Saturday, 30 April 2016


Brace yourselves: Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures dives head first into the story of its subject's life, hard, fast and throbbing. You can feel the blood rush through Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's minds as they embark on an exercise of illumination and education - a necessary project in enlightening a cloistered audience, and a noble purpose to serve, but what further purpose does this rudimentary documentary serve? We see a lot, we hear a lot, and we learn a lot, and there's no doubt as to the validity of such a direct, informative approach when dealing with topics that have so long been excluded from public consumption and conversation. Bailey and Barbato's knowledge and empathy give Mapplethorpe a lively, engaging tone as it races through its story, but their artistic ambitions are limited, marking an inexcusable oversight for a biopic of such a talented artist. The film hews too closely to biodoc convention, and with a level of haste that often precludes the kind of measured musing that's normally encouraged of the artistic audience. Robert Mapplethorpe's character is thoroughly examined, his work comprehensively presented, but too little time is allotted toward allowing the viewer to appreciate the most salient details; in place of such is too much time toward trivial recollections of his childhood, his lifestyle, his celebrity status. All of meaning, naturally, just perhaps not this much. The titular advice might be best: just look at the pictures.

Friday, 29 April 2016


In reverence and irreverence, through profundity and vulgarity, Gabriel Abrantes imagines a six-minute stand around a sculpture. He observes Constantin Brancusi's most misunderstood work, a bust of Marie Bonaparte, with an informed mind, however, though the thoughts and opinions with which he infuses this short film align nicely with his light, nonchalant style. As such, A Brief History of Princess X examines not only its sculptural subject, but also the process of conducting such an examination. Here we see the creation of art - its origins, its intended purposes - and the consumption of art - its presentation, its interpretations, its legacy. Abrantes' lighthearted tone turns flippant in his narration, which sets this short out on unstable, unpromising grounds; only in the final few moments does an acknowledgement of Brancusi's achievements, and - more pointedly - of their underappreciation in the public arena, excuse the film's jaunts into juvenility. Yet even these are understandable, as A Brief History of Princess X is equally about perception of 'Princess X' as it is about its true beauty, itself only fully fathomable when one is able to consider that perception, and to know the facts of its creation, all smartly delineated in Abrantes' film. Production values are solid, no more nor less opulent than is required for a film of this duration and of this style. Keep an eye out for a few familiar names in the credits, and you'll realise that this film's qualities are by no means accidental. A little context goes a long way.

Thursday, 28 April 2016


There and back again in an enlightening discovery of futility and despair. Jonas Carpignano's Mediterranea queries whether the better life that the refugees and migrants of the third world seek actually exists or not. Its dispassionate, indistinct advocation of assimilation arises from a feeling of cultural erosion, as American and European culture bleeds into the rest of the world, yet expects so much in return for the rest of the world bleeding back. Carpignano's empathy is palpable throughout - the vivid blues and yellows of hope, the rich, muddy browns of poverty, the intimate hand-held photography, the vibrant musical cues. It's a language of presence, yet the film tells a story of absence - great geographical and cultural distances, language barriers, and the void of purpose and fulfillment for these foreign bodies. The juxtaposition of language and content here is awkward, since in this case there's little to no assimilation; they remain separate, communicating mutually exclusive messages. This leaves Mediterranea with a void of purpose itself, resulting in a simple string of events, occurring as they do because they do, striving to achieve some humanitarian condolence from the viewer, rather than additional artistic admiration. It's a worthy story, handsomely presented, and holds some worth of its own in being one of so few stories on this topic. But would that Mediterranea knew its potential worth. As it is, the feeling that this film best communicates is that same futility felt by its characters. Strong and solid filmmaking, but little more.


Every scientifically-sound climate change film is a worthy one, but in the hands of Inside Job director Charles Ferguson, you can count on Time to Choose being a damn good one too. After screening at the Telluride Film Festival last September, the documentary's US release on the 3rd of June will be its first theatrical engagement. Looks to be an informed and engaging film with an urgent message, so make sure to watch the above trailer, and ofc to watch the film when it arrives in cinemas.


Anna Rose Holmer's directorial debut The Fits has been making the festival rounds since it first screened last September at the Venice Film Festival. Reviews for both the film and young lead Royalty Hightower's performance have been strong, and the film will hope to capitalise on its critical acclaim when it opens in the US on the 3rd of June. Check out the first trailer for the film above.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016


The only as-yet unseen film of 2016 that I can claim to being genuinely excited to see. Contrary to my initial expectations, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie looks to be every bit as good as the TV series, which, btw, is rly fucking good, in case you didn't already know. Released in the UK on the 1st of July and in the US on the 22nd.


If there's a single point to be made in Miguel Gomes' Arabian Nights project, it's made most succinctly in Volume 3 - The Enchanted One. The series itself at its most enchanting, and at its most mundane, this simple assemblage of stories on Portuguese identity draws out from these three films the true purpose of Gomes' methods of presenting them; we've already been acquainted with Arabian Nights' overarching nature, but it's only in The Enchanted One that Gomes' means excuse his ends. The first 40 minutes are sweet and pretty, and perhaps mildly allegorical, but they serve more to illuminate the genesis of Gomes' structural scheme than to reveal anything profound about his native Portugal. Nevertheless, as a quirky reworking of an old story, this segment is in fact more closely related to the first two volumes than it is to the remainder of The Enchanted One, which turns the film from poetic fantasy to sober documentary. It's a plaintive, perceptive portion, extended to a length great enough that it attains a magnitude of its own, even within this six-hour project. On-screen text ties it to the opening story, a determined narrative drive once again jutting in, this time not to a tale that needs room to breathe, but to a tale that actually provides it, only to have it denied. Yet this text, with its overt implication on this film's identity as a piece of storytelling, combined with the truest, purest examination of Portuguese identity in all three films, finally develops Gomes' essential idea: it is through stories of the past that we come to understand our present, and shape our future, and through skillful manipulation of their telling that we abate the destruction of our own identity. A pleasant, poignant point then, but did it really have to take six hours to make it?

