2012 Cannes Line-up

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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Mon May 21, 2012 7:30 am

Like Someone In Love
21 May, 2012 | By Lee Marshall
Screendaily


Dir/scr: Abbas Kiarostami. France-Japan. 2012. 109mins


It must have bugged Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami that, with Certified Copy, he had strayed perilously close to making a commercial film. If so, he’s set the record straight and saved his reputation as an abstruse, impenetrable arthouse director with this Japanese-set follow-up, which was greeted with a mix of bafflement and boos at its Cannes competition press screening.

Kiarostami fails to embed the film’s visual, aural and symbolic games in a narrative that satisfies on the level of story and character.
Admittedly, this reaction had much to do with the abrupt ending, which feels like a random cut in the middle of a very long second act. For much of the rest of the film Kiarostami intrigues us as he weaves a carefully framed, sometimes funny, sometimes tender shaggy-dog story about (among other things) an encounter between an elderly Japanese professor and a young escort girl. Like many of Kiarostami’s films, Like Someone In Love is at least in part about the way people tell stories and stories tell people, but the way the theme is developed here seems less emotionally and ethically resonant than in, say, Ten or The Wind Will Carry Us.

And although there is much to chew on along the way, Like Someone In Love is still a long, slow slog, in comparison with which a film like A Taste Of Cherry seems positively adrenalin-fuelled. Compensations for patient cineastes include the film’s exquisite mise-en-scène and its tendency to generate post-screening discussions on what the… it was all about. But these are straws for distributors to grasp at, and the film is unlikely to generate anything like the business drummed up by Certified Copy.

Taking its title from an Ella Fitzgerald song which features as one of four tracks on the film’s jazz-based diegetic soundtrack, Like Someone In Love opens with a long fixed-camera scene set in a bar somewhere, we guess, in urban Japan. Somebody is talking on the phone, apparently to her boyfriend, but it’s not until well into the scene that a cut and change of angle reveals the speaker to be Akiko (Takanashi), a pretty young thing who, it transpires, is working as a call girl for bar owner Hiroshi (Denden), though she’s a university student by day. Hiroshi insists that she should spend the night with a special client that he wants her to meet; she tells him she has to meet her grandmother, who is in town for the day and keeps leaving messages on Akiko’s answerphone.

Eventually agreeing to her boss’s demands, Akiko arrives at the house of elderly sociology professor Takashi (Okuno), who looks like a cross between Albert Einstein and Ned Flanders. Every inch the old-fashioned gent, Takashi has prepared a romantic dinner for two in his bookish living room; but though she chats for a while, Akiko is more interested in getting into bed and getting the business over with – something that clearly embarrasses her grandfatherly client, though it’s left unclear whether he had sex in mind when he hired her. However, the exhausted Akiko soon falls asleep, and the next day, Takashi drives her to the university she attends, where she has a run-in with her jealous, impulsive boyfriend Noriaki (Kase).

We’re already an hour in by now; but despite the slow pace, it’s a promising set-up with enough going on to keep us interested. Among contemporary auteurs, Kiarostami has made the automobile uniquely his own filmic space, and Like Someone In Love is no exception, with Takashi’s Volvo becoming a place of transit, storytelling, confrontation and reconciliation. There’s a running thread about little white lies, jokes told badly and punchlines not understood.

Questions of identity and the way images and self-images can block personal change are foreshadowed in nods to some photo stickers Akiko left in city phone booths, and in a discussion about whether she resembles a woman in a copy of a famous Japanese painting that hangs on Takashi’s wall – a painting in which a parrot also appears. As in Certified Copy, Kiarostami’s plays extensively with reflections, as in a shot where the reflection of Hiroshi’s shirt in his bar window almost encircles, as in a Venn diagram, the two girls he pimps, who are visible on the other side of the glass.

The more you delve, the more resonance you find; the problem is that Kiarostami fails to embed the film’s visual, aural and symbolic games in a narrative that satisfies on the level of story and character.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Mon May 21, 2012 7:28 am

In Another Country
21 May, 2012 | By Dan Fainaru
Screendaily


Dir/scr: Hong Sangsoo. S Korea. 2012. 89mins


Echoes of the French New Wave resound all through this cute, light-hearted three-part romantic romp, which reads like a series of vignettes inspired by the encounter of Isabelle Huppert and the people and landscapes of South Korea. Yet another loving tribute by Hong Sangsoo to French cinema, somewhere between inconsequential and flimsy but pleasant to watch all through, In Another Country (Da-Reun Na-ra-e-suh) will charm both film students and their tutors, who will feast on the exercises of cinema language the film offers and over-analyse the use of identical dramatic ingredients in the three episodes that are much less separate than they pretend to be.

The framing story - just an excuse to keep these episodes together - has young film student, Wonju (Jung Yumi) and her mother Park Sook (Youn Yuhjung, the formidable older maid in Im Sangsoo’s Housemaid) hiding from their debtors in Mohang, a seaside town. The bored younger woman sets out to write a script whose plot will use the place they’re staying in for the location, but eventually comes up with three variants, using the same basic idea in all of them.

A French woman, Anne (Huppert, in three supposedly unrelated, but very similar parts) comes to Mohang and each time encounters a different set of characters, mostly played by the same actors. She goes through three different experiences, which are actually not that unlike each other. Not only the locations and the faces of the characters do not change but much of the dialogue remains the same as well.

First, there is Anne the filmmaker, visiting a fellow Korean director Jungsoo (Kwon Hyehyo) and his very pregnant and jealous wife Kumhee (Moon Sori, of Oasis fame). In the background, here as well as in the other two episodes, there are other characters, such as a dim but muscular lifeguard (Yu Junsang) whom Anne meets while strolling on the beach and looking (in all three episodes) for a mini-lighthouse.

The second Anne is the wife of a rich Frenchman who comes to the same guesthouse to meet her lover, a Korean filmmaker, Munsoo (Moon Sungkeun), and finally, there is Anne number three who comes arrives with her university lecturer friend Park Soon (again Youn Yuhjung) for some peace and quiet, after her husband left for his young Korean secretary.

Shot with the naturally sprightly approach of the early French New Wave, moving briskly and cheerfully while dispensing amusing wisecracks, Hong offers ironic portraits of the Korean male as a self-conscious, but not particularly competent, lecher who can’t help hitting on pretty foreigners when they come their way.

The entire cast, with Huppert in her sunniest disposition, seem to be having a lot of fun with this series of stylish sketches that purport to show how the same dramatic bricks, if intelligently used, can serve to build different houses.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Mon May 21, 2012 7:26 am

In Another Country
By Maggie Lee
Variety.com


Beguilingly simple, relaxed in its mastery and enhanced by Isabelle Huppert's impeccable poise, helmer-writer Hong Sangsoo's ambivalently titled "In Another Country" plays like the flipside of his Paris-set "Night and Day." While that 2008 film satirized Koreans' antics abroad, the new pic makes Huppert's "otherness" a dramatic lodestone, observing not only how Koreans treat foreigners, but also how they behave toward each other in the company of strangers; their amusingly awkward interactions constitute a deeper reflection on the concept of give-and-take in love and life. With a big marquee name, pic should travel farther afield than Hong's usual Gallic arthouse niche.

