Wednesday Round-Up: Coppola, Cannes, Tarkovsky, and More

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I feel like Wednesday is a good day for another round-up, and we start with some very cool news involving the man I like to call FFC:

  • The Hollywood Reporter says Francis Ford Coppola is working on “an untitled film that will chronicle an Italian-American family and span from the 1930s to the 1960s,” and that, my friends, is intriguing. In recent years, Coppola has made mention of mounting an epic drama (not his abandoned “Megalopolis”) and it sounds as if this could be it. Coppola’s most recent film, “Twixt,” was a fascinating mess. My colleague Jared and I saw it at TIFF 2011, and as I put it way back when, “while it was a joy hearing Francis Ford Coppola discuss his horror film ‘Twixt’ at a post world-premiere Q-and-A, he has made what is probably the worst film of his career. (‘Jack’ was scarier.)” Completists and the curious will be pleased to know that the Val Kilmer-starrer is coming to Blu-ray and DVD sometime in 2013.
  • Another interesting bit of FFC, also from The Hollywood Reporter, finds him discussing his role writing the screenplay for Robert Redford’s 1974 “Great Gatsby.”
  • Speaking of Robert Redford, the Cannes consensus seems to be that he gives an Oscar-worthy performance in J.C. Chandor’s “All is Lost,” the “Margin Call” director’s almost-dialogue-free survival story.
  • The last two films from director Claire Denis rank among my favorites in their respective years of release — “35 Shots of Rum” in 2008, and “White Material” in 2009 and that excites me for her latest, the controversial “Bastards.” As Mike D’Angelo put it for The AV Club, “Word from the first screening of Claire Denis’ ‘Bastards,’ inexplicably playing in Un Certain Regard rather than in Competition, was that it was nigh-well incomprehensible.” D’Angelo gave the film a B, comparing it with Olivier Assayas’s “Demonlover” (a film that’s sure to come up on this site sooner or later); it has already drawn a very, very mixed response, and I can’t wait to see it for myself.
  • Film Comment talks “Behind the Candelabra,” which premieres Sunday night on HBO and screened at Cannes to strong reviews.
  • I’m a bit crestfallen at the negative reactions to Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” — yep, it got booed — although, quite honestly, I’m not shocked, either. Interestingly, Peter Bradshaw raves in The Guardian, but … That’s about the only truly positive review I’ve read so far.
  • Since I wrote about it a few days ago, “Blood Ties” has been picked up for American distribution by Lionsgate.
  • Manohla Dargis talks Cannes 2013, specifically the Coens’ “comedy in a melancholic key.”
  • Did you know that all seven of the late Andrei Tarkovsky’s films can be watched online, free?
  • And last, but certainly not least, it’s never too early for some Toronto Film Festival news: Deadline reports the Godfrey Reggio-directed “Visitors,” featuring music by Philip Glass and presented by Steven Soderbergh, will have its world premiere on September 8 at the suitably ornate VISA Screening Room at the Elgin Theatre. Reggio is the director of the much-loved “Koyaanisqatsi.”

 

Photo from The AV Club

Meet Frances, and Her Website

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It does not open in Buffalo for a few weeks, but I want to get you thinking about the most purely enjoyable movie I’ve seen so far this year: Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha.”

I missed “Frances” at TIFF, and spent months anxiously awaiting it. I had the chance to see it, and I can tell you that the Greta Gerwig-starrer is one of the best films about friendship, the end of friendships, and twentysomething life ever made.

Plus, it has an absolutely killer website that does a genuinely nice job of capturing the feeling of the film. Check it out, and look for more here on “Frances” soon.

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

Cotillard, Owen, Kunis, Schoenaerts, Saldana, Crudup, and Caan: “Blood Ties” Might Have the Year’s Coolest Cast

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I’m not entirely sure how it fell under my radar, but racing onto my list of most anticipated 2013 films is certainly Guillaume Canet’s “Blood Ties,” a crime saga co-written by James Gray. It just made its out-of-competition premiere at Cannes with a cast that is, quite simply, impeccable: Marion Cotillard, Clive Owen, Mila Kunis, Matthias Schoenaerts, Zoe Saldana, Billy Crudup, and James Caan.