Tuesday, 26 April 2016


The savoury filling in Miguel Gomes' Arabian Nights sandwich, Volume 2 - The Desolate One sifts out the satire of Volume 1, replacing it with added absurdity, and a respect for style and structure whose absence somewhat blighted its predecessor. Seemingly straightforward yet opaque, it's the least conceptually convincing of the three films, being the awkward middle part of the project. But Gomes exploits this ungainliness to fabulous artistic effect, honing his skill of invention, dedicating himself to his (albeit wayward) narratives far more so than in Volume 1, allowing the film to truly settle into itself. The political subtext adds a sense of distinction, of a purpose that's wholly real, if not wholly realised - Gomes remains too eager to digress ever further, his vaguely novelistic approach still too dense to permit his film from adequately expressing itself, even if this stylistic endeavour is entirely appropriate. The Desolate One might also be titled 'The Desperate One', as it astutely chronicles the effects of political buck-passing, subtly establishing themes of responsibility, accountability and their disregard, and the futility of taking any kind of action - whether good or bad - in the face of such a corrupt system. But the chief virtue of The Desolate One is in its artistry. Gomes is a master of manipulating sound and silence in his films, and this one's beguiling sensory tableau is beautiful to behold. A rambling final half hour makes a clear point, though not completely clearly; it's intentionally loose, but thus something of a letdown after the preceding 90 minutes of relative excellence. At any rate, The Desolate One is quite the opposite: a step up from the relative mediocrity of The Restless One.


Well, this looks fun. Though don't tell me that the MPAA rating gives away the curious lack of actual dick pics in this dick pic doc? At least I can keep my expectations in check. Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg's critically acclaimed Anthony Weiner film opens in the US in limited release on the 20th of May. It won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. documentaries at Sundance earlier this year!

Monday, 25 April 2016


A political portrait in all its possible guises: inquisitive documentary, cheeky satire, sombre social realism. Miguel Gomes' Arabian Nights: Volume 1 - The Restless One is clear and it is abstract, truthful and absurd, politically charged, fantastical, simple and strange, direct yet endlessly diverging. It is also great, good, and bad, and some combination of each of those among each of the qualities listed above. Drifting from one story to the next, and to stories within stories, this episodic feature functions like an aimless anthology more than the artistic statement Gomes intends of it, given its fitful nature. An engrossing opening segment, of which an extended version would undoubtedly have produced a better film overall, needlessly merges documentary fact with self-reflexive fiction; self-reflection being self-obsession, and Gomes' ploy to frame the entire remainder of The Restless One (and both subsequent volumes) as a story of great magnitude sets it a bar which it never even threatens to reach. He has a touch with subtle quirks inserted here and there, jaunty little gags with ephemeral effect; The Restless One is at its most affecting, and its least aggravating, when it settles into itself, allowing reality to trump fantasy and to afford the film an intensity of feeling that Gomes barely even considers to court. He's too concerned with his stories, and with telling them in the kind of dense detail, and with the kind of reckless momentum, that his classic literary inspirations employed. Perhaps it works on the page, but on screen, Gomes' breathless narrative drive gives the viewer no time to appreciate what they're presented with, no time to try to work out Gomes' intentions, the reasoning behind the theorising. All will become simpler in Volume 2, and clearer in Volume 3, but for all its intermittent brilliance, Volume 1 remains equally baffling.

Sunday, 24 April 2016


As loss is an inevitable part of life, so Laurie Anderson makes life from loss. The work of a great talent, and a most learned person, Heart of a Dog is both an imparting of knowledge, and a cathartic expression of emotion for Anderson. Her experience as a musician informs her approach of cinema - intent foremost upon the creation of beauty, though not without unyielding creativity, innovative technique, and a wondrous depth of wisdom. Indeed, the beauty of Heart of a Dog is constructed through the juxtaposition of these elements, forming a piece of audiovisual poetry whose attraction is so potent due to its depth, and whose effect is so profound due to its attraction. Anderson's understanding of the nature of death and its impact on those left to deal with it is deeply personal, and her means of exploring it, through meandering musings upon memory, philosophy, and startling abstraction of a bewildering array of stylistic motifs, is marvellously evocative of the workings of the mind, particularly in periods of such emotional intensity. Heart of a Dog trickles through topic after topic, each interconnected by the infinite associations of Anderson's thought process, over despair, confusion, regret, fear, even humour. It flows seemingly uncontrollably, though this is only its success as an artistic device - Anderson exerts uncompromising control over her technique, diverging where she needs to, circling back where she needs to, ever enriching and expanding her film's purview. As a most singular expression, the only terms on which Heart of a Dog needs to succeed are its own. See for yourself: this incredible film could succeed on anyone else's.

