'The Lobster,' 'The Assassin' and 4 other mini-reviews from Cannes

Posted by · 5:13 am · May 22nd, 2015

CANNES – Even at a more civilized festival such as Cannes, it can be hard to catch every single movie in competition. There are always a few that will slip through the cracks and you can always count on the inevitable life drama moment to rear its ugly head. Unlike other festivals, Cannes has less repeat screenings across the board. That also makes things tough for one person to chronicle it all.

With less than 24 hours left in the festival we”re happy to say we've been able to cover 10 Cannes selections in depth. Here are capsule reviews for another six selections you may still be curious about.

[Expect full reviews of “Macbeth,” “The Little Prince” and “Chronic” by the end of the weekend as well as some thoughts on whether Oscar stepped out on la Croisette this year.]

“Louder Than Bombs”
Director: Joachim Trier
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne, Amy Ryan, Isabelle Huppert, David Strathairn, David Druid
Reaction: Trier”s first English language film is sort of a mixed bag. On the one hand, he often has creative and new ideas on how to stage scenes. He”s talented enough to pull you in with technique alone. The problem is the story and tone of “Bombs” feel like a Sundance drama from five years ago. The movie is about a father (Byrne) trying to foster relationships with his two sons (Eisenberg and relative newcomer Druid) a few years after their mother (Huppert) commits suicide. Eisenberg is almost too on-the-nose casting for the uptight brother and Druid just doesn”t bring enough to a typical troubled teenager role. Trier is far too talented for there not to be some good things here, but it just doesn”t add up to much.
Grade: B-  

“The Lobster”
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, Olivia Colman, Ben Whishaw
Reaction: The first half of Lanthimos' sharp critique on society's need to conform is wickedly funny. After Farrell”s wife leaves him, he”s sent to a countryside hotel where he has just 45 days to find a new mate or find himself turned into the animal of his choosing (this element of the film is only explored for comic and not horrific effect). Along with the other single guests at the hotel, he spends most of his days heading into the nearby woods to shoot and capture single people known as “loners” on the, um, lamb (for each loner they catch, the guests are awarded an extra day at the hotel). The Loner faction is run by Seydoux”s character and they turn out to be just as dangerously strident in their beliefs as the couple-filled “normal” world. The film really loses some steam when Farrell escapes to the “Loners,” but he and Weisz conjure up genuine tenderness between their characters to make you care about their fate. Lanthimos presents a fully formed original vision that hits a perfect tone even when the narrative begins to get away from him a bit.
Grade: B+

“Maryland (Disorder)”
Alice Winocour
Cast: Diane Kruger, Matthias Schoenaerts
Reaction: Vincent (Schoenaerts) is a French soldier with PTSD waiting to find out whether he'll be shipped out on another tour. He ends up being recruited as private security for a rich Lebanese businessman, his English-speaking wife Jessie (Kruger) and their kid. Before you know it the arms-dealing husband has been taken into custody and his enemies (we never find out who they are exactly) are trying to take out his unsuspecting family. A considerable amount of time is spent depicting Vincent's symptoms and throwing around a number of political red herrings, but it all takes a back seat in the second half of the movie where our hero has to protect Jessie and her son from a home invasion. It's good stuff and, in a perfect world, will prompt Hollywood execs to take Winocour's directing skills very seriously.
Grade: B-

“Marguerite & Julien”
Director: Valérie Donzelli
Cast: Anaïs Demoustier, Jérémie Elkaïm
Reaction: This pseudo-period drama about a brother and sister persecuted for their incestuous love affair is something of a mess. Donzelli wants to bring a contemporary energy to the proceedings and her directing style references everything from French New Wave to Wes Anderson (himself inspired by New Wave) to Baz Luhrmann. Demoustier is charismatic enough to almost help Donzelli pull it off, but Elkaïm is so stiff as Julien you never understand why Marguerite is willing to risk her life in the first place. It”s not good, but Donzelli will surprise with a captivating cinematic moment here and there.
Grade: C+

“Mountains May Depart”
Director: Zhangke Jia
Cast: Tao Zhao
Reaction: Jia”s epic tale follows Shen Tao (Zhao) and the men who come in and out of her life over two decades. The first part of the film takes place in 1999, where Tao finds herself pursued by two young men, one of which has embraced China”s new liberal economy and another who is still able to find happiness working in the local coal mine. The second part jumps to 2014, where Tao is a divorcee and trying to come to make peace with the fact that her young son may be better off with his rich father, who intends to leave the country. The last segment ends in 2025 and mostly occurs in Australia, centering on Tao”s now college-age son. Zhao is simply phenomenal portraying a woman who is able to find happiness in unexpected solitude. Jia probably made a mistake directing the 1999 sequence in such an over-the-top and stilted tone (it also feels more like 1989 than the turn of the century), but the rest of the film is incredibly well done. Oh, and it”s the best use of the Pet Shop Boys” “Go West” in any movie ever.
Grade: B+

“The Assassin”
Director: Hsiao-hsien Hou
Cast: Qi Shu, Chen Chang
Reaction: Hou should be congratulated for making the most boring martial arts movie ever. The plot becomes strangely confusing thanks to his tediously long takes where the characters seem almost as sleepy as the audience. Hou and cinematographer Ping Bin Lee (“Renoir”) produce some stunning images on location (one conversation takes place as a fog beautifully emits from the bottom of a valley), but it”s hard to find a thematic connection between the directing style Hou has chosen and the story. All film is art in some context, but this is some pretty vapid art. And as for the few critics who have raved about it? I”ll have what they”re having, thank you.
Grade: C-

More reviews from Cannes:

“Inside Out”
“The Sea of Trees”
“Son of Saul”
“Irrational Man”
“Tale of Tales”
“Standing Tall”

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