Little White Lies Magazine en Cannes 2015: LWLies' Top 10 Films Cannes 2015: LWLies' Top 10 Films

David Jenkins (Editor)

1. The Assassin (Hou)

Well, that's it for another year. Time to tally up those top tips and start looking forward to the giant wedge of movies set to drop this autumn. Despite the murmurs that this was not a vintage year, I found more to love in this line-up than I have for a good many years. Though top personal honours goes to Hou Hsiao-Hsien's jaw-dropping The Assassin, I'd happily switch that top spot with any of titles which clocked in from two to six: My Golden Days was the purest shot of pleasure; Arabian Nights is on-the-lam stunt cinema of the highest order; Cemetery of Splendour reaffirms its director as one of the most exciting working in the world, In The Shadow of Women is bracing in its simplicity and directness, and Carol... well, it's American cinema on a higher plane. Read our review of The Assassin.

2. My Golden Days (Desplechin)
3. Arabian Nights (Gomes)
4. Cemetery of Splendour (Weerasethakul)
5. In the Shadow of Women (Garrel)
6. Carol (Haynes)
7. Tale of Tales (Garrone)
8. One Floor Below (Muntean)
9. Mountains May Depart (Zhangke)
10. Louder Than Bombs (Trier)

Adam Woodward (Deputy Editor)

1. Youth (Sorrentino)

Paulo Sorrentino's symphonic and supremely funny portrait of an ageing composer searching for a new lease of life at a Swiss chateaux has proven divisive among critics. All the more reason to suggest it may just win top honours come Sunday when the Palme d'Or is handed out. Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel are both tremendous in their respective roles as revered maestros on the wane, while Sorrentino infuses the serenely beautiful (at times bewildering) imagery with life-affirming exuberance. A scene in which Caine conducts an orchestra of cows in a field is among the most joyous we've seen at this prestigious festival. Read our review of Youth.

2. My Golden Days (Desplechin)
3. The Assassin (Hou)
4. Carol (Haynes)
5. Cemetery of Splendour (Weerasethakul)
6. Inside Out (Docter)
7. Son of Saul (Nemes)
8. One Floor Below (Muntean)
9. Green Room (Saulnier)
10. The Here After (von Horn)

Sophie Monks Kaufman (Staff Writer)

1. Youth (Sorrentino)

“It’s life, it’s Paolo,” said Michael Caine when we interviewed him about Youth. The sprawling, magical, loving evocation of a place that (contrarily) isn’t quite of this world repays mulling and unpicking and reliving of the crazily imaginative scenarios scattered like the tastiest and most tasteful of treasure-hunt treats. That it doesn’t neatly add up neatly or build with mathematical precision is like life and also of secondary import to the atmosphere that rolls beneath, lifting one up with the tenderness of a father placing a child on his shoulders.

2. Inside Out (Docter)
3. Black Girl (Sembene)
4. Carol (Haynes)
5. Beyond My Grandfather, Allende (Marcia Tambutti Allende)
6. One Floor Below (Muntean)
7. Sicario (Villeneuve)
8. Krisha (Shults)
9. Sembene! (Niang)
10. Green Room (Saulnier)]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 09:18:23 GMT Adam Woodward
Sophie Monks Kaufman
David Jenkins
Cannes 2015: LWLies' Top 10 Films Our staff writers pick their 10 personal favourites from this year's festival. Cannes 2015: Macbeth Cannes 2015: Macbeth

Behold vile portents! A sign of things to come can be spied in the typography to the opening credits of Justin Kurzel’s historical realist, Ridley Scottified big screen punt at The Scottish Play, with small red serif characters clustered tightly on to a black backdrop. You know just from the impact with which those letters abruptly emerge onto the screen that happy/fun times do not lay ahead. It's a horrorshow invite, make no mistake. And yet, perhaps the main problem with this new adaptation is that it’s never as nasty, agonising, blood-flecked and operatically despairing as this macabre opening gambit might suggest.

Nor, indeed, does it hold a gore torch to Roman Polanski’s 1971 take with Jon Finch, a film for which its producer Hugh Hefner clearly encouraged torrid excess at every grisly turn. And Kurzel does have form in this area: his previous feature, Snowtown, boasted scenes of smashed kangaroo entrails being dumped on front porches as a neat way to terrorise the neighbours. And like this film, this is another examination into the magnetic lure of violence as a way to transcend ones's meagre social standing.

His new Macbeth, though, is something of a pre-watershed deal. Sure there’s violence, but its impact has been muted, hidden, tucked under the seams. We won’t state exactly, but a major amendment has been made to the play’s climax, and it won't only cause Shakespeare scholars to gag on their Merlot.

Kurzel’s strategy for this film is stripping the story of any pretence of theatricality, and retooling it as a bleak, kitchen-sink vision of a paranoiac’s bungled regal power-grab. When we first see the Weird Sisters on the field of battle, they intone their lines in a haunting amateurish monotone, like they’re toying with the iconic poetics of the words.

You don't, however, hire Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in the slender hope they'll dial things back at the service of some half-hearted post-modern vision. They duly gnaw the scenery hard, their performances arriving wreathed in cosmetic blood and spittle. Highlights include Fassbender's regular guttural additions to the text, including a giant "woop!" when returning from his second visit to the sisters.

You get the sense that – aside from the naturalistic performances – Kurzel wanted to make something that was a tad more expressionistic, but eventually felt beholden to the hallowed text. As such, the dynamism and the poetry of the dialogue never truly seeps from the screen, and you're left with a bunch of actors intoning lines you don't really believe they understand, which in turn undermines the overtures towards this mud-caked realism. Two lengthy soliloquies are filmed in long takes which ends up being a triumph of hollow technical bravura over actual transmitting of the meaty ideas that unequivocally jut out from this most ripe of texts.

Another strange and possibly foolhardy tactic is that Kurzel, by adding a brief prologue, has attempted to supply a rational context to the severe actions of Macbeth and his Lady. As they stand weeping by the partially-decaying corpse of a child (assumed to be theirs), the inference is that the madness to come is the result of grief and a further affront to Macbeth's manliness. It also serves to soften them as characters, and why anyone would ever want to do that defies all logic. Deducing the mysterious root cause of their unalloyed lunacy is all part of the fun.

Finally, what prevents Macbeth from heading directly into the pantheon of great Shakespeare adaptations is the feeling that it has been too abridged. It's so beautifully put together, its themes so terrifyingly grandiose, its world so painstakingly sculpted, that it's a film you could easily – easily! – have sat with for another hour at the very least. There are no beats between the plot points. There's no sense of a developing mania. The connecting tissue between the moments of high import have been sliced back until all you have is a tightly-packed procession of famous set-pieces. Only in the final moments does Kurzel allow himself a little room to play, though it's too little, too late.]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 09:02:55 GMT David Jenkins Cannes 2015: Macbeth The stunning pros and unfortunate cons in Justin Kurzel's take on the Bard just about balance out. Bill Murray Is Starring In His Own Christmas Special Bill Murray Is Starring In His Own Christmas Special

Maybe the concept of the "Christmas Special," where celebrities rope in their famous chums for nog-fuelled larks in front of a gas-assisted log fire, is a specifically American TV tradition. And if that is the case, the impending arrival of A Very Murray Christmas – a Yuletide variety extravaganza hosted by Bill Murray and directed by Sofia Coppola – makes us very much want in on this phenomenon.

