CANNES CHECK: ‘House of Tolerance’

Posted by · 11:48 am · April 21st, 2011

The director: Bertrand Bonello (France)

The talent: Unsurprisingly for a brothel-set narrative, the film is heavy on rising female stars, including Hafsia Herzi (“The Secret of the Grain”) and Italian ingenue Jasmine Trinca (“The Son’s Room”); their more senior co-star, Noémie Lvovsky, is arguably more of an institution in France than on the international arthouse scene. Two male cast members also prompt interest: Louis-Do DeLencquesaing, so excellent in last year’s “The Father of My Children,” and the more unlikely figure of “Of Gods and Men” director Xavier Beauvois.

The pitch: An evidently sumptuous period affair, Bonello’s film (also known by its French title “L’apollonide”) examines the goings-on in a Paris brothel at the beginning of the 20th century. After one prostitute is brutally disfigured for life by a client, the other women of the house shut themselves off from the outside world; the film tracks the rivalries and camaraderie of their isolated day-to-day existence. Bonello has been something of a controversy-monger with sexually frank films like “The Pornographer” and “Tiresia”; expect that trend to continue with his latest.

The pedigree: At 42 years of age, former classical musician Bonello (who doubles as his own composer) may be one of the younger directors in Competition, but he has some form at Cannes: three of his four previous features premiered on the Croisette, one of them (2003’s “Tiresia”) in Competition. He came up empty that time, but 2001’s “The Pornographer,” was a Critics’ Week hit and landed the FIPRESCI prize.

The buzz: “The Pornographer” made a minor dent on the arthouse circuit, thanks to its risqué premise and the presence of star Jean-Pierre Leaud — but beyond that, Bonello is one of those auteurs, admired in his home country, who has yet really to cross over internationally. (His last feature netted neither US nor UK distribution.) But if blogosphere buzz on this one is predictably quiet, Europeans in the know seem rather more excited, suggesting a significant provocation on the horizon. (Others are hoping for a statelier version of last year’s surprise Best Director winner, Mathieu Amalric’s burlesque ensemble piece “On Tour,” though I’m guessing the premise-based comparisons will prove empty.) A clutch of painterly stills that circulated the net last week, meanwhile, suggest we can at least expect a visual feast.

The odds: Working from under a blindfold, neither the bookies nor the more cinematically astute odds expert Neil Young particularly like the film’s Palme chances, though that could all change if the film causes a stir (among critics, the easily shocked, or both) on the Croisette. My irrational gut instinct suggests this could be one to watch for some form of prize: for three years running, a French entry has won one of the fest’s top two awards. (Last year’s “Of Gods and Men” was also underestimated by the English-speaking media ahead of its screening.) And should the female ensemble delivers, a shared Best Actress prize would be a familiar jury move.

[Photos: Eyes Wired Open]

→ 10 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

10 responses so far

  • 1 4-21-2011 at 12:06 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Every “Cannes Check” should include a still that shows breasts. So far Guy is 2/2 but will have a tough time when he gets to The Tree of Life.

  • 2 4-21-2011 at 2:24 pm

    Nick Lake said...

    Great piece Guy, honestly this is what makes incontention unique in comparison to all the other awards sites that are just posting about who may or may not be cast in the next big blockbuster.

  • 3 4-21-2011 at 6:00 pm

    Andrej said...

    I’m aware that from what you’ve written it’s pointless to ponder on this movie’s Oscar possibilities, but I can’t shake off the notion of how curious it would be to have a best director nominee also nominated for best score.

  • 4 4-21-2011 at 11:04 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Clint Eastwood has probably come closest the achieving that double.

    Of course, Charlie Chaplin won an Oscar for scoring his own film, though there was no accompanying Best Director nod. (Jacques Demy was nominated both for writing and scoring The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, though.)

  • 5 4-21-2011 at 11:42 pm

    Sieben said...

    I agree with Nick; this is a fantastic series and I only wish there were time enough for you to be as in-depth and helpful about the Un Certain Regard films as well.

  • 6 4-22-2011 at 1:31 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’d love to do a similar series on Un Certain Regard, but I am only one man. I will, however, do an advance UCR round-up of sorts.

  • 7 4-24-2011 at 6:08 am

    Glenn said...

    What a terrible title.

    Meanwhile, has anyone thought about “Of Gods and Men” in one of the technical categories? Not being nominated and all, it *is* eligible and it’s made over $3mil which is good these days for a foreign language film. Having not seen it I wouldn’t know, but could it feasibly be a contender anywhere?

  • 8 4-24-2011 at 7:32 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    In no technical category is it distinctive enough to catch the Academy’s eye.

  • 9 4-26-2011 at 11:19 am

    Will said...

    Jasmine Trinca, also of The Best of Youth, an amazing movie.