CANNES: ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,’ ‘Kaboom,’ ‘Inside Job’

Posted by · 9:00 am · May 16th, 2010

Apologies for yesterday’s scarcity of Cannes updates: a bumper day of back-to-back screenings cut unavoidably into my writing time, particularly as “Another Year” — widely agreed, among those I’ve spoken to, to be the standout film of the Competition so far — merited a more substantial take than most. One day and several films later, Mike Leigh’s latest and its rich, teasing ambiguties are still foremost in my thoughts, and some inside Twitterers have suggested that the jury is similarly impressed.

My day could have been even busier, but I blew off an early evening screening of Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s “Heartbeats” to finish my Leigh review — only to pay the price this afternoon as I was shut out of the repeat screening. You can’t have (much less do) it all. I fully intended to make up for it with the late show of Chadian Competition title “A Screaming Man” … but if you can refuse when USA Today’s delightful Anthony Breznican offers to treat you to a steak-and-bouillabaisse dinner on the Croisette, you’re a nobler cinephile than I.

Moving on to yesterday’s decidedly mixed bag of American movies…


Being a Woody Allen die-hard these days is roughly equivalent to being the battered half in an abusive marriage: his films behave consistently appallingly, but treat you right just often enough (hello, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) to keep you coming back for the next punch in the face.

As these go, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is a mild bruise rather than the double black-eye of a “Hollywood Ending,” but it’s a dispiritingly listless and superficial rehash of past glories, emulating the diffuse, novelistic structure of “Hannah and Her Sisters” and the sour relationship politics of “Husbands and Wives,” minus the requisite humanity and conviction.

What we have instead is a London-set collection of anecdotal, only fitfully amusing vignettes: a wealthy pensioner (Anthony Hopkins) takes up with a prostitute a fraction his age, while his abandoned wife (Gemma Jones) seeks solace in New Age therapies; their unhappily childless daughter (Naomi Watts) dallies with her dishy boss (Antonio Banderas) while her novelist husband (Josh Brolin) hatches a scheme straight out of “Morvern Callar” to reignite his writing career … and so on and so forth.

These strands are bound by simple character connections rather than any richer thematic throughlines, and only Lucy Punch – as the busty, bird-brained chav who wears Hopkins’s infatuation like an unwanted accessory – hits her comic marks, though the character is little more than a Transatlantic Xerox of Mira Sorvino’s Oscar-winning part in “Mighty Aphrodite.”

Allen the filmmaker, meanwhile, is as glazed and distracted as Allen the writer, making no demands whatsoever of the great Vilmos Zsigmond behind the camera, while the prosaic editing makes it one of his longer-seeming 90-minute jaunts. It’s painless enough, but in a film that claims to have at least half a mind on the perils of aging and infidelity, a little pain mightn’t have gone amiss.

“KABOOM” (***)

Considerably more fun was Gregg Araki’s “Kaboom,” a deliriously silly stoner’s caper movie that melds the abrasive kandy-kolored hedonism of the director’s 1990s output with the dopey whimsicality of his last feature, “Smiley Face.” Aiming squarely at midnight-movie cult status, it seals the deal by bolstering its baked college humor with copious sex scenes between its aesthetically gifted cast members — in a liberal spectrum of gender combinations. Chances are your mom won’t like it.

There’s little point in discussing the plot, other than to say that hot lesbian sorceresses, animal-masked doomsday cult members and predatory hot-tub designers all play supplementary roles in the procession of surreal events that befalls our protagonist, sexually undecided art-school freshman Smith (Thomas Dekker, looking and sounding distractingly like Jared Leto circa 1995).

It goes without saying that the results are uneven, with the mile-a-minute gags eliciting almost as many groans as yocks, but the whole is almost endearingly spirited and unruly, while the young cast is fully committed to the cause – rising star Juno Temple, as a blasé British Lolita improbably named London, is a particular delight.

Even on its own absurd terms, the narrative sags in spots – Araki could have got away with making proceedings even dirrrtier and more chaotic – but it’s the purest blast of filmmaking energy the festival has served up so far.

“INSIDE JOB” (***)

I was certainly in a receptive mood to “Kaboom” after emerging from US documentarian Charles Ferguson’s sophomore feature “Inside Job” – a thorough, incisive if faintly dry breakdown of the current economic crisis that plays a little like last year’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” on a heavy dose of Ritalin.

Of interest mainly to US audiences – besides a prologue that evaluates the global consequences of Iceland’s financial meltdown, Ferguson keeps his focus Stateside – it will end up reaping similar plaudits to Ferguson’s Oscar-nominated debut “No End in Sight,” if people don’t find that the subject has been sufficiently combed-through in both news and entertainment media over the last two years.

Narrated by the comforting tones of lefty-for-hire Matt Damon, the film doesn’t offer much in the way of revelation, but benefits enormously from Ferguson’s wickedly predatory skills as an interviewer, cornering vulnerable subjects into relishable foot-in-mouth moments. Meanwhile, the film makes a witty virtue of the number of dubious economic players who declined to participate – ranging from Alan Greenspan to Timothy Geithner – solemnly listing their names throughout as virtual badges of honor.

Later today: Thoughts on the French double-feature of “The Princess of Montpensier” and “Black Heaven” — the impatient can already find out what I think on Twitter — and, if I’m successfully admitted, Takeshi Kitano’s latest.

→ 24 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Reviews

24 responses so far

  • 1 5-16-2010 at 9:15 am

    James D. said...

    Hollywood Ending was hilarious.

  • 2 5-16-2010 at 9:35 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    I haven’t bothered with a Woody Allen film since Melinda and Melinda. It hurts too much and there’s no point when a DVD of Broadway Danny Rose is within arms reach.

  • 3 5-16-2010 at 10:13 am

    Jim T said...

    In the last four days (I think) I’ve seen for the first time, Hannah and her Sisters, Interiors and Bullets over Briadway. I only loved the first one and didn’t really like the second one but these screenings certainly managed to remind me of Allen’s talents.

    I really think he should take his time next time (or the time after the next one, if it’s already too late).

  • 4 5-16-2010 at 11:02 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Hannah and Her Sisters is one of my all-time Top 10. Just FYI.

  • 5 5-16-2010 at 11:17 am

    Jim T said...

    I’m really curious to know the remaining 8 (I already know the no1) of that list. Just FYI :p

  • 6 5-16-2010 at 11:29 am

    Nel said...

    Guy..what do you think about some people saying that Gemma Jones could get an oscar nomination out this movie?

  • 7 5-16-2010 at 11:35 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I say no way. If anybody gets any play out of this film — unlikely, I imagine — I’d keep my eye on Lucy Punch.

  • 8 5-16-2010 at 11:49 am

    Nel said...

    Thanks Guy – oh man, if Lucy Punch was to go from ‘Renford Rejects’ (Ace Nick TV show from the early 200s) to oscar nominee, it would be worth it just for that.

  • 9 5-16-2010 at 11:56 am

    Michael said...

    I cannot wait to see Kaboom, that sounds like it is going to be right up my alley. Too bad I heard Araki is planning to try to take it to Sundance next year which means it prolly wont be released anytime soon :’^(

  • 10 5-16-2010 at 11:58 am

    ninja said...

    OK, so Meet Tall Dark Stranger comes out, gets reviewed and Lucy Punch is the only one that stands out. No notice of Freida Pinto who is pimped as the Best Actress nominee by quite a few people here. Granted, they have her on the list for Miral but I recon she was supposed to show some promise in Woody movie after her wooden turn in Slumdog. Guess not.

  • 11 5-16-2010 at 12:04 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Pinto is neither good nor bad in the film — it’s a wholly decorative role. No need to be cruel.

  • 12 5-16-2010 at 12:05 pm

    MHF89 said...

    love your analogy and agree something about the man’s work keeps me coming back, hoping this time will be different…more Annie Hall and Less Whatever Works.

  • 13 5-16-2010 at 12:20 pm

    Maxim said...

    Woody Allen is responsible for more truly no-copromise great movies than almost any other filmmaker I can think of. In his 70s in the past decade alone he was responsible for “Match Point”, “Melinda and Melinda” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and those are very very good films indeed.

    “Whatever Works” was a fine and I hate it when films like it get unfairly and *completely* dismissed. Jesus christ, it was hardly a punch in the face and stop pretending like every film Allen makes is going to fit the came category of people who liked, say, Bullets over Broadway. The problem is that just maybe your range is smaller than Allen’s. Next type think about the target audience and consider if it actually applies to you, Guy.

    That introductory write up alone made me wonder if you deserve an actual punch in the face. Sorry for saying this.