Of the show, Murray has said he expects it to be "nice," and that the set-up sees him snowed into a TV studio over Christmas and left there waiting for his friends to show up. To many, this news will be the reason why they've been placed on this ol' rotating rock. It's on Netflix, so time to count those sleeps until Santa... Here's the tantalising trailer in the meantime:

]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 04:09:39 GMT LWLies Bill Murray Is Starring In His Own Christmas Special And it's directed by Sofia Coppola, set to be screened this Christmas on Netflix. Watch This Short Film By Denis Villeneuve About A Surreal Meat Banquet Watch This Short Film By Denis Villeneuve About A Surreal Meat Banquet

We found this short film courtesy of a tip-off from LWLies contributor, @coconutboots. With Denis Villeneuve's drugs drama, Sicario, playing at Cannes, now seemed like a good time to look back on the distinctive director's work. Next Floor, from 2008, depicts dinner guests sat in their finery around a table groaning with meaty delights. Clattering of forks and squelchy morsel chewing provides a hilariously weird rhythm. Talking is off the menu. Food is rammed into faces fast. A procession of waiters are always adding. But what's the story?

If you have any idea, please let us know. Next Floor is so abstractly driven that it makes the ending of Enemy seem like social realism. We have a few pretty grandiose theories but nothing definitive.

Next Floor from Centre Phi | Phi Centre on Vimeo.

Like this film? Watch last week's short about the death of a man.

Have you been inspired by a short film online recently? Tweet us @sopharsogood and we may feature it in the future (with credit to the finder, of course).]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 03:19:23 GMT Sophie Monks Kaufman Watch This Short Film By Denis Villeneuve About A Surreal Meat Banquet The Canadian director's short film, Next Floor, is thick with mystery and ghoulishly odd humour. Cannes 2015: The Assassin Cannes 2015: The Assassin

I can’t recall the exact number, but for the first eight or nine shots of Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s eight-years-in-the-making anti-wuxia The Assassin, my arms – from fingertip all the way  to elbow – began to tingle with nervous excitement. Within seconds of the film starting, questions darted through my mind: what the hell kind of film is this? How will the indelible imprint of its director manifest itself? If things carry on like this, should we strap ourselves in for one of the greats of the new millennium? How could the film possibly keep up this high-intensity barrage of what, to get all superficial for a moment, are close to perfect images, sequenced with the kind of attentiveness and industry which make most filmmakers seem blind to the possibilities of what cinema, what choreography, what edits can achieve?

The first image is in black-and-white of two donkeys tied to a tree. It’s very much not the image you’d expect a movie like this to open on. It's also in boxy academy ratio, which switches back to 16:9 throughout the film to denote temporal shifts in the narrative. (A tactic used by China's Jia Zhang-ke in Mountains May Depart and Wes Anderson in The Grand Budapest Hotel). The final image (in this short initial flurry) is when the red calligraphy characters of the title appear over a gorgeous landscape shot where colours are distributed perfectly around the frame, the glowing greens of the fields, the rich blues of the skies, and the rough browns of the rocks and dirt. It’s not that my pleasure ceased at that moment – on the contrary – it’s more that my senses were only just starting to attune themselves to the singular rhythms of this immaculate work.

Describing The Assassin as “challenging” would infer that the Hou was adopting a boilerplate narrative template and purposefully obfuscating matters so as to fit his alternative modus operandi. But the fact is, this exists out there alone, its only real precedent being the director’s previous movies, most obviously 1998’s sumptuous Qing dynasty brothel tour, Flowers of Shanghai. You might also see it as a remake of 2001’s Millennium Mambo, which also stars the great actress Shu Qi playing a character trying to reforge bonds with a world she left behind.

The allusions to genre convention are so scarce, it’s like Hou is re-inventing the form from its primordial constituents just to suit his uniquely lugubrious mode. And if you think that the required kineticism of a martial arts movie stands entirely at odds with a director who builds movies on a bedrock of long, wide, roving, observant takes and people scattered around the frame, then think again.

The story, such as it is, concerns tensions between rival hamlets in ninth century China, and the stealthy movements of a lone, black-clad female assassin, Nie Yinniang, who’s been trained to act as a political agent provocateur. Despite her dogged allegiance to a nun who kidnapped her as a child, and the swift, uncomplicated style of her hits (usually a single, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it swish of a dagger), she’s been activated to strike against her estranged brother, which causes long-dormant familial emotions to bubble to the fore. Just because Hou makes it much easier to appreciate the cavalcade of visual splendour he hauls to the screen, the plot is extremely vital when it comes to justifying Yinniang's melancholic demeanour, which is what the film is about.

Yet the greatness of The Assassin comes from the feeling that, visually, everything is in its right place, and that Hou is somehow directing the wind, directing the billowing smoke, directing the flames from candles, directing the dance of curtains and drapes, directing the leaves shimmering on the trees, directing the sounds of the forest, directing the noises that faintly emanate from rooms behind rooms behind rooms. He doesn't tell a story so much as he creates a world, places you inside it and then snatches away your roadmap.

One thing he does not direct is blood, because there is barely a drop of it spilled in the film. And that's not because it's not there, more due to the fact that it's just obscured from view. One early fight scene sees Yinniang break into her brother's compound and take on her retinue of guards. Hou films it in long shot and through a barrier of trees. You can hear it, but you can barely see it. And then, after a few seconds before matters have a chance to progress, he cuts away and moves on. There's no interest in violence, there's no interest in the consequences of violence, there's only interest in violence as a political and romantic expedient. It's the high point of Cannes 2015.]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 02:51:57 GMT David Jenkins Cannes 2015: The Assassin Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-Hsien reinvents the martial arts movie, with utterly astonishing results. The Supreme Price The Supreme Price

The Supreme Price is billed as a documentary about women’s right in Nigeria, an angle which is indisputably accurate. Hafsat Abiola, the leading subject is founder of democracy-seeking organisation, KIND. She is shown pursuing her career against the type of sexist presumption that would have us tweeting our outrage here in the West. Her own brother, a smiling and otherwise endearing character, thinks she should know her place. “Your husband’s house is where you’ll get your proper training on how to be a woman,” he smugly intones.

Joanna Lipper’s documentary is, however, a multiple issue film. It attains its power by rooting Hafsat’s struggle against a crosshair of different forces, taking the time to attentively and vividly express their source. Using archive footage she tells the story of Nigeria’s military political history.

For Hafsat has inherited an intense and fascinating familial legacy. She is the daughter of MKO and Kudirat Abiola – the former was elected president of Nigeria in 1993, the latter was killed for democracy-motivated activism. Lipper spends time setting the tone of the generous if flawed nature of MKO’s character and the significance of the elections that he won. They were witnessed by international observers and declared the freest and fairest elections in Nigerian history.

Unfortunately, the delicate green shoots of democracy were steamrolled nearly immediately by a military uprising. Lipper shows the contrast between the effort expended into creating justice and the brutal ease of demolishing it, deliberately drumming up an undercurrent of anger.

Hafsat lived through it all and Hafsat, who is clever, determined and composed, is the perfect conductor of a film about the broad strokes of military oppression and the specific strokes of sexist oppression. “I handle it by crying, she handles it by continuing her work,” says Hafsat’s sister underlining the different characters that can be forged out of loss and danger. Joanna Lipper teaches Using Film For Social Change at Harvard University. In her The Supreme Price star, she  has found a film surrogate with the credentials to lead that mission.]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 01:56:34 GMT Sophie Monks Kaufman The Supreme Price This rousing documentary provides a personal, feminist entry point to Nigeria's pro-Democracy movement. Tokyo Tribe Tokyo Tribe

Japanese director Sion Sono is a major figure among fanboys and girls of hyperbolic, half-a-world-away pop, underground fetishes, and cult genres, with a filmography already encompassing teenage suicide cults, killer hair extensions, up-skirt photography, Catholic guilt, and pet-shop serial killers. Tokyo Tribe, his biggest domestic hit to date, is a musical adaptation of a manga by artist and street-wear entrepreneur Inoue Santa, in which rapping gangs fight a turf war over the course of a single night. With its gonzo martial artistry, hip-hop performance, hyper-stylised cinematography and production design, and brazenly dumb throwaway gags, the film is often almost as fun as it sounds.

