Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cannes 1995: Day 11: May 27

Dead Man, USA, dir. Jim Jarmusch

Two Hugh Grant movies played the last three days at Cannes, in sync with a carefully timed visit from His Floppy-Hairedness, Marquess of Stutter. That may have been the big news at the time, whereas now The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Jesus This Title Is Long is the most patently dated element of the final full day of programming. All three of the other films listed below, despite slipping in at the eleventh hour, have had much more lasting impacts. La Haine caught on quickly, of course, sending shockwaves through French film culture and public discourse. 20th-anniversary pieces have popped up in many major European papers this spring. Dead Man wafted in and out on the final day with remarkably little fanfare, just as Jarmusch's delicious Only Lovers Left Alive did two years ago; I'm pretty reconciled to Just Not Getting Dead Man, but I see completely why so many cinephiles are impassioned about it. Despite its stiffing by the jury and, evidently, by the programmers—way more than La Haine, it's the sort of movie that works by osmosis, and needs time to unwrap its ideas—I'd wager that it now boasts the highest critical stature of any of the Palme competitors from this good-to-middling vintage. My favorite film and happiest discovery among these three was the Burkinabe ensemble dramedy Haramuya, which nimbly alights on multiple storylines among young and old, male and female, in modern-day Ouagadougou. Today it is most celebrated by African cinema devotées for its rare attention to urban teens in a contemporary setting. I'd have had a hard time seeing it without my university connections, but keep an eye out for that title. It was the second movie I watched of the 53 I screened over the six weeks for this feature, and it's easily in the top two or three of those I'm most eager to check out again.

Dead Man
(Main Competition: USA, dir. Jim Jarmusch)

My Response: "At times a laudably eccentric work of imagination I just don't respond to. At times a revel in affectation I flat dislike ..." Grade: B

Ivan Albertson's Review: "... The spell Jarmusch casts does not go unbroken, subject to a few too many fade-outs and Neil Young reverbations, but it’s immeasurably enhanced by the stark beauty of Robby Müller’s images. Few other Competition films demonstrated this much ambition, and none were this successful in achieving it." Rating: ★★★★

Tim Brayton's Review: "... It's top-notch anti-Americana, and the only revisionist Western you really need; you can count on your hands the number of movies, irrespective of genre, that do a better job of lacerating Hollywood's beloved cultural myths while replacing them with new myths and metaphysical philosophies all its own." Rating: 10/10

Amir Soltani's Review: "The type of curious, revisionist and progressive film that the Western genre, on its last long breaths for several decades now, needs in order to be revitalized and re-popularized. Jarmusch's uncompromising vision is stark, humorous and wickedly entertaining ..." Grade: B+

La Haine
(Main Competition: France, dir. Mathieu Kassovitz)

My Response: "Film-school showiness in image, sound, acting, and structure, which isn't to deny its moments of power in all those areas ..." Grade: B

Ivan Albertson's Review: "An impressive albeit mixed bag. The first half of La Haine is rife with posturing, both on the part of the characters and Kassovitz ... And yet, the second half is simply extraordinary, dissolving most of my skepticism." Rating: ★★★½

Tim Brayton's Review: "...The juvenile energy sometimes leaves the film stranded in go-nowhere scenes and the ending is overdetermined, but this is potent enough that Kassovitz's premature Best Director nod from the jury is easy to understand, if not endorse." Rating: 8/10

Amir Soltani's Review: "Kassovitz's film is over-determined and over-zealous ... but this coked-out, high-octane story of fragile masculinity, volatile friendships, and the vulnerabilities of life in the Parisian banlieue is undeniably effective, with an ending that never fails to shock even on repeat screenings." Grade: B

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain
(Un Certain Regard: UK, dir. Christopher Monger)

My Response: "A movie that went up a molehill and mustered about one-third of a monty ..." Grade: C–

Tim Brayton's Review: "... It's your basic genial and utterly generic exercise in letting Hugh Grant do his Hugh Grant thing against a backdrop of Colorful British Eccentrics, a form that was just about to launch into the stratosphere ... " Rating: 6/10

(Un Certain Regard: Burkina Faso, dir. Drissa Touré)

My Response: "Not extraordinarily distinguished in any one area but a social portrait of Ouagadougou both affable and gently cautionary ..." Grade: B

Tim Brayton's Review: "... Touré's direction is exceedingly, winningly generous, refusing to blame any of the characters for latching onto the worldview that seems right to them, and presenting the frayed attitudes of the townspeople with observational warmth ..." Rating: 7/10

Coming tomorrow: The Closing Night film, and depending on how long our jury needs to deliberate, our own award announcements. If we need another day or two of sequester, trust that we're just trying to make more people happy than Joel and Ethan and Jake and Sienna did...

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