Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cannes Film Festival 2012 (Part Three)

IFI Director Ross Keane reports back from a whirlwind trip to Cannes.

Part Three

My final day at Cannes concluded with some notable and thought-provoking features, before ending with the latest from the legendary Alain Resnais.

Alain Resnais - Vous n'avez encore rien vu © FIF/LF

Beyond the Walls (Hors les Murs) is an impressive first feature from David Lambert. Opening with similarities to Andrew Haigh’s recent Weekend, it begins with Paulo (Matila Malliarakis) attracting the attention of bartender Ilir (Guillaume Gouix) and, unable to make his own way home, is given a bed for the night by the barman. The film could easily have descended into cliché as we soon realise that Paulo has an overly-trusting girlfriend back at home, but the story quickly moves onto more uncertain terrain when their relationship comes to an abrupt end and Paulo turns to Ilir in his hour of need. What follows is an interesting take on the twists and turns of any relationship. The screenplay is particularly strong with some very quirky and black humour, at its best when the new couple attempt to make some purchases in a sex shop. Then, each time the tone of the film appears to be set, it changes gear, and we end up with a film that is far more interesting and affecting once things start to get a little darker. With wonderful performances, this is a very impressive first feature.

At the top of the red carpet before the screening of Beyond The Hills

Thomas Vinterberg is probably best-known for his 1998 hit Festen. Here, with The Hunt, he makes a return to the theme of child abuse, this time focusing on the repercussions as kindergarten teacher Lucas (an extraordinary Mads Mikkelsen) is falsely accused by a young girl (an equally impressive Annika Wedderkopp). The witch hunt that ensues forms the basis of the film as the community turns on Lucas - hence the film’s title and not the deer hunting that tops and tails the piece. All of the cast turn in fantastic performances and it’s a truly absorbing film, with the scene in the supermarket particularly spellbinding as Lucas is determined to be allowed to still go about his life despite the open hostilities of the locals. There are some flaws – would an experienced childcare professional really react in such a fashion and provide a child with such leading questions? But that aside, Vinterberg is back with a vengeance and the final scene is truly gripping.

Alain Resnais and cast - Vous n'avez encore rien vu © AFP

In no time at all, I found myself at my final film of the Festival, but would the latest offering from 89-year-old French veteran Alain Resnais, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, live up to its name? Based around Jean Anouilh’s 1941 play Eurydice, the film is a gathering of French cinema royalty! Resnais (Hiroshima mon amour) brings together such names as Lambert Wilson, Michel Piccoli, Mathieu Amalric and Anne Consigny to name but a few. The ‘plot’ brings together these stars of French cinema, each playing themselves, as they gather following the death of mutual friend and theatre director Antoine D'Anthac (Denis Podalydès). They have each been summoned as all had previously starred in one of his productions of Eurydice and now, from beyond the grave, he needs their collective approval for a young theatre company to be given permission to perform his production. What follows is a bizarre film within a film, or play within a play. The actors watch the production on screen, and we watch them join in and participate by running the lines of the roles they once held. Does it work? That’s questionable. At times it seems like an overly indulgent piece. But hey, it is Resnais, so who are we to argue?

Ross Keane

Read parts one and two of the Cannes blog.

Photo credits: Festival de Cannes, IFI


Cannes Film Festival 2012 (Part Two)

IFI Director Ross Keane reports back from a whirlwind trip to Cannes.

Part Two

Sunday allowed for several films to be packed in back-to-back, despite the full-blown storm that hit the South of France. This wasn’t the kind of weather I was expecting! 

Isabelle Huppert - Red step - Amour © AFP

The day began with the hotly-anticipated Amour by Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, Hidden) which didn’t disappoint. This beautifully performed film is hard-hitting, intelligent and everything that one might expect from Haneke. Georges and Anne (a pitch-perfect Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) are in their 80s, highly cultured and enjoying their golden years in Paris. Commencing with a trip to a concert (and then presenting almost every other scene within the confines of the couple’s apartment), we only get a brief glimpse into their relationship before events take a life-changing turn. In a truly devastating scene, as the couple enjoy a leisurely breakfast, Anne suddenly starts into space and is unresponsive. As a suitably concerned Georges prepares to get help, Anne suddenly ‘awakens’ with no memory of what has just occurred. As she dismisses Georges’ concerns and tries to convince him that no medical help is required, the most deeply affecting scene of the film unfolds as Anne attempts to pour a cup of tea with trembling hands.

We learn that Anne has had a stroke and the film then follows their lives as both characters cope with Anne’s debilitating and deteriorating health. On her first return from hospital and paralysed down one side, Anne makes Georges a promise that she will never have be admitted to hospital again. As he tries to move her from her wheelchair to her favourite armchair, their slow movement, with her arm wrapped around his neck, is almost like a lovers’ dance. The ‘amour’ of the title doesn’t focus on the passion of a new romance but the delicate, tender and deep-rooted love that has developed over a long life spent together. It’s a deeply moving film with stand-out performances from the two leads. The supporting cast (which includes Isabelle Huppert) is minimal as this film fully focuses its attention on its two superb main actors. It is expected to be released in October.

Michael Haneke - Press conference - Amour © AFP

Brandon Cronenberg (son of David whose film Cosmopolis is showing in competition later in the week and opens at the IFI in June) played as part of Un Certain Regard. Employing a style similar in many ways to his father, this film has also divided audiences. Set in a dystopian future, Antiviral examines a world obsessed with celebrity. Here ultimate fans buy diseases which have afflicted their icons. Move over celebrity-endorsed perfumes and make way for real illnesses. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works for one such clinic selling live viruses harvested from sick celebrities. He injects himself with the virus of the world’s most famous woman (we never discover what she’s famous for but that may well be the point), and things go from bad to worse when she suddenly dies from her mystery illness. Syd is left wondering how much time he has left, whilst attracting the unwanted interest from his own (and competing) clinic(s) who want to get their hands on his own blood. Where the film falls flat is that the message is so obvious. Yes, we all know we live in a celebrity-obsessed world but by the midway point we’re being beaten over the head with it and fail to be overly concerned with Syd’s plight and Kafkaesque transformation. And there comes a limit to how many injections and blood spewing one should have to endure in any film!

Sarah Gadon - Photocall - Antiviral © AFP

Director Alice Winocour’s period piece Augustine examines the story of Professor Charcot’s (Vincent Lindon) study of hysteria – and particularly ‘ovarian hysteria’ – at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in the late 1890s. Opening with servant Augustine (Soko, who also provides much of the music for the film) waiting on a formal function, she is suddenly overcome by a violent fit, prompted by an attraction to a male guest, which results in her admission to the psychiatric hospital. Here she attracts the attention of the professor who wants to focus on the most interesting cases to present to the Academy. Things become more complicated as the professor becomes attracted to the voluptuous Augustine, much to the chagrin of his wife, Chiara Mastroianni. More effective than David Cronenberg’s recent A Dangerous Method which also examined sexual psychology, Augustine provides an interesting take on the treatment and methods of the time, while also telling a damn good yarn!

Ross Keane

The final part of Ross’ blog – covering his final three films from Cannes, David Lambert’s Beyond the Walls (Hors les Murs), Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt and Alain Resnais’ You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, will be posted tomorrow.

Read part one of the blog.

Photo credits: Festival de Cannes

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cannes Film Festival 2012

IFI Director Ross Keane reports back from a whirlwind trip to Cannes.

Part One.

My first trip to the Cannes Film Festival was quite an experience. Nothing can prepare you for the hectic pace and constant buzz that surrounds the Festival. From the moment you arrive (I hadn’t even checked in to my accommodation) you get bombarded with film recommendations, warnings of long queues and looming internet deadlines for competition film tickets. It’s quite a culture shock.

Fireworks © AFP

I wasted no time in getting to my first film and managed to squeeze one in that evening. Even films playing in the market can be difficult to get into and require long queuing times – I had to be in line almost two hours before my first film Au Galop (In a Rush). Louis-Do de Lencquesaing (star of Caché (Hidden), the forthcoming Polisse, and probably known to IFI audiences for his recent role in Elles and last year’s IFI French Film Festival hit Jeanne Captive) directs and stars in this typical French drama about a woman in love with two different men. De Lencquesaing displays great charisma in the role but the film fails to charter any new territory.

Saturday was a day filled with meetings and films. Cannes is great place to find films for the IFI French Film Festival programme, so I continued with a second French film, Farewell My Queen (Les Adieux à la Reine). Director Benoît Jacquot’s film looks at the relationship between Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger) and one of her readers, Sidonie (Léa Seydoux), in the final days of the French Revolution. This was a very one-dimensional portrait of Marie Antoinette and allowed for no depth of character. Portrayed as frivolous, with a questionable relationship with Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen), the film failed to use its impressive cast to any great effect.

Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind and 2009 IFI French Film Festival’s The Thorn in the Heart) presented his latest offering, The We and the I, at the Festival. This delicate urban tale from the Bronx divided audiences at Cannes. It follows a group of school-kids on their raucous bus journey after their final day of school before the summer break. Filmed in the cramped confines of the bus (and in real time), this fast-talking (I actually read the French subtitles at times to make out what the kids were saying!) and quirky film has great heart and draws you into the complicated lives of the teenagers, from the geeks to the bullies. Played with a constant soundtrack (which grated slightly after a while) The We and the I is unlike anything else you’re likely to see and well worth a watch – even to make you grateful for being past the woes of teenage life!

Saturday was also the day for the Irish Film Board’s annual soirée at Long Beach and thankfully the weather held up – it was soon to dramatically change! Minister Jimmy Deenihan was in attendance and details were announced of the co-production agreement the IFB was due to sign with South Africa the following day.  

Beyond the Hills

My highlight of that day was Palme d’Or winner Cristian Mungiu’s (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) Beyond the Hills (Dupa Dealuri), which played in competition and packed quite a punch. This haunting piece tells the tale of Alina who returns to Romania after working in Germany in order to convince her ‘friend’ Voichita to go back with her. Alina finds Voichita is a changed person, living in a monastery and compelled to become a nun. Now pious and deeply committed to the order, she makes quite a contrast to the harder, rebellious, non-believing Alina. Things turn out to be even more complicated when it transpires that the two girls were more than just friends in the orphanage where they grew up, and the sexual tension, which appears to go unnoticed by the convent's ‘Papa’ and ‘Mama’, is palpable. Mungiu’s intriguing film avoids the obvious trap of portraying the monastery’s religious leaders as evil or as having dubious motives for repressing the girls. Despite Alina’s regular taunts that ‘Papa’ wants to have sex with her and accusations that he had done so with Voichita, the film never becomes that black and white. While perhaps a little overlong, it’s still a compelling piece of filmmaking.

Ross Keane

Cannes 2012 Blog - Part Two to be published shortly!

Photo credits: Festival de Cannes, IMDB

Monday, May 21, 2012

Director Paul Duane on BARBARIC GENIUS

Director Paul Duane on making feature documentary Barbaric Genius, the story of John Healy - wino, chess prodigy, author of a classic memoir, and forgotten man.  

Sitting, mildly hungover, on a friend's couch in Galway on Easter Sunday, 2007, I was stunned to read a small paragraph in The Observer's literary column, The Browser. It stated that John Healy, author of The Grass Arena, was to appear at that year's Cúirt Literary Festival. The column also had some vaguely phrased warnings about Healy's violent tendencies but that didn't bother me (much). It was just extraordinary to discover that a writer whose work I loved and who, it seemed, had disappeared off the face of the earth, was within easy reach.

I contacted Maura Kennedy who was at that time the Programme Director for Cúirt and she put me in touch with John Healy, who was still living in his native Kentish Town in London. I remember how nervous I felt as I phoned him for the first time. I mean, this man had been characterised as a psychopath, a paranoiac, he'd lived among murderers and nutcases, and I was a struggling filmmaker who'd just become a father – what was I inviting into our lives?

John Healy

I found myself dealing with one of the most extraordinary people I've ever met. I didn't realise at that time that John was then only just coming out of a terrible depression and that calling him would be the beginning of a (so far) five-year journey we would take together. The longer I spent with him, the more remarkable things I found out: he was, understandably, cagey about my motives at first and worried about going into some subjects such as his absorption in Buddhist meditation (“I don't want them to think I'm a lunatic”, he said), his Yoga practice and his rich inner life.

Above all, the irony is that The Observer piece – meant to warn people away – brought him back into the public eye, and this somehow sums up the bizarre gallows humour that has characterised John's story.

Paul Duane
Film Director

Barbaric Genius opens EXCLUSIVELY at the IFI on May 25th.

Friday, May 4, 2012

German Film Week

The IFI and the Goethe-Institut have teamed up again to present the latest of German cinema to audiences in Dublin. From 10-16 May 2012 seven new films will be shown at the German Film Week in the IFI. 

The week opens with Volker Schlöndorff’s wartime drama Calm At Sea (Das Meer am Morgen), which premiered at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

Calm At Sea (Das Meer am Morgen)

A wide range of genres will presented during this week. In addition to the historical topic of 4 Days in May (4 Tage im Mai) set at the very end of WWII there is the culture-clash comedy Almanya – Welcome to Germany (Almanya – Wilkommen in Deutschland), the migration drama Colour of the Ocean (Die Farbe des Ozeans), the psychological thriller Cracks in the Shell (Die Unsichtbare) and Andreas Dresen’s multi-awardwinning new realistic cancer drama Stopped on Track (Halt auf freier Strecke).

Stopped on Track (Halt auf freier Strecke)

Stopped on Track won the prestigious Prix Un Certain Regard in Cannes 2011 and the media celebrated Stopped on Track as the best film of 2011. This opinion seemed proven nearly one year later when Stopped on Track won the “German Oscars” (Deutscher Filmpreis). The film won four prizes including the most important ones: Best Fiction Film, Best Director, Best Leading Actor (Milan Peschel) and Best Supporting Actor (Otto Mellies). Stopped On Track is an extremely realistic drama which affects the audience in an very emotional way. There was no script just the idea about how everything in the story should develop. Mostly the actors improvised on set which makes this film so realistic and touching. Stopped on Track is a moving film celebrating life in the face of death and I hope you get a chance to see it.

Whatever genre or film you will choose: Enjoy the German Film Week!

Ariane Busse, Goethe-Institut Irland

German Film Week runs at the IFI from Thurs 10th-Wed 16th May. For bookings please contact our Box Office on 01 679 3477 or book online at