Right from the elaborate continuous crane shot that opens the film, Sion fills his mobile widescreen frame to its edges with graffiti, neon and boisterous extras in flat-brimmed ball caps, illuminated by fireworks and searchlights; throughout, a granny in sunglasses spins on her turntables, and an emcee chorus raps about life in the big bad city, and the things you’re about to see. Sion is inventive about his exposition, and emphatic about his niche: when a rookie cop in high heels confronts a thug, he rips her shirt open and, in extreme close-up, uses the tip of his knife to outline the geography of Tokyo, from belly button to breasts.

Each urban district he traces has its own crew, with their own fashion sense and taste in samples (one sounds very faintly like Daddy Yankee’s ‘Gasolina’). In their introductory raps, in alleys or strip clubs, the gangs stride towards the camera or sway in a semicircle – the cinematic aesthetic apes rap videos from the era before rap videos had the means to ape cinema.

The setup is very like The Warriors, especially once the nicest gang, led by J-rapper Young Dais, is set up by a rival and must fight its way back home. Pulling the strings is Big Buppa (Riki Takeuchi), a Fat Elvis savouring a cigar box of severed fingers and masturbating furiously on a black dildo, whose psycho son holds court in a Clockwork Orange den with living furniture in white body paint. Also on hand is bleached-blond Mera (Suzuki Ryôhei), fetching in g-string and samurai swords, and mysterious Sunmi (Nano Seino), whose every flying kick reveals a glimpse of white panties.

When Tokyo Tribe spills over from its backstreet alternate-universe into the real world, it does so with the disjunctive force of a tank – like, literally, a tank rolls onto a Toyko plaza, scattering crowds. It’s a nice joke about the Sonosphere’s hermetic hyperreality, wherein the bass and versified boasting only cuts out for breakdance fighting, CGI gore, creative noodle shop or nightclub ass-kicking, parodies of wuxia wirework, and self-aware one-liners about Kill Bill and Game of Death.

Because Tokyo Tribe is already everything else, it is eventually, as well, a sentimental film about brotherhood, the climactic rumble outro’ed by an anthem to dead homies, aspiring to the gravitas of 2Pac’s ‘Life Goes On’. At one point during the gang war, a character cries out, “It’s the size of a man’s heart that makes him great” – that is, not the size of his penis.]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 07:50:13 GMT Mark Asch Tokyo Tribe A kaleidoscopic and intentionally lurid gangster rap battle movie from Japanese provocateur, Sono Sion. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Like a mosaic of shimmering fragments that do not compose a bigger picture, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature brims with stylised qualities that have been prioritised over story and characters. We’re in ‘Bad City’, Iran, the black-and-white, filmed-in-California version. Automatons pump and steam billows in the background while archetypes walk deserted streets, footsteps echoing like those of cowboys heading towards pistols at dawn.

Arash (Arash Marandi) looks like an Iranian James Dean, or maybe a Levi’s advert. He worked 2,191 days to buy a nice jalopy, only for it to be snatched by Saeed (Dominic Rains), a drug baron/ pimp with ‘SEX’ tattooed across his neck. Arash’s dad is a patriarch hollowed out by heroin but still endowed with a nasty edge. Streetwalker Atti (Mozhan Marnò) feels the worst of his crumbling power. Watching over all is The Girl (Sheila Vand), a vampire whose function is to shake-up the gender status quo using her fangs. And that’s the story – give or take a numbly enacted romance.

To be fair to Amirpour, she’s not gunning for straight storytelling and has deliberately fashioned a film that aims to play with genre ideas. The critical problem is there is no energy in the playing. Scenes are slow to the point of stasis. The only pulse comes from satisfying, eclectic music selections: haunting eastern strings, electronica and Sergio Leone-style chorals. The Girl invites Arash back to her house and puts on a record by a post-punk band from Ealing. What unfolds as the song plays out is basically a beautiful music video, complete with disco ball, as two kohl-eyed humans come together in the cool lair of a post-modern vamp. It’s a slick pose and not much more.]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 07:48:06 GMT Sophie Monks Kaufman A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night This monochrome Iranian vampire skater movie announces its director Ana Lily Amirpour as an exciting but wayward talent. Spring Spring

Without giving too much away, there’s a very satisfying synchronicity between one of the central characters in co-directors' Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Spring and the fact that the film itself is a shape-shifting beast which feels as if it has to adapt to survive. It’s as if the directors have taken on a dare to see how many different movie genres they can namecheck within a feature runtime, and while they carry out this task with a surfeit of verve, it does leave you with a feeling that you don’t really know what you’ve just seen.

Perennial almost man Lou Taylor Pucci plays LA-based loser Evan who decides to flee to Italy. His clean slate is swiftly blotted when he spies mysterious lady-in-red Louise (Nadia Hilker) at a bar in the coastal village of Bari, and while she initially comes on very strong, Evan sees longhaul potential in this mysterious beauty. The first half of the movie lures you into thinking it’s an adorable and droll twentysomething cross-cultural romance set against stunning peach sunsets and imposing baroque architecture. Then the ball drops, lots of fluffy white rabbits die and Evan desperately attempts to retain this idyll despite a series of extenuating circumstances which he finds tough to comprehend.

It’s a film whose individual parts are perhaps more impressive than the whole, with innovative drone-cam shots, some special effects work which recalls John Carpenter’s The Thing (high praise!) and two very committed and empathetic lead performances. Yet Spring is eventually undone by its own ahead-of-the-curve ingenuity, the dramatic peak occurring 45 minutes prior to a prolonged and ponderous finale which opts for expositionary eccentricity over emotional sincerity.]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 07:43:15 GMT David Jenkins Spring An idyllic love story about a mutant beast which it self mutates through various movie genres. The New Girlfriend The New Girlfriend

The best films by François Ozon fall into two distinct categories: there are the arch deconstructions of dramatic forms, and the heady, unrestrained visions of human sexuality. His last two works serve as the purest expressions of these ideals. 2013’s In the House appropriated the Hitchcock arsenal to subvert narrative artifice, while Young and Beautiful found the director revelling in the uncouth salaciousness of his Sadean heroine. The New Girlfriend falls somewhere in between, but still finds Ozon self-consciously sabotaging middlebrow sensibilities from within.

The film charts the relationship between Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) and her best friend’s widower, David (Romain Duris). The connection initially forged in mourning is immediately complicated when it transpires that David has taken to privately dressing in his deceased wife’s clothes. What begins as a curious manifestation of grief develops into a co-dependent necrophiliac fantasy in which Claire becomes increasingly complicit. In a letter to the writer Richard Elman, the late David Foster Wallace wrote that “every love story is a ghost story”. This gorgeously elusive phrase hovers over the events of The New Girlfriend, albeit filtered through Ozon’s typically gaudy sensibility that, at best, operates as exaggerated melodrama and, at worst, as over-egged soap opera.

The New Girlfriend yields riches as it shifts away from the outlandish comic possibilities of its premise towards the idea of sexuality as something that’s malleable. David’s new persona “Virginia” is a vessel for the pair’s unspoken desires, whether that’s long suppressed perversity or personal sexual identity. The manicured bourgeois façade begins to crumble as the potential of Virginia becomes apparent. Her enigmatic purpose is the symbolic heart of the picture; she is an expression of David’s id, a catalyst of illicit attraction as well as the reincarnation of a lost love.

The ambiguity is at once tantalising and frustrating. We will Ozon to transcend the shadier boundaries which he skirts, but realise that the delicate balance he maintains may be lost at that moment of coalescence. In Ozon’s films, moneyed Parisian society is an elaborately constructed stage conducive to his devilish machinations. His camera is a proscenium into this glossy world of pose and appearance, the characters are helpless fools beholden to his master’s voice. They build their own prisons in which social mores are strictures to be transgressed, usually through some form of kink.

