Cannes 2009: Favorite Moments, Final Days

Small highlights from major films at the Cannes Film Festival.
Daniel Kasman
In Land of Madness:  Luc Moullet giving us a sad, funny tour of “his movie collection,” awkwardly climbing a ladder to sit, hunched over, by himself in an empty little attic with a couple film cans scattered about.
In Navidad: In a festival with far too many unmemorable “naturalistic” performances, Manuela Martelli’s subtle, heartfelt turn, mostly done with her eyes, was very refreshing.  Not so much this film’s uniformly brown color palette.
In Un Lac: Chopping logs, and the shuddering tremor of the frame as the camera catches onto the tactile activity of the action (yet not it’s materiality, or sensuality, or sense of work).
In The Time that Remains: a bit of life in this lifeless film, a frontal (as usual) shot of a small girls’ chorus, and each and every girl seems to be doing something different while they sing, looking excited or anxious or distracted or forgetful or bored or…
In Enter the Void: I’d like to say something glib and provocative like “when the camera takes on the point of view of semen traveling inside a woman,” but David Phelps will attest to the fact that the ur-generic style of club/house/micro/dub music popular in every discothèque around the world except in the States will now forever be associated with this trip of a film.   I get the urge to beatbox that nocturnal heartbeat just thinking about Noé’s intoxicating first hour submergence into the neon-psychedelic darkness and deadened allure of urban clubbing.
In Adrift:  Vincent Cassel speaking Portuguese?  Who knew?  But seriously—I found the woman Cassel has a fling with on beach vacation in Brazil quite unreal—“the American” but for some reason dressed and made up like a 1940s glamour girl.  It’s not clear if this movie takes place in the 1970s or now, but either way, the feminine anomaly is strange and striking, an unexpected and unmotivated moment of stylization.
In Drag Me to Hell:  Raimi and Raimi grounding their horror story in the pettiness of contemporary money/success hungry America. Channeling both the sub-prime mortgage crisis and Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon, this film is obsessed with money and possessions and the DOOM they naturally lead to.  Bravo!
In Visage: Like the film projects initiated by the Musée d'Orsay (Hou, Hong, Assayas), Tsai’s film is tied, big rivals-style—auteurs take your sides!—to the Louvre.  Yet, only one shot in the film is from the museum proper, and the rest of it takes place in the unrecognizable back alleys, underground ducts, and industrial corridors of the famed museum.  Only Tsai seems to have flipped the project on its head, turning the non-museum parts of the museum (if they really even are part of the building!) into art.  New York MoMA, it’s time to step up to the game!  I nominate Aaron Katz.
In To Die Like a Man:  Nothing if not the impression that, with its vitality and its composure, this is the kind of movie that Pedro Almodóvar should be making.  Have no doubt that it will be Los abrazos rotos and not João Pedro Rodrigues’s film that will get programmed at film festivals around the world this year, but from what I hear of the Almodóvar, and what I’ve seen of this terrific film, that is a major injustice.

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