Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy's La Fee (The Fairy) will open this year's Directors' Fortnight on May 12 and Bouli Lanners's Les Géants (The Giants) will close it on May 22. Here's how the full lineup of 25 films pans out.
The Fairy. From MK2: "Dom works the night shift in a small hotel near the industrial sea port of Le Havre. One night, a woman arrives with no luggage and no shoes. Her name is Fiona. She tells Dom she is a fairy and grants him three wishes. Fiona makes two wishes come true, then mysteriously disappears. Dom, who by then has fallen in love with Fiona searches for her everywhere and eventually finds her. In the psychiatric hospital where she has been interned. The filmmakers behind the critically acclaimed Iceberg and Rumba are back to enchant the world."
Karim Ainouz's O abismo prateado.
Urszula Antoniak's Code Blue. From Quinzaine des réalisateurs: "Marian, a middle-aged nurse, devotes herself to her patients like a saint. Sometimes she even takes on the role of a redeemer, by helping the gravely ill to the soothing order of ultimate silence. When she gets linked to a neighbor in an act of common voyeurism, she becomes fascinated by him. Faced with the fragility of these newfound emotions, Marian surrenders to her human needs..."
Rebecca Daly's The Other Side of Sleep. From Quinzaine: "A sleepwalker since childhood, Arlene works in the local factory of the small Irish rural town she grew up in. When a young woman is found dead in the woods, Arlene immediately channels her own mother’s disappearance, 20 years ago. Increasingly drawn to the girl’s family — her accused boyfriend and grieving sister, Arlene barricades herself in at night, depriving herself of sleep. Deep in emotional turmoil, her sleeping and waking realities soon blur, as the community searches to find the killer." Twitch has three stills.
Roland Edzard's End of Silence. From Quinzaine: "A remote house in the Vosges mountains. Jean, second son of the Klein family, won't work or study. Violent quarrels break out, as on that morning when Jean went to the chalet of Nils and Ida. During a hunt, he learns how to kill. The following night, his mother's car is torched. He is held responsible. Jean disappears into the forest, making threats."
Jean-Jacques Jauffret's Après le sud. From Quinzaine: "A modern drama freely based on real events. One sweltering afternoon in the south of France, four lives intersect: those of Stéphane and Luigi, two cousins barely out of adolescence, Georges, a retired worker, Amelie, Luigi's girlfriend, and Anne, Amelie's mother. Four mundane lives full of hurts, humiliations, fears and fatigue which converge on a tragedy."
Vimukthi Jayasundara's Chatrak (Mushrooms), "a lyrical Bengali-language drama in which a recently reunited couple set off into the forest where the man's brother is rumored to have gone back to nature," writes Patrick Frater for Film Biz Asia. "Starring Paoli Dam, Sudip Mukherjee, Tómas Lemarquis, Sumeet Thakur, the film is set up as an India-France co-production. Sri Lankan-born Jayasundara also French connections, having studied at the Fresnoy National Studio of Contemporary Arts and in 2003 was part of Cannes' Cinefondation program."
Liza Johnson's Return. This debut feature is "about a soldier returning home from a tour of duty," writes Rebecca Leffler in the Hollywood Reporter. With Linda Cardellini alongside Michael Shannon and John Slattery." From Basil Tsiokos at indieWIRE: "While the film may seem, on the surface, to share elements in common with other 'soldier returns home' films, the subjective focus on the character's experience of everyday life makes it a different kind of project. 'I see [Return] in the tradition of films like Safe and A Woman Under the Influence, about strong female protagonists who don't quite fit in with their world,' Johnson explains. Another, perhaps more unexpected, cinematic antecedent is Taxi Driver. While her protagonist is not a violent sociopath like Travis Bickle, both characters are implicitly influenced by their backgrounds as veterans, but explicitly followed after those experiences in their daily lives. Because of the centrality of their present day characters and experiences, audiences in both films wouldn't necessarily constantly focus on the protagonists' war backgrounds as the inciting reasons for the conflicts in their current predicaments." Johnson's site.
Kamen Kalev's The Island. From Quinzaine: "Sophie and Daneel, both in their early 30s, are a close and passionate couple living in Paris. Sophie initiates a surprise journey to Bulgaria. Daneel explicitly refuses to go, but Sophie insists and finally convinces him to leave. When they arrive, Sophie discovers that Daneel was born there... After a few hours spent on the crowded beaches, Daneel leads Sophie to an almost abandoned island lost in the Black Sea. Once there, Daneel discovers pregnancy tests in Sophie’s luggage. The heat and the strange few inhabitants soon alter their own behaviors, and the island slowly reveals hidden fears that question their love. To get through it all, they have to take a leap into the unknown..."
Leila Kilani's Sur la planche. From Quinzaine: "The 'board' of the title is multifold: springboard, diving board or pirate plank. This is the story of an imperiled 'brotherhood,' the story of a foursome. The story of four girls on the run, made of love, choices, shattered destinies. They are the protagonists of a film noir under the conflicting auspices of the dream of globalization."
Alejandro Landes's Porfirio. Quinzaine: "Confined to a universe that stretches only from bed to wheelchair, Porfirio — a man in diapers who sells call time on his cell phone in a faraway city on the outskirts of the Amazon — dreams that he can fly." Update, 5/3: At Ioncinema, Mario Balarezo del Caz notes that the film "tells the true story of a Colombian man, crippled in a wheelchair after being injured in a crossfire with the police, that after more than a decade asking for a disability allowance decides to hijack a plane with the help of his teen son in order to attract attention from the country's president about his situation…. Porfirio has already a history in film festivals where the project has been gestating since its conception."
Bouli Lanners's Les Géants (The Giants). Quinzaine: "It’s summertime; Zak and Seth find themselves dead broke and ditched by their absentee mother in the family's cottage. Just like every holiday, they've resigned themselves to another shitty summer. But things change this year, when they meet Danny, a local teenager. Together, with life at their fingertips, they begin the great perilous journey of their lives."
Karl Markovics's Atmen (Breathing). Directorial debut from the star of The Counterfeiters. From Thomas Taborsky at Ioncinema: "Its gloomy story that centers on Roman, a troubled youth serving eight years for manslaughter. With bad outlooks for parole or resocialisation, he answers a job ad from public funeral services. Working as a pick-up person for corpses, one day he stands before a woman bearing the same family name. Even though he soon finds out that she was not his mother who gave him away when he was a small child, this encounter forces Roman to come to grips with his own origins." Stills.
Valerie Mrejen and Bertrand Schefer's En Ville (Iris in Bloom). Quinzaine: "Iris is 16 and finishing up her teenage years a small provincial town when she meets Jean, a 40 year old photographer from Paris. Over the course of their meetings, their relationship evolves to an amorous friendship that will turn their lives upside down."
Ruben Östlund's Play. It's "about group dynamics and their effects on individual behavior," according to THR's Rebecca Leffler. The film seems to map out an elaborate con in real time. Erik Helmerson reports for TT Spektra in Swedish.
Philippe Ramos's Joan Captive. In the Hollywood Reporter, Rebecca Leffler informs us that the film "will take audiences back to 1430 with famous heroine Joan of Arc. The film stars Clémence Poésy as the title character alongside Thierry Frémont, Liam Cunningham and Mathieu Amalric." Update, 5/6: Trailer.
Alice Rohrwacher's Corpo celeste. Quinzaine: "13 year old Marta who is struggling to resettle to the south of Italy after ten years growing up in Switzerland. Bright-eyed and restless, she observes the sights, sounds and smells of the city but feels very much an outsider. Marta is about to undergo the rite of confirmation and she takes catechism but confronts the morality of the local Catholic community. From experiencing her period to making a bold decision to cut her hair, Marta begins to shape her own life for the first time since moving back to Italy." Update, 5/6: Trailer.
Rúnar Rúnarsson's Vulkan (Volcano). After working as a janitor at a school in Reykjavik, Hannes retires. The director on his debut feature, as quoted by Ekko: "Volcano is a coming-of-age story about a 67-year-old man who has trouble showing his emotions. Men of that generation often find it difficult to show weakness, but circumstances compel Hannes to open up."
Auraeus Solito's Palawan Fate. Patrick Frater again in Film Biz Asia: "The story takes as its central motif the palawan-regional notion of instant karma in which vengeful nature repays disrespectful humans. The action follows a crippled woman who has to be carried everywhere by her brother as they search for a healer. It stars Alessandra de Rossi, Clifford Banagale, Rodrigo Santikan, Bonivie Budao, Vincent Magbanua, Mina Tesorio."
