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Animation Cannes Festivals

Pixar’s Up at Cannes

Here is a short video feature of the world premiere of Pixar’s Up at the Cannes film festival this week.

The film opened to largely rave reviews.

> Official site for Up
> Critical reactions to the film at the festival
> Up at IMDb
> More about Pixar at Wikipedia

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Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2009 Reactions: Bright Star

Abbie Cornish and Ben Wishaw in Bright Star

Bright Star is the latest film from director Jane Campion and it explores the last years of John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his relationship with Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish).

It is screening in competition and initial reviews seem to suggest it is a return to form for ther Kiwi director who hasn’t made a film since 2003’s In the Cut (now best remembered for Meg Ryan’s awkward interview on Parkinson).

Here is a summary of the initial critical reaction: 

Todd McCarthy of Variety thinks it is an impressive return for Campion:

The Jane Campion embraced by 1990s arthouse audiences but who’s been missing of late makes an impressive return with “Bright Star.”

Breaking through any period piece mustiness with piercing insight into the emotions and behavior of her characters, the writer-director examines the final years in the short life of 19th century romantic poet John Keats through the eyes of his beloved, Fanny Brawne, played by Abbie Cornish in an outstanding performance.

Beautifully made film possesses solid appeal for specialized auds in most markets, including the U.S., where it will be released by Bob Berney’s and Bill Pohlad’s as-yet unnamed new distribution company, although its poetic orientation and dramatic restraint will likely stand in the way of wider acceptance.

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian thinks Campion could be up for another Palme d’Or (she won in 1993 for The Piano):

Jane Campion has put herself in line for her second Palme d’Or here at the Cannes film festival with a film which I think could be the best of her career.

Campion brings to this story an unfashionable, unapologetic reverence for romance and romantic love, and she responds to Keats’s life and work with intelligence and grace.”

Allan Hunter of Screen International is impressed by

Sixteen years after The Piano, Jane Campion has found renewed artistic inspiration in a tragic romance to match the haunting intensity of that Palme D’Or winning feature.

Bright Star deftly avoids the stilted, starchy quality often found in lesser period dramas. Characters appear comfortable in their clothes and settings, the dialogue flows easily from their lips and there is a quiet, everyday intimacy to the way events unfold.

We are invited into this world rather than kept at arm’s length because nothing jars or seems out of place. The keen attention to detail is never obtrusive  but instead creates a complete, credible universe.

Beautifully crafted in every department from the composure of the camerawork to the precision of the costume and production design, Bright Star is a film to savour.

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere admires it with some reservations:

It’s been done quite perfectly — I was especially taken with Grieg Frasder‘s vermeer-lit photography — with immaculate fealty for the textures and tones of early 19th Century London, and a devotion to capturing the kind of love that is achingly conveyed in hand-written notes that are hand delivered by caring young fellows in waistcoats.

But it struck me nonetheless as too slow and restricted and…well, just too damnably refined. I looked at my watch three times and decided around the two-thirds mark that it should have run 100 rather than 120 minutes. 

The pacing is just right for the time period — it would have felt appalling on some level if it had been shot and cut with haste for haste’s sake — but there’s no getting around the feeling that it’s a too-long sit. It’s basically a Masterpiece Theatre thing that my mother will love. I’m not putting it down on its own terms. I felt nothing but admiration for the various elements. 

Dave Calhoun of Time Out thinks it has an admirable lightness of touch:

[it is] free of the hysterics so often associated with films about writers and deftly avoids the distracting surface tendencies that can plague British period pieces set in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

“It’s also remarkable in its lightness of touch: the film barely tries to persuade us that Keats is a valid object of this girl’s affection or that he is a fine literary talent; we are left to learn both incidentally.

They’re wise choices, leaving Campion to concentrate on character and emotion rather than any special pleading about genius and its offshoots.”

Ray Bennett in The Hollywood Reporter predicts an arthouse hit:

With much grace and at considerable leisure, 1993 Palme d’Or winner Campion (“The Piano”) tells the story of the brief love affair between the gifted but early dead poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne.

Ben Whishaw plays Keats with impeccable tragedy and Abbie Cornish portrays winningly the beautiful seamstress Fanny, whose passion is constrained only by the rigorous mores of the times.

Cynics need not apply and it’s doubtful that “Bright Star” will be the shining light at many suburban cineplexes, but festivals will eat it up, art house audiences will swoon and it will have a lucrative life on DVD and Blu-ray, not to mention the BBC and PBS.

Here is a clip of the film from AFP:

Check the official Cannes site which has audio and video from the press conference.

More photos of the film can be seen here at Filmofilia.

> Bright Star at the IMDb
> Jane Campion at Wikipedia

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Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2009 Reactions: Fish Tank

Fish Tank

Fish Tank is the second film by British director Andrea Arnold and is also her second visit to Cannes after she went home with the Jury Prize for Red Road in 2006.

Her latest is about a rebellious English teenager (Katie Jarvis) who’s life appears like it could change for the better when her mother’s new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender) strikes a chord with her.

Here is a summary of the critical reaction, which appears to be largely positive.

Allan Hunter of Screen International thinks it is a strong second feature: 

“Andrea Arnold confidently navigates the pitfalls of the ‘difficult’ second feature with ‘Fish Tank,’ which confirms her status as a torchbearer for the social realist traditions of Ken Loach and the Dardenne brothers.” 

“The heartbreaking tale of a teenage misfit has a grim inevitability to the plotting which is offset by Arnold’s talent for multi-layered characters and naturalistic dialogue and her eye for finding the poetic moments in even the bleakest of lives.”

