To follow up on yesterday's roundup of Un Certain Regard remainders...
"The Tati-inspired dance trio of Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romy are at it again, crafting an awfully similar follow-up to their previous feature, Rumba." Blake Williams for Ioncinema: "The Fairy is light on magic and the supernatural, but flutters breezily along with joke-a-minute fluff…. As in their other films, the 'plot' — this one involving a wish-granting fairy — is only really a conceit by which to give the illusion of continuity to what is essentially a string of short films." Screen's Fionnuala Halligan's enjoyed it, though: "Theirs is an old-fashioned, almost silent, routine (their first feature L'Iceberg was virtually wordless) blended beautifully with an arresting dance element." In the Hollywood Reporter, Jordan Mintzer notes that "Tati's hand is evident in the exceptionally precise art direction and camerawork by regulars Nicholas Girault and Claire Childeric."
"The Silver Cliff was inspired by a 1976 song by Brazilian musician Chico Buarque, titled 'Eye to Eye,' about the indelibility of love, the impossibility of forgiveness and the defiant display of emotional resilience that follow the abrupt end of a relationship," writes David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. "From that slender thread, director Karim Ainouz weaves a sad, sensual film in which very little happens, and for long periods, few words are spoken. But the story's emotional texture is as rich as its intoxicating visual flow." Howard Feinstein in Screen: "As he did in the 2006 film Love For Sale (O Ceu de Suely) director Karim Ainouz constructs a dazzling film around a woman who is manipulated in spite of her beauty and sexual allure. Here he takes us — and her — on a road trip through his native Rio, tracking in a highly original, non-didactic manner how the male of the species disrespects the female." Micropsia average: 5.91.
"In her first feature, The Other Side of Sleep, Irish director Rebecca Daly channels much creative energy into atmosphere and mood, but shows less skill at developing characters or escalating tension," finds David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. "Like its chronic sleepwalker protagonist, who still bears the psychic scars of the disappearance and death of her mother 20 years earlier, this somber drama inhabits a gloomy dream state that's intriguing but far too opaque." Todd Brown at Twitch: "Though the core of the story is a small town murder Daly is not at all interested in presenting a thriller here but rather a languid mood piece, a meditation on grief buried and delayed." More from Fionnuala Halligan (Screen) and Domenico La Porta (Cineuropa). Vanessa Thorpe profiles Daly for the Guardian. Twitch has a clip and Quinzaine has a quick interview. Micropsia average: 3.2.
"A morbid rural drama that makes the world of Winter's Bone look like the Upper East Side, The End of Silence is a bleak for bleak's sake stroll through backwater hell that never goes anywhere meaningful." Jordan Mintzer in THR: "First-time director Roland Edzard literally drags his characters through the mud in this tale of a deranged teen who wanders the woods with a rifle as his family falls apart. As does this problematic French indie." Low grades at Micropsia.
Quinzaine des Réalisateurs asks Kyle Henry about his short, Fourplay: Tampa. Here's a clip.
Jordan Mintzer (THR): "Blending a finely tooled network narrative with a portrait of banlieue malaise, Heat Wave (Après le sud) reps a promising debut for writer-director Jean-Jacques Jauffre that's carried by the tres jolie up-and-coming actress Adèle Haenel (House of Tolerance). With a vision of contemporary French angst a la Claire Denis by ways of a time-shuffling script a la Tarantino, Wave convinces until its somewhat overblown finale."
"Chatrak (Mushrooms) by Vimukthi Jayasundara — the Sri Lankan director whose first feature, The Forsaken Land, won the Caméra d'Or in 2005 — makes for demanding viewing," finds Agnieszka Gratza, blogging for Sight & Sound. "It takes a while to work out how the different story strands hang together as the film flits back and forth between urban and rural scenes, focusing in turn on the trials of an architect who returns to Calcutta after a prolonged absence and of his wayward brother, turned enfant sauvage after years of living in the forest." For THR's Kirk Honeycutt, the film's "abstract naturalism does create an austere portrait of a crass and careless human society but any larger meaning gets lost amid the film's many non-events and preening nihilism." But for Marie-Pierre Duhamel, writing here in The Notebook, "Jayasundara is a young relentless master, an example of what contemporary cinema can be." Micropsia average: 5.92. Viewing (4'29"): the Quinzaine interview.
"Liza Johnson's Return, struggles — with considerable success — to find something fresh to say about the restless discontent of the American soldier newly arrived home from the front," writes Mike D'Angelo at the AV Club. "Linda Cardellini, so memorably vulnerable as Lindsay on Freaks and Geeks, gives a terrific, flinty performance as Kelli, who picks up her old life with her husband (Michael Shannon, playing it normal for a change and acquitting himself well) and kids and goes back to her previous job as a factory worker, but finds it nearly impossible to adjust to mundane reality, even as she repeatedly insists that nothing especially traumatic happened to her in Iraq…. The film's circular ending struck me as a bit too tidy, and Mad Men's John Slattery, while quite funny, doesn't entirely convince as a good ol' boy with whom Kelli bonds at an AA meeting. But Return is precisely the sort of promising first effort that festival sidebars were created to showcase." More from Mark Adams (Screen) and Todd McCarthy (THR). Interviews with Johnson: Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay, Quinzaine and Basil Tsiokos — for indieWIRE, where Brian Brooks interviews Cardellini.