In The New Girlfriend, an unshakeable bond between two women is cast as something that erodes the two family units that were specifically contrived to deflect the furtive undertones of that connection. Indeed, the film’s primary thematic drive comes sharply into focus when Ozon is undistracted from this central tension. Though he’s occasionally too content to adopt the very dramatic contraptions that he’s capable of subverting so brilliantly elsewhere, The New Girlfriend is still an alluring, sharp-witted picture.]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 07:40:45 GMT Craig Williams The New Girlfriend François Ozon does it again with this puckish and erotic satire on sexuality and family gender roles. Moomins On The Riviera Moomins On The Riviera

There are few creatures more charming than Moomins. The interplay between hippoish appearance and a genial, bohemian sociability give Tove Jansson’s popular children’s characters an aura of innocence and the sense of having emigrated from a secret utopia. Finish author and illustrator Jansson debuted her family in 1945 with 'The Moomins and the Great Flood'.

She continued to chronicle their experiences in varying published forms, reaching new heights of popularity in the ’50s when London paper The Evening News began publishing her Moomins in a comic strip. Over 60 years later, how are the dear fellows faring in this French-Finnish coproduction?

An early peak comes from sound design so sensual in its invocation of tranquility that a pleasurable shudder ripples through the body. Moomin Island, where the story begins, is a lazy fiesta of music and song and swimming and potato growing. It was a shame to this exultantly immersed adult viewer to see the story (and morals therein) shift into predictability as the island is left behind.

Moomin’s celebrity-obsessed girlfriend, Snorkmaiden, persuades the family to set sail for the French Riviera. Here, she cosies up to idol, Audrey Glamour, and simpers at a mankini-wearing dog, to the dejection of poor Moomin. Papa Moomin is also enjoying the high life as the family pass themselves off as aristocrats. Cue an exploration of what money, status and lavish materialism can offer and what they can’t.

It is narratively logical that this new setting lacks the peace of Moomin Island and perhaps it’s inevitable that a family film should cede ambience to plot. Even as the initial high impact of their world tapers off, visual curios are a constant source of amusement. Loyalty to the eccentric features of all that roam in Jansson’s universe is absolute.]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 07:39:14 GMT Sophie Monks Kaufman Moomins On The Riviera A massive surfeit of cutesy charm only gets this slight but sweet Tove Jansson adaptation so far. Tomorrowland A World Beyond Tomorrowland A World Beyond

Films which feign anguish for the precarious future of the planet often sap from festering liberal guilt in order to deliver a message of saccharine-slathered hope. It’s a cinematic no-brainer: softly remind audiences of their impending mortality, and then fire balmy solace at the screen to assure that humanity will find a way, cue American eagle soaring, triumphant brass fanfare, single tear, and scene.

Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland A World Beyond is a movie which cares/dares to ponder whether images of the apocalypse have become ingrained in the collective psyche to such an extent that they now offer a kind of normalised spectacle. Worse, that exotic visions of the ultimate destruction of the planet – modern event cinema’s most sturdy crutch – have become careworn and clichéd. When the end does arrive, it probably won’t be in the way we expect it. A floundering whimper rather than a stupendous bang.

In line with its radical remit, Tomorrowland doesn’t really have an antagonist, nor does it deal in any conventional sense of peril. It employs the iconic imagery of the classic disaster movie, such as countdown clocks and the grizzled old lag harried out of retirement for One Last Job, but it’s more interested in blockbuster self-analysis – looking back to the point where the trusty family blockbuster up and skipped the tracks.

Bird and co-writer Damon Lindelof have made a movie about movies, questioning their function, perusing their politics, attempting to contextualise their value – if any – within wider society. The black pearl of its tenacious enquiry, though, is discovering what inspires and catalyses people to do things that might possibly alter the course of the world. Furthermore, it ponders whether that illusive motivational spark burned brighter in, say, the '60s than it does now. With its retro-futurist design, can-do, Brylcreem-glazed spirit and let's-go-on-an-adventure streak of lost innocence, Bird has made a movie which ends up being the very expression of its own ingrained themes.

Buy the LWLies Tomorrowland issue today

An early sequence takes place at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Pre-teen science bod Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) arrives with a rocket pack built from busted vacuum cleaner parts. He hopes to impress surly judge David Nix (Hugh Laurie) enough that he would consider parting with the $50 prize pot. Nix asks Walker to explain the function of his rocket pack, to which he responds that if someone sees another person flying with a rocket pack, they too may be emboldened to think outside the strictures of the mundane. The contraption doesn't quite function fully (a little like Tomorrowland, if we're being honest), yet with a quick tinker and a dash of courage, it (and the movie) end up working like a dream.

The star of the show – and likely star of many other shows in the not-to-distant future – is the actor Britt Robertson, plucked from relative TV obscurity and saddled with the weigh of a blockbuster on her spindly shoulders. She owns this movie, pure comic charisma with the face and wide-eyed wonder of an '80s Spielberg heroine. And in yet another example of art imitating life, the story itself sees Robertson's latchkey brainiac Casey Newton selected by secretive future pioneers to come and join them to build a world which will protect humanity against their own destructive impulses. It's a cynical view for sure, but the film constantly undercuts anything which might be read as politically or sociologically volatile.

The concept of Tomorrowland itself, populated solely with the best and brightest who have been harvested by trained automaton children, appears to be torn from the pages of Ayn Rand's controversial Objectivist blueprint, Atlas Shrugged, in which the America's top industrialists down their tools and abandon their devastated country which is being ruined by an overly interventionist government. Its more likely source of inspiration, though, derives from Disney's own Epcot Centre, a(nother) futuristic venture aimed at crank-starting the creative minds of private equity into building an enlightened enclave for the societies of tomorrow.

The film treads carefully enough that it never comes across as espousing ideas in which it doesn't really believe. And that's not to say it's politically spineless – on the contrary. It's rejection of characters who fit the archetype of good and evil means that what its saying translates as richer and more objective that a simple right-wing screed which gives an implicit thumbs up to a Darwinist skimming of elite forces.

In short, there's a lot of stuff going on in Tomorrowland, though the one thought that really does hit home unequivocally relates to Casey's night-time dirtbike raids on Cape Canaveral, attempting to prevent its dismantling in the hope that our lust for intergalactic travel will continue. She, and by extension, Bird and Lindelof, lament the death of the mad scientist who's bestowed with vast resources to follow any and all creative whims. The film asks, "what if a modern blockbuster was made in the way that we thought event movies should look and feel like in the '60s?" How will we get anything done if people don't have the resources to dream?

It's a beautifully directed and designed romp which possibly over-reaches in its final stages. Within the Bird back catalogue, it fits in neatly alongside the nostalgia-hued The Incredibles and The Iron Giant. Indeed, as with his Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Bird makes live action films which possess the zip and restless momentum of digital animation. In its latter stages, an attempt is made to push this broader notion of second-guessing what and how people think about the world to its natural conclusion, though this is admittedly at the expense of a certain fluency to the action. Bird's sensitivity for place and his spacial awareness remains so keen that this rock-em, sock-em finale doesn't quite deliver a breathless cherry atop what is a nourishing, decorative and gravity-defying gateaux.

But this is bold, thoughtful and fearless mainstream filmmaking which accepts that there can be more to a popcorn movie than flashing lights, blurting sub-sonic noises and characters whose job is to merely string one crummy action scene to the next. Considering what it's about, it would become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy if audiences don't go and see it. We sincerely hope they do.]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 12:01:33 GMT David Jenkins Tomorrowland A World Beyond Brad Bird's sparkling sci-fi blockbuster is powered by big ideas and wide-eyed inquiry. Cannes 2015: Dheepan Cannes 2015: Dheepan

There’s a self-important swagger to the cinema of French darling Jacques Audiard which I’ve never been able to fully abide. His default mode is garish bombast, and his unquenchable lust for recreational artfulness often leads to cinematic necessities such as honesty and emotion getting lost in the flash. His previous feature, Rust and Bone, almost felt more like an effects movie than a purportedly intimate drama set on the fringes of society.