As strictly symmetrical as all Hong's works, "In Another Country" adopts a triptych structure in which Huppert plays three different French women, all named Anne, who make a brief stopover at the West Blue Hotel in the seaside town of Mohang. The meta-fictional premise is that the three stories rep different versions of a script written by film student Wonju (Jung Yung-mi) as an exercise in stress management.

In the first episode, Anne is a filmmaker invited to join her director friend Jongsoo (Kwon Hye-ho) and his heavily pregnant wife, Kumhee (Moon So-ri), for a holiday in Mohang. Jongsoo reminds Anne of a kiss they shared in Berlin, interpreting it as a sign of greater intimacy to come.

The second episode sees Anne arrive alone as the wife of a rich businessman, summoned to Mohang for a tryst by Korean filmmaker b.f. Munsoo (Moon Sung-keun). During the short time he spends with her, Munsoo is paranoid about getting spotted for his indiscretions, and eventually ticks Anne off with his groundless jealousy.

In the third episode, Anne turns up as a recent divorcee whose marriage was ruined by her husband's affair with his Korean employee. She is accompanied by Park Sook (Youn Yuh-jung), a professor. At Anne's request for enlightenment, Park introduces her to a monk, whose cryptic sayings only confuse her more.

As in most of Hong's films, different characters (played by the same few thesps) re-enact similar scenes and reiterate the same lines of dialogue. Here, however, they succeed in gathering comic momentum rather than becoming tedious, overly self-referential or formally too complex. The use of repetition as a device wryly echoes the generic small-talk that Koreans and other Asians tend to make in uncomfortable social situations.

The awkwardness of the pic's cross-cultural exchanges is heightened by the fact that the characters largely speak English, which is not anyone's native tongue here; Hong displays a sharp ear for their clumsy speech patterns as they try to tell each other what they think they want to hear. The Korean characters' over-eager gestures of hospitality in particular reveal how a social landscape changes in response to a foreigner's presence. Not only is Anne literally in another country, but Korea shapes itself into another country for her benefit.

In the most hilarious examples of this phenomenon, Anne keeps running into the same beefy lifeguard (Yu Jun-sang), who invites her into his tent and makes gauche advances.

Content-wise, "In Another Country" may be the tamest film in Hong's body of work. Drunkenness takes place offscreen and there is not a single instance of sexual activity; one morning-after scene comes close, but remains ambiguous. The only displays of erotic passion come in the form of fantasy sequences that send up Korean preconceptions of French romance, confirming that the foreign woman is an unattainable and obscure object of desire.

Hong's characteristic preference for medium shots and unnaturally abrupt zooms, tilts and cutaways further creates distance between his subjects. By the final segment, there's a sense that each Anne is a rather lonely person, and the fact that she's in a strange land is perhaps a metaphor for alienation of an existential nature, implied by her boredom, her search for an elusive lighthouse, and the way she finds herself constantly waiting, like a character in a Beckett play.

With everything revolving around her, Huppert maintains a coherent identity while calibrating a range of feelings expressed by her three different personas, all of whom cut striking figures wearing blue, red and green, respectively. The rest of the cast, most of them Hong regulars, provide solid supporting turns.

Sunnier lighting and Park Hong-yeol's lensing yield a more vibrant color palette than in most of Hong's recent works, making Mohang, with its extensive greenery and long coastline, appear less drab than the director's typical seaside mise-en-scene. Modest, low-budget tech credits match the humble location.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun May 20, 2012 4:07 pm

Like Someone in Love: Cannes Review
by Jordan Mintzer
Hollywood Reporter


CANNES - After deconstructing a would-be romance in the Tuscany-set Certified Copy, Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami takes another trip abroad to explore the depths of unrequited desire in the Japanese drama, Like Someone in Love. However, this being a Kiarostami movie, the “Like” part of the title (taken from the Ella Fitzgerald song) is to be taken quite literally here, and this enchanting affair (of sorts) between a retired professor and a gorgeous young call girl is never exactly what it seems. Upscale art houses and admirers of the Palme d’Or laureate will be the major clients of this tenderhearted and melancholic work, provided its propos are not lost in translation.

A lengthy opening in a crowded Tokyo bar sets the pace for much of what comes next: We see people chatting and drinking as a jazzy soundtrack plays in the background, but what we hear is the voice of a woman talking on the phone to her boyfriend, pretending to be somewhere she isn’t. Only when the camera cuts to the reverse-shot do we see that the voice belongs to the timidly beautiful Akiko (Rin Takanashi), and only when the scene runs its course do we realize that she’s a student doubling as an escort girl, who’s about to be sent by her pimp (Denden) on a very special rendezvous.

This initial play between what’s seen, what’s heard and what’s really happening becomes the modus operandi for the relationship at the heart of Like Someone in Love, and the film constantly toys with the expectations of both its characters and the audience, transforming a classic three-way tale of mistaken identities into something much more mysterious and troubling.

What that exactly is becomes clear once Akiko arrives at the home of the elderly sociologist, Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), who seems to be all geared up for a hot date, although that’s not really what happens: After the two engage in a long and casual conversation about a painting hanging on Takashi’s wall (which prompts a very Vertigo-like moment of mirroring hairstyles), Akiko eventually heads into the bedroom and undresses, but an unexpected phone call delays things and she winds up passing out on the old man’s bed.

The next day, Takashi drives Akiko to university and crosses paths with her macho b.f., Noriaki (Ryo Kase, Restless), who’s a bundle of nerves and jealousy. When the latter mistakes the professor for his girl’s grandfather, Takashi decides to go along with it, and very much like in Certified Copy (or the director’s 1990 masterpiece, Close-Up), the narrative becomes an extended quid pro quo where the characters decide to take on different personas out of either desire or happenstance, or both. Thus, Takashi turns into the protector that Akiko sorely lacks as a young woman alone in the big city, while she becomes the granddaughter that the reclusive academic seems to be estranged from.

Where all the roleplaying ultimately leads is surprising to say the least, and viewers familiar with Kiarostami’s typically serene dramas will have another thing coming to them. Whether or not such a denouement ultimately convinces is another matter, and while it certainly represents an intriguing change of pace for the Iranian filmmaker, it takes things so far as to make one wonder whether the means entirely justify the ends here.

Technically speaking, Like Someone in Love is exquisitely made, from the shadowy nuanced cinematography of Takeshi Kitano regular Katsumi Yanagijima to the rich sound design of Reza Narimazadeh (A Separation). While there are several aesthetically imposing scenes, perhaps the most memorable is a trancelike sequence of Akiko crossing Tokyo in a taxicab at night – an impressive dance of movement, light and layered voices that certainly gives Sofia Coppola a run for her money.

