2012 Cannes Line-up

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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri May 25, 2012 8:07 am

Cannes Review: In the Fog
by Stephen Dalton
Hollywood Reporter


Revenge is a dish served cold, bitter and morally conflicted in this marathon World War II glumfest, which carries a heavy historical weight as Russia’s sole Competition contender in Cannes. Based on a novel by the Belorussian author Vassily Bykov, Sergei Loznitsa’s slow-moving three-hander methodically unpicks the agonising ethical choices facing citizens of Nazi-occupied Belarus in 1942. Fans of old-school Soviet cinema may find these wintry forests and fatalistic characters a touch over-familiar, but the film repays patient viewing as it evolves into an engrossing, nuanced, philosophical drama. Though hardly blockbuster material, In The Fog (V Tumane) should attract a niche global audience with its intellectual gravitas and technical prowess.

Never fully elaborated by the film-makers, the context is Nazi Germany’s wartime occupation of the western Russian territory of Belarus between 1941 and 1944, which led to a bitter guerrilla uprising by pro-Soviet partisans and left over two million people dead. These events remain contentious in Belarus, now a post-Soviet republic frequently described as Europe’s last remaining dictatorship, which may explain why Loznitsa shot this well-crafted pan-European co-production in the neighbouring Baltic state of Latvia instead.

The action begins with a grim public hanging of three alleged saboteurs for an act of resistance, initially unexplained, against the occupying Nazi regime. Strikingly, their executions occur off camera, like every death in the film. Instead, Loznitsa’s roving camera comes to rest on a pile of bones outside a butcher’s shop. Not subtle, but effective.

Two weeks later, armed partisans arrive at the cottage of a railway worker who mysteriously escaped the gallows, leading him off into the woods to be shot as a Nazi collaborator. The trio’s anguished debate about guilt, crime and punishment is interrupted by a clash with local pro-Nazi agents, leaving all three wounded and weighing up their mutual fate. At this point the non-linear story flashes back to fill in some crucial context, revealing how each of the protagonists has previously paid a hefty price for principled but often wrong-headed acts of heroism.

Russian films about the horrors and heroism of World War II have an illustrious track record, of course, becoming a major feature of the Soviet era for obvious political propaganda purposes. In The Fog is standing on the shoulders of giants like Mikhail Kalatozov’s The Cranes are Flying, Andrei Tarkovksy’s Ivan’s Childhood and - especially - Elem Klimov’s savagely beautiful 1985 epic Come and See, which addressed the Nazi occupation of Belarus directly.

Possibly mindful of this, Loznitsa’s addition to an already overstuffed canon takes the opposite stylistic approach, being essentially an intimate meditation on the tortuous Faustian dilemmas facing ordinary citizens under brutally sadistic regimes. Although Bykov himself lived through the Nazi occupation of Belarus, he never wrote about partisan heroism in glowingly triumphalist terms, preferring to focus on more personal, psychologically driven stories.

Initially a documentary maker, Loznitsa earned the Best Director prize at Cannes two years ago with My Joy, a bleak existential trek across a hellish contemporary Russia. In The Fog is more conventional in structure and content, but shares some of the same elements. Romanian cinematographer Oleg Mutu returns, shooting with a similar mix of tight close-ups, long single takes and slow, Bela Tarr-style, back-of-the-neck tracking shots. His color palette is mostly drained and autumnal, cross-cut with deep shadows and striking chiaroscuro contrast.

The three main players - Vladimir Svirski, Vladislav Abashin and Sergei Kolesov - are persuasively understated throughout, their faces etched with decades of grim resignation to cruel fate. No soundtrack music is allowed to add even a crumb of comfort to this joyless, blighted, purgatorial land.

In The Fog ends a little clumsily, with the belated appearance of a heavily symbolic mist and a predictable offstage gunshot. But by this point the film has stopped being a specific wartime story and stealthily gear-shifted into a universal meditation on the human condition, with war as an allegory for life, and fog as a metaphor for mankind’s stumbling progress into the unknown. A ponderous trudge at times, it is ultimately worth the journey.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Thu May 24, 2012 10:32 pm

In The Fog
25 May, 2012 | By Fionnuala Halligan
Screendaily


Dir: Sergei Loznitsa. Germany-Latvia/Russia/Dutch/Belarus. 2012. 128mins


In The Fog is a carefully-calebrated three-hander from Sergei Loznitsa, its slow, precise rhythms playing out to compelling effect. His second feature after My Joy is a beautifully rigorous piece which will delight cineastes, his collaboration with cinematographer Oleg Mutu (who has also shot another Cannes Competition favourite, Beyond The Hills) moving up a notch to the point where the film’s visuals are palpably in sync with its protagonists and some notably effective sound design.

Sparse and cerebral, a war film without a battle, In The Fog would benefit greatly in the marketplace from the Palme D’Or it must surely be in contention for. Without awards, its austere and almost forbidding outlook will struggle to hook commercial audiences, but Loznitsa is quickly gaining an international following having made the leap to features after almost 15 years spent shooting documentaries across the former USSR. In The Fog is more streamlined than My Joy and festivals will jump at the chance to programme it. And where they lead, the arthouse should follow.

In The Fog is adapted from a late novel of the same name by Vasil Bykov, the renowned Belorussian writer whose wartime experiences formed the basis of much of his work. Loznitsa, a mathematician by training, calibrates Bykov’s story into another wheeling film to follow My Joy, its continuous yet more restrained movement involving three protagonists who circle each other, a village, and, ultimately, the truth. But the wheel spins for Mother Russia as well - a sadistic villager now in bed with the Germans was just as much of a bastard for the Soviets, one character points out, and, probably, he will be again.

Loznitsa’s noble protagonist is a doomed fatalist, undone as much by the events that conspire against him as by his own unshakeable moral rigor. He is Sushenya (Svirski), taken from his family in the middle of the night by Burov (Abashin), a partizan fighter in the Western edges of the USSR in 1942. Burov and his sidekick Voitik (Kolesov) are hiding out in the hills and forests, waging guerilla warfare against the occupying German army.

Instead of Belarus, Loznitsa shot In The Fog in neighbouring eastern Latvia, finding here the right, unspoiled forests for his purposes. Working with (Russian-speaking) cinematographer Mutu for the second time, they decided to film every scene in one shot, although there is very little handheld here (according to the press notes, the 128-minute film was assembled from a remarkable 72 cuts).

Right from the outset, after Burov wades through the swampy woods to arrive at Sushenya’s house, Loznitsa’s screen bristles with tension. There is no score to In The Fog; the dialogue inside takes place to the taut sounds of the cracking log cabin. It becomes clear that Burov and Sushenya know each other, and that Burov is taking Sushenya away in the night, most probably to kill him. Sushenya asks: “Should I bring my own shovel?”.