Think about that group. Cotillard and Schoenaerts are fresh off the success of “Rust and Bone,” one of my 2012 favorites. Kunis and Saldana are two of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood. Owen and Crudup are two solid actors who are too often stuck in lackluster projects, and seem ready for something meaty. And who better to round out the cast of an epic cops-and-crooks tale than Jimmy Caan? Plus, there is Canet. The actor-director who helmed the international hit “Tell No One,” based “Blood Ties” on a remake of the 2008 French release Les Liens du Sang (Rivals), which he co-starred in.

But … the response at Cannes has not been strong. In fact, it has been pretty bad. There are a number of films that have drawn negative reactions in Cannes and garnered praise elsewhere — neither “Marie Antoinette” or “Enter the Void” could be labeled as hits, but both drew stronger responses in North American than they did following their Cannes debuts — and as The Playlist points out, the film is not set to open until the fall (and has no American distributor) yet, so reediting is possible.

The Hollywood Reporter called it “overstuffed” and “lethargic,” Variety said it is “sluggish” and “dramatically undernourished,” and The Playlist said the film is not a disaster, but “certainly a mess” that “never quite lives up to its epic scope.” Xan Brooks in The Guardian did come down quite so hard, describing it as something of a guilty pleasure: “‘Blood Ties’ is Cannes’ equivalent of a hamburger — pink in the middle with French dressing on the side. Inside the screening room, the delegates wolfed it down and then belched their approval.”

Still, the trailer is phenomenal (looking very James Gray-meets-“American Gangster”), and I recall the response to the similarly sprawling “Place Beyond the Pines” was a tad mixed coming out of TIFF, so who knows?

It’s exciting to see Clive Owen in a truly interesting project again. Last week, while driving home from downtown Buffalo, I noticed a cool-as-f*** Owen on a billboard hawking some kind of booze, and it got me to thinking about his career. He has not made a great feature since 2006, the year of “Children of Men” and “Inside Man,” and his recent output has been stunningly bland: “Killer Elite,” “The Boys Are Back,” “Duplicity.” Perhaps “Blood Ties” and the upcoming “Sin City” sequel will put the “Croupier” star back on track.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for more “Blood Ties” news; TIFF certainly seems a possibility.

(Speaking of James Gray and Marion Cotillard, Gray is the director and Cotillard is the star of another buzzed Cannes film, “The Immigrant,” co-starring Joaquin Phoenix.)

Poster from The Playlist

Sunday Thoughts: Will the Coens be Crowned Kings of Cannes?

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Some thoughts on a sunny Sunday in Buffalo, New York:

  • I love it when a film screens at Cannes, and within hours, seems have drawn Twitter raves from just about every critic along the Croisette. Last year was “Amour,” this year, so far, at least, it’s the Coen Bros. sixties-set folk music odyssey “Inside Llewyn Davis.” This is exciting for many reasons, chiefly because it proves that it was not wrong to get excited about the film’s fantastic first trailer. It also makes one wonder if this could pull of the Palme d’or, which “Barton Fink” memorably did more than two decades ago. The bummer, of course, is that we may not see the film Stateside until December, although an appearance at TIFF is possible. In any event, raves have been plentiful, from the likes of one of my favorites, Sasha Stone (who Tweeted “#swoon), Jeffrey Wells (who called it “some kind of brilliantly sombre, wonderfully atmospheric, dryly hilarious, pared-down period masterpiece”), and Peter Bradshaw (“Oh mon Dieu. The glorious Inside Llewyn Davis (dirs. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen) is the best thing at #Cannes2013! So far anyway”). There are many, MANY more; I saw a few mixed verdicts, but mostly rapturous praise. There are plenty of films left to screen, of course. But this Guardian quote seems to sum up the response nicely: “The explanation was simple: Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen brothers’ latest offering, was roundly greeted as a joyful masterpiece and a serious contender for this year’s Palme d’Or.”
  • I did not get a chance to see “Star Trek: Into Darkness” yet — is it odd that I feel I can wait? — but of course, many did; Deadline says JJ Abrams’ film is on track for $70 mill, under expectation but still pretty damn good.
  • Perhaps the bigger box office stories, though, involve two smaller films: Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha,” which I hope to see shortly, and one of my favorite films of the year so far, Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines.” (I wrote about “Pines” for buffalospree.com.) The opening for “Frances” saw a killer $33,000 per-screen average, while in its eighth week, “Place” crossed the $20 million mark. Expect much more from me on both of these films over the next few weeks and months.
  • I finally caught up with “Jack Reacher” this weekend, and found it an entertaining if forgettable potboiler. Except for one epic car chase, it almost felt like a Tom Selleck TV movie. Mind you, those are enjoyable, but the whole affair felt a bit slight. Considering how many options Cruise has, I wonder what drew him to this character, especially considering the casting controversy. It’s certainly worth a rental, but I can’t see this box office under-performer (in the States, anyway) kicking off another franchise.
  • A preview of what’s to come from FilmSwoon: I’ll be reviewing “The Hangover Part III” in Thursday’s Buffalo News, and I’m also hoping to share more Cannes news as the week goes, and perhaps start discussing the best film I’ve seen so far this year: Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color.”
  • If you haven’t started following FilmSwoon on Twitter yet, get to it! I’ve been re-Tweeting a bumber of cool articles on Cannes etc., and see that as a nice addition to the site content.