Editing by the director’s son, Bahman, allows the performances to play out in uninterrupted takes, and the three principals – especially Okuno, who provides a deliciously deadpan mix of reverie and wisdom – acquit themselves extremely well. If the subtlety of the direction recalls the late work of Yasujiro Ozu (to whom this movie can in some ways be considered a homage), Kiarostami still manages to pull the “slow cinema” rug out from under us by literary ending things with a bang.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun May 20, 2012 8:21 am

The Hunt
20 May, 2012 | By Fionnuala Halligan
Screeendaily

Dir: Thomas Vinterberg. Denmark. 2012. 106mins



An energised Thomas Vinterberg powers into a rural Danish community with devastating effects in The Hunt, a confident return to form - and some familiar themes - for the co-writer-director. Daring to force his narrative right up against the edge of credibility, Vinterberg uses the hot-button topic of child abuse to push and probe at a town’s close-knit facade until the wounds bubble up angrily to the surface.

Early plotting here is fast, so fast that it can sometimes feel false. But any initial doubts that this might prove to be simply a beautifully-crafted TV-movie are expertly laid waste as The Hunt, propelled by Mads Mikkelsen in an everyman role, hits home - and hits hard. Given the right critical backing, Trust Nordisk should see this expertly made film notch up strong international exposure; a Cannes prize would help, of course, and Mikkelson at least must be a contender for an outstanding performance as Vinterberg’s sacrificial lamb.

The issue of children making false accusations of sexual abuse is ground which has been travelled cinematically before, from The Children’s Hour (which started life as a play in 1934) to The Good Mother. It is acknowledged to rarely happen, although when The Hunt seems difficult to accept, the memory of the Cleveland abuse hysteria in the UK alone is enough to lend it some solid legs.

In it, Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a humble, self-effacing kindergarten teacher recovering from a bitter divorce and separation from his son Markus (a warm performance by young actor Fogelstrom). Vinterberg efficiently and unambiguously sets the action up with the film taking place over the months of November and December. We see five-year-old Klara, the daughter of Lucas’s best friend Theo (Bo Larsen) make her allegation; we know why she has done it; and we also know that Lucas is innocent.

The ensuing bridge is where The Hunt stumbles in its chase, with Vinterberg and co-writer Tobias Lindholm requiring the entire community to immediately and virulently turn against Lucas. Not content with immediately calling a meeting of parents which turns one hesitant allegation into widespread child abuse, experienced school head Grethe (Susse Wold) phones Lucas’s ex-wife and son to inform them personally. And despite a life-long friendship with Lucas, Theo refuses to even countenance asking his child what happened. When Klara tries to tell her mother Agnes (Hassing), she refuses to listen.

However, once The Hunt’s mission is accomplished, and Lucas is abandoned, the film takes off with Vinterberg reveling in the opportunity to contrast the ugliness of human nature against the glowing beauty of the Danish landscape. It’s 14 years since Festen made his name here in Cannes and, as is well documented, Vinterberg has stumbled since that early success. But The Hunt doesn’t just witnesses a return to form, it also examines similar themes. While technically, it inhabits another planet to the breathless Dogme film (Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s frames are fixed and lustrous, and take The Hunt outside, while Festen was an interior chamber piece) the central issue of truth and lies splitting a community lingers - and how people choose what they will believe in.

Vinterberg clearly enjoys picking at the illusion of brotherhood amongst these childhood friends and primal deer-hunters who boast an easy, beery male camaraderie that is only surface-deep. As the early-morning steam rises to greet them, there’s a sense of creeping menace and a fear that The Hunt will claim a sacrifice. And having played fast and loose earlier on in the piece, Vinterberg keeps the faith to The Hunt’s last heart-stopping frame.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun May 20, 2012 8:19 am

The Hunt: Cannes Review
by David Rooney
Hollywood Reporter


CANNES – Thomas Vinterberg burst onto the international scene in 1998 at Cannes with Festen (The Celebration), a malevolently comic drama in which the ugly truth of childhood sexual abuse poisoned the air and blew away the happy hypocrisy of a family reunion. In the Danish director’s most powerful film since then, The Hunt, the charge of pedophilia again plays an explosive role, only this time the allegation is based on an impulsive lie, making it even more bitter when the fallout spirals violently out of control. It’s difficult to watch but riveting.

Propelled by Mads Mikkelsen’s shattering performance as the blameless man whose life threatens to be destroyed, the film is superbly acted by a cast that never strikes a false note or softens the impact with consolatory sentiment. The same strengths distinguish Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm’s screenplay, which spins a psychological horror story rooted at every step in credible reality.

The film is fundamentally about the speed at which lies, gossip and innuendo can become cemented as fact in public opinion, and about the disturbing power of suggestion on young minds. But it’s also about the fragile nature of trust in communities and among friends, particularly men. It shows how easily masculine bonds stretching back years can be broken and how willingly a band of brothers can betray one of its own.

Lucas (Mikkelsen) is a beloved member of one such group of small-town deer-hunting buddies, whose rowdy get-togethers are fueled by booze and bonhomie. Bouncing back from the loss of his teaching job and a messy divorce, he is just starting to get on his feet again. He has a new job at a local kindergarten, begins a promising relationship with a foreign co-worker (Alexandra Rapaport), and after having limited access to his adolescent son Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom), it now appears likely the boy will be moving back in with him.

Mikkelsen imbues Lucas in his earliest scenes with such warmth and compassion, particularly around the adoring kids at work, that it’s heart-wrenching to hear the alarm bells going off when the drama’s nightmarish chain of events is set in motion.

Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), the young daughter of Lucas’ closest friend Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen), develops an innocent crush on him. But when her displays of affection overstep normal boundaries, Lucas gently draws a line, which she misinterprets as a hurtful rebuff. Her imagination sparked by a pornographic image glimpsed on her brother’s iPad, Klara responds to the concerned questions of kindergarten supervisor Grethe (Susse Wold) by saying that Lucas exposed himself to her.

The film stirs indignation via the blind ineptitude with which Grethe addresses the allegation, involving a seemingly under-qualified external child psychologist, colleagues, parents, and eventually, police. But what’s even more upsetting is Lucas’ helplessness to correct the misinformation, given that Grethe refuses to tell him the source or even the exact nature of the charge. Parents advised to look for signs of trauma in their children suddenly begin seeing them everywhere.

Virtually overnight, Lucas finds himself ostracized by the community, shunned by all but one loyal friend (Lars Ranthe), physically assaulted and subjected to a particularly vicious reprisal that causes both him and Marcus considerable grief.

While witch-hunt stories like this one peaked in the news some years ago and have been dramatized on TV and film before, The Hunt is still shocking. That’s thanks to the skill with which Vinterberg, Lindholm and editors Anne Osterud and Janus Billeskov Jansen modulate the crescendo of paranoia, judgement and injustice.