With his new feature, Dheepan, it seems like someone has grabbed him by the velvet lapels, dispensed a few light slaps to his grizzled chops, and demanded he shape up or ship out. For its first hour, you’d be hard pressed to guess that it was Audiard behind the tiller, so unassumingly rigorous is the film's sense of character and place, and so pleasantly absent are those formative predilections for apropos-of-nothing camera whizz-bangery.

There is, however, one admittedly amazing trick shot early on where our eponymous hero (Jesuthasan Antonythasan), having managed to flee from Sri Lanka (where he was engaged as a foot soldier in the Tamil Tigers) to France, begins a new life selling novelty trinkets from a suitcase on a street. All we see is flashing blue and red lights on a black backdrop, and it looks as if an aeroplane landing at night which, in terms of continuity, would seem wholly logical. But it’s actually the LEDs from plastic rabbit ears worn by a trio of vendors who go on to hector diners seated at a restaurant. It’s a rare moment of high style which contains a clever punchline, so on this occasion, we’ll let it slide.

Dheepan is, for the large majority of its runtime, a satisfyingly even-handed and non-judgmental exploration of the immigrant experience. It’s not an overtly political film, though Audiard makes it easy to extrapolate the actions of his characters and easily place them into the current news agenda. For the most part, it sets its stall is being remarkably pro immigration, offering reason after reason why healthy western economies should do their utmost to offer aid people from more politically volatile global territories. In fact, it's not so much offering aid, more offering the means for basic self-empowerment.

Alongside his fake wife Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby) and fake daughter Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan), hastily assembled to fit the profiles of a stack of passports whose owners have no further use for them (ie, killed), the ill-matched trio are placed in a grubby suburban housing tenement which plays host to regular bouts of gang-related gunplay. Yet they get on with the tasks at hand, “husband” taking on the role of caretaker, “mother” the role of social carer and “daughter” as inquisitive schoolgirl. There’s a bracing honesty to the way Audiard presents his characters as earning the trust of the local community for way they work tirelessly to improve lives; ad hominem attacks on race or class are rarer than might have been expected.

A nervous tension is generated with regard to how long Audiard is going to be able to keep all this good work up, how long he's going to be able to reign in his grandiose tendencies. Yet, as prior qualifications may have hinted, things do go majorly down hill in its botched final act. Minor key observation is now hulking plot-twists and blood-sprayed shoot-outs, which gives us a chance to see Dheepan’s old self, when he was torturing, maiming and killing as part of a rebel militia. This doesn’t merely bring with it a cumbersome tonal shift, but undoes a lot of the highly nuanced and enlightened political discourse from earlier on. It's doubly disappointing because everything before it was extremely impressive. Let's hope we see more of Audiard's new leaf.]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 02:29:29 GMT David Jenkins Cannes 2015: Dheepan Jacques Audiard follows up Rust and Bone with a nuanced and gratifying immigration tale. Cannes 2015: Marguerite Et Julien Cannes 2015: Marguerite Et Julien

Interest in the simply told incest story that unfolds throughout the course of this period drama depends on ones levels of salacity. Do you want to see an aristocratically handsome brother and sister having sex? This writer conducted a brief spell of self-examination and decided ‘yes’.

The mechanics of how the taboo desire unfolds is based on the 16th century true story of Marguerite and Julien de Ravelet, a pair whose affection for each other is as reciprocated as their cheekbones are high in this dramatisation (Anaïs Demoustier  and Jérémie Elkaïm are well-matched). They are presented to us as doting kids overseen by both parents and a priest. The latter sniffs out something atypical in the way Julien looks at his sister – “her melancholy grace was charming” – and so Julien is sent away with his brother to be educated in esteemed European centres.

Scene-setting is slow to make way for the supple flesh and shared blood of the core intrigue. A fresh hook comes from the level of self-consciousness director Valérie Donzelli brings to the storytelling. In a dormitory full of schoolgirls in nightdresses, an older girl is narrating the tale of Marguerite et Julien. The gripped expressions on young rosy faces are testament to directorial awareness that from a young age we gravitate towards stories of otherness. We are being dared to give into that simple taste for a rip-roaring yarn full of romance, peril and exotic distance.

For much of the film, Marguerite and Julien are busy not doing the deed. Acceptance of the magnitude of their desires takes awhile to fully blossom. Céline Bozon's photography captures the type of magnetism that plays as the most natural relationship in this film, which in turn challenges the moral panic surrounding the pair. Marguerite and Julien make a vague go of playing by society’s rules but the more society punishes them for their thought-crimes, the more integral the solace of their bond becomes.

The script, based on a book by Truffaut’s regular writer, Jean Gruault is plump with suggestiveness, actors delivering precise words that quiver as they encircle the loaded facts of the matter. Anaïs Demoustier and Jérémie Elkaïm are perfectly cast. Their physical daintiness flies in the face of the supposed squalor of their actions and their well-matched beauty tempts the camera as they tempt each other.

Formally unambitious as Marguerite et Julien may be, the romance is so heartfelt and the comeuppance so stirring that it prompts a first-time ever question for this writer: ‘Is incest really that bad?’ Anyone?]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 12:08:15 GMT Sophie Monks Kaufman Cannes 2015: Marguerite Et Julien Anaïs Demoustier and Jérémie Elkaïm are perfectly cast in this rewarding tale of forbidden love. Cannes 2015: Love Cannes 2015: Love

Lust, honesty, trust, betrayal, affection, compassion, jealousy, desire, freedom, pride, loss, regret, confusion, pain, obsession, joy. This is what we talk about when we talk about Love.

Above all, Gaspar Noé's latest – which received a muted reception at its Midnight Screening premiere – is about sentimental sex, as professed by Murphy (Karl Glusman), an American living in Paris who spends the entire film recounting his messy relationship with two beautiful women, Electra (Aomi Muyock) and Omi (Klara Kristin). For a while everything seems rosy in this ménage à trois, until one of the women announces to Murphy that she's pregnant, forcing him to take responsibility for his actions. An area he's not exactly proficient in.

For a film that contains an extreme POV close-up of an ejaculating penis (Noé makes full use of the stereoscopic photography), Love is a strangely limp affair. Perhaps Noé's reputation coupled with the hype from that promotional poster created a false impression. Or maybe the shock value has simply worn off. Either way, when you establish yourself as a boundary-pushing provocateur you will inevitably reach a point where it becomes harder to exceed people's expectations. Yet the main problem with Love is that it falls short on not just one front, but two.

At times it feels as if Noé's natural predisposition is hamstringing him from telling an authentically compelling sexual melodrama in the vein of something like Blue is the Warmest Colour, which was deservedly awarded top prize here two years ago. Clearly he's striving for something more poetic and profound this time around, but the upshot is a skin-deep love story told from the perspective of an obnoxious protagonist whose romantic gestures are never backed up by anything more substantial than a quick fuck between the sheets (or on the floor, or up against a bookcase, or in a bathtub, or at the bottom of a staircase).

The sex scenes themselves (and there are many) are surprisingly tasteful and tender, Noé bathing his three leads in soft-focus while framing them in a knot of writhing limbs as they get intimately acquainted over the course of the film's 130 minute runtime. It's during these largely unsimulated moments – a gentle tug here, an enthusiastic thrust there – that the film finds its rhythm, conveying the power of basic human sexual impulse in a way that is at once explicit and euphoric but never exploitative. But Noé makes a nasty habit of spoiling the mood. When the characters aren't screaming in ecstasy, they're just screaming. At each other – a lot. It's exhausting and, thanks to the trite dialogue, mostly pointless.

