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The Playlist

Cannes Review: Claire Denis Destined To Divide With Disturbing, Salacious 'The Bastards'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • May 21, 2013 11:59 AM
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  • 7 Comments
The Bastards, Claire Denis
If all art is only ever about sex and death, Claire Denis’ Un Certain Regard film “The Bastards” may be the most "artistic" one we’ve seen in Cannes to date, as it rolls around positively shamelessly in the musk of both. Or it may be a grubby little exercise in exploitation, depending on who you talk to. Whichever magnetic pole your opinion is drawn to (and it seems likely even this early on that very few of the responses to the film will share our relative middle ground -- it's a film that has so far not so much divided as cleaved), what’s for certain is that while in its elliptical, fragmentary, non-linear storytelling it bears the hallmarks of a Claire Denis film, in it the filmmaker strays into territory we’d never normally have associated her with, with peculiar and deeply unsettling effect. Fans of her dreamier, long-take, composed photography will be shocked by the choppy, disorienting close-ups we get here (slow opening scene aside), while those expecting any hint of her recurring post-colonialist themes and extraordinary sense of place will be disappointed by a film that eschews all wider politics and geography in favor of an almost generic psycho-sexual thriller plot, which of course ends up anything but generic in Denis’ hands.

Cannes Review: Steven Soderbergh's 'Behind The Candelabra' Puts Dazzling Entertainment On Top Of Toxic Relationship

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 21, 2013 7:17 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Behind The Candelabra
It's almost unfair how easy Steven Soderbergh makes it look. As the filmmaker heads into his hiatus from movie-making, he's spent the few last years dipping between high grade entertainment ("Magic Mike") and accomplished genre films ("Side Effects," "Haywire") and for his goodbye, he's more or less combined the two. "Behind The Candelabra" is a cinematic bauble, that coats typical biopic fare with some real panache and heart. And while this does indeed mark Soderbergh's last hurrah for now, it's likely that a different narrative will soon form around the film. That narrative will surround Michael Douglas, with the 68 year-old actor delivering his best performance in a least a decade if not longer.

Cannes Review: The Rich Also Cry In Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi’s 'A Castle In Italy'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • May 20, 2013 5:22 PM
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  • 2 Comments
It’s hard not to read a degree of self-justification into Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi’s (mostly) French-language comedy-drama “A Castle In Italy,” so we’re not really going to try. We took notice of the film in advance mainly because it made headlines as the Cannes Competition’s sole entry from a female director but as handsomely shot and occasionally diverting as the film is, it’s also terrifyingly bourgeois. For every moment of comedy that lands or drama that touches a nerve, there are ten of “why the bloody hell should I bloody care?” or “cry me a river, you had to sell your Brueghel.” Bruni-Tedeschi undoubtedly has talent both as an actress (she takes the lead role here) and behind the camera , but we can’t help but feel that her dramatic strengths -- familial relationships, odd romances, religious (specifically Catholic) dilettantism -- could have played in a less rarefied setting to more universal sympathy. As it is, detailing the gradual decline in fortune of a rich European family, her film amounts to little more than an occasionally charming glimpse at people whose life events we might relate to, but whose lifestyle keeps getting in the way.

Cannes Review: Admirable Ambition Isn't Enough For James Franco's 'As I Lay Dying'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 20, 2013 11:25 AM
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  • 5 Comments
As I Lay Dying, James Franco
To be certain, James Franco has never been lacking in ambition. From the meta quasi-doc "Francophrenia (Or Don't Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is)" to the Hart Crane biopic "The Broken Tower" to the kinky "Interior. Leather Bar." to the primate co-starring "The Ape," Franco has leapt into filmmaking, taking on challenges and narrative most other filmmakers wouldn't dare to attempt. And while there is something to admire in the ambition of the 35 year-old actor/writer/director's latest venture, "As I Lay Dying," it never amounts to much more than a curiosity.

Cannes Review: Takashi Miike's 'Shield Of Straw' A Tedious, Dumb & Overstuffed Thriller

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 20, 2013 9:00 AM
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  • 4 Comments
Particularly with a filmmaker like Claire Denis shifted to the Un Certain Regard category or Ari Folman's "The Congress" scuttled to the Directors' Fortnight sidebar, many will be wondering what on Earth the Cannes selection committee saw in Takashi Miike's "Shield Of Straw" to have it play in competition (especially considering it already opened a month ago in Japan). A b-movie potboiler at best, and indebted to countless other and much better films, this tedious, dumb, so-bad-it's-almost-funny procedural is an overstuffed thriller that offers one single idea, and proceeds to beat it to death, without much of anything to say.

