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Cannes Update: Trabalahar Cansa (Hard Labor), Poliss, Puzzle of a Downfall Child

by Simon Abrams
May 14, 2011 3:38 AM
2 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

Two out of the three Cannes films that Simon Abrams reviews here may never be screened for stateside art-house audiences. But one is a must-see for everyone, he writes:


The restored print of Puzzle of a Downfall Child, Panic in Needle Park director Jerry Schatzberg’s 1970 debut feature, is a must-see. Cannes director Thierry Fremaux introduced the screening of Puzzle, whose star, Cannes festival poster girl Faye Dunaway, attended tonight’s screening along with Schatzberg. The film is a knockout psychodrama about the inner life of a reclusive fashion model (Dunaway) and her doomed romances with men ranging from a wealthy and obnoxious playboy (Roy Scheider) to a modest photographer (Barry Primus). If the Criterion Collection or another equally important cultural institution (perhaps the Film Society at Lincoln Center) can give Puzzle’s impeccable new print a premiere or a release, the film could find an audience.

It's tough to imagine Poliss, a miserable French dramedy that’s based on true cases of police officers dedicated to child services, playing well outside of France. Although the film’s most insensitive joke, about how a teenager fellated her peers in order to get her phone returned, hit home with some members of the audience, Poliss's concern with humanizing French police officers during President Nicolas Sarkozy’s administration (a period that was particularly rough for the image of the French police), won’t matter much to anyone outside the country.

Trabalahar Cansa (Hard Labor) is an unusual mix of Brazilian domestic drama and sweeping allegory about the dehumanizing effects of the recession. It’s a family in crisis movie: the mother is over her head trying to opening her own green grocery; the father is unemployed and looking for work. And there are a few suggestive scare scenes on the side. In order for an American distributor to lure anyone to see the film, they’ll probably exaggerate the film’s frightening elements. Hard Labor, which is competing both for the Camera D’Or (for first-time filmmakers) and in Un Certain Regard, will prove a hard sell stateside.

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More: Festivals, Genres, Reviews, Cannes, Classics, Foreign

2 Comments

  • Calum Reed | May 16, 2011 12:28 PMReply

    I remember watching "Puzzle of a Downfall Child" and being completely transfixed by it. I don't think it's by any means accomplished, but it does have a unique style, and an interesting (if bewildering) performance from Dunaway.

    It's nice to see her back in the limelight.

  • Griff | May 14, 2011 5:12 AMReply

    PUZZLE OF A DOWNFALL CHILD was screened in December at New York's Film Forum with director Schatzberg in attendance.

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