Friday, May 22, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: Othello (1952)

(Co-Winner of the Palme d’Or w/ Two Cents Worth of Hope at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the play by William Shakespeare, Othello is the story of a Moorish general whose life unravels by the deceit of a jealous captain who is eager to destroy him. Directed and starring Orson Welles with a script by Welles and Jean Sacha, the film is an interpretation of the tragedy that plays into a man whose life of success and praise is destroyed by a man whose jealousy would undo many things. Also starring Micheal MacLiammoir, Suzanne Cloutier, and Robert Coote. Othello is a riveting and entrancing film from Orson Welles.

Set in Venice, the film revolves around a Moorish general who would succeed in the eyes of leaders as he would marry a senator’s daughter only to spur the jealousy and anger of an ensign who believes he had been passed over as he decides to destroy the life of Othello. It’s a film that isn’t just about deceit and hatred but also paranoia as the character of Othello would unravel by these lies created by the man who is jealous of him in Iago (Micheal MacLiammoir). The film’s screenplay by Orson Welles, with additional work from Jean Sacha, wouldn’t just explore Iago’s motivations but also in helping his friend Roderigo (Robert Coote) who is angry that Othello has managed to wed Desdemona (Suzanne Cloutier) whom Roderigo had feelings for. By making Othello believe that Desdemona is having an affair with his lieutenant and close friend Cassio (Michael Laurence), Iago would set all of his plans in motion in ruining Othello’s life.

Orson Welles’ direction is quite stylish not just in its look and approach to compositions with the usage of slanted angles. It’s also in how he would present the drama as it was set in a large stage where he would use many locations such as Venice, Morocco, Rome, and Tuscany since it was filmed sporadically for three years. The film opens and ends with a funeral procession that is shot with a large degree of style as it relates to the tragedy of what would happen to Othello as it sets the everything in motion. Shooting on these different locations, Welles is able to make something that does feel quite grand on a visual scale while maintaining something that is intimate with his close-ups and medium shots. The way he would direct his actors in a setting would add to the theatricality of the film where he knows where to put them in the frame or how they would act out in a situation.

While there are elements in the film that are quite chaotic since it does relate to the sporadic shooting schedule due to financial reasons. It does have some charm into what Welles was trying to do as it has a sense of energy to the story. Even as there are flaws in the film such as the post-production sync where some of the dialogue that is spoken doesn’t match entirely with what the actors are saying. It plays into not just the film’s odd eccentric tone but also into the drama as it would intensify into its third act as it involves the full extent of Iago’s deceit that would eventually lead to Othello’s own downfall. Overall, Welles creates a very intoxicating and engrossing film about a man betrayed and deceived by a jealous man.

Cinematographers G.R. Aldo, Anchise Brizzi, George Fanto, Alberto Fusi, and Oberdan Troiani do amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white cinematography with its approach to lighting in the interiors and be able to match many of the different locations to make the film feel like it‘s in one place for the most part. Editors Jeno Csepreghy, Renzo Lucidi, William Morton, and Jean Sacha do superb work with the editing to bring in some stylish cuts from the usage of still images and other odd rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and the messiness of the production. Production designers Luigi Scaccianoce and Alexandre Trauner do fantastic work with the set design of the home of Othello and some of the characters to play into the intense period of the time as well as the castle where Othello runs his army.

Costume designer Maria De Matteis does nice work with the period clothes from the dress that Desdemona wears to the clothes of the men with their tights. The film’s music by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino and Alberto Barberis is brilliant for its mixture of string-based folk instrument to play into some of the drama to the orchestral elements in the film that helps intensify the drama that occurs in the film.

The film’s phenomenal cast include some notable small roles from Doris Dowling as Cassio’s mistress Bianca, Hilton Edwards as Desdemona’s father Brabanito, Nicholas Bruce as Desdemona’s cousin Lodovico, and Fay Compton in a terrific performance as Iago’s lover and Desdemona’s caretaker Emilia who would have a scene-stealing moment in the film’s third act. Michael Laurence is superb as Cassio who is a loyal friend of Othello that becomes a victim of Iago’s deceit. Robert Coote is excellent as Roderigo who joins Iago in the plot against Othello in the hopes that he could claim Desdemona though much of his dialogue is dubbed by Welles.

Suzanne Cloutier is wonderful as Desdemona as Othello’s wife who is unaware of what is happening to him as she tries to convince him that she didn’t do anything wrong. Micheal McLiammoir is brilliant as Iago as an ensign who is angry that he’s been passed over as he would deceive and destroy Othello any way he can as MacLiammoir brings some charm and determination into his role. Finally, there’s Orson Welles in an amazing performance as Othello where Welles brings in that bravado and larger-than-life persona of the character but also has him display some humility to convey the vulnerability in the character.

Othello is a remarkable film from Orson Welles that features great performances from Welles and Micheal MacLiammoir. It’s a film that doesn’t just present one of William Shakespeare’s play into this study of tragedy and deceit into something that is very stylish. It also plays into Welles’ interest in man and how one could fall through petty jealousy and hatred. In the end, Othello is a sensational film from Orson Welles.

Orson Welles Films: Citizen Kane - The Magnificent Ambersons - The Stranger (1946 film) - The Lady from Shanghai - (Macbeth (1948 film)) - (Mr. Arkadian) - Touch of Evil - The Trial (1962 film) - (Chimes at Midnight) - (The Immortal Story) - F for Fake - (Filming Othello) - (The Other Side of the Wind)

© thevoid99 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: Mommy (2014 film)

(Co-Winner of the Jury Prize w/ Goodbye to Language at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival)

Written, edited, costume designed, and directed by Xavier Dolan, Mommy is the story of a widow who is trying to raise her teenage son as she seeks the help from her neighbor where things improve but only for a brief moment. The film is an examination into a relationship between a mother and her teenage son who is very outgoing and rebellious. Starring Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, and Suzanne Clement. Mommy is an astonishing yet intense film from Xavier Dolan.

The film revolves around a widowed mother who is trying her best to raise her ADHD son who is known for being violent and very troubled as they move in to a new place where they get the help of a neighbor who would bring the best in both of them. It’s a film that isn’t just an exploration into a troubled relationship between a mother and her teenage son but also a film that plays into a mother trying to get her own life but also wonder if there’s hope for her son. The film also plays into their situation as it relates to a fictionalized law that would play into what Diane “Die” Despres (Anne Dorval) would have to do for her son Steve (Antoine Oliver-Pilon).

Xavier Dolan’s screenplay doesn’t exactly follow a traditional structure as it is very loose with its narrative as it is more of a character study between Die and Steve’s relationship. Die is a woman that is still trying to hold on to her youth through the clothes she wears as the film begins with her in an accident where she loses her car and is in even worse debt. Adding to the chaos is Steve who has been kicked out of an institution over an incident that he caused that would later haunt both of them as mother and son are forced to start over. In this quiet suburb where the uncontrollable Steve and the overwhelmed Die live, they meet a new neighbor in Kyla (Suzanne Clement) who is a schoolteacher on break as she also has a terrible stutter. Kyla’s presence not only makes things easier but also add a new dynamic to the family as she would be Steve’s teacher and be able to control him while Die would work.

The relationship of the two women and a teenage boy would be an intriguing one as Kyla is someone that is in need to feel alive again even though she has a family. Yet, she remains haunted by something in her family life that doesn’t allow her to connect with her family as the presence of Die and Steve would help her. Die would feel easy with Kyla around to watch over Steve as it would give her the chance to find some work as well as live her own life. Yet, one notable flaw about Die is that she can be irresponsible and selfish as she is also trying to be young. For Steve, he is someone that is very troubled as it is clear that not having a father has affected him to the point where he’s acting out. Yet, he’s not really a bad kid but someone that is in need of attention as there’s a key scene in its third act where Steve is pushed to the edge as he is just trying to do something fun without harming anyone. Yet, it’s a moment that would force Die to ponder not just her own future but also Steve’s future if is ever going to have one.

Dolan’s direction is very unique not just for the intimacy that he creates but also in the aspect ratio in which he would create for this film. Shot in a 1:1 aspect ratio which is similar to what is often presented in cell phone video cameras through social media. It’s a format that is very entrancing on a visual scale where it does a lot to bring a lot of coverage to some of the film’s close-ups and medium shots. It’s also used a visual tool to display some of the emotional moments as it relates to Die and Steve’s relationship. Even as it has something that feels very claustrophobic in its framing where it plays into something that is unsettling and also scary due to some of Steve’s violent outbursts. Most notably a scene where he buys his mother groceries and a gift as Die is convinced that he stole those things as the two have a fight.

There’s a couple moments in the film where the film is presented in a traditional widescreen format as it plays into not just the happy moments involving Die, Steve, and Kyla but also in a sequence as it plays into what Die hopes for Steve to have in the future. The frame would open and close in these moments as it would intensify by the film’s third act as it relates to not just an incident that Steve caused early in the film but also the pressure for Die to make sure that her son doesn’t get into serious trouble. Also serving as the film’s editor and costume designer, Dolan maintains that sense of energy as it relates to Steve where he does use some fast-cuts but also knows when to slow things down as he does put in a lot style into the editing. As for the costumes, it also adds to the film’s visual tone as it shows who these people are where both Die and Steve are eager to look and feel young while Kyla is more conservative to play into her shy personality.