Saturday, 23 April 2016


Joachim Trier: the go-to guy for white people problems. That's less of an issue when he's home in Norway, a country where approximately >98% of the population is white anyway. And, in many ways, it's hardly an issue at all - he's the go-to guy for a good reason, since he captures not only the feeling but the essence of this middle-class ennui, its causes and its effects, like few other filmmakers today, if any. And yet it remains an issue, for as monstrous as these problems may be to those experiencing them, to the audience they're old hat, and an ugly old hat at that. Louder Than Bombs is a collage of white people problems, acutely diagnosed and expertly delineated, though as silly and as shallow in their construction as they are in their depiction, and almost as self-pitying. Sensitive writing establishes their nature, clever editing exposes their surprising complexity, smart performances realise their depth, but nothing in Louder Than Bombs ever truly explains why they actually exist. Trier and Eskil Vogt are too intelligent to make their film about anything as commonplace as grief, nor as simplistic as moving on from it - it's a knottier truth they seek out, a curious combination of both, situated some years after the event, its realities still revealing themselves, still causing repercussions. They examine their concerns with a glacial reserve, reflecting the approaches of their rich, privileged subjects, so tethered to them that they fail to appreciate the broader context, the real issue that's bothering us, the audience: why? Why these people? Why these reactions? And, most pertinently of all, why the single tear trickling down the wind-brushed cheek?


Everything and nothing in Jane Got a Gun, a Western that harbours as much ambition as it lacks the will to realise it. Its deeply troubled production can hardly be put aside - it's fully apparent in what appears on screen, in thwarted potential, missed opportunities, and crushing compromise. Though you'd be forgiven for missing all of the above, were it not for the widely-published accounts of woe that befell this calamitous enterprise, since Jane Got a Gun is so lacklustre an effort, so underwhelming despite featuring so much talent, that it could easily pass as just another throwaway genre exercise. It's only for its uniqueness, as a serious-minded, Weinstein-produced, female-led Western, that its origin as a work of considerably greater aspiration and artistry is revealed. And what little of it remains: Gavin O'Connor is more shepherd than director, evidently out of his depth with material that doesn't brashly announce its thematic drives and emotional subtext. He sidles from one scene to the next, pushing forward (and pulling back) a plot that barely needs a push - it's a series of inevitable events travelling toward an inevitable conclusion. O'Connor supplies his own brashness, something to liven it up, in flashbacks that work only for their solid staging, since their purpose is largely superfluous. If this is an attempt at strengthening the dramatic and stylistic import of Jane Got a Gun, it's a resolutely failed one, and nothing in this film makes up for the drought of imagination that seems to have plagued each and all of its key creators.

Friday, 22 April 2016


As is fairly common for the festival, a number of extra titles have been added to the lineup for Cannes 2016, due to take place between the 11th and the 22nd of May. Among them are the 21st entry in Official Selection, Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman, and David MacKenzie's Hell or High Water in Un Certain Regard. Also joining the slate are two special screenings - Karim Dridi's Chouf and Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet's La Foret des Quinconces - and one further midnight screening - Jean-Francois Richet's Blood Father. You can check out the updated list of all the films screening in these strands, plus Out of Competition titles, at this link, the Critics' Week lineup here, the Directors' Fortnight lineup here, and the Cannes Classics lineup here.


Here are the films set to screen next month at the Cannes Film Festival in the Cannes Classics section. Among the many restored prints and retrospective screenings is a number of new films, including Bertrand Tavernier's 195-minute French cinema documentary Voyage a Travers le Cinema Francais, and a showing of William Friedkin's Sorcerer, accompanied by a Cinema Masterclass with the director.

  • Adieu Bonaparte (Youssef Chahine)
  • Bernadette Lafont et Dieu Crea la Femme Libre (Esther Hoffenberg)
  • The Birds, the Bees and the Italians (Pietro Germi)
  • Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens)
  • Cinema Novo (Eryk Rocha)
  • The Cinema Travellers (Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya)
  • Close Encounters with Vilmos Zsigmond (Pierre Filmon)
  • Day Shall Dawn (A. J. Kardar)
  • Decalogue 5 (Thou Shalt Not Kill) (Krzysztof Kieslowski)
  • Decalogue 6 (Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery) (Krzysztof Kieslowski)
  • The Family Whistle (Michele Russo)
  • Farrebique ou Les Quatre Saisons (Georges Rouquier)
  • Gentleman Rissient (Benoit Jacquot, Pascal Merigeau and Guy Seligmann)
  • Hospital (Frederick Wiseman)
  • Howards End (James Ivory)
  • Indochine (Regis Wargnier)
  • Lady Killer (Jean Gremillon)
  • The Last Chance (Leopold Lindtberg)
  • Love (Makk Karoly)
  • A Man and a Woman (Claude Lelouch)
  • Masculin Feminin (Jean-Luc Godard)
  • Memories of the Underdevelopment (Tomas Gutierrez Alea)
  • Midnight Returns: The Story of Billy Hayes and Turkey (Sally Sussman)
  • Momotaro, Sacred Sailors (Seo Mitsuyo)
  • News Items (Raymond Depardon)
  • One-Eyed Jacks (Marlon Brando)
  • Pepper Candy (Jacques Baratier)
  • Pit and the Pendulum (Roger Corman)
  • Planet of the Vampires (Mario Bava)
  • Rendezvous in July (Jacques Becker)
  • Santi-Vina (Thavi Na Bangchang)
  • Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky)
  • Sorcerer (William Friedkin)
  • Time to Die (Arturo Ripstein)
  • Ugetsu (Mizoguchi Kenji)
  • Valley of Peace (France Stiglic)
  • Valmont (Milos Forman)
  • Voyage a Travers le Cinema Francais (Bertrand Tavernier)
  • Voyage to the End of the Universe (Jindrich Polak)
  • Women Who Run Hollywood (Clara Kuperberg and Julia Kuperberg)


