Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Festival de Cannes 1998-2009

FESTIVAL 5: Cannes, France

The mother of all festivals which makes it the most important festival in the world. Actually it's four festivals in one, besides the official competition, there are also Un Certain Regard, theSemaine Internationale de la Critique (Critic's Week) and the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (Directors' Forthnight). The festival also has the biggest film market including the Producer's Network for upcoming films. I will be covering the festival, so check for updates.

The winners will be decided by the jury that includes Isabelle Huppert (president), Asia Argento, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Lee Chang-dong, James Gray, Hanif Kureishi, Shu Qi, Robin Wright Penn and Sharmila Tagore.

"Up," U.S., Pete Docter, Bob Peterson

"Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky," France, Jan Kounen

The Official Competition
"Bright Star," Australia-U.K.-France, Jane Campion
"Spring Fever," China-France, Lou Ye, Script
"Antichrist," Denmark, Lars von Trier, Actress
"Enter the Void," France, Gaspar Noe
"Face," France-Taiwan-Netherlands-Belgium, Tsai Ming-liang
"Les Herbes folles," France-Italy, Alain Resnais
"In the Beginning," France, Xavier Giannoli
"A Prophet," France, Jacques Audiard, Grand Prix
"The White Ribbon," Austria, Michael Haneke, Palme d'Or, FIPRESCI
"Vengeance," Hong Kong-France-U.S., Johnnie To
"The Time That Remains," Israel-France-Belgium-Italy, Elia Suleiman
"Vincere," Italy-France, Marco Bellocchio
"Kinatay," Philippines, Brillante Mendoza, Director
"Thirst," South Korea-U.S., Park Chan-wook, Prix du Jury
"Broken Embraces," Spain, Pedro Almodovar
"Map of the Sounds of Tokyo," Spain, Isabel Coixet
"Fish Tank," U.K.-Netherlands, Andrea Arnold, Prix du Jury
"Looking for Eric," U.K.-France-Belgium-Italy, Ken Loach
"Inglourious Basterds," U.S., Quentin Tarantino, Actor
"Taking Woodstock," U.S., Ang Lee

Out of competition
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," Canada-France, Terry Gilliam
"The Army of Crime," France,
Guediguian" Robert Guediguian
"Agora," Spain, Alejandro Amenabar

Special screenings
"Petition," China, Zhao Liang
"L'epine dans le coeur," France, Michel Gondry
"Min ye," France-Mali, Souleyumane Cisse
"Jaffa," Israel-France-Germany, Keren Yedaya
"Manila," Philippines, Adolfo Alix Jr., Raya Martin
"My Neighbor, My Killer," U.S., Anne Aghion

Midnight Screenings
"A Town Called Panic," Belgium, Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar
"Ne te retourne pas," France-Belgium-Luxembourg-Italy, Marina de Van
"Drag Me to Hell," U.S., Sam Raimi

Un Certain Regard
"Samson & Delilah," Australia, Warwick Thornton, Camera d'Or
"Adrift," Brazil, Heitor Dhalia
"The Wind Journeys," Colombia, Ciro Guerra
"Demain des l'aube," France, Denis Dercourt
"Irene," France, Alain Cavalier
"Air Doll," Japan, Hirokazu Kore-eda
"Independance," Philippines-France-Germany, Raya Martin
"Le Pere de mes enfants," France-Germany, Mia Hansen-Love
"Dogtooth," Greece, Yorgos Lanthimos UCR PRIX
"Nobody Knows About the Persian Cats," Iran, Bahman Ghobadi
"Eyes Wide Open," Israel, Haim Tabakman
"Mother," South Korea, Bong Joon-ho
"The Silent Army," Netherlands, Jean van de Velde
"To Die Like a Man," Portugal, Joao Pedro Rodrigues
"Police, Adjective," Romania, Corneliu Porumboiu FIPRESCI
"Tales from the Golden Age," Romania, Hanno Hofer, Razvan Marculescu, Cristian Mungiu,Constantin Popescu, Ioana Uricaru
"Tale in the Darkness," Russia, Nikolay Khomeriki
"Tzar," Russia-France, Pavel Lounguine
"Nymph," Thailand, Pen-ek Ratanaruang
"Precious," U.S., Lee Daniels

