Friday, May 24, 2013

IFI's Ross Keane at Cannes 2013: Part 1

I arrived in Cannes this year, for my second visit to the Festival, a few days after its official opening and was instantly playing catch up! With five nights already under the belt for many people, and with reviews flooding in, I quickly scrambled to figure out what I had to see. 

By the time I got settled and registered, there was only time for one screening on Monday, and since we often find many films for the IFI French Film Festival at Cannes, I decided to begin proceedings with Les Rencontres d'apres minuit. It's a film many have been talking about - largely due to its controversial subject matter. The film is set over the course of one night as a variety of guests arrive for an orgy. With guest names including The Slut, The Stud and The Teen, it's not your average dinner party! The cast includes Eric Cantona and Beatrice Dalle. All put in good performances but I wanted the film to engage me more overall. 

Les Rencontres d'apres minuit

Tuesday saw a marathon day of five films. The morning started with another French film and one that had also generated a lot of talk and interest. Playing as part of Un Certain Regard, L'Inconnu du lac/Stranger by the Lake is also causing a bit of controversy. Set in a cruising spot for gay men, the film contains a lot of explicit scenes, but the tone changes when the main protagonist witnesses a murder and the film suddenly becomes a whole lot more engaging. It's beautifully shot and utilises just three locations throughout the film - the car park, the lake and the woods. It's a thought-provoking film by Alain Guiraudie and one that we're all still discussing. 

Cast and crew of L'Inconnu du lac/Stranger by the Lake

Fresh from a lot of media attention, Pussy Riot are the focus of Mike Lerner's doc, Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer. The film follows the band in the build up to their performance at the Orthodox Cathedral, their subsequent arrest, court case and appeal. With good access to the band and their families, it presents a fairly balanced view of the situation, at times with the girls coming across as extremely naive and foolish, while at the same time exposing religious extremism. 

Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer

Steven Soderbergh may have said he had made his last film, but Behind the Candelabra - which was made for TV - gives us a good chance to see his work back on the big screen. Telling the story of virtuoso pianist Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his secret five year love affair with Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), it's a thoroughly entertaining watch. The first half is an enjoyable romp, fairly frivolous with its fair share of chuckles. But as their relationship begins to spiral and the cracks begin to show, it starts to become a darker affair. The two leads give great performances. Michael Douglas clearly relishes the opportunity to play the effeminate Liberace, while Matt Damon has the bigger character arc to portray going from wide-eyed country boy to a near-replica of his camp older lover, with a drug habit on the side to add to the effect. A mention has to go to Rob Lowe, the plastic surgeon who works on both leads - his facial paralysis, squinting eyes and inability to take a sip due to his own amount of surgery gives for a wonderfully comic performance. 

Behind the Candelabra

Youth /Jeunesse is a French film from first time director Justine Malle dealing with first love and the looming loss of a parent. It's a good first film and particularly shines during the protagonist's attempts to discover her sexual identity. 

La Grande Bellezza/The Great Beauty

The final film of the day was the red carpet gala of Paola Sorrentino's La Grande Bellezza/The Great Beauty. The whacky world of Sorrentino was a joy to spend just over two hours in. The opening ten minutes - including a frenzied party scene - was a joy to watch and set the tone for the whole film. Toni Servillo was fantastic as main character Jep Gambardella who celebrates his 65th birthday and looks on at the world and characters around him. While it could do with an edit, and doesn't all quite make sense, if you let it wash over you and don't ask too many questions, it's an absolute pleasure. 

Ross Keane

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