The Cannes film festival runs 14-25 May and the 2019 line-up was announced. As usual there are a bunch of filmmakers I’ve never heard of. My most anticipated films (so far) are, in no particular order:
Matthias & Maxime (Xavier Dolan)
Parasite (Bong Joon-ho)
The Dead Don’t Die (Jim Jarmusch)
A Hidden Life (previously titled “Radegund”) (Terrence Malick)
Sorry We Missed You (Ken Loach)
Le jeune Ahmed (Dardenne’s)
Bacurau (Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça Filho)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)
In other (more personal) news, I am off to the UK on a few days holiday soon and will be in the London area. Have seen many of the big attractions but want to try things I’ve not done. Despite my love of movies, I’ll probably skip the London Film Museum as you can basically look at most of the Bond in Motion tour via YouTube. Besides, I have seen a few of the cars already at the now defunct Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Keswick.
Was hoping to see Houses of Parliament this time but is only open on Saturdays at the moment while Buckingham Palace is closed with tours for tourists between July-September. Speakers Corner in Hyde Park sounds fun on weekends but I’m not able to go on a Saturday. I was surprised to discover St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey both have an entrance fee now of approx £20 but the bigger museums are still free of charge.
Considering the image in the header of my blog, I should seek out Abby Road which the Beatles famously walked across. Are there any music museums in London?
My plan is to visit the Stanley Kubrick exhibition (image above) at the Design Museum in Kensington, which opened in late April. Other ideas include seeing Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and a trip to the south coast for the 1066 museum in Battle, near Hastings. Might also go to Churchill’s war rooms near Downing Street, although, again, you can see much on YouTube. Last but not least Denis’ new sci-fi film High Life is playing in cinemas so I’ll attempt to catch that when I’m over. If you have any other suggestions of interesting things to visit in the London area, let me know! I’m still reading guide books out of a fear of missing out!
On to the spoiler-free mini-reviews:
Us (2019) (Jordan Peele)
The ‘us and them’ aspect is clever and ambiguous, tapping into division, inequality in society, and the fear of invasion. The title Us could mean U.S. as in United States. I just wish Peele did more with his idea. Lupita Nyong’o’s creepy voice( there has been backlash as she was inspired by a vocal disability), the red outfits, and the scissors are memorable. The weakness is the plot. Not as entertaining and well-told as Get Out. I liked the score and music choices but the concept is underdeveloped. The situation we find ourselves in stagnates by not escalating beyond the battle of the two sides. Large chucks of the film take place in near darkness which made it hard to follow at times. The use of Good Vibrations can’t have been what The Beach Boys envisioned yet nevertheless an effective scene. There are a few laughs, mostly spoken by Winston Duke’s character.
I didn’t find it scary because it was so far from real life. Granted is an allegorical horror so wasn’t going for realism per se. You have to suspend your disbelief to buy into the story and I wasn’t quite able to go there. The twist (which I won’t go into) somewhat saves the movie.
Director/writer Jordan Peele is quoted: ”There’s a presumption in the industry that if black people are the leads in a film it has to be in some way about race. I wanted to show that we can push past that.”
Queen of Hearts (2019) (May el-Toukhy)
The best film of 2019 so far. A Danish drama which won the Audience Award at Sundance. A female director to keep an eye on for the future. Very well-acted by the entire cast and especially by Trine Dyrholm. A realistic #MeToo story that humanizes a family and shows how an inappropriate relationship gradually develops. Not a spoiler to say there’s tragedy in what’s done cannot be undone. The world needed a #MeToo film with a female as the perpetrator even though isn’t the only time it’s been done as we also have Notes on a Scandal (2006) and A Horrible Woman (2017). However these films are very different. As a Danish reviewer wrote, Queen of Hearts is harsh yet gripping.
Never Look Away (2018) (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
Nominated for an Academy Award for foreign language film at the recent Oscars. A German romantic historical drama. Loosely based on Gerhard Richter’s student life, one of the 20th century’s most admired visual artists. I did not know of him beforehand. You can tell there is a desire to create a national epic with a timeline running from the 1930s until the 1960s. The film is impressive to look at and was nominated for its cinematography. A shout out to Saskia Rosendahl who despite a supporting role manages to outshine the two leads. The story works on an educational level, I didn’t know how the Nazi’s treated the handicapped and the mentally ill. Also, the censorship issue for artists during the era is explored. As an NPR podcast noted, the film asks: Why make art? Who is it for?
However the storytelling isn’t as confident or focused as the director’s previous The Lives of Others (2006). We follow the young artist and his relationship but I sometimes felt there wasn’t enough conflict, especially in the second half. My biggest gripe is the underwritten female character Ellie Seeband. Granted the film is set in the past when women were not as liberated but for a three hour film you would expect her to have a personality and not just be a sex object. I also felt the director didn’t know how to end the film as the last scene was unsatisfying considering I’d just invested 189 minutes. The comedy aspects were a surprise, the Germans aren’t know for their sense of humor. Particularly amusing was the eccentric teacher at the art school. Never Look Away wants to be a masterpiece yet the story is lacking something, resulting in a good but not great watch.
Stan and Ollie (2019) (Jon S. Baird)
About the final years of comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as we follow them when they are no longer as popular and trying to secure a movie deal while touring the UK performing live gigs at theatres. Perhaps not the most interesting story to tell but that is what the filmmakers decided on.
The make-up department did some great work here transforming the actors yet John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan are still able to deliver emotive performances that don’t cross over into caricature. The supporting character Ida Kitaeva Laurel (Nina Arianda) has some funny dialogue as well.
An affectionate tribute that is not as inventive as the Laurel and Hardy classics from the past but worth a watch to see behind the mask of who they were as people. Sometimes reality was not far from fiction such as the scene when they arrive at the hotel entrance. Although I don’t know how accurate the depicted events are.
Chimes at Midnight (1965) (Orson Welles)
The cowardly yet boastful drunkard Falstaff (Orson Welles) has many amusing lines, and the character reminded me a little of The Other of the Wind’s attention-seeking yet sad Jake Hannaford. While Falstaff dominates the film with his wit, it’s really Prince Hal’s journey which is the most interesting, as he faces a tough decision. The Battle of Shrewsbury sequence is impressively staged. Unfortunately I didn’t connect with the story as much as I had hoped. Fair play to Welles for putting his own spin on Shakespeare. Many admire the film, but the speed at which the lines are delivered made for a frustrating watch. Difficult to follow, even with subtitles. I found it too dense, I suspect I’d have liked it better as a book. Also, you need to be familiar with the Shakespeare works the screenplay is based on to fully appreciate Welles’ film. Probably deserves a higher rating as there is rewatch value but I’m scoring it on my enjoyment.
Battle of Britain (1969) (Guy Hamilton)
By the director of Bond movie Goldfinger. Worth a look for the all-star cast and spectacular air warfare involving spitfires and the German equivalent. An important piece of history but the movie lacks variation and heart.
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome