Featured Post

A Contest of Heavyweights

admin   July 5, 2021

Expect a keen tussle for the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize this year because it is, for the most part, likely to be a battle of equals, but do keep an eye on the surprises that the Un certain regard section is bound to spring

By Saibal Chatterjee

Three previous Palme d’Or winners – Jacques Audiard, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Nanni Moretti – are among the 24 directors vying for the top prize at the 74th Cannes Film Festival. Important as that bit of information is, it isn’t the big news. The big news is that one-third of this year’s Palme d’Or contenders – eight of the 24 – are films that were wrapped up last year.

What does that tell us? It is safe to assume that these filmmakers chose to opt out of the Cannes 2020 selection (or sit out other festivals held post-May) so as to be able to bring their films physically to Cannes this year and compete.

The eight 2020 productions in Competition are Weerasethakul’s Colombia-set Tilda Swinton and Jeanne Balibar starrer Memoria, Kirill Serebrennikov’s Petrov’s Flu, Nanni Moretti’s Three Floors, Leos Carax’s opening film Annette, Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta, a 17th century erotic drama set in an Italian convent, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch (which would probably have been the opening film had the festival not been cancelled last year), Bruno Dumont’s France, and Mia Hansen-Love’s Bergman Island.

Films

Serebrennikov will be unable to attend the Cannes Film Festival because he is serving a suspended sentence for embezzlement of government funds (a charge that human rights activists allege is a veiled retaliation against his criticism of the establishment) and is barred from leaving Russia. In 2018, too, the theatre and film director was prevented from making the trip to Cannes, where his musical Leto was in Competition.

Serebrennikov’s latest film Petrov’s Flu, an adaptation of a 2018 novel by Alexei Salnikov described in the synopsis as “a deadpan, hallucinatory romp through post-Soviet Russia”, follows a flu-hit comic-book artist and his family through yet another day as he drifts in and out of bouts of fantasy and a reality in which nothing is as ordinary as it seems.

Also in the Competition line-up is the Hungarian director Ildiko Enyedi, who won the Golden Bear at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival for On Body and Soul. Her new film, The Story of My Wife, starring Leo Seydoux (she has three other films in the festival), Dutch actor Gijs Naber and Louis Garrel, is adapted from a Milan Fust novel of the same name. Enyedi’s debut film, My 21st Century, won the Camera D’Or in Cannes in 1989.

Moretti’s film Tre Piani (Three Floors) tracks a chain of events that alters the lives of the residents of a Rome apartment building where co-existence as parents, siblings and neighbours isn’t the easiest thing to achieve. Moretti won the Palme d’Or exactly two decades ago, for The Son’s Room (2001).

Films at Cannes

Audiard, whose Dheepan won the Palme d’Or in 2015, is in Cannes with Les Olympiades (Paris 13th District), which was shot in the French capital during the pandemic. It follows four youngsters who are friends and lovers. The brief synopsis reads: “Emilie meets Camille, who is attracted to Nora, who crosses the path of Amber. Three girls and a boy redefine what modern love is.”

Carax, whose Annette stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, and Audiard, are among a record seven French directors in contention for the Palme d’Or. Mia Hansen-Love is competing with Bergman Island, in which a filmmaking couple (Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps) spend a summer in the Swedish island of Faro, where Ingmar Bergman lived and worked, with the intention of completing their respective scripts. As the days pass, they find the lines between reality and fiction blurring.

Another Cannes Competition first-timer Julia Ducournau has Titane, headlined by Cannes best actor winner Vincent Lindon (The Measure of a Man, 2015), in the running.

Catherine Corsini with The Divide, which plays out on the evening of a major ‘yellow vests’ protest in Paris; Bruno Dumont with France starring Lea Seydoux in a portrait of an anchor woman, of a country and of the media”; and Francois Ozon with Everything Went Fine, which has Sophie Marceau in the role of a woman whose octogenarian father wants her to help him end his life, complete the French Competition contingent.

Several other directors are vying for the festival’s top prize for the first time – Sean Baker (The Florida Project, Tangerine) with Red Rocket, Israel’s Nadav Lapid with Ahed’s Knee, Finnish filmmaker Juho Kuosmanen with Compartment No. 6), Belgian director Joachim Lafosse with The Restless, and the French-Moroccan Nabil Ayouch with Casablanca Beats.

Films at Cannes

A fictional filmmaker is at the centre of Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s Ahed’s Knee. The protagonist, a filmmaker in his mid-40s, travels to a remote desert village to present a film of his and finds himself contending with two deaths: one of freedom in his country, the other of his mother.