Still, Dolan maintains something is lively but also wondrous as it plays into this turbulent and complicated relationship between a mother and son as well as this outsider who tries to bring the best in both of them. Even as someone like Die is trying to balance what she wants in her own life and the hope that she has for her son while knowing that if things don’t go her own way. There is this law Overall, Dolan crafts a very chilling yet exhilarating film about a mother trying to help and ground her already troubled son.

Cinematographer Andre Turpin does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography to play up the film‘s very colorful and entrancing look from its locations in Quebec to the usage of lights for some of the film‘s interior settings. Art director Colombe Ray and set decorator Jean-Charles Claveau do fantastic work with the look of Die and Steve‘s home which is a bit of mess as it plays into their turbulent relationship. Makeup designer Maina Militza does nice work with the look of Die’s hair and some of the makeup she wears to look young. Sound designer Sylvain Brassard does brilliant work with the sound to capture some of the chaotic moments that occur in the drama along with some of the livelier moments in the film. The film’s music by Noia is excellent for its somber yet enchanting ambient score that plays into the drama while the soundtrack features a diverse array of music from Sarah McLachlan, Celine Dion, Dido, Counting Crows, Beck, Lana Del Rey, Andrea Bocelli, Simple Plan, Oasis, and many others as it’s one of the film’s highlights.

The film’s cast includes some notable small roles from Michele Lituac as the institution chief who would release Steve to his mother, Isabelle Nelisse as Kyla’s daughter, Patrick Huard as an attorney Die would go out with in the film’s third act, and Alexandre Goyette as Kyla’s husband Patrick who would watch some of Kyla’s time with Die and Steve from afar. Suzanne Clement is incredible as Kyla as this woman with a stutter who befriends Die and Steve as she would bring a great sense of balance into their lives as well as being able to defuse some of the tension as it’s a very understated yet intoxicating performance.

Antoine-Olivier Pilon is remarkable as Steve as a young, hyperactive teenager who is trying to please his mother while being very violent and troubled as it’s a performance that is quite complex as he brings a lot of layers to his character. Finally, there’s Anne Dorval in a phenomenal performance as Die as this woman that is trying to retain her youth as well as be a responsible mother where Dorval brings a sense of charm and energy to her performance as she also be just as intense as Pilon as it is really one hell of a performance.

Mommy is a magnificent film from Xavier Dolan that features top-notch performances from Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, and Suzanne Clement. The film isn’t just one of Dolan’s more accessible features but also an engaging story about a tumultuous yet wild relationship between a mother and her son. Even as it manages to be told with such style as well as not being afraid of making the audience feel very uncomfortable. In the end, Mommy is an outstanding film from Xavier Dolan.

Xavier Dolan Films: I Killed My Mother - Heartbeats - Laurence Anyways - (Tom at the Farm) - (Juste la fin du Monde) - (The Death and Life of John F. Donovan) - (The Auteurs #46: Xavier Dolan)

© thevoid99 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: Gimme Shelter

(Played Out of Competition at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin, Gimme Shelter is a film that chronicles the final weeks of the Rolling Stones’ American tour in late 1969 which would culminate in the disastrous Altamont Free Concert. The film documents the band on the road just as they were about to end a period in time for the band but it would end on a very dark note that would become infamous. The result is one of the most lively but also unsettling films about the Rolling Stones’ encounter with tragedy and chaos.

The film revolves around the Rolling Stones’ American tour in late 1969 just a few months following the death of founding guitarist Brian Jones who was replaced by Mick Taylor. To celebrate the tour’s success, the Stones planned to have a free concert in San Francisco which was supposed to take place at Golden Gate Park but circumstances forced plans to change where the Stones and their staff choose the Altamont Speedway as their final location for their free concert on December 6, 1969 with the help of Woodstock concert organizer Michael Lang. What would happen wouldn’t just end the 60s on a very dark note but it would also haunt the Stones for many years as they would embark into a very troubling period.

While the film isn’t just about the band’s tour and the infamous concert at Altamont, it is also about the band taking time to record material for what would become their 1971 album Sticky Fingers. Much of it is seen by members of the Stones with the Maysles Brothers as they’re reviewing all of the footage in the editing room. Much of the film’s direction by the Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin not only have singer Mick Jagger and drummer Charlie Watts review the footage but also see and hear things about what had happened. Most notably where Jagger watches the press conference of the band announcing the free concert where a journalist asked if Mick is satisfied not just sexually but also philosophically and financially. At the conference, Mick would say yes but his response from watching his own answer is “rubbish”.

