Monday, May 25, 2015

Cannes 1995: Day 9: May 25

The Convent, Portugal, dir. Manoel de Oliveira

This third-to-last day of the Competition is a riddle to me, even more so than whatever syndrome is or isn't making King George III mad, or why Benoît does any of the things he does in Don't Forget You're Going to Die, or wtf is happening in the crypt or the church or the cave or the woods or the beach or the first reel or the second reel or the third reel in The Convent.  Just when the Palme race started to heat up with much more exciting contenders than we'd seen in the early days of the festival, Day 9 feels larded with puzzling, truncated, or frankly mediocre work, in and out of the Main Competition.  The things that make Beauvois's and de Oliveira's films frustrating to watch admittedly make them more interesting as time passes. Either might have been served by an earlier berth in the schedule, an idea we'll revisit when we land on Dead Man on the final day.  Most of the sidebar stuff could just as easily not have played at all, but I have to say, after so many unsatisfying narratives and inchoate statements, it was sure was fun watching Antonio Banderas fire away at bad guys with weaponized guitar case.

The Convent
(Main Competition: Portugal, dir. Manoel de Oliveira)

My Response: "Both interesting and limited as a sinister meditation on people as forms and concepts. Entombed in its own discourses? ..." Grade: C+

Ivan Albertson's Review: "... I wasn't able to engage with it beyond its ambiance, but that's nearly enough, and Malkovich adds a loose human element that keeps it from getting too stuffy." Rating: ★★★

Tim Brayton's Review: "... But damn, is it a muddle, with the actors going every which way, the ill-chosen music cues insisting that an Italianate portal-to-hell extravaganza is right around the corner, and far too much obvious coding of its themes." Rating: 5/10

Amir Soltani's Review: "One of the prolific director's lesser efforts. Although there are interesting experiments with the musical score of the film, its formal rigidity ... and the literary nature of the dialogue trap the film, preventing its metaphysical elements from feeling, well, metaphysical." Grade: C–

Don't Forget You're Going to Die
(Main Competition: France, dir. Xavier Beauvois)

My Response: "Easy to underestimate ambition of realist drama in this mold. Ideas worthy but need more shaping ..." Grade: B–

Ivan Albertson's Review: "Beauvois isn’t going for the impressionism of Denis or the lacerating character shifts of Pialat, but rather an aesthetic that evokes the great potential of life and our even greater potential to waste it ... " Rating: ★½

Tim Brayton's Review: "... Wins lots of points for refusing to clarify what it can deftly imply, but there comes a point where opacity about the main character's psychology outside of a general background radiation of suicidal ennui feels like an unnecessary wall between the film and the viewer." Rating: 6/10

Amir Soltani's Review: "... Beauvois promises a strong directorial career ahead of him, exhibiting a powerful grasp of mood and colour palettes, but his film fails to register the emotional responses it aims for ... " Grade: B–

The Madness of King George
(Main Competition: UK, dir. Nicholas Hytner)

My Response: "Lacks a clear point of view on the historical episode. Schticky in tone; handsome but familiar in style ..." Grade: C

Ivan Albertson's Review: "Although frequently witty in its irreverence, it’s decidedly less so for being so pleased with itself what what! Hawthorne commendably goes all in, never winking to the audience during his ruddy-faced rants ... " Rating: ★★★

Tim Brayton's Review: "... Meets my cardinal rule for costume dramas, making the period it depicts feel tethered to living human emotions rather than locked away for our stuffy, privileged edification; but Hytner's somewhat choked direction and the largely one-note performances of most of the cast don't make the humans themselves feel all that lively ... " Rating: 7/10

Amir Soltani's Review: "One of the most entertaining films of the competition lineup of the festival. Hytner's film packs all the punch and pizzazz missing from the other English-language period dramas of the festival ... " Grade: B+

An Awfully Big Adventure
(Directors' Fortnight: UK, dir. Mike Newell)

My Response: "Not always sure how to merge coming-of-age, sexual danger, backstage farce, Peter Pan. At least it tries? ... " Grade: B–

Canadian Bacon
(Un Certain Regard: USA, dir. Michael Moore)

My Response: "More than diverting, less than entertaining. Smells like the joke-writers' room. Wexler gets it looking pretty good ..." Grade: C

(Out of Competition: USA, dir. Robert Rodriguez)

My Response: "No prizes for taste, innovation, but might cop some for charm, movement, verve. Rodriguez's touch rarely so light since ... " Grade: B–

Tim Brayton's Review: "... For every moment that's patently an unnecessary indulgence, there's a better one that's B-movie cartoon zaniness at its freest. That climactic shootout centered on guns built into guitar cases covers a lot of sins." Rating: 7/10

Under the Domim Tree
(Un Certain Regard: Israel, dir. Eli Cohen)

My Response: "Occasionally conjures the complex affects of Holocaust orphans praying for miracles. Often settles for chintz ..." Grade: C

Coming tomorrow: The Bling Ring, i.e., the movie that arrived to Cannes clutching two Oscars and the one that departed Cannes with the Palme ...

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