Wednesday, May 28, 2014

'Force Majeure' at Cannes

By Moira Sullivan

The Swedish Entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar is FORCE MAJEURE by Ruben Östlund. It was part of the Official Selection of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize Winner during Pablo Trapero’s reign as Jury President for this division.

Swedes love to travel to the French Alps and this typically Swedish family takes time out for such a winter holiday. They are first snapped by a professional photographer on the slopes and look like the ideal family with father, mother and two children. The holiday, however, seems uneventful and routine, almost sterile in the depiction of traveling up the alps by ski lift and down by skis, retiring to the hotel room and piling in the bathroom with the family brushing their teeth together. Only the hotel cleaner knows that something is amok with this family who wind up spending time outside the room and eventually have a major family crisis.

It is customary at ski resorts to blast the snow to bring on fresh powder in the form of controlled avalanches. This happens when the family is lunching out of doors and a very real avalanche approaches the family and other diners. In that moment Pappa Tomas runs away from his wife Ebba and children to save himself. Ebba is alarmed by this and starts to reevaluate their marriage. At first Tomas brushed it off but eventually he started to get in touch with his desertion and in every way starts has a major guilt attack because of his deficiencies. Everything is turned upside down when the avalanche descends upon this family.

Östlund populates his film with minor characters who symbolize the imperfection in relationshsips: a married Swedish woman who picks up young men in the alps and a 40-year old man friend who has a young girlfriend that reminds him of why his wife left him.

Ruben Östlund is one of the most successful directors in Sweden with several interesting films in his repertoire such as THE GUITAR MONGOLOID, which won the FIPRESCI Award at Moscow in 2005. The Swedish director took his film INVOLUNTARY to Cannes and Un Certain Regard 2008. And he won the Golden Bear in Berlin for INCIDENT IN A BANK, a short film-. His third feature film PLAY (2011) was part of the Cannes Director’s Fortnight where he won the ‘Coup de Coeur’ Prize.

FORCE MAJEURE is Östlund's fourth feature film and illustrates a detached yet insensitive focus on a family on the rocks, a narrative that disrupts the notion of the idyllic family holiday on a charter trip with a close introspection into their fragility. It is a sober portrait of a family man who turns out to not be as wholesome and devoted as he thought.

© 2015 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 5/28/14
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cannes Film Festival Report 2

Nicole Kidman plays 'Grace of Monaco'
The 2014 Palme d'Or went to "Winter Sleep" by Nuri Bilge Ceylan on May 24. Ceylan is a veteran who has received other runner up prizes. The universal appeal of "Winter Storm" with many philosophical comments about life spoke to the jury headed by Jane Campion. The presenters of the top award, Quentin Tarantino and Uma Thurman, were in Cannes for the "Cinema de La Plage" (cinema on the beach) screening of "Pulp Fiction". "Pulp Fiction" was a milestone in film history, but the night belonged to Ceylan whose film is a 210 minute morality tale about a former actor who runs a hotel in remote Anatolia. As winter approaches, he is alone with his young wife and her sister going through a divorce. The cold weather makes the hotel not only a shelter but a site where the three must confront their feelings.

There were critics who would have preferred that the Palme d’Or went to Xavier Dolan from Canada who seemed likely to become the youngest Palme d'Or recipient at age 25. Had he won with his latest film "Mommy", he would have beat Steven Soderbergh's record for being the youngest recipient to win this top award. At age 26 Soderberg won the Palme d'Or for "Sex, Lies and Videotapes"(1989). His candid portrait changed the way that films were made by demonstrating that you could make a film with a low budget and realistic dialogue of high quality. The same is now being said about "Mommy" and its innovative film language. Dolan saluted Jane Campion when accepting his award: "You have written magnificent roles for women, with a soul, neither victims nor objects", and he hopes in turn to create open female characters.

"Mommy", like the films of Jean Luc Godard, has broken ground, and ironically Dolan shared the jury prize with the French New Wave director with the daring hand held camera and jump cuts. Godard's film "Adieu au Langage" (Goodbye to Language) in the official competition uses partially colorized scenes and fragmentation in a rather well shaped non-linear narrative. Godard seems to be keeping up with innovation, and recently announced that he was working on colorizing "Breathless" (1960), his first feature made when he was 30, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg.

Dolan's "Mommy" represents a paradigm shift for cinematic language. Defying established aspect ratios, Dolan and his DOP (director of photography) André Turpin used a perfectly square 1.1 scope instead of today's widescreen formats. "Mommy" shot on 35mm explores futuristic Canada with new mental-health laws in this film about a mother with a violent son.

Olivier Dahan took a beating with his opening film "Grace of Monaco". The film takes place at the time when Grace Kelly was thinking of returning to Hollywood to star in Marnie directed by Alfred Hitchcock. At the time she was inundated with the responsibilities of being a monarch and her growing homesickness for America. Dahan’s film is a moving story of how France tried to take over Monaco in 1963 with the help of Prince Rainer’s sister. Through Grace Kelley's efforts in her work with the Red Cross, Charles De Gaulle was swayed to leave Monaco alone. The Royal Family of Monaco boycotted Cannes and issued a statement that it "was not a biopic". Nicole Kidman who plays Grace does an excellent job and issued a statement that she can understand that Prince Rainer’s and Grace Kelley’s children would have issues with a film about their mother. Dahan on his behalf said that the film that was finished was Harvey Weinstein’s idea who wanted a commercial film and that many of his artistic touches were taken out. Weinstein has announced that Grace of Monaco won’t open in the US.

