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    Cannes 64

    By Dorothea Holloway | December 7, 2011

    This article has been published in three parts in German language (1, 2 & 3) on KINO – German Film online and has been published in the print issue of KINO – German Film No. 101 in October 2011.

    In 2007, Ron Holloway wrote about Cannes: »By all counts, the 60th Festival de Cannes (16-27 May, 2007) will go down as one of the best in the distinguished history as the queen of international film festivals. Delegue Artistique Thierry Fremaux achieved a remarkable balance in the Competition, mixing veteran filmmakers with debutants and blending, in particular, Asian entries with films by American mainstream and European auteur directors. Further, the Competition was backed by a high-caliber Un Certain Regard section.«

    I can only repeat Ron’s praise for the festival’s 64th edition (11-22 May, 2011) as well: the Competition was remarkable and the same can be said of Un Certain Regard. Once more, the festival succeeded in having the old masters gracing the »queen« with their presence – from Woody Allen, Nanni Moretti and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne through Aki Kaurismäki, Lars von Trier, Pedro Almodovar and Paolo Sorrentino to Alain Cavalier, Gus van Sant, Kim Ki-Duk and Emir Kusturica (in the jury for Un Certain Regard). Only Terrence Malick hadn’t come to Cannes – or did he after all?

    In any case, his masterpiece The Tree Of Life left a deep impression on me – a wonderful work. And congratulations to the director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki! Ron and I had always played a so-called »Palm Game« in Cannes, with me predicting the winner of the Golden Palm. My prediction was almost always right. And this didn’t change this year, either: when Malick’s film came to an end in the press screening on the morning of May 16, I knew right then: this is the Palm! I wrote in the press screenings guide that Ron was with us.

    From the first image, I was drawn into this expressionist marvel, into the enchanting whirlwind of images, sounds, and also words – Bible quotations, scenes from space, childhood scenes, fleeting music, music growing in crescendo – the Moldau – captive for probably almost an hour by the opulence of the solar system, a cosmic creation: heaven, earth, explosions in outer space, revelling in other galaxies. There’s only been one other occasion – I was a student at the time – when a film touched me to the quick: Les Enfants du Paradis by Marcel Carné. I saw it one whole winter every Sunday at 11.00 in the Dammtor-Kino in Hamburg.

    Then a story unfolds, a story of a family set during the fifties in the mid-West of the USA. The middle one of three sons dies; the loving mother (movingly played by Jessica Chastain) is petrified by pain. The strict father raises his sons with »paternal« severity – mercilessly. There are jumps in time and place, the characterisation is clear and plausible.  At one point, the eldest son Jack is still a schoolchild whom the father wants to raise to become a real man, and, at another point, the adult Jack recounts how complicated his youth was. Sean Penn as Jack is absolutely marvellous, unpretentious and restrained. Brad Pitt is unforgettable in the way he portrays this curiously naive-hard father who wants to teach his sons to box.

    The Tree Of Life began with a hymn to life and enchantingly beautiful images and now the downfall – resurrection? – is evoked: images of nature, spellbound treetops, a woodpecker tapping on a tree-trunk, couples on a beach, a sunset, the atmosphere of a requiem at a haunted salt lake. Then, a voice off-camera says that there is no place to hide from grief. Ron is always there.

    I would also have given a Palm to Le Havre by Aki Kaurismäki. 1992 schrieb Ron in KINO – German Film 45 u. a.: »Catch Aki’s latest cult film – La vie de Bohême – at the International Forum of Young Cinema.« We have always loved him and his films, and now, 20 years later, Kaurismäki has shot another film in the French language, with Timo Salminen behind the camera. I’m quite a fan of Jean-Pierre Darroussin as the police inspector who is looking for the African refugee Idrissa. André Wilms, who is a member of the »Kaurismäki family«, had already appeared in La vie de Bohême and is cast here as the writer Marcel Marx who works as a shoe-shiner to be close to the workers at the harbour. Marcel Marx takes the young Idrissa in and helps him on his journey to London where his mother is living. Even the police turns a blind eye. Aki is telling us a fairytale. Well, why not? We need fairytales with happy ends because we have too few of them. Marcel Marx’s wife is Kati Outinen, another member of the Aki clan for many years. She is called Arletty in the film – I had to think of Marcel Carné again. Perhaps Les Enfants du Paradis is also one of Kaurismaki’s favourite films. The FIPRESCI Prize was awarded to Aki Kaurismäki for Le Havre. Bravo, FIPRESCI!

