Frame to Frame

Films In the Cannes (Part I)

The prestigious Cannes Film Festival is nearing its end and the film industry is abuzz with stories, reviews, pictures, rumors and Lars von Trier’s latest quotes.

There are 20 films competing for the coveted Palme D’Or, with none other than Bobby DeNiro at the helm of the Jury tasked to pick the best of the bunch, and what a task it is. This year’s fest presents a mouthwatering line-up of films sure to have most movie enthusiasts across the globe biting their lips in envy at the few who have the privilege of being there to witness them.

Let’s get one thing out of the way. All 20 films deserve an article of their own (that also goes for the other 21 films presented in ‘Un Certain Regard’) but alas we have neither time nor word-limit for that. Plus we’re a little late to the party. So I’ve taken it upon myself to split up our Cannes coverage (from Montreal) into two pieces and handpicked just a few of the most salient from the 20. Next week’s part two will discuss thoughts on the winners (closing ceremony is May 22nd) and the “losers” that shouldn’t be forgotten. On y va…

We Need To Talk About Kevin (dir. Lynne Ramsey)

Lynne Ramsey is mostly remembered for her startling and audacious debut film Ratcatcher (1999), which tells the story of 12-year-old James living the ghetto life in Glasgow with his alcoholic dad and apathetic mother. Ultra-realistic and emotionally riveting, Ratcatcher torpedoed Ramsey into a prolific independent filmmaker.

Since then, she’s made Morvern Callar (2002), which wasn’t met with nearly enough enthusiasm as her previous slice-of-life piece but added more fans to her base. And then? Nothing. Her unsuccessful adaptation of The Lovely Bones (finally directed by Peter Jackson and universally panned for being garbage) might one day make a great book about the trials and tribulations of filmmaking as it sucked 6 years out of her life (her words).

But she’s finally back with We Need to Talk about Kevin starring the always fantastic Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly as parents of a teenage boy who just committed a high school massacre. This was the first In Competition film to screen and shouts of “Palme D’Or!” already started ringing out across the Croisette.

Word is Tilda Swinton is a shoe-in for the best actress award (no surprise there, she’s pretty untouchable in any role) and the clips, reviews and stills connected with the film all point to one direction: modern-day masterpiece.

With a sense for visual story telling unlike any other, Ramsey’s back in style and if you’re unfamiliar with her work, do yourself a favor and rent Ratcatcher as soon as you can.
The release date for her latest is still TBD for North America.

The Tree of Life (dir. Terrence Malick)

Another absent filmmaker of late, Terrence Malick is notorious for taking ages between his films. This infuriates and delights fans simultaneously (this writer included) because each film becomes almost legendary before it even hits the screens but takes way too long to arrive.

His latest is no exception. A mere 40 years in the making (if you consider that the concept was realized before he made his first film Badlands in the 70s), The Tree of Life went through post-production hell and was slated to appear in Cannes last year but due to various factors has come one year later.

Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, the film has already screened and early word is, as expected, mixed.

Anyone who knows Malick’s work either loathes it for being slow-paced, voice-over heavy and very light in action – or loves it for it telling deep and spiritual stories through gorgeous moving images of nature. The Tree of Life appears to be a culmination of his work to date, with a parallel story of a boy growing up in ’50s era Texas and the creation and evolution of Earth with the ultimate question of mankind’s place in it looming overhead.

Ol’ Terry is a bit heavy to say the least. If you have to see one Malick film see The Thin Red Line (1998), an anti-war film in a league of its own – more akin to rapturous meditation than watching a movie. If you like the beauty of the image and the attempt at a deeper understanding of humanity, Malick is right up your alley.

The Tree of Life starts June 17th in Montreal.

Melancholia (dir. Lars von Trier)

And then there is Lars von Trier. As much as the likes of Ramsey and Malick shy away from the media or are public recluses, von Trier is the enfant terrible that dishes out films every couple of years and loves leaving journalists shocked, puzzled, and more often than not, enraged with his latest comments.

His new film “Melancholia” starring a wonderful cast spearheaded by Kirsten Dunst, screened on Wednesday and after the press conference all anyone could tweet about was von Trier’s remarks on his sympathy to Hitler and his apparent Nazism.

He was, of course, joking but many took him seriously. Now that’s a real joke.

Melancholia is a planet ten times bigger than the Earth, headed towards us to bring about the inevitable End. The film tackles themes of depression and fear in unique ways that only von Trier can conjure up in his mysterious mind and reviews are mostly positive, many praising Dunst’s performance as the highlight of her career.

Reviewers also have commented on how a film with such a premise ends up being quiet serious and important (and, surprisingly, the most subdued in von Trier’s filmography so far). If you are somehow unfamiliar with von Trier’s work, the movie I’d suggest as an introduction is Europa (1991), which has a bit of everything you’d expect from von Trier, on top of being quiet a brilliant and twisted look into the future.

Melancholia has no set release date yet but expect something around Fall.

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