Much of the direction of the film, where the Maysles serve as their own cinematographers, is very direct as it’s shot with hand-held cameras to play into every moment that is happening. Even as they would capture not just some of the performances of the Stones but also a performance of Ike and Tina Turner doing Otis Redding’s I’ve Been Loving You for Too Long during a show where they were opening for the Stones as Mick would watch that performance in the editing room. The performances of the Stones are very lively as the Maysles capture something that the band is famous for as it’s set in a controlled environment as opposed to what would happen at Altamont.

The film would move back-and-forth from the Stones watching the footage to the events that was happening in late 1969 which would culminate with the show at Altamont as performances from the Flying Burrito Brothers and Jefferson Airplane would show the two bands performing as the latter would be ravaged by chaos. Even as Airplane vocalist Marty Balin would try to stop a fight only to get knocked out. What happens is not just a lack of control that is emerging but also fear as Maysles brothers and several camera operators (including George Lucas) would show some of the things that are happening as it’s the opposite of what the 60s are about. There’s elements of violence and unruliness where it would culminate with the Stones’ performance as they’re trying to get people to cool out.

With the aid of editors Ellen Giffard, Robert Farren, Joanne Burke, and Kent McKinney along with a large number of sound crew including Walter Murch, the film captures not just through some of the brilliance of the performance but also the sense of dread that emerged into the Stones’ performance at Altamont. Most notably the scene where Jagger asks David Maysles to reveal the footage of Meredith Hunter being killed as it is revealed that he was holding a gun. There is also a scene early in the film where Watts listens to a recollection from a member of the Hells Angels biker gang that did security for that concert as it also a dark moment into the mistake that the Stones made for that concert.

Gimme Shelter is a terrifying yet outstanding film from the Maysles Brothers and Charlotte Zwerin. It’s not just one of the finest films about the Rolling Stones in a period in their career but also one of the most eerie documentary films ever made. Especially as it captures a very dark moment that ended the decade on a very tragic note. In the end, Gimme Shelter is a spectacular film from Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin.

Related: Grey Gardens - Crossfire Hurricane

© thevoid99 2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: Scarecrow (1973 film)

(Co-Winner of the Palme d’Or w/ The Hireling at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival)

Directed by Jerry Schatzberg and written by Garry Michael White, Scarecrow is the story of an ex-convict who teams up with a former sailor on a road trip to start a partnership. The film is an unconventional road movie that pairs two very different men who bond during a road trip as they each look to find something for themselves. Starring Gene Hackman, Al Pacino, Eileen Brennan, and Richard Lynch. Scarecrow is an offbeat yet engaging film from Jerry Schatzberg.

The film revolves around two very different men who are both going east as they team up to form a partnership where they deal with their different personalities and desires in life. It’s a film that doesn’t play by the conventions of a road movie since the two leads in this temperamental ex-convict and an energetic ex-sailor who don’t know each other as they meet on a road as they’re both trying to go east. Along the way, the two go into a series of misadventures and stops in a few cities where they both deal with their disparate personalities and goals. For the temperamental Max (Gene Hackman), he is eager to start a car wash business as he had been planning for years. For the former sailor Francis (Al Pacino), he hopes to go to Detroit to meet the child he had just discovered as he joins Max on the journey while hoping to work with him washing cars.

Garry Michael White’s screenplay doesn’t just play into the different personalities of Max and Francis but also these two guys who are likely to be the last group of guys that should work together. Yet, they come together due to the fact that they have no one else to work with as Max is a man who likes to plan things and needs to go to Pittsburgh to get the money that he needs. For Francis, Max is someone he can latch on to as he is someone that needs an older brother figure while Max realizes he needs Francis to control his temper as he often gets into fights which is why he went to prison for six years. Francis has spent a lot of years in sea as he is often carrying a box where it’s a gift to the child he has never known as he hopes to meet the kid and do the right thing. Though there’s moments where the friendship is tested, the two realize how much they mean to each other as they hope to reach the dream of doing something good for themselves.

Jerry Schatzberg’s direction is quite simple as it plays into two guys going on the road from the American west to the east as it’s an offbeat road film where two guys travel by being passengers in other cars or ride trains from city to city. It’s a film where Schatzberg does use a lot of wide shots for some of the film’s locations that is set in places like Detroit and Denver while maintaining something that is intimate with its usage of close-ups and medium shots. The film also has a looseness as it relates to the humor where there’s a scene of Max talking to a woman while Francis is trying to carry a door as he would slip. Schatzberg would also maintain some tension as it relates to the second act where Max and Francis are in prison where the latter befriends a fellow convict where things eventually go very wrong. Yet, it plays not just into the development of the two men as individuals but also as friends where they do whatever it takes to help each other. Even when they’re both directionless while yearning to reach the dream for a better future for themselves. Overall, Schatzberg creates a very witty yet enchanting film road film about two different men going on a journey to find a better life.

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography as it is filled with gorgeous colors and lighting for some of the interior scenes in the bars as well as scenes set at night along with some naturalistic images for the daytime exterior scenes. Editor Evan Lottman does nice work with the editing as it‘s quite straightforward while featuring some rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s intense moments such as Francis‘ encounter with a fellow convict. Production designer Albert Brenner does excellent work with the look of the home of Max’s sister as well as the prison he and Francis would go to following one of their antics.

Costume designer Jo Ynocencio does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s very low-key and casual to play into the personalities of the two characters. Sound editors Edward Beyer and Robert M. Reitano do superb work with the sound to play into some of the chaotic moments involving the two men at bars and other places they go to. The film’s music by Fred Myrow is wonderful for its mixture of folk and country to play into the humor as the soundtrack includes pieces from Aretha Franklin and Mike Nesmith of the Monkees.

The film’s amazing cast includes some notable small performances from Richard Hackman as a prison officer, Rutanya Alda as a woman in a camper that gives Max and Francis a ride, Eileen Brennan as a woman Max gets into a tiff with at a bar, Dorothy Tristan as Max’s sister Coley, Ann Wedgeworth as a friend of Coley who flirts with Max, and Penelope Allen as Francis’ ex-wife whom Francis is trying to reach as she finally appears late in the film. Richard Lynch is terrific as a convict named Riley who would befriend Francis in the middle of the film as well as gain the ire of Max.

Finally, there’s the duo of Gene Hackman and Al Pacino in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Max and Francis. Hackman brings an aggression and quirkiness to his role as Max as someone that is easily antagonized while trying to get things through. Pacino brings a childlike quality to Francis, who also has a nickname in Lion, as well as someone eager to grow up as Pacino brings a lot of humor to his role. Hackman and Pacino also have this chemistry together that is just fun to watch as they both bring unique personalities into their roles while creating something that is more of a brotherhood than a friendship as they are among the film’s highlights.

Scarecrow is a remarkable film from Jerry Schatzberg that features top-notch performances from Gene Hackman and Al Pacino. It’s an odd yet exhilarating road film that manages to be engaging and very funny thanks in part to Garry Michael White’s script and the gorgeous visuals of Vilmos Zsigmond. In the end, Scarecrow is a marvelous film from Jerry Schatzberg.

© thevoid99 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: I Stand Alone

(Winner of the International Critic’s Week Award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival)

Written and directed by Gaspar Noe, Seul contre tous (I Stand Alone) is the story of a butcher whose life unravels through unemployment and rejection following an attempt to start all over. The film is a sequel/expanded version of Noe’s 1991 short film Carne that plays into the tumultuous life of an un-named butcher played by Philippe Nahon. Also starring Blandine Lenoir, Frankye Pain, and Martine Audrain. Seul contre tous is a dark yet intensely compelling film from Gaspar Noe.

Set in 1980 in Northern France, the film revolves an un-named butcher who tries to start over following years of being in prison, over accusations that he had raped his young and mute daughter, only to be rejected by the people that was supposed to help him as well as society. It’s a film that isn’t just about isolation but also a film that plays into a man who is trying to start a new life with his mistress and her mother as he hopes to open a butcher shop. Instead, things don’t go his way as he is forced to deal with changes in the world and other things as his attempts to conform would only have him become angry. Gaspar Noe’s script is quite simple as it plays into the butcher trying to return to the world but a world that has changed.

Yet, simple acts of being good would have him be misunderstood by his own mistress (Frankye Pain) who would treat him very cruelly. The only person in the butcher’s life that meant anything to him is his daughter Cynthia (Blandine Lenoir) as she has been institutionalized since the day when the butcher went to prison. The film’s first eight-to-ten minutes doesn’t just explain why the butcher went to prison but also about his own life as a child and as a young adult as it has been often marked tragedies and other events that prevented him from trying to fit in to what society wants. The film also has very provocative themes on the idea of morality and justice as the film begins with men talking about these ideas and how it often favors the rich as it plays into Noe’s own commentary about class.

Noe’s direction is quite stylish not just through his approach to close-ups and zoom lenses where they can abruptly go into extreme close-ups. With its usage of wide lenses and wide shots, Noe aims for something where it plays into a man who feels detached from society as he tries to be part of it. Noe’s usage of medium and wide shots to play into the butcher’s world and the sense of discomfort he has around his mistress and her mother would create the tension that would loom over the butcher. Adding to the story’s offbeat tone is the fact that it is largely told by the butcher in a voice-over narration where it’s really more internal monologue that plays into his frustration towards the world and people around him. Some of the dialogue that Noe would say has a lot of things that are quite extreme as even scenes of violence such as a moment where the butcher stands up and beats up his pregnant mistress is a very brutal moment. The idea of violence is very prevalent as its third act not only relates to the butcher finally wanting to lash out but also cope with a world that rejects him. Overall, Noe creates a very unsettling yet confrontational film about a man’s attempt to find redemption only to face loneliness in a cruel world.

