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The Playlist

Marrakech '12 Review: 'Mushrooming' A Pitch Black Comedy With A Pitch Perfect Cast

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 17, 2012 6:57 PM
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  • 0 Comments
We must confess to being rather behind the curve when it comes to recent Estonian filmmaking, but if we'd hazarded a guess what it might look like prior to watching Toomas Hussar's “Mushrooming,” going on a purely geographical basis we’d have aimed for somewhere halfway between a Finnish film and a Polish film. And Estonia's official entry for the Foreign Language Film Oscar, which takes the absurdist, deadpan humor of an Aki Kaurismaki, and gives it a certain Eastern European social realist spin, would not have disappointed. A darkhearted black comedy with satirical elements, it features a strong cast who negotiate the genre’s notoriously tricky tonal balance well, even managing to sell some of the script's more outlandish contortions. And while all three principals are excellent, perhaps Elina Reinhold has the trickiest arc to achieve, but she accomplishes it so well, with such a light touch, that it brought her a well-deserved Best Actress award at the Marrakech Film Festival.

John Boorman Talks Almost Making 'Lord Of The Rings,' Working With Marcello Mastroianni, What He's Doing Next & More

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 17, 2012 11:02 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Veteran director John Boorman, president of the Jury at the Marrakech International Film Festival last week, has had an interestingly checkered career of era-defining highs ("Deliverance," "Point Blank") and baffling, outlandish lows ("Zardoz,""Exorcist II") and all points in between. Now nearing 80, the director, in addition to his presidential duties, was the subject of a "Conversation with…" evening, during which time he reminisced and curmudgeoned in a profane, often hilarious manner, following a showing of his daughter Katrine's documentary about him, "Me and Me Dad." Unfortunately we missed the film, but heard good things about it, and the “Conversation with...” went a long way to making up for that in sheer entertainment value.  Essentially as often in his career, Boorman gave the audience exactly what they wanted: lots of gossipy anecdotes about the people he's worked with, and plenty of Billy Wilder quotes. Here are a few choice findings from the evening.

Gemma Arterton On The "Dirty, Filthy Underworld" Of 'Runner, Runner' & The Difficulty Of Finding Quality Roles For Women In Hollywood

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 13, 2012 3:18 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Last week at the Marrakech Film Festival, we got to sit down in a small press group with jury member Gemma Arterton. She’s an actress who for a while seemed to be following a fairly standard route, especially for a British starlet, following up her first film “St Trinian's” with some period TV before landing a Bond girl role in “Quantum of Solace.” However, since that breakout, while she’s done studio fare (“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” the upcoming “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”), we’ve also seen her skew more eccentric with some of her choices, taking small, British films like “Tamara Drewe” and “Song for Marion" along with edgy indie thriller "The Disappearance Of Alice Creed," and she boasts a forthcoming lineup that promises much more interesting fare to come.

Interview: James Gray Talks Working With Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix & The Central Crisis Of American Cinema

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 12, 2012 3:50 PM
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  • 19 Comments
A definite high point of our Marrakech International Film Festival was not only getting the chance to talk with director James Gray (“Two Lovers,” “We Own The Night,” “Little Odessa,” “The Yards”) about his upcoming directorial and writing projects (see our previous coverage here and here), but also having the time to let the conversation spin off, through some of his past experiences, and into a more general discussion about the state of contemporary U.S. cinema. Gray’s perspective as a commentator is of course informed by the kind of filmmaker he is: in his assessment of U.S. cinema being in a state of deep crisis, it is hard not to see a man arguing forcefully for his own livelihood.

Marrakech ‘12 Review: ’The Attack’ Is A Gripping, Suspenseful, Fearless Drama Set Around A Suicide Bombing

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 11, 2012 7:01 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Something about its portrayal of a nightmarish descent into a previously inconceivable reality had us comparing Marrakech Film Festival Grand Prix winner “The Attack” to Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt.” But the crucial difference is that while the Danish film is preoccupied with social concerns, “The Attack” plunges head first into one of the thorniest, most intractable political arenas imaginable: Arab/Israeli relations. It’s an audacious undertaking, to set a narrative, almost genre, feature film in a situation whose complexities and sensitivities might make the most engaged of us a bit gunshy, but Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri almost wholly pulls it off, delivering a film that engrosses and impresses like a thriller, even as it strays deep, deep into the belly of the beast.