For Jordan Mintzer (THR), Kamen Kalev's second feature, The Island, is "a film that's as far from his gritty debut, Eastern Plays, as can be imagined. Part amour fou two-hander, part offbeat psycho-spiritual thriller, its ambitions wind up far outweighing its accomplishments." Daneel (Thure Lindhardt) and Sophie (Laetitia Casta) travel from Paris to Bulgaria, "wind up crashing at a run-down monastery on a remote isle, and then Daneel begins to lose his mind… Kalev (who also wrote the screenplay) takes a detour into Lynch and Tarkovsky territory, though his storytelling skills and aesthetic prowess are below the level needed to sustain a narrative that creeps further and further towards quirksville without completely justifying its choices." In Screen, Lisa Nesselson disagrees: "From the opening scene in which Alejandro Jodorowsky gives a Tarot reading to the unpredictable multiple endings, this careening film has the courage of its convictions. It's a love-it-or-hate-it affair."
"Moroccan filmmaker Leïla Kilani makes a striking and intriguing fiction feature debut with Sur La Planche, the moody and impressively off-kilter story of two young Casablancan women delving into a life of petty crime in Tangier's old town." Mark Adams in Screen: "Balancing plenty of dark close-ups… with starkly bright scenes of [the women] at work in a soulless shrimp factory, the film offers a pacy and often decidedly unnerving glimpse into life in Tangier, eschewing any predictable scenes of the historic town and focusing on the underbelly of the city." Trailer and interview.
Alejandro Landes's Porfirio is "about a man, paralyzed after being shot by police, who grows so desperate for state compensation that he hijacks an airliner with two grenades hidden in his diaper," explains Juan Forero for NPR. "What may be even stranger is that it's a true story — and in the film, the hijacker plays himself." Barbara Scharres for the Chicago Sun-Times: "Actual events reenacted in the film by non-professional actors, including the original central figure in the story, Porfirio Ramirez Aldana…. The director spent five years working with his subject and his family to develop their trust, and only revealed to the man a few days before shooting began that he would play himself. This is a film that demands patience because it is in large part a study of the life that was the catalyst for such an extreme action. The circumstances of the hijacking are revealed only in the final ten minutes. This is not a heist film, but a realistic look at a man whose outsized personality is at odds with the disability that was caused by a policeman's stray bullet. It's a study in what Landes refers to in the press notes as 'the notion of the body as prison to the soul.'" More from Kirk Honeycutt (THR) and Blake Williams (Ioncinema). Micropsia average: 6.625. Quinzaine posts an interview.
For the THR's David Rooney, Isabelle Lavigne and Stéphane Thibault's "shapeless and only sporadically engaging documentary," At Night They Dance, "cries out for tighter focus and more illuminating context."
"While the US has mumblecore," writes Jordan Mintzer in THR, "France has its very own brand of chatty indie movie best described as 'navelcore': the art of reciting pseudo-philosophical dialogues while smoking cigarettes and occasionally staring out the window. The latest such specimen is debutants Valérie Mréjen and Bertrand Schefer's Iris in Bloom (En Ville), a low-budget love story between a teenage girl and older photographer which is not without its subtle charms — especially the lead turn by Lola Créton — but is too trifling an affair to find much traction outside Gaul." Domenico La Porta holds out a bit more hope in Cineuropa.
Screen's Mark Adams: "Ruben Östlund's thoughtful and occasionally harrowing film Play, about youngsters in Sweden being harassed and robbed of their mobile phones and wallets by a gang of other youths, is a fascinating exercise in psychology in a specific social environment, and makes and interesting companion piece to the director's last film Involuntary, that screened in official section in Cannes in 2008." Ryland Walker Knight for Cargo: "Colleagues mention Haneke, in particular Code Unknown, but the formal strategies here, where the frame dictates the space but is free to adjust, via sliding or zooming as the scene may require, never totalize or over-determine the argument in any given shot/scene. In fact, all these subtle shifts help free the film from ideology, though there is also an argument being made about what roles we're given to play — based on every factor in our being, be it skin color or home life or hobby or shoes — in the modern metropolis." The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris: "Östlund wants to point out and send up what he perceives as Swedish permissiveness and paralyzing political correctness." But "there's no hope of expecting insight to come from the kids. The movie has none to impart, either. It's a cheap provocation designed to indulge your worst suspicions and fears but without the intellectual rigor to do more than toy with us." THR's Todd McCarthy finds Play "festooned with too much formalistic baggage," but for Daniel Kasman, this was "one of the festival's finest." Quinzaine has an interview. Micropsia average: 6.04.