What makes a home a home? At what point does a point on the planet become one's own, not one's own property but a part of one's own persona? People populate spaces in Chantal Akerman's films, and vacate them too. Their presence gives purpose, furnishing these spaces with a practical identity; their absence raises the question of whether or not such spaces could be claimed to function, even to exist without them. Absence courses through No Home Movie, which indeed is no home movie, from the perspective of a person depicted as homeless, nomadic, and centring on another person, whose perception of home is at once narrowing, intensifying and fading away. Akerman's film is stark and unyielding as ever, and even more oblique than usual, in its dedication to a feeling of dislocation, expressed in intentionally, beautifully, aggravatingly tedious shots of arid desert landscapes. It's a self-portrait, one in which the subject is, of course, absent, and the effect is contemplative, chilling, and eventually horribly sad. Akerman is present in the home of her mother, present for the past, pored over in colloquial conversations that are a real treasure to behold; she is present and yet absent, rarely seen, often detected, never truly, wholly there. It's a particularly poignant association to make, connecting this thought of not actually participating in one's life with the fact that No Home Movie was this genius filmmaker's final artistic expression before committing suicide. That, and in serving as a chronicle for the event - the death of her mother - which many conclude may have precipitated her own death, makes this film an even more profound emotional accomplishment than a technical one. See it, and be thankful for what home you may have.


One of those foreign trailers where I don't know what's being said, nor the meaning of the text that appears on screen, but nor do I care. Park Chan Wook's Cannes competition entry The Handmaiden looks so fucking sumptuous that I don't need to know shit about what's going on, and nor should you. A delicious minute-and-a-bit of visual splendour.


Prince Rogers Nelson, one of the most prolific and acclaimed musicians of the last 40 years, has died. He passed yesterday, the 21st of April 2016, at home in Minnesota, following a reported two weeks of an as-yet undisclosed illness. His huge success in the music industry in the last 1970s and early '80s prompted a shift into filmmaking, starring in the 1984 film Purple Rain. His song score for that film won Prince an Oscar and the first of three Grammys. His subsequent cinema ventures brought far fewer accolades, however, as Under the Cherry Moon - which he directed, starred in and composed the score for - and Graffiti Bridge - which he directed, wrote, starred in and composed the score for - were met with critical derision and lacklustre box office takings. He won three Razzie awards from ten nominations in the process. But his enormous impact upon popular culture, including cinema, endures in a positive way today, after the release of his 50th album last year. He will be remembered and beloved for many years to come.

Thursday, 21 April 2016


Jacques Audiard transitions from contemporary social issues to critical social issues with Dheepan, nevertheless confirming himself as one of cinema's most classical filmmakers. His insipid concoction of high drama and laidback realism purges from the film any of the genuine political or emotional power it might have possessed, by insisting on power it does not possess. And yet it is a soothing style that Audiard has developed, one that rather belabours its assets by positioning them as artistic theses - worthy of critical analysis by virtue of existing - yet is never too enamoured with itself to overshadow them. Dheepan is driven by narrative - trading in undercooked tension, and cultural and political concerns that promise more than Audiard makes of them - and by acting - fine, fully developed performances from all three Sri Lankan leads. These elements hold the film up, as flimsy as they may appear under scrutiny, simply papering over the cracks and the chasms in Dheepan's design. Depicting this most timely of struggles, with its modernity evident in even the most minute of details, in such retro simplicity, with ill-fitting outbursts of genre pulp, might have seemed like a smart connection to make; after all, Dheepan's story isn't too far removed from many dramatic narratives of early-to-mid 20th Century films. But it's a reductive connection here, often either excusing suspect directorial decisions or even abetting them. Odd for a film to attempt so little, yet to disappoint when indeed it accomplishes so little; it's only for its inherent narrative appeal and the strong work of its principal cast members that it could even be considered a disappointment.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016


Emily Blunt continues her slow, quiet, inevitable world domination by securing her first, belated Oscar nomination for The Girl on the Train. Not that it's already happened, rather that it definitely will happen. The adaptation of Paula Hawkins' popular crime novel aims to capitalise on the financial success of David Fincher's Gone Girl two years ago; unlike that film, however, the directorial talents of The Help's Tate Taylor aren't quite up to the same high standard. Still, pulpy thrillers like this are right up my street, so I'm looking forward to this one. Out in the UK and the US alike on the 7th of October, aka the Gone Girl slot...


Pro-military propaganda comes clothed in an anti-authoritarian cloak; upholding Western values whilst condemning Western attitudes; shooting from safety, killing with impunity, dying in anonymity. Eye in the Sky is a thoughtful thriller about thought processes and their actions, and how the illusion of distance can influence those thoughts and actions both, and how that illusion may itself be real. For all that, it offers little further food for thought, framing an international political scandal as a mere bad day at work, though Guy Hibbert's screenplay places the film's heart in a more immediately potent position, even as its head swarms elsewhere, all around the world. Above all else, in the buck-passing political complexities that fuel its streamlined plot, in editor Megan Gill's marvellous manipulation of time and place to incessantly ratchet the tension ever upward, Eye in the Sky functions most fundamentally, and most powerfully, as a thriller. It's direct in its intentions and in its effect, and this directness, this overt reliance on form and structure, excuses its contrivances to a degree, not least when they contribute to the escalating tension by emphasising the human cost of these military machinations. Hibbert glorifies the good workers, but understands the bad ones, and also understands the difficulties they face in working together; in truth, it's not particularly pro-military, nor particularly anti-authoritarian, but its ethos rather evokes such sentiments. Director Gavin Hood handles the material solidly, if perhaps too solidly - the film actually succeeds in spite of his influence, as his heavy-handed touch is present as ever. But fine craftsmanship and both a generous helping and a good balance of thrills and thoughfulness allow Eye in the Sky to overcome Hood's faults.