Tellingly, Noé infers that human nature is inherently destructive, that we are destined to hurt the ones we love in our endless search for sexual gratification. Even more tellingly, Noé appears far more preoccupied with the male orgasm than anything else here, though he does take us inside Murphy's head via a neurotic internal monologue that connects each erotically-charged flashback. The Argentinean writer/director – who has received Palme d'Or nominations for his last three films, going back to 2002's Irréversible – even feeds his own narcissism in a brief but memorable cameo. Other more literal self-referential nods and winks add a layer of intrigue to what is already a psychotherapist's wet dream.

The film's biggest issue lies in the casting of its dysfunctional love machine, Murphy. Granted Noé's bold, unblinking approach requires someone of a similarly fearless disposition (we've never witnessed such an unremarkable actor deliver so many big performances in a single film) but in the case of Karl Glusman that someone isn't able to perform when it really matters. The acting might be of little consequence were this a full-blown porno, but it's not. At least, this is a film constantly trying to convince us it is doing and saying something more.

Whether immersing us in the hedonistic environs of an underground sex club or making us endure a sickeningly graphic rape scene, Noé is at his best when he's truly challenging the audience. With Love it's hard to see where he's getting his kicks. For all the blood, sweat and semen that has gone into making this, the stream of money shots that punctuate the shallow narrative ultimately don't add up to much.]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 11:39:50 GMT Adam Woodward Cannes 2015: Love Gaspar Noé is found fumbling for profundity in this explicit and mildly entertaining 3D sex opus. Cannes 2015: Arabian Nights Cannes 2015: Arabian Nights

We’ve held off writing about Miguel Gomes sprawling, year-in-the-making tri-part doohicky, Arabian Nights, in order to see it in its entirety. “Like Star Wars, this is three films,” said the director at a Q&A session following a screening of the first volume. As such, the programers at the Directors’ Fortnight strand of the Cannes Film Festival decided to play it in three separate slots over six days.

Each visit, we would receive our fill of tall tales and then be given time to ponder their meaning, Gomes clearly hoping to divert us from our sub-conscious inclinations towards metaphorically beheading our virgin brides. The director takes one of literary history’s most spellbinding raconteurs as his muse and spirit guide – Scheherazade – and goes on to form a poetic diagnosis on the floundering, albeit naturally captivating cadaver of austerity-scarred Portugal.

This is not a literal adaptation of 'The Arabian Nights', it merely adopts its structure, its disposition, and – eventually – its sublime perspicacity. It comes across as a cross-processing of Buñuel's Phantom of Paradise, Pasolini's The Gospel According to St Matthew and the films of inspirational Portuguese filmmakers, Antonio Reis and Margaret Cordeiro. But even that doesn't quite cover it.

As with his previous features, Our Beloved Month of August, Tabu and the short work, Restoration, Arabian Nights takes no heed of the supposed partition wall which divides the worlds of documentary and fiction, and throughout its three freewheeling chapters (The Restless One, The Desolate One and The Enchanted One), Gomes is clearly looking to coagulate these forms in exciting and unconventional ways.

Sometimes we have straight documentary, then a stripped-back Brechtian satire, then an ambling pastiche, then a straight historical drama strewn with eccentric anachronisms, then a spoken digression, and finally – in a story about the little-known domain of competitive rural chaffinch song showdowns, a pastime apparently cultivated through the rise of suburban social housing blocks – a breathtaking mixture of all of the above.

It takes a long time to get a proper handle on Gomes’ tonal remit as well as his political motivations. Though the vignettes presented here are exclusively focused on the lives of impoverished Portuguese (an economic band which is said to have expanded massively under the spiteful, socially unjust machinations of the government), there’s a glibness and spry sense of self-satisfaction which percolates through the opening stretch. It feels like the director is lightly mocking his subjects.

So mercurial a talent is he, that the form constantly threatens to strangle the content, and whatever meaning is supposed to be drawn from the stories is sometimes obscured by the aggressively applied (but always welcome) technical capriciousness. Empathy is occasionally drained from the imagery, and we’re left with a guy who’s just playing his country’s deep-set collective woes like a cigar-box banjo.

And yet, these initial apprehensions are all but neutralised when considering the work as one giant whole – which it really should be. Gomes appears only vaguely interested in articulating blunt political statements about how an entire country can descend into the fiscal doldrums. And he does this by telling intimate, whimsical stories which speak of more broadly abstract concepts, primarily the ever-evolving interplay between poverty and culture.

The film sets out its stall as a prickly wallow in widespread trauma and oppression, only to later reveal itself as an exultant poem to the Portuguese populous and their daily strategies for muddling on though the omnipresent darkness. The existence of the film itself is an affirmation of that expression, that people look to the natural bounty of the landscape to procure their own forms of pleasure.

The adventure of finding out the subjects of each of these exotically sub-titled tales should not be spoiled here, as there’s always an intriguing question mark hanging over where Gomes will go next, and how he’ll go there. The narration is written in conspicuously ornate verse which secures a tight connection between the “age of antiquity” and modern times. It's hard, too, to talk about aesthetics as Gomes adopts different styles (and film stocks) to suit the different subjects. The actors in the film re-appear in separate chapters, and in one case as a completely different character, again emphasising Gomes' perpetual reminder that cinematic rule-breaking need not be an overtly ostentatious sport.

Taking stock of everything – this expansive, infuriating, lurid, shapeless, transcendent, resplendent quagmire of cinematic invention – one can't help but be awed by how its spiralling, mad-eyed ambition is matched (and then some) by the sounds and images which have been captured for the screen. It builds and builds to an astonishing and heartbreaking crescendo, taking many secret backroads and byways in the process, and only by its final fames, which arrive to the heady strains of a child voice choir covering The Carpenters' Calling Occupants, does Gomes' colossal stores of human sensitivity truly shine through.

Arabian Nights is not a film which aims to make a difference, it's a film which compassionately shares a cheeky cigarette with the people (and animals) who have already dedicated their lives to doing just that. A film about protest rather than a protest film. It's an improvised, on-the-lam masterpiece, a lop-sided folk-art shrine, which finds genuine hope (rather than erroneous cinematic hope) within a context incomparable despair. Vive le Gomes…

]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 03:08:52 GMT David Jenkins Cannes 2015: Arabian Nights Miguel Gomes dazzles and infuriates (but mostly dazzles) with a rambling love poem to his poverty-stricken country. How Mean Streets Changed The Face Of American Cinema How Mean Streets Changed The Face Of American Cinema

When François Truffaut saw Alfred Hitchcock’s penultimate film, Frenzy, he was of the opinion that it was a young man’s film. While the irony is obvious, in this singular moment Hitchcock had rediscovered his artistic youthfulness.

Only a year separates Hitchcock’s Frenzy from Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, and during this narrowest of windows the same energy that rejuvenated an old master lit a spark for a future master of cinema. Both of these films exhibit a youthful exuberance that offers an impression of two individuals at different stages of their career, but with an abundance of energy to expend.

Now looked upon as a modern classic, Scorsese’s first full foray into the gangster genre sat on the cusp of his burgeoning youthful prowess. But rewind the clock back to 1973 and Mean Streets offered only an early impression of the great American filmmaker. Looking back on the early impression of Scorsese that Mean Streets offers, what is revealed is a musical and pictorial moment that has evolved throughout his body of work, alongside a reliance on interpersonal relationships that are a cornerstone of his cinema.

These have sought to draw our interest through a back catalogue of human dramas that touch upon self-sacrifice, loyalty, friendship and the familial. But equally the acknowledgement of the importance of Mean Streets serves to contextualise Scorsese as the artistic conscience of the New American Cinema.


