Your Flavorwire has done its level best to hit the film festivals of note this year, but we’re afraid our travel budget was running a little too dry after Sundance and SXSW for us to make our way over to Cannes. (We’re even more disappointed than you are.) But we’ve been keeping a close eye on the reviews coming from the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, and have found plenty to get excited about in those dispatches. After the jump, we’ve assembled ten of the Cannes films we’re most looking forward to, with words of encouragement from some of the folks who were lucky enough to get a glimpse. (h/t to IndieWire, for their invaluable CriticWire directory of Cannes reviews.)
We’ve been amped about David Cronenberg’s latest since its first, trippy teasers started appearing a couple of months back, so we’re relieved to hear that it is, according to Hammer to Nail’s Michal Oleszczyk, “a mesmerizing, utterly cerebral inquiry into the current economic crisis as channeled by its main character’s slowly imploding mind. At once a follow-up to eXistenZ in its portrayal of reality’s crumbling façade and A Dangerous Method‘s kissing cousin by virtue of a non-stop blast of brainy talk, Cosmopolis is this year’s Margin Call for the philosophical-minded set.” Time Out New York’s David Fear concurs, “virtually everything works, from the intra-Cronenberg echoes (notably Videodrome, Crash and eXistenZ) on down, sickening and sating in all the right measures; having been one of the most anticipated movies at this year’s festival, it’s now officially one of its best.”
Killing Them Softly
We’ve taken plenty of opportunities in the past to praise The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, so you can only imagine how eagerly we’re anticipating Killing Them Softly, director Andrew Dominik’s five-years-coming follow-up to The Assassination, which re-teams him with that film’s star Brad Pitt. Killing Them Softly was greeted with good — though somewhat reserved — reviews; Indiewire’s Eric Kohn writes, “The director’s gritty, violent and heavily stylized adaptation of George V. Higgins’ 1974 crime novel updates the story to recession-era 2008 and overstates it to the extreme, but Dominik brings a sleek pulp sensibility to the material and melds its topicality to a strange form of scathingly anti-capitalist entertainment,” while The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin writes, “Dominik’s outstanding Killing Them Softly has the rigor and poise of the great American crime pictures of the 1970s.”
Rust and Bone
Another eagerly awaited follow-up, this one to Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet, which was one of the very best films of 2009. Here, the French director teams with Marion Cotillard, who plays a whale trainer who loses both legs yet finds comfort in the friendship of a tough ex-boxer. Film.com’s Eric D. Snider calls it “an emotionally gripping if slightly meandering drama marked by two powerful lead performances,” while France24.com’s Jon Frosch writes, “though Rust and Bone could have been disastrously overwrought (and, let’s face it, probably would have been if it had been made by an American director), Audiard handles things with great sensitivity and considerable – if not quite enough – restraint.”
Director Leos Carax’s first feature film since Pola X came into Cannes under the radar — until it screened for critics, who seem locked in a battle to determine who can best sum up its unique and total peculiarity. But they’re not just calling it weird; they’re calling it great. “Exhilarating, opaque, heartbreaking and completely bonkers,” raves The Hollywood Reporter’s Megan Lehmann, who dubs it “a deliciously preposterous piece of filmmaking.” The Film Stage’s Raffi Asdourian adds, “the funky French filmmaker, who is already known for his somewhat bizarre cinematic sensibilities, seems to have completely eschewed the traditional rules of narrative film for something far more entertaining.” Sign us up!
Gael Garcia Bernal headlines the latest from Pablo Larrain (Post Mortem, Tony Manero), starring as an ’80s-era advertising man who uses his skills in the service of the uprising against Chilean President Pinochet. “No is exactly the kind of film you hope to stumble across at Cannes,” explains The Playlist’s James Rocchi, “a film that hadn’t been on your radar until buzz from too many quarters too diverse to be ignored made you seek it out, discovering a film that’s extraordinarily well-made, superbly acted, funny, human, warm, principled and, yes, as enthrallingly entertaining as it is fiercely moral and intelligent.” Hitfix’s Guy Lodge called it “a hearty celebration of hard-earned democracy spiked with just enough of the director’s acidly crooked humor to remind us whose house we’re in.”