Adding to the sorrow at the drama’s heart is Klara’s confusion. Even when she volunteers that it was a silly thing she made up, her mother (Anne Louise Hassing) muddies her grasp of the situation with leading talk about the repression of unpleasant memories. However, any sense of individual responsibility remains secondary to the sober acknowledgement of the role played by societal conditioning and adults’ instinctive belief in the innocence of children. Following a painful resolution, the film’s chilling coda makes it clear that the damage can never really be undone.

The elegantly framed widescreen compositions of cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen maintain a certain detachment in the establishing action, bearing witness to the awful events with distressing clarity. And Nikolaj Egelund’s delicate music is used with economy to punctuate the two-month ordeal, never to artificially stoke tension as a heavier hand might have done.

But while it’s crisply executed, The Hunt is very much an actor-driven film. As the child who triggers the maelstrom and then gets bundled out of its way, Wedderkopp gives a performance of uncanny naturalness and vulnerability, while as the teenager caught in the crossfire, Fogelstrom is equally good.

Intense, wounded, wrung out and pushed to the brink of insanity, Mikkelsen’s Lucas is a devastating characterization, all the more so because his outbursts of rage are so infrequent. Continuing on from his impressive work in A Royal Affair, which premiered in Berlin, this is a tremendous year for the Danish actor, best known to international audiences as 007’s nemesis in Casino Royale.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Sat May 19, 2012 7:27 pm

The Hunt
By Boyd van Hoeij
Variety.com


Absorbing if not particularly innovative, "The Hunt" sees helmer Thomas Vinterberg returning to the Cannes competition with another child-abuse-themed pic, 12 years after "The Celebration." While that earlier film's reputation as the director's best remains unchallenged, his latest, which explores the disturbing ripple effects of a false sexual-abuse accusation, will fit snugly into the recent run of solid Danish dramas that have done well at fests and in arthouses worldwide. As an added marketing bonus, Mads Mikkelsen ("Casino Royale") is effectively cast against type in the lead.

Scripted by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm (who co-penned the helmer's previous pic, "Submarino"), "The Hunt" touches on a subject explored in more stomach-churning fashion by the recent French pic "Guilty," as well as by Danish helmer Jacob Thuesen's "The Accused" (2005). All these films demonstrate that the most adults, when confronted with accusations of this nature, will instinctually believe and want to protect the children, with little presumption of innocence for the alleged perpetrators.

Recently divorced kindergarten teacher Lucas (Mikkelsen) wouldn't hurt a fly, except when he goes hunting for deer in the forest (the somewhat heavy-handed excuse for the title's double entendre). His teenage son, Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom), would actually prefer to live with his cool dad, though his mom is making this difficult. In fact, Lucas is so lovable that one of his kindergarten students, Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), has a crush on him. However, when she's found out, Klara becomes defensive and, perhaps inspired by porn images she spotted on a sibling's iPad, she leads the head of the day-care center, Grethe (Susse Wold), to believe Lucas exposed himself.

Grethe needs little convincing that the innocent-looking blonde girl is a victim, and informs first Klara's parents and then all the other adults who have children at the center. This leads to a predictable community backlash against Lucas, who at first isn't even aware which of the children has accused him of committing the unspeakable acts.

Vinterberg wisely sticks to the p.o.v. of the falsely accused lead throughout. Except for Marcus and his godfather (Lars Ranthe), everyone begins to doubt Lucas' innocence -- from Klara's father (Thomas Bo Larsen, "The Celebration"), who happens to be Lucas' best friend, to a hot foreign colleague-cum-g.f. (Alexandra Rapaport) -- and either cuts off contact or is pushed away. The rest of the village turns into a vocal, violent mob only a baseball bat removed from cliche.

Known for his often icy and violent characters, Mikkelsen impresses here as a warm-hearted man who finds himself caught up in a situation way beyond his control; thesp makes Lucas' immediate isolation and subsequent frustration tangible. Just as good is little Wedderkopp, delivering an impressive perf that suggests Klara, too, is caught up in something she can barely understand. Ensemble cast is aces, with Larsen a standout in the film's second half. The ending serves up a nice final sting.

Set in the two months leading up to Christmas, "The Hunt" looks and sounds like a comfortably budgeted Danish drama, with the requisite crisp, occasionally twitchy widescreen lensing, solid sound work and a restrained score.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Sat May 19, 2012 9:28 am

Beyond the Hills: Cannes Review
by Stephen Dalton
Hollywood Reporter


CANNES - Nuns on the verge of a nervous breakdown have a surprisingly strong cinematic pedigree stretching from the Powell and Pressburger classic Black Narcissus to Bunuel’s Viridiana, Russell’s The Devils and Almodovar’s Dark Habits. The chief poster boy for Romanian cinema’s new wave, Cristian Mungiu now adds to that legacy with Beyond the Hills, a serious-minded contender in the current Cannes competition line-up.

At well over two hours, this austere psychological drama lacks the political bite and pulse-racing suspense of Mungiu’s highly acclaimed abortion thriller 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. But it should still earn a discerning global audience based on the director’s solid track record and unquestionable technical skill.

Alina, a emotionally disturbed young woman now living in Germany, arrives in a remote mountainous region of Romania to visit her former orphanage classmate and one-time lover, Voichiţa. She is expecting to leave with her, but Voichiţa has become a devout novice at an Orthodox church community run by a highly conservative priest. Despite a life of hardship in almost gulag-like conditions, Voichiţa has found her calling in life.

An increasingly desperate Alina tries various strategies to undermine the priest and tempt Voichiţa away, including attempted suicide and arson. But when she becomes violent, the nuns begin to fear she is diabolically possessed, tying her to a wooden stretcher before subjecting her to starvation and exorcism.

The Romanian new wave became a global cause celebre when Mungiu won the Cannes Palme d’Or in 2007 with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Since then the term has mostly been attached to politically charged retro-dramas set during the twilight of Ceauşescu’s Communist regime. A co-production between Romania, France and Belgium, Mungiu’s fourth feature was co-produced by the leading lights of Belgian social realism, the Dardennes brothers. It maintains the movement’s stylistic roots in no-frills naturalism and long single takes, but it makes a definitive break in terms of subject matter, tackling a timeless human drama in a contemporary setting.

The lurid plot of Beyond the Hills may sound dramatically far-fetched, but it was actually inspired by real events in a Moldovan monastery less than a decade ago. Basing his script on two “non-fiction novels” about this case by former BBC reporter Tatiana Niculescu Bran, Mungiu maintains an admirably non-judgmental distance from his characters throughout. The needy, demanding, unsympathetic Alina is never an obvious victim. The priest and nuns are morally flawed but essentially well-meaning. Even the climatic exorcism occurs off screen, a smart choice given the weight of cinematic cliché such events have accumulated over the decades.

