2015 Cannes Film Festival Recap: Reviews of Key Films

  • Publish Date: May 24, 2015
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Quelle surprise

Image In a year with a competition slate that many observers felt was good but not great, a film many critics also deemed good but not great—Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan—took the Palme d’Or. Prior to Sunday's announcement, it appeared that Todd Haynes’ Carol had the inside track to take the top prize, but even though another lesbian love story, Blue Is the Warmest Color, was the festival's big winner just two years ago, Haynes' film failed to collect any awards save for one for star Rooney Mara. In another surprise, Mara actually shared her best actress prize with Emmanuelle Bercot from Mon Roi, a film (and performance) that split critics (but seemed to please jury member Xavier Dolan), while Mara's co-star, Cate Blanchett, was passed over.

But the big winner this year was France itself. With five films in the competition, the deck was stacked in France’s favor during the closing ceremony, and the home country came through with wins by Audiard and Bercot as well as Vincent Lindon, whose Best Actor win was the least surprising (and most welcome) of the three. And that's despite the fact that the international jury, led by Joel and Ethan Coen and also including (among others) Guillermo del Toro, Sienna Miller, and Jake Gyllenhaal, featured just one French member.

Yes, there were major disappointments (Gus Van Sant), but as always at Cannes, there was a lot more to get excited about seeing in the coming year. Here’s our rundown of the highlights—and a few lowlights—of this year’s festival (including parallel competitions like the Directors' Fortnight).

The award winners

Palme d'Or (1st place):
. Dheepan Clip
France | Directed by

2014 Winter Sleep 87
2013 Blue Is the Warmest Color 88
2012 Amour 94
2011 The Tree of Life 85
Previous Palme d'Or winners
2010 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives 87

A Prophet and Rust and Bone director Jacques Audiard’s latest, the story of a former Tamil Tiger starting fresh in Paris with a makeshift family, won the coveted top prize this year. Audiard joked during his acceptance speech that he was thankful that Michael Haneke did not make a film this year, since he had lost to The White Ribbon and Amour his two previous times in competition. (A Prophet came in second to Amour in 2009, but Rust and Bone did not receive an award in 2012.)

While critics felt his latest was a solid piece of work, few actually thought it was in the running for the top prize. CineVue deems it a “mix of Loachian social realism and Death Wish-style violent fantasy,” and it’s that mix of tones that threw many for a loop. The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo describes the film as “a scrupulously naturalistic portrait of Sri Lankan immigrants in France that turns into a Bruce Willis action movie in its final minutes.” Variety’s Scott Foundas feels the film “never quite recovers” from that abrupt change, but he praises the “tremendous charisma” of the film’s lead performers: first-time actor Antonythasan Jesuthasan and Kalieaswari Srinivasan, a stage actress making her big-screen debut. But the film also has some more enthusiastic supporters. Count THR, which finds the arc of the film “quite moving,” among them, along with The Playlist, which calls Dheepan “absolutely terrific.” The Guardian heralds the film as an “immensely powerful work,” and Screen International feels it offers “the pleasures of captivating storytelling with an irresistible human pulse.” Sundance Selects will release the film in theaters later this year.

Grand Prix (2nd place):
. Son of Saul (Saul Fia) Clip
Hungary | Directed by

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2014 The Wonders 76
2013 Inside Llewyn Davis 92
2012 Reality 76
2011 Once Upon a Time in Anatolia 82
  (tie) The Kid With a Bike 87
Previous Grand Prix winners
2010 Of Gods and Men 86

László Nemes’ debut feature came out of nowhere to stun viewers at this year’s festival. With formal rigor, the film follows Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian member of Auschwitz-Birkenau’s Sonderkommando, a group of Jewish prisoners isolated from the camp and forced to assist the Nazis in the machinery of extermination. CineVue calls it “a stunning and aptly horrifying close-up view of the Holocaust,” and The Guardian believes that “by any standards, this would be an outstanding film, but for a debut it is remarkable.” Eric Kohn of Indiewire agrees, concluding, “Nemes' ability to inject the material of a concentration camp survival story—which, sadly, now carries the baggage of countless sentimental clichés—with bracing cinematic energy is all the more impressive because it's the writer-director's first feature.”

But while The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo writes, “Depicting the Final Solution onscreen has long been considered obscene, but Nemes has devised a visual strategy that honors the unimaginable,” Manohla Dargis of The New York Times warns that it’s a “radically dehistoricized, intellectually repellent movie. ... Mr. Nemes’s technical virtuosity is evident every meticulously lighted, composed and shot step of the way, which means that your attention is continually being guided as much to his cinematic abilities as to the misery on screen.... Yet these filmmaking choices also transform all the screaming, weeping condemned men, women and children into anonymous background blurs.”