As Warner Bros. tries to make its Americanised Godzilla franchise grow into some sort of extended monster movie universe, leave it to the Japanese to do what we've always known they do best. Godzilla Resurgence marks the first Japanese appearance of the iconic character in over a decade. The above trailer, which features no dialogue and is thus as accessible for non-Japanese speakers as it is for Japanese speakers, is the first look at the thriller, which is set to open in Japan on the 29th of July. No other international release dates have yet been confirmed.


Tragedy for one family is travesty for society as a whole in Marc Silver's intelligent, compassionate 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets. And his film unfolds as such, steeped in a sombre tone that might imply a particular verdict in the case of the Jordan Davis murder trial to those unaware of its outcome; Silver's actual implication is that Davis' death was devastating enough, what it represents is disturbing enough, that lightness and joy are mere trivialities. Hope, however, is not, hope for the future unearthed in nostalgia for the past and agony in the present. The film is overtly political, and may separate opinion in its audience; it struck a chord with me, and so I have little choice but to admire it. Regardless, 3 1/2 Minutes is a smartly made documentary, achieving more than a pithy recapitulation of the facts in the trial of Michael Dunn through a combination of empathy and sympathy, expressed via Emiliano Battista and Gideon Gold's astute editing. The film delineates the precise impact of each and every claim, every statement, whether in contextualising it or in acknowledging its effect upon specific parties. A response might unwittingly raise a suggestion, that suggestion registers with a person, that person's reaction, or lack thereof, thus communicates the breadth and depth of emotion that so small, so simple, so life-changing an act can evoke. And explicit throughout is Silver's incrimination of the complex, corrosive societal structure that begot this awful act, established and perpetuated by the powerful; today, the politicians, and their dimwitted mimics, jumped up on phony righteousness that this one conviction will do little to allay. It's only a victory in the immediate face of tragedy, and thus remains a travesty for society. Girl, does this film strike a chord with me indeed.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016


A celebrated staple of contemporary Israeli culture, and one of the foremost female forces in cinema, Ronit Elkabetz has died at 51. She succumbed to cancer today, the 19th of April 2016, after a lengthy battle with the illness. During her career in film, she gained a reputation as a most articulate, intelligent, compassionate contributor to the art form - something which I noticed upon attending a Q&A with her following the LFF screening of her final film as director, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem. That film, her third as co-director alongside brother Shlomi and her fourth as writer, received deserved international acclaim, though in this regard it was no anomaly for Elkabetz. An actor for over 25 years, she received three Ophir awards from seven nominations for her performances, alongside a further four nominations for directing and writing. She was also met with other prestigious accolades throughout her career: a Lifetime Achievement honour from the Israeli Film Academy, the France Culture Award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, two prizes from the Venice Film Festival, and serving as president of the Cannes Critics' Week jury last year. Among the titles she starred in are Amos Gitai's Alila, Keren Yedaya's Or and Eran Kolirin's The Band's Visit. Elkabetz is survived by her spouse, architect Avner Yasharon, and their two children. She will be missed enormously by film lovers all around the world.


The final major competitive strand of the Cannes Film Festival has revealed its 2016 lineup. Quinzaine, or Directors' Fortnight, is technically a non-competitive section of the fest, though these titles will compete for some festival-wide prizes, and some further alongside the Critics' Week titles, announced yesterday. Plenty of big name directors appear here, including Alejandro Jodorowsky, Pablo Larrain, Kim Nguyen, Laura Poitras and Paul Schrader. Check it all out below:

After Love (Joachim Lafosse)
Divines (Houda Benyamina)
Dog Eat Dog (Paul Schrader) - closing night film
Endless Poetry (Alejandro Jodorowsky)
Fiore (Claudio Giovannesi)
Like Crazy (Paolo Virzi)
The Lives of Therese (Sebastien Lifshitz)
Mean Dreams (Nathan Morlando)
Mercenary (Sacha Wolff)
My Life as a Courgette (Claude Barras)
Neruda (Pablo Larrain)
Raman Raghav 2.0 (Anurag Kashyap)
Risk (Laura Poitras)
Sweet Dreams (Marco Bellocchio) - opening night film
The Together Project (Solveig Anspach)
Tour de France (Rachid Djaidani)
Two Lovers and a Bear (Kim Nguyen)
Wolf and Sheep (Shahrbanoo Sadat)


Give us more of what we want, and we might forget more of what we need. There's tawdry pleasure to be had in Closet Monster, in egging it on to deliver the low-art, poor-taste thrills that it can't help but court, yet can't quite conquer. Stephen Dunn's film aims for earnestness, and succeeds in spite of itself, and in debt to lead actor Connor Jessup. The film is an entirely traditional gay coming-of-age tale, the kind that's predictably populated by attractive white people, playing stock characters in stock situations. There's a commonness to it, and thus a slight vulgarity, one that could far more succinctly have excused Closet Monster's desperate adherence to convention had it been properly developed than Dunn's desire for honesty does. He lacks the vision to foster that honesty, and the nerve to foster that vulgarity, though he can't resist allowing aspects of it to permeate his film's otherwise po-faced posturing. Isabella Rossellini supplies a delightful performance, providing the imagined voice of the protagonist's pet hamster; the film burgeons with latent sexuality, never fully realised with the dedication it deserves, but often obviously there, just a taste, just a tease. And the soap opera theatrics of the storyline are well served by strong acting, actively countering the dramatic import that Dunn hopes for by cheapening it, but at least offering some stylistic solace. It's what we want, even if it's not what we need; Closet Monster only needs more of it.

