Cannes Film Festival 2013: 17th May Reactions Part 1 (‘The Past’, ‘Stranger by the Lake’, ‘Stop the Pounding Heart’)

Asghar Farhadi

Asghar Farhadi

Morning, everyone. The films are mounting up, so I’m separating today’s proceedings into two posts.


Raffi Asdourian, The Film Stage

“Despite being a slow burn, pacing-wise, the film never lingers on one character for too long. This balancing act of personas can be a tricky, if not daunting task for a director, yet Farhadi seems right at home working with his French actors, able to maintain a sense of equilibrium throughout.”

John Bleasdale, Cine-Vue

“Farhadi’s films always aspire to – and so often achieve – the subtlety of a brilliant novel, and although The Past lacks the biting political subplot of the aforementioned A Separation, it once again confirms the Iranian director as one of world cinema’s most accomplished anatomists of human relationships.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“I wonder if Farhadi hasn’t overloaded his film with an almost exotic abundance of detail and plot surprises, taking it to the limit of plausibility. But what a grippingly made picture it is, with real intellectual sinew…”

Brad Brevet, Rope of Silicon

“Farhadi balances four characters with such grace that when one of them disappears for about ten minutes you begin to feel their absence, wanting them to return as you feel the characters left behind may unravel entirely if all the pieces are not kept together.”

Dave Calhoun, Time Out London

“It’s never entirely clear what Farhadi is trying to say with this film. Perhaps his main interest is responsibility – the taking of it, the lack of it, the search for it, the shirking of it, the claiming of it.”

Justin Chang, Variety

“As familiar as they are often unpredictable, Farhadi’s finely etched characters are forever revealing new sides of themselves to the camera, pulling the viewer’s sympathies every which way as the human condition is not just examined but anatomized.”

Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“The Past is the first feature the Iranian director has made outside of his homeland, and though it never quite equals the cloud-skimming brilliance of his last two works, About Elly and the Oscar-winning A Separation, it is still a mesmerically assured piece of filmmaking, crammed with performances as raw as steak tartare.”

Jordan Cronk, Slant

“As he did with both A Separation and About Elly, Farhadi utilizes living quarters as an area of adversity rather than comfort, the claustrophobic interiors and reflective surfaces of the family home adding to the gathering stress.”

Mike D’Angelo, The A.V. Club

“…this is a magnificent achievement, so dense with the weight of shared history that it’s a wonder it doesn’t collapse into a singularity”

Tim Grierson, Paste

“If there’s a complaint to be made—churlish as it may seem—it’s that Farhadi’s intricate, measured screenplay may be a little too perfectly constructed. Especially in its final third, as secrets and twists are revealed, The Past works so hard to make almost every character, even ones not mentioned in this review, three-dimensional that the film can feel orchestrated rather than organic.”

Jordan Hoffman, Film.com

“Ahmad and Marie-Ann are this close to communicating, but just can’t truly connect. It’s not a subtle metaphor, but Farhadi takes the material and gives it an elegant spin. You could say that about the entire film, in a way. This movie is gossipy and hand-wringing, but crafted with enough grace that you could safely call it art.”

Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist

“Mature and real in a way that dramas rarely aspire too, “The Past” posits that sometimes the only way to move on from where you’ve been, is to turn around and face it head on.”

David Jenkins, Little White Lies

“What The Past confirms here is that one of Farhadi’s greatest assets as a filmmaker is the way he slides in tense asides and character details which allow the viewer to carry out their own nervous prognostication of how things might go down.”

Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema

“In one way or another each one of the characters must confront these facts as the drama quietly builds to a stirring but tantalizingly open-ended climax. I don’t expect to see a better movie this year.”

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

“Like last year’s Oscar-winning “A Separation,” Farhadi’s new movie confirms his unique ability to explore how constant chatter and anguished outbursts obscure the capacity for honest communication”

Guy Lodge, Hit Fix

“An intricately knotted, almost exhaustingly even-handed examination of tensions and untruths in a trio of marriages — one past, one future and one stuck in a purgatorial present — “The Past” further showcases Farhadi’s dexterity as a dramatist of uncommon perspicacity and fairness.”

