Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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MAY 21, CANNES DAY 5

A SMALL SCOTTISH DEBUT IS A CRITICAL HIT OF DAY 5.


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FRANKIE CARO, PAUL MESCAL IN AFTERSUN

AFTERSUN (Charlotte Wells).
Cannes, Critics' Week. This Scottish-born, NYC-based director's 96-minute debut feature, which MOONLIIGHT director Barry Jenkins produced, is the bittersweet reminiscence of a woman's (probably too young, certainly emotionally challenged) divorced father when they went to the seaside in Turkey twenty years earlier. Its performances by Irish actor Paul Mescal (of the much admired series "Normal People") and nine-year-old Frankie Caro have garnered raves. Carlos Aguilar in The Wrap calls it a "heart-achingly stirring and sensorially entrancing debut feature." Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian gives it 5/5 stars and calls it "captivating" and "brilliant," describing the subtlety of the unfolding picture of memories that now mean much more than at the time. ("What a pleasure," he concludes.) Anna Smith in Deadline says it's "absorbing" and "a terrific two-hander with engaging supporting performances." Fionnualla Halligan of Screen Daily says this "Marks Wells out as one of the most promising new voices in British cinema in recent years." She says "you have to go back to Lynn Ramsey to find a voice with this much potential." Sheri Linden in a lengthy review in Hollywood Reporter calls this debut "sharp and tender" and "indelible" and goes into detail about the richness and subtlety of the performances, especially Mescal's. This sounds like Competition material, but its modesty seems to mark it for small release, only with more critical praise and perhaps lasting recognition.

ÖSTLUND'S NEW SATIRE IS POPULAR, DESPITE DETRACTORS. (MAY 21).

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CHARBI DEAN AND HARRIS DICKINSON IN TRIANGLE OF SADNESS

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS (Ruben Östlund).
Cannes, In Competition. Critics differ sharply on this high profile new film from the Swedish director but it appears an audience favorite. Östlund this time skewers the beautiful (fashion models) and Euro super-rich, as he skewered the art world in his 2017 Palme d'Or winner, THE SQUARE, but this time in English. The protagonists are Charbi Dean as an "Instagram princess/model" and Harris Dickinson as her failing male model power couple partner, who go on a freebie ride on a luxury super yacht to make up after a big row. Bradshaw likes the way the odd world of the cruise ship is conveyed but thinks the targets are messily missed and the critiques clichéd and awards a lousy 2/5 stars. The Variety reviewer finds the film "wickedly funny" and admires the "meticulous precision" in the way Östlund "constructs, blocks and executes scenes"; he goes into more detail about the action, which concludes marooned on a desert island where " a Rolex is worth nothing, but it helps to be hot." Jonathan Romney in Screen Daily admires some scenes and some satirical points but finds this film "lacks the pitiless ironic cool" of Östlund's two previous films and is "laborious" in its "take on the excesses of capitalism." Robbie Collin of The Telegraph gives this a 5/5 stars and calls it "the best Cannes film so far." Ben Croll of The Wrap condemns the film as "overlong and under-stuffed" (it runs two hours and a half, including diarrhea and projectile vomiting) but says it left the "notoriously tough" Cannes audience "doubled over with laughter" - and it got a 7-8 minute standing ovation, longest so far. Given that and the director's track record, it's likely to figure at Cannes awards time, despite the detractors.

MAY 22, CANNES DAY 6

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HOLY SPIDER

HOLY SPIDER (Ali Abbasi)
Cannes, in Competition. This Iranian film is a serial killer capture story based on fact with a feminist angle, a portrait of Iran's patriarchal society shot outside Iran, in Amman, Jordan. An ordinary family man is killing sex workers to "cleanse" the holy city of Mashhad. He is caught after strangling 16 women through the efforts of a woman journalist despite an indifferent police and legal system. The film is a mixture of "grimy, scuffed realism" with "flashier serial-killer-movie flourishes," the Variety review notes; it also departs from convention not only in having an inept killer (who only succeeds because of public indifference) but in including a long follow-up of trial and public reaction. Bradshaw in the Guardian, who gives it a neutral 3/5 stars, finds its mix of fact and invention winds up making real events seem unreal. IndieWire gives it a B. Fionnuala Halligan in ScreenDaily admiringly calls it an "arresting Iranian noir" that "throws a dark, dark web" and is "a tough watch" that "shows how far fundamentalist morality can be twisted." No US distribution yet, and it could be a hard sell, despite much topical interest and a bold new approach for the 41-year-old Denmark-based maker of SHELLEY (2016) and BORDER (2018). TRAILER

TROUBLE IN MIND (Ethan Coen).
Cannes, Special Screenings. While Joel was making MACBETH Ethan was making this documentary about Jerry Lee Lewis, the rock 'n roll, then country, then gospel singer who rebranded himself as an evangelist and is still alive at 86. It's great, says Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian, who gives it an admiring 4/5 stars.

FOREVER YOUNG/LES AMANDIERS (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi)
Cannes, In Competition. It's the "endlessly tedious story of self-involved drama students," reports Guardian's Bradshaw, who gives it a miserable 2/5 stars. More specifically the setting is Patrice Chéreau's Théâtre des Amandiers in Nanterre in the 1980s. Chéreau was a charismatic director and promoter responsible for memorable films, L'Homme Blessé, Intimacy, His Brother, Gabrielle, and numerous important European opera productions. Les Amandiers was reportedly a very notable training ground for young actors. But as Lovia Gyarkye of Hollywood Reporter points out, the fact that Bruni Tedeschi was a student at the school in the early Eighties makes for "a sweet but oddly circumspect film" ... "ruled by a friction between warring demands" between the "allure of wistful memories" and "the rigor of complex appraisal." Chéreau is played by Bruni Tedeschi's former squeeze Louis Garrel, says Bradshaw, "with much smouldering imperious charisma."

DIARY OF A FLEETING AFFAIR/CHRONIQUE D'UNE LIAISON PASSAGÈRE (Emanuel Mouret)
Cannes. Premieres. A single mother (Sandrine Kiberlain) and a married man (Vincent Macaigne) enter what they think will be only a passing spring affair, purely physical, no love, but they discover they have a lot in common. Mouret's 11th feature; I've reviewed 4 or 5, starting with his first, the 2007 SHALL WE KISS? (UN BAISER, SI'IL VOUS PLAÎt ?). That was light and charming; sometimes he's been overwrought recently, but this appears to be a return to simplicity. Perfect for English speakers of rather retro taste who want "a typically French movie." That's essentially what Lee Marshall says in his Screen Daily review. But Macaigne's no debonair French lover; he's nervous and insecure. Not Kiberlain, though. "Too often cast as a neurotic," says Marshall, she this time "seizes with both hands not just the comedy remit but the chance to play an uncomplicatedly sex-positive modern woman who is fully in control of her life, while Macaigne is a perfect foil." But with Mouret, as a French critique in Cine Series points out, it's always light and on the edge of comedy, and it's all about the talk. The French see Woody Allen here.

The important films reported here today are Ruben Östlund's TRIANGLE OF SADNESS and Ali Abbasi's HOLY SPIDER.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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