Filmed on location at a specially constructed church compound in the hills some 100 km from the Romanian capital of Bucharest, Mungiu’s harshly beautiful depiction of destructive dogma and sacrificial female victims feels at times like vintage Lars Von Trier. It is certainly shot with Dogme 95-style naturalism, stripped of such vain frippery as non-diegetic sound or special effects. Shot on high-contrast digital video, many of then film’s colour-drained tableaux have all the Calvinist purity of an old Dutch Master painting. These hills are certainly not alive with the sound of music.

Fortunately Mungui assembles an interesting cast of faces to hold our attention, many of them big-screen novices. A sometime journalist and TV reporter making her film debut, Cosima Stratan is a real discovery, her rounded features and haunted eyes managing to radiate deep spiritual anguish with the most minimal expression. In one crucial scene, her luminous face is framed mid screen for several electrifying minutes as her universe of comforting moral certainties collapses around her.

Admittedly two and a half hours of thwarted love and spiritual torment is something of an endurance test, especially considering the action rarely ventures outside its single bleak location. The film’s mid section, especially, feels slow and repetitive. Only during the final act, mostly shot in snow, does Mungiu remind us of the tightly wound tension and crisp visual composition that made 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days such a powerful thriller.

Beyond the Hills is less fun than any film about lesbian nuns and their psychotic ex-lovers ought to be. But it is an engrossingly serious work, and confirms Mungiu as a maturing talent with more universal stories to tell than those defined by Romania’s recent political past.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Sat May 19, 2012 9:23 am

Beyond The Hills
18 May, 2012 | By Dan Fainaru
Screendaily


Dir/scr: Cristian Mungiu. Romania-France-Belgium. 2012. 150mins


Spare, unadorned and strikingly shot, Cristian Mungiu’s film is an unusual rendering of a Romanian exorcism case and is bound to split both audience and critical opinions, some considering it a major achievement and others blaming it for overlong pretentious sensationalism. But it will certainly not pass unnoticed.

It is inspired by a two non-fiction novels written by Tatiana Niculescu Bran, a BBC correspondent who investigated the case of a young woman supposedly possessed by evil spirits in 2005 and who was tortured to death in a Romanian monastery to drive the devil out of her body. Mungiu’s script tackles such major themes as love, faith, freedom of spirit versus rigid religion, ignorance and poverty, providing a fertile background for the inevitable ensuing conflicts.

He has no outright heroes or villains, with each character in Beyond The Hills (Dupa dealuri) sincerely believing he is right - the ultimate tragedy being therefore unavoidable.

Willful Alina (Cristina Flutur) comes back to Romania to extricate her docile orphanage friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan), away from the grip of a remote Orthodox monastery in which she has found some sort of peace of mind.

She wants Voichita to come with her to Germany, and can’t understand her reticence, rejecting everything the monastery’s regime stands for and when denied the one thing she wants most in life - Voichita’s company - she loses control of herself and has to be put in a hospital. Once she calms down the doctors claim there is nothing more they can do for her and since she has nowhere else to go to, she returns to the monastery to recuperate, despite the reservations of the head priest (Valeriu Andriuta), whose soft spoken demeanor hides an iron fist.

Alina’s fuse soon blows again and the priest allows himself to be persuaded into exorcising the evil spirit controlling her. He reads prayers while she is gagged and chained to a makeshift cross and by the time the battle for her soul seems to have been won, her body has already given up.

Moving at an unhurried pace Mungiu lavishes attention on backdrop details that underline the particular character of the story, such as the rudimentary conditions the nuns live in (no running water and no electricity), the unpaved roads and the frozen winter landscape.

Lacking previous feature film experience, both Flutur, a stage actress, and Stratan, a former TV reporter, have been amazingly well cast to fit their roles while Andriuta’s assertive priest, the one character that would be closest to a villain in this piece, and Dana Tapalaga’s kind-hearted Mother Superior, have a human dimension that comes through every time and again, despite utter their submission to the rules.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri May 18, 2012 8:44 pm

Beyond the Hills
By Justin Chang
Variety.com


The tensions between the spiritual and the secular, groups and individuals, are examined in intelligent, creepily insinuating but not entirely satisfying fashion in "Beyond the Hills." Set largely within the physical and psychological confines of a rural monastery, this latest work from gifted Romanian writer-director Cristian Mungiu boasts the same formal control and somber realism that distinguished "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days." But Mungiu's slow-burning, scrupulously evenhanded portrait of religious hysteria rarely achieves that film's gut-level intensity, leaving audiences with an accomplished but bleak 152-minute picture that will require favorable critical attention to find an arthouse niche.

Quite absorbing despite its deliberate pace and running time, this is Mungiu's first feature since "4 Months" won the Palme d'Or in 2007 and confirmed a creative renaissance in Romanian cinema (he also produced the 2009 omnibus work "Tales From the Golden Age"). While it may be unreasonable to expect lightning to strike twice, "Beyond the Hills" is so clearly a companion piece to "4 Months" that it naturally summons comparisons: Once again, Mungiu explores the powerful bond between two young women trying to negotiate the boundaries of a particular prison.

In this case, it's one built on the unyielding foundations of religious dogma, a subject that should resonate well beyond the boundaries of the unconsecrated Orthodox monastery where the film is set. In this remote Moldavian enclave, consisting of a simple chapel and a few huts cut off from electricity or running water, a strict but not unkind local priest (Valeriu Andriuta) oversees an order of young nuns who refer to him as "Father" or "Papa."

One of his highly devout and impressionable charges is Voichita (Cosmina Stratan), a woman in her 20s who receives an extended visit from her close childhood friend Alina (Cristina Flutur). Details of the girls' relationship gradually arise: They grew up together in an orphanage, but were separated when Alina moved to Germany and Voichita answered her monastic calling. Hoping Voichita will accompany her back to Germany, the emotionally forthcoming Alina tries to reignite a heavily implied sexual relationship, which her pious friend is equally eager to repress.

These private moments provide a brief respite from a life otherwise lived in full view of Papa, a mother superior (Dana Tapalaga) and the other nuns, who fill their days with menial tasks and charitable errands, their conversations dominated by earnest Christian pronouncements such as "The West has lost the true faith" and "When sins are forgiven, man finds peace." In one of the script's most darkly amusing sequences, Alina sits in resigned silence as the nuns read her a catalog of 464 sins compiled by the Orthodox Church.

That instance aside, Alina is having none of it, rejecting every attempt to tame her defiant will. When she lashes out physically, the priest and nuns see no alternative but to tie her up and take her to the hospital, but the doctors and nurses soon release her back into the monastery's care. Unwilling to leave without Voichita, Alina won't remain subdued for long, and as a particularly frigid winter sets in, her increasingly rattled hosts begin to suspect her condition may be demonic in nature.