Michael Haneke’s latest was the big winner at Cannes, taking the Palme d’Or (the grand prize, basically), and this was news received with little relief by your film editor, who tends to find Haneke’s cinema of cold misanthropy irritating, infuriating, and cheap (at least in his last couple of films, the US remake of Funny Games and the 2009 Palme d’Or winner The White Ribbon). But, all of that said, the glowing reviews from the Cannes indicate that this may not be typical Haneke: “Amour is striking for its subdued and relatively un-provocative quality,” notes Press Play’s Simon Abrams, while The Film Stage’s Raffi Asdourian calls it “his most humane film to date.”
This reunion of The Proposition director John Hillcoat, screenwriter Nick Cave, and star Guy Pearce was on our list of must-see summer movies, and the Cannes reviews have only increased our anticipation. The Hollywood Reporter ’s David Rooney calls it “a muscular slice of grisly Americana rooted in flavorful Prohibition-era outlaw legend,” and though Variety ’s Leslie Felperin warns “this classy genre piece doesn’t quite leave an emotional burn in the gut the way The Proposition did,” she adds that “for those with a strong stomach for onscreen violence, it will hit the spot.” Pajiba’s Caspar Salmon says it’s “an ably made revenge drama, with wonderful bursts of dark humour, a splendidly evil turn by Guy Pearce as the obligatory baddie, and in Tom Hardy’s Forrest Bondurant, an immediately classic character who in the screening I just saw, won over the audience to the point that they were actually applauding him by the end of the film.”
Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols returns to Cannes with the notably less apocalyptic tale of two lonely boys coming of age over a summer in Arkansas. First Showing’s Alex Billington calls it “a coming-of-age film filled with heart, and passion, and brilliant filmmaking” that “may be my favorite of the fest.” The Guardian ’s Peter Bradshaw is a bit more reserved, but finds it “an engaging and good-looking picture with two bright leading performances” by its young stars. The bigger names are found in supporting roles: Reese Witherspoon plays a small role, while the story’s catalyst is played by the very busy Matthew McConaughey, following up his stellar work in Bernie and Killer Joe. We never thought we’d find ourselves looking forward to new McConaughey films, but there you have it; the guy’s on a streak, and it will hopefully continue here.
The We and the I
Director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) appears to have chosen a tonal and stylistic about-face from his last picture, the big-budget, big-studio Green Hornet, with his latest film: a semi-improvised real-time story of teenagers taking a long ride on a Bronx bus. Some of the reviews have been just brutal (The Playlist’s James Rocchi calls it “a claustrophobic endurance test”), but there have been a few outliers; The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney admits that it is “rambling and unpolished,” but still calls it “idiosyncratic, funny, unexpectedly poignant snapshot of American youth” that “has a scrappy charm that springs organically from the characters and their stories,” while The Guardian ’s Henry Barnes notes “Gondry, a 49-year-old Frenchman, makes a surprisingly successful go of following the babble and switch of young, fast-talking Bronxites.”
Plenty of virtual ink has been spilled over the new film from Precious director Lee Daniels since its premiere last week, most of it centered on a sequence involving Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, a jellyfish sting, and a blast of urine. Yes, word is that The Paperboy may be the only movie at Cannes 2012 to give Holy Motors a run for its crazypants money — no surprise if you’ve ever read or heard any interviews with Daniels, who sounds utterly certifiable. The question is if the nutso camp of Paperboy is on purpose or not. “(A) risibly overheated, not unenjoyable slab of late-’60s Southern pulp trash,” writes Justin Change in Variety, “marked by a sticky, sweaty atmosphere of delirium and sexual frustration that only partly excuses the woozy ineptitude of the filmmaking.” Ropes of Silicon’s Brad Brevet calls it a “weird mix of serious drama and over the top craziness,” while Press Play’s Simon Abrams says it’s “so trite and rabidly campy that you often have to wonder what you should and shouldn’t be laughing at.” Sounds like a can’t-miss movie to us!
Those are our picks — what Cannes movies are you looking forward to?