It’s been a dry summer so far. Theatrical releases of proper measure are in short supply and unless I misread the charts I think the summer blockbusters despite the vaunted figures are actually commanding even less respect than they used to, though technically it’s still early days.
It’s a matter of debate whether Cannes is, in Kazuo Ishiguro’s words, a “trade fair” for people to buy and sell films, a glorified fashion parade, or the “Mecca of Cinema” as producer G. K. Desai once told me. Some years it’s more one aspect than the other. But anyone hoping to navigate its legendarily long lines can find little to complain with the lineup for May.
1. Two of Canada’s finest, Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg, are in competition with new films. Their careers are a delicate inverse contrast. Cronenberg began working in low-budget genre films to literate arthouse films like A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis. Egoyan made his name with formalist autobiographical films like Calendar and Ararat has become something of an Anglo-American Claude Chabrol in his recent, underrated, thrillers Where the Truth Lies and Chloe with The Captive, starring Ryan Reynolds, despite its Proustian title, another outing in the same. Maps to the Stars is, remarkably, Cronenberg’s first film to be shot in the United States, reminding us that the old provocateur has always been an independent(rejecting like David Lynch, a chance to direct the third part of the first Star Wars trilogy) despite working for a long time in his self-made genre of body horror.
2. Mike Leigh and Ken Loach are also in competition. After the success of The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Ken Loach has returned to Ireland with Jimmy’s Hall dealing with Ireland’s little known “red scare”. Mike Leigh’s long-in-gestation Mr. Turner starring Timothy Spall as England’s greatest painter is finally ready and geared for competition.
3. The French or rather the Francophone, has a strong showing this year. Olivier Assayas’ Sils Maria featuring an all-star cast of Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz (from Hugo) is in competition. As is Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent and Oscar winner Michael Hazanavicius with his latest film The Search. Xavier Dolan, French Canadian, is also in competition with his new film, Mommy. While from Belgium, we have the Dardennes with Deux jours, une nuit.
4. First among his very few equals, Jean-Luc Godard, created a storm of frenzy when his masterpiece, Film Socialism, played at Cannes two years ago. His long in gestation 3D film Adieu au langage is in competition. Made like most of his films for the last three decades, near his childhood landscapes of Switzerland, his latest film is the event of Cannes. His 3D short, Les trois désastres, (a pun that only he can pull off) was filled with desolation and cold, but his wit and bite was as sharp as ever. Godard is also a contributor to the anthology film Les Ponts de Sarajevo which is part of a special screening that includes contributions from Islid le Besco, Ursula Meier, Cristi Puiu and Teresa Villaverde.
5. Rounding out the list are new films from Abderrahmane Sissako (Timbuktu). The Homesman,Tommy Lee Jones’ follow-up to his well-regarded debut(The Three Burials at Melquiades Estrada), Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Kis Uykusu and films by Naomi Kawase, Bennett Miller, Alice Rohrwacher and others.
6. In Un Certain Regard, we have films directed by actors (Asia Argento, Mathieu Amalric, Ryan Gosling), new films by Lisandro Alonso and Pascale Ferran; The Salt of the Earth, a collaboration between Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.
7. Quinzaine des Réalisateurs which has prized itself as the venue of picking ripe cherries overlooked by the main competition of Cannes includes a promising showcase of 2013-2014 releases from directors like Celine Sciamma, Fabrice du Welz, Daniel and Mathew Wolfe and Kim Seong-Hun and several short films. It also includes Isao Takahata’s anime film from Studio Ghibli, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, John Boorman’s Queen and Country and Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery. A retrospective screening of Tobe Hooper’s A Texas Chainsaw Massacre is also scheduled.
Jane Campion heads the director-actor jury comprising Carole Bouquet (Luis Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire), Leila Hatami (Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation), Jeon Do-yeon (Im Sang Soo’s The Housemaid), Willem Dafoe, Gael Garcia Bernal, Jia Zhangke and Nicolas Winding Refn. The Cannes Film Festival begins on May 14 and ends on May 25.
BARDOLATORY AT THE MOVIES
William Shakespeare was born on 26th of April 1564 and died on 23rd of April 1616 as far as agreed upon academic facts are concerned. There has been much coverage online on great Shakespeare movies and the like.
1. Richard Brody writes eloquently on Orson Welles’ The Tragedy of Othello, one of the most baroque and awesome films ever made. Nobody has answered the challenge of carving a mise-en-scene and montage worthy of the Bard better than Welles and as Brody writes,
Welles invested even the simplest of cinematic devices with a subtle but vastly affecting complexity. He filmed one of the play’s most dramatic confrontations, Othello’s direct accusation of Desdemona (played by Suzanne Cloutier) in a castle chamber, mainly with the classical and straightforward schema of shot and reverse shot, cutting back and forth to each character speaking in isolation in a frame. But with his choice of lenses and angles, the lighting and the rhythm of editing, the disposition of the actors in each composition and his control and direction of gestures and gazes, Welles suggests that two characters who are within arm’s reach of each other are calling and crying to each other across a desolate and unbridgeable chasm. Man and woman could hardly be closer, or further apart.
Welles’ The Tragedy of Othello is released in a new restoration that is based on the controversial 1992 restoration which apparently damaged Welles’ soundtrack. The Cannes 1952 version with Welles’ soundtrack was released on Criterion Laserdisc but is unlikely to resurface any time soon.
2. Adrian Curry at MUBI puts up a nice list of various posters from Shakespeare films, here’s Jean-Luc Godard’s King Lear.
3. Related to Shakespeare, is our own piece on Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s Caesar Must Die, one of the most striking adaptations of Shakespeare in cinema in recent times.
4. Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive is about a host of things, its about simplicity and the pleasures of enjoying a lifetime’s company with the person you love. One of its conceits is Jarmusch’s contribution to the Shakespearean Authorship Debate, which posits that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon much like many of the screenwriters during the Hollywood blacklist was a front for persecuted or secret authors. Jarmusch believes, in John Hurt’s words that “Marlowe wrote Shakespeare and that Marlowe is alive and that I am Christopher Marlowe”. Of all the alternative theories this makes the most sense, it’s a lot easier to believe another genius wrote the works of a genius. Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive released in April to limited theatres.
You can never keep a good auteur down. Or not all the time anyway.
1. Abel Ferrara’s Welcome to New York, his long awaited film-de-clef on the downfall of IMF Boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn is to be released straight on VOD in France. The film was supposed to play at Cannes this year but Vincent Maraval of Wild Bunch has believed that this will be a better approach. Meanwhile, Ferrara has already moved on to his long-in-gestation biopic of Pier Paolo Pasolini, starring the perfectly cast Willem Dafoe.
2. Clint Eastwood makes his first film in three years with Jersey Boys, an adaptation of a popular Broadway musical. Eastwood who composes many of his films has made several films documenting musicians including Bird and Honkytonk Man.
The trailer could be cut to not resemble Scorsese-esque but it’s fine.
3. James Gray’s The Immigrant, which we wrote about here, is set to be released in America. Here is a trailer cut by the director himself.
4. Terence Davies’ adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibson’s Sunset Song was another long-in-gestation project. It’s finally begun filming.
1. Steven Soderbergh is currently retired from mainstream narrative film-making as he defines it. His new TV series, a period drama about early medicine, The Knick is currently in production. He has also developed a nice website Extension 765 and has recently released his personal edit of Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate:
As a dedicated cinema fan, I was obsessed with HEAVEN’S GATE from the moment it was announced in early 1979, and unfortunately history has show that on occasion a fan can become so obsessed they turn violent toward the object of their obsession, which is what happened to me during the holiday break of 2006. This is the result.
2. Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López have released a video essay on Scorsese’s After Hours:
3. Les Inrocks have compiled a list of 100 Best French Films with Jean Eustache’s La Maman et la putain at Number 1. The full list is below. It heavily favors films from the New Wave to Post-New Wave over the classic era. There’s far too little Sacha Guitry for my tastes and Bertrand Tavernier, director of L.627, Laissez-Passer and several other worthy films aren’t there either. Nor is Joseph Losey’s M. Klein. But it’s a pretty good list on the whole and I am pleased that Truffaut’s underrated The Woman Next Door is so high up. The full list, here.
4. Alexander Keefe‘s wonderful ongoing super-project of creating a digital archive of ancient and more recent Films Division titles here, on his wonderful tumbler blog.
5. At sergedaney.blogspot.in (Serge Daney in English)this Adrian Martin translation of Raymond Bellour’s 2009 talk at Jeonju about Daney’s founding principles for Trafic.
6. British Pathe‘s put up 80 years of archival videos on Youtube.