Shot in fluid, unbroken handheld takes by Mungiu's regular d.p., Oleg Mutu, the picture builds its moral crisis with an unwavering commitment to realism and methodical attention to detail. The widescreen compositions, all blues, grays, browns and blacks, convey a physical sense of the cramped, chilly quarters in which these women lead their ascetic lives, and the power dynamics are continually reinforced by the helmer's impeccable blocking. At times, the nuns' vampirical black robes (in contrast with their deathly pale faces) are swallowed whole by background shadows, conjuring the charged, disquieting atmosphere of a horror picture.

Indeed, the harrowingly plausible events of the film's second act bring to mind any number of genre forebears, from "The Exorcist" to Hans-Christian Schmidt's "Requiem." Yet while Mungiu deals heavily in psychological ambiguity, he never seriously entertains the possibility that Alina may be demon-possessed. Nor does he turn the priest and nuns into figures of easy scorn; though they remain oblivious to the lesbian longings at the root of Alina's odd behavior, their responses to her outbursts are as patient and well-intentioned as they are ultimately misguided.

It's the filmmaker's fair-minded approach that ultimately gets the better of his material (adapted from journalist Tatiana Niculescu Bran's investigation of a real-life 2005 incident), compounded by a frustrating unwillingness or inability to penetrate his characters' thoughts. There are deeper forces and mysteries to this tale than a strictly observational approach, however unblinking, can entirely capture. Observing the situation at an icy remove, "Beyond the Hills" never builds the palpable menace and pressure-cooker anxiety of "4 Months," and its dramatic progression feels obvious, even predictable, by comparison.

Performances are excellent, led by the compelling Flutur, her mouth a razor-thin line of defiance, and Stratan, whose eyes become enormous as events play out to their ghastly conclusions. Remarkably, this is the first feature for both leads. Mungiu regular Andriuta presents the bearded priest as a figure of moral authority as well as discernible decency. The actresses cast as the other nuns are given little to work with besides stock scriptural maxims; indeed, the script's wall-to-wall dialogue often feels at odds with Mungiu's visual mastery.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri May 18, 2012 5:29 pm

Reality: Cannes Review
by Deborah Young
Hollywood Reporter


A frantic yearning for the celebrity limelight has a predictably destructive effect on a poor fish-seller from Naples in Matteo Garrone’s Reality, a disappointingly obvious follow-up to his unsparing criminal drama Gomorra, winner of the Grand Prix in Cannes.

Half comedy and half drama, the film struggles to find its tone amid stock characters and leisurely plotting, with nods to Fellini and Italian neorealism that leave the taste of a big, reheated pizza. It all should be funnier; still the atmospheric local kitsch wins some smiles, offering audiences the kind of laid-back, enjoyable watch that bodes well for its onshore performance in particular.

The film could also appeal to non-Italians who found Gomorra too glancing and ambiguous to be comprehensible; here the opposite is the case, with every idea clearly laid out and often over-stated. Using their wits to escape from the poverty that surrounds them, the characters illustrate the classic Neapolitan “art of getting by.” Luciano (Aniello Arena, a lauded theater actor) has a thriving fish store in the heart of the old city, but to supplement his income runs a small scam on the side with his wife Maria (Loredana Simioli) selling kitchen “robots” to neighborhood housewives in on the deal, and then reclaiming them for the company.

Luciano’s histrionic gifts are highlighted in the opening wedding party sequence, a fairy tale of kitsch that features the newlyweds arriving at a fake Baroque restaurant in a golden coach drawn by white horses. Luciano has been begged to entertain the company dressed as a glittery drag queen, much to the amusement of his wife and kids. The lavish party includes a special guest appearance by local celeb Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante), who is flown in by helicopter. Later he plays a key role in helping Luciano audition for the Italian version of Big Brother in a shopping mall.

What begins as a game turns serious when Luciano gets a call-back from Rome. The whole family accompanies him to Cinecittà, where lines of over-dressed and under-dressed hopefuls await their big break. Convinced he’s made an impression on the casting directors, Luciano returns to Naples totally obsessed with the show and increasingly unable to distinguish fantasy and reality. To his family’s horror, he buys into the idea that dreams come true in the magic world of television. Believing the all-powerful network has sent agents to spy on him and evaluate his every move prior to hiring him, he loses his grip in every sense.

With his whimsical face and wide-eyed smile recalling a lively younger version of the Neapolitan actor Totò, Arena is a pleasant enough guide through the dense social fabric around him. Presented just short of satire, his closely knit family is barely described beyond their physical appearance, which tends to be alarmingly overweight, and their shrilly voiced dialect and gesticulating. The aunts, uncles and cousins are hard to keep straight for this reason. Only Maria emerges in Simioli’s warm up-front performance that oozes female strength and concreteness. As Luciano’s pious co-worker Michele, veteran actor Nando Paone tries to straighten him out with Christian kindness and another trip to Rome, this time on a Good Friday pilgrimage to the torch-lit Colosseum. But Luciano eludes him and makes his way to the kingdom of his dreams, like a happy child oblivious of all else.

Maybe the film should be read as a metaphor for the decline of Italian cinema itself, surpassed in the popular imagination by trash TV and no longer able to connect with any kind of reality around it. There are some interesting hooks here to Fellini’s anti-private television diatribe Ginger and Fred and maybe an echo of Anna Magnani pushing her way through the crowds to audition her daughter in Visconti’s Bellissima. But clearly today’s reality has gone far beyond all that. Nothing in the film hits the same sour note as a few video shots of mindless, carousing figures in bed captured for Big Brother.

Costume designer Maurizio Millenotti, noted for his work with Fellini, unleashes his fantasy in the party and disco scenes. From the fairy tale wedding to the back lots of Cinecittà and the crumbling nobility of ancient Neapolitan buildings, Garrone and production designer Paolo Bonfini create dreamy locations for their utterly down-to-earth characters, colorfully lensed by Marco Onorato.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri May 18, 2012 10:05 am

Reality
18 May, 2012 | By Allan Hunter
Screendaily

Dir: Matteo Garrone. Italy-France. 2012. 115mins



Matteo Garrone’s first feature since Gomorra (2008) takes an idiosyncratic lurch into quasi-Fellini territory as it offers a whimsical reflection on the corrupting influence of reality television. Mild mannered and meandering, Reality fails to make the most of a subject that no longer feels as urgent or immediate as it once did.

The Truman Show was a long time ago and Reality seems to belong to an even earlier era when Anna Magnani desperately pushed her daughter towards a movie career in Bellissima (1951) or James Stewart believed in his invisible friend Harvey (1950). Garrone’s reputation may ensure some initial domestic interest in Reality but it seems unlikely to travel.

The Fellini influence is revealed in an opening sequence as a golden carriage is pulled through the streets by plumed horses and white doves are released into the skies as part of an elaborate wedding ceremony.

Later, a gaudy nightclub scene also has the feel of Fellini. The initial wedding party are thrilled by the arrival of Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante), a celebrity who survived 116 days in the Big Brother house. Everyone basks in the glow of his renown and seems to have bought into the notion that an appearance of the show provides fame and riches that will last a lifetime.

When Big Brother auditions are held in Naples, fish seller Luciano (Aniello Arena) is persuaded to enter. He is convinced that he will be chosen, especially after a further audition at Cinecitta in Rome (the clearest echo of Bellissima). In anticipation of his success, Enzo sells his business, grows increasingly Bellissima paranoid around family and neighbours, alienates his wife and slowly surrenders his grip on the real world.

Reality is nicely staged with Garrone’s regular cinematographer Marco Onorato capturing a tangy flavour of the decaying majesty among the buildings of old Naples and Alexandre Desplat contributing a score that tinkles with Potteresque charm. The problem lies not with the craftsmanship but with a discursive, verbose, screenplay that never seems entirely sure whether to approach Reality as a caustic satire, an amusing Walter Mitty fantasy, a cutting commentary on a world enslaved by the inanities of reality television or a plaintive window into the mind of a hopelessly deluded innocent.

It is a little of all these things but the comedy is only half-hearted at best, the material is dated and the boisterous, endlessly argumentative extended family that surround Luciano quickly grow tiresome. Aniello Arena has the guileless, wide-eyed look of a man who believes that he has fallen into a wonderland where all his dreams will come true but you wonder whether a young Nanni Moretti or Roberto Benigni might have had the comic skill and charm to make the character more appealing and this sweetly pointless film more compelling.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Fri May 18, 2012 7:59 am

Reality
By Jay Weissberg
Variety.com


Top-tier helmer Matteo Garrone proved his talent for slice-of-life realism and visual confidence even before "Gomorrah," but he's never been dull until "Reality." This comes as a surprise due to not only Garrone's track record, but also the material he's tackling, about a Neapolitan fish seller who turns delusional over "Big Brother." Reality-TV addiction is overripe for satire, yet the script here swerves from anything biting, opting for an affectionate look at a family and the rabbit hole this father of three jumps into on his mad quest for celebrity. International sales are likely, though reception will be fuzzy.

The start is more than promising: A helicopter shot presents an aerial view of Naples, zeroing in on a kitschy "royal carriage" transporting newlyweds to a wedding palace that wouldn't be out of place on the Jersey Shore. Inside, boisterous wedding parties are entertained by Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante), a former "Big Brother" contestant making a living by promoting his 15 minutes of fame. Having a celebrity in their midst makes the wedding guests go wild, including Luciano (Aniello Arena), the family cut-up who loves to perform.

When the party is over and Luciano and his family head home to their apartments in a crumbling old building typical of Naples, there's a palpable disconnect between the phony glare of the marriage factory and the run-down darkness of their working-class digs. Garrone, perhaps wisely, remains on the fence in presenting the questionable taste of his characters, showing without ridiculing. But although "Reality" avoids patronizing these people, it also avoids offering any serious comment on their adulation of fame.

Luciano's kids press him into auditioning for "Big Brother," which he wangles into with his usual swindler-like bonhomie. Following first-call auditions in Rome, he's certain he'll be selected, returning to Naples a mini-celebrity on the cusp of fame. Delusional behavior sets in as he imagines every stranger is an undercover scout vetting his suitability for the show. Some may actually be financial police investigating an illegal mail-order scheme he runs, yet Luciano's foremost concern is that he prove himself worthy of "Big Brother."

This increasing obsession distresses his wife, Maria (Loredana Simioli), though most of the family encourage his folly, which extends to mad acts of charity he performs under the belief that he's being tested for his worthiness. Unfortunately, the film doesn't go much beyond this, apart from belaboring Luciano's increasing inability to think of anything other than "Big Brother." The script is far too stretched out, and several scenes, including one in a disco and another in front of Rome's Colosseum during Good Friday prayers, add little or nothing to the proceedings.

Enzo's character, with his hollow motto "Never give up your dreams," is obviously meant to show up the vapidity of reality-show fame, yet Garrone shines only a very dim flashlight on the emptiness of celebrity culture. Perhaps the helmer's fondness for his characters prevented him from bringing out the knives: There's nothing to chew on here, no commentary to set auds pondering the way reality skeins have changed perceptions of what's real. Fourteen years after "The Truman Show," viewers -- especially the foreign-film crowd -- will expect a genuine engagement with the phenomenon rather than gentle ribbing.

Technically, the pic can't be faulted, beginning with the perfs. Stage thesp Arena makes a notable screen debut, projecting the spark of maddened wonder as Luciano is sucked into a complete fantasy land, even though his plunge into craziness happens too quickly. Most notable in the cast is Simioli as the wife who becomes a perplexed bystander to his delusion. Her helplessness provides one of the only real notes of emotional interest.

Marco Onorato's liquid lensing is pleasing and impressive, though the camera's constant tracking of the characters suggests revelations that never come. The visual concept deliberately channels (if never fully develops) fairy-tale notions that are meant to speak to the unreality of "Big Brother" and its ilk, and composer Alexandre Desplat plays up this undercurrent with recurring tunes that would require more differentiation to hold interest.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Thu May 17, 2012 10:23 pm

Paradise: Love
By Leslie Felperin
Variety.com


Ulrich Seidl's "Paradise: Love" is hardly the first film to explore the world of wealthy women and the young studs who service them; it's not even the first to do it in a sex-tourism context, having been beaten to the punch by 2006's "Heading South." But it sure as hell is the dirtiest. Full of explicit sex that will restrict it to niche distribution in only the most tolerant territories, it challenges auds throughout on a multitude of levels. Repulsive and sublimely beautiful, arguably celebratory and damning of its characters, it's hideous and masterful all at once, "Salo" with sunburn.

Reactions were deeply divided after the first press screening in Cannes, but even the pic's most ardent supporters largely agreed that "Paradise: Love" feels longer than its 120-minute running time, especially in its second hour. The dragginess may partly be the result of a tortuous post-production process, when the decision was made to split into three separate films what was supposed to be one long narrative interlinking stories of three Austrian women. The next two will be about, respectively, a Catholic missionary ("Paradise: Faith") and a young girl at diet camp ("Paradise: Hope").

Sticking to his opaque M.O. (visible in his features "Dog Days" and "Import/Export," as well as his many docus), Seidl refrains from passing overt moral judgment on his characters. But it feels as though he can't bear to look away from what they get up to, or to forsake hard-won footage from what was reportedly a difficult shoot.

A visually bravura opening sequence, completely extraneous to the rest of the film, features seemingly single protagonist Teresa (legit thesp Margarethe Tiesel, fearless) overseeing a gaggle of people with Down Syndrome riding bumper cars in Austria. Thereafter, Teresa drops off her mopey tween daughter (Melanie Lenz), in the 'burbs with her sister (Maria Hofstaetter, "Import/Export") and heads to a Kenyan resort that seems to cater particularly to ladies of a certain age.