Darren Aronofsky Says 'The Fountain' Was Too Expensive, Talks Connecting 'Noah' With Modern Audiences & More

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 11, 2012 11:18 AM
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  • 4 Comments
One of the most predictably oversubscribed events at the Marrakech International Film Festival this year was Darren Aronofsky’s masterclass. Lasting nearly two hours, however, and delivering a retrospective spin through the five feature films that make up his back catalog, as well as a few nuggets about the forthcoming “Noah,” it actually most caught fire when the proceedings were opened up to the audience. In this section, Aronsofky was at his most forthcoming and engaged, happy to share his expertise with the many film students who got questions in, and passionate in his encouragement of young local filmmakers.

Terence Stamp Talks Destiny, Vanity & His Thoughts On Michael Shannon Playing General Zod In 'Man Of Steel'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 11, 2012 10:05 AM
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  • 7 Comments
One of the most whimsical and enjoyable interviews of our time at the Marrakech International Film Festival came courtesy of iconic British actor Sir Terence Stamp (“Superman II,” “Far from the Madding Crowd,” “The Limey,” among many others), who was in town to present his latest film “Song for Marion” (our review from TIFF is here), in which he stars with fellow Marrakech jury member Gemma Arterton and Vanessa Redgrave. Stamp’s career stretches back to the early ‘60s, when his otherworldly handsomeness saw him teamed, professionally and romantically, with some of the most beautiful women of the age. And in recent times, he's become a reliable presence in Hollywood, ranging from “Yes Man” to “Get Smart” from “Wanted” to “The Adjustment Bureau."

Marrakech '12: James Gray Still Hoping To Visit 'Lost City of Z,' Talks 'Blood Ties' & Jeremy Renner's Steve McQueen Biopic

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 10, 2012 11:18 AM
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  • 6 Comments
Thoughtful and erudite, there are few filmmakers as fascinating to listen to as they talk about film than James Gray. So whenever we get the chance to catch up with him, it's a treat, and we managed to spend some time with the helmer at the Marrakech International Film Festival where he was serving on the jury. We spoke at some length about his upcoming, immigrant period drama "Lowlife," (formerly "The Nightingale" -- read all about it here), but we also wondered about some of the movies he's got brewing and what may or may not be next.

Marrakech '12: Zhang Yimou Talks Working With Christian Bale, The Growing Chinese Box Office & More

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 8, 2012 9:23 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Zhang Yimou ("Raise the Red Lantern," "Ju Dou," "Hero," "House of the Flying Daggers") has been making movies in his homeland of China, from within the system, for the past two and a half decades. During this time, he has witnessed, and participated in, the gradual, incremental thawing of Chinese relations with the West, and the partial loosening of the viselike grip of governmental control over film production. Honored with a tribute at the Marrakech International Film Festival, and presenting his newest film "The Flowers of War", Zhang spoke, through two translators (Mandarin-French, French-English) to a small group of journalists about his filmmaking life under a notoriously repressive regime, the themes he revisits, and working with Christian Bale. Here are five highlights from that conversation.

Marrakech ‘12 Review: Bahman Ghobadi’s ‘Rhino Season’ Makes Good On Neither The Politics Nor The Poetry Of Its Premise

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • December 5, 2012 7:00 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Having caused something of a stir with his roughshod, guerilla-style 2009 docudrama about the Iranian underground music scene “No One Knows About Persian Cats,” director Bahman Ghobadi appears to have done a stylistic 180 with his new movie “Rhino Season.” Inspired by the story of a Kurdish poet friend of the director’s, who was believed dead by his family while in fact he was incarcerated in an Iranian prison, the film attempts to marry a degree of political comment and social realism with self-consciously poetic and manipulated imagery. But a smooth filmic blend of these different textures is probably one of the hardest things to achieve and we’re sorry to say that for us, the experiment just didn’t work here; in fact the warring impulses rather undercut each other, leaving us none the wiser as to the real political and social stakes and vaguely irritated by the intrusive aesthetic.

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