Slimline Venice Film Festival 2012…revealed

•July 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

With a jury led by Hollywood director Michael Mann (Heat, The Insider), the list of films competing in the 69th Venice Film Festival this year has been announced.
Whereas previously up to 24 films have been in competition, this year’s festival will comprise of a smaller number (17 + 1 surprise film). Festival director Alberto Barbera said his goal was to focus on both the achievements of known filmmakers, and seek new talent.

“I think the tendency is a little bulimic, to focus on quantity doesn’t serve anything,” Barbera said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “Having more films does not create a more important festival, rather it means lowering the quality of the selection. The festival has to assume the responsibility and the risk of making a real selection.”

In contrast to Cannes’ inexcusable omission of films from women directors earlier in May, 4 films from women directors feature among the list of films competing for the prestigious Golden Lion. The festival also opens with the latest film by Mira Nair (2001 Golden Lion winner with Monsoon Wedding) – The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Based on the acclaimed novel by Moshin Hamid, the film is a riveting international political thriller that follows the story of a young Pakistani man, Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed) who chases corporate success on Wall Street, only to find himself embroiled in a conflict between his American Dream, a hostage crisis, and the enduring call of his family’s homeland.

Mira Nair

Mira Nair – Director of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Films in competition include To the Wonder – the latest film from 2011 Palme d’or winner, Terrence Malick with Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem and Rachel Weisz; Apres Mai (Something in the Air) from French director Olivier Assayas and Superstar from Italian director  Xavier Giannoli with Cecile de France and Kad Merad.
Outside competition, other highlights for the festival include the Spike Lee documentary Bad 25 – a look at the seminal Michael Jackson album that celebrates its 25th anniversary this year; The Company You Keep – marking Robert Redford’s return both in front of, and behind the camera with Shia LaBeouf and Julie Christie; and O Gebo e a Sombra – the latest opus with Michael Lonsdale, Claudia Cardinale and Jeanne Moreau from veteran Portuguese director Manuel De Oliveira (who celebrates his 104th birthday later this year!)
A difficult task awaits Michael Mann, alongside fellow jury members model/actress Laetitia Casta, Italian director Matteo Garrone and British actor Samantha Morton. The decision will be announced at the festival’s end 8 September.

Films in Competition

AT ANY PRICE Ramin Bahrani US
BELLA ADDORMENTATA Marco Bellocchio Ita/Fra
LA CINQUIÈME SAISON Peter Brosens-Jessica Woodworth Bel/Neth/Fra
È STATO IL FIGLIO Daniele Cipri Ita
UN GIORNO SPECIALE Francesca Comencini Ita
PASSION Brian De Palma France/Ger
SUPERSTARGiannoli Fra/Bel
PIETA Ki-Duk Kim S Korea

OUTRAGE BEYOND Takeshi Kitano Jap
TO THE WONDER Terrence Malick US
SINAPUPUNAN (THY WOMB) Brillante Mendoza Phi
LINHAS DE WELLINGTON Valeria Sarmiento Port/Fra
IZMENA (BETRAYAL) Kirill Serebrennikov Rus

Henry Cavill to play 007?

•July 16, 2012 • 1 Comment

With a UK release date of 26 October, the countdown has started for the next installment in the James Bond franchise Skyfall; however attention is now turning to Daniel Craig’s successor – if and when the actor decides to abandon the shaken-not-stirred martinis and achingly-beautiful femmes fatales.

One actor who many expect to slip into 007’s tuxedo is Henry Cavill – soon to be seen in Superman – Man of Steel.

Recently starring in the television drama The Tudors, Cavill is one of several actors also tipped to play Christian Grey in Universal’s forthcoming big screen adaptation of the E.L James best-seller, 50 Shades of Grey.

But will 2013 be Cavill’s year? Yes, according to Casino Royale director Martin Campbell.

In 2005, whilst casting for the role of James Bond, Campbell met both Cavill and Craig. After numerous meetings and auditions, nothing separated the two as lead contenders for the part. Deciding to take a few days to think before announcing his decision, Campbell watched Craig’s performance in the Matthew Vaughn 2004 crime thriller, Layer Cake. The director was blown away by Craig’s mesmerizing performance and the decision was made.