There, Teresa befriends another Austrian woman (Inge Maux), who enthusiastically extols the pleasures of young African men's flesh. Judging by the frequent tableau shots of young men patiently, eerily waiting on the beach, there's no shortage of guys here willing to offer goods for sale, be they trinkets or their own bodies.

At first hesitant, and adamant that she's looking for a relationship at least, Teresa beds a sexually aggressive young man, Gabriel (Gabriel Nguma Mwarua), then the mellower Munga (Peter Kazungu). Although she's initially won over by Munga's show of reticence and declarations of ardor, after some time (the holiday seems to last for weeks), his requests for money to help his impoverished family become more brazenly avaricious. Eventually, Teresa and her friends stop pretending that what they're doing is anything other than paying for sex, culminating in a grueling sequence in which her friends (Dunja Sowinetz, Helen Brugat and Maux) hire a male stripper/hustler (Anderson Mutisya) to celebrate Teresa's birthday.

Pic puts the women's flesh, some of it very abundant, right out on display, daring viewers to recoil from their obesity. In a cleverly pre-emptive scene (largely improvised, as are all the sequences here), the women themselves discuss their own disgust with their bodies, decrying their fat, their troublesome pubic hair and the inexorable effects of age and gravity.

What's attractive about the Kenyan men is not just their beautiful, athletic bodies, but their willingness to make these women feel desirable once again. As the film progresses, Teresa's dresses get shorter, and she fairly crackles with self-confident erotic energy. In one cheeky composition, Seidl even arranges Tiesel in a post-coital pose that evokes Manet's painting "Olympia," as well as other famous nudes, especially by Lucian Freud and Rubens.

What's in play here is not some facile celebration of middle-aged female desire. The Austrian women's empowerment is still, like all sex-work interactions, ultimately about power, specifically financial power, and as such forms a microcosm of international relations. This is post-colonialism in all its filthy glory, mutual exploitation that debases all involved.

Some will feel troubled that we're given no access to any of the Africans' inner thoughts; they're all just out for a buck, any way they can make it. But it's perhaps admirable that Seidl doesn't give them overwrought speeches to justify their actions; the grinding poverty they live in is right there onscreen for anyone to see, and in their own way, they're more honest than the Europeans they service. (The Kenyan actors here are non-pros whose roles are informed by their firsthand experiences.)

Lensed by Seidl's longstanding collaborator Wolfgang Thaler as well as Ed Lachman (who worked with Seidl on "Import/Export"), the pic interlaces exquisitely composed static shots -- with the figures placed just so in the lower half of the frame, crowned by lots of space overhead -- and sinuous Steadicam work. Soundtrack is also a treat, featuring a mix of Eurodisco and African pop music, always sourced by the action.
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Re: 2012 Cannes Line-up

Postby Sonic Youth » Thu May 17, 2012 10:15 pm

Paradise: Love: Cannes Review
by David Rooney
Hollywood Reporter


CANNES – The fetishization of the cougar in popular entertainment gets decisively terminated in Austrian iconoclast Ulrich Seidl’s indecorous Paradise: Love. Like Laurent Cantet’s 2005 feature, Heading South, the film focuses on sex tourism from the novel perspective of the middle-aged female consumer. But, as might be expected from a director whose work has been defined by his fascination with corporeal and behavioral ugliness, the scenario is pushed to extremes both repugnant and repetitive. Superficially provocative but ultimately pointless, this is one punishing vacation.

The second entry from Seidl (Dog Days) to compete in Cannes after 2007’s Import Export, the film is the opening part of a trilogy. Originally planned as a single epic feature, the stories follow three women from the same family as they take separate trips. Still to come are Paradise: Faith, about a Catholic missionary, and Paradise: Hope, about a teenager sent to diet camp.

There’s much to admire in the formal rigor of Seidl’s filmmaking. His background in documentary is evident in the striking use of static shots and stark compositions by his cinematography team of Wolfgang Thaler and Ed Lachman. Like Mike Leigh, Seidl works to a structured improvisation plan, and no doubt there will be praise for the unflinching, vanity-free performance of his lead actress Margarethe Tiesel. Whenever women of a certain age with real bodies get naked and sign up for sexual and emotional humiliation onscreen, the word “brave” inevitably surfaces.

The film kicks off with an attention-grabbing though gratuitously uncomfortable scene with a group of mentally handicapped people riding bumper cars, their faces contorting with each collision into masks of liberating joy, stunned confusion or both. One of their supervisors is Teresa (Tiesel), who packs her uncommunicative lump of a teenage daughter off to a relative and heads to Kenya for some sunshine.

There she meets up with fellow Austrian Inge (Inge Maux). A monster of grotesque salaciousness in a tiger-print one-piece and processed blond dreads, Inge instantly starts rhapsodizing about the tasty treat of black skin. Teresa at first is unnerved by the young beach boys that besiege her, selling souvenirs, trinkets or themselves to the white European women known as “sugar mamas.” But after an abortive attempt to hook up with Gabriel (Gabriel Nguma Mwarua), who’s too slick and down-to-business for her, she succumbs to the more artful charms of Munga (Peter Kuzungu).

Taking more time over the “courtship,” Munga does a passable job of convincing Teresa that he sees beyond the sagging breasts and rippling stomach to the beautiful woman inside her. But it’s more because that’s what she wants to believe. Soon he starts asking for handouts, claiming he needs cash for his sister’s baby, his father’s medical bills or his cousin’s school, but never for himself. Teresa refuses to read the writing on the wall until it becomes inescapable, triggering her enraged indignation.

Working with his regular script collaborator Veronika Franz, Seidl makes the point fairly early that the line between exploiter and exploited is a blurry one, and that what Teresa is starved for is love, not sex. But he nonetheless locks the character and actress into a cycle of repeat degradation in the blunt film’s increasingly thankless second hour, as Teresa keeps giving it one more shot.

Reconciled to the failure of the enterprise, she even tries her hand at good old-fashioned raunch when Inge and a couple more lewd hornbags from the resort come over to celebrate Teresa’s birthday with a live gift. Watching these four women in various stages of drunken undress get teabagged by the unfortunate recruit is not pretty.

That would be fine if there were a fresh point to be made, or if there were some deeper insight into the central character. Tiesel deserves credit for declining to soften Teresa’s hard edges in a bid for sympathy. But every time there’s a glimmer of poignancy in her solitude and disappointment, the director negates it by having her participate in some other form of damning indignity or patronizing insensitivity.

Seidl doesn’t appear to like any of his characters much, or show much discernible interest in their inner lives. He made a fascinatingly disturbing portrait of people sublimating their need for intimacy in unwholesome ways in the 1996 doc, Animal Love, which may be his most fully realized film. This one is a psychologically empty wallow.
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