André Téchiné's Impardonnables (Unforgivable). Adapted from the novel by Philippe Dijan. Quinzaine: "Francis arrives in Venice seeking peace and quiet to write his next novel. Looking to rent a small apartment, he meets Judith a real estate broker. For Francis, it's love at first sight. Judith insists that he should see a remote house on San't Erasmo island. Taking the plunge, Francis says, 'if we move in together, I'll sign right away.' So begins their life as a couple. Totally euphoric, Francis can't set his mind to writing. But, is his happiness so secure? While he isn't working, what does Judith do with her day? Francis hires Jeremie, a young offender fresh out of jail, to tail her. What will Jeremie find out?" With Carole Bouquet, André Dussolier and Mélanie Thierry. THR's Rebecca Leffler quotes Quinzaine artistic director Frédéric Boyer: "He's a bit intimidated because he's sharing the selection with a lot of young directors, but I consider him to be a young director and he's one of France's greatest." TFI International has a statement from Téchiné.
Gust Van den Berghe's Blue Bird. Inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck's 1908 play L'Oiseau bleu. Quinzaine: "One morning, Bafiokadié and his sister Téné, two African children, leave their village. The only thing on their mind is to find their lost blue bird before the day is over. But they will find much more along their way: they encounter their deceased grandparents, they fight the soul of the forest and learn from the Chief of Pleasure. Everyone tells them a story about life and death. At the end of their long journey, the brother and sister enter the Kingdom of the Future and meet some yet-to-be born children. Delighted with this discovery, they eventually return home. Blue Bird is a story about how one day in a child's life can change its world. For as we lose something we gain something." From Flanders Image: "The story, the director explains, dates from an era when symbolism was in full bloom. 'It's filled with fantasy and the most impossible scenes. Everything is in ecstasy: nature and humans, everything is pure and flourishing. It's quite a task to translate this to film as it's about 'magic,' which can too easily become 'wizardry' on film. And that's a huge and essential difference. It's my intention to create a surreal painting in which we can maintain the magic of the original work.'" Not much at the site yet, but there it is.
Natalia Almada's El Velador. A documentary about a night watchman who guards and maintains a cemetery in Mexico where many victims of the relentless wars between the drug cartels and the law end up. When it screened at New Directors/New Films, I rounded up a few reviews.
Jérôme de Missolz's Des Jeunes gens mödernes. Quinzaine: "A legendary 70s rock critic takes hold of a group of young counter-culturalists. From Paris to Beijing, by way of New York, Montreal and Hong Kong, the nightdwellers ride a William Burroughsy wave. As the decadent pasts and urban futures interlace, music from yesterday and today pave a revolutionary road. With his skeleton silhouette coiffed with a big black chapka, the bizarre sixty-something introduces himself : 69-x-69, Yves Adrien’s testament executor, the inventor of punk, of novö, the famed music critic of times past."
Isabelle Lavigne and Stéphane Thibault's La Nuit elles dansent (At Night, They Dance). Quinzaine: "At Night, They Dance is one family’s story. The film takes us into the heart of a clan of women, in which the art of bellydancing has been passed down from mother to daughter since time immemorial. Filmed in Cairo, At Night, They Dance takes an unsentimental yet lyrical look at a hidden world full of surprise and fascination. The viewer is allowed in as a privileged witness. A gritty film in which raw beauty triumphs over the harshest realities."
Sion Sono's Guilty of Romance. From Twitch: "Izumi is married to a famous romantic novelist but their life seems just a simple repetition without romance. One day, she decides to follow her desires and [decides to become] a [nude] model [who] fakes sex in front of the camera. Soon she meets a mentor and starts selling her body to strangers but at home, she is still the wife she is supposed to be. One day a brutally murdered body is found in the love hotels district." Update, 4/21: Twitch has a teaser.
One more note from THR's Rebecca Leffler: "The sidebar will pay particular attention this year to imprisoned Iranian director Jafar Panahi who will receive the sidebar’s Golden Coach prize at a ceremony on May 12th. The DF will also host a debate about making films under a dictatorship, screen Panahi’s 2005 title Offside and on May 13th host a public press conference to address Panahi’s situation and give public and professional supporters of the filmmaker the chance to express themselves. Throughout the festival, an empty chair in the Croisette theater will symbolize the absence of the director."
Frédéric Boyer discusses the selection at the Quinzaine site.