The beginning of Damián Szifrón’s Wild Tales plays out like a deleted scene from Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited!. As an airplane passengers flirts with his aisle-mate, they learn that they’ve both screwed over the same man some time in the past.
Olivier Assayas, especially with his previous Irma Vep, has had a keen awareness for this entity and how the actions on-set can serve as a sort of chamber drama in itself. With Clouds of Sils Maria, his vision behind this project becomes realized in the channel of Bergman by way of TMZ, a smartly composed dive into the role of celebrity culture and how it influences the films they inhabit.
Taking many of its features from Studio Ghibli mainstays, Isao Takahata’s latest film The Tale of Princess Kaguya tackles an age-old folktale from Japan, bringing the studio’s warmth and childhood imagination to a mythic scale. It’s based upon The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter with a visual style imitating children’s storybooks or perhaps the scroll of the tale itself. It’s an act of wonderment to be in the presence of fluid, beautiful hand-drawn animation in a time clamoring for more and more computers at play, but the nostalgic value only barely supersedes its rough-and-tumble approach to adapting the anti-fairy-tale to the big screen.
Godard has always been one for thinking of cinema in terms of the image itself, narrative itself, its history, its politics, his own place within it, and how any of those things can be denied, altered, exaggerated. During the 60s, his role as a film critic at Cahiers du Cinéma took shape in his deconstructing his love for Hollywood, bringing out Breathless, still his most straight-forward work to-date. The 70s saw Godard taking a stand for his revolutionary leftists politics in the Dziga Vertov group, his disposal of narrative being a message against bourgeois structure. The 80s and onward, a large period termed “late Godard”, sees Godard taking his previous elements and fusing them with the history of cinema, literary references, pauses on nature, and general incomprehensibility. They’re often confusing, experimental, and quick to divide critical communities and Godard appreciators of all stripes.
Looking back, there were some stiff competition for the top prize at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival. Among the entrants were films by great directors like Sidney Lumet, Otto Preminger, and Robert Bresson. There were great, now canonical works such as Antonioni’s L’Eclisse, Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel, and Agnès Varda’s Cleo From 5 to 7 – movies still watched and loved by cinephiles today. However, none of these films won the Palme d’Or of 1962, as it was instead awarded to O Pagador de Promessas, a Brazilian film based on a stage play of the same title. O Pagador de Promessas would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, providing Oscar representation for the first time for not only Brazil but the entire South American continent.
Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders often sets itself up as if a rural Italian Little Miss Sunshine. A dysfunctional beekeeping family live under the patriarchal reign of Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck), fully contained in a proud rural lifestyle without doors, privacy, or privilege. Rohrwacher takes a standard fish-out-of-water comedy , throwing in a few moments of beauty and absurd humor, but ultimately falls short of anything other than an updated but familiar tale of adolescence.
Atom Egoyan’s The Captive pits Ryan Reynolds as a blue collar vigilante in an investigatory drama of pedophiles and police-work. However, while its central themes seem reminiscent of the recent Prisoners, its execution is regrettably drawn from cartoons, Lifetime schlock, and the worst traits of primetime detective shows. Following an increasing number of recent failings for the Canadian director, The Captive sets itself up for a return to the form of his heartfelt mid-90s melodrama The Sweet Hereafter, but thanks to the exacerbated direction and faux-camp spirit, it evokes hardly any reaction other than groans and pity-guffaws.
The 1967 Cannes Grand Prix winner Blowup was prestigious director Michelangelo Antonioni’s first foray into English, thanks to a deal struck with MGM by producer Carlo Ponti, who contracted the director to do three of them: this one, Zabriskie Point, and The Passenger. While this is clearly the best of that trio (though The Passenger has some merit), in the great Antonioni’s career it feels like a tangential experiment more than a fully realized piece of art.
Timothy Spall depicts the revered J.M.W. Turner as a bumbling, grumbling, disgusting genius in Mike Leigh’s new historical biopic Mr. Turner. With Dickensian villainy spewing through his constant frown and spells of decided grunts, it may appear as if the legendary Turner is appalling and hard to relate to. In fact, many of his behaviors show a solid dedication to his art (and a disconnect to the world at large) as he visits a brothel for curvy female subjects and surveys the docks for his consistent stream of maritime landscapes. Yet Leigh equips Spall with an amiable humor, enough so to make him a creative curiosity. Our attention to his peculiar faults and eccentricities are needed as the figure is used to describe the role of art, how we see it, and how we may fall in love with it.
Simultaneously distant and distinct, unfamiliar and knowing, Blue is the Warmest Color is an emotionally raw yet mildly troublesome epic drama. This year’s winner of the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival is but two chapters in the life of its lead character, Adèle, spanning years, houses, life changes, and relationships, all of which pile up like cigarettes worn down to the nub.