Friday, May 25, 2018
The Film Club #9 | Cannes Film Festival Edition

The Film Club #9 | Cannes Film Festival Edition

Quick update! I am so grateful to have worked at the Cannes Film Festival for an internship this year. I was also able to see some films up for competition when tickets were available. Here are some mini-reviews of the films I saw there:

*spoilers ahead*

Yomeddine (Arabic)

This was the first movie I saw while at Cannes. I didn't know what to expect as I was overall just more concerned that it had been nearly 4 days at the festival and I still hadn't seen any of the going Glastonbury and not seeing any bands, y'know?

Yomeddine was the perfect start to my movie escapade. It tells the story of Beshay, a man who is cured of leprosy yet suffers through the scars of the illness. He hasn't left the leper colony in the Egyptian desert which he has been in since his childhood and one day decides to leave everything behind and embark on a journey to find his family who abandoned him. He is joined by an orphaned apprentice and best friend who upon this journey form an even closer bond as a result of the challenges they are faced with. As mentioned in a review on The Guardian (who does not rate the film quite so highly), I would agree that the film was somewhat sugarcoated and would have benefited from exploring Beshay's marital relationship rather than a fictional buddy-friendship. However, overall the film explored the struggles Beshay has and does still encounter surrounding affirming his humanity that remains despite the scarring leprosy has left behind. The director Abu Bakr Shawky makes an impressive feature film debut which was nominated for the Cannes Palme d'OrGrand PrixJury Prize, AND the Best Director Award.


Under The Silver Lake (US English)

I've had the time to digest this film and I still. don't. have. a. clue. what it was about. I really don't. I'll put it out there in the open because sometimes even someone with a degree (does it mean anything these days!) can't analyze a film. Maybe if I watched it again and paused every minute to analyze I would be able to get my head around it. Sometimes you just can't see what the filmmaker has intended for you to see beyond his symbolism and metaphors.

Sam, played by dreamy Andrew Garfield (and probably the highlight for me) lives in an apartment block in sunny LA. He spends his days snooping on his topless neighbor (à la Rear Window, Hitchcock) with binoculars whilst trying to gain an extra few days to get money for his rent. One night, he meets a mysterious and beautiful woman who's swimming in his building's pool one night. The next morning she has vanished and because Sam has absolutely nothing better to do, he decides to embark on a quest across the city to find out the secret behind her disappearance which takes all kinds of twists and turns. Yes, it all sounds good and well as a synopsis but the story itself has a strange infatuation with dogs, comic books, puzzles, decoding secrets from cereal box packets and god knows what else I saw. I attended the premiere of this (ooherr) where a successful film can receive anything from 10 to maybe even 20 minutes of a standing ovation and applause. 

A large chunk of the audience had already left either because they were as stumped about the film as I was or because it was about midnight and they couldn't be bothered clapping for 15 minutes. I left pretty sharpish for both reasons. Andrew Garfield himself did not attend the premiere, bizarre considering he was the lead role of the film, so again either he had another very important engagement or he, after filming, decided he no longer wanted to be associated with this 'film'. Who knows what is under the silver lake. Who knows why Andrew Garfield didn't attend. Who knows why a majority of the audience left without applause. Who knows. The mystery continues.

I can definitely see this movie appealing to some people but sadly it did not to me.


Three Faces (Iranian)

The first scene of Three Faces was enough to capture my attention, as it opens with a video phone message of a young provincial girl's plead for help who claims she is about to hang herself. In the video, she explains how she is oppressed by her family to not pursue her studies at the Tehran drama conservatory. This video is then sent to well-known actress Behnaz Jafari (playing herself). Jafari thus decides to abandon the current shoot she is working on, and alongside Jafar Panahi (director, also playing himself) embark on a journey to find this girl, who they don't believe has actually killed herself...because otherwise, how else would she have sent the video? They both travel by car to the rural north where they have interesting encounters with the locals of the girl's mountain village. It was a unique perspective to shoot a film, where we are constantly looking from the POV of the director throughout. Whilst it was purposely quite a slow-paced film, I found this to be the thing I disliked as the movie at times moved so slowly, for example, scenes of walking or of views etc, and my patience wanted things to happen a bit quicker! I wasn't expecting anything action-packed but I just got ants in my pants (lol) waiting for things to happen!

