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

Thompson on Hollywood By Simon Abrams | Thompson on Hollywood May 14, 2011 at 3:38AM

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.
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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.

This article is related to: Festivals, Genres, Reviews, Cannes, Classics, Foreign


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.