High time to round up the films at this year's Cannes Film Festival that never saw entries of their own and send them on their way. Today: Un Certain Regard.
"Bakur Bakuradze's The Hunter seems like a ficticious version of Raymond Depardon's Modern Life, a trilogy on farming that was screened in Cannes in 2008," finds Moritz Pfeifer, who also interviews the director for the East European Film Bulletin. "With no soundtrack, no professional actors, little dialogue and a minimalist plot, the film depicts the daily life of Ivan (Mikhail Barskovich) as he peacefully runs his pig farm in one of the less populous areas of northwestern Russia…. Clearly, Bakuradze wants to depict an alternative world, and the spirit of his film is more utopian than its hyper-realistic images suggest."
Grumbles the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt: "There is maybe 10 to 15 minutes of actual story located within this 124 minute slog," and in Screen, Fionnuala Halligan agrees that the "running time is leisurely for a film this dramatically sparse." Marie-Pierre Duhamel here in The Notebook: "Not a 'typically Russian' film, stylistically picturesque, not a film that summons the masters nor provides ready-to-use references: just contemporary cinema."
Andreas Dresen's Stopped on Track, which shares this year's Prize of Un Certain Regard with Kim Ki-duk's Arirang, "is about a family man who learns that he has an inoperable brain tumor, and has at most, three months to live," writes Barbara Scharres for the Chicago Sun-Times. "Frank and his wife tell their two kids the hard facts and the family adjusts to the new normal. The two consult with an array of counselors and are advised things like: enjoy life; be good to yourself; think of the illness as your friend. They take the kids to a water park, and confess to each other that they never wanted to go to Thailand or the Maldives anyway. Frank begins a video diary on his iPhone. The audience was in tears for this one, as the painful yet rewarding experience of living through a family member's progression toward an inevitable death played out."
"Before the film's Cannes debut, Dresen told the audience the film was completely improvised without a script," notes the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. "Strangely, it doesn't feel that way at all as scenes are cleanly acted and the dialogue feel true and close to the bone. Bringing real doctors and health care professionals into the cast undoubtedly helped the actors playing the family and certainly gives a strong documentary flavor to every scene involving treatment and homecare."
More from Allan Hunter (Screen) and Sukhdev Sandhu (Telegraph). Micropsia average: 5.63. Clip.
"Inspired not by the eponymous Hemingway novel but by Victor Hugo's poem How Good are the Poor, the latest film from Marseilles director Robert Guédiguian will strike many as old-school leftie sentimentalism of the most shameless kind," writes Jonathan Romney in Screen. "But, despite the obvious creakiness of its melodramatic narrative, there's no denying the passion, big-heartedness and political conviction that go into The Snows of Kilimanjaro (Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro)."
It's a "very Pagnol-esque moral tale about an aging couple dealing with the aftereffects of a robbery," writes Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter. "And though like in any Guediguian flick (Marius and Jeannette and The Town is Quiet, to name a few), there are moments that veer towards preachiness, the narrative actually works through some tough issues, even if the outcome suggests a certain loosening in the director's political stance."
The Playlist's Kevin Jagernauth finds the film "slight, flirting with big ideas but winding up with easy answers instead." Micropsia average: 4.36.
"A closeted homosexual has the hots for his brawny nephew in Skoonheid [Beauty], a plodding South African drama that feels like a short film stretched into a feature, and fails to find its rhythm," writes Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter. But Screen's Lee Marshall finds Oliver Hermanus's second feature to be "a slow-paced but effective portrait of a kind of apartheid of the mind… Reminiscent of a certain strain of austere Latin American cinema that includes Carlos Reygadas (Silent Light) and Rodrigo Moreno (El Custodio), the film derives much of its force from the way structure, rhythm and framing play the same tense waiting game that the protagonist himself is engaged in. A lot of weight is placed on the performance of Deon Lotz, and he rises to the challenge, investing François, the frustrated family man at the centre of the story, with a thermonuclear mass of repressed energy."
Glenn Heath Jr at the House Next Door: "Hermanus does an excellent job of constricting space, using a combination of slow pans, tilts, and zooms to lead the audience's gaze through a maze of cramped interiors (the opening shot is especially brilliant). This deeply disturbing jaunt lulls the viewer into a rhythm of sameness before destroying all notions of safety through graphic sex scenes and violence. Skoonheid is a dynamic character study of a human cannonball waiting to rip through the walls of lifelong repression." Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa: "Almost flawless, the film may have deserved a Competition spot this year, but its success in Certain Regard augers well for the director's future." Micropsia average: 2.4. Clip.
For Jonathan Romney, writing for Screen, Hong Sang-soo is "a master of everyday misunderstandings and embarrassments. Since 2002's The Turning Gate, Hong has worked on a deliberately spare canvas — repetitively, according to his detractors. But for his fans, Hong refines his ever more refined miniatures with a consistency, delicacy and philosophical wit that make him comparable to the late Eric Rohmer. The prolific Hong last year gave us both Hahaha and Oki's Movie and has quickly followed up with The Day He Arrives, a crisp little gem that one's one of his best recent films, showing his miniaturist's mastery to highly accessible advantage."
"It is a sparser Groundhog Day done by Hong, in black and white and with copious alcohol," writes Daniel Kasman here in The Notebook. "A young retired film director returns to Seoul and decides to meet his old friend, and before, during and after that encounter he runs into numerous other filmmakers — this surreal Seoul seems populated nearly entirely by production crew — drunkenly looks up his ex-girlfriend, and hangs around a bar whose owner looks exactly like — and indeed is played by the same actress as — his ex. And then the next day comes, and it proceeds with déjà vu echoes as the previous one, yet with different turns of each encounter, results of each conversation — Hong's cleverness is too subtle to make it clear time is repeating, and instead it just becomes slightly odd, like a jump in logic from a dream, that we never see our hero sleep, that each encounter seems similar to the previous night's yet the characters seem to vaguely recall the past."
"That Kyungjin and Yejeon are both played by Kim Bokyung, and the women are such easy pushovers (they respond equally docilely to his irresponsible parting rhetoric and even send him loving SMS with exact same wording) gesture at the possibility that this is just a male fantasy that's going on inside oafish and physically non-descript Yoo's head," suggests Maggie Lee in the Hollywood Reporter. "It is true that Hong gives a new inflexion to the art of filmmaking in each film, even if his template of characters (male artist, his friend and the women he sleeps with) seem to go through the same groundhog day of sex, booze, self-examination and self-deceit. However, after 12 films, one wonders if there is more for the audience than the self-satisfaction of getting an in-joke or a charade."
Why, wonders Glenn Heath Jr at the House Next Door, "does The Day He Arrives feel so genuine and sad where some of the director's other film's come across as pedantic and shallow? Here, Hong is less concerned with the potency of his character's pain and more with the extended duration, the longing inherent to the process. This ends up making all the difference. He measures the repeating stories and mistakes with an attention to overlapping time, giving each personal moment of déjà vu a hazy importance."
Averaged grade at Micropsia: 7.71. Jean Noh has a Proust Questionnaire for Hong at KOBIZ. Trailer.
For James Rocchi, writing at the Playlist, Cristián Jiménez's Bonsái "is exactly the kind of film that whispers when other films shout and gets overlooked in the hue and cry. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't speak the truth, or that what it's saying isn't heartfelt, articulate and funny. You have to lean into a film like Bonsái so you can see how intricate, simple and elegant it is, even at what seems like a smaller scale."
Karina Longworth for the Voice: "Based on a novella by Alejandro Zambra, Cristián Jiménez's second feature begins with a voiceover spoiler: 'At the end of this film, Emilia dies and Julio remains alone.' In chapter segments, Jimenez shuttles back and forth between two time periods: literature undergrads Emilia (Nathalia Galgani) and Julio (Diego Noguera) meet at school in idyllic Valdivia and fall in love; eight years later, Julio, now living in Santiago and casually sleeping with his neighbor Blanca (Trinidad González), begins to write a novel about a man looking back on his first serious relationship — a veiled gloss on Julio's own memories of Emilia…. Bonsái is most moving as a testament to shared experience, to an art work's power to serve as a meeting place for multiple minds, even if only temporarily. It's the essential lure of the film festival in miniature."
More from Lee Marshall in Screen. Listening (10'48"). Eugene Hernandez talks with Jimemez for the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Grades at Micropsia average 5.66. Trailer.
"Roughly speaking, gekiga (dramatic pictures) is to manga (whimsical drawings) what the graphic novel is to the comic book," explains Fionnuala Halligan in Screen. "Yoshihiro Tatsumi started the movement in 1957. That's really all the knowledge the viewer needs to appreciate Eric Khoo's Tatsumi, an animated tribute to the 75-year-old artist. That, and a little bit of patience as the film haltingly finds its way into its subject. The stories will do the rest."
"Khoo adapts five of his short stories for the screen and interweaves them with the artist's life, distilled from his 800 page graphic biography A Drifting Life," writes Maggie Lee in the Hollywood Reporter. "While it evinces a mood that is unutterably sad, yet indescribably beautiful, the sinister and decidedly adult subject matter may scale down its widespread marketability, but 'otakus' of Japanese manga and anime will take to this like fish to water."
"Tatsumi's voice in his Osakan dialect and a constant attention to accuracy make one think that the film is Tatsumi's as well as Khoo's," finds Marie-Pierre Duhamel here in The Notebook. Micropsia average: 6.59. Trailer.
Nadine Labaki's Where Do We Go Now? is "a serious musical comedy about a small Lebanese town where the only thing saving the Muslims and Christians from killing each other is its feisty, funny women," writes the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris. "Any filmmaker looking for clues about how to make dissonant tones and events cohere should study this movie. I don't how you'll learn anything since, Labaki — whose previous film is the almost-as-good Caramel — never shows any seams."
"The film’s blend of pathos, broad comedy and the occasional musical number is a little lumpy," finds David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. "Written by Labaki with Jihad Hojeily and Rodney Al Haddad, in collaboration with Thomas Bidegain (who scripted Jacques Audiard's A Prophet), the film takes an unorthodoxly buoyant approach to solemn subject matter. This mostly works, but Labaki doesn’t have the lightest touch with the comedy. The characterizations tend to be drawn large, and too many scenes escalate into all the women squawking and flapping about in exaggerated states of agitation. That makes it harder to invest in the story's moments of genuine tragedy."
"Charmingly good-natured and well-intentioned, if occasionally overwrought," finds Fionnuala Halligan in Screen. Kenneth Turan interviews Labaki for the Los Angeles Times. Micropsia average: 3.125. Clip.
"The dismal life options that can induce a pimp to whore out his girlfriend, and for her to go along with it, are laid out in prosaic yet vivid fashion in the Romanian drama Loverboy," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy. "The second feature, after The Way I Spent the End of the World, which showed in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2006, by Catalin Mitulescu, is dominated by sullen young men in sunglasses bombing around forlorn landscapes on scooters and in sports cars and generally having their way with teenage girls with prospects even more meager than their own…. Loverboy stars George Pistereanu and Ada Condeescu, both of whom debuted last year in Florin Serban's If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle, which was co-written and produced by Mitulescu."
Barbara Scharres for the Chicago Sun-Times: "I know from the press notes that he was eager to make a powerful social statement with Loverboy and had spent long hours getting to know just such men and their women in backwater Danube ports. Unfortunately, it's the kind of story that has been told so many times that it's almost a sub-genre. The trajectory of these two lives is quite predictable from the start."
"Not only is the lead character a muted degenerate whose selfishness is never in question, making the central love story completely unbelievable, the film's aesthetics are sluggish and drained of any creativity," finds Glenn Heath Jr at the House Next Door. "Cannes had a few slogs, but this one felt particularly dour."
More from Marie-Pierre Duhamel here in The Notebook, Dan Fainaru in Screen and Bénédicte Prot at Cineuropa. Averaged grade at Micropsia: 5.18. Clips: 1, 2 and 3.
"Na Hong-jin follows up his acclaimed The Chaser with a nearly identical exercise in bloodsport called The Murderer [aka The Yellow Sea]." Mike D'Angelo at the AV Club: "This time, Ha Jung-woo plays the antihero and Kim Yun-seok is the homicidal badass, although we really never encounter anybody with even a smidgen of conventional morality." The film "is little more than a feature-length audition reel for Hollywood studios. And it just might work: Na stages automotive destruction with the same degree of choppy incoherence as Michael Bay, shooting everything from ten different angles and then juxtaposing all of them in under five seconds, the better to create a nonstop sensation of visual assault."