Jury Prize (3rd place):
. The Lobster Clip #1 Clip #2
Greece/France/Ireland/Netherlands/UK | Directed by

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2014 Goodbye to Language 75
  (tie) Mommy 74
2013 Like Father, Like Son 73
2012 The Angel's Share 66
2011 Polisse 76
Previous Jury Prize winners
2010 A Screaming Man 71

Dogtooth and Alps director Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English-language feature is also his first to play in competition at Cannes. But don't think he's gone mainstream. As in his previous features, he mines a surreal premise to comment on modern society, or as Eric Kohn of Indiewire puts it in his A– review, “As with his earlier works, Lanthimos builds a world that looks not unlike our own, but injects it with a bizarre rulebook that gives his topic a scathing edge.”

The Lobster begins in the near future, where Colin Farrell’s David, a divorcée, must check in to a hotel where he has 45 days to find a mate. If he fails, he will be turned into the animal of his choice (the lobster of the title). John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, and Lanthimos regular Angeliki Papoulia play other singles, and Rachel Weisz is a potential mate who has escaped and lives in the forest amongst the Loners.

THR calls it a “hilarious and haunting surreal parable,” that is a “richly rewarding but often very disturbing, even harrowing work.” CineVue believes it’s a “marvelously bleak, bizarre comedy,” but admits that it “demands an almost immediate rewatch,” a sentiment shared by The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo, who writes, “What’s central here—and not fully clear to me, at least a few hours after seeing it—is the film’s allegorical take on romance and its societal codification.” The Telegraph finds it “surprisingly moving,” and Variety praises the “terrific ensemble” and “the intricate human detailing they achieve.” Slightly less enamored of the film, TimeOut London claims that “for about an hour of its near-two-hour running time it’s deliciously engaging and sharp, mixing awkward chuckles with sinister chills. But it’s tough to maintain the sort of conceit on which The Lobster rides, and the film feels spent long before the credits roll.”

More awards

This year’s Caméra d'Or prize (for best debut feature) went to Land and Shade by Cesar Augusto Acevedo, and Grimur Hakonarson’s Rams won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival, which honors up-and-coming filmmakers from around the world. Paulina, the second feature from Santiago Mitre (The Student), won the Nespresso Grand Prix at the 54th Critics’ Week festival that runs parallel to Cannes, where Land and Shade also picked up the France 4 Visionary Award and the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers SACD Prize. Over at the 47th Directors’ Fortnight, Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent won the top Art Cinema Award, and Arnaud Desplechin’s My Golden Days (detailed below) won the SACD Prize. And, finally, the Palm Dog—yes, leave it to France to award canine actors—went to Lucky, a Maltipoo (half Maltese and half miniature poodle) from Miguel Gomes’ three-part Arabian Nights. Good dog.

Other notable films premiering at Cannes

. Amy Trailer
UK | Directed by

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Senna director Asif Kapadia’s latest documentary is another impressive look at a tragic popular figure, singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at the age of 27. The Playlist calls it a “gripping and thoroughly effective, perhaps even brilliant piece of biographical documentary filmmaking,” and The Guardian finds it “stunningly moving and powerful: intimate, passionate, often shocking, and almost mesmerically absorbing.” THR believes the tone is “tender and celebratory,” but Screen International describes it as “uneasy viewing – a cautionary tale,” while TimeOut London counters that’s it’s “not as downbeat as it sounds.... because Winehouse herself was impish, smart, raw, provocative and funny.” Amy opens in New York and Los Angeles on July 3rd and in additional cities beginning July 10th.

. The Assassin Clip
Taiwan/China/Hong Kong/France | Directed by

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Hou Hsiao-hsien won the Best Director prize for this critical favorite about a young girl who is abducted by a nun and trained to be an assassin, only to face a difficult personal decision when a man she loves becomes her latest target. The Telegraph labels The Assassin an “immaculate treasure box of light, texture and movement,” and CineVue agrees, declaring it “one of the most beautifully shot films of the competition.” Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian admits to being baffled by the film, but still admits, “For its sheer beauty, its mesmeric compositional sense and pure balletic poise, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s distinctive and slow-moving wuxia tale The Assassin demands attention.” TimeOut London claims that while the film is “agonisingly slow, it's also agonisingly well-crafted, and it's an agony that regularly tips into ecstasy as Hou allows us to be lost in the period, people and places he offers us.”

Other critics are even more conflicted. While Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of the A.V. Club admits, “Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin (Grade: A–) is the most beautiful thing at Cannes," he also wonders, "Who knows what it’s really about." And The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo writes, “The Assassin didn’t do a whole lot for me.... [it] ranks among the most beautiful movies ever made, and will delight any viewer for whom that qualifies as more than enough. If gorgeous still images were my primary interest, however, I’d spend less time in movie theaters and more time in museums, or leafing through photography books.”