Monday, 18 April 2016


A promising portfolio has been announced for the Critics' Week section of Cannes 2016. The sidebar, which plays a prime role in launching the careers of international filmmakers with its roster of debut and sophomore films, will feature 10 feature films and 15 shorts, with several of the titles directed by women. Four continents are recognised in the selection, with only one American title, though no African nor Australasian titles make the cut - as with the Palme d'Or and Un Certain Regard lineups. Alongside serving as juror, Israeli director Nadav Lapid will screen his new short film as a Special Screening. Also screening a short as a Special Screening is the recipient of four awards at last year's festival, including the prestigious Camera d'Or for Best First Film (of which six titles here will be eligible this year), Cesar Augusto Acevedo. Take a look at the full slate right here:

Album (Mehmet Can Mertoglu)
Diamond Island (Davy Chou)
Mimosas (Oliver Laxe)
One Week and a Day (Asaph Polonsky)
Raw (Julia Ducournau)
Tramontane (Vatche Boulghourjian)
A Yellow Bird (K. Rajagopal)

Special Screenings
Apnee (Jean-Christophe Meurisse)
Happy Times Will Come Soon (Alessandro Comodin)

Opening Night Film
In Bed with Victoria (Justine Triet)

Shorts Competition
Arnie (Rina B. Tsou)
Ascensao (Pedro Peralta)
Campo de Viboras (Cristele Alves Meira)
Delusion Is Redemption to Those In Distress (Fellipe Fernandes)
L'Enfance d'Un Chef (Antoine de Bary)
Limbo (Konstantin Kotzamani)
Oh What a Wonderful Feeling (Francois Jaros)
Prenjak (Wrregas Bhanuteja)
Le Soldat Vierge (Erwan le Duc)
Superbia (Toth Luca)

Shorts Special Screenings
From the Diary of a Wedding Photographer (Nadav Lapid)
Los Pasos del Agua (Cesar Augusto Acevedo)

Closing Films
En Moi (Laetitia Casta)
Kitty (Chloe Sevigny)
Smile (Sandrine Kiberlain)


From the imagination of its makers, Miles Ahead imagines its own Miles Davis biopic. Don Cheadle's fantasy is no stronger, nor stranger, than Davis' own reality, but his film is engaging, stylistically sound, and richer than its ramshackle demeanour might suggest. Writing, directing, starring and even playing his own trumpet solos, Cheadle asserts his artistic identity through the film, just as the film depicts its subject's struggle to defend his, as his star wanes and his talent becomes more of a commodity. Davis is, and was, a cultural icon, and the obsessive, all-consuming desire to protect his status as such is what lies at either end of Miles Ahead's caper plot, both driving it and fulfilling it. Interspersing this are extended flashbacks to Davis' prime, edited into the story with equal panache and perceptiveness. Cheadle reconfigures the biopic here, obfuscating its truths with wishful wonder, intimating that the specifics of the story are meaningless - it's the end effect that matters most. In his film's order of play, certain scenes take on certain significance in certain orders, and the sequence of events is astute to its subject's imagined emotional state. It's a supposed story of one person's own story of their own life, their identity as they choose to define it, a biopic within a film that otherwise wholly rejects standard biopic conventions. For all its invention, Miles Ahead is altogether too throwaway to truly acknowledge its power and its potential. But those things exist in the moment, if not entirely in the memory. Take a leaf from Don Cheadle's book, and make of it what you will.

Sunday, 17 April 2016


Slavish subservience meets technical innovation. Faultless workmanship carries The Jungle Book far indeed, though a lack of creativity stifles it. As the umpteenth cinematic retelling of Rudyard Kipling's tale, Jon Favreau's film seems to have accepted its fate; the filmmakers derive firm fundaments from such resignation, exploring a wondrous breadth of technical fields, yielding some wondrous technical accomplishments. CGI doesn't embellish the story here, it becomes the story, though by necessity, not by choice. The visual effects in The Jungle Book are remarkable, not least in that they discourage one from even remarking upon them, so photoreal do they appear. Animation may no longer be the sole stage on which to successfully mount a project such as this, though one particular animation remains this film's master. As much an adaptation of Wolfgang Reitherman's 1967 film as Kipling's text, The Jungle Book sieves through that animated classic's material in search of gold to keep, and dirt to discard; predictably, it finds a lot of the former, and thereby winds up not only referencing it too often but actually falling back upon its achievements. There's a quaint thrill to hearing those iconic musical numbers in a new setting, though they're indicative of this film's core narrative conservativeness. Thankfully, in the writing and casting both, the film jettisons the '67 film's racist touches, which were its only, odious offence. Nearly 50 years later, this new product doesn't feel quite so new, and such is its offence. Enjoyable, endearing, and marvellously made, it's a beautiful box of tricks, bristling with mythic magnificence at its best, slumping into insignificance at its worst.

Friday, 15 April 2016


Nate Parker's a homophobe, and he's got some fucking way to go to convince me that he's not a rapist too. Meanwhile, Jean McGianni Celestin totally is a rapist. Fuck the two of them. But The Birth of a Nation looks excellent, and righteous as hell. Out on the 7th of October in the US and on the 20th of January in the UK, aka a hardcore Oscar push.


Life through the living lens, a film both by and about the same people. A piece of pure poetry, Field Niggas, like the best poetry, finds beauty in truth and exposes truth in beauty. Khalik Allah's richly enveloping mise-en-scene is uncommonly expressive, setting sound and image askew in pursuit of communicating the most detail in the fewest movements. Each image bears with it the reality of the situation it captures, and the infinite possibilities of historical, cultural, societal, potential causes and effects of its content, itself burgeoning with depth of detail in Allah's inquisitive yet nurturing slow-motion. And each line on the soundtrack bears equal import; combine sound and image and the impact is doubled; set them apart in any variety of ways and the impact is doubled again. Allah makes provocative, perceptive, perplexing associations in this juxtaposition - so too will your mind, allowing Field Niggas not only to represent raw reality but raw thought, assumption and opinion. Such a simple technical gambit only succeeds due to the power of what is presented through it, a cultural microcosm that directly infers any number of meanings. This is real life, and often really hard life, that's meaningful to witness and much more so to experience. It's ethnological analysis and commentary, but never judgement. Allah makes a subject of himself, and portrays his process as merely one more form of artistic expression among many to have sprung from the streets, as a black person in America. Field Niggas shows life from the inside, a world that is fundamentally dark-skinned, a near-absolute vision, with few identifiable comparators. Bleak, unrelenting, and a little monotonous, it's poetry in slow-motion.


Delicious blasphemy, as caustic as they come, until The Brand New Testament gets entangled in its own schematic concerns and begins to betray its purpose. A generous dose of irreverence courses through Jaco van Dormael's film however, ensuring that it's never too far from the good-natured flippancy that fuels it. van Dormael falls back on quirkiness, which is a dangerous ploy, and one which is justified only (though frequently) by smart judgement - Handel and Schubert would be perfect soundtrack selections for any film, though their use here is particularly sweet. And when the quirks combine into surrealism, The Brand New Testament finds the ideal artistic compliment to its comedy, carefree, absurd, delightfully silly. It's an ideal response too, to the inherent absurdities of the Christian faith, which van Dormael and co-writer Thomas Gunzig expose and explain through satirisation as improper and impractical. The narrative conclusion is, narratively, satisfying, though its sudden insertion of feminism (albeit a welcome insertion) feels arbitrary, its exaltation of faith apparently contradictory, even if it's all that might have made sense given the film's plot, or lack thereof. It's that lack that hampers The Brand New Testament, as it bogs itself down in plot points devoid of urgency, rendering certain corners of the film listless, sapping at the vitality that infuses its stronger sections. There remains considerable invention to the filmmaking, but fun turns to frustration, and the film itself is exposed as poorly thought-out. Indeed, in denouncing the doctrines of Christianity, The Brand New Testament inadvertently engages in its dialogues, and fails to acknowledge its responsibility to prove itself more mature than the subject of its mockery. But maturity isn't its strong suit, even as the insightful piece of work that it is. It's shameless, dirty, delicious blasphemy at its rotten old heart, and that's all it needs to be to win me over.


Mark Cousins tells a story I don't know, using tools I know all too well. I Am Belfast is, initially, a distancing experience for me, almost confrontational in its refusal to yield to the facts and feelings that define my own understanding of this city, my city. It is an abstract landscape, which is to comment that it is more about the place than the people, though its abstractions include an analysis upon the people's relationship to their landscape. Indeed, it's rather the opposite, as Cousins' surrogate narrator is Belfast herself, portrayed in vision and voice alike by Helena Bereen; whether between Belfast and its Belfastards (a made-up term, but not an inappropriate one...), past, present and future, Cousins and Bereen, which itself is actually Cousins and himself, I Am Belfast is a consistently absorbing philosophical dialogue. The particular character of that dialogue is often indefinable, though the stories told herein are true, and feel honest. Cousins revisits the city that was once his too with objective empathy, and it is his compassionate choice not only to refrain from taking sides and forming judgements but to dismiss the very validity of such concepts that makes I Am Belfast the film that it is - bewildering at first, a tad dispassionate throughout, eventually insightful, always a most idiosyncratic portrait. My tales of this city, no more nor less relevant though much more recent, are unusual among my fellow Belfast citizens, but only in content, not in nature - call it passionate ennui, and you may understand why Cousins' take on this place initially irked me. But its perceptiveness and its poetry swiftly revealed themselves to me, and I Am Belfast became an aptly abstract lesson for me: embrace this place, know it better - even if you can't love it as it can't love you. At the very least, I could love this film.


Not a good trailer, but it doesn't need to be. Johnnie To is a good director, and that's what matters. Many were expecting this to appear on the slate for this year's Cannes Film Festival when it was announced yesterday; it still could, since that lineup hasn't yet been fully completed. The trailer for Three features no subtitles, but no dialogue either, so you'll likely grasp the gist of what's going on anyway. No release dates just yet, unless you live in Hong Kong (the 24th of June, ftr).