Lee Marshall, Screen Daily

“It’s a brilliant piece of cinematic craftsmanship, but at times, our admiration of Farhadi’s art and his actors’ bravura drowns out our belief in a story that feels a little too rootless, too designed for dramatic effect.”

Shaun Munro, Film School Rejects

“Any director would have struggled to follow-up such a dramatically rich work as A Separation, though Farhadi ably acquits himself with a somewhat overlong but largely absorbing depiction of family turmoil. The desire to see Farhadi shoot for another theme and up his scope, however, is undeniable.”

Matt Patches, Hollywood.com

“Oscar talk is a component of Cannes and The Past is certainly a contender for year-end awards. But while the cast is deserving, Farhadi’s latest may be limited to foreign and writing categories. Despite the fury of dramatic wordplay and understated work across the board, this is not a collection of Daniel Day-Lewis-style performances. No broad characterizations, no identifiable mimicking, no showy explosions.”

Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York

“There’s barely any way to describe the narrative specifics of The Past, with its steadily unraveling layers of miscommunication, evasion, and bald confession, without making the movie seem ridiculously melodramatic. Yet Farhadi is the kind of artist who can lend even the hoariest-in-conception metaphor… You never feel like you’re in the hands of anyone less than a master storyteller.”

Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter

“The Past plays like a low-key adagio in the hands of a masterful pianist, who knows how to give every note its just nuance and how every single phrase affects all the rest.”


Ryland Aldrich

Asghar Farhadi’s THE PAST is a beautiful and complex domestic drama w/ brilliant performances & gorgeous long-take cinematography.

Geoff Andrew, Sight & Sound

Asghar Farhadi’s THE PAST an overlong domestic drama: too many revelations and red herrings despite keen attention to detail

Raffi Asdourian, The Film Stage

Should we forget the past to better our future? This is the question that plagues Farhadi’s effective drama about love lost.

Alex Billington, First Showing

The Past – AKA The Stain. Farhadi’s brilliant grasp of complex relationships on display again, much depth, but too obsessed with the past.

More than anything, Fahradi gets phenomenally deep performances out of his cast. It’s their interactions that truly shine in this film.

John Bleasdale, Cine-Vue

The Past confirms Farhadi as an accomplished anatomist of nuanced relationships

Xan Brooks, The Guardian

Ashgar Farhadi’s The Past: shattering drama of domestic demons & rattling baggage. Scratches scab to let the wound bleed clean

Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

The Past may not hit the Himalayan peaks of Asghar Farhadi’s recent work, but it’s mesmerically acted and raw as steak tartare

Jordan Cronk, Slant

THE PAST (A. Farhadi): No matter his locale, Farhadi manages to weave a knotty, involving, eventually strained narrative. B/B+

Jordan Cronk, Slant

Granted, it’s still early on, but it feels like THE PAST is your Palme winner.

Mike D’Angelo, The A.V. Club

The Past (Farhadi): 82. Farhadi may be the best pure dramatist in the world right now. Theme’s a bit blunt here (The Past!); still superb.

Peter Debruge, Variety

THE PAST (Asghar Farhadi, 2013), – 9/10

Meticulously constructed to reveal & reverse its characters. More melodramatic than A SEPARATION, yet immersed in a specific modern dynamic.

Kenji Fujishima, In Review Online

THE PAST (2013, Farhadi): a touch more distractingly schematic than A SEPARATION, but for the most part, he’s done it again.

William Goss, MSN Movies

The Past: not quite on par with A Separation, but just as chock full of misunderstandings and moral compromises. Superb cast.

Glenn Heath Jr., Fandor

THE PAST (B/B+): Expertly crafted, script, perfs., & mise-en-scene working in perfect harmony. One too many narrative wrinkles.

Eugene Hernandez, Filmlinc

Farhadis “The Past” (Le Passe) now | Enveloping drama gets better & better as builds to tiny stunning moment in final scene. Wow

Jordan Hoffman, ScreenCrush

LE PASSÉ is without question the greatest episode of ALL MY CHILDREN I’ve ever seen.

Peter Howell, Toronto Star

THE PAST: Hot Palme prospect like folo 2 A SEPARATION, Farhadi’s Oscar winner, no less potent in observing how small misdeeds compound pain.

David Jenkins, Little White Lies

THE PAST (Farhadi) Exceptional. Replay of A Separation that touches on a every domestic shitstorm imaginable. Palme contender.

Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema

A SEPARATION is what you call a tough act to follow but Asghar Farhadi pulled off a complex emotional symphony with “The Past”

Eric Kohn, Indiewire

Like A SEPARATION, Farhadi’s wrenching divorce drama THE PAST is a detective story about the mysteries of behavior.

Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail

Asghar Fahradi’s follow-up to A Separation another intense complex domestic drama/mystery with an exhaustion of late revelations.

Guy Lodge, HitFix

THE PAST (B+) Not a melodrama so much as an anatomy of one. Exacting, beautifully acted. Woolly last act: fairness almost a dramatic debit?

Kate Muir, The Times

Emotionally shattered after Asghar Farhadi’s brilliant The Past . Bejo, Rahim, and Mosaffa superb.

Shaun Munro, Film School Rejects

The Past – 3.5/5. Engrossing family drama proceeds at glacial pace though packed with strong performances. Bejo occasionally OTT

Michal Oleszczyk, RogerEbert.com

THE PAST: 8/10, but gives further example of Farhadi being easier on male characters, whom he sees as less meddlesome and more moral

Matt Patches, Hollywood.com

Ali Mosaffa gives an engrossing performance in Asghar Farhadi’s fierce character drama The Past.

I’m amazed by the entrancing performances in Asghar Farhadi’s The Past. Feel like it’s hard to make naturalism pop.

By that I mean vivacious roles often come with a character twist. Heightened attribute or time period. The Past is about “normal joes.”

David Poland, Movie City News

Though it sometimes dips into an arty Hardy Boy Mystery, Asghar Farhadi’s follow-up to A Separation is loaded w/ great stuff, esp in 3rd act

Berenice Bejo gives a performance that puts her right there w/ the top tier of dramatic actresses, in France or anywhere else. Huge for her

Jonathan Romney, Screen Daily

Farhadi’s THE PAST – morose domestic drama dragging leaden weight of the Psychological Novel in its rucksack…

Craig Skinner, Hey U Guys

THE PAST (B+) Complex relationships, misunderstandings & just the right amount of melodrama makes for a very absorbing story. Bejo astounds.

Nigel M. Smith, Indiewire

The Past: Hard to remember when I saw an ensemble this uniformly strong. Oh yeah, A Separation.

The Past is a phenomenal achievement for Farhadi and co. Intricate, moving, universal. Boasts a killer last shot.

Jason Solomons, The Observer

farhadi’s The Past – mature, well-acted, classy (prissy?) French drama about a dry cleaner and a stubborn stain. Soapy, indeed.

Fred Topel, Crave Online

Liked THE PAST. Not as profound as A SEPARATION but still juicy drama.

Jeff Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere

Asghar Farhadi’s “The Past” is a brilliant domestic (melo)drama. Riveting from start to finish. Intricately plotted, onion layers peeled.

Damon Wise, Empire

The Past was pretty great: authentic and assured family drama


Adam Cook, MUBI Notebook

“In Stranger by the Lake, director Guirardie creatively exploits its single location, bringing out various qualities from a lakeside cruising spot and its surrounding woods, cleverly conducting a slowly unwinding drama that steadily gains intrigue and mystery.”

Mike D’Angelo, The A.V. Club

“In the end, though, and despite a creepily ambiguous final scene, it’s hard to see what Guiraudie is getting at apart from a general conflation of desire and danger.”

Fionnuala Halligan, Screen Daily

“Stranger By The Lake is by turns a commentary on risk-taking, sex, death and the gay community wrapped up in an art-house thriller with comic notes. Oddly enough, it’s a mix that works.”

Boyd van Hoeij, Variety

“Although “Stranger by the Lake” tackles serious and complex issues, Guiraudie keeps things extremely straightforward in narrative terms and also injects moments of humor, notably with a couple of supporting players, including a stalkerish nudist-voyeur.”

Guy Lodge, Hit Fix

“Hot and cold and provocative in more than just the expected ways, “Strangers by the Lake” presents even the most dishonest sex as an honest thrill.”

Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter

“Set entirely in one summery location, this not-very-straight story of a man’s infatuation with a local killer is at once lighthearted and gloomy, passionate and pared-down, and despite some longueurs, it provides a powerful critique on the dangers of social isolation and carefree living.”