For more info: Festival de Cannes

Semaine Internationale de la Critique

"Lost Persons Area," Belgium, Caroline Strubbe
"Altiplano," Belgium-Germany-Netherlands, Peter Brosen, Jessica Woodworth
"Huacho," Chile, Alejandro Fernandez Almendras
"Adieu Gary," France, Nassim Amaouche
"Whisper With the Wind," Iraq, Shahram Alidi
"The Ordinary People," Serbia-France-Switzerland, Vladimir Perisic
"Bad Day to Go Fishing," Uruguay-Spain, Alvaro Brechner

"Nothing Personal," France, Mathias Gokalp (Opening film)
"Hierro," Spain, Gabe Ibanez
"La baie du renard," France, Gregoire Colin (Closing night short)
"1989," Columbia, Camilo Matiz (Closing night)

For more info: http://www.semainedelacritique.com/

Quinzaine des Réalisateurs

"La Pivellina," Austria, Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel
"The Alasness of Things," Belgium-Netherlands, Felix van Groeningen
"Eastern Plays," Bulgaria-Sweden, Kamen Kalev
"Carcasses," Canada, Denis Cote
"J'ai tue ma mere," Canada, Xavier Dolan
"Polytechnique," Canada, Denis Villeneuve
"Navidad," Chile, Sebastian Lelio
"Oxhide II," China, Liu Jia Yin
"La famille Wolberg," France-Belgium, Axelle Ropert
"Land of Madness," France, Luc Moullet
"Le roi de l'evasion," France, Alain Guiraudie
"Les beaux gosses," France, Riad Sattouf
"Yuki & Nina," France-Japan, Nobuhiro Suwa, Hippolyte Girardot
"Ajami," Israel-Germany, Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani (closer)
"Daniel & Ana," Mexico-Spain, Michel Franco
"Karaoke," Malaysia, Chan Fui (Chris) Chong
"Ne change rien," Portugal-France, Pedro Costa
"Here," Singapore-Canada, Tzu-Nyen Ho
"Like You Know It All," South Korea, Hong Sang-soo
"Amreeka," U.S., Cherien Dabis FIPRESCI
"Go Get Some Rosemary," U.S.-France, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
"Humpday," U.S., Lynn Shelton
"I Love You Phillip Morris," U.S.-France, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
"Tetro," Argentina-Spain-Italy, Francis Ford Coppola (opener)

For more info: http://www.quinzaine-realisateurs.com/

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Time That Remains

Palestinian writer and director Elia Suleiman manages to make a strong statement through his humorous and ironic treatment of his family's history from 1948 to present in the city of Nazareth under the Israeli occupation. The film's visual style might turn off or distract some but the point is clear that after six decades of occupation, how much longer do the native people have to wait for peace? The film based on Suleiman's father and his own memories shows in five sections as they go through the changes of time where they endure the occupation hoping that will end. It's specially heartbreaking for the older generations who are dying without seeing an end to the never-ending conflict. Suleiman's gets the point across through the stylized visuals and humor that are at times outrageously entertaining. The performances of the talented cast suffers through the stylization but the film works which stands out compared to other films dealing with the same issues. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Visionary director Terry Gilliam manages to save the film after his star Heath Ledger died during the shooting with the help of some friends. While the film has flaws that might be attributed to Ledger's passing away, it marks the best work Gilliam has done in a decade or so. The story of a travelling magician who tries to save his daughter from his clutches of the devil with whom he made a pact. If the Doctor Parnassus can deliver five souls to the devil, he can keep his daughter, otherwise the devil will take her when she turns 16. The desperate Doctor saves a young con artist who in return tries to help him while he falls for the daughter. Gilliam tries to make the best out of a terrible situation story wise but delivers a visually stunning looking film with a superb cast. Ledger's last performance won't be his most memorable one after his brilliant joker. Of the three actors who stepped in to replace Ledger, Colin Farrel has the longest and best sequence while Johnny Depp has the shortest to have any impact. Christopher Plummer is excellent as Doctor Parnassus and model turned actress Lily Cole stands out as the only female among the strong male cast. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.