Besides Weerasethakul, the the 2021 Cannes Competition features two Asian directors – Cannes regular Asghar Farhadi and Japanese filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi, whose 2018 film Asako 1 & 2 made the cut. This year, the latter is in Cannes with Drive My Car.

Farhadi’s Ghahreman (A Hero) promises to be precisely the kind of probe into human foibles that the director is known for. The film centres on a man imprisoned for failing to repay a debt. Out on parole for two days, he tries to convince the creditor to drop the case against him in exchange for payment of a part of the sum. But matters do not pan out quite the way the protagonist expects them to.

Hollywood star Sean Penn, who was in the Cannes Competition in 2016 with The Last Face, returns to the Croisette with Flag Day, a film based on a true story about one of the most notorious counterfeiters in US history. It is a father-daughter drama that stars Penn himself opposite his real-life daughter Dylan Penn.

Australian director Justin Kurzel, whose Macbeth was in Competition in 2015, has a film among the award contenders this year. Titled Nitram, the film stars Caleb Landry Jones as a loner who goes on a shooting rampage. It is inspired by the real-life 1996 Port Arthur shooting in which 35 people were killed.

Films at Cannes

Norwegian director Joachim Trier, who competed for the big prize in 2015 with his English-language Louder film than Bombs, has The Worst Person in the World in Competition this time around. The film, a dramedy about a young woman in the throes of an existential angst and a struggle to find true love, rounds off the director’s Oslo trilogy.

Ayouch, a Competition newbie, brings a realistic hip-hop musical to the festival. The film, Casablanca Beats, features many non-pro actors. Set in the Sidi Moumen slum district of Casablanca, the film centres on a bunch of youngsters fighting to break free from the shackles of conservatism and express themselves through music.

Kuosmanen, whose The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, was in the Un certain regard competition in 2016, has moved a step up this year. His new film, Compartment No. 6, set in the late 1990s, is about a Finnish student Laura who travels from Moscow to Murmansk to see ancient rock paintings. The only other passenger in the compartment is an unsociable, glum Russian miner. In the course of the long rail trip through the snow, the ice begins to breaks between the two travellers.

American director Sean Baker gets his first shot at the Palme d’Or with Red Rocket, about a down-and-out former porn star returns to his small Texas hometown, where nobody really wants him back.

Films at Cannes

Chadian director Mahamat Saleh-Haroun, who is no stranger to the Cannes Competition (his fourth feature film, A Screaming Man, won the Jury Prize in Cannes in 2010), is back in the reckoning with Lingui. It is a film about a young mother and her pregnant 15-year-old daughter who have to find a way to get an abortion done in a society in which that is easier said than done.

As always, observers looking to discover new stars of world cinema will focus on Un certain regard, where seven of the 20 films have been made by debutants. The competitive section opens with Onoda, a film by French actor-turned-director Arthur Harari that has been filmed entirely in Japan.

Among the Un certain titles to watch out for are Commitment Hasan, the second part of Turkish filmmaker Semih Kaplanoglu’s Commitment trilogy; Bulgarian filmmaking pair Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova’s Women Do Cry; Arab-Israeli director Eran Kolirin’s Let There Be Morning;and Russian filmmaker Kira Kovalenko’s Unclenching the Fists.

One film this critic would be particularly keen to watch is from Russia – Alexey German Jr.’s House Arrest. The protagonist of the film, David, is a university professor who launches a broadside against the city administration on social media. But instead of the mayor’s questionable dealings being probed, the whistle-blower is put under house arrest on a trumped-up charge. And thus begins a David-versus-Goliath battle.


Featured Post

Stage set for Cannes from July 6. Spike Lee, Cannes Jury Head

admin   March 18, 2021

The Festival de Cannes will be held this year from July 6 to 17 and the organizers have confirmed that Spike Lee will be the President of the Jury of the 74th edition. Prevented last year due to the Covid crisis, the Festival de Cannes opens this new decade with Spike Lee as President of the Jury.

One of the greatest directors of his generation, Lee is also a screenwriter, actor, editor and producer. For 30 years, the tireless Lee has been an astute chronicler of the questionings of his time, with a resolutely contemporary approach that’s never without a dash of levity and entertainment.

Says Lee, “I am very humble in accepting the offer to be the President of the Jury. I have a special place in my for Paris, for France and the Cannes.”

