cannes -- this was a year when three of my favourite Cannes films weren't in the festival at all, but in the Market. Overall, the offerings were divided between aging art-house giants and the wave of the future, and few proved particularly satisfactory. Still, here are some noteworthy releases to keep an eye out for.
My Voyage In Italy My Voyage In Italy My Voyage In Italy
directed by Martin Scorsese. i was hoping for something on
the order of Scorsese's A Personal Journey Through American Movies, the astonishing epic he compiled for the British Film Institute in 1995. Those who've seen the earlier film will recall that it begins with Allan Dwan's undervalued western, Silver Lode -- a total film-buff choice, and one that almost no one else would dare take as a starting point. Il Mio Viaggio In Italia begins with a consideration of Roberto Rossellini's classic Open City and spends almost an hour on neo-realism, particularly Open City and Rossellini's Paisan, before moving on to later Rossellini (without, I believe, ever mentioning that Scorsese was for a time married to Rossellini's daughter).
Open City is an admirable and completely understandable starting point for a meditation on Italian cinema, but Scorsese's footing isn't nearly as sure here as it is in American film, so he can't make the kinds of associative leaps between films and genres that he manages in his American survey. It's almost a movie for people who know nothing about the history of Italian cinema.
The Anniversary Party written and directed by and starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming.
the anniversary party tracks a
married couple's meltdown in front of friends (Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Beals and Gwyneth Paltrow) at their sixth-anniversary party.
It's a Dogme-style film (Leigh appeared in Dogme 4, The King Is Alive), so it observes unity of time and place and was shot on hand-held digital video. But it does something very unusual: it looks good.
Digital video eats light and is generally better in close-up than in depth. This film looks as if it was shot by someone who understands these things, and it was -- cinematographer John Bailey, who shot The Big Chill, In The Line Of Fire and As Good As it Gets.
The two films to compare and contrast it with are so underlit as to devolve into visual mush in the transfer to 35mm film, Wayne Wang's The Center Of The World, which shared space in Un Certain Regard with The Anniversary Party, and Ethan Hawke's Chelsea Walls, which played earlier this week in the Fortnight.
StoryTelling written and directed by Todd Solondz.
todd solondz's storytelling got a very mixed response. It's a pairing of two stories. (There were supposed to be three, but there's reputed to be an hour of this film somewhere in the producer's basement.) In the first, college student Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions) becomes involved with her writing prof (Robert Wisdom), and in the second, Paul Giamatti (Duets) plays a failed screenwriter/law student who wants to make a documentary about troubled youth in the wake of the Columbine shooting. The first story is an exploration of taboos, and actually includes within its own text the worst criticisms one might make of it. The second is funny and a little horrifying, with outstanding contributions by Julie Haggerty and Lupe Ontiveros, and a memorably choleric one by John Goodman.
Amelie of Montmartre directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
high on the list of phrases I
thought I'd never hear is "a romantic comedy by the director of Delicatessen and Alien Resurrection."
Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie Of Montmartre stars Audrey Tautou, who had a small role in Vénus Beauté but here gets to stretch as a shy young woman who disrupts her quiet life when she realizes her destiny is to help other people, though in extremely odd ways.
She's matched by Mathieu Kassovitz as a young man who collects discarded photo-booth strips. Kassovitz is best known in North America as the director of La Haine and the recent thriller Crimson Rivers, but he has a considerable filmography as an actor in France.
Jeunet uses Paris very inventively, mixing the familiar (Sacre Coeur) with the unexpected and treating the city's streets and buildings as a great big set, altering and repainting at will. The result is the kind of whimsical Paris not seen much lately -- a real movie Paris, if that isn't too much of a contradiction.
The Man Who Wasn't There written by Joel and Ethan Coen, directed by Joel Coen.
the man who wasn't there is the
third of the Coen brothers' homages to/pastiches of the great hardboiled writers. Miller's Crossing is so close in tone to Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key, it's a wonder Hammett's estate didn't sue. And The Big Lebowski is a fractured take on Raymond Chandler.
The Man Who Wasn't There is the brothers' James M. Cain movie, a tale of blackmail, adultery and existential chance that lifts from a bunch of sources, notably The Postman Always Rings Twice.
It's a project that indulges Ethan's taste for rococo period dialogue (see his story collection The Gates Of Eden) and gives cinematographer Roger Deakins free rein to create a perfect simulation of middle-period noir -- crisply detailed images and pools of shadow. There's also a starkly considered performance by Billy Bob Thornton.
Kairo (Pulse)directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
winner of the fipresci prize as
best film in the Un Certain Regard section of the Official Selection, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Kaïro isn't about the Egyptian city, but about dread, with ghosts driving people to despair and self-destruction. George Romero was wrong, apparently. When there's no more room in hell, the dead will surf the Web.
Not as genuinely frightening as his 1997 thriller, The Cure, in which a withdrawn loner drives the people who encounter him to murder, Kaïro (Pulse) still has a haunted tone that's uniquely Kurosawa's. It has a lot to do with the way he frames his characters to isolate them in space. At the same time, the film veers wildly between Expressionist horror mannerisms (as if he'd spent the whole pre-production period screening The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari) and his characters' quiet despair.
The Man Who Wasn't There, and David Lynch for Mulholland Drive BEST SCREENPLAY -- DANIS TANOVIC for No Man's Land BEST SHORT FILM -- BEAN CAKE, by David Greenspan RUNNER UP -- PIZZA PASSIONATA, by Kari Juusonen SPECIAL PRIZE -- DADDY'S GIRL, by Irvine Allan BEST FIRST FILM -- ATANARJUAT THE FAST RUNNER by Zacharias Kunk