Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Michael Moore Says Clint Eastwood Threatened To "Kill" Him 10 Years Ago, Calls 'American Sniper' A "Mess" Michael Moore Says Clint Eastwood Threatened To "Kill" Him 10 Years Ago, Calls 'American Sniper' A "Mess" Woody Allen’s Next Movie With Joaquin Phoenix & Emma Stone Titled ‘Irrational Man,’  Sony Pictures Classics Nab Rights Woody Allen’s Next Movie With Joaquin Phoenix & Emma Stone Titled ‘Irrational Man,’ Sony Pictures Classics Nab Rights Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel'  Paul Thomas Anderson Says 'Edge Of Tomorrow' Is "F*cking Great," Also Loves 'Grand Budapest Hotel' 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See 10 Unaired TV Pilots By A-List Directors That We Want To See The 10 Best Films Of 2007 The 10 Best Films Of 2007 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans 'Kick-Ass' Creator Mark Millar Says A Hit-Girl Solo Movie Was Once In The Works With 'The Raid' Director Gareth Evans Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones To Lead Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' Reboot 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners 30 Films You Forgot Were Oscar Winners Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Watch: Tom Hardy & Gary Oldman Face Off In The First Trailer For Thriller ‘Child 44’ Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Review: Documentary 'Night Will Fall' Is A Powerful Reminder Of The Horrors Of The Holocaust Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Explains What Happened With 'Grace Of Monaco,' Says He Was Right About 'Snowpiercer' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Harvey Weinstein Says Quentin Tarantino Has Changed The Last Chapter Of 'The Hateful Eight' Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Sundance Review: ‘Slow West’ Starring Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee & Ben Mendelsohn Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: 8-Minute Video Essay Argues Steve McQueen's 'Shame' Is Actually A Critique Of The Modern Metropolis Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' Watch: The Tampon Scene From 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' You Won't See In The Movie Recreated With 'The Sims' "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice "Carry Bolt Cutters Everywhere": Werner Herzog Has 24 Amazing Pieces Of Advice The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point Christopher Nolan Says His Howard Hughes Film Is Dead, But He'd Still Like To Do A Bond Film At Some Point

Cannes Review: Pascal Ferran's Curious Fable Of Alienation 'Bird People' Starring Josh Charles & Radha Mitchell 

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist May 21, 2014 at 12:04PM

At some point or another, every major international filmmaker gets the itch to broaden their audience, and work with big (or biggish) names for a film that, at least in part, is in the English language. The latest director to experiment away for their native tongue is Pascal Ferran, who made a splash eight years ago with her three-hour French adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's "Lady Chatterly." "Bird People," which is in large part in English, and features a number of recognizable faces including Josh Charles, Radha Mitchell and "The Wire" actor (and director) Clark Johnson has its vocal champions here in Cannes, but we were legitimately puzzled by the film, which combines a drab, enervating English-language first-half with a better, but still not entirely successful, second that marks a major departure from what's come before.
0
Bird People

At some point or another, every major international filmmaker gets the itch to broaden their audience, and work with big (or biggish) names for a film that, at least in part, is in the English language. The latest director to experiment away from their native tongue is Pascal Ferran, who made a splash eight years ago with her three-hour French adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's "Lady Chatterly." "Bird People," which is in large part in English, and features a number of recognizable faces including Josh Charles, Radha Mitchell and "The Wire" actor (and director) Clark Johnson has its vocal champions here in Cannes, but we were legitimately puzzled by the film, which combines a drab, enervating English-language first half with a better, but still not entirely successful, second that marks a major departure from what's come before.

After a brief prologue in which Ferran delves into the thoughts of passengers on a train, we settle into the confines of Paris, Charles De Gaulle airport. In the first half, Charles' Gary Newman (a name which got unintentional laughs from us every time, both because of its thudding obviousness, and because if made us think of the singer of "Cars"), an American on a business trip, en route to Dubai, seems to be hit by a sudden mid-life crisis, and announces that he's quitting his job in the middle of a crucial deal, leaving his wife (Mitchell) and children, and staying in Europe.

Bird People

In the second half, Audrey (Anais Demoustier) is a young woman in her early twenties, working as a maid in the airport hotel in which Gary's staying. She's fascinated by the inner lives of the guests, which in part leads her up to the roof one night where something very unexpected happens. To say too much would be to ruin the film's surprise, and you probably need that to at least pick you up after the film's first half.

Which, it should be said, is dire. Ferran's intention appears to be to show the act of a man blowing up his own life from an almost procedural aspect, with phone calls to employers, attorneys and loved ones where he tells them what he's up to, if not why (it's an interesting companion piece to the recent "Locke" in some ways). But by only very vaguely hinting at Gary's reason for doing so, and keeping him at arm's length, the director makes the whole of this first hour kind of a shrug, and we'd basically checked out by the end.

Bird People

Particularly patience-stretching is an extended Skype call to his wife, played out over 15 minutes or so, essentially cutting between a single shot of Charles, and another of Mitchell on a laptop monitor. The actors do their best with the it's-ok-we-ran-it-once-through-Google-Translate dialogue, but it's still stilted and counter-intuitive, and pretty much makes you despise the characters (it might well be deliberate that they don't mention their children until the end of the call, but it still feels like a major omission).

Things do certainly pick up in the second half, which features some stunning aerial photography and effects work, and a certain sprinkling of magic. It's also here that Ferran's overarching theme of alienation and loneliness clicks into place, which does at least help to make sense of the first half, though it can't retroactively make it any less dull.

Bird People

Colleagues we love and respect were raving about this selection here in Cannes, but we have to confess that, even while we liked it more, we still felt a fairly profound disconnect: there are moments of beauty and charm, but also ones that felt rather broad, like an extract from a live-action Disney movie or something. It is fitfully interesting, but nearly broke our twee detectors.

We'll say this in favor of "Bird People" — it's very different from anything on the Croisette this year, and indeed from any of Ferran's earlier films. But the whole thing landed with a bit of thud: we just found it too oblique, too delighted with itself, and frankly, too dull, to admire it much. It's probably a good thing that it exists, but it's not for us. [C]

Browse through all our coverage of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival by clicking here.

This article is related to: Cannes Film Festival, Reviews, Review, Radha Mitchell


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates