Cannes 2013 review roundup

Posted by · 9:26 am · May 27th, 2013

The 66th annual Cannes Film Festival is officially over as the winners and losers make their way home from the south of France. Will we be talking about these films during the Oscar season? Time will tell. But for now, a quick cheat sheet of our take on the festivities.

Gregory Ellwood and Guy Lodge reviewed 17 films from the fest (and certainly Tweet-reacted many more besides). It was a busy schedule and I imagine if you were trying to follow along at home, you could have been a bit lost along the way. But never fear! Below you can find links to each of the films reviewed along with blurbs from the reviewer and the grade assigned for each film, giving you a solid cross-section of our coverage, which you can also, of course, read through here.

Check back later as Greg and Guy close things out on their end with a pair of video packages charting both the best and worst of the festival’s second week and the Oscar implications of the 66th annual.

Steven Soderbergh’s “Behind the Candelabra” (Guy Lodge, A-)
“The film is too much fun…to feel much like social tract, but a cool-headed, universal advocacy of gay marriage prevails amid its flashy indulgence of this particular relationship”s peculiarities. Soderbergh and [screenwriter Richard] LaGravenese don”t shy from the tabloid salaciousness of the older man”s adoption of the younger, but the film is also posited as an extreme example of how social structures can be subverted, and potentially warped, if gay men are denied the right to conventional legal partnership.”

James Gray’s “The Immigrant” (Guy Lodge, A-)
“There”s an instinctive tendency among critics to ascribe the word “valentine” to any film this exquisitely textured and regionally specific, but if “The Immigrant” is a valentine to the Big Apple, it”s a tattered, tear-stained one: rarely has the promised land looked quite so unpromising, even within the geographically consistent and consistently moody oeuvre of James Gray.”

Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” (Guy Lodge, B+)
“Some would argue that this is well-worn territory for Coppola, an unapologetically silver-spoon-fed filmmaker who has charted the ennui and corruption of celebrity culture in every film she’s made since her 1999 debut ‘The Virgin Suicides’ – which at least bookends ‘The Bling Ring’ as a study in warped adolescent self-actualization. But to lazily rehash already skimpy jabs at Coppola for her privileged tunnel vision would be to miss her new film’s significant shift in perspective. After three films about those firmly ensconced in the ivory tower – the Chateau Marmont in one incarnation, the Palace of Versailles in another – Coppola is, for the first time, on the outside looking in.”

Rebecca Zlotowski’s “Grand Central” (Gregory Ellwood, B+)
“Audiences will clearly recognize Gary’s path of emotionally-directed self-sabotage, but for every expected moment Klotowski and co-screenwriter Gaelle Mace surprise with an unexpected turn…Rahim remarkably communicates most of Gary’s plight with little exposition laced dialogue, a challenge not many actors could pull off.”

Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Inside Llewyn Davis” (Guy Lodge, B+)
“Perhaps middle-aged melancholy has finally caught up with the dark indie princes, spurred on by the colossal box office for 2010″s ‘True Grit,’ their most sentimental, studio-flavored release to date. Or perhaps the heart-on-sleeve integrity of pre-hippy 1960s folk music simply rubbed off in the research. None of which is to say ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is a soft or overly forgiving film: rather, it”s as generously dimensional an individual character study as anything in their canon.”

Asghar Farhadi’s “The Past” (Guy Lodge, B+)
“‘The Past’ further showcases Farhadi’s dexterity as a dramatist of uncommon perspicacity and fairness…It never feels torrid or shrill, though its less compelling final act does raise the question of whether a writer can be democratic to a fault: blame is distributed and delegated so many times in the run-up to its ambiguous finale that dramatic momentum takes a slight hit…Bejo inherited the role from an over-scheduled Marion Cotillard and attacks it with the conviction of an actress hungry to surprise — her take on Marie-Anne is not outwardly sympathetic, but has a hostile, last-nerve vulnerability that plays excitingly against the more evenly tempered performances of her excellent male co-stars.”

Alain Guiraudie’s “Stranger by the Lake” (Guy Lodge, B)
“Yes, ‘Stranger by the Lake’ features more graphic man-on-man action on screen than you can, er, shake a stick at, granting it an immediate festival-world notoriety that will dissipate swiftly as many distributors simply cast it into the ‘unreleasable’ pile. But while some will deem the film barely distinguishable from gay pornography, its surfeit of explicit sex scenes has a function beyond base titillation (though, let it be said, there’s plenty of that too). If many films have put the practicalities and politics of casual sex to more rigorous examination on film in recent years, I either haven’t seen them or napped through a lot of the subtext in ‘Hitch.'”

J.C. Chandor’s “All is Lost” (Gregory Ellwood, B-)
“Disappointingly, while he creates one realistic peril after another, Chandor’s screenplay does not give [Robert] Redford much of a character to play with…If the lack of character in his screenplay constitutes a slight miscalculation, Chandor does everything he can to make up for it in his direction. A big jump from the suit and tie drama of ‘Margin Call,’ ‘All Is Lost’ features two very impressive set pieces and the action moves along remarkably considering a silent Redford is the sole focus of almost every shot.”

Ari Folman’s “The Congress” (Guy Lodge, B-)
“It’s precisely as bonkers as it sounds, and at two hours, both wearisome and claustrophobic. (I’m somewhat surprised, though not disappointed, that Folman resisted the lure of 3D for the animated stretch that makes up the majority of the film.) But flashes of fury and beauty remain — and I’m not just talking about the electrifying orchestral score by Max Richter. There’s something exhilarating — mesmerizing, even — about ‘The Congress”s most ludicrous flourishes.”

Roman Polanski’s “Venus in Fur” (Guy Lodge, B-)
“It’s frisky, funny stuff, unavoidably slight but given considerable verve by the game performances… ‘Venus in Fur’ finds Polanski repeatedly thumbing his nose at armchair psychologists too quick to find overarching themes in this (or any other) work…It’s enough to make you briefly wonder how many Polanski classics we’ve misread by the director’s standards; not that this flavorful diversion invites repeated readings in the first place. He’s having palpable fun here, but I’m ready for him to go play outdoors.”

Guillaume Canet’s “Blood Ties” (Guy Lodge, C+)
“[T]he pot stops boiling about halfway through this 1970s-set underworld family melodrama, dropping to a slow simmer as far too many narrative ingredients absorb the heat…The final result is diverting but inevitably derivative, with even [James] Gray’s own dialogue (co-written with Canet) sounding sometimes like genre play-speak. ‘I’m back in the New York groove,’ proclaims the film’s opening song, though it’s not strictly true: Gray never left, but Canet’s just arrived, which may be why the French-produced ‘Blood Ties’ still feels a tad jet-lagged.”

Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” (Guy Lodge, C+)
“As the bodies pile up in increasingly grisly — and not terribly inventive — fashion, Refn dispenses with such niceties as tension, momentum or palpable human stakes. By the end, characters are passively serving themselves up for the slaughter, the endgame of a film that has the good grace not to appear very excited by its own rampant nihilism. ‘Only God Forgives’ is dull, but it’s also oddly transfixing, and not just in the sheer splendor of its craft.”

Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” (Guy Lodge, C+)
“It’s a thin premise for what amounts more to an extended sketch than a fully realized love story, though at least the one-ply joke is a droll one, played with good humor by the leads — particularly Swinton, who was pretty much born to deliver Jarmusch’s refined deadpan schtick. I’m not sure how many previous films have gotten comic mileage out of the possibility of modern-day Nosferati having known substantial historical figures, but it feels like more should have.”

François Ozon’s “Young and Beautiful” (Gregory Ellwood, C+)
“Director François Ozon has made a career of exploring sexuality and sexual awakenings on the big screen, but his latest, Jeune & Jolie (Young and Beautiful),’ sadly falls short of his previous efforts…A few hours after the film, an industry colleague noted, ‘Men should never make films about prostitutes. It never turns out well.’ There may be notable exceptions to that rule, but in this case Ozon proves him right as he’s bit off more than he can satisfactorily chew.”

James Franco’s “As I Lay Dying” (Guy Lodge, C)
“Alternating between the textually straight-ahead and the stylistically mannered, Franco’s ‘As I Lay Dying’ is hardly a critique of Faulkner’s furious study of mud-class mourning, while as interpretation, it’s timid at best, taking the emotional accents of its irony-strewn, often bitterly funny source very much at face value. If he seems cowed by the material, that is as pretty much any filmmaker — let alone one of Franco’s modest abilities — would and should feel. Yet the film’s staid CliffsNotes approach is still a surprise coming from this restless Yale literature graduate, whose previous directorial efforts have been less competent and often more compellingly self-styled.”

Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” (Guy Lodge, C)
“This is a tidy enough setup for a sharp comedy of manners, though Payne can’t seem to decide if he’s coddling these old-school Midwesterners for their rudely rustic values or sneering at the sheer narrowness of their worldview. Sometimes it does both at once…There’s an argument to be made that Payne, famously a son of Omaha, is putting himself up for scrutiny here, poking fun at the flawed society that raised and continues to mark him…but its insistent tone of downbeat poignancy doesn’t quite square with the flip tone of all too many scenes, as if Payne is trying to pass the film off as something less cynical than it actually is.”

Arnaud Desplechin’s “Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian)” (Guy Lodge, C-)
“Certainly, neither its doughy structure nor its vague, tin-eared evocation of post-WWII middle America are immediately indicative of a passion project that Desplechin has reportedly been nurturing for over two decades: we’re always plagued the longest by the problems we have the least natural ability to solve, and that’s a pearl of psychiatric wisdom you can have for free.”

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