Loznitsa’s deliberate colour design as expressed by Mutu’s camera turn the forest night into silvery blues and grey-greens, by day it trembles in the yellow light. And - very - slowly the director shows his hand, revealing that Sushenya is the only one of four captured partizans who has improbably been allowed to live by the occupying Germans. With the village and even his wife turned against him as a collaborator, Sushenya is a classic Russian fatalist who accepts what must happen next, until the Germans suddenly appear and he is - perhaps - given a second chance.

Burov and Voitik are awarded less screen time than Sushenya - in particular Voitik - but their stories gradually deepen the film’s reach, in particular Voitik’s moral ambivalence that proves a growing counterpoint to Sushenya’s weighty dignity. All three principals look right for their roles, and Abashin makes a particular impression as perhaps the most difficult character. Vlad Ivanov (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days) contributes a cameo as a Nazi.

It’s Loznitsa’s intellectual approach and his technical team’s interpretation that mark In The Fog out, however. Of note is Kirill Shuvalov’s design and in particular Vladimir Golovnitski’s reamarkable sound work. With no score, he underscores the film’s stillness at just the right level, whether it be the distant sound of wolves or the simple noises of the forest, all perfectly stressed. Coupled with Loznitsa’s slow pacing, this all may admittedly prove initially too rich for wider audiences, but this very Russian tragedy is a jewel which will surely only burnish with time.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Thu May 24, 2012 4:03 pm

Post Tenebras Lux: Cannes Review
by Neil Young
Hollywood Reporter


Despite its Latin title - which translates as "After Darkness, Light" - illumination proves maddeningly elusive in Post Tenebras Lux, the eagerly-awaited fourth feature by Mexico's leading younger auteur Carlos Reygadas. The global reputation and arthouse fan-base the 40-year-old writer-director has steadily built with award-winners Japon (2002), Battle In Heaven (2005) and Silent Light (2007) will be eroded rather boosted by this offensively self-indulgent cubist folly.

Premiering - like his last two movies - in Cannes' main Competition, the self-produced , long-gestating two-hour patience-tester will probably need recognition from the ever-unpredictable Croisette jury if it's to enjoy the exposure afforded to its much more coherent predecessor. Otherwise, prospects of breaking beyond the festival-circuit - where Reygadas' name alone will guarantee plentiful bookings - are decidedly dim.

Early signs are deceptively promising, as in a lengthy opening pre-credits sequence we observe - courtesy of a high-def digital camera's slightly distorted, kaleidoscope-like lens - a young girl (Reygadas' daughter Rut) happily wandering around a waterlogged rural soccer-pitch at dusk with various animals for company: cows and dogs splash through the rain-drenched field as night falls and lightning cracks across the vast sky.

The first sign of the weirdness to come arrives in the second sequence, in which an incandescent red devil-like entity is shown silently prowling around a house carrying a workman's toolbox. Gradually - very gradually - elements of narrative slide into place, most of them revolving around Rut's fictional dad Juan (Adolfo Jiménez Castro) and his wife Natalia (Nathalia Acevedo).

They're affluent - though evidently somewhat troubled - couple in their late thirties, residing in a majestic cabin-like villa in a remote Mexican backwater. In one of his first scenes, Juan is shown viciously beating one of his pet dogs - a vile display of temper which makes it very difficult to feel any sympathy for this brute during the remaining course of the film. That's something of a problem, as Juan is the closest thing Post Tenebras Lux has to a protagonist. One of his hapless employees, an easy-going laborer nicknamed 'Seven' (Willebaldo Torres) does emerge as a relatively significant narrative focus in the second half. This follows an episode of criminal violence some eighty minutes in - a rare plot-pivot in what's otherwise a deliberately disjointed puzzle of scenes whose chronology, and ultimate meaning, are teasingly obscure.

If these had built towards some kind of satisfying emotional or intellectual finale, Reygadas' audacious artistic gamble might conceivably have paid off. Instead, the multi-episode climax - which features a repetition of the red-devil sequence, and by context a possible explanation for this diabolical visi - is so histrionic, ludicrous and (complete with a UK-set rugby-field coda) arbitrary that it makes the whole picture in retrospect appear like one long, not very amusing, cosmic joke.

There's no denying that Reygadas has talent: his films feature some exquisite elements, and are often visually stunning as showcases for cinematographer Alexis Zabé, who worked genuine magic on Silent Light. But even Zabé struggles to transcend the limitations imposed by Reygadas' distractingly blur-edged digital kaleido-cam here, plus his decision to opt for the boxy Academy ratio. And in any case pretty pictures alone do not in themselves great cinema make - not for the first time, Reygadas' waywardly wilful approach to screenwriting and structure severely outweighs whatever fleeting pleasures his movies may impart.

Suspicions that the critically-lauded, award-laden Mexican is, in artistic terms, an emperor clad in exquisitely invisible garments will only crystallize further thanks to Post Tenebras Lux - which at its worst exudes the sort of smug pretentiousness that gives art-cinema a bad name in many quarters. Apart from all but the most rarefied coterie, the ticket-buying public is likely to dismiss it as a waste of time - or, as Reygas might put it, temporis iactura.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Thu May 24, 2012 8:18 am

Post Tenebras Lux
24 May, 2012 | By Jonathan Romney
Screendaily


Dir/scr: Carlos Reygadas. Mexico-France-Germany. 2012. 120 mins


The title means ‘After the Shadows, Light’, but viewers can expect to feel plunged into obscurity rather than enlightened by Carlos Reygadas’ Post Tenebras Lux. The Mexican director’s fourth feature is by far his most perplexing, even if in some ways his simplest. Ostensibly telling the story of a family and its travails, Post Tenebras Lux is militantly non-linear, impressionistic and tantalising - which will make it a very hard sell after his lyrical, relatively accessible Silent Light.

In some ways, Post Tenebras Lux is a tougher proposition than, say, Leos Carax’s Holy Motors: that film tells you from the start that you’re dealing with the stuff of Surrealist dream, so in a sense you know where you are. Post Tenebras Lux, by contrast, fluctuates disconcertingly between registers.

We have impressionistic and very beautiful images of home and nature, in a vein not dissimilar to Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life; scenes that appear to tell a conventional story, albeit a chronologically; others that seem to bear little relation to the rest; and a few moments so outré that they could have been spliced in from another film entirely. This is, in fact, a film that is neither obviously avant-garde nor narratively approachable, but a dizzying, and often exhilarating synthesis of both modes.