It received an impressive standing ovation and applause which I stuck around for just to experience it and it's worth being part of at Cannes as it's quite unique. I think this time, in particular, it received more of an applause because the director is actually banned from leaving his home country, Iran, and wasn't there to present the film in Cannes.


Shoplifters (Japanese)

I was lucky to be given a ticket for the very last day of Cannes where they were showing several screenings of the Palme d'Or winner, Shoplifters - Japanese film written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. It tells the tale of a somewhat dysfunctional family of five living under the same roof in a cramped house amongst a cluttered neighbourhood outside Tokyo. One day, following an excursion out shoplifting at their local grocery store, Osamu (the father) and son, Shota come across one of their neighbours, a 4-year-old girl who is standing out cold and alone on her balcony with the noise of bickering parents coming from the home behind her. Osamu & Shota both decide to willingly take in this young girl, named Yuri and give her a hot meal. The family is in no financial position to take on another person into their already poverty-stricken home where they live off of shoplifting and the grandmother's pension to get by. However, when the mother notices burn marks on the girl's arms and discover these as signs of abuse, she decides to adopt her into the family. Everyone gets along despite the confined environment they all live in however a news report (two months later!) reporting the disappearance of Yuri, things start to get more complicated, and more secrets to unfold about the relations between others in the household.

I really enjoyed this moving story and how regardless of poverty and limited space, at the core was a caring family who wanted to look after people, even though their means weren't entirely 'legal', hm. It's received an impressive 93/100 on IMDb from critics and of course, went on to win the most prestigious award of the festival as voted by the jury panel. From others that saw Burning, Dogman, BlacKkKlansmann, etc, said that these films were more deserving of winning than Shoplifters, however, I think overall the film ticks all the boxes. This article explains better why it was the winning prize.


Asako I & II (Japanese)

For those who didn't have the chance to see some films throughout the week, the festival jam-packed the final day before the closing ceremony with all the films in competition - including Asako 1 & 2 which I managed to nab a seat in the screening for! It is just the one film - though it's titled with '1&2" in it - the one and two describing the two different men Asako encounters in this film (I assume). She meets Baku, in the middle of Osaka like something straight out of a fairy tale - they catch each other's eyes, she walks towards Baku and they kiss as if time stands still between them. Unfortunately, Baku has a bad habit of disappearing every now and then, for example, he says he's going out to buy some bread then doesn't come back for a day, and this time 6 months later he goes out and never comes back again. Asako accepts that she may never meet him again but instead meets someone who is practically identical to him later on in life. She is still haunted by the first love she had but as this new man, Ryoshei persists, she realises she loves him too. However, later on, she discovers Baku has become a famous model and realizes she wants to go back to him. I did enjoy this film for about the first half but then just got annoyed with Asako and how she couldn't make her goddamn mind up, but then again, I can't talk as I'm useless with making decisions at times.

Unpopular opinion, but I'm not sure this movie was entirely deserving of being up for as prestigious an award as a Cannes nomination. Another thing I couldn't help but think was, but what if this film was in English, set in America, for example? Would it have the same effect? I think certain movies can get away with certain things because of the beauty of language. Japanese sounds extremely beautiful even though I have no idea what they're saying (luckily I do, thanks to subtitles) which detracts from plots that are sort of lacking and in this case, cheesy and melodramatic. Asako is ambiguous in her decisions and doesn't seem to have a clue what she wants which made it quite amusing and funny to watch. If the intention was for her to come off as someone ditzy and contrary then that was well portrayed.