Review & Recap: 'Game of Thrones' Season 3, Episode 8, 'Second Sons' is Goin' To the Chapel

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • May 20, 2013 4:33 AM
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  • 15 Comments
"Game of Thrones" has two things on its mind this week: love makin' and procreatin', and the result is an episode that's operating at a very different speed than the rest of the season. We barely see any of our regulars both old and new, and got to see a lot more of Danaerys Targaryen (like, literally A LOT) and spend some time celebrating the kickoff of wedding season in Westeros. It's once again directed by the excellent Michelle MacLaren, who helmed last week's episode, and really has an eye for staging and an ability to play with pace and focus, resting on characters for an extended period of time, rather than hopping around, which serves the latter half of this season well (also sexy time. And ass). So let's pour some wine and raise a toast to Episode 8, "Second Sons."

Cannes Review: Sprawling, Uneven Crime Saga 'Blood Ties' Falls Short Of Epic Scope

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 19, 2013 2:27 PM
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  • 9 Comments
If there is any movie this year at Cannes that is absolutely brimming with promise on paper, it's Guillaume Canet's "Blood Ties." With an extended cast featuring Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, Matthias Schoenaerts, Zoe Saldana, James Caan, Marion Cotillard, Noah Emmerich and Lili Taylor among others along with a script co-written by James Gray, one wonders how it could go wrong. And while "Blood Ties" isn't a disaster, it's certainly a mess, a sprawling crime saga that endeavours to evoke the great character-driven movies of the 1970s, but never quite lives up to its epic scope.

Cannes Review: ‘Grand Central’ Weaves A Lyrical Tale Of Love And Radiation Around Tahar Rahim & Lea Seydoux

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • May 19, 2013 1:30 PM
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  • 4 Comments
GRAND CENTRAL BY REBECCA ZLOTOWSKI, Lea Seydoux, Tahar Rahim
Director Rebecca Zlotowski scored big in 2010 when her debut feature “Belle Epine” (aka “Dear Prudence”) won the Prix Louis Delluc for best first film, and snagged star Léa Seydoux a nomination for Most Promising Actress at the Césars. Three years on and Seydoux has certainly made good on that promise, with her profile rising ever higher -- in this year’s Cannes she’s one of a select number of actors to have two films in the Official Selection, one of them being her reteaming with Zlotowski on “Grand Central” with Kechiche’s ”Blue is the Warmest Color” in competition being the other.

Cannes Review: 'Seduced And Abandoned' Enjoyably Explores The Surreal World Of Film Financing

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • May 19, 2013 10:45 AM
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  • 4 Comments
It's hardly any surprise for people who follow film news (or read this site) that cinema, at least as far as the major Hollywood studios go, is mostly a dead art. With a shift toward four-quadrant, brand pushing, sequel spawning blockbusters, the days of the $50 million drama are a distant memory. And so here comes James Toback's "Seduced And Abandoned," described by the director as an "uncategorizable" film that finds him teaming with Alec Baldwin, as they set their cameras on the movers and shakers (financially speaking) in the movie biz, while talking to filmmakers and actors about their craft, moviemaking, and much more.

Cannes Review: ‘Borgman’ Delivers A Deliciously Dark, Twisted Cannes Competition Treat

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • May 19, 2013 10:15 AM
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  • 6 Comments
BORGMAN BY ALEX VAN WARMERDAM
Caustic, surreal, creepy, and blackly funny, Dutch polymath Alex van Warmerdam’s “Borgman” is the trickster god in this year’s Cannes competition pantheon. Tonally similar to recent cultish favorites from Yorgos Lanthimos and Ben Wheatley (“Dogtooth” feels like a particularly close and favoured first cousin), there’s also a little Haneke in its chilly dissection of a perfect bourgeois life. But it’s really its own thing, due to the inspired choice to take recognisable archetypes of evil and mischief-making, and let them loose on a crisply contemporary, contained playground in the form of an aspirational, architect-designed modernist house, its gardens, and the lives of the family that lives there.

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