The film begins with a mesmerising sequence showing a small girl, Rut (Rut Reygadas) wandering in a muddy countryside while dogs run around her, and cattle and horses move around in the background; as the sounds of nature become deafening and lightning fills the night air, the tension becomes downright oppressive. The action then cuts to the interior of a house, and the bizarre spectacle of a CGI devil, complete with forked tail, stalking up the corridors casting a lurid red glow.

Then the film shifts into something like a realist mode, showing Rut’s rural family life with parents Nathalia (Acevedo) and Juan (Jiménez Castro) and slightly older brother Eleazar (Eleazar Reygadas). Occasionally we see scenes of family happiness, with the utterly charming kids romping around, that seem quasi-documentary in their easy looseness; other scenes are highly staged, notably when Juan brutally batters one of the family dogs (just out of sight).

Other scenes don’t seem obviously connected to the rest: scenes from a wealthy urban dinner party, at which we apparently see Rut and Eleazar a few years older; a rugby match at a boys’ school in England; and an interlude in a swingers’ sauna, apparently in France, where Nathalia is a big hit with the naked clientele.

The film’s strangeness lies not only in its extreme fragmentation, but in its visual execution too; it’s shot in Academy ratio, often using a wide-angle lens that distorts, blurs and magnifies the imagery at the edges. Alexis Zabé’s vividly beautiful photography variously makes the images seem spontaneously caught, or deliberately framed and fixed in a video art manner - and it could be argued that this film has much more in common with gallery video than with most contemporary theatrical art cinema.

The result is much more fluid and elusive than Reygadas’s other films, and you could easily imagine the film evolving further, as a work in progress, because there’s no obvious closure to it. There are, however, two key incidents that bear the familiar stamp of Reygadas in their abrupt violence - one, at the end, so jaw-droppingly nutty that it makes the film seem almost like an elaborate shaggy-dog story.

However, you never feel that Reygadas is out to impose his unorthodox outlook, to impress himself on you as a visionary. There is a vision here, certainly, but the film feels genuinely, bracingly experimental in that it seems to be searching for its own meaning and form, rather than asserting them ready-made.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Wed May 23, 2012 8:37 pm

Post tenebras lux
By Jay Weissberg
Variety


Maverick helmer Carlos Reygadas compares "Post tenebras lux" to an expressionist painting, though Dadaist is more accurate. Auds will go for "perplexing," likely to be the kindest word used when describing this challenging non-story about a family living in the grandeur of Mexico's wilds. The director surely doesn't expect auds to attempt a logical piecing together of the shifting elements in this ultra-personal mood piece, which makes Djuna Barnes feel like Dan Brown. Themes from Reygadas' previous pics crop up, and visuals expectedly astonish, yet despite moderate Cannes sales to boutique distribs, "Post" will largely remain in tenebrae.

The title, signifying "light after darkness," derives from the Latin translation of the Book of Job, an appropriate source given that a considerable amount of the prophet's proverbial patience is required. Not that the pic doesn't have its frequent rewards: Ever since "Silent Light," Reygadas' talent for capturing the many-toned nuances of landscape has been second to none. The opener is a perfect example, as his own daughter, toddler Rut Reygadas, runs around a vast muddy field at stormy twilight.

Several elements make the sequence extraordinary, especially the way the cacophonous dogs, cows and horses around the cute moppet take on a feral quality that vividly conveys the disturbing jumble of animalism and innocence lying at the heart of nature and the human condition. Considering the pic is described as a semi-autobiographical work, it's not hard to imagine the scene reflecting Reygadas' paternal concerns as he watches his vulnerable daughter progress through primal childhood. Some may feel that throwing lightning and thunder in as well is a bit much, but there's no denying the beauty here.

To jump from this to the inside of a house where an animated devil, composed solely of red light, carries a toolbox while investigating rooms, offers some idea of the film's countless head-scratching moments. Knowing Reygadas' previous work, it's safe to imagine the devil's calm stroll at least partly represents the capacity for devilish acts in everyone, yet while "Post tenebras lux" may become fodder for directionless grad students looking for thesis topics, such pointless analysis won't make this opaque vision any clearer.

Since there's no cohesive narrative, a character introduction has to suffice. Rut and Eleazar Reygadas play the young kids of Juan (Adolfo Jimenez Castro) and Natalia (Nathalia Acevedo), a well-off couple living in a remote area of natural splendor. Recovering alcoholic Seven (Willebaldo Torres) is their handyman of questionable loyalty; he could be a representation of Reygadas' unconscious fear of a male outsider in the family circle, though interpretations are open.

Possibly before the kids' birth, Juan and Natalia go to a French-speaking sex club where Natalia is shared around in a scene of mass nudity unsurprising to anyone familiar with "Battle in Heaven." There's also a flash-forward to a family gathering in which young teens Eleazar and Rut are petted by their extravagantly wealthy relatives, a sequence slightly more understandable, in context, than two scenes of English schoolboys playing rugby. During pre-production, the helmer announced he'd shoot in Mexico, England, Spain and Belgium -- all countries he has lived in -- but perhaps financial considerations gratifyingly restricted him to just the first two.

Elsewhere, themes common to Reygadas' other films also pop up. Juan's mistreatment of one of his many dogs brings to mind the cries of animal cruelty that plagued his freshman work, "Japon." The divide between people of European stock and their indigenous staff was treated more directly in "Battle in Heaven" and his entry in the omnibus film "Revolution." No doubt other parallels exist, but only Reygadas' own psychiatrist, should he be poetically inclined, could complete the analysis.

A more rewarding investigation lies in the director's visual sense of the sublime, and the Romantic Era's understanding of the word as connoting nature's power to overwhelm, even terrify. He made this stunningly clear with "Silent Light," and he does so again in "Post tenebras lux." Though shot and screened in Academy ratio, the landscapes here have a majesty that evoke mixed sensations of troubled awe, reinforced by a closeup of Frederic Edwin Church's painting "Floating Iceberg," a suitable choice given Church's status as champion of the sublime in art.

Equally striking here, though more mysterious, is Reygadas' decision to lens all outdoor scenes with extra-sharp focus in the center of the frame, surrounded by an out-of-focus circle around the edges. The device lends a dreamlike quality to the visuals, especially when the ultra-crisp nucleus gives an almost diorama-like sense of dimensionality. Why he seems to occasionally expand the focal point, and why interiors are treated differently, is more difficult to rationalize. Sound mixing is exceptional.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Mister Tee » Tue May 22, 2012 11:13 pm

Hollywood Reporter

Holy Motors: Cannes Review
by Megan Lehmann

The Bottom Line
Holy smoke: Leos Carax is back with a combustible Roman candle of a film.


French auteur Leos Carax returns with a film that's "exhilarating," "heartbreaking" and "completely bonkers."

Exhilarating, opaque, heartbreaking and completely bonkers – French auteur Leos Carax’s so-called comeback film, Holy Motors, is a deliciously preposterous piece of filmmaking that appraises life and death and everything in between, reflected in a funhouse mirror.

It’s brave and foolish. After a rapturous reception at its first Cannes screening, the bewitching French-German co-production immediately bolts to the front of the pack in the race for the Palme d’Or and into an elated tempest of debate and speculation.

Beyond a segment of the 2008 triptych Tokyo!, the elusive Carax hasn’t made a film since his cult Cannes competition entry Pola X 13 years ago. He’s obviously been bottling up some seriously wacky ideas and they all blow their lids at once in this avant-garde sci-fi concoction that represents – maybe – a scream in the night against our enslavement to the virtual world.

We can only sit back and marvel as Carax’s id, in the shape of weather-beaten French character actor and long-time collaborator Denis Lavant, runs wild through the streets of Paris, tossing out visually stunning sequences that are by turns erotic, repugnant and sad.

The boisterous accordion jam alone is worth the price of admission.

Smoking like a train, Lavant inhabits eleven – count ’em – different roles during the course of a 24-hour odyssey as he is chauffeured about the city by his attentive driver, Celine (the glorious Edith Scob). It’s performance art, with an interval, and makes the most of the actor’s incredible, pliant face and acrobat’s body.

Here he is, a naked, flower-munching leprechaun being rocked to sleep by Eva Mendes’ burqa-wearing fashion model. And there, an old crone with wiry gray hair and a beggar’s cup.

He’s affecting as a concerned father remonstrating with his daughter over her shyness at a party, and scary as a flick knife-wielding hitman who excises his mirror self. Funny, too.

Carax, perhaps best known for early Juliette Binoche-starrers The Night is Young and Lovers on the Bridge, goes totally for broke with this mad hatter’s tea party, lobbing domesticated chimpanzees and chatty limousines into the mix seemingly at random, and often the only reasonable response in the face of such unhinged lunacy is to laugh with delight.

So what’s it all about?

Don’t ask Australian pop pixie Kylie Minogue’s Jean Seberg-cum-air-stewardess character, who sings a forlorn original love song backed by the Berlin Music Ensemble before leaping to her death. She is one of the many women Lavant’s Monsieur Oscar loves and leaves as he goes from “appointment” to “appointment,” taking on different guises, increasingly weary and searching for some peace, always at the mercy of the mysterious “agency.”

Carax’s visual style, aided by the cinematographer Caroline Champetier, who last year won a Cesar for Of Gods and Men, is swooningly romantic, punctuated by virtuoso flights of fancy such as the stunning motion-capture compositions. There’s a beautiful fluidity to the sequences that would seem to be at odds with the weird juxtapositions, but that’s the way it is in a dream.

Carax, who appears briefly in an overture to the film, says he is angry with the way people have succumbed so completely to the virtual world, turning their computer into their home, their hearth. In a world where people clutch their smart phones like security blankets and store all their treasured memories on a hard drive, he just may have a point.

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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Tue May 22, 2012 7:55 pm

Auds whoop, holler at 'Holy Motors' screening
Leos Carax competition pic co-stars Minogue, Mendes
By Justin Chang
Vareity


The press screenings at the Cannes Film Festival typically end with a round of polite applause, scattered boos, or a schizoid mix of both; far rarer are the sounds of actual whooping and hollering. But Leos Carax's "Holy Motors" bucked the trend on Tuesday night, playing to the most wildly enthusiastic cheers of the festival and igniting a storm of critical excitement on Twitter, with many journalists hailing it as the boldest pic to play in competition so far.

"A holy mess of nutso go-for-broke filmmaking -- wild, surreal and fully committed," tweeted GQ's Logan Hill.

"Best of Cannes thus far, Carax's 'Mulholland Dr.,' " said the Village Voice's Aaron Hillis.

"Just mad enough to win the Palme d'Or," in the estimation of the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw.

Reactions were harder to gauge during the actual screening of Carax's uncategorizable whatsit, a mad, arrestingly wacky mystery tour centered around a man (Lavant's longtime collaborator Denis Lavant) in a limousine, keeping a series of exceedingly strange appointments. Periodically the silence in the theater was broken by laughs and gasps, triggered by an extended glimpse of full-frontal nudity or a sudden burst of frenzied violence, but Cannes audiences are used to those sorts of triggers, often the signature of provocateurs like Lars von Trier and Gaspar Noe.

What they aren't so used to: sex scenes pantomimed in motion-capture spandex. Georges Franju references. An intermission scored by a band of accordionists. Kylie Minogue and Eva Mendes. A movie this certifiably nuts can't please everyone, but while there was a smattering of boos as the credits began to roll, they were immediately drowned out by sustained waves of rapturous applause. As fitting a title as "Holy Motors" turns out to be, Carax's first film in 13 years might well have stolen the moniker of Alain Resnais' far less unhinged competition entry: You ain't seen nothin' yet.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Tue May 22, 2012 7:46 am

The Angels' Share: Cannes Review
by Stephen Dalton
Hollywood Reporter

 
CANNES - There is love, laughter and whisky galore in Ken Loach’s unusually joyful comedy drama about delinquent Scottish youths defying the odds society has stacked against them. This is the veteran British social realist’s ninth contender for the big prize in Cannes, the Palme d’Or, which he has won only once before in a career spanning over four decades.

Co-produced and co-financed in France, where the 75-year-old director enjoys his biggest commercial audience, The Angels’ Share opens in Britain June 1 and is already assured a warm welcome across continental Europe. The thick Scottish accents of the protagonists may prove a barrier in some English-speaking territories, especially the U.S., requiring the same English subtitles they had in Cannes. But the sunny tone, plus the tourist-friendly blend of Scotch whisky and picture-postcard scenery, look sure to earn Loach a wider audience than usual.

The story hinges on Robbie, a young Glasgow man caught in a destructive cycle of violence, criminality and long-term unemployment. Soon to become a father for the first time, Robbie is sent by a lenient court judge to atone for his latest crimes on a “community payback” scheme. Here he meets a friendly gang of fellow misfits supervised by Harry (John Henshaw), a kindly Englishman and Scotch whisky aficionado. On a day trip to a rural distillery, the group learn about the small percentage of whisky that evaporates during the maturing process, poetically named “the angels’ share.”