The Big Blue/Le Grand Bleu (French)

A little add - on! As this film was not in competition, at least not this year, but actually 30 years ago, Le Grand Bleu by Luc Besson screened at the Cannes Film Festival which received multiple boo-ing's but despite its lack of success at the competition, it went on to become a cult phenomenon of its generation. Whilst at Cannes they had a series of films showing at the 'cinéma de la plage' aka - cinema on da beach. One evening I went along and stuck my feet in the sand and plonked myself at the front row on a deck chair and got dived deep into the big blue (ahahaha get it? ok let me explain). The film is basically all about diving and dolphins and water. In actual fact, the handprint of Luc Besson outside the Palais has a small doodle of a dolphin which now sums up his odd obsession with the sea animal.

The film features gorgeous underwater photography and spectacular location shooting in the French Antibes, the Greek islands, Peru and Sicily. But it is the emotional intensity of the film experience and mystical themes of the story that have made it a cult phenomenon to this day. The film is the story of the rivalry between Enzo (Jean Reno) and Jacques, two childhood friends who are world-renowned free divers which shows the beautiful and perilous journey into oneself and the unknown. Jacques is so obsessed with diving and water that it interferes with his relationships and life and when he sleeps he thinks he's still in the water...

I enjoyed watching this movie on the beach especially as the film is set in similar locations so it really set the right atmosphere for the film, and the soundtrack literally vibrated the sand beneath me. It's not my favourite by Luc Besson at all and I'm not obsessed with water or looking at views in films so I won't be diving in to watching it again (hah...ha)


Voila for now! I'm so grateful I got to attend some premieres (at the age of 23!!) and see some up-and-coming exclusive films - it was a film-lovers dream come true. I can't wait to see the other films that were up for nominations, especially Burning, Dogman and BlacKkKlansmann. 
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Best Rom-Coms Of The 00's

The Best Rom-Coms Of The 00's

It might come as a surprise, considering I studied film, and often talk about my love for the films of Lynch and other arty-farty directors, which is true - I love them a lot! However, I also have a penchant for really, really cheesy, romantic comedies, the kind that have about an average of 5/10 on imdb. 

Of course when someone asks, 'what's your favourite film/director?' etc - a romantic comedy would not be my first choice. I guess they fall into the 'guilty pleasure' category. You know what though, I don't even feel guilty about it. My taste has always been broad, whether that's in music or art, books or films, if it is something I enjoy then I don't see the harm. 

I'm talking about my favourite rom-com's which shaped and developed my love for the motion picture. At the time I definitely didn't watch in depth considering the script, acting, location, production, lighting or anything for that matter, but these stories for me were fun and easy-going, something I'd watch to just switch off and dream off into a land where happily ever after was a certainty. Yes, it was quite a shock when I began to develop my tastes and watch real films about real life and realise I'd been lied to for years and years by Hollywood. Thanks guys. 

Here were (are) my favourites that I still watch to this day, if only to revel in the nostalgia of my pre-teen/teen days and dreams of meeting my very own Ralph Fiennes.

Maid In Manhattan

This has to be one of my all time favourites. Story goes as follows - maid works in hotel in New York, tries on clothes of one of the rich guests, accidentally bumps into a charming senatorial candidate, thinks she's a guest - they fall for one another - you get the jist. It's a sweet but predictable modern day Cinderella-like love story which Empire describes the plot as "rags-to-riches which should keep hopeless romantics happy". Hm, sums me up in a nutshell...

How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days

The fun thing about writing this post is that it requires very little of my brain to describe these easy plots to you, hurrah! 

How to lose a guy in 10 days was when I first fell in love with Kate Hudson and Matthew (can't spell his name). They were the best-looking couple I'd seen on screen since Jack & Rose! The film tells the tale of Andie and Benjamin - A being a how-to columnist for a magazine and B working in advertising. He bets that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. She is assigned to write an article on "How to Lose a Guy in 10 days." They then meet in a bar shortly after the bet is as you can see it does actually make for a fun film, as the conflicting characters have different goals which creates several obstacles for the bets they have made. On top of this, I find this film actually really funny (I mean it is a rom-COM after all) and Hudson's character Andie plays an OTT neurotic/dramatic girlfriend who is hilarious to watch as she tries all sorts of weird tactics to push Ben away.