. Carol Trailer
USA/UK | Directed by

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Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel The Price of Salt, Todd Haynes’ first feature in eight years earned just one prize: best actress for Rooney Mara. But it leaves the festival with the highest Metascore of any film in competition, with the only debate hinging on whether or not it tops Haynes' previous high-water mark, 2002’s Far From Heaven.

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gives the film 5 stars but admits, “I don’t love Carol as much as I loved Far From Heaven, and perhaps it does not have that demonic flourish that came partly from pastiche. What the film certainly achieves is to suffuse everything with woozy eroticism and passion and defiance. I went into a trance watching it – and haven’t quite surfaced, even now.” The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo wasn’t as blown away by Far From Heaven, so he prefers this “superb adaptation.” THR points to Carol's “outstanding performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara,” with Blanchett making an “indelible impression.” The Telegraph echoes those feelings, noting, “The acting slays you: Cate Blanchett, especially, somehow leaps over her own highest standards with a subtlety that’s little short of phenomenal.” And Variety also praises the film’s stars, especially Blanchett who “fully inhabits the role of a woman who turns out to be much tougher and wiser than those luxurious outer garments would suggest. As a study in the way beautiful surfaces can simultaneously conceal and expose deeper meanings, the actress’s performance represents an all-too-fitting centerpiece for this magnificently realized movie.” However, A.V. Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky claims that “while Mara and Blanchett are typically good as vulnerable individuals, they’re never all that convincing as two people in love with each other.”

But CineVue praises Carol as “a stunning wash of complimentary colours, yearning chords, production design and melodrama. ... a work of defiance and craft and acting of the highest calibre.” The Playlist believes it’s “an aching, pining film that layers the simplicity of this love affair with such strata of feeling that the story eventually becomes the essence of every affair ever, gay or straight, in which true, luminous love has been denied by circumstance.” Lastly, TimeOut London claims it’s “a subtle, exquisitely designed drama that's calibrated like an expensive watch, its moving parts working in quiet, unshowy harmony. It's far from melodramatic, even when the plot takes some surprising, eventful turns. ... It moves with a stealthy precision, rarely letting its emotions run over but, crucially, inviting a graceful punch in the air in its choking, triumphant final moments.”

. Cemetery of Splendor Trailer Clip #1 Clip #2 Clip #3
Thailand | Directed by

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The last time Apichatpong Weerasethakul (or Joe, as he’s commonly known) was at Cannes with a feature-length film, he won the Palme d’Or for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. This time, his latest film, which concerns a volunteer at a clinic for soldiers with a mysterious sleeping sickness, played in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival. The Playlist believes Splendor is “even quieter and more subtly strange than Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives,” but the majority opinion gives the edge to the Palme d’Or winner. For example, THR claims the film "features some of the Thai auteur’s trademark surreal beauty, though doesn’t necessarily pack the same punch as movies like Syndromes and a Century or Palme d’Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who May Recall Past Lives.”

But very good reviews still abound. Variety calls this “gently hypnotic cinematic enigma” an “elusive yet expansive rumination on matters both political and intensely personal,” and The Guardian feels there’s “something sublime in it.” The A.V. Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky thinks it “might be the director’s least accessible feature—or at least the hardest to tune into. And yet it’s a film of remarkable purity and simplicity, modulated between the earthy and the otherworldy.” And Mike D’Angelo of The Dissolve writes, “Viewers’ enjoyment of this film may depend upon which aspects of Joe’s work they cherish. I prefer him mysterious and enchanting, so I skew less enthusiastic than many of my peers about this readily parsed, somewhat visually flat meditation on buried history.... [it] strikes me, at least on first viewing, as relatively minor Joe, even if ‘relatively minor’ would be major for most directors.”

. Chronic Clip #1 Clip #2
USA/Mexico | Directed by

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Michel Franco, who won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes in 2012 for After Lucia, returned to Cannes with this tale of David (Tim Roth), a nurse who cares for terminally ill patients. Most critics agree that Roth’s performance is better than the film as a whole, but Franco ended up walking away with best screenplay honors. Variety deems Chronic a “deep yet somewhat distant film,” and THR admits that while the film is a “depressing sit, it's a sobering window into the self-sacrifice and psychological strain of the caregiver, as well as a provocative contribution to the ongoing debate about humane assisted suicide.” Screen International praises Roth’s “meticulously withdrawn performance that speaks volumes,” and The Guardian also thinks he’s “excellent as David: impassive and enigmatic, withholding the truth about himself, but radiating in repose a sadness and a swallowed pain.” The Dissolve agrees that the film is “arguably worth seeing” for Roth and Robin Bartlett, who plays a cancer patient, but it ends on “a note so jarring that it plays like a sick joke, which would be fine, were Chronic not otherwise so incredibly dour.”