Discovering he has a natural nose as a whisky connoisseur, Robbie spots a chance to turn his life around, earn a decent wage and become a reliable new father. On hearing about an extremely rare cask of whisky set to fetch a million pounds at auction, he hatches an audacious scheme to steal just enough of this liquid gold to finance his escape plans. Mustering his fellow young offenders, he heads for the picture-postcard Scottish Highlands to stage one of the most bizarre and amateurish heists in cinema history.

A Scottish lawyer turned screenwriter, Paul Laverty is now Loach’s most prolific collaborator, notching up 10 shared credits to date. Like most of their previous films, The Angels’ Share offers a rare big-screen platform to working-class voices from the impoverished fringes of Scotland’s biggest city. But unlike most of the duo’s past work together, the prevailing tone here is upbeat and comic, with the generosity of spirit and softening of political dogma that has begun to shape Loach’s autumnal output, most notably his 2009 football-themed fantasy Looking for Eric.

Laverty acknowledges this shift himself, describing The Angels’ Share as a “little fable” with a dash of magical realism. To old-school fans of Loach’s polemical social dramas, this could be seen as some kind of sell-out. But others, myself included, believe he makes more honest and humane films when he relaxes his schematic leftism a little.

Sticking to his time-tested technique, Loach shoots The Angels’ Share on 35mm film in an unobtrusively realist manner that sometimes blurs into verite-style documentary. As usual, the script was shot in sequence, with actors drip-fed their lines to maintain emotional spontaneity. Once again, the ensemble cast are largely non-professionals, some with off-screen lives that mirror their characters. In his first ever film role, the wiry and intense Paul Brannigan makes a solid effort as Robbie. As the whisky expert Rory McAllister, the delightfully eccentric Charlie McLean is a joy to watch. Both are essentially playing themselves.

Loach has been in the movie game long enough now to become his own genre, spawning numerous film-making acolytes including Shane Meadows, Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold and Paddy Considine. But with The Angels’ Share, he looks a little beyond his own rulebook, most obviously invoking Alexander Mackendrick’s classic 1949 Ealing Studios comedy, Whisky Galore! There are also clear parallels with the Glaswegian director Bill Forsyth and his whimsical snapshots of wily Scottish youth, notably That Sinking Feeling and Gregory’s Girl. Plus maybe a wee dram of Alexander Payne’s Sideways too.

Laverty and Loach are sometimes criticized for their simplistic political sloganeering, but they can be equally heavy-handed in their comedy too. Much of the humor in The Angels’ Share relies on labored slapstick and boorish exaggeration, from jokes about vomit and flatulence to tired clichés about Scotsmen wearing no underwear beneath their kilts. The character of Albert in particular is repeatedly mocked as an ignorant clown too stupid to recognize either Edinburgh Castle or The Mona Lisa. This is an oddly mean-spirited caricature from such emphatically socialist film-makers.

The story’s tonal shifts are jarringly uneven in places, zigzagging from violent urban thriller to serious social drama to cheery comic caper. The final tying up of loose ends also feels implausibly neat and sweet, like the caramel coloring routinely added to whiskies that most connoisseurs deplore. These victimized characters may deserve their happy ending, but Loach and Laverty have arguably not quite earned theirs.

All the same, a few clumsy touches do not seriously diminish the charm of a film that is ultimately a heart-warming celebration of kindness, friendship and forgiveness. Like a fine whisky, the angry old man of British social realism seems to be mellowing with age. It suits him.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Tue May 22, 2012 7:43 am

The Angel's Share
22 May, 2012 | By Allan Hunter
Screendaily


Dir: Ken Loach. UK. 2012. 106mins


The tried and trusted partnership of Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty has created one of their warmest and most accessible films in The Angel’s Share. The grim statistics behind Britain’s “lost generation” of unemployed and unemployable young people have been transformed into a heartwarming, social-realist fairytale with enough rowdy humour and sweet sentiment to appeal to Loach’s dedicated global followers and beyond.

A Cannes competition premiere will only elevate its profile before a domestic UK release on June 1 via Entertainment One. The Angel’s Share marks a return to familiar territory for the Loach/Laverty partnership blending the gritty social concerns of a Sweet Sixteen with elements of the broad comedy and whimsy found in Looking For Eric.

The central figure of Robbie, impressively played by screen newcomer Paul Brannigan, could easily be related to Martin Compston’s troubled, well-intentioned teenager Liam from Sweet Sixteen. Robbie is a volatile, hot-tempered thug who has spent a lifetime being told he will never amount to anything.

Barely escaping a prison sentence for a vicious assault, he is sentenced to 300 hours of community service where he meets sympathetic social worker Harry (John Henshaw). Robbie is devoted to his girlfriend Leonie (Siobhan Reilly) and his newborn son Luke, vowing to renounce his violent ways and make a fresh start.

Fate seems unwilling to afford Robbie a second chance but when Harry introduces him to the joys of fine malt whisky, he discovers a talent for spotting the subtle nuances of the drink and subsequently embarks on a caper that could allow him to escape the shackles of the past.

The Angel’s Share is almost a film of two halves with the first half unsparing in its depiction of Robbie and his temper. A scene in which he is confronted by the victim of his crime is amongst the most powerful and moving in the film.

We are asked to believe that the birth of his son inspires a complete transformation in his character. The second half changes gears into lighter, Ealingesque territory as Robbie unites with his new community service chums Rhino (William Ruane), Albert (Gary Maitland) and Mo (Jasmin Riggins) to plot a daring raid on a Highland distillery.

Laverty’s ear for salty dialogue is well displayed in some uproarious one-liners, mostly entrusted to Gary Maitland’s deceptively slow-witted Albert who provides a good deal of the comic relief. Loach regulars like John Henshaw, William Ruane and Roger Allam as a slippery whisky specialist provide solid support and newcomer Paul Brannigan is sincere and entirely believable as Robbie, suggesting he has the potential to become one of the Loach discoveries who sustains an acting career.

The role of Robbie’s almost saintly, long-suffering Leonie is the one that feels underdeveloped and the film shows a belief in broad brushstrokes storytelling and the uplifting power of a Proclaimers anthem that cynics might find easy to resist. They will be in the minority as The Angel’s Share deftly balances heartbreak and hilarity to offer a cheering, feel good ray of hope from what often seem like the bleakest of lives.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Tue May 22, 2012 7:42 am

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
22 May, 2012 | By Jonathan Romney
Screendaily


Dir: Alain Resnais. France-Germany. 2012. 115mins


It’s a mischievous title from a director approaching 90, for what has been announced as his last film - You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Vous n’avez encore rien vu). But Alain Resnais’s mischievous, consistently surprising swansong sets out to argue that that auteur often has the last word, in matters of art - if not in those of life and death. Based on two plays by Jean Anouilh (Eurydice and Cher Antoine), You Ain’t is a self-reflexive hall-of-mirrors number that not only stages a dialogue between two separate art forms, film and theatre, but also, like Anouilh, plays modernity against antiquity. In addition, it takes in multiple echoes of Resnais’ past work, as the director looks back over past achievements and questions still unanswered.