Next week more from the Cannes Film Festival from Movie Magazine International. MMI was one of 4000 journalists at the Cannes Film Festival that was held May 15 to May24.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan 


© 2014 Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/21/14

Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

'Movie Magazine International' at Cannes

Jane Campion, President

Movie Magazine International will again be at the Cannes Film Festival, this time for the 67th festival held from May 14 to 25th with Jane Campion as Jury President. The festival started off with the debut of the out of competition film "Grace of Monaco" directed by Olivier Dahan and starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelley, and Tim Roth as Prince Rainier. The film will not be released at least for now in the US according to distributor Harvey Weinstein. The Royal Family of Monaco has boycotted the Cannes festival because of the film, which takes liberty with details about life of Grace Kelley. It is generally understood that Grace Kelley was ambivalent about her life as a princess in Monaco and was homesick for the US, and preferred speaking English as much as she could. Dahan claims that his film is not a biopic, but reality, and that the film is about cinema. Critics have blasted the film, not because of the controversy but because of the shallowness.

Dahan brought Marion Cotillard to fame with his film about Edith Piaf, but there was not a follow up for success with this film. The extraordinary makeover by Cotillard gave her an Academy Award. Many view Nicole Kidman as an established actress who often plays elegant characters, and so the role of Grace Kelley did not require the ambition that Cotillard brought to the screen. The choice of the film at any rate puts women at the center, something Cannes receives just criticism for not doing.
There is also this year’s jury president Jane Campion, the only woman to win a Palme d’or in the history of the festival. Campion instructed her jury to not read any reviews of the films, which is good advice- there are two women in the official competition, the Italian filmmaker Alice Rorhwacher, who presented "The Wonders" starring Alba Rorhwacher and Monica Bellucci, and "Still the Water", by the Japanese director Naomi Kawase.

Jean Luc Godard is back at Cannes with a new film "Goodbye to Language" about a man, a woman and a dog. Other veteran directors include the Dardenne Bros from Belgium with "Two Days One Night", Atom Egoyan with "The Captives" from Canada, Ken Loach UK - "Jimmy’s Hal"l, David Cronenberg, Canada, "Map to the Stars", the young Canadian Xavier Dolan, "Mommy", Mike Leigh UK "Mr Turner", Olivier Assayas from France, "Clouds of Sils Maria" and Nuri Bilge Ceylan with "Winter Sleep" from Turkey. Tommy Lee Jones is at Cannes this year with "The Homesman".

There are also several sidebars to official competition:

Cinema Foundation selections, Un Certain Regard, Cinema Acid, Cannes Classics, which presents spaghetti Westerns International Critics Week, a selection of short films vying for the Camera d’or and the Queer Palm competition.

Next week more from the Cannes film Festival.

© 2014 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/14/14
Movie Magazine International

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Young and Beautiful and Formulaic

By Moira Sullivan
*Spoiler Alert*

Debuting at the Cannes film festival last year in the official competition was Young and Beautiful, in French young and pretty (Jeune et Jolie) a typically French film involving lots of sex with a beautiful woman. It displays the kind of homework that Lars von trier could have done for his film Nymphomaniac Volume 1 and Volume 2. This time it is Francois Ozon who missed some classes on his subject. His tabloid film form of four seasons and four songs does not succeed in imbuing the film with any notable quality. It is the film where every scene is filled with the beautiful face of his lead actress 24 year old Marine Vacth. As such it is a role that will bring her forward in her career and even like Catherine Deneuve who transcended playing the beautiful prostitute from home, and not from the street, (Belle de Jour, France 1967) it will be the cornerstone of Vacth's by which all subsequent films will be judged.

The 17 year Isabelle has sex for the first time on the beach with a young German. From all indications it is not a wonderful experience, perhaps for him but certainly not for her. She had been looking forward to this and as it turns out it is not only uncomfortable and unpleasurable but purely mechanical. This is perhaps the most realistic part of the film. From there, by chance, while her family is watching TV she sees an ad for an escort service online. She makes a profile and begins receiving clients. All of the experiences are like her first one: unsatisfying and mechanical. Her clients pay her for the sex and shortchange her if they aren’t satisfied along with calling her names and putting her down. 

She meets Georges (Johan Leysen) an older man who turns out to be the most sensitive of them all. After several encounters, while having sex he dies of a heart attack. She is discovered leaving the hotel by the surveillance cameras and tracked to her home. Her mother and stepfather find out. They don’t have the most ideal marriage since the mother is cheating on her partner and Isabelle discovers this. Isabelle is sent to the worst kind of psychiatrist who looks a little like the man who dies from a heart attack. Throughout the film are four old sappy love songs sung by women that convey the myth of love with the right guy. Isabelle tries to have a normal life after the police discover her with a regular guy but she has become addicted to the causal anonymous and ungratifying sex with high pay. She has learned to be flirtatious and get attention and power from men. She later meets the kind of guy her parents would approve of and the sex she has with him is not shown. Only the sensational illicit love with strangers is photographed in the film. Because of this preoccupation, the sex becomes gratuitous and sensationalized and it is hard to see the necessity in making a story about Isabelle. This kind of film has been made over and over in France and it is not unusual that it winds up in the official selection at Cannes by a veteran filmmaker, since it is a viable commercial product for the French market.

Charlotte Rambling is also a stable commodity in the French cinema market and has appeared in other films made by Ozon. In Young and Beautiful she plays Alice,the wife of the client with the heart attack who seeks out Isabelle to be in the same room as her husband and pays for sex that she presumably never has.

The cinematography of the film is high quality by Pascal Marti (Paris je t’aime) but we must remember that most of the film is about Isabelle and her clients. Attempts are made to understand Isabelle’s social background but the premise of the film is, that you can always fall in love and live happily ever after, but the danger and excitement of prostitution is held in higher regard. It seems impossible for Isabelle to ‘reform’ nor is it presented as desirable.

© 2014 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/07/14
Movie Magazine International