The versatile French super star Vincent Cassel shines in Brazilian writer and director's Heitor Dhalia gorgeous film. The coming of age story of a teenage girl who thinks her parents failing marriage has something to do with her father's affair with a beautiful woman. Dhalia perfectly captures the girl's state of mind as she goes through her own sexual awakening as well as making an exceptional beautiful film. Cassel and Débora Bloch are perfect as the parents as are the rest of the immensely good looking cast including the stunning Laura Neiva as Filipa who makes her debut in a powerful performance. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eyes Wide Open

Director Haim Tabakman's feature debut fails to live up to the reputation of current Israeli cinema which has been really strong in recent years. The story of a married Orthodox Jewish butcher who who falls in love with a young man is never convincing. The script fails to go deeper than the obvious taboo-breaking intentions. While the butcher is an upstanding member of his community and apparently happily married father of four, it's never clear why he would fall for the young and attractive man he takes in. The past of the troubled young man is never explored to indicate his intentions. The actors tries their best but can't save the film. The only thing that stands out is the intimate look at Jerusalem's insular ultra-orthodox community. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.

Pomegranates and Myrrh

Palestinian writer and director Najwa Najjar's uneven film fails to live up its powerful stories. The problem lies with unfocused script that can't decide where its heart stands. At the center of the story is Kamar, a beautiful dancer who's happily married until her husband is arrested by the Israeli army. When she returns to dancing, the new chreographer falls for her but Kamar can't make up her mind which is writer and director Najjar fails to resolve since it's never clear what Kamar wants. Basically there's two films into one, each of them strong enough to stand on its own but together they fail. The strong cast can't help to solve the inherent problems. The cast includes Yasmine Elmasri (Caramel), Hiam Abbas (The Visitor, Lemon Tree) and Ali Suliman (Paradise Now, Lemon Tree).

Inglourious Basterds

One of the most anticipated and disappointing films in Cannes marks a low point for writer and director Quentin Tarantino. The film is a mess in many ways that starts well with a sequence that reminds of Sergio Leone. It introduces two of the better developed characters in the film that of Col. Hans Landa, the Jew hunter played by Christoph Waltz and Shosanna Dreyfus, the Jewish girl played by Mélanie Laurent. The characters appear and disappear with long intervals since Tarantino tries the impossible by rewriting the history of WW II. The star of the film, Brad Pitt's character is under written and wasted as are most of the characters including the talented Michael Fassbender and German star Til Schweiger. Tarantino could have done something really special with the film since he casts each character according to their nationalities that includes Americans, British, French and Germans but his ambition got the better of him which derails the film. His signature sense of style is evident but lacks a coherent script to support it with too many characters all over the place. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.


A rare treat from Chile marks the debut from writer and director Alejandro Fernandez Almendras. The simple and touching story traces a day in the life of a poor family in a remote region. Almendras shows with a keen eye the realities of everyday the family faces. The family consists of an elderly couple, their single mother daughter and her young son. The film consists of four parts, each dedicated to each member of the family as they start their day where the grandfather goes to work the field, the grandmother makes cheese to sell at the road side, the daughter working as a cook for a wealthy family and the son attending school. Each character faces obstacles that are simply heartbreaking. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.

Tales From the Golden Age

Romanian writer and director Cristian Mungiu returns with a heavy dose of Romanian humor in six tales from the golden age of communism written by him and directed by several directors in an effort to introduce new talent on the world's biggest stage. The absurdist tales recount the times under the communist regime with titles such as "The Legend of the Official Visit," "The Legend of the Party Photographers," "The Tale of the Greedy Policeman," "The Legend of the Zealous Activist," "The Legend of the Air Sellers" and "The Legend of the Chicken Driver." Some films are better than others but they all get the points across that will startle all the fans of the Romanian cinema and beyond. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.


Director Lee Daniels takes no prisoners with his second film that leaves one shell shocked. The powerful tale of an severely abused teenage girl on the edge who finds hope and help in the most unlikely place. The girl is Clareece 'Precious' Jones who has been physically and psychologically abused by her mother and father that she doesn't expect to find kindness elsewhere. Daniels takes you in places you never thought possible without leaving out any details with a fearless cast and crew. Through some dream sequences and stylized approach Daniels manages to get the point across without losing its audience but making sure you won't forget the film any time soon. Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe is outstanding at the title character as is Mo'Nique as her monstrous mother. The cast also includes a superb Paula Patton and the inspired casting of Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz works surprising well. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.


