebrated “The Fighting Temeraire”). It’s there, traveling under a pseudonym, that he rents a small seaside apartment from the twice-widowed landlady Sophia Booth (Marion Bailey), who will eventually become Turner’s last mistress. And it is this unlikely union, between art-world giant and country simpleton, that also becomes the emotional center of Leigh’s film, with the buoyant, big-hearted Bailey (who played one of the wealthy employers of the abortionist maid in “Vera Drake”) making a superb counterbalance to the feral and ferocious Spall.

Unlike “Topsy-Turvy” (which centered on the writing and staging of “The Mikado”), “Mr. Turner” employs a broader, more episodic structure that slowly and steadily immerses us in his world during the period when he was transitioning from classical representational painting to more abstract, proto-impressionistic forms (paintings like the ravishing “Rain, Steam and Speed — The Great Western Railway” and “Wreckers — Coast of Northumberland” in which hazy, indistinct figures weave in and out of radiant swirls of land, sea and sky). It’s a heady snapshot of a London art scene dominated by the party politics of the Royal Academy of Arts, whose contentious group shows provide the setting for some of “Mr. Turner’”s most memorable moments.

As aspirants like the ill-fated biblical painter Benjamin Haydon (Martin Savage) clamor for official acceptance — or to have their canvases displayed in the prestigious main gallery rather than a declasse antechamber — the already famous Turner thinks little of moving in the opposite direction, even as his increasingly avant-garde work becomes a subject of satirical parody and stinging bourgeois rebukes. And though Turner has at least one influential critic on his side in the young and impetuous John Ruskin (Joshua McGuire), it isn’t clear that he appreciates having him there. When Turner admonishes Ruskin for praising his work at the expense of more conventional artists, the scene feels like a direct memo from Leigh to those who chronicle his own career.

In perhaps the greatest of all movies about the lives of painters, Maurice Pialat’s “Van Gogh,” not a single Van Gogh painting was ever shown. Leigh doesn’t go quite as far in “Mr. Turner,” but his sensibility is largely the same, striving to capture the temperament of the man and his times rather than reducing them to a series of iconic images and eureka moments. Scenes of Turner scribbling in his sketchbook and slathering paint on canvas are used sparingly, and never without a clear purpose. Shooting in widescreen, the director and his regular d.p. Dick Pope strive less to re-create Turner’s canvases cinematically than to capture something of the land and light as it might have inspired him: a steam locomotive cloaking the horizon in its exhaust; boats at sea wreathed in a magic-hour glow. Whereas Leigh’s much-vaunted work with actors has often dominated the discussion around his films, “Mr. Turner” should leave no lingering doubts that he is every bit as masterful a visual storyteller.

Despite the fact-based characters, “Mr. Turner” was developed through the same improvisational workshop process as all of Leigh’s films, and the results have same acutely researched and lived-in feel. That’s especially true of Spall, who so fully internalizes Turner that he doesn’t seem to be playing the part as much as channeling it. With his great squashed-in face, Spall shows you every flicker of thought that flashes across Turner’s mind, and every wince of pain that courses through his wearying body. He conveys the sense of a man driven by a talent and passion even he doesn’t fully understand — a raging, difficult, gruntingly inarticulate soul who finds in pictures the clarity of expression that otherwise elude him. And in the film’s final moment, as Turner lays hovering between life and death, Spall discovers a particular pathos in the dilemma of a man in love with light confronted by the fading of his own.

The topnotch tech credits extend to production designer Suzie Davies and costume designer Jacqueline Durran, who make their own invaluable contributions to bringing the film’s 19th-century world so vividly to life. Composer Gary Yershon’s original score alternates an atonal woodwind theme with sharp, staccato strings to create something like the musical equivalent of Turner’s restless, roiling spirit.


Hollywood Reporter
by Leslie Felperin

The Bottom Line

Mr. Turner manages to illuminate that nexus between biography and art with elegant understatement.