He also fondly recalls that way back in 1986, his very first film ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ was played at Cannes and it was his first introduction to the world of cinema.

According to Pierre Lescure, President of the Festival, “Throughout the months of uncertainty we’ve just been through, Spike Lee has never stopped encouraging us. This support is finally coming to fruition and we could not have hoped for a more powerful personality to chart our troubled times.”

Says Thierry Frémaux, General Delegate, “His enthusiasm and passion for cinema has given us a huge boost of energy to prepare the great Festival that everybody has been awaiting for. The party will be great, we simply can’t wait!”

From July 6 to 17, 2021 on the Croisette, these 12 days will be a celebration of art and creativity, and full of long-awaited reunions. Preparations are in full swing with a large number of films being viewed by the selection committee.

The Official Selection and the composition of the Jury will be unveiled in early June. Surrounded by the members of his Jury, Spike Lee will award the Palme d’Or at the closing ceremony on Saturday, July 17.


Featured Post

Top IFFI Picks: Another Round, Mehrunisa, Wife of A Spy

admin   January 7, 2021

The 51st International Film Festival of India will open with the Indian premiere of the Denmark film Druk internationally known as Another Round  directed by Thomas Vinterberg.

The Danish nominee  for the Best International Film at the Oscars will be screened on January 16 after the formal inaugural of IFFI in Goa. Another Round, Vinterberg’s 110 minute film is a sobering comedy about aging, alcoholism, and friendship between men.

IFFI will also have the World Premier of Sandeep Kumar directed Mehrunisa as a mid-fest film.

The closing film at IFFI will be the India Premier of the historical drama ‘Wife of a Spy’ by Kiyoshi Kurosawa on 24th January. The Japanese film bagged Silver Lion for Best Director at Venice International Film Festival.

IFFI will take place in hybrid format from January 16-24 with social distanced physical screening, digital screenings, press conferences and industry talks. A  total of 224 films from across the globe will be screened during IFFI. This includes 21 non-feature films and 26 feature films under the Indian Panorama films section.

 Another Round, Top Oscar 2021 Foreign Film Contender

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bj8Jmz_srDg&feature=emb_logo

Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang and Thomas Bo Larsen, Another Round won Best Film – the first time a Danish film has won that category in the European Film Awards .

Mikkelsen won the Best European Actor award for his portrayal of lead character Martin, a school teacher who sets out to test a theory that he will improve his life by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in his blood.

Vinterberg, won the Best European Director award and the Best European Script along with Tobias Lindholm.

Another Round was produced  with support from Film i Väst (SE), Danish Film Institute (DK), TV2 Denmark (DK), Eurimages, Netherlands Film Fund (NL), Swedish Film Institute (SE), Netherlands Film Production Incentive (NL) and Creative Europe MEDIA programme.  TrustNordisk is the sales agent of Another Round.

Vinterberg has previously made himself known for films such as Festen (1998) which won the Cannes Film Festival’s jury award and was nominated for Palme d’Or and Golden Globe, Submarino (2010), Jakten (2012) which was nominated for an Oscar and Kollektivet (2016) which was in the main competition in Berlinale.

Mehrunisa, lead role played by 87-year old Farrukh Jaffar

Starring Farrukh Jaffar (Umarao Jaan, Swades, Peepli Live, Sultan, Secret Superstar, Photograph, Gulabo Sitabo), Tulika Baneejee and Ankita Dubey, Mehrunisa directed by  India-born Austrian filmmaker Sandeep Kumar narrates the story of a woman’s lifelong dream.

“To achieve her lifelong dream, an 80 year old actress takes on the male-dominated Indian film industry, and unwillingly becomes a leading advocate for women’s rights,” reads the brief synopsis of the film.

The entire film was shot in and around Lucknow for 25 days with a three-member Austrian crew and all-Lucknow based actors and support crew members.

Wife of a Spy, Venice Film Festival Winner

Cult Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, best known for his forays into horror and the supernatural, tackles wartime Japan.

Starring Yu Aoi and Issei Takahashi, Wife of a Spy (Spy no Tsuma) follows the story of a couple in 1940 in the city of Kobe before the outbreak of World War II. A man accidentally stumbles upon a state secret and tries to bring it to light, while his wife takes action to ensure his safety.

Kurosawa got recognition and fame internationally with his 1997 horror-thriller Cure. In 2015, Kurosawa received the best director Award in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival. Tokyo Sonata won the jury prize in Un Certain Regard in 2008.