. Disorder (Maryland)
France | Directed by

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Augustine director Alice Winocour’s latest stars Matthias Schoenaerts as a French Special Forces soldier back from Afghanistan who is suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and is hired to protect the wife (Diane Kruger) of a wealthy Lebanese businessman. Critics didn’t fall for this contemporary story as much as Winocour’s feature debut. CineVue calls Disorder a “neat little thriller which unfortunately never achieves plausibility,” THR claims that “all the dramatic inanities cancel out any real investment in these characters or their fates long before a conclusion that's as preposterous as anything that’s come before.” The Guardian cautions that “Winocour’s ability to build suspense is solid but she’s less confident when it comes to following through,” though Variety likes the film’s “violent, heart-in-mouth third act rife with look-behind-you peril,” and Winocour’s “gift of instilling fear at a range of tempos.”

DIRECTORS' FORTNIGHT
. Green Room
USA | Directed by

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Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to the well-reviewed Blue Ruin stars Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat as members of a punk band called The Ain't Rights, who find themselves trying to survive in a backwoods bar after witnessing a murder committed by a group of white supremacists led by Patrick Stewart. Indiewire likes it more than Blue Ruin and awards it an “A,” calling Green Room “a thinking person's thriller, one that treats its audience with respect while still managing to shock and surprise.” CineVue also believes it’s a “fascinating, witty and devilishly entertaining takes on classic genre cinema,” and The Guardian enjoys the film’s “thick vein of dark humour.” The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo thinks Saulnier “confirms his expertise at blending sudden, truly ugly violence with ghastly black comedy,” and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of the A.V. Club claims “this thriller further establishes Saulnier as one of the craftiest and most promising genre filmmakers working in the U.S., even if it amounts to little more than a machine for dispensing shocks.” Screen International finds the film “grimly compelling,” but likes it less than Blue Ruin, as does THR, calling Green Room a “less disciplined, less original and less memorable work than Blue Ruin. Similarly, Variety notes that “while Blue Ruin uncovered seethingly complex human impulse and psychological subtext under its elemental revenge tale, Green Room leaves no such subliminal resonance when the ride is over.”

DIRECTORS' FORTNIGHT
. In the Shadow of Women (L'Ombre des femmes)
France | Directed by

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Jealousy director Philippe Garrel once again delves into infidelity with his latest feature, starring Stanislas Merhar and Clotilde Courau as a filmmaking couple who cheat on each other. The Guardian believes “Garrel struggles to unearth anything new” on the subject, but admits that the film boasts “three central performances that help to add a naturalistic touch to the drama.” The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo is similarly unimpressed, even with the performances: “Garrel has a superb eye—his monochrome widescreen compositions are peerless—but he needs better taste in actors, and something to make a movie about besides cheating.” However, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club declares it the “airiest, cutesiest thing Garrel has ever made, despite boasting the most toxic protagonist this side of Listen Up Philip.” And THR thinks the film “transforms in its final reel from an ironic divertissement to a work of considerable feeling and intensity.” Lastly, Variety Scott Foundas praises the “tightly focused romantic drama that exudes the narrative terseness of a good short story and the lucid craftsmanship of a filmmaker in full command of the medium.”

. Inside Out Trailer
USA | Directed by and

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Playing out of competition this year was Pixar's latest animated feature, only the second non-sequel from the studio (including Brave) since 2009’s Up, which was also directed by Inside Out's Peter Docter. Following the emotions—Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith)—of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, the film scored excellent reviews from many critics, giving it a boost prior to its June 19 release. The Telegraph calls it a “humane and heart-wrenchingly beautiful film” and “one of the studio’s very best,” and Variety believes it delivers “creative fireworks grounded by a wonderfully relatable family story.” The Playlist claims it’s “not just fun and breezy, it's also truly weird and wicked smart in its thoroughly heartfelt conclusions,” and CineVue finds the “level of detail with which they have created this world [to be] staggering, with each aspect of the psyche carefully thought out.” Speaking for another group of critics who thought the film was very good, but not necessarily a classic, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian writes, “It hasn’t anything as genuinely emotionally devastating as Up, or the subtlety and inspired subversion of Monsters Inc. and the Toy Stories which it certainly resembles at various stages. But it is certainly a terrifically likeable, ebullient and seductive piece of entertainment, taken at full-throttle.”

