Browsing through some of the anticipatory Cannes previews, it’s worryingly easy to become convinced that the only noteworthy films premiering at this year’s festival are Only God Forgives and ‘that film with Justin Timberlake’. The undue precedence on visages of Gosling and Gatsby threaten to pre-emptively overshadow a richly varied mixture of established world cinema masters and budding auteurs alike.
And yet, while I bemoan the cosy cultural sway of Western film (yes, I know, Refn is Scandinavian) over this year’s official competition – albeit most of it looking to be of high quality – in deciding my overall favourite pick I couldn’t help but find myself drawn back to James Gray’s long-gestating and infinitely promising The Immigrant. The consummate classicist has taken a great deal of time in delivering his latest mood piece to us, following the exceptional Two Lovers (2008) and We Own the Night (2007), the latter unfairly derided by critics.
He’s a formidable Cannes presence for good reason. Gray will doubtless bring out the best in Marion Cotillard, who plays the eponymous lead migrating from Poland to the US, where she’s forced into prostitution by a man named Bruno – Joaquin Phoenix, following from his stellar turn in last year’s The Master. Previously titled Lowlife and Nightingale, expect The Immigrant to entice us once more to Gray’s personal storytelling, considered compositions and attention to atmosphere and colour. A prime Palme D’or contender, without question.
Other considerations: Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin; Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Life Father, Like Son
Un Certain Regard
It would feel wrong to select anything other than Bastards by Claire Denis, one of the finest working directors suffering a startlingly offensive omission from the main competition. It would likewise be horrifically presumptuous to assume that the film’s placement in the UCR category relegates it to the status of a minor work, considering Denis’ enviable consistency across the last decade.
The busied synopsis is admittedly a little overwhelming considering the abundance of bodies involved in proceedings, but then Denis’ specialty is her attention to the body and its relationship to the world in and around the frame. The finished product will clearly be more enamoured with mood than plot.
Other considerations: Lav Diaz’ Norte, The End of History; Alain Guiraidie’s Stranger by the Lake
Out of Competition
Johnnie To’s Blind Detective takes the crown from the small portion of special screenings; it’s hard to pass up another slab of the prolific Hong Kong director’s stylish genre features. I’ve my own To screening to look forward to at Terracotta Film Festival’s screening of last year’s Drug War, though I’m still peeved to miss out on this unique midnight screening, timed at the perfect hour in which to revel in To’s exhilarating crime exploits.
The title is no metaphor: Andy Lau is the blind detective who enlists the help of an inspector with a strong sense of smell, played by Hong Kong pop star and regular Andy Lau co-star Sammi Cheng. A 55-second trailer released in March all but confirmed another reliable, impeccably photographed exercise in stylish skirmishes.
After a 23-year absence, surrealist master Alejandro Jodorowsky returns with The Dance of Reality, inexplicably – and worryingly – omitted from the main competition. It’s not the wildly anticipated King Shot (for which the director sadly failed to acquire sufficient funding) but it’ll do nicely nevertheless. The film stars Jodorowsky and his sons as they chart the director’s childhood in Chile.
Details are slight, with the Wikipedia synopsis mentioning: “One scene will depict how he was refused food at his school because he was wealthier than the rest of the town as his father had a store which sold women’s undergarments.” Alright, then.
I’d expect nothing less than a beguiling work of mastery from the man behind such towering achievements as El Topo, The Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre. Elsewhere in Director’s Fortnight, Jodorowsky’s designs for the film adaptation of Dune – ultimately helmed by David Lynch – are chronicled in Frank Pavich’s Jodorowsky’s Dune.
Other considerations: Serge Bozon’s Tip Top; Ari Folman’s The Congress