Poetry in motion

The opening of Mean Streets transitions from pictorial subtlety to an explosive musical and visual aesthetic. Keitel’s angst filled voiceover reflections about repenting on the streets quickly transitions to the home video montage set to The Ronettes’ 'Be My Baby'. From here the stage is set for the infusion in Scorsese’s cinema of the literary methodology alongside the powerful unity of music and image. From The Ronettes to the Big Band music of Goodfellas’ opening scenes and onto the classical repertoire through a collision of the glitz and glimmer of Las Vegas with Bach’s St Matthew Passion for Casino’s colourful titles, and Cavalleria Rusticana for Raging Bull’s poetic black-and-white title sequence. The way in which Scorsese marries moving image and sound infers his appreciation of film as not an exclusively visual medium, but a sound medium in equal measure.

The Ronettes home video sequence offsets the angst ridden opening scenes with a playful and light musical accompaniment, an approach that will be explored again by Scorsese. Consider Raging Bull’s title sequence, which is infused with both a swirling aesthetic beauty and foreboding sense of tragedy, and Goodfellas’ musical opening which offsets the dark undertones with a playfulness that allows us to enjoy the tragic tale of this flawed character who always dreamt of being a gangster.

Mean Streets represents a point of creative conception, although borrowing George's Delerue’s Theme de Camille from Le Mépris for Casino’s rendezvous in the desert is a high point of the marriage of image and sound in Scorsese’s cinema. It is sprawling, fantastical and dreamlike that transports the poetry of motion to a whole new level. First there was Mean Streets and the home video aesthetic, and then there was cinema; a technological and aesthetic evolution.

Interpersonal conflict

Mean Streets is a tightly woven interpersonal drama centred around Charlie’s (Harvey Keitel) relationships with his family, his girlfriend Teresa, and his friend Johnny Boy. This interpersonal tension is threaded throughout Scorsese’s cinema, although of course if characters are a tool to tell the story then a lonely or isolated character cannot fulfil the storyteller’s purpose as the need for conflict inherently comes through interpersonal relationships. Scorsese’s cinema is memorable for deeply rooted interpersonal relationships of which he adds a twist.

The use of voiceover in Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Gangs of New York laces his cinema with a literary quality that connects protagonist and audience, forging a bond in the literary tradition, or as close as a film can come to entering the mind of its protagonist. Although dating back to Mean Streets this has been a pre-occupation of Scorsese’s that takes the interpersonal beyond the screen through this literary preoccupation to connect on a more intricate level with his audience.

Charlie is torn by the expectations of individuals that are compounded by issues of loyalty, friendship and the familial. These are the themes that crop up again and again in Scorsese’s cinema. The warning given to Charlie to be cautious of Johnny Boy is mirrored by Paul Sorvino and Ray Liotta’s father-son relationship in Goodfellas, when the former warns the latter to be cautious his mob friends do not lead him into trouble. Of course loyalty, friendship and the familial are cornerstones of the interpersonal drama of the archetypal gangster narrative, but even outside of the gangster chapter of his oeuvre the interpersonal remains thoughtful in what it has to say.

1982's The King of Comedy is constructed around the awkwardness that derives from unrealistic expectations that Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) has of Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis), but also the latter’s conflicting relationship Lewis has with his fans as a celebrity. Meanwhile for Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle his loyalty to the young prostitute Iris is a reflection on the individual’s self-sacrifice that mirrors the self-sacrificing nature of his protagonist friend Charlie in Mean Streets.


Artistic conscience

The timing of Mean Streets is of particular significance as following the collapse of the studio system and the emergence of the auteur theory, the directors had wrestled a degree of totalitarian or dictatorial control away from the producers. The 1960s and 1970s represent a moment of reinvention or reshaping of the American cinematic brand. It was in this fortuitous moment that Scorsese and his fellow Movie Brats emerged to enter the fray.

If, however, Scorsese was on the cusp of his burgeoning youthful prowess, then his contemporaries, notably Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were on the cusp of leaving their own mark or scar on the story of film, in a moment that divides film from movies, and art from spectacle. While Spielberg and Lucas remain known for dropping the blockbuster bomb, Scorsese’s personal dramas (Mean Streets and Taxi Driver), full of grit and a grainy image to accompany them, define his work in this period.

In the shadow of age and stature Mean Streets has a distinct feel; a product of its time and perhaps how Scorsese fitted into the turbulent New American Cinema in contrast to his contemporaries: Coppola’s larger than life cinematic vision of the mob and war, and the less personal but more archetypal storytelling through spectacle with the blockbusters that were just around the corner. While Coppola, Spielberg and Lucas all made smaller more personal films, the scale of their bigger productions overshadowed them.

For Scorsese, 1977's underwhelming big production musical New York, New York has both been lost and dismissed in the shadow of these smaller and more personal films. This therein frames Mean Streets as an historically significant moment in his career, and the obvious first step in his gangster canon. But it also serves to frame Scorsese as the historic conscience of the personal for the New American Cinema.

Mean Streets: Special Edition is now available to buy on Blu-ray and DVD.]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 02:26:54 GMT Paul Risker How Mean Streets Changed The Face Of American Cinema With Martin Scorsese's seminal crime drama finally out on Blu-ray, LWLies gauges the film's enduring influence. John Lasseter Reveals Details Of Disney/Pixar Slate At Cannes John Lasseter Reveals Details Of Disney/Pixar Slate At Cannes

Having already delivered one crowd-pleasing presentation at this year's Cannes Film Festival, Disney/Pixar CCO John Lasseter made the long trip from California to the Côte d'Azur with the promise of several more. Inside Out, the first Pixar film to play in Cannes since Up opened the festival back in 2009, has received rave reviews so far – read ours here – and Pixar will be looking to build on the film's early success with two further animated features scheduled for release in the next 12 months.

During a special two-hour preview of the sister animation studios' respective slates on Wednesday morning, Lasseter quoted Uncle Walt and expressed his love of Cannes and French culture at large (he also made sure to plug his winery's signature label rosé: $24 a bottle from

After Inside Out, which hits cinemas 24 July, Pixar will release The Good Dinosaur, which on the evidence of the exclusive early footage we saw promises to be one of their most ambitious and expansive films to date. This marks Peter Sohn's feature debut as a director, and tells the story of an Apatosaurus named Arlo who befriends a feral human boy. Lasseter spoke of Pixar's tradition of asking a lot of what ifs, and in this case the production team's jumping off point was: what if the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs actually missed the Earth? Early signs point to an epic coming-of-age story in the vain of The Land Before Time and The Incredible Journey. And yes, there will be T-rex.

Up next is Finding Dory, which sees Pixar golden boy Andrew Stanton dive back into the world of his 2003 hit to catch up with everyone's favourite forgetful fish. Though this is Dory's story, fans will be pleased to learn that Nemo and his dad Marlin will return, assisting Dory on a journey of self-discovery as she seeks to track down her estranged family. Though first-look footage suggests Stanton and co have vastly expanded the Nemo world – think kelp forests and giant squid – it's going to be a tough ask to top the original, especially given Pixar's recent track record with sequels. Be sure to catch this one summer 2016.

Looking further ahead, Lasseter revealed that Toy Story 4 – which he described as, "a brand new chapter and a personal story for me" – is one of seven Pixar films currently in development, of which several sequels and original stories are in development.

It's been 92 years since Walt Disney founded his animation studio as we know it today, and Lasseter was keen to pay homage to the company's original 'Nine Old Men' while stressing the importance of telling stories for today's audience. Having overseen a shift in culture at Disney in his nine years at the creative helm, Lasseter reassured audiences that the studio would remain filmmaker and not executive-driven.