. Irrational Man Trailer
USA | Directed by

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Woody Allen’s latest older man, younger woman relationship comedy (in theaters July 24th) stars Joaquin Phoenix as a philosophy professor in crisis, and Emma Stone as one of his students. But this is not the light fare of last year’s Magic in the Moonlight. Murder is involved, which makes critics think instead of Match Point, Cassandra’s Dream, and even Crimes and Misdemeanors. THR believes Allen is in “fine vintage form” with this “darkly humorous quasi-thriller explored with a deft lightness of touch” and “propelled all the way by the sparky chemistry of Phoenix and Stone.” Variety agrees, writing, “Allen’s visual direction and editing rhythms are particularly sharp and precise this time around, as is his work with the actors,” and Indiewire believes, “This is, at the end of the day, a middle-of-the-road Allen picture — but one of the better ones among that fairly robust category.” However, The Playlist gives the film a D+, bemoaning “an atypical but disheartening slapdash quality to the filmmaking: dodgy edits, awkward staging, atrociously redundant, charmless voiceover.” The Telegraph calls Man a “sketchy rehash,” and The Guardian finds it “neither quite scary and serious enough to be suspenseful, nor witty or ironic enough to count as a comedy.” Somewhere in the middle of the two extremes are The A.V. Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (who thinks the film “almost gets by on narrative misdirection and Phoenix’s off-beat performance”) and Mike D’Angelo of The Dissolve, who concludes, “Allen’s dialogue may have lost much of its zing as he’s gotten older ... but his skill at casually planting elements that will pay off later hasn’t diminished in the slightest.”

. Louder Than Bombs Clip #1 Clip #2 Clip #3
Norway/France/Denmark/US | Directed by

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After two well-received features (Reprise, Oslo, August 31st), writer-director Joachim Trier brought his first English-language film to the competition. Louder Than Bombs examines the impact of a war photographer’s (Isabelle Huppert) death on her husband (Gabriel Byrne) and two sons (Jesse Eisenberg and Devin Druid). But unlike Trier's previous films, this one earned mixed reviews. On the plus side is Screen International, calling it “richly detailed, sensitively played and cleverly mounted,” and enjoying the time-jumping structure. Indiewire also finds it to be a “smart, measured tale steeped in understatement and complimented by first-rate performances all around. And while CineVue agrees about the “excellent” acting (“It's a pleasure to see two greats like Byrne and Huppert play out their relationship"), that publication warns that the script is “too contrived, inventing a whole set of problems for its characters.” The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo similarly admonishes, “Fans of scintillating form will have little trouble forgiving the overheated yet underwhelming content; others should steer clear.” And The Guardian is much less forgiving, labeling it a “rather silly, pointless and directionless film.” However, the A.V. Club disagrees with that view, writing, “This is a film of superb performances, mysteries, and moments of earthy poeticism... Some might complain that this is a movie about people doing nothing about nothing, but it contains plenty.”

. Love Clip (NSFW)
France | Directed by

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Irreversible and Enter the Void director Gaspar Noe’s latest provocation is an extremely graphic (and 3D!) film about the love and sex (not necessarily in that order) between a boy (Karl Glusman), a girl (Aomi Muyock), and another girl (Klara Kristin). Variety calls it a “courageously personal account of an aspiring filmmaker torn between the mother of his child and the one that got away.” One that has a “soft core” and feels “less Kubrickian than the director’s other work” and more like “Terrence Malick for a change, offering up an atheistic (and X-rated) twist on To the Wonder, with its hovering camera, gobbledygooky narration and melancholy choice between two women, neither of whom he deserves.” Much less supportive is The Dissolve, which describes Love as an “almost painfully earnest hindsight portrait of a failed relationship, in which the graphic fucking is just one of several crucial elements. ... Remove all the X-rated material from Love and it would look like an arty version of (500) Days Of Summer, witlessly written and performed by amateurs. Not worth losing any sleep over, really.”

Something noted by many critics is the film’s surprising lack of shocking moments. The Guardian notes that Love is “hardcore, yet much softer-core than Noé’s earlier movies,” and HitFix believes it “may not be as erotic as many expect. The gratuitous sex may eventually start to bore many viewers. Some may even take off their 3D glasses because they simply aren't necessary. Yet, for all its faults, Love is a film that somehow still resonates.” THR believes that if you cut out all the sex scenes “what's left is a wistful, some might say sappy story about heartbreak, made with impressive cinematic elan but somewhat shallow emotional depth, for all its tragic posturing.” Indiewire sees a “precious but sadly one-note vanity project” with “glimmers of the cinematic elements that have made Noé's style both confrontational and fluid in the past. But none of that can rescue the underlying simplicity that hangs over each scene.” And Screen International claims, “Visually the conception may be bold, but dramatically Love is a dry hump.” Lastly, Robbie Collin of The Telegraph writes, “The problem with Love isn’t its purpose, which I find wholly laudable, nor the sex itself, which is beautiful and also – to use a taboo critical term – sexy. It’s that both these things deserved a far richer and more intelligent film to support them.”

. Macbeth
USA/UK/France | Directed by

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Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard star as Macbeth and his Lady in Justin Kurzel’s (The Snowtown Murders) successful adaptation of Shakespeare’s Scottish classic. The leads earned plenty of praise from critics, but so did the supporting cast of Paddy Considine, David Thewlis, and Sean Harris. The Telegraph gives the film five stars and praises the “cosmically powerful performances” of Fassbender and Cotillard, while HitFix claims Cotillard “once again demonstrates why she is one of the world’s greatest actors.” THR calls the film an “intensely compelling work,” and Variety feels it’s “fearsomely visceral and impeccably performed.” Lastly, The Playlist writes, “Brooding, dense, and consistently magnificent to an almost self-defeating degree, Justin Kurzel's Macbeth is a bloody, muddy, mighty adaptation of one of Shakespeare's mightiest plays.”

. Marguerite & Julien Trailer
France | Directed by

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Valerie Donzelli’s (Declaration of War) tale of incest, loosely based on a brother (Jeremie Elkaim) and sister (Anaïs Demoustier) executed in 1603, was not a critical favorite. The Guardian opines, “There are turkeys and there are turkeys. This is a turkey de luxe, with stuffing, bread sauce, and a paper hat." CineVue calls it “an overwrought, overblown raspberry of a literary bromance.” While Variety similarly finds it “swash in cheesy directorial embellishments,” the A.V. Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky defends the film as “perversely watchable.” And HitFix equivocates, “Demoustier is charismatic enough to almost help Donzelli pull it off, but Elkaïm is so stiff as Julien you never understand why Marguerite is willing to risk her life in the first place.”

. The Measure of a Man (La Loi du marché)
France | Directed by

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In this third collaboration with director Stéphane Brizé (Mademoiselle Chambon), Vincent Lindon won the festival's best actor award for his portrayal of an unemployed factory worker struggling to find a job in a down economy. In addition to comparing the film to the Dardennes’ Two Days, One Night, Variety praises Lindon’s lead performance as a “veritable master class in understated humanism.” And The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo believes Lindon, “pulls off the same remarkable trick that Anthony Hopkins did in The Remains Of The Day, somehow being at once opaque and transparent.” THR calls the film “modest in scope but effective in execution,” and CineVue finds it “measured, almost puritanically restrained and anti-dramatic.”

. Mon Roi
France | Directed by

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After winning the Jury Prize for Polisse in 2011, director Maïwenn returned to Cannes this year with a relationship drama starring Emmanuelle Bercot and Vincent Cassel. Unfortunately, Mon Roi failed to please critics as much as her previous effort. CineVue calls the new film a “colourful yet clichéd relationship drama,” and The Guardian dismisses it as an “unendurable confection of complacent and self-admiring nonsense: shallow, narcissistic, histrionic and fake.” Screen International feels it “grates more than it convinces,” though the A.V. Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky claims it’s “effectively an actor showcase, and Bercot ... and Cassel are both fine in roles distinguished more by quantity than quality.” But the film has a few fans. THR thinks “the director, her co-screenwriter Etienne Comar and the exceptional cast led by Emmanuelle Bercot and Vincent Cassel have an acute enough eye for the manners and mores of these archetypes to make the material feel consistently fresh and alive,” and The Telegraph declares it a “great, seething pot of delicious emotional noodles.”

. Mountains May Depart (Shan He Gu Ren) Trailer
China/Japan/France | Directed by

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Jia Zhang-ke, who won the Best Screenplay award in 2013 for A Touch of Sin, returned to Cannes with a three-part drama that looks at China’s past, present and future. While the future section of the film had critics flummoxed, there was plenty of praise for the performance of Jia’s wife Zhao Tao. The Guardian claims she gives a “wonderful performance” in a “staggeringly ambitious piece of work,” and The Telegraph believes “Zhao is the film’s racing heart, and gives a performance of extraordinary detail and depth of feeling in all three time periods.” Commenting on the ending, the A.V. Club writes, “As it turns out, Jia Zhang-ke can’t direct English dialogue for shit, and how much a viewer is able to put up with atrocious acting will probably factor into how much they take away from the last section.” And THR adds, “While that awkward final section shows Jia's lack of assurance working in English, the misstep is instantly erased in a beautiful concluding sequence that reaffirms the film's aching depth of feeling and extraordinary sense of place.”