Cinematographer Dominique Colin does excellent work with the film‘s sepia-drenched photography that is filled with bright red and yellow colors with elements of grain as it plays into the dark world that the butcher is in. Editors Gaspar Noe and Lucile Hadzihalilovic do brilliant work with the editing with its stylish cutting and abrupt approach to jump-cuts and transitions as it helps play into the film‘s confrontational tone. Special makeup work by Jean-Christophe Spadccini is terrific for the look of some of the characters including the butcher‘s mistress who looks quite grotesque. The sound work of Jean-Luc Audy, Valerie Deloof, Olivier Do Huu, and Olivier Le Vacon is fantastic to play into some of the transitions as well as some of the chaos that goes on in some of the film’s location. The film’s soundtrack features ambient music from Thierry Durbet and Bruno Alexiu as well as some classical pieces to play into the butcher’s struggles.

The film’s amazing cast features notable small roles from Zaven as a man talking about morality in the film’s opening scene, Gerard Ortega as a bar owner the butcher threatens, Alain Pierre as the bar owner’s son, Roland Gueridon as an old friend of the butcher who tries to get him work, and Martine Audrain as the mistress’ mother who takes advantage of the butcher’s attempt to be helpful. Frankye Pain is excellent as the butcher’s mistress who was supposed to be the woman who would support him in opening a butcher shop as she then takes advantage of him and treat him very cruelly. Blandine Lenoir is fantastic as the butcher’s daughter Cynthia as a traumatized mute who represents the rare form of innocence in the life of the butcher as she only appears in the film’s final moments. Finally, there’s Philippe Nahon in a riveting performance as the un-named butcher as a man trying to start over only to fall apart as he becomes angry and frustrated with the world as he brings a performance that is absolutely terrifying.

Seul contre tous is a remarkable film from Gaspar Noe that features a haunting performance from Philippe Nahon. The film is definitely not an easy one to watch in terms of its graphic language and themes but also for the fact that it plays into a man being pushed to the edge by society. In the end, Seul contre tous is a phenomenal film from Gaspar Noe.

Gaspar Noe Films: (Carne) - Irreversible - Enter the Void - (Love (2015 film)) - (The Auteurs #48: Gaspar Noe)

© thevoid99 2015

Sunday, May 17, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: El Sur

(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the short story by Adelaida Garcia Morales, El Sur (The South) is the story of a young girl living in the north of Spain who is fascinated by the country’s southern region as it relates to her father. Written for the screen and directed by Victor Erice, the film is an exploration into a young woman’s journey to know the man she called her father. Starring Omero Antonutti, Sonsoles Aranguren, Iciar Bollain, Lola Cardona, and Aurore Clement. El Sur is a ravishing and touching film from Victor Erice.

Set in the late 1940s through the late 1950s in post-war Spain in its northern regions, the film revolves around the life of a young girl and her relationship with her father as it plays into a part of Spain that her father used to live in. It’s a film that is about roots in some respects as it is told from the perspective of this young woman named Estrella (Sonsoles Aranguren as a child and Iciar Bollain as a teenager) who tries to know who her father is and why his homeland is intriguing. It is film that is mostly told from Estrella’s perspective as she reflects on her life with her father Augustin Arena (Omero Antonutti) who was a very gentle and warm man as he created a quaint and idyllic life with his wife Julia (Lola Cardona). Once the young Estrella learns a lot about her father and why he is so drawn to Spain’s southern region where it plays into not just her father’s past but also the life he once had.

The film’s screenplay has an unconventional structure as its first two acts is largely focused on the young Estrella as it plays into her youth and coming of age as she is amazed by her father. Notably as he carries a pendulum for small things which she would get later on as she also wonders what does he do in this attic. The film is largely set in this small town in north of Spain as it is a major character of the film as Estrella’s encounter with Southern Spain is through postcards as it plays more into a sense of fantasy. The story would progress into Estrella starting to learn more about her father’s past as it doesn’t just relate to his homeland but also an actress named Irene Rios (Aurore Clement) who was an old lover of Augustin. It serves an act of innocence lost where its third act revolves around the teenage Estrella who not only deals with growing pains but also this fascination for the world of Southern Spain.