Photo courtesy of CBS Films

Thank You! And (Re)Pondering “Chunking Express”

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So it has been one week since my first real post, and it’s been a great eight days. I’ve enjoyed doing some writing, but it’s also been cool receiving such nice feedback. A sincere thanks to everyone who has visited the site, “liked” FilmSwoon on Facebook, started following me on Twitter, and read some of my FB posts. There will be a lot of fun to come, I think.

Case in point: One of my most eagerly anticipated films of the summer is “The Grandmaster,” directed by Wong Kar-wai. He is probably my favorite filmmaker, and his “Chunking Express” is probably my favorite movie. It is, in fact, something of an impetus for this site. There are few films that have bowled me over the way “Chunking” did (and does). The above still is from the sequence that made me realize just how much I adored the film.

“Chunking” is certainly a film I’ll be revisiting. Just thinking about it now makes me want to go watch it again …

Quentin Tarantino had a line about the film (I feel like it was on the original DVD release from his Rolling Thunder imprint) that just seems perfect, something about it making him so happy to love a film that much. That’s what I feel for “Chunking Express.”

Cannes Round-Up No. 1: Boos, Rifts, and Violence

 

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As I’ve mentioned, Cannes 2013 is in full swing. Part of the fun for those of us following from across the pond is keeping up with the tidal wave of articles, reviews, and announcements unleashed by the festival. Here are just a few of my faves from the last few days:

A handy list of 10 critics to follow on Twitter during Cannes.

Eric Kohn wrote a strong review of “A Separation” director Asghar Fargadi’s new film, “The Past.”

Nicholas Winding Refn talks violence and Gosling.

Is there a rift between Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee? They say no way

The Playlist looks at some films that were infamously booed at Cannes, including “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.”

A party was held for Martin Scorsese’s finally-ready-to-shoot passion project, “Silence,” and Jeffrey Wells was there.

 

Photo from the Toronto Star/ANDREAS RENTZ / GETTY IMAGES

Weekend Preview: “Star Trek” Sold Out? Dive Into “Mud” With McConaugheyyyyyyy

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The big new release of the week is obviously “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” but one other major story, I think, is the continued success of a movie that has been showing in Buffalo now for several weeks, and has become something of an indie hit: “Mud.”

In fact, “Mud” — which I have not had a chance to see yet — is now showing at the Dipson Amherst and the Regal Quaker Crossing (it opened there last week) after an initial run at the Dipson Eastern Hills (where it is still showing). Directed by Jeff Nichols, who blew me away at TIFF 2011 with “Take Shelter,” “Mud” has drawn raves ever since showing at Cannes last year. I was surprised the fugitive drama did not make its way to TIFF 2012, and wondered if perhaps its exclusion would lead to poor buzz. Happily, that was not the case.

The film, which stars the on-fire Matthew McConaughey (I call him McConaugheyyyyyy), and co-stars the suddenly fiery Reese Witherspoon, has made almost $10 million, and for a small release, that’s a jackpot. It demonstrates once again that there can be room for smaller films to squeak into the top 10, even during the blockbuster-crazed early summer.

Congrats to Jeff Nichols, who just sold a script to Warner Bros. Oh, my friend Michael Shannon (Zod!) is in “Mud,” and will be in the next Nichols project.

A quick box office preview: “Star Trek” will be huge, of course; if it does not hit $100 million for the weekend, it should be close. It will be interesting to see how “Gatsby” fares. I think it will hold up strong as a nice bit of counter-programming.

Poster courtesy of Roadside Attractions

The Cannes Frenzy Has Begun

"Knight of Cups"

Yes, Cannes is officially ON, and the news is already heating up