Campbell suggests that Cavill’s route to 007 could follow a similar path made by Pierce Brosnan. In 1987 Brosnan auditioned to play Bond in The Living Daylights. Still under contract for his role in hit U.S television series Remington Steele, Brosnan was unable to take the part and it was offered to Timothy Dalton – under the condition that when Dalton left the franchise, Brosnan would be re-considered. With Dalton only contracted for 3 films, leaving after License to Kill, Brosnan became the fifth actor to play the British spy in 1995’s Golden Eye.

Could history repeat itself? Cavill may currently lack the ‘weight’ of Daniel Craig and at 22 years old may be regarded as too young to play Bond, but in the years to come..? Who knows?

For the time being however all this remains just idle conjecture as Bond’s producers are keen for Craig to star in another five films and it seems Craig too is just as enamored with playing Britain’s most recognizable ‘secret’ agent.

New biopic on Violette Leduc announced-France’s greatest ‘unknown’ writer

•May 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The surprise winner of seven Césars (France’s main film awards) Seraphine catapulted the name of its director Martin Provost into the headlines in 2009.  This September production starts on a highly anticipated film from the director that will re-ignite interest within France and international audiences.

Still unnamed, the film is a biopic on controversial writer Violette Leduc, with acclaimed actor Emmanuelle Devos (Sur mes Levres, Rois et Reine, Coco Avant Chanel) starring as Leduc.

Described as France’s greatest unknown writer, Violette Leduc was born in 1907, the illegitimate daughter of a servant girl and the consumptive son of her mother’s employer. Discovered by Simone de Beauvoir, Leduc’s best-known novel La Batarde – an autobiography of her early life in Northern France and discovery in Paris – dominated the best-seller list for months after its release and championed the cause of the disenfranchised and oppressed. However it is for her taboo-breaking novel of adolescent love between two boarding school girls, Thérèse and Isabelle that Leduc achieved notoriety in Paris’ literary circles.

First published as the opening chapter to an earlier novel Ravages in 1957, her publishers (Gallimard) refused to publish it in its entirety, fearing that the depiction of physical love between two schoolgirls would cause irreparable damage to French society. As such, the ‘offending’ chapter was removed. Lying untouched until 1966, the novella was finally published – several years after other ‘scandalous’ novels – Georges Bataille’s The Story of the Eye and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.

Why Gallimard considered Thérèse and Isabelle shocking remains a mystery – especially in light of the fact that Bataille’s novel (depicting necrophilia) was published nearly 30 years earlier. Was latent homophobia behind the decision? If sexual intimacy is graphically described in the novel, it never borders on the obscene. Leduc’s description of the act of physical love may make some uncomfortable (so visceral is her use of language) but its aim is to attune the reader to a hyper-energised world of the senses.  Possibly it was the recognition of the female libido in the narrative that made Gallimard uneasy.

Critical, perspective and sensitive to her innermost thoughts, Leduc is often compared to her (better known) gay literary compatriot, Jean Genet. With production of Provost’s film scheduled to commence later this year, 2012 may mark the end of Leduc’s position as a female ‘outsider’ existing on the fringes and allow her to take her place in the canon of great writers.

Violette Leduc

Violette Leduc


Love scoops top prize at Cannes Film Festival 2012

•May 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

In a year that has seen old-age no longer playing a supporting role in cinema, Cannes has bestowed its top award, le Palme d’Or, on the 70-year old Austrian director Michael Haneke. Winning the prestigious award for a 2nd time with his latest film Love (Amour), Haneke joins a select club of double Palme d’Or winners – Francis Ford Coppola, Bille August, the Dardennes Brothers, Shohei Imamura and Emir Kusturica.

Focusing on an octogenarian couple, Georges and Anne (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) whose relationship is tested after Anne suffers a series of strokes, the film’s leads accompanied Haneke on stage to receive the award to a standing ovation. Indeed, the jury’s president Nanni Moretti stressed the recognition of the actors’ contribution in a film that received praise from film critics and film makers alike.

The Grand Prize, considered the competition’s second place, was won by Matteo Garrone’s Italian satire Reality.