DIRECTORS' FORTNIGHT
. My Golden Days (Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse)
France | Directed by

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A Christmas Tale and Kings & Queen director Arnaud Desplechin’s latest is a prequel to his 1996 film My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument, though it was omitted from the main competition (where he has competed five times). The New York Times’s Manohla Dargis calls it a “transporting movie,” with a “superb, devastating” performance by Lou Roy-Lecollinet, and Screen International concurs, finding it “touching, involving and very well acted.” The Playlist believes My Golden Days (also translated in some places as My Golden Years) is a “rich and literary film, full of warmth and life and sadness and humor, loving all its characters without necessarily showing them to be good people. Lastly, THR thinks it’s “one of the director’s most heartfelt and accessible titles in, well, years,” and Variety claims it’s “some of the most fluid, emotionally resonant filmmaking of Desplechin’s career.”

. My Mother (Mia madre) Clip
Italy | Directed by

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Nanni Moretti’s sixth film to compete for the Palme d’Or (he won in 2001 for The Son’s Room) follows a director (Margherita Buy) dealing with her mother’s impending death while shooting a film with a famous American actor (John Turturro). Not a huge fan, The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo feels, “Turturro goes way over the top, as he often does, but his brash energy is a welcome counterpart to the morose melodrama surrounding the dying matriarch, which Moretti conveys via an incoherent jumble of fantasy, flashbacks, blatant symbolism, and (arriving at one point from nowhere, never to be heard again) voiceover narration.” The Telegraph calls the film “a lethargic family drama,” while agreeing that “Turturro deserves four stars – but the rest of Moretti’s saggy melodrama is scarcely half as good.” CineVue also believes “Moretti has made half of a wonderful film,” preferring the dramatic half, but The Guardian is a fan of the film in its entirety, claiming Mia madre is a “tremendously smart and enjoyable movie.” And The Playlist echoes those feelings: “As ever, Moretti creates a rich and incredibly detailed world, one where every character has a life that stretches far beyond their on-screen scenes.”

. Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary) Clip
Japan | Directed by

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Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda returned to the festival (after winning the Jury Prize in 2013 for Like Father, Like Son) with a story about three sisters asking their recently discovered half-sister to move in with them. CineVue calls it “an intelligent, quiet work from a master filmmaker,” and The Telegraph finds it “full of quiet joy and simple pleasures.” The Playlist believes it's “entirely pleasant to witness, but not exactly urgent,” and THR agrees, declaring it “an episodic, generous-spirited, pristinely shot and, quite frankly, somewhat dull effort.” The New York Times’s Manohla Dargis thinks “Our Little Sister, pleasurably and movingly floats along on the in-between moments that make up a human life,” and Mike D’Angelo of The Dissolve describes it as “a lovely family portrait that could have used a little more bite to offset the sweetness.”

. The Sea of Trees Clip
USA | Directed by Gus Van Sant

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Boos greeted the closing credits of Gus Van Sant’s latest, a contemplation on life and death starring Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, and Naomi Watts. The Playlist is unequivocal, calling Sea of Trees “easily Van Sant's worst” film, while CineVue dismisses it as a “tediously slick melodrama of staggering foolishness and mawkish gall.” Indiewire declares that “not even Matthew McConaughey can sustain the mushy, amateurish story, which digs itself a deeper hole as it moves along,” and Manohla Dargis of The New York Times admits that the “perennially, wildly unpredictable Mr. Van Sant (when he’s good, he’s very, very good, etc.) produces some striking images but never transcends the banality of Christopher Sparling’s script.” The A.V. Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky labels the film “fundamentally wrongheaded” and “sticky metaphysical goop,” and Variety’s Justin Chang asks, “How this dramatically stillborn, commercially unpromising Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions pickup managed to score a competition berth at Cannes (where it was greeted with a round of boos) is a vastly more impenetrable mystery than the one laid out in Sparling’s screenplay.”

. Sicario
USA | Directed by

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In Prisoners and Enemy director Denis Villeneuve’s latest English-language feature, Emily Blunt plays an FBI officer enlisted into an elite anti-Mexican cartel government task force headed by Josh Brolin and including Benicio Del Toro. All three actors earned plenty of praise for their portrayals, as did their director. The Dissolve’s Mike D’Angelo writes, “Villeneuve’s previous films ... didn’t much impress me—hence my dread—but his choices here are impeccable, even inspired.” HitFix agrees that “Villeneuve expertly stages the film’s action elements with a patient eye that is rarely seen in commercial cinema.” CineVue calls the film “a bleak, powerful and beautifully realised trip to Hell,” and The Guardian labels Sicario a “brutal action thriller with screeching feedback notes of fear and paranoia.” And while Indiewire believes “as much as it testifies to Villeneuve's strengths, Sicario lacks the same refinement on the level of its plot,” a complaint shared by The Playlist, Variety declares it a “blisteringly intense drug-trade thriller that combines expert action and suspense with another uneasy inquiry into the emotional consequences of violence.” And THR thinks there are few films about the drug trade as “powerful and superbly made as Sicario.”

. Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) Trailer (NSFW)
Italy/France/UK | Directed by

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Director Matteo Garrone, who won the Grand Prix in 2008 for Gomorrah and again in 2012 for Reality, brought his first English-language feature to this year's festival, where it met with a generally appreciative reception. The film combines three of Giambattista Basile’s 16th-century folk-tales into a bizarre look at three kingdoms and their rulers: John C. Reilly and Salma Hayek play a king and queen obsessed with having a child; Vincent Cassel is a king captivated by a beautiful voice; and Toby Jones is a monarch who shows more care for a flea than for his own daughter. The Guardian applauds Tale of Tales as “fabulous in every sense,” and CineVue deems it “defiantly odd, consistently striking and often luminous.” HitFix finds the storytelling “peppered with wonder and unexpected humor,” and TimeOut London feels the “design, costumes, photography and effects all combine to create a medieval world that feels mythical but not overly fantastical.” The Telegraph believes the film’s “constant movement between storylines ensures the strangeness of each one never stales,” but The Dissolve sees “little rhyme or reason” in the cuts which “[kill] the momentum every time.” Manohla Dargis of The New York Times agrees that "all the bold, reliably gorgeous images ... never satisfyingly coalesce,” and Indiewire admits that it’s “wobbly in parts,” but thinks the “craftsmanship sustains the story through a series of kooky twists.” Lastly, Screen International declares it “brave to the point of madness” and calls it Garrone’s “most visually and aurally ravishing film to date.”

. Youth (La giovinezza) Trailer (NSFW)
Italy | Directed by

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After winning the Best Foreign Language film Oscar for The Great Beauty, director Paolo Sorrentino returned to Cannes with his second English-language film (2012’s This Must Be the Place being his first). Starring Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as two old friends on vacation at a Swiss spa, and Rachel Weisz and Paul Dano as their once-married children, the film earned a split critical reception. CineVue admits that the film is “often remarkable, gorgeous even” and “the performances are excellent,” but warns that it’s “less than momentous and, significantly, you'll never believe a single word of it.” The Guardian claims it’s a “diverting, minor work” from Sorrentino, and the A.V. Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky believes “Sorrentino’s direction, typically all over the place, comes across as simply inane and tempo-less.” However, HitFix finds the movie “truly worth celebrating,” and Indiewire feels it “offers a spectacular excess of whimsical storytelling loaded with outlandish visual gags strewn throughout nearly every scene.” Lastly, Variety declares it an “emotionally rich contemplation of life’s wisdom gained, lost and remembered,” THR describes it as “a great spa treatment for the cinematically fatigued.”

Short takes

PictureThe Little Prince, directed by Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda), is an animated adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic novella. The Playlist calls it an “extremely beautiful, very charming, thematically rich” film, and Screen International finds it “constantly enlivened by its beautiful images, even if one itches for a narrative that’s a little less rudimentary.”

PictureThe A.V. Club calls Radu Muntean’s One Floor Below a “disappointing follow-up” to Tuesday, After Christmas. But the story of a silent witness to a domestic quarrel is “a devastating portrait of a weak man and the weak society he represents, both of which have lost their moral compasses,” according to Screen International.

PictureA Perfect Day, the English-language debut of Fernando Leon de Aranoa (Mondays in the Sun, Princesas), is a war comedy about a group of aid workers (Benicio del Toro, Tim Robbins, Olga Kurylenko, Melanie Thierry) in an unspecified Balkan territory in the 1990s. THR believes the “writing and character observation only fully engage in the later action, as the tone shifts to poignancy and pathos,” and The Guardian calls it a “well-meant, but wobbly, tonal mishmash.” IFC Films will release the film in North America.

PictureNatalie Portman’s feature directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness, is an adaptation of Amos Oz’s autobiographical novel. Critics see potential in Portman as a filmmaker, and The Guardian calls the film an “an assured, heartfelt debut,” but Indiewire sees a “by-the-numbers period piece.”

PictureTakashi Miike’s gonzo Yakuza Apocalypse is “an exercise in inspired lunacy,” according to the A.V. Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. And while The Dissolve claims it’s “Miike at his most gleefully lunatic, and that’s always a hoot and a half,” THR cautions, “For all its manic energy, there aren't enough recreational drugs in the world to make Yakuza Apocalypse anything but a bloody silly bore.”

 

 

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