Leslie Felperin of Variety praises it but also points out that the people it is about will probably not get to see it:

Brit helmer Andrea Arnold’s sophomore feature offers such an entirely credible and – there’s no way around it – grim portrait of a sullen teenage girl living in a rough housing project in England’s Essex that it almost seems banal.

However, what makes pic feel special is its unflinching honesty and lack of sentimentality or moralizing, along with assured direction and excellent perfs.

Paradoxically, though immediately accessible to auds from the background depicted, “Fish Tank” is destined to swim only in arthouse aquariums, while likely adult-only ratings will keep teens – who really should see this – from getting in the door legally.

Only Catherine Hardwicke‘s ‘Thirteen‘ and a handful of other films have dared to evoke so frankly the nature of teenage femme sexuality, as young women test their power with a mixture of precocity and naivete.”

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian is full of praise, especially for Jarvis and Fassbender:

Andrea Arnold’s Palme d’Or contender is a powerful film of betrayed love in a bleak landscape, powered by fizzing performances from Michael Fassbender and newcomer Katie Jarvis.

Fish Tank is a powerfully acted drama, beautifully photographed by cinematographer Robbie Ryan, who intersperses bleak interiors with sudden, gasp-inducing landscapes like something by Turner.

Arnold takes elements of tough social-realist drama which are, if not cliches exactly, then certainly familiar — but makes them live again and steers the movie away from miserabilism, driven by a heartfelt central performance.

The performances of Jarvis and Fassbender are outstanding and their chemistry fizzes — and then explodes. It is another highly intelligent, involving film from one of the most powerful voices in British cinema.

Dave Calhoun of Time Out thinks that it is another chapter in the rise of Arnold as one of Britain’s most significant new directors:

It’s hugely satisfying to report that ‘Fish Tank’ shows Arnold going from strength to strength, offering new depths of filmmaking while at the same time building on a view of the world and a way of telling stories that are distinctly her own.

She also coaxes a performance of extraordinary emotion from young British newcomer Katie Jarvis.

‘Fish Tank’ is another intimate portrait of a female character living on the margins of a city.”

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere admires the film but is left cold by the themes: 

The chops in Fish Tank are accomplished and impressive. Arnold, who directed and wrote, knows exactly what she’s doing — she’s the real deal as far as having a voice and a vision of life is concerned.

I liked that she and cinematographer Robbie Ryan shot the film in 1.33, which is usually a result of an intention or a deal to air it on analog TV.

Fassbender, a very hot guy now, is natural and believable, charming and genuine. Ryan’s hand-held camera work is unpretentious and the images are appropriately plain — i.e., naturally lit but not excessively grim.

It feels right all the way, in short, but it didn’t leave me with much save the quality of the work.

Eugene Hernandez of IndieWIRE feels Katie Jarvis is a major new talent:

Jarvis’s bio reads simply: ‘Katie makes her acting debut in ‘Fish Tank.’

Starring as Mia in every scene in ‘Fish Tank,’ Katie Jarvis is the first major acting discovery of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.”

The film (as Wells notes) was shot in the unusual 1:33 aspect ratio, which is rare these days outside of Gus Van Sant movies like Elephant, and can be seen in this clip:

 

The official festival site has video and audio from the press conference.

> Fish Tank at the IMDb
> Andrea Arnold at Wikipedia

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Cannes Festivals News

Cannes Film Festival Lineup 2009

Cannes 2009 logo

The official lineup for the 2009 Cannes Film Festival was announced today at a press conference in Paris.

The main talking point for some will be the lack of American filmmakers in competition for the Palme d’Or.

The festival runs from May 13th until 24th and here is the lineup in full. 

OPENING FILM

  • Up (U.S.A, Dir. Pete Docter and Bob Peterson)

IN COMPETITION

CLOSING NIGHT FILM

  • Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (France, Dir. Jan Kounen)

OUT OF COMPETITION

MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

  • Petition (China, Dir. Zhao Liang)
  • L’epine dans le coeur (France, Dir. Michel Gondry)
  • Min ye (France-Mali, Dir. Souleyumane Cisse)
  • Jaffa (Israel-France-Germany, Dir. Keren Yedaya)
  • Manila (Philippines, Dir. Adolfo Alix Jr. and Raya Martin)
  • My Neighbor, My Killer (U.S.A, Dir. Anne Aghion)

UN CERTAIN REGARD

THE JURY

LA CINEFONDATION AND SHORT FILM JURY

One little interesting note.

At the end of the press conference Cannes president Gilles Jacob said:

…the Festival de Cannes has decided to continue helping independent creators as best it can.

Since our new website has greater bandwidth, we would like to offer this platform to any of the films in the Official Selection that would like to make use of it, when comes the time of their theatre release.

The idea is to present to the audience, and especially young audiences, the first 5 minutes of the film and not the usual typical trailer that extinguishes all desire.

Was it Altman or Renoir, I forget, who said that the great artists are at their best in the first and last reel? Let’s hope that Internet users everywhere might drop their games and be tempted to rush to their nearest theatre to find out what happens next.

Let’s hope so, for the sake of the artists. We make no distinction between their films.

They are all there, somewhere, in the atmosphere that surrounds us all. They are all there and available, chemically, digitally, electronically, in binary, in VOD, virtually, we can feel them, they surround us. They are looking out for us.

Let’s not abandon them.

You can read the full speech here.

> Official site for the Cannes Film Festival
> IndieWIRE with a transcript of Cannes president Gillies Jacob at the launch press conference 
> Find out more about the festival at Wikipedia