Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015 Cannes Check #9 - The Europeans

Already talked about French and Italian directors but there are three more that complete the European invasion to 2015 Cannes main competition as out of 19 films, 11 are by European directors. The last European directors come from Norway, Greece and Hungary. The three are newbies to Cannes main competition with one achieving what not many have done, having his debut feature film competing for the top award in the festival world.

Joachim Trier

His debut feature film, Reprise, absolutely blew my mind with a very strong narrative-oriented style that developed into more quiet narrative in his second feature film, also mind blowing Oslo, 31. august. This is one director that I follow and all his films are must be seen for me.

Born in 1974 Copenhagen, Denmark but grew up in Norway in a filmmaking family. Yes, he is a distant relative of Lars von Trier. After attending the European Film College in Denmark, he trained at the British National Film and Television School, where he made several award winning short films. His debut feature film, Reprise gave him the Best Director award at 2006 Karlovy Vary and many more international honors; his second feature film, Oslo, August 31 opens in 2011 Cannes Un Certain Regard and also gave him multiple honors. Last year he was a member of the Cinéfondation & Short films jury. This time will be his third time in Cannes and the 1st time in competition.

There is no doubt that he has the filmmaking gene as just take a look at what he recently said about his grandfather and the company he had at Cannes.
My grandfather Erik Løchen participated with his first film The Hunt (Jakten) in Cannes in 1960, in the same program as Antonioni, Fellini, Buñuel and Bergman, and Cannes has always meant something special to me on a personal level. Cannes is the perfect place for my film to meet the world.

There is one thing bothering me. His third feature film, Louder than Bombs, is his first in the English-language film and not many directors are successful when they work in a language that is not his mother tongue. I just hope Trier will be the exception as this is a more European production plus has an extraordinary cast. Still, I have high expectations and hope film will clearly show his particular narrative style. Then can't skip that I always watch everything with Isabelle Huppert; so no matter what, film is must be seen for me.  Isabelle Huppert is in two in competition movies this year and she is always a contender for the Best Actress award; if she wins it will be the third time she wins Best Actress at Cannes.

Basic info about Louder Than Bombs
Director: Joachim Trier
Scriptwriters: Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier
Language: English
Runtime: 110 mins
Production country: Norway, France, Denmark and USA
Production Companies: Motlys A/S (Thomas Robsahm), Animal Kingdom (Joshua Astrachan), Arte France Cinéma, Bona Fide Productions (Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa), Memento Films Production (Alexandre Mallet-Guy), Nimbus Film Productions, Beachside Films (Joshua Astrachan)
Distribution: Memento Films for International sales.

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne, Amy Ryan, David Strathairn, Rachel Brosnahan

Plot Summary
An upcoming exhibition celebrating renowned photographer Isabelle Reed three years after her untimely death brings her eldest son back to the family house - forcing him to spend more time with his father and withdrawn younger brother than he has in years. With the three of them under the same roof, the father Gene tries desperately to connect with his two sons, but they struggle to reconcile their feelings about the wife and mother they remember.

Film Stills

Yorgos Lanthimos

Now we enter into the realm of the experimental, strange and highly disturbing. Born in 1973 in Athens, Greece, this director, writer, producer and occasional actor studied at the Stavrakos Film School in Athens. His early works include TV ads, music videos, short films and experimental theater plays. In his first feature film, My Best Friend, he shared directing credits with his mentor Lakis Lazopoulos; so his first solo directing feature film, experimental Kinetta, opens in 2005 Thessaloniki fest and travels the festival circuit, including 2005 Toronto and 2006 Berlinale.

He becomes well-known in cinema festivals circuit with his second solo featuring film, not-easy-to-watch Kynodontas (Dogtooth) that opens in 2009 Cannes Un Certain Regard and won the section top award plus went to win many honors, including an Oscar nomination. Then comes also not-easy-to-watch Alpeis (Alps) that opens in competition for a Golden Lion at 2011 Biennale.

Definitively Lanthimos is a festival regular, so actually is not surprising that with his fourth solo feature film, The Lobster, he is in competition for a Palme d'Or at Cannes. What is kind of surprising for me is that he end up where many young directors are going, in the English-language films territory. Why? Because he is so experimental, which has made him to stand out among the many young directors in what we can call cinema new generation. So either The Lobster still represents his style -which will make film not-easy-to-watch- or he has become more mainstream, sigh.

But there is hope as The Lobster is an European production with a great cast and a very unusual story that feels exactly as another Lanthimos strange story. Then we have to consider more positive facts, script was developed at the Rotterdam fest where won ARTE International Prize for Best CineMart 2013 Project. Still, what excites me more about this film being in Cannes are the probabilities of Léa Seydoux walking the red carpet! This is his second time in Cannes and the first he is in the main competition.

Basic Info about The Lobster
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Scriptwriters: Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos
Language: English
Runtime: 118 mins
Production country: Greece, UK, Ireland, Netherlands and France
Production Companies: Element Pictures, Faliro House Productions, Haut et Court, Lemming Film, Limp Films, Scarlet Films
Distribution: Protagonists Pictures as sales agent, Haut et Court (France)

Cast: Léa Seydoux, Rachel Weisz, Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly

Plot Summary
An unconventional love story set in a dystopian near future where single people, according to the rules of The City, are arrested and transferred to The Hotel. There they are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into The Woods. A desperate Man escapes from The Hotel to The Woods where The Loners live and falls in love, although it is against their rules.

Film Still

László Nemes

Now we enter an unknown territory as Saul Fia is Nemes first feature film and there are only three award winners short films from 2007, 2008 and 2010 in his previous filmography.

Born in 1977 in Budapest, Hungary; but grew up in Paris. After studying History, International Relations and scriptwriting, he worked as an assistant director in France and Hungary on short and feature films. For two years, he worked as Béla Tarr’s assistant. He study film directing in New York.

His feature film debut Son of Saul script was developed at 22th session of Cannes Cinéfondation - La Résidence and at other festivals project development aids like Sarjevo CineLink, Jerusalem Film Lab and Les Arcs.

Most interesting is La Résidence note of intent, take a look to an excerpt.
We follow the main character throughout the film, reveal only his immediate surroundings, and even less – a process I have been experimenting with in my short films – and create an organic filmic space of reduced proportions, closer to human perception.

In my mind there is no doubt that Nemes appears to be -in paper- a filmmaker with the right credentials to have a film in Cannes competition. Even when story surely is going to be not-pleasant to watch, I'm very curious about film tech specs as from what I learned, imagine very claustrophobic scene framing and visuals which undoubtedly could make story rise to most uncomfortable emotional levels.  Film stills also suggest interesting use of light, with most available stills showing high absence of light as they tend to be on the darker side that dilutes images. Great!

Basic info about Saul fia (Son of Saul)
Director: László Nemes
Scriptwriters: László Nemes and Clara Royer
Language: Hungarian
Runtime: 107 mins
Production country: Hungary
Production Companies: Laokoon Filmgroup
Distribution: Ad Vitam Distribution (France), Films Distribution as sales agent

Plot Summary
Two days in the life of Saul Auslander, Hungarian prisoner working as a member of the Sonderkommando at one of the Auschwitz Crematoriums who, to bury the corpse of a boy he takes for his son, tries to carry out his impossible deed: salvage the body and find a rabbi to bury it. While the Sonderkommando is to be liquidated at any moment, Saul turns away of the living and their plans of rebellion to save the remains of a son he never took care of when he was still alive.

Film Stills

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