“The real trouble,” biographer A. J. Finberg once wrote in private about his subject, the painter J.M.W. Turner, “is that the only interesting thing about him is that he was the man who painted Turner’s pictures … [He] is only the unimportant nexus that binds the work together.” It’s as if those words were a gauntlet thrown down to director Mike Leigh, who with Mr. Turner has managed to conjure largely uneventful, if scrupulously well-researched, data into a luminous and moving film about one of Britain’s greatest artists. Anchored by a masterful performance by Timothy Spall in a role he was born to play, and gilded by career-best effort from DoP Dick Pope, working for the first time on digital for Leigh to bridge the gap between the painting and cinematography, Mr. Turner manages to illuminate that nexus between biography and art with elegant understatement.

Viewers drawn to Leigh’s sometimes caustic (and, in the past, sometimes a bit too broad) portraits of contemporary British manners and mores may feel a little bemused by what’s something of an outlier in his oeuvre. This is only his third period-set piece out of 12 features -- Topsy-Turvy and Vera Drake being the other two.

Although thematically not dissimilar to the melancholy, domestic intimacy of his last, Another Year, Mr. Turner is a more somber, less humorous work than usual for Leigh. That and the lack of marquee-name stars may make this more of a marketing challenge than usual for distributors. On the other hand, Turner’s reputation may entice upscale, art history-enamored audiences, particularly among the older demographic, which has proved more inclined to buy tickets in recent years. Strong critical backing and likely award recognition should bolster its chances on the specialist circuit.

Although the time-frame spans roughly the last 25 years of Turner’s life, hardly anything momentous happens in the story, apart from a couple of quiet deaths from natural causes, some fantastically unsexy sex and a few arguments. The most exciting scene is arguably a kerfuffle in the Royal Academy when Turner riles rival painter Constable by suddenly daubing some red paint on his own canvas in what seems to be a fit of chromatic mockery. Per Finberg and Turner’s many other biographers, this taciturn, driven, extremely private man didn’t have an especially eventful personal life, although he lived through interesting times (1775-1851, a period spanning the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the rise of the Industrial Revolution) and traveled incessantly. Reported budget limitations prevented Leigh from covering Turner’s career-changing visits to Europe, especially Venice, but the narrower focus on Turner in various domestic settings at home in England actually enriches the drama.

Played out in self-contained, single-setting scenes that nevertheless resonate with each other as the film unfolds, the script visits Turner on a number of fairly ordinary days that handily illuminate the key relationships in his life. At first, he seems closest is his father William (Paul Jesson), a former barber who’s happily taken on the role of subordinate studio assistant for his son. Likewise, housekeeper Hannah Danby (Dorothy Atkinson) has accepted her lot as domestic drudge, and uncomplainingly submits when Turner requires her services for the odd quickie against a bookcase.

William and Hannah are the buffers for Turner against the outside world, the ones who show visitors around his private gallery in his London home (spied on by Turner through a peephole), although they can’t quite keep out the intrusions from Turner’s former mistress, the perpetually aggrieved Sarah Danby (Ruth Sheen), Hannah’s aunt, and his illegitimate daughters by Sarah, Evelina (Sandy Foster) and Georgiana (Amy Dawson).

Later, on a visit to Margate in search of the marine subjects that so obsessed him, Turner meets Sophia Booth (Marion Bailey, a delight), a jovial landlady with whom Turner will shack up later as husband and wife after her husband (Karl Johnson) dies.

Other scenes illustrate his tradesman-like dealings with clients, and his largely friendly but sometimes combative relationship with other artists serve to further illuminate character qualities such as Turner’s complex attitude towards money. For example, he needles a friend (Martin Savage) to repay a debt of 50 pounds over several years, but then refuses a princely sum from a rich manufacturer to buy his entire collection because he wishes to leave everything to the newly built National Gallery so people can see it for free.

It’s through the accumulation of these miniaturist details, specific right down to the way Turner grunts and waddles, that Leigh and Spall build up their layered, faceted portrait of capricious and curmudgeonly man whose personality bears a striking resemblance to the director’s own public persona. (As many a journalist will attest, Leigh is a notoriously prickly interviewee). The director obviously empathizes with his protagonist cussedness, and his monomaniacal devotion to his art, but what’s more resonant here is Leigh’s ability to draw out Turner’s soft, capacious underbelly, visible in his easy rapport with Sophia, or the way he listens keenly to Mr. Booth’s remembrances of working on slave ships, intelligence that would feed into one his greatest paintings, "Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On."

Filmmakers love biopics about artists, perhaps because of there is an innate thrill in seeing well-known images brought to life by actors. There’s less scope for that here given Turner was largely a landscape artist. Nevertheless, DoP Pope and Leigh succeed gloriously in finding a way to suggest the numinous quality of Turner’s work, his unique use of light and other elements to suggest, as one character puts it, the ways in which everything in nature is connected. To co-opt a notion much loved by Romantic artists, everything here is organically coherent, even if it was shot on digital, that most inorganic of media.

Screen Daily
By Jonathan Romney

Dir: Mike Leigh. UK-France-Germany 2014. 149mins

Fictionalised art-historical biography has been one of the most fraught sub-genres in cinema. For all their virtues, films such as The Agony And The Ecstasy (Carol Reed on Michelangelo) and Lust For Life (Vincente Minnelli on Van Gogh) have demonstrated the pitfalls of trying to peer closely into the working lives of great artists, the dangers both of hagiography and of presumptuous psychologising.

It’s an ensemble film par excellence, but Spall makes a magnificent centre to the film, as a deeply eccentric, gruff, proudly individual man, huffing and grunting like a turkey, sometimes expressing deep pain, and cheerfully flaunting his knowledge of the classics – a man all in all suffused with the proverbial lust for life.

In his portrait of the visionary British painter J.M.W. Turner, Mike Leigh not only elegantly avoids these perils, but offers a film as successful in its tiny details as it is in its epic amplitude: Mr. Turner works at once as a warts-and-all portrait of the painter and his circle, and as a large-scale evocation of Victorian England. The film brings its period so energetically alive that the viewer comes to inhabit Turner’s age as intimately as we’ve inhabited the everyday Britain of Leigh’s contemporary films.

Built around Timothy Spall’s superb lead - but democratically highlighting many performances among its sprawling cast – Mr. Turner is hugely entertaining, deeply moving and will be especially tickling for anyone with a taste for sometimes grandiloquent, sometimes juicily profane period language. An eminently marketable tour de force that promises to expand Leigh’s faithful international following, Mr. Turner shows one old master saluting another with irreverent brio.

Building on the achievements of his previous 19th-century venture Topsy Turvy, Leigh and his team offer another highly detailed picture of the English past – with credit due to the achievements not only of production designer Suzie Davies and costume designer Jacqueline Durran but also of researcher Jacqueline Riding. Structured fragmentarily, the film covers the last 25 years in the life of Turner, shown as a solitary, cantankerous, uncompromising figure devoted to his art – sometimes tender, sometimes harsh or neglectful of his intimates, sometimes (we feel) deeply knowable but at others seemingly opaque.

After a prelude showing Turner painting in the Netherlands, the film skates from episode to episode. He comes home to London where he is greeted by his father, a retired barber (Paul Jesson) with whom he has a gruff but tender rapport (they call each other ‘Billy’ and ‘Daddy’) and his housekeeper Hannah Danby (Dorothy Atkinson), who loves Turner and is sometimes his partner in brusque sex, but who is generally treated by him as a menial; in fact, much of the film’s emotional power comes from the sorrows of this mistreated, and psoriasis-afflicted woman.

Other key figures include the learned Mary Somerville (Lesley Manville) who joins Turner for an experiment in light and magnetism; marginalized and embittered painter Benjamin Robert Haydon (Martin Savage); and Sophia Booth (Marion Bailey), in whose Margate boarding house Turner takes a room, and whom he later starts courting in a scene that’s all the more tender for its taciturn delicacy. Many Leigh veterans give their best – among them, Manville, Savage, Ruth Sheen (magnificent as Turner’s spurned mistress) and Peter Wight, as a banknote-brandishing man of industry.

But the film also offers some revelatory performances from less familiar names such as Jesson, Atkinson and Bailey, whose characters are as richly limned as any in the Leigh catalogue. And there’s a very droll scene depicting eminent penseur John Ruskin (Joshua McGuire) as a garrulous, grandstanding fop – seemingly Leigh’s barb at his own critics, even the adulatory ones.

It’s been common to call Leigh a ‘Dickensian’ director, for his interest in the rough edges of character, and that’s certainly an applicable term for a film that evokes Victorian Britain with a novelistic sweep. In fact, Leigh’s aesthetic here – both visually and in terms of social documentation – recalls not so much Turner, whose visionary swing towards near-abstraction is elegantly evoked, as painters like Haydon, whose ‘Punch, or May Day’ (1829) offers a parallel for this film’s ability to capture both a wide social tableau and the individual faces within it.

The film is as keenly focused both on fine detail and on the overall quotidian grubbiness of Victorian Britain, as well as the splendour; cinematographer Dick Pope evokes this world’s textures as tellingly as he did in Leigh’s other period pieces Topsy-Turvy and Vera Drake. There’s just one misstep: a CGI evocation of the scene that inspired Turner’s beloved painting ‘The Fighting Temeraire’, the only moment at which the film sails close to standard art-biopic tropes, with the faintest edge of hyper-realist kitsch.

Overall, though, Mr. Turner is up there with cinema’s finest art-biography evocations – the likes of Peter Watkins’s Munch and Paul Cox’s Vincent And Theo, about Van Gogh and his brother. It’s an ensemble film par excellence, but Spall makes a magnificent centre to the film, as a deeply eccentric, gruff, proudly individual man, huffing and grunting like a turkey, sometimes expressing deep pain, and cheerfully flaunting his knowledge of the classics – a man all in all suffused with the proverbial lust for life. Moving, scholarly and serious as it is, Mr. Turner may be the most entertaining art biopic yet made – a grand canvas of inexhaustible riches.

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Re: Cannes

Postby Sonic Youth » Thu May 15, 2014 7:13 am

Cannes official website highlighted a quote from Dahan: "I wanted to make a film about cinema." That's a huge red flag if nothing else is.

I won't be posting many reviews this time. But if the rest of the festival is on par with the first two Competition films, it's going to be an outstanding year. Sissako's "Timbuktu" and Leigh's "Mr. Turner" are eliciting raves. It would be nice to see an African filmmaker win an award higher than Prix du Jury.
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Re: Cannes

Postby Big Magilla » Wed May 14, 2014 6:38 pm

OscarGuy wrote:Why do auteurs even let Weinstein buy their films? This has been a problem for well over a decade. If they don't want their films re-cut, they should look for a different distributor.

By "auteur" I assume you mean the director who is doing all the complaining, but I'm pretty sure it was the producer, Aresh Amel who was also the film's screenwriter, who sold the U.S. distribution rights to Weinstein. He isn't complaining.

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Re: Cannes

Postby OscarGuy » Wed May 14, 2014 5:24 pm

Why do auteurs even let Weinstein buy their films? This has been a problem for well over a decade. If they don't want their films re-cut, they should look for a different distributor.
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Re: Cannes

Postby FilmFan720 » Wed May 14, 2014 4:35 pm

OscarGuy wrote:Even Sofia Coppola has struggled to live up to the expectations following Lost in Translation. It doesn't mean their prior work was crap, just that they can't replicate it.


Well, some of us think that Sofia Coppola has only built on her promise, and that her best films are post-LIT!
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Re: Cannes

Postby dws1982 » Wed May 14, 2014 4:11 pm

Reportedly the cut of Grace of Monaco playing at Cannes is not Dahan's original cut, but rather the result of a fight between Dahan and Harvey Weinstein. Dahan's original cut was supposedly quite dark and even melodramatic, while Weinstein recut it as a fairy-tale princess story. The cut at Cannes is a compromise between the two, supposedly very different and much lighter than Dahan intended; his original cut almost definitely won't be released commercially. Kidman probably isn't going to go to bat for Dahan here, because she has several films in the can that Weinstein is releasing.

I actually don't recall (m)any people swooning over La Vie En Rose, aside from the Cotillard performance and the makeup.


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