    50 Years of Semaine de la Critique

    I was given a wonderful present in Cannes this year – the publication 50 Years of Discovery. One can spend hours leafing through this treasure of a book! Gilles Jacob, Jean-Christophe Berjon and Thierrry Frémaux, among others, recall how everything started. Eric Garandeau writes that the »Semaine de la Critique has continued to discover new talent by targeting first and second feature films by filmmakers from all around the world« – you only have to see the names of the filmmakers profiled in the individual chapters to feel that one is passing through a cinematic paradise:

    »The Sixties: Bernardo Bertolucci, Philippe Garrel, Jean Eustache, Jerzy Skolimowski, Dusan Makavejev, Sembene Ousmane …

    The Seventies: Denys Arcand, Merzak Allouache, Victor Erice, Ken Loach, Benoit Jacquot …

    The Eighties: John Sayles, Wong Kar-wai, Amos Gitai, Idrissa Quedraogo, Leos Carax …

    The Nineties: Guillermo Del Toro, Arnoud Desplechin, Jacques Audiard, Andrea Arnold, Gaspar Noe …

    The Millenium: Ronit Elkabetz, Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Bertrand Bonello, KerenYedaya, Julie Bertuccelli …

    La Semaine is still betting on new Talent

    Awards, Directors, Selection-Committees, Acknowledgements and Credits«

    More than 100 film stills in the book evoke wistful and unique memories – a veritable visual treat. On page 42, for example, Pierre Murat writes about Alexey German, the subject of a documentary Ron Holloway was not able to complete (cf. KINO – German Film No. 93/2008). Gregor Sedlag and Barbara Wurm (a KINO contributor in No. 99) plan to complete the documentary, and we hope that friends will be able to help.

    Artistic director Jean-Christophe Berjon hosted a special screening of Eva Ionesco’s My Little Princess to celebrate the Semaine’s 50th anniversary. Thierry Frémaux made a point of being on stage with the director to welcome the lead actress Isabelle Huppert and the talented newcomer Annamaria Vartolomei. In My Little Princess, Ionesco films her own biography about posing to scandalous effect for her mother as a child photo model. The photos shot at the time made her famous overnight in the Paris of the 1970s. An engrossing autobiographical film with outstanding actors and camerawork by Jeanne Lapoirie.

    Melancholia by Lars von Trier

    A Caspar David Friedrich landscape, more night than day, just a fascinating glow in the sky. »Film are images,« I have learned from Ron, and director of photography Manuel Alberto Claro has achieved a masterpiece here. A noble dark stallion gallops through the surreally romantic castle grounds by the sea, Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde strikes up on the soundtrack, and a brilliant white bride in veil stumbles through the undergrowth, roots getting caught up in her veil and pulling her down to the ground. A woman with a child in her arms sinks ever deeper into the mire of a golf course. An oppressive feeling of doom, the planet of Melancholia is approaching Earth, the end of the world is nigh.

    The bride and bridegroom on the road, but they have a problem: their deluxe car is too long and the road is too narrow. The couple are almost too late when they reach a wonderful »fairytale« castle where the bride’s solicitous sister is hosting a stylish celebration of the wedding. It has all the makings of a glittering affair, and the guests are the creme de la creme: Charlotte Rampling (as the mother of the bride), Kiefer Sutherland (the father), John Hurt (the father of the bride), Stellan Skaarsgard (the bridegroom’s father), Udo Kier (the wedding planner) … It could all be so lovely! But the bride is so disinterested, suffers from melancholy – which is also the name of the planet bringing death and destruction. The gorgeous bride is increasingly struck with sadness. She ruins her own wedding. The guests disappear, along with the bridegroom. Is an undefinable arrogance perhaps also merging into this infinite sadness? This is something that never occured to me. It is simply incredible – zum Niederknien – how Kirsten Dunst as the bride Justine evokes this constantly growing depression and the curious trance surrounding her. All of the actors Lars von Trier has cast in Melancholia are fascinating and virtuosos, including Charlotte Gainsbourg as Justine’s sister and Alexander Skaarsgard as the bridegroom. Even though the astronomers hope that the planet may narrowly miss Earth, Justine knows better: that the end of the world is near. She will now be able to support her sister. Or is Justine dreaming all of this? Lars von Trier was awarded the Golden Palm for Dancer in the Dark in 2000. This year, Kirsten Dunst received the award for Best Actress.