With Ken Loach collecting the Jury Prize for The Angels’ Share, Cannes 2012 marked the 11th time that one of his films has been in-competition. A touching, comedy-drama, the film follows Robbie, a young man on community service who is inspired to change the course of his life after a visit to a whisky distillery.

Mexican director Carlos Reygadas was named best director for the surrealist tale Tenebras Lux – a film that divided both the jury and audiences after it received jeers and applause in equal measure.

Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen won the best actor prize for The Hunt, while the actress prize was shared between Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan for Romanian movie Beyond the Hills. It also received the best screenplay award. Based on a true story, the film charts the death of a young woman, during an exorcism in a remote Romanian monastery in 2005.

Featuring a shortlist of films competing for the top prize this year that did not include an entry from a woman director and greater prominence of films from America, the festival’s programmer Thierry Frémaux has had a tough week fending off criticism. With all the major film making awards going to directors who have previously won something at Cannes, some critics may feel that the jury played ‘safe’ in their choice, something that cannot be levelled at actors Nicole Kidman or Robert Pattinson for their risqué roles in Lee Daniels The Paperboy and David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis respectively.

Frothy French Fancy – 2 Days in New York

•May 17, 2012 • 2 Comments

The ‘Old World’ meets the ‘New’ in 2 Days in New York, the sequel to actor/writer/director Julie Delpy’s hilarious 2 Days in Paris.

Having broken up with her boyfriend Jack (played by Adam Goldberg in 2 Days in Paris) after having his baby, French artist/photographer Marion (Delpy) lives in New York with her new boyfriend, radio personality Mingus (Rock), who also has a child from a previous relationship. It’s a sophisticated and yet bohemian New York existence, but when Marion’s ebullient father Jeannot (played by Delpy’s real-life father, Albert Delpy), her oversexed sister Rose, and her sister’s outrageous boyfriend Manu unceremoniously descend upon them for a visit, coupled with the pressure of a significant forthcoming exhibition of Marion’s work, it kicks off two unforgettable days that will test the strength of Marion and Mingus’s relationship.

Fans of her previous films will find little to grumble about as the frothy, fast-paced farce that we saw in 2 Days in Paris is reprised. Commencing with a memorable scene in a NY Customs office where, on arrival, Jeannot is forced to part company with more French sausage and cheese than an upmarket West London deli could possibly handle. Walking a fine line between platitudes and truisms, the film narrowly misses descending into travesty as it plays out old culture clash clichés.  With use of a Woody Allen style monologue book-ending the film, Delpy has been clearly influenced by Allen classics such as Manhattan and Annie Hall. However whilst Allen is able to develop character and maintain a high-octane comedy pitch, 2 Days in New York’s pace slips a gear midway through the film, slowly sagging under the weight of its lofty aspirations and ultimately culminating in a slightly soporific encounter  with Vincent Gallo (who plays himself).

However after this  slight derailment, the film does manage to get back on track and although some may feel that Delpy hastily ties up loose ends at the film’s denouement, she succeeds in directing a well-observed romp on the pitfalls of relationships in the metropolis.  Comedian Chris Rock plays against type as the ‘straight man’ to Marion’s bawdy, non-PC family and Albert Delpy is a delight as Marion’s  eccentric father.

Although less loquacious, than some of her previous films, the film vibrates with skill and verve, resonating with an Altman-esque feel for the unscripted and improvised.  A worthy sequel, 2 Days in New York‘s mix of astute writing and winning comedic performances will probably delight many urban audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

2 Days in New York(15) France/US 2011 Dir: Julie Delpy 91mins With: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock

They Say: A tantalising Franco-American stew

We say:  Tasty in parts, but may leave a slightly bitter after-taste like 2-week old foie gras

The ‘New’ French New Wave – Cannes 2012

•May 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Cannes, May 2012. With its Croisette manicured to within an each of its life, luxury hotels full to breaking point and enough Premier Cru to float a stranded cruise liner, it can only mean one thing… the arrival of the 65th Cannes Film Festival.

Kicking off today, the film world (and other disciples who may not yet know their Yves Attal from their Yves St Laurent) will descend upon the infamous small French port marking the start of 11 days of film, frocks, fashion and folly.

