June 5 2016
Factual correction December 14 2016
Reviews from the Un Certain Regard Section at Cannes 2016…
ANY FAMILY that celebrates Noam Chomsky’s birthday is a bit strange and funny. This film has great comic moments and the fact that a family of seven marks the US counter-cultural and political theorist’s birthday, instead of Christmas, shows you just where this particular lot are coming from.
In many ways, this is a great subject and rarely, if ever, tackled before in a mainstream film. How do you live in a largely consumerist society when you have a fundamental issues with Capitalism and the social structure that constitutes it?
Viggo Mortensen (as Ben) is terrific in the lead, in a possibly career-enhancing performance, and is very much the patriarch who sets the rules. Not all his kids are happy about it and things become acute when news reaches them of their mother’s demise. She was in a hospital, suffering from depression.
It’s the trigger for this eccentric family to have to deal with the world again and renew relationships with their mother’s clan. There are tensions and again there are interesting questions – how far do you go in imposing your own views and lifestyle on your children? Predictably enough, Ben’s in-laws are already devastated by their daughter’s death and do not understand the way Ben has been bringing up their grandchildren. Frank Langella as Ben’s father-in-law, is his usual commanding self and rightly indignant about the lack of worldliness of his grandchildren. One classic moment is when one of the little uns’ can recite the US constitution but probably doesn’t know what Oreos are…
Writer-director Matt Ross gets terrific performances and this film is an entertaining and thoughtful one, and a bit of a departure from the usual fare. Its popularity, at Sundance earlier in the year, carried it all the way to Cannes and the reaction to it on its first viewing was quite stupendous – buoyed possibly by the US producers being in Cannes in force. Matt Ross won the director award in the Un Certain Regard section in which this film featured, reflecting its heart and soul – and it deserves strong box office.
Acv rating: **** (out of five)
Hell or High Water
A HEIST film, this goes some way beyond its genre, thanks to its fine acting and superlative cinematography.
British director David Mackenzie directs proceedings with skill and aplomb and this film should do well, commercially and critically.
Set in Texas Lowlands (if there such a thing), two brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Ben Foster (Tanner) look like a fairly typical set of hoodlums who go around busting small banks.
Actually, they’re a bit brighter and prove every bit the test for cop in charge Marcus (Jeff Bridges).
All three are in fine form and there are some neat twists and turns as Marcus pursues this pair who are looking to save foreclosure on their family farm.
It’s probably true that the banks don’t often help in such situations and security might amount to the bare minimum and both are connected.
It’s intelligent and sumptuously shot, and much of the audience was sold on it and vented its appreciation in Cannes at a first showing.
THERE was a huge buzz around this film which opened the Un Certain Regard Section in Cannes.
Director Mohamed Diab must have brought one of the largest casts together on stage to mark this screening (see below).
About the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution and set in Cairo, it’s a fascinating examination of ideas and personalities at a turbulent and tumultuous time in that country’s history.
As such it deserves to be seen widely and Diab has done well to give outsiders some perspective on what remains a complex and in many ways unsatisfactory situation now, with the army having wrested back control after the brief Muslim Brotherhood ‘experiment’.
That might be a loaded word but just like some Egyptians, you might wonder how long a group which doesn’t really believe in elections, would continue to uphold them, especially if results were going to go against them.
US-educated Diab (from his accent) shows there are no easy sides, even the binary of the army and the people is riven with complexities and mistaken assumptions (by people who know little, especially in the West).
Set almost solely in the back of a prison van with a about a dozen detainees, it’s hard to root for any individual or any group in particular.
You have the religious who support the Brotherhood and the religious who don’t; while the secularists or (hedonists) are divided and always viewed suspiciously by the others.
There are moments of good humour and Diab does well to convey the claustrophobia and dangerous chaos of the times.
It’s a solid piece of work but perhaps in not choosing an individual or small group to which our sympathies should be enlisted, Diab makes it a more challenging watch. He may be doing that for very good reasons but the film’s eventual punch is perhaps flatter than it should be for all that.
ACV rating: ***
Pictures from the screenings…
Wolf and Sheep (Directors’ Fortnight) reviewed here
Raman Raghav 2 (Critics’ Week) – separate review with video interviews coming…
A Yellow Bird (Directors’ Fortnight) – separate review with video interviews coming…