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Cannes 2011. Urszula Antoniak's "Code Blue"

"Code Blue is the film to which I have had the strongest negative reaction of any film I've seen at the festival so far," blogs Barbara Scharres for the Chicago Sun-Times, "but I wasn't alone in that. There were walkouts throughout, but about ten minutes from the end, a large part of the audience simply decided that they'd had enough and started streaming out. I've never seen anything to match it at Cannes. So many people were leaving that the guards had to prop open the exit doors although the film wasn't over…. I ponder what life experience, if any, this film came out of."

"An oddly translated notice posted outside Cannes Directors' Fortnight screenings of Code Blue warns that the film may 'hurt audience's feelings.'" David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter: "But while the final scenes erupt into explicit sex and ugly violence (or ugly sex and explicit violence), viewers are more likely to be numbed or exasperated than hurt by Urszula Antoniak's self-consciously dour mood piece. Its central figure is a terminal-ward nurse whose humane treatment of her patients contrasts with her own punishing self-denial…. The behavior of ascetic Marian (Bien de Moor) is driven by personal ethics, rather than by social, spiritual or professional codes, which may be a nod to the typical Krzysztof Kieslowski protagonist. And the stark apartment complex where she lives could almost be a high-end — though no more aesthetically appealing — version of the Warsaw block in which The Decalogue unfolded. There's also a whiff of Michael Haneke in Marian's degrading sexual diversions."

Variety's Jay Weissberg suspects he sees Antoniak "wearing her Lars von Trier influences with pride — unsurprising, given Zentropa's involvement as co-producer." Marion is "a solitary ascetic figure whose only physical contact is with her dying patients, especially those she delivers, via injection, into the arms of Thanatos. She's new in town — if there is a town, as Antoniak keeps shots tight and creates a world largely devoid of markers or geography. Marian's apartment, with its bare walls and still-unpacked boxes, is on an upper floor whose cloud-filled windows make it seem as though she lives closer to heaven than to earth."

"One night she watches, almost enviously, a woman being raped under her window and later retrieves the semen filled condom to spread its contents between her legs." Dan Fainaru for Screen: "Almost unwillingly dragged to a party, she makes the acquaintance of a male neighbour, takes him home but the predictable love scene that was supposed to ensue turns into a brutal encounter that sums up their mutual frustration at being unable to reach into each other’s loneliness."

Todd Brown at Twitch: "In her directors' notes for the film Antoniak has stated openly that it was part of her goal to make her audience uncomfortable and in that she has surely succeeded. Antoniak builds the film on a bold performance from de Moor, shooting her protagonist from a clinical distance while favoring precise, often symmetrical shots that mirror the cold and orderly mind of Marian. But the power of the film, it's ability to unsettle, comes not from the clinical distance but from its grounding in Marian's buried emotions, in the notion that a basic need for contact can drive a person to disturbing depths."

"On the way out of the theater, two European friends were succinct," recalls the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris. "Friend One: 'It didn't speak to me.' Friend Two: 'It doesn't speak at all.' I can't do better than that."


Quinzaine also has an interview with Antoniak and de Moor.

Cannes 2011. Index: Reviews, interviews, coverage of the coverage. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @thedailyMUBI on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.

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