"There have been enough masterpieces tackling the martyrdom of Joan of Arc that the story is effectively burned into the consciousness of any film history buff," writes Blake Williams for Ioncinema. "Auteurs with names like Bresson, Dreyer, Besson, Fleming, and Rivette have handled the intense tale with considerable style, flair, and/or austerity, and now Philippe Ramos attempts to stake claim in that collective with his own adaptation, The Silence of Joan. Unfortunately, the results are much less than incendiary. His incarnation silences the complexities of Joan's plight in favor of indulgent ellipses that adds little to the emotion and rigor found in the prior, classic representations." For Jordan Mintzer (THR), the film "suffers from shoddy production values and tedious storytelling, while Clémence Poesy's leading turn fails to bring the legend to light." More from Fabien Lemercier (Cineuropa). Micropsia average: 5.525.
"Promising new talent Alice Rohrwacher explores a young girl's troubled Catholic confirmation in the gritty coming-of-age dramedy, Corpo Celeste," writes Jordan Mintzer in THR. For Screen's Lee Marshall, the film "plays like a southern Italian Dardenne brothers fable, mashed up with a critique of Catholicism that recalls a certain strand of neo-Neapolitan auteur cinema." Agnieszka Gratza for Sight & Sound: "Rohrwacher's sensitive portrayal of local realities steers clear of stereotypes and captures something of the region's gritty appeal through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl, Marta." At Cineuropa, Fabien Lemercier finds it "successfully unites… immersion in the psychology of isolation and tragicomic caustic humor; contemplative depth and under-the-surface violence; everyday minimalism and theological infinity."
"It is a odd concept to construct a coming-of-age tale around a recently retired 67 year-old man, but writer/director Rúnar Rúnarsson's moving and neatly made drama manages to do just that, driven by a powerful and nicely uncompassionate performance by Theódór Júlíusson as a man who finds a reason to live at the most unlikely of time in his life." Screen's Mark Adams: "On the surface Volcano is a bleak and gloomy story, but it develops into a tender tale…the final chapter of a love story between two ordinary people set against a simple suburban landscape in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik." In the Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney notes that "Rúnarsson's debut feature explores universally relatable experiences. There's the shock to the system that retirement brings to many men whose sense of purpose is defined entirely by their work; the difficult realignment of a couple's dynamic when that man is suddenly home all day; the cold terror of almost losing a loved one; the questions about quality of life when motor skills and brain function are impaired; and the need of the healthy partner to assume care-giver duties, regardless of the impracticalities." More from Boyd van Hoeij at Cineuropa. Interview.
"Almost everyone gets sick or injured in Busong, and healing comes in the form spirituality, nature and discovering one's roots." Maggie Lee in THR: "Aureaus Solito, who moved on from the prepossessing Manila-set gay coming-of-age charmer The Blossoming of Maximo Olivero to dipping his toes in Christo-shamanism in rural Philippine culture in the lesbian fantasy Tuli, scuba-dives headlong into recondite mysticism. He culls indigenous myths, music, dialects and shamanistic beliefs and practices belonging to his mother's native Palawan region, and sprinkles them whimsically around a non-linear and generally incomprehensible tale of tribal life, death and rebirth." A 5.4 average at Micropsia.
Sion Sono's "romantic camp fest Love Exposure (2008) was spectacularly over the top, but the self-consciously gritty Guilty of Romance (Koi no Tsumi) falls way under," finds Howard Feinstein in Screen. "Three interwoven stories of women from different social and economic strata seeking sexual pleasure in raw, unconventional ways, it is like a weak brew of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and the Japanese pink film, the soft core porn genre, that falls flat in both the character study and humour departments, which Love Exposure had succeeded so well in executing." Twitch's Todd Brown: "Throughout his career Sono has proven himself an auteur of inner darkness, a director given to exploring primal urges that most often end in bloodshed. Though always dark, it seems that his recent excursion into true crime stories has pushed Sono to new extremes as he paints his savage portraits of real life brutality. Sono is bold with his choices, and fearless, and he gets the same from his trio of actresses, the end result being a picture that will offend many at points and most certainly attract some accusations of misogyny — I personally believe these pictures are more misanthropic, with all of humanity coming off badly regardless of gender — while others will find something disturbing, yes, but also strongly compelling." More from Derek Elley (Film Biz Asia) and Jordan Mintzer (THR). Micropsia average: 8.17. Clips 1, 2 and 3 and an interview with Sono.
"Part ethnographic tone poem, part magical folktale, Belgian director Gust Van den Berghe's Blue Bird is a soulful journey across the savannahs of Togo, West Africa, that ponders the enigmas of life and death," writes THR's David Rooney. "But while its macroscopic vistas make an arresting canvas, the meandering film remains too caught between child's-eye-view simplicity and narrative imprecision to fully engage." More from Mark Adams in Screen.