My bet is that Nicolas Winding Refn disappears even further up his own derivative ass with The Neon Demon, predictably confirmed for a competition slot at Cannes yesterday. But, truth be told, based on previous experiences, the inside of Refn's rectum is a picture I wouldn't mind watching again. Get over it! As for release dates, we have a definite slot in the UK of the 8th of July; currently slated for an opening somewhere in June in the US.

Thursday, 14 April 2016


How do you respect something when it holds no respect for you? Hardcore Henry is clear in what it intends to express: lest you identify with its twisted sense of morality, you can expect to suffer no less than utter disrespect. It sets its stakes low, seeking to cater to a specific type of viewer, and classifying the rest of us as expendable, indeed worthy of callous provocation and mockery. Why is it that the heterosexual, white cismale insists on relentlessly denigrating us, their fellow humans, in fact a majority when combined? Society's dominant darlings can't resist a good prod at those it has already put down; perhaps it is insecurity stemming from inferiority, or at least just the fear of it? Explain the outrageous misogyny and homophobia of Hardcore Henry away all you like - the film remains a distasteful, distressing experience for those reasons alone. Moral unpleasantness aside, it retains its sense of gleeful brutality in utterly every scene, as a supremely violent thriller with one act of extreme bodily harm following another. As a collage of remarkable stunt work, Hardcore Henry is astounding, though Ilya Naishuller's penchant for gimmicky flash throttles his film's finer qualities, overloading it with boring bluster. The violence is initially startling, and Naishuller finds endless ways to keep it so, but it inevitably bottoms out of shock value - this is surely the first film in history wherein a man's head is decapitated from the mouth up using the assailant's still-attached optic nerve and it's all greeted with a mere shrug, although it's also surely the first film in history where it's greeted at all. And so, despite all that effort, Hardcore Henry ultimately fails on its own terms. At least it's got that solid sense of social responsibility to fall back on, right?


The official slate for the 2016 Cannes Film Festival has been announced! Films from across four continents will compete for the one top award, the Palme d'Or, and citations in other categories decided upon by George Miller's jury. Three women compete in Official Selection, the most for five years (though still lagging behind Un Certain Regard); newcomer Maren Ade is among them, and she joins other welcome Official Selection virgins such as Kleber Mendonca Filho, Alain Guiraudie and Cristi Puiu, who makes for two Romanian filmmakers in the mix alongside former Palme recipient Cristian Mungiu. There are expected returns for Cannes mainstays such as Ken Loach (now unretired), Pedro Almodovar, Jim Jarmusch (with two separate films in play, including one as a Midnight Screening), and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, and welcome returns for Paul Verhoeven and Bruno Dumont; usual top comp regular Koreeda Hirokazu makes an appearance in Un Certain Regard, amid an unusually unknown lineup of directors. This year's Cannes Film Festival runs from the 11th to the 22nd of May; take a look at their currently-announced lineup below (more strands are TBA):

* Update *
Additional titles to Official Competition, Un Certain Regard, Special Screenings and Midnight Screenings, as of the 22nd of April, have been added, alongside the shock inclusion of Peshmerga on the 16th of May, the first time a film has entered the lineup mid-festival in Cannes' history.

Official Competition
American Honey (Andrea Arnold)
Aquarius (Kleber Mendonca Filho)
Elle (Paul Verhoeven)
From the Land of the Moon (Nicole Garcia)
Graduation (Cristian Mungiu)
The Handmaiden (Park Chan Wook)
I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach)
It's Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan)
Julieta (Pedro Almodovar)
The Last Face (Sean Penn)
Loving (Jeff Nichols)
Ma' Rosa (Brillante Mendoza)
The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn)
Paterson (Jim Jarmusch)
Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas)
The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi)
Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu)
Slack Bay (Bruno Dumont)
Staying Vertical (Alain Guiraudie)
Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)
The Unknown Girl (Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne)

Un Certain Regard
After the Storm (Koreeda Hirokazu)
Apprentice (Boo Jun King)
Beyond the Mountains and Hills (Eran Kolirin)
Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross)
Clash (Mohamed Diab) - opening film
The Dancer (Stephanie di Giusto)
Dogs (Bogdan Mirica)
Harmonium (Fukada Koji)
Hell or High Water (David MacKenzie)
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki (Juho Kuosmanen)
Inversion (Behnam Behzadi)
The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis (Francisco Marquez and Andrea Testa)
Pericle (Stefano Mordini)
Personal Affairs (Maha Haj)
The Red Turtle (Michael Dudok de Wit)
The Stopover (Delphine Coulin and Muriel Coulin)
The Student (Kirill Serebrennikov)
The Transfiguration (Michael O'Shea)

Out of Competition
The BFG (Steven Spielberg)
Money Monster (Jodie Foster)
The Nice Guys (Shane Black)
The Wailing (Na Hong Jin)

Special Screenings
Le Cancre (Paul Vecchiali)
Chouf (Karim Dridi)
The Death of Louis XIV (Albert Serra)
Exile (Panh Rithy)
La Foret de Quinconces (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet)
Hissein Habre, A Chadian Tragedy (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)
Peshmerga (Bernard-Henri Levy)
L'Ultima Spiaggia (Thanos Anastopoulos and Davide del Degan)
Wrong Elements (Jonathan Littell)

Midnight Screenings
Blood Father (Jean-Francois Richet)
Gimme Danger (Jim Jarmusch)
Train to Busan (Yeon Sang Ho)