Writer and director Cherien Dabis' powerful film manages to make a strong statement with a lot humor and heart. The title refers on how the US is called from Morocco to Afghanistan which is also a synonym for a better life and future. The story is set in the aftermath of 9/11 about Muna, a Palestinian single mother with a teenage son living in the occupied West Bank. Fearing of the imminent dangers, Muna decides for the sake of a better life to relocate to US Midwest. There she finds the harsh realities while staying with her relatives who have their problems and seek to move back home. Dabis' solid script hits the right notes and allows the whole cast to shine in winning performances. Nisreen Faour gives a winning performance as Muna. The strong cast also includes the ever reliable Hiam Abbass. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.

A Prophet

French writer and director Jacques Audiard delivers his best work with this riveting tale of organized crime within the prison. Tahar Rahim gives a terrific performance as the young Arab protagonist who's sent to prison to get an education to rise in the mob through the help of the ruling Corsican gang's leader. Audiard gives an unflinching and brutal look at the prison system where crime only pays to those who grab the opportunity and accept the brutal forces of reality. The film never loses its focus and grabs your attention till the last minute. The credit goes to Audiard who had the courage to cast an unknown actor to deliver a commending performance throughout the entire film that usually requires a more experienced actor. Tahar Rahim rises to the challenge with a star making performance. Niels Arestrup and the rest of the cast and crew are outstanding. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Broken Embraces

Spanish maestro Pedro Almodóvar and his current muse Penélope Cruz deliver another knockout film that's impossible to describe in simple terms since like most of Almodóvar's film this one is as rich and layered as you can hope a film to be. Almodóvar is one of the few filmmakers whose films are as rich as novels that work on many levels from the opening frame till the last one. Above all the film is about cinema since the main characters are a writer and director and an actress but also about love and obsession. Almodóvar weaves another original story that mixes several genres such as melodrama, film noir and comedy. It proves the master still looks to challenge himself without losing focus. Penélope Cruz proves she's every bit a screen goddess with a layered and nuanced performance that could have been tricky and treacherous with another actress. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.


Korean master Chan-wook Park redeems himself somewhat with this over the top vampire film after his disastrous comedy "I'm a Cyborg but that's OK" but fails to live up to his masterpiece "Oldboy". The problem with this film is that he fails to find the right balance and tries to hard to live up to the expectations. The films starts right with the potent story of a priest who turns into a vampire after a failed medical expriment but gets out of control that derails the film that even the strong performances can't save. On any other year this film would have ended up in the out of competition section or midnight screening but the director's name secured a spot on the main competition which broke with tradition this year. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.


Alejandro Amenábar takes on another genre and delivers a masterpiece that's unlike any other film. It's a courageous and timely piece that reflects on the two millennial of religious fanaticism that has hijacked the attention of the modern world. The story set in 391 A.D., Alexandria, Egypt where the philosopher Hypatia is more concerned about the mysteries of the universe than what's going on the streets where Christians first fight for legitimacy as a religion before clashing with the other major religion, the Judaism to rule the world. Hypatia is a beautiful woman as well with many admirers amongst them her student and her slave. What's refreshing about this film is that its focus is not the love story as most films do but about the bigger picture on where we went wrong as a civilization where we abandoned science and knowledge with the burning of the legendary library of Alexandria for the sake of religion. Now sixteen hundred years later or so, it's the three major religions that keeps the attention of the world while our planet faces its biggest challenge. Also how women were kept away from high level positions in the society for far too long. Rachel Weisz gives an outstanding performance as Hypatia whose intelligence far exceeds her beauty. Max Minghella comes of age as a leading man with a great future ahead of him. An outstanding film in every way that will stand the test of time. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.

Taking Woodstock

The ever versatile Ang Lee brings the magic of Woodstock alive in this unpretentious film that gives you a glimpse behind a historic event that changed a generation and inspired many others. Based on the book of Elliot Tiber on how everything happened in his backyard. With a lot of heart and humor Lee draws and seduces you just like the people were at the concert. An excellent ensemble cast and ace crew recreate a bygone era. Imelda Staunton and Liev Schreiber steal every scene they are in with their outstanding performances that are among the highlights of this comedy. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.

Bright Star

It took Jane Campion a decade to return to form with this film about the brief romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. The film manages to bring an authentic look and relaxed performances that usually lacks in period films. It's a rather intimate and poetic film that will please some and bore others since it lacks any major conflicts such as opposing parents or lovers. It basically shows how two people fall in love as if you were there to witness it. Abbie Cornish stands out as the outspoken woman ahead of her time. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.

Nobody Knows About Persian Cats

Kurdish-Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi (A Time for Drunken Horses, Turtles Can Fly) shifts focus from the Kurdish plight to shed light on the growing underground music scene in Tehran in this semi-documentary film to show a different side of Iran from the one on the news channels in the Western world. Ghobadi collaborated with Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist who was imprisoned and released shortly before the festival, on this improvised tale of two independent spirits who face great obstacles to find members for their indie band. The film is at its best during the live music scenes but falls short on the narrative side. Ghobadi appears in the film as himself showing frustrations of making a film that leads him to tell this untold tale that should find enough interest in the West. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.

Fish Tank

British writer and director Andrea Arnold returned to the official competition with her second feature which proves she's on the right track to greatness. An unflinching look into the life of a teenager who's trapped into her white trash environment like a fish in a tank without any hope. She clashes with everybody from her mother to the girls in the neighborhood. The only thing that keeps her sane is to dance in an abandoned apartment or trying to save an abused horse. Mia's life takes a dramatic turn when she finds herself infatuated with her mom's new boyfriend Connor whose brief presence brings stability into the life of the women. Newcomer Katie Jarvis gives a riveting performance as Mia in her acting debut. Michael Fassbender and Kierston Wareing equally give powerful performances as the adults. Arnold brings credibility and freshness in this coming of age tale that never misses a beat. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.

Spring Fever

Chinese director Lou Ye's last film "Summer Palace" got him banned in his country but at least won critical acclaim which he lost with this film. A disappointing love triangle that never lives up. A woman hires a detective to spy on her husband. After she finds out that he has a gay lover, she desparately tries to end the affair that ends in tragedy. Meanwhile the detective is seduced and lured by the world of the gay lover. While Ye manages to set the tone and get compelling performances, the story fails to go beyond the shock value and provocation. YRCinema's coverage of the 62nd Festival de Cannes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Ron Howard delivers his best work by adapting Peter Morgan's award winning play and keeping the original stars instead of replacing them with more famous actors. Howard took major risks that pays off well with top notch cast and crew including a towering performance by Frank Langella as Richard Nixon and an equally great but underrated performance by Michael Sheen as David Frost. The story centers on several controversial interviews between Frost and Nixon in late 70's that catapulted Frost's career. Nixon assuming that he would be less likely attacked by a foreigner than an American granted an exclusive interview post his disgraceful departure as a US president. Howard brings the era and its characters alive in this superb film that surprisingly works well on film given its roots as a play. YRCinema's coverage of films on DVD.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

The sizzling chemistry between two of the sexiest actors in Hollywood makes this slick and stylish action comedy watchable. Director Doug Liman's follow up to "The Bourne Identity " could have been a disaster without Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt who bring more to the plate than the director could have dreamed of. The plot is thin but that's not the reason most people watch films like this nor will the film be remember for it. The film promises and delivers the best eye candy Hollywood can afford. YRCinema's coverage of films on DVD.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1

Jean-François Richet continues the mesmerizing story of Jacques Mesrine who has matured in the life of crime and enjoys his status as the public enemy number one. The second lacks the breath taking pace of the first film but instead offers more time for Cassel's performance that's much stronger than the first. Ludivine Sagnier and Mathieu Amalric along with several other superb actors are added to the excellent cast. Richet has completes his epic with a satisfying ending that secures it as an instant classic in the gangster genre. YRCinema's coverage of the San Francisco International Film Festival.