The must-see film of the weekend is Abdellatif Kechiche's Palme d'Or winner "Blue Is the Warmest Color," starring Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux as young lovers experiencing the highs and lows of a long-term relationship. Yes, the film is steamy. It has a seven-minute explicit sex scene, which has been the source of much debate and discussion since the film premiered at Cannes (where rumors began to fly that the sequence was closer to 20 minutes). But talk of the sex scenes, plus the apparent ongoing drama between Kechiche and his two leading actresses, has unfairly overshadowed the strongest aspect of the three-hour film. It's a passionate, observant, epic portrait of one woman's coming-of-age (a domain often reserved for men), and is expertly crafted.
A trio of strongly reviewed documentaries hit theaters, too. Jehane Noujaim's film on the Egyptian revolution, "The Square," wowed at Sundance and is currently sitting with a 100% Fresh on the Tomatometer. Chef doc "Spinning Plates" is well liked by critics; as is portrait of unapologetic actor, singer, drag performance artist and John Waters muse "I Am Divine."
French auteur Claire Denis, who is a strong writer-director, returns with "Bastards," which recently played the New York Film Festival. She applies her smart craft to this well-made twisty family drama, but its sordid tale of sexual abuse rings all-too familiar.
A-list director Ridley Scott can round up his pick of top Hollywood talent, and did so with elegantly violent border thriller "The Counselor." Unfortunately, despite strong performances by Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, the first screenplay by novelist Cormac McCarthy tries to spice up a torrid fish-out-of-water crime thriller with the kind of cryptic existential literary language (read: pretentious) that is better read than spoken.
The Square Dir. Jehane Noujaim, Egypt/USA | Participant Media | 100% Fresh | Variety: "The Square is journalism, but Noujaim’s agenda is greater than mere reportage." | Our TOH! interview with director Jehane Noujaim
I Am Divine Dir. Jeffrey Schwarz, USA | 100% Fresh | Slant Magazine: "Though it may boil down to your average procession-of-talking-heads template, it's still enlivened by the raucous words from the band of outsiders who supported and launched Divine into the limelight." | Our TOH! review
Blue Is the Warmest Color Dir. Abdellatif Kechiche, France | Sundance Selects | Cast: Adele Exarchopoulos, Lea Seydoux | 94% Fresh | The Hollywood Reporter: "Less concerned with classic storytelling than with creating virtual performance pieces on screen, the film features dozens of extended sequences of Adele and Emma both in and out of bed—scenes that are virtuously acted and directed, even if they run on for longer than most filmmakers would allow." | Our TOH! video interview with Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux
Spinning Plates Dir. Joseph Levy, USA | Film Arcade | 86% Fresh | Movie Nation: "Spinning Plates is a surprisingly affecting juggling act, with each story having its compelling third act revelations of the extreme obstacles each eatery and its owners have faced and will face."
Bastards Dir. Claire Denis, France | Cinema Guild | Cast: Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni, Julie Bataille | 65% Fresh | New York Times: "The story grips you entirely even if Ms. Denis’s worldview here finally feels like a tomb: terrifying, pitiless, inevitable."
The Counselor Dir. Ridley Scott, USA | Twentieth Century Fox | Cast: Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelople Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt | 53% Rotten | Hollywood Reporter: "Despite its scaldingly hot cast and formidable writer/director combination, The Counselor is simply not a very likable or gratifying film. In fact, it's a bummer." | Our TOH! review