  • 14 5-16-2010 at 12:24 pm

    James D. said...

    These comments always break my heart. I love Woody Allen’s trash. Even his trash is better than most trash, you know what I mean? Sure, most of his recent works are bad, but he averages one a year. Most people like Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but some directors only put out two films in a decade.

  • 15 5-16-2010 at 12:51 pm

    red_wine said...

    Oh there are certainly riches to be had from his career. He still stands tall as one of the greatest directors in America and one of the most individual voices in cinema, its just that his work this decade is mediocre compared to what he has accomplished in the past. Something like Scorsese.

  • 16 5-16-2010 at 12:54 pm

    ninja said...

    I`m not cruel but this is another decorative role and the one in Immortals (aka G-rated God of War rip off) is decorative too. I`m just saying that the girl is a vase so Best ACtress expectations are baffling. However, there were people, not here though, who seriously expected Orlando Bloom to be the Best Actor contender for either Kingdom of Heaven or Elisabethtown. Without anything in his resume hinting at such possibility. We know how that one turned out.

    Just saying that pretty actors and actresses are always getting too much pass even when everything points out there`s no potential for greatness.

  • 17 5-16-2010 at 4:11 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    “That introductory write up alone made me wonder if you deserve an actual punch in the face.”

    Made you wonder? I got the idea you’ve been wanting to punch me in the face for a long time, Maxim.

    I love Woody Allen. He’s been one of my writing heroes since I was 11 years old — so I think that puts me pretty squarely in the target audience for his films. (As for your “range” jibe, I love “Bananas” as much as I do “Another Woman.” I’m sorry that isn’t broad enough for you.)

    But loving an artist doesn’t, for me, entail approving of everything they create. I appreciate that you might feel differently — but when someone doesn’t share your sense of an artwork’s worth, it’s both naive and disrespectful to accuse them of “pretending” to disagree with you. You’re an alert and articulate commenter, Maxim, but you’re also needlessly aggressive and unpleasant to engage with.

  • 18 5-16-2010 at 4:21 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    I often see folks bemoaning the string of duds Woody Allen has produced but they never bother to list the bad movies. At best they mention one they did not like. In the past decade, he has made “Anything Else,” “Match Point,” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” which are quite wonderful. The other films (“Cassandra’s Dream,” “Scoop,” “Hollywood Ending,” “Melinda and Melinda,” and the one last year with the bad actor from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) were also quite enjoyable. I’m grateful he makes one film a year. My favorite novelist manages to crank out one book every five years, and only wish he were more prolific.

  • 19 5-16-2010 at 4:40 pm

    Liz said...

    Maxim, I know this probably doesn’t matter to you, but I’ve started skipping right past your comments as soon as I see your name.

    You’re clearly one of those people who have embraced the Internet as a way to be gleefully rude behind a cloak of anonymity, but seriously, give it a rest.

  • 20 5-16-2010 at 8:29 pm

    Patryk said...

    While this sounds more in the forgettable column (think “Scoop,” or “Manhattan Murder Mystery), I will still give it a try (I was one of the few who really liked “Cassandra’s Dream,” despite the overall poor notices it had gotten). There are a handful of directors I generally do not miss, and Woody is one of them. Another is Coppola, whose “Tetro” I finally saw this week and loved…

  • 21 5-16-2010 at 9:32 pm

    MovieMan said...

    I didn’t like any of his films from this decade until “Match Point,” to be honest. Hated “Anything Else” and “Hollywood Ending,” and was really disappointed in “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” and “Melinda and Melinda.” Then “Match Point” came and he was back. Other than “Cassandra’s Dream” (which I also kind of hated), he’s been rather solid.

    Gregg Araki has impressed me with just about everything (his best film, though, is “Mysterious Skin”), so count me in for “Kaboom.”

  • 22 5-20-2010 at 12:26 am

    Steven Kaye said...

    One of the greatest things about Woody Allen is that he is absolutely critic-proof. So some nobody like Guy Lodge doesn’t like his latest film, and indeed takes it so personally that he feels the need to invoke the absurd metaphor of spousal abuse. Means nothing. Because back in the real world Allen is preparing to shoot his next film (this time in Paris with another stellar cast) and has the funding lined up for the one after.

    This utter indifference to the mewling of reviewers is one of his most endearing traits.