Victor Erice’s direction is very understated as he doesn’t really go for anything vast in his direction but rather something that is very intimate and low-key. Shot on location in the north of Spain with a few shots in Madrid, the film does play into a world that is definitely removed from more traditional ideas of the country for something that is very rural. While Erice does use a lot of wide and medium shots, his approach to framing is very entrancing in not just where he places the actor into a frame but also in creating something that feels like a moment in time where things were much simpler. Even in his approach to close-ups and the way he manages to bring something natural into the performances of his actors such as an intimate scene between the young Estrella and her grand-aunt Milagros (Rafaela Aparicio). Erice’s direction also has some stylish usage of tracking shots and some crane shots but it’s often very low-key as it plays to things surrounding the characters.

Even in its third act as it plays into Estrella coming to terms about her father as well as dealing with the world that he left behind. Yet, it is only half the story as Erice’s intention for the film was much longer than its 95-minute presentation as a second half was to be set in the South of Spain. Due to financial and creative issues with the film’s producer Elias Querejeta, only half of the story was told. However, the final film that Erice would bring manages to be just as entrancing as well as very touching where it adds a lot of interpretation and ideas of what Estrella might encounter in this world that her father was from. In the end, Erice crafts a very evocative yet rapturous film about a young coming of age in the Northern Spain.

Cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine does incredible work with the film‘s cinematography to play into naturalistic look of the locations as many of its daytime exteriors are shot with available and natural light along with some of its interiors in day and night that have some unique lighting as it is among the film‘s highlights. Editor Pablo Gonzalez del Amo does excellent work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward as there‘s not a lot of stylish cuts but rather methodical rhythmic cuts to play into the drama. Production designer Antonio Belizon does fantastic work with the look of the house known as the Seagull as it is a major character in the film that plays into the world Estrella and her family live in as well as the cafĂ© that her father would go to.

Costume designer Maiki Marin does nice work with the costumes from the suits that Augustin wears to the very ordinary dresses of Estrella that plays into the sense of innocence that she would exude in her life. The sound work of Bernardo Menz is amazing for not just its approach to sparse sound textures for many of its natural locations but also in some of the scenes involving crowds and party such as a quiet lunch late in the film where a wedding party is happening in the next room. The film’s music by Enrique Granados is brilliant for its somber yet low-key orchestral score that plays into the drama along with some flamenco pieces for a few scenes and classical contributions from Maurice Ravel and Franz Schubert.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Jose Vivo as a hotel barman, Maria Caso as the family cook/maid, Francisco Merino as Irene’s co-star in a film that Augustin watches, and Germaine Montero as Estrella’s grandmother who comes from the south of Spain as she brings more intrigue to Estrella. Rafaela Aparicio is wonderful as Estrella’s grand-aunt Milagros who would tell Estrella stories about her father and be the one to get him to attend Estrella’s first communion. Aurore Clement is terrific in a small role as the actress Irene Rios who is an old flame of Augustin as she only appears in a film as a femme fatale. Lola Cardona is fantastic as Augustin’s wife Julia who would also be a teacher for Estrella as she copes with not just Augustin’s sudden isolation but also with Estrella’s sudden anger towards her father.

Omero Antonutti is amazing as Augustin Arenas as a man who can create small miracles in his surroundings while being a great father but is anguished by elements of his own pasts and roots which causes him to isolate from everyone including his daughter. Finally there’s the duo of Sonsoles Aranguren and Iciar Bollain in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as the 8-year old and 15-year old Estrella. Aranguren brings a naturalistic yet enchanting approach to her performance that is very engaging and full of innocence as a young girl rocked by the secrets about her father. Bolain brings the same quality of innocence and naturalism but also a bit of angst as well as a melancholia as it relates to her father’s isolation. Adding to the performance is the voice-over narration by Maria Massip who brings an intoxicating quality to the narration as it brings a glimpse into who the adult Estrella might be.

El Sur is an exhilarating film from Victor Erice. Armed with a great cast and a fascinating story about innocence and curiosity, it’s a film that isn’t just a tender coming-of-age story. It’s also a very captivating film about a young woman’s relationship with her father. In the end, El Sur is an incredible film from Victor Erice.

Victor Erice Films: The Spirit of the Beehive - (Dream of Light)

© thevoid99 2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015

2015 Cannes Marathon: Force Majeure

(Winner of the Un Certain Regarde Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival)

Written and directed by Ruben Ostlund, Force Majeure is the story of a family vacation at the French Alps nearly goes wrong when an avalanche nearly kills them. The film is an exploration into the world of family and how people react towards near-fatal catastrophes. Starring Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju, and Fanni Metelius. Force Majeure is a captivating and provocative film from Ruben Ostlund.