But for the Playlist's Kevin Jagernauth, this is "an electric, epic crime thriller that should launch the director into top tier of South Korean film directors alongside Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook." It's "one of the smartest and most inventive action films this year and unlike anything coming out of studios big or small on this side of the ocean. It’s a refreshingly original story, with a darkly funny, demented and memorable baddie (Myun is a character for the ages and gets some of the film’s biggest laughs), crackling tension and exciting, unpredictable action."
Ju Sung-chul interviews Na Hong-jin for KOBIZ. Micropsia average: 7.62. Trailer.
"The heavy price of high office provides the meaty subject matter for The Minister (L'Exercise De l'Etat), an involving if overly obvious political drama from Versailles director Pierre Schöller." Allan Hunter in Screen: "A solid central performance from Olivier Gourmet and the minutiae of policy decisions on transport networks and union militancy will resonate with audiences in Francophone territories but will hold less weight for those accustomed to the cut and thrust of The West Wing or satire both gentle and savage from such television stalwarts as Yes, Minister or The Thick of It."
Jordan Mintzer in THR: "Dardenne Bros (credited as producers) regular Gourmet offers up his usual frenzied, sweatbucket antics, adding nuance to a character who exists more as a reaction to surrounding forces than as a distinct personality. As he faces an army of cabinet enemies and tries to keep his office afloat, Saint-Jean barely has time to stop and think — or see his family, beyond a run-and-gun sexual encounter with his wife (Arly Jover) — and the same could be said for Schöller's vision, which dishes out tons of ideas without ever holding onto one long enough to provide substantial dramatic pull."
More from Barbara Scharres, dispatching to the Chicago Sun-Times. Micropsia average: 6.05. Clips: 1 and 2.
"An observational study as much as a dramatic story, Toomelah successfully conveys a 10-year-old boy's perspective on the miserable limitations of life in an Aboriginal Australian community but doesn't really have much new to say about the plight of the have-nots," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy. This is an "estimable display of the talents of writer-director-cinematographer-composer Ivan Sen, who gained attention with his debut feature Beneath Clouds in 2002 and whose documentary Yellow Fella showed in Cannes' Un Certain Regard in 2005."
"Shot on location using natural light and what feels like largely improvised performances from non-professionals (quite possibly locals themselves), Toomelah is fatally undone by a vein of amateurism that unpicks the warp and weave of authenticity on which that thematic power relies." Matt Bochenski for Little White Lies: "Where films like City of God and Gomorrah run on the rocket-fuel realism that non-professional actors can provide, Toomelah is more studied and naturalistic than those genre movies and desperately needs the gravitas of a great lead performance to anchor the film in a dramatic, cinematic context. This it lacks."
More from Lee Marshall in Screen. Micropsia average: 2.666. Clips: 1 and 2.
"Like the younger son in The Return (2003), who freezes in fear at the top of a tower rather than jumping off a tower into a lake to join his friends, and the husband in The Banishment (2007), torn between whether or not to shoot his best friend who he believes impregnated his late wife, the title character in [Andrei] Zvyagintsev's third feature is caught between a rock and a hard place," writes Howard Feinstein, reviewing Elena for Screen.
IndieWIRE's Eric Kohn: "The title character (Nadezhda Markina), an aging, retired nurse, married wealthy Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov) two years before the beginning of the movie…. Elena's son from an earlier marriage leans on her mother to ask Vladimir for assistance in supporting his family. But the older man resists." Elena eventually "transitions from an observational character study to the familiar (if uniquely brooding) suspense drama."
For Glenn Heath Jr, writing at the House Next Door, "compared to the ambition, scope, and dense character of Zvyaginstev's The Return, Elena feels uniformly small potatoes…. Of course there's the unsettling symphonic score by Philip Glass, which gives the character's mundane daily routine an operatic importance, rousing emotion from an otherwise emotionless character study."
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.