Monday, May 28, 2012

Cannes Blowback

The Cannes Film Festival came to a close yesterday, with Michael Haneke taking home his second Palme d’Or for his new film Amour. I feel good about this. I like Haneke, and from my distant but watchful perspective from Lake Wobegone, this is probably a solid, yet somewhat safe, choice. (Although, Haneke? Safe? Whatever.) Some other people won some awards too, but, honestly, if you want a rundown on that you should be reading a post from one of the hard working wordsmiths who spent the last week and a half plying the caverns of the Croisette with “no guts, no glory” tattooed to their foreheads. (That may sound like romance, but it’s mostly admiration for the chaos that critics dive into at Cannes.) 

Thoughtful analysis of the Cannes Film Festival is not what you will find below, but instead knee jerk reactions of anticipation and apathy as filtered through my pounding juvenile film libido.   

Here are my most anticipated films among the 22 in competition at the 65th Festival de Cannes:

Post Tenebras Lux directed by Carlos Reygadas (Teaser trailer)
As soon as the critical love/hate line was drawn in the sand, this film jumped into my top spot of interest. Visual, non-narrative feature length films with crazy beautiful stuff, which may or may not accurately describe Post Tenebras Lux, are my kind of thing. It might be also worth saying that Carlos Reygadas films are my kind of thing as well. Battle in Heaven had its flaws, and although people sometimes feel the need to goad for my love of Silent Light, hopefully we can all agree that Reygadas’ debut, Japón, is something special if not a masterpiece. Reygadas won Best Director for Post Tenebras Lux—which translates to “after dark, light”—and there was no shortage of sneers, jeers and bravos, or at least that is what I have garnered from Twitter and various coverage. This only intrigues me more. Because what kind of film is it that can take a litmus test from a respectable swath of the film community and come of with half red and half blue? This fascinates me. Post Tenebras Lux is wagging around without US distribution as of yet, but someone will hopefully step up to the plate.

Holy Motors directed by Leos Carax (Trailer)
Listening to the Cannes natter one is led to believe that Holy Motors director Carax and star Denis Lavant were unjustly shut out of the awards at Cannes. Never you mind that, Holy Motors caused enough of a stir to match or better any award it could have muscled. From what I can surmise, this film is off the crazy chart and it stars Kylie Minogue. I'll take it. Holy Motors was picked up for US distribution by Indomina, a genre label that can hopefully make good on getting this film out to us yonder folk.

In the Fog directed by Sergei Loznitsa (Clip)
Loznitsa’s got my attention. My Joy was a shock to the narrative system, and really really really dark. Until he belly flops, I will always look forward to this guy’s films.

Reality directed by Matteo Garrone (Clip)
The skill in which Garrone adapted Roberto Saviano’s surreal and troubling book Gomorrah has earned him lifetime achievement for my admiration. Garrone’s Reality has a reality television subtext, something Italy probably knows about even more than the US. Reviews were generally not good for this film, but, again, it will take some time to convince me that Gomorrah was a fluke. Reality won the Grand Prix at Cannes and has been picked up for distribution by Oscilloscope.

Like Someone in Love directed by Abbas Kiarostami (Trailer)
Kiarostami continues to reinvent, this time in Japan. Like Someone in Love was picked up by Sundance Selects/IFC.

I’m also looking forward to Cristian Mungiu’s latest Beyond the Hills, Resnais’ big finale You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, Hong Sang-soo’s tandem bike ride with Isabelle Huppert In Another Country, and of course Haneke’s Amour.

A big thanks for those in the trenches delivering the good the the sad sacks at home. You know who you are and you know who we are.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sion Sono v. Mayhem

News broke the other day that Japanese director Sion Sono has plans to take on the saga of Norwegian black metal bad Mayhem. The story, reported on by the Playlist, focused on the fact that Sono was in talks with Ezra Miller, the young actor who played the bad seed in Lynn Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin. Far more interesting, however, is contemplating Sono's mad genius combined with one of the most fascinating annals in the history of metal music, and one that would forever stigmatize the entire genre.

When people say that metal is the music of the devil, they are ostensibly talking about Mayhem. In the 80s, the black metal scene was owned by two Norwegian bands: Mayhem and Burzum. Mayhem guitarist Øystein Aarseth "Euronymous" (most likely the person Miller will be playing) and Burzum leader Varg Vikernes aka "Count Grishnackh" where the undeniable kings in this dark underground world where fans fueled the fire of their crazed egos. First friends and then adversaries, Aarseth and Vikernes seemed to be in a competition of who could be the most committed to being a psychopath, resulting in church burning, celebratory suicides, and the eventual murder of Aarseth by Vikernes.

  Øystein Aarseth v. Ezra Miller

The sordid details of what really happened before Aarseth's death are murky and have, at this point, taken on some urban legend. Until the Light Takes Us (2008) attempted to chronicle the history, but ended up being convoluted and completely unfocused. Personally, I wish Errol Morris would take this story on, but in the meantime I am willing to see what Sono might come up with. Who knows, maybe Sono's fictional take on Mayhem will be closer to any truth we've heard yet on the band.

Mayhem still tours with two remaining original members, although they have lost their spark. Vikernes was released on parole three years ago and and has demonstrated with two releases of new material, one out just last week, that musically he still has something to prove and maybe even offer to the world of black metal.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Look ma! A blog update!

Because of a jab about my stagnant and uninteresting blog (Oops! I was sitting at the table!), here's what I have been up to, in between stoking the fires at the Walker Art Center and the Trylon microcinema.

MSPIFF is over. Congrats to the Film Society of Minneapolis and St Paul for another successful year and daunting slate of films. There were 20 films in the line-up I had seen prior to the Fest, and I'm glad to say that I caught 28 more during the Fest. Of the ones I saw at the Fest, there were a number of standouts, most notably Aleksandr Sokurov's Faust and Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights, but I also greatly enjoyed Nuit #1, Target, Oslo Ausust 31, and Whore's Glory. Check them out if you get a chance.
 (A film with a fantastic opening sequence.)

If you used either VitaMN or the Star Tribune to make your choices on what to see at MSPIFF, it's possible that you are either cursing or praising my name. I turned in eleven capsules for films that I mostly liked. I know it's a little late, but as a matter of record that I'm not as lazy as my blog implies, here are the links the my mini reviews:
The worst film I saw during the fest? V/H/S. Holy mother of God. Why?

I also put in a few full-ish reviews of films I saw at the Festival with In Review Online.
  • Keyhole Disappointing, but not terrible. 2 stars.
  • Whore's Glory Glawogger has something going on. 3 stars.
Look for a Festival wrap on In Review Online. Who knows, maybe I will even blog about that.

I also wrote an essay about the digital conundrum facing cinemas and the upgrades taking place in the Walker Cinema right now. In the Walker magazine and online here: Cinema Renovation Pushes the Future, Preserves the Past 

My blog, maybe still not interesting, but updated!