    The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius

    Jean Dujardin picked up the award for Best Actor for his role as the silent film superstar George Valentin in The Artist, an homage to the Hollywood of the 1920s. Valentin appears with a cute cocker spaniel who unquestionably obeys him. All of the tricks succeed. We have a ripping good time and delight in this sweet little dog. The Artist was a jewel of gaiety in Cannes’ predominantly serious programme. Moreover, it is simply wonderful what »comes across« just through facial expressions and body language, without any speech. Then the talkies appear. Valentin’s partner Berenice Bejo  makes a career as an actress in the talkies and the silent star disappears. There are a couple of unexpected, delightful surprises. The Artist – with cinematography by Guillaume Schiffman – was one of the favourites in Cannes. At the awards ceremony, Jean Dujardin showed his gratitude by performing a tap dance.

    The lives, fates and problems of boys were portrayed in some of the most impressive films in Cannes. The film title already says it all: The Kid With The Bike (Le Gamin au Vélo) by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne who regularly feature among the prizewinners at festivals. The 12-year-old Cyrill is as unhappy as only an adolescent can be. Not only has his father secretly sold his »one and only«, his  bicycle, but also left his son in the lurch. Cyrill comes into contact with some crooks, but… the Dardenne brothers are the only ones who could allow for such a happy coincidence. Cyrill meets the kindly hairdresser Samantha who lives on her own. She offers to take him in. The way Cécile de France portrays this caring and so understanding, joyful, beautiful young woman  has that unmistakeable, marvellous »Dardenne touch.« We leave the cinema in a happy mood.

    The Jury’s Grand Prix was shared this year between the Dardennes’ The Boy With The Bike (cinematography by Alain Marcoen) with Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da) which brought the festival to an end on a cinematic high note. Moreover, Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre is also about a boy, a refugee who is saved, and was awarded the ARRI Prize for the Best Foreign Production at the Filmfest München.

    The protagonist in We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lynne Ramsay (lensed by Seamus McGarvey) is, from the outset, a peculiarly difficult child; his mother is unable to cope with him and simply can’t relate to him. She tries to put the blame on herself. Tilda Swinton is probably the only one who could play this unhappy mother who suffers from feelings of guilt, yet cannot find any way to relate to her beloved son – he was a Wunschkind – however much she tries in heartbreaking scenes to put up with her son’s bad habits. Kevin become increasingly disobedient the older he gets , except to his father. John C. Reilly is convincing as the father who just hasn’t known anything or closed his mind to all the difficulties and the mother-son drama. Three actors are cast as Kevin; Ezra Miller who plays the 15-year-old opposite Tilda Swinton is a talented lad.

    Michael by Markus Schleinzer

    In a remarkable conversation with Ursula Baatz, the director Markus Schleinzer explains that »in the work on Michael, I was concerned, on the one hand, with narrative content, with the last five months of a life led uner cooercion between a 35-year-old man and a 10-year-old boy. On the other hand, and this was paramount to me, with the ways and means by which one can tell such a story. It’s a film about a perpetrator.« Michael Fuith plays the difficult lead title character with admirable subtelty: Michael is in his mid-30s, keeps to himself in his daily working routine, a friendly bloke, yet, at the same time, he is keeping a 10-year-old boy Wolfgang (very natural: David Rauchenberger) captive like a slave in his cellar – escape is sheer impossible. He provides him with what is absolutely necessary: food, a shower, television, a bed. We are getting the notion that Michael is a paedophile. However, Schleinzer – who worked as casting director from 1994 to 2010 and  coached the children for Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon (see KINO 96/2009) – doesn’t need to show any such activities, hints are sufficient. This is the astonishing thing about this debut film which was lit by Gerald Kerkletz. I watch in interest and am deeply shocked: the everyday and the abominable come together. I hope for a bearable ending. An important film.

    A Masterpiece from Turkey

    An unforgettable wide shot at the beginning of Once Upon A Time In Anatolia by Nuri Bilge Ceylan as three cars travel through a no man’s land at night (Camera: Gökhan Tiryaki). And then, in close-up, the people in the cars on the way to solve a crime, to find the place where a dead man has been buried. Spot-on characterisation of a team of village policemen, the drivers, older men who are both nervous and full of trepidation, while the murderer, fraught with fear, is supposed to find the place where he buried his victim. They are accompanied from the town by the doctor and the state prosecutor who are both concerned that matters could turn out even worse. A night-time operation on the road, a drama. The doctor has to intervene when one of the policemen starts beating the criminal  because he can’t or won’t find the place. But then Gökhan Tiryaki’s camera is faraway again. Ceylan quite rightly shared the Grand Prix of the Jury with the Dardennes brothers this year. In 2008, he had been honoured in Cannes with the prize for Best Direction for Three Monkeys (see KINO 93/2008).The fact that the Turkish economy is so healthy seems to have an effect on the arts as well: in 2006, the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Orhan Pamuk; there was an auction of »Modern Art from Turkey« at Sotheby’s in London in 2010; and Semih Kaplanoglu won the Golden Bear at the 2010 Berlinale for his feature film Honey (Bal) (see KINO 97/2010).

    Sean Penn in two films in Cannes

    Sean Penn appears in the Golden Palm winner The Tree Of Life, but carries the whole film in Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be The Place which won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. What a really strange sight to see Penn as an old rock star all tarted up with back-combed black hair as he scuffles along, dragging a black trolley suitcase behind him. An image that stays in the mind’s eye. Drugs have destroyed his health, his speech is approaching a monotone. He calls himself Cheyenne and trudges across the USA to find an old concentration camp guard who once humiliated his father. Lensed by Luca Bigazzi, this film sees Sorrentino working with some magnificent actors alongside Sean Penn: Judd Hirsch (Mordecai Midler), Harry Dean Stanton (Robert Plath), Frances McDormand (Jane) and Heinz Lieven (the camp guard).

    Stopped On Track by Andreas

    Dresen in Un Certain Regard

    There were standing ovations at the end of the screening of Andreas Dresen’s Cloud 9 (Wolke 9) in Cannes in 2008, followed by the Prix Coup de Cœur audience award and words of praise in KINO 93/2008, among others. This year, Dresen and his marvellous actors so adept at improvisation – including Ursula Werner – were back again in the Official Selection of Un Certain Regard with Stopped on Track (Halt auf freier Strecke) which also featured his »regular« DoP Michael Hammon. It was a resounding success. It’s often the case that Andreas Dresen doesn’t have much more than a basic idea rooted in reality: normal people like you and me are confronted with unexpected problems and strokes of fate (see Gregor Sedlag’s review in this issue). There is another side to Andreas Dresen, though, as he has shown with such films as Summer In Berlin (Sommer vorm Balkon) and Whisky with Vodka (Whisky mit Wodka) based on screenplays by the distinguished author Wolfgang Kohlhaase (see KINO 100/2011). The Grand Prix in the Un Certain Regard sidebar was awarded ex aequo to Andreas Dresen for Stopped On Track and Korea’s Kim Ki-Duk for Arirang.


    In autumn 2007, Ron Holloway wrote a longer piece in Kinema. A Journal for Film and Audiovisual Media about Kim Ki-Duk’s Breath: »With 14 films to his credit in eleven years, South Korea’s Kim Ki-Duk, a director with a social conscience and a style to match, is often compared to another quick-on-the-draw cult director: Germany’s Rainer Werner Fassbinder. And like Fassbinder, Kim tends to repeat himself in depicting the struggles of outsiders to find a place in society at whatever cost … Kim’s festival record is impressive … Venice … Moscow … Locarno … Karlovy Vary … Mar del Plata … Chicago …«

    Meanwhile, in the catalogue for Cannes 2011, Arirang is described as being »about Kim Ki-Duk playing three roles in one. Through Arirang, I climb over one hill in life. Through Arirang, I understand human beings, thank the nature, and accept my life as it is now. Arirang: director – scenario – dialogues – photo – montage – sound -cast – production – Kim Ki-Duk!«

    As in 2010, Korea was also well represented at Cannes’ 2011 edition – not only by the prize-winner Kim Ki-Duk, but also by Na Hong-jin’s feature film The Yellow Sea, short films and Hong Sangsoo’s The Day He Arrives with camerawork by Hyung Koo Kim. Professor Sungjoon, who is also a filmmaker, comes to the artists’ quarter of Seoul Bukchon where there are cafes, galleries and libraries in beautiful old houses, to meet up with an old friend. But the friend doesn’t answer the telephone. Sungjoon strolls through the streets, meets friends, old acquaintances, an actress, film students; he drinks some rice wine on his own, gets drunk. Does all of this happen during one day or two, or three? Strange, he sits down at the piano and begins to play … has Sungjoon really arrived? Yu Junsang plays Professor Sungjoon and also appeared in Hong’s Hahaha which received an award at Cannes in 2010.