Cannes Film Festival 16 - 27 May 2012

Premiered at last year’s festival was the global film phenomenon The Artist, winning the film’s lead, Jean Dujardin, the Best Male Actor award. Similarly the festival’s coveted Jury Prize went to independent French film maker Maiwenn for her film Polisse. With other home-grown hits such as Intouchable creating unprecedented interested at home and abroad, France’s cinema attendance was the highest in Europe with 215.6 million entries last year, a figure that has not been that high since 1966.

The French press attribute this success to a new generation rising within the film industry; a new movement that not only counts film makers among the ranks but also actors and producers.  Writing in the Le Figaro, film critic Jean Luc Wachthausen believes that ‘their daring, tenacity and creativity have paid off. Determined to see their ideas followed through, their simple aim of making a good film has been achieved.’ With many of these films being self-financed, the worry of risk-taking too has also been eliminated, allowing them to break the rules and not conform to conventional methods of film production.

Others assign this change to a new style of cinema that mixes the production values and codes of commercial film with the more esoteric aesthetics of film d’auteur (independent films written and directed by the same person). Re-defining the cinema landscape, these films are made efficiently with the needs of the storyline paramount. Cast with actors who represent the cultural mix of French society today, they boast high production values – that may not be recognised in minute detail by the film-going public – but are still appreciated more than the television-style dramas that have preceded them. As such French cinema, freed from its bi-polarity, can add a new type of film that neither belongs exclusively to the independent film genre (Film Socialisme) or the high grossing popular comedies (Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis) as witnessed with the arrival of Polisse or La Guerre est Declarée.

However whilst the press are only too happy to congratulate themselves, many French film makers seem to be trying their best to distance themselves from the label ‘le cinema francais’. In an article published in French magazine Les Inrockuptibles last year, Michel Hazanavicius (director of The Artist) felt that he did not represent French cinema. Similarly, French-Haitian director, Djinn Carrénard, ‘maverick’ director of the acclaimed Donoma states his films go against the ‘dominant’ model of current French cinema – a ‘de-politicised’ style of film that is more likely to amuse than provoke thought and debate.  Moreover award-winning director Mathieu Kassovitz (La Haine) recently tweeted that French cinema needs to go ‘f**k itself’ following the omission of his latest film from the nominations at France’s recent Cesar (Film) Awards. From established directors to ‘guerrilla’ film makers, the term French Cinema conjures up images of a formulaic cinema, created by those who ascribe to a ‘foreign’ or American style of writing of which they do not want to be associated.

It all sounds rather confusing and could be something unique to France. Can you imagine many American directors trying to disassociate themselves so comprehensively from the US canon? Nonetheless, what it does show is the variety and diversity of film making culture currently being enjoyed in France – which can only benefit and enrich film makers and film lovers everywhere.

Fashion & Cinema – Coco Chanel & film at Cine Lumiere

•May 15, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Fashion & Cinema: A series of events, on-stage conversations, seminars and screenings exploring the relationship between fashion and cinema.

Coco Chanel, always interested in the arts, often collaborated with the worlds of dance, theatre and film by designing costumes. In 1912 she started making hats for actress Gabrielle Dorziat, who was then playing in Bel Ami at the Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris, and she kept designing costumes for plays, ballets and films of artists within her circle of friends, like Diaghilev, Jean Cocteau, Jean Renoir… This brought her to work alongside artists such as Picasso, Dalí, Stravinsky, Satie, Léonide Massine and Léon Bakst. At one point, in the early 30s, she even had a contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer, when Samuel Goldwyn, during The Depression, thought he could increase box-office revenue by promising Paris fashions in his films. Although the Hollywood experience wasn’t very fruitful, she continued to enjoy designing for films by her friends, like Renoir and Visconti, and established rewarding relationships with many actors (including Moreau, whom she dressed for the stage as well as both on and off-screen).

This month Cine Lumiere, (London SW7) screens an exciting season of films exploring the relationship between  fashion and cinema. Starting this Sunday  with Chanel and Film, fashion-loving cinephiles can see the rarely screened Hollywood classic Tonight or Never. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring the iconic silver-screen starlet Gloria Swanson, dressed exclusively by Chanel for the film. Fans of Jeanne Moreau will also be treated to Louis Malle’s ground-breaking 1958 picture The Lovers (Les Amants), in which Moreau wears Chanel’s creations.