Next spring will see the release of Zootopia, a high-concept action adventure set in a world where humans never happened. Evoking Robin Hood and The Wind in the Willows (a personal favourite of Lasseter's) in its anthropmorphised, fully clothed cast of creatures, the puntastic premise centres on the odd couple pairing of a con artist fox (Jason Bateman) and a happy-go-lucky bunny (Ginnifer Goodwin). A brief sequence set in a DMV (Department of Mammal Vehicles) that's run exclusively by sloths offered a hilarious glimpse of the playful stereotyping that will drive the story from directors Bryan Howard (Bolt, Tangled) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph). Zootopia will also feature the first nude scene (!) in a Disney animated film.

Last on the menu is Moana, a classically-styled CG Disney musical set in the South Pacific. Studio stalwarts John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) will direct this 2000 year old story of a Polynesian girl with an unquenchable thirst for adventure. The title means "born of the sea", and the implication is a film steeped in tradition and island lore. Our initial impression was more Lilo & Stitch than Mulan or Pocahontas, Still, it's great to see Disney dip its proverbial toe into fresh waters by introducing Western audiences to an unfamiliar culture.]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 01:55:12 GMT Adam Woodward John Lasseter Reveals Details Of Disney/Pixar Slate At Cannes The Good Dinosaur, Toy Story 4 and Moana are among the studios' forthcoming projects. Cannes 2015: Cemetery Of Splendour Cannes 2015: Cemetery Of Splendour

It must be tiring for assiduous readers of the reams and reams of Cannes Film Festival coverage to hear that constant refrain of, “why wasn’t this movie programmed in the competition?! It’s an outrage!” Everyone, of course, has their reasons, and Thierry Fremaux obviously had his when in came to navigating the diplomatically precarious terrain of dishing out competition berths. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s floral ghost story, Cemetery of Splendour, played in the Un Certain Regard strand, a placing which in essence means the Thai maestro was not given the opportunity to make it a double Palme d’Or win. 

In answer to the question, would he have even won, it’s a distinct probably, as the man who sells himself to the world cinephile community as “Joe” has produced yet another incandescent and mysterious object which presents cinema as a tool which allows you to merrily transcend the strictures of time and space. There's nothing out there like it, so it instantly acquires top marks for originality. Apichatpong’s ability to seek out the neon-trimmed passageways which connect alternative realities – the past, the future, and playful fabrications of both – to the contemporary landscape is what makes him one of the most exciting and quietly (so, so quietly) audacious filmmakers working today.

In 2010 we were invited to relive the past lives of one Uncle Boonmee, and with Cemetery of Splendour, we’re given a similar opportunity, this time with an ageing, club-footed nursemaid named Jen who has started working at a small hospital dedicated to soldiers suffering from some bizarre form of sleeping sickness. This being an Apichatpong joint, the slumbering, corpse-like patients lie with neon lights planted next to their beds, which oscillate through a spectrum of bright colours which “the Americans” assure will sub-consciously penetrate their dreams.

This contextual backdrop is used a little more than a launchpad for this always-intrepid director to explore fluid states of being. He makes 3D movies which don’t require glasses, as they elegantly shift on three axis, up, down, left, right, forwards, backwards, untroubled about his mischievous desire to take the audience on a trans-dimensional road-trip at a moment’s notice. One point to add is that this particular hospital is revealed to have been built on an ancient graveyard which is populated by fallen Thai kings. It’s a classic horror movie conceit (essentially Poltergeist) which is spun out in a way which runs entirely counter to expectation. These regal ghosts are said to be the reason for all the sickness, only theirs is certainly a more whimsically benign method of vengeance.

The idea of “haunting” is a metaphor which returns over and over in Apichatpong’s oeuvre, and this is no different. The apparitions are neither good nor evil, they’re merely visual reminders that the current moment in all its social and political complexity is entirely the product of these past lives. As people, we’re shaped by unknown, unseen and unfathomable forces, and Apichatpong doesn’t so much reveal these implacable forces to us, more than make us feel them and understand them.

This film bulges with memorable images and starkly emotive compositions. Each edit brings with it a surprise. The ominous sound design transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, transporting the film to the highest of genre-bending heights. Joe locates images within images, but then has the wherewithal and vision to move the camera ever so slightly to reveal something more – a mode which exemplifies his thematic concerns of how existence is the culmination of various co-mingling realities, some of which we have to take special measure to comprehend and observe. At the end of the film, the sprightly kings come and pay Jen a visit. They're playing football.]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 12:24:52 GMT David Jenkins Cannes 2015: Cemetery Of Splendour This neon-lit ghost story from Apichatpong Weerasethukal is another hushed adventure into the sublime. Cannes 2015: Youth Cannes 2015: Youth

Paolo Sorrentino composes images that are elegantly wacky and imbued with melancholy. Youth boasts an epic haul of these expensive-looking baubles. Retired composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) has gone to a luxury Alpine resort to take stock of what has been and to wonder if there’s anywhere left to go next. Among his fellow residents are many famous celebrities, including his oldest friend, respected arthouse film director, Mick (Harvey Keitel). Their conversations provide continuity and colour the themes of their isolated Swiss setting, evoking Olivier Assayas' recent Clouds of Sils Maria if the characters had accidentally checked into a renovated Grand Budapest Hotel.

So vivid and startling are the tableaux captured by a gliding camera that it’s often hard to see anything other than high-impact visual gimmickry. Mere hours after its first press screening, Youth is already dividing critics. The film is open to the type of criticism that Terrence Malick routinely receives (you know the one about glorious cinematography and paper-thin story). As with Malick’s most recent work, this film will shape itself according to what the viewer brings to it. Musings are scattered lightly across a serenely tempoed series of vignettes, where they can be examined for profundity or dismissed as trite.

For this writer, there is a palpable atmosphere to the film, a sense that Fred has entered his end days. He is a calmer character than The Great Beauty’s Jep Gambardella, in part because life is no longer something that he’s steering. There are a few moments when it seems like the Alpine resort and all that dwell within are the last memories of a man deciding whether or not to travel towards the white light. But this is fancy conjured by mood. Fred is as healthy as a horse. He’s just become apathetic or maybe just given in to what was always there.

When his freshly jilted daughter/assistant Lena (Rachel Weisz) delivers a rant about his fathering failures, he takes it quietly. They are both lying on massage tables. The routine pleasure services of the resort define the rhythm of life and the leit motifs of the film. There are nightly performances. A chanteuse singing ‘You’ve Got the Love’ on a spinning podium forms the first scene, blurring figures dancing in the background. In the days, women in white administer physical relief. A rippling swimming pool doubles as a social hub. Among the other guests are an obese ex-footballer with a Karl Marx tattoo on his back, a silent couple, the current Miss Universe, and an actor with ‘I’m travelling incognito’ facial hair (Paul Dano) who is frustrated that his serious work has been superseded in the public imagination by his role as a popular robot.

There was concern in the build-up to Youth that it would be a remake of The Great Beauty, but this time around Sorrentino is playing his characters’ situation for humour. Again, the jokes are divisive, enshrouded as they are in a relish for the surreal. Human absurdity and the pretensions of the art world are prime targets. Paloma Faith and Jane Fonda both have cameos that are so peculiarly contrived that they may well as well have escaped from the dream sequences. Meta-textual comments are scattered but not railroaded into being. Frank is at the resort to finish writing his next film. He and his collaborators struggle with finding an ending. As they pitch options, shooting each other down, Sorrentino makes us wonder how this film will end. And how the end will be.

Meanwhile Fred strolls through this world reflecting on his absent wife and fending off a Royal request to come out of retirement. By making Fred's surroundings at this ponderous time so splendid and strange, Sorrentino puts the case for his lead character to keep on keeping on. When all the whimsical tangents have finished running riot, a lifeforce that is as gentle as a masseuse's fingertips continues to press.]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 11:37:39 GMT Sophie Monks Kaufman Cannes 2015: Youth The director of The Great Beauty returns with a gorgeous, flippant comedy on mortality with Michael Caine in the lead.