Very much a valedictory, You Ain’t shows the venerable innovator on vital form, and while it’s nowhere near as barmy as his last feature, the more accessible Wild Grass, it’s still a film of bristling intelligence that will delight lovers of cerebral upmarket cinema. That said, its audience will be limited, given the unapologetically rarefied - indeed, somewhat academic - tenor of the enterprise. Outside France, this will be a niche film, and indeed a festival film, par excellence.

The film begins with a series of close-ups showing various actors, playing themselves (Lambert Wilson, Sabine Azéma, Michel Piccoli et al), receiving phone calls telling them that their friend Antoine has died, and that they’re invited to hear his will. Assembled at Antoine’s cavernous mansion in a mountain village, the 13 actors are shown by his majordomo (Andrej Seweryn) to a screening theatre, where a filmed Antoine (Denis Podalydès) explains why he’s summoned them.

A young theatre group, Compagnie de la Colombe, has asked to produce his play Eurydice, and it’s up to the assembled thesps (former performers in the play) to decide whether the piece is still worth a spin. The filmed performance by the young company - staged in a warehouse and directed by Bruno Podalydès - plays out on film, with a mysterious pendulum swinging in the background.

The watching actors start talking back to the screen, and eventually taking over the performance, as Antoine’s mansion turns into the various locales of the play - notably, a railway station buffet and a hotel bedroom.

Taken at face value, the film is an opportunity to give some eminent actors a spin with Anouilh’s brittle, hyper-artificed modernisation of Greek tragedy, and as such, You Ain’t offers rich pleasures for admirers of French stage acting - excelling in particular are Arditi, Anne Consigny and an impeccably sinister Mathieu Amalric as an emissary of death.

Sometimes, Resnais lets the scenes play out straight for a while, but generally he uses tricks (from the simplest stage illusionism to more elaborate CGI trompe-l’oeil), constantly ringing the changes between film and drama, and between the various levels of fiction (the two Anouilh plays, the ostensible reality of the framing narrative, the original Greek myth). In addition to having two sets of actors playing out Eurydice, he also has two sets of Orpheuses and Eurydices in the film (respectively, Arditi and Wilson, Consigny and a characteristically hyped-up Azéma). Deconstructing narrative, temporal and spatial coherence alike, Resnais leaves only the dramatic text intact.

Resnais watchers won’t fail to see this as a knowing footnote to his career. Essentially a ghost story (shades of Last Year In Marienbad), and one that substantially echoes his multi-layered Life Is A Bed of Roses, the film is Resnais’s latest (and most elaborate) variant on the theatrical explorations of his Alan Ayckbourn films (notably Smoking/No Smoking), as well as a reprise on the shape-shifting musings on life and death in Providence. And there’s a poster for Hiroshima Mon Amour in there too.

Unashamedly experimental, the film is sumptuously, even rapturously mounted, with glowingly atmospheric photography by Eric Gautier, and imposingly protean design by Jacques Saulnier. It’s also a triumph for editor Hervé de Luze, orchestrating a dizzying system of tightly synchronised cuts, as well as a playful array of iris shots, split screens, intertitles et al. The film is slippery right up to the minor-key coda, and the final touch, a Frank Sinatra song over the end credits, is a lovely melancholy sign-off from a venerable auteur whose intellectual and philosophical energy are undimmed.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Mon May 21, 2012 8:23 am

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!: Cannes Review
by Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter


The confluence of theater, memory and real life for a group of actors in an explicitly artificial world sparks rarified aesthetic pleasures, up to a point, in You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet! (Vous N’avez Encore Rien Vu). Its contracted, slangy English title specifically insisted upon by the director himself, this reflection on the past, love and death through the prism of layers of theatrical endeavor is both serious and frisky, engaging on a refined level but frustratingly limited in its complexity and depth. Alain Resnais’ latest will appeal most to devoted fans but doesn’t approach the delirious heights of his previous feature, Wild Grass, in 2009.

Resnais and his screenwriters Laurent Herbiet and Alex Reval have used two works by the eminent late French playwright Jean Anouilh, Eurydice and Cher Antoine ou l’amour rate, to provide a frame through which to assess the enduring viability of the themes stemming from Greek mythology and well as their emotional meaning in the lives of multiple actors who have performed the drama of a love story, that of Eurydice and Orpheus, that bridges the worlds of life and death.

Contriving the set-up required to assemble the diverse thespians together brings out Resnais’ customary playfulness, just as it recalls his long devotion to the theater and the form’s useful array of artifice. In a beguiling opening interlude, roughly a dozen actors receive identical phone calls informing them that their famous theater director, Antoine d’Anthac, has died and requesting that they journey to his country home for a reading of his will and funeral service.

As the actors—all playing themselves—arrive, they are welcomed by the deceased’s elegant manservant Marcellin (Andrzej Seweryn) onto what is self-evidently a set of a large room strewn with black sofas. They are assembled, explains Marcellin, to watch video footage of a provincial theater company’s proposed staging of d’Anthac’s play Eurydice (actually Anouilh’s) to decide whether it holds up and if the estate should grant permission for its performance.

This fanciful set-up establshes the terms under which Resnais’s entire film must be watched and even among viewers of specialized and foreign films, quite a few won’t be keen to embrace this intellectual conceit involving literary time travel between French theater and Greek myth (the fact that Anouilh’s play was written in 1942, during the Nazi occupation of France, and had special meaning within that context is ignored).

The video, which Resnais engaged Bruno Podalydes to direct, features young actors performing in a bare warehouse and, altogether, amounts to roughly 28 minutes of material. But rather than an end in itself, it serves here as a springboard to stimulate the emotional memories of d’Anthac’s veteran actors, who are then seen playing their old roles once again, regardless of their sometimes vast age discrepancies with the characters.

For a while, the different pairings and performance styles holds the interest and even stimulates; revisiting one old production are Sabine Azema as Eurydice and Pierre Arditi as Orpheus, while another, regularly intercut, stars Anne Consigny and Lambert Wilson. Greatly enriching these impromptu flashbacks, or resummonings of dramas past, are Jacques Saulnier’s wonderful sets which, despite their color, deliberately evoke the poetic realism of French cinema in the 1930s and into the 1940s, especially in a beautifully rendered train station; in all respects, the film is technically immaculate. Further harkening back to that same period is Seweryn’s role as a detached impresario who orchestrates the proceedings.