    Like Andreas Dresen, Gus van Sant’s Restless (cinematography by Harris Savides) has a profound, moving human fate at the centre. A young girl has only a few months to live – she has cancer. It is remarkable how Mia Wasikowska portrays this dying Annabel  without any exgaggeration. Enoch (Henry Hopper) and Annabel meet by chance at a funeral one day.  He has been crashing funerals ever since he lost his parents at an early age. Although I could sink into deep grief on watching Restless, it nevertheless remains a comforting experience. Once again, here are really young people who have become alienated or have to cope with a difficult fate – something that Gus van Sant can do as his characters are always very credible. (Ron Holloway had written about Gus van Sant in Kinema. A Journal for Film and Audiovisual in 2003 and 2007.)

    Pedro Almodovar & Nanni Moretti

    Two works by master directors that I would happily see again. First up is Nanni Moretti’s Habemus Papam (cinematography: Alessandro Pesci) – because the Pope who realises that he is not equal to the task is played by the singular Michel Piccoli. A godsend. And because Moretti succeeds in treating such a serious subject like a tragicomedy à la Shakespeare. What’s more, Moretti himself plays the psychoanalyst who is supposed to help the newly elected Pope with »some tips«. And there’s another reason: seeing the Polish actor Jerzy Stuhr who will be unforgettable for me as Filip Mosz in Camera Buff (1979) by Krzysztof Kieslowski. Stuhr was, of course, a delight in Habemus Papam as »Le porte-parole«.

    The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito) by Pedro Almodovar – lensed by his »regular« cinematographer José Luis Alcaine – also bears repeat viewing because the surgeon Dr. Robert Ledgard is played by Antonio Banderas. I am an absolute Banderas fan. This Dr. Ledgard has been working and researching for 12 years on the development of a skin which can resist any burning. His »guinea pig« Vera is the glamorous Elena Anaja. I have been a fan of the Spanish filmmaker since Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown (1988) and of his own very special style: the films may be comedic, but Almodovar doesn’t make any comedies (!?), things can be malicious, grotesque and even kitschy and even end up as a melodramatic thriller.

    Directors who couldn’t come

    to Cannes

    In December 2010, Jafar Panahi was sentenced to six years in prison and banned from making films for 20 years. He can move freely until judgement is passed by the court of appeal. His colleague Mojtaba Mirtahmasb shot a video diary with the title This Is Not A Film. He observes Panahi in his flat, shows his everyday life: a discussion with art students, a telephone call with his woman lawyer. Panahi talks about a film he was planning before he was sentenced. We see excerpts from Panahi’s films and the director speaks about his work with actors. In 2006, Ron Holloway wrote in KINO 86 about Panahi’s comedy Offside which won a Silver Bear at the Berlinale.

    Meanwhile, Mohammad Rasoulof’s wife accepted the Prize for Best Direction in the sidebar Un Certain Regard for Good Bye (Be omid e didar) which was the opening film at this year’s Filmfest Hamburg. Like Panahi, Rasoulof has been sentenced to a prison sentence and a 20 year ban on making films, giving interviews and travelling abroad. Good Bye is quiet, low key, and thus all the more convincing. A woman lawyer, Leyla Zareh, goes from one authority to another, including unofficial ones, to apply for an exit visa. Her husband, a journalist, has gone into hiding. The police had already been in the flat looking for incriminating documents. The offices are grey, and Leyla’s face is also ashen. As in Asghar Farhadi’s Berlinale winner Nader and Simin. A Separation, this film is about staying or leaving. It says something about brotherliness among people that these films from Iran were both shown in Cannes. Asghar Farhadi is living now with his family in Berlin by inivitation of the DAAD. He is working on a new movie that plays in Europe. All the best for you!

    The film student from Berlin Doroteya Droumeva won the 15,000 Grand Prix of the short film programme at Cannes’ Cinéfondation for her 30-minute film Der Brief. This includes an invitation to show her first feature film in Cannes. Congratulations!

    The  »Provencal Lunch« given in honour of the media of the Cannes Film Festival by the Mayor of Cannes in the shade of the trees of Place de la Castre in Le Suquet used to always be one of the loveliest and relaxing times in Cannes for me and Ron. This year, I sat under the trees with Gregor.

    Jafar Panahi’s and Mohammed Rasoulef’s sentences have been recently confirmed by an Iranian court.  – Dorothea Holloway

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