The Wedding Planner

It's Matthew whatshisname and J LO, again! Did my parents pick up these tapes for me buy 1 get 1 free in Woolworths? I think so!
The Wedding Planner is about Mary (played by jenny from the block) who is rescued from a near-fatal collision with a runaway dumpster by handsome pediatrician Steve. After spending the most enchanting evening of their lives together, Mary thinks she's finally found a reason to believe in love after spending years of her career organising the big day for other people. She finally thinks her time has come. But her career and relationship collide. I won't say anymore in case you decide to watch this drivel and haven't already predicted what will happen.

She's All That

She's All That tells the story of Zach (Freddie Prinze Jr. - who fyi was my heartthrob) who is the 'most popular guy in school' (say that in a squeaky voice) and the envy of his peers. But his popularity fades when his cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor, leaves him for sleazy reality-television star Brock - lol, are you still following? As he is desperate to revive his fading reputation, he agrees to a seemingly impossible challenge and embarks on a bet with his friends (what is it with American movies and placing bets???)...anyway, he has six weeks to gain the trust of nerdy outcast Laney and help her to become the school's next prom queen. 

10 Things I Hate About You

I suppose out of all of these films, I am least ashamed to love 10 Things I hate About you. It is the coolest of the bunch - not hard to be when 'the bunch' of films are bordering on embarrassing. Kat (Julia Stiles) and Bianca are sisters but are like chalk and cheese. Older sister Kat is ill-tempered, moody, unapproachable and against mainstream everything - young Bianca is pretty, popular and trying to get a date with the popular boy Joey. New student Cameron goes head over heels for Bianca and even pretends to be a French tutor to get close to her (kinna creepy now I think about it). Kat & Bianca's dad is overprotective and forbids dating until Kat dates - which is highly unlikely since she is deemed a 'man-hater'. Joey wants Bianca and uses senior Patrick to attempt to win over Kat (another movie involving a bet!!!). Sounds like a bit of a mess but this is my all time favourite rom-com. It's the most quoted of this era of movies and Heath Ledger is a complete heartthrob especially during his rendition of "i love you baby" in the school's football grounds - a. moment. It also features now Oscar-winner Allison Janney in the early stages of her career!

Coyote Ugly

21-year-old Violet heads to NYC to pursue her dream of becoming a singer-songwriter. In order to make a living and afford rent, she settles on a job in a bar, only to find her aspirations sidelined by the accolades and notoriety she receives at her day job as a barmaid at the famous 'Coyote Ugly'. The "Coyotes" as they are affectionately called tease customers and the media alike with their outrageous antics, making Coyote Ugly the go-to place for guys looking to pull (they just opened a real-life bar in Liverpool fyi, I've been - it's quite something). This film is the definition of CHEESE but I really enjoyed it - it was a laugh, fun to sing a long to, and not to be taken seriously.

Sweet Home Alabama

Melanie (played by my fave Reese Witherspoon) has to return to her roots in the South to obtain a divorce from her redneck husband after seven years of separation, though he refuses to do so. Melanie left her home to become a fashion designer in New York and is due to be married to Andrew, the mayor of NY's son. On her trip home, she rediscovers her love for the simple life and realises that her life in New York was far from perfect in comparison.


Three best friends (Britney Spears, Zoey Saldana, Taryn Manning) get together and bury a box, making a pact to open it at midnight at their high school graduation. On the night of their graduation, they open the box and they strike up a conversation. Suddenly, one brings up the topic of her going to Los Angeles for a record contract audition. With little money, they set out on the road. This is probably the worst of the lot but I used to love this film so much, particularly because I was a Britney Spears fan at the time and this film features a couple of sing-a-long moments.

Other major favourites are Raising Helen, 13 Going on 30, Clueless, Legally Blonde, Notting Hill, Pretty Woman, The Lizzie McGuire movie...and so many more...what can I say, I have a thing for romantic comedies and I. am. not. ashamed.

There's definitely not as many romantic comedies circulating as there used it a dying genre? Are you partial to a rom-com, or are they just conveying unrealistic stories to an audience?