Shaun Munro, Film School Rejects

“Though set entirely in one location, there’s a firm contrast here between the sunny optimism of the afternoon scenes and the sinister oppressiveness of the night-kissed ones. That’s nothing to be surprised at, given the film’s constant flavor not of a seedy crime thriller but instead a kinky neo-noir.”

Michal Oleszczyk, RogerEbert.com

“This gay erotic thriller, set entirely in a beach cruising area and played by a terrific (mostly nude) cast, is so surprising in its shifts of tone that it keeps you guessing literally from scene to scene. It’s by turns sweet, sexy and suspenseful — and manages to create characters that stay with you long after the screening.”

Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York

“Guiraudie is unfortunately little-known stateside beyond a devoted few, and it’s doubtful this mesmerizingly odd mix of queer-culture ethnography and Hitchcockian thriller will win him many converts. Consider that a wholehearted recommendation.”


Geoff Andrew, Sight & Sound

Alain Guiraudie’s STRANGER AT THE LAKE among best films í’ve seen so far. Odd mix of suspense, gay sex, comedy and poetic fable

John Bleasdale, Cine-Vue

L’Inconnu du Lac: Fruity quirky gay mystery about a cruising spot and a moider

Catherine Bray, Film4

Stranger By The Lake is ridiculously hot and features surely the most explicit sex of the festival, between a completely gorgeous couple.

Stranger By The Lake is also a playful, tense, Patricia Highsmith-esque dark mystery. Really enjoyed it. Congrats, those involved.

Jordan Cronk, Slant

STRANGER BY THE LAKE (A. Guiraudie): Simple means yield spellbinding results in this masterclass of tension, atmosphere. Wow. A-

Mike D’Angelo, The A.V. Club

Stranger by the Lake (Guiraudie): 50. Might be too straight for this, as it’s pretty close to being gay porn w/an unusually hefty plot.

Peter Debruge, Variety

STRANGER BY THE LAKE (Alain Guiraudie, 2013), – 8/10

Explicit but not exploitative, this thriller set entirely within a specific gay cruising spot also serves an allegory for gay relationships.

Kenji Fujishima, In Review Online

STRANGER BY THE LAKE (2013, Giraudie): pat gay love story, part mystery, all odd, gorgeous. Good 1st encounter w/Alain Giraudie.

Glenn Heath Jr., Fandor

STRANGER AT THE LAKE (B+/A-): Singular, explicit, and strangely intoxicating woodland noir about the consequences of delusion.

Aaron Hillis, Movie Maker Magazine

STRANGER BY THE LAKE: Cum for the explicit gay cruising, stay for the Bressonian austerity & suspense thrills. Fave of as of today.

David Jenkins, Little White Lies

STRANGERS BY THE LAKE (Guiraudie) Bucolic Hitchcockian gay cruising comedy murder mystery neo-noir romance. Delightful.

Michal Oleszczyk, RogerEbert.com

STRANGER BY THE LAKE: fun erotic gay thriller, played mostly in the nude and shifting from comedy to soft-porn to rom-com. 9/10

Damon Wise, Empire

Really enjoyed Stranger By The Lake; dark XXX-rated gay infatuation story, leavened with dry humour


David Neary, Next Projection

“Naturally acted by non-professionals playing versions of themselves, the film is interesting up to a point, when it becomes clear that it has little more to say than that the American South loves religion, guns and manly pursuits. There is a deeper study of gender roles to this story; that is simply not presented here.”

Jonathan Romney, Screen Daily

“What comes to mind is something between the outdoor poetics of the Terence Malick school and the composed grittiness of revered photographer William Eggleston.”


Shaun Munro, Film School Rejects

Stop the Pounding Heart – 2/5. Captures the flavour of American southern parochialism though never engages us to care

David Neary, Diary of a Film Cricket

Stop the Pounding Heart: Stolid drama set in rural Texas. Highlights some contradictions in Christian America, but takes its time doing it.

Jonathan Romney, Screen Daily

STOP THE POUNDING HEART – it doesn’t quite do that, but bracing piece of quasi-docu ethno-Americana – a Texan touch of Silent Light…

Fred Topel, Crave Online

STOP THE BEATING HEART is the Catholic goat farmer/bull rider romance of the year.

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