Unfortunately, the film severely limits the richness of these reprised performances by providing no indications of the actors’ own relationships, now or decades before. The intense dialogues about love, lost and recaptured, could have achieved much greater resonance, be it sincere, ironic, painful, wistful or whatever, had the interpersonal histories of the actors been illuminated, with all their inevitable passions and rivalries. But Resnais is operating here on a more intellectual, game-playing level, constricting all responses to the brain and not the heart.

Furthermore, Resnais devotes a lion’s share of the final stretch to Azema (his wife) and Arditi, whereas, to be blunt, the beautiful Consigny and Wilson are much more enjoyable to watch. Azema provides Eurydice with a neurotic component that goes way over the top, drawing unneeded attention to the fact that this film is all talk, all the time.

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet is an amusing title for a film by an 89-year-old director, one who has already announced another project. At the same time, there is something both gleefully self-effacing and egotistical about centering a film on a puppet master-like director who, from the grave, summons his associates to do his bidding.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Big Magilla » Mon May 21, 2012 7:40 am

Common snese prevails.

From Jeffrey Wells:

Publicist Jeff Hill has announced that Sony Classics will release Michael Haneke's Amour in the U.S. under the original French title, and not Love, as David Poland and others have called it.

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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Mon May 21, 2012 7:35 am

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!
By Peter Debruge
Variety


If ever there was a project for a director of Alain Resnais' perpetually inventive spirit to wrap up his career, this is it. The trouble with "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!" is that the still-frisky 89-year-old auteur has found a conceptually playful way to present a downright stodgy piece of material, as a stage director invites 13 actors who appeared in earlier stagings of Jean Anouilh's "Eurydice" to evaluate a young company's new interpretation, fully aware they won't be able to resist the compulsion to reprise their roles. Starry French cast should drive local interest, with limited hope for export.

After a laughably hokey-looking credits sequence (think late-'90s public television), the exercise begins with 13 thesps receiving identical phone calls informing them of theater director Antoine d'Anthac's passing. Like characters in an Agatha Christie novel or its cheekier cousin, "Clue," the thesps are summoned to one of Antoine's many mansions. This setup hails directly from another of Anouilh's works, "Dear Antoine," billed along with "Eurydice" as source material for Laurent Herbiet and Alex Reval's screenplay.

First to show is Resnais' wife and muse, Sabine Azema. Like her dozen well-known co-stars, the flaming-red-haired Azema plays "herself," though in truth, these may actually be the most artificial performances ever given by most of this ensemble. Resnais has stripped their identities down to an essence -- that of actor -- and like robots designed for one function, they spring into action upon hearing a new company recite the lines they once delivered themselves, motivated by some vague combination of loyalty to Antoine and fidelity to the original material.

After Azema arrives, another half dozen guests step through the front door, one after the other in nearly identical fashion. With each entrance, composer Mark Snow supplies a mystical-sounding burst of electronic music, underscoring the comedy of the jump cut that preceded it. For Resnais' longtime editor Herve de Luze, it's hard to imagine a greater challenge than dealing with the script's repetitive/simultaneous action, and his solution seems to be to embrace the situation's nearly absurd humor.

At Antoine's request, his old company settles in to watch taped rehearsals of a fresh "Eurydice," and the next 100 minutes amount to an extended arm-wrestling match between several versions of Anouilh's play. (In order to ensure a different, 21st-century feel, Resnais delegated direction of the new "Eurydice" to Bruno Podalydes.) At first, the actors sit on oversized black couches watching a loose, warehouse-set update, during which Resnais lingers longer on the vets' wide-eyed reactions than he does on the amateurs' new interpretation. As the play draws them back in, the older actors begin to anticipate or repeat lines, eventually rising from their seats and stepping into crude greenscreen versions of the play's two key sets: a train station diner and a cheap hotel room.

To complicate matters, Antoine directed "Eurydice" twice before, and he has invited both casts, which means auds must accept three couples (Pierre Arditi/Azema and Lambert Wilson/Anne Consigny in the mansion, as well as Sylvain Dieuaide/Vimala Pons in the warehouse) as doomed lovers Orpheus and Eurydice. Although Resnais and de Luze devise inventive ways of alternating between Podalydes' footage and the older casts' separate re-enactments, the film's style overwhelms the material, which isn't all that compelling to begin with.

Far more interesting is the meta-story, sadly undeveloped, which comments on the loyalty thesps feel toward a beloved director; most of the actors have worked with Resnais multiple times before, though the relatively young age of his onscreen proxy suggests the film isn't as personal as critics might want. It also comments on the crazy manipulations an artist must sometimes engineer to create something fresh.

Even if "Eurydice" doesn't really warrant this sort of attention, the experience demonstrates something greater: the bond actors feel to souls they've previously inhabited and the way those characters live on within them.

Though Resnais' gamble seems to have failed, it's encouraging to see a director on the brink of 90 still willing to experiment in a way most helmers half his age wouldn't dare. While the performances feel rawer and less conventional in the young warehouse version, Resnais supplies the more daring directorial solution, giving poignancy to the film's title: If life permits, he could go right on innovating.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Mon May 21, 2012 7:33 am

In Another Country: Cannes Review
by Neil Young
Hollywood Reporter


Two arthouse "worlds" collide with amusing and intriguing -- if hardly earth-shattering -- results in cult Korean writer-director Hong Sangsoo's In Another Country, a brisk trio of larkish tales each starring Isabelle Huppert as a French woman visiting a small coastal resort. Obvious catnip for both sets of fan-bases, it may give many Huppert admirers their first sampling of Asian auteur cinema and thus provide Hong -- whose dozen previous features have sparked much critical fervor -- with his biggest international box-office exposure to date.

But while there'll be no shortage of festival takers for an accessibly comic picture of such pedigree world-premiering in Cannes competition, it is - for all its charms, and despite Hong's trademark formal experimentation -- ultimately rather lightweight stuff. In terms of arthouse "marquee" appeal, Hong will likely remain a coterie interest for the time being in comparison to his better-known compatriots Park Chanwook and Bong Joonho.

As usual with Hong, In Another Country (Da-reun na-ra-e-suh) plays games with structure and operates on a stories-within-a-story format. Here the three episodes are the results of three scripts - or maybe they're one single script - penned as a pastime by a bored young film-student Wonju (Jung Yumi) who has travelled to seaside backwater Mohang with her mother (Youn Yuhjung) to evade debt-collectors. Whatever faults we may find in the resulting vignettes can thus be deflected onto the inexperienced Wonju rather than the veteran Hong -- whose underlying impetus here, as elsewhere, is to examine and celebrate the vagaries of the creative process.

In each case, Wonju's protagonist is a "charming French visitor" named Anne: in the first section, she's a famous film-director (who may or may not be based on Claire Denis); in the second, she's the wife of a motor-executive who arrives in Mohang for a tryst with her film-director boyfriend; in the third, she's a wealthy housewife recently divorced from her unfaithful husband. As each "Anne" interacts with the locals -- including Wonju, who works at Anne's lodging and helps show her around -- certain faces, situations and lines of dialogue recur, their effect and implications changing depending on context and delivery.

Issues of infidelity are present in each story -- as is the live-wire chap identified only as the Lifeguard (Yu Junsang) -- who meets Anne on the beach in each of her "incarnations." These scenes involving Huppert and Yu -- a TV star who's has appeared in each of the increasingly prolific Hong's recent features Like You Know It All (2009), Hahaha (2010) and The Day He Arrives (2011), are the comic highlights of In Another Country -- wittily crystallizing the language and cultural barriers which complicate each Anne's stay in Mohang.

And while Huppert finds plenty of shading in the functionally-sketched Annes, it's Yu who steals the picture with his bouncy physical presence and puppyishly eager-to-please directess. The sequence in which he haltingly improvises a guitar serenade to Anne while the pair sit in his tent, with the camera keeping a discreet distance, displays Hong's comic gifts at their most hysterical. But the interactions between Anne(s) and the Lifeguard also have a poignant romantic angle -- some force of destiny (i.e. "scriptwriter" Wonju) brings them together, only to add complications before a satisfying and pleasingly daft finale.

How much this all adds up to is a matter for each viewer to decide. Hong slyly provides enough structural intricacy and interconnectedness to keep semiologists and deconstructionists in business for weeks, while more general audiences may be happy to enjoy the picture's more straightforward pleasures. Shot on 35mm, it has a likeably freewheeling, thrown-together, lo-fi feel - even the opening titles are written in biro - with a zoom-happy camera that often seems powered, like Anne's happy-go-lucky lifeguard, by sheer joie de vivre.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Mon May 21, 2012 7:31 am

Like Someone in Love
By Guy Lodge
Variety.com


The very title of Abbas Kiarostami's Tokyo-set character waltz "Like Someone in Love" -- named for the jazz standard Ella Fitzgerald croons on the soundtrack -- promises something as woozily romantic as "Certified Copy," his 2010 cat's cradle of lovers' memories. As it turns out, it's the first, not the last, word of the title that's key to this droll, elegant but faintly trying study in emotional artifice. An unofficial twin to "Copy," sharing its playful preoccupation with identities mistaken and assumed, it's a more austere and less intellectual work, certainly less attractive to distribs, though auteur cachet should see it through.

Kiarostami's second film set and shot outside his native Iran continues his exploration of other global territories as a direct means of expressing certain cinephilic affections. Just as the Tuscany-set "Certified Copy" casually traced around multiple aspects of Roberto Rossellini's "Voyage to Italy," the spartan Tokyo story of "Like Someone in Love" is laced with references to the filmography of Yasujiro Ozu, from obvious narrative cues like a young woman's affectless neglect of her visiting grandmother to subtler variations on the Japanese master's framing. Quite what the homage is supporting is harder to gauge, as Kiarostami's breezy, sometimes cruel tale of mistaken identity reads as a near-parody of Ozu's still-waters humanism.

A protracted, circuitously revealed opening sequence in a restaurant sets the tone for what's to come, as we're introduced to Akiko (Rin Takanishi) voice-first, holding up one deceitful half of a cell-phone conversation to her boyfriend, as the camera fixates instead on her cherry-haired friend Nagisa (Reiko Mori). It's a disorienting tactic, one of many occasions when Kiarostami methodically splits interdependent elements of a scene: withholding intimacy by fixing conversations in rigid shot-reverse-shot patterns, or denying the audience a view of a painting being discussed in detail by two characters.

With even simple information being so frugally passed out, the film constructs more of an enigma around Akiko than the character might warrant. A demurely pretty, averagely bright sociology student, she funds her college tuition by working nights as a high-class escort, and is in the restaurant to receive details of her latest client, retired sociology professor Takashi (Tadashi Okuno). Arriving at his house, she finds the lonely old man more eager to play house than have sex, and falls asleep in his bedroom. The next morning, she allows him to give her a ride to class, crossing paths with her volatile boyfriend, Noriaki (Ryo Kase), who not unreasonably assumes the kindly prof is Akiko's grandfather.

It's when neither Takashi nor Akiko directly corrects him that the games begin, albeit still in a rather minor key. The two accept their new roles of, respectively, guardian and granddaughter -- or, given their shared academic field, student and master -- with the impassive good grace of actors assigned roles in a play. (Given her callous screening of her real grandmother's calls, Akiko certainly doesn't seem to be crying out for extra seniors in her life.)

Their role-playing routine isn't as richly ambiguous as that enacted by the strangers/lovers in "Certified Copy"; nor does it lead anywhere particularly consequential. Indeed, it's Noriaki's confused envy over the situation that drives the rhythmically quickened finale, the punctuating incident of which feels more like a punchline than a conclusion. The film's 109-minute running time seems generous for a high-end trifle, but if it somehow winds up feeling shorter than it is, it's hard to say what we still desire or expect from this opaque triangle of characters. After his atypical star collaboration with Juliette Binoche, the perfs feel more subserviently integrated into the concept this time, although they're all accomplished, particularly Okuno's dryly quizzical sad-sack.

Not entirely satisfying as either an academic or an emotional exercise, "Like Someone in Love" offers its most complete pleasures as a quietly pristine showcase for Kiarostami's undiminished craft, its most laborious stretches still wowing with their poised camera placement and confidently spare editing schemes. (Kiarostami's son, Bahman, is once more holding the scissors.)

This being a Kiarostami film, long, unbroken takes of characters driving or being driven are the order of the day, peaking with a bravura cross-city sequence in the back of a taxi, Tokyo's familiar chaos of lights coloring Akiko's face as she checks her voicemails in real time. Abetted by Toshihiro Isomi's geometric, wheaten-hued production design, lenser Katsumi Yanagijima, best known for more ostentiously impressive work on Takeshi Kitano's films, gives the proceedings an airy, brisk feel, precise even in its murk -- a paradox that could as easily be applied to the film's storytelling.
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