Set in a ski resort in the French Alps near Savoie, France, the film revolves a week in the life of a Swedish family on a holiday where a near-fatal encounter with an avalanche forces a couple to come into question about their reaction. Most notably as the husband-father Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) ran from his own family during the event as his wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) wondered why he did that. It’s a film that plays into a family questioning not just its patriarch over what had happened but why as he goes into denial and such. Ruben Ostlund’s screenplay does play into a traditional narrative structure as it plays into the days of the week where the first day is fine. Yet, it is the second day where the avalanche happens as it becomes about not just Tomas’ action or lack of for his family but also in how things start to fall apart as Tomas’ own children are upset with him. Its second act involve the visit of a couple of friends of Tomas and Ebba who try to make sense of what happened as it leads to many questions about how someone would react into that kind of situation.

Ostlund’s direction is very mesmerizing for the way he creates a simple family drama that is set on location in this ski resort on the French Alps. The location itself is a character in the film as Ostlund uses a lot of wide shots to capture the look of those mountains as well as knowing where to place the camera for the event that would shape an entire family. There aren’t a lot of close-ups in the film as Ostlund prefers to showcase a film about an entire family where a lot of medium and wide shots are used. The compositions showcase how close they are early in the film such as the fact that they all share the same bed. Once they all had encountered the avalanche, the framing becomes evident into how troubled the family is as there’s a shot where a hotel cleaner watches as he would appear very often.

The direction also have Ostlund maintain an intimacy with the scenes inside the hotel suite Tomas, Ebba, and their children live in as he knows how to frame a moment such as the family brushing their teeth or the scene where their friends to discuss what happened. The sense of tension does emerge as well as moments that are very emotionally intense as it relates to Tomas and Ebba each going into their own personal journeys to cope with everything that had happened. There’s also some moments that involves a drone that Tomas had bought which does kind of add an element of suspense but also play into how immature Tomas is at times. One notable scene in the film’s third act doesn’t just play into a family coping with near tragedy but also in a moment where they would have another dangerous encounter that actually mirrors a real-life moment where a bunch of people nearly got killed as it is about a simple human reaction and what a person would do in this situation. Overall, Ostlund creates a very engrossing yet powerful film about a family coping with near-tragedy and its aftermath.

Cinematographer Fredrik Wenzel does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography to capture the vast look of the locations in the Alps with its naturalistic look of snow as well as some unique lighting for some scenes set at night including the scenes inside the hotel. Editor Jacob Secher Schulsinger does excellent work with the editing as it‘s very simple by not going for any kind of conventional fast-cuts by employing something that is more methodical while knowing when to cut for a transition or use a rhythmic cut for a dramatic moment. Production designer Josefin Asberb does superb work with the look of the hotel halls and some of its rooms as well as the hotel suite that Tomas, Ebba, and their children live in.

Costume designer Pia Aleborg does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual to play into what the family wears in and out of the resort. Visual effects supervisors Samir Arabzadeh and Hakan Blomdahl do fantastic work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects such as the avalanche sequence and other parts to play into the cold weather. Sound editors Andreas Franck and Gisle Tveito do brilliant work with the sound editing to play into the sound of snow winds and other parts such as the cannons at night to help create the sense of drama and tension that looms into the film. The film’s music by Ola Flottum is wonderful for its low-key ambient score that is use quite sparingly as most of the music is played on location from electronic dance to a classical piece by Antonio Vivaldi that serves as an effective dramatic piece for some of the film’s transitions.

The casting by Katja Wik is great as it features an appearance from Brady Corbet as an American tourist who dines with Tomas and Ebba, Karin Myrenberg as a friend of Ebba who is dating the American as she talks about what Ebba went through, and Johannes Moustos as the hotel cleaner who would often observe things that is happening in the hotel. Kristofer Hivju and Fanni Metelius are excellent in their respective roles as family friends Mats and Fanni as the two try to observe what had happened as well as present their own views on the situation. Clara and Vincent Wettergren are amazing in their respective roles as Vera and Harry as the two kids who cope with what had happened with the youngest in Harry thinking that his parents will split up. Lisa Loven Kongsli is brilliant as Ebba as a mother of two kids who copes with what happened as she is angry at her husband for his reaction and lack of action. Finally, there’s Johannes Bah Kuhnke in a fantastic performance as Tomas as a man whose reaction to the avalanche makes him look bad in front of his family as he ponders if he didn’t do anything or had a different view of what happened.

Force Majeure is a phenomenal film from Ruben Ostlund. Armed with a great cast, sprawling visuals, and an insightful story about simple human reactions to near-fatal events and other things makes it more than just a simple drama. Even as it manages to provoke many questions about how someone would react to these situations and such. In the end, Force Majeure is a spectacular film from Ruben Ostlund.

Ruben Ostlund Films: (The Guitar Mongoloid) - (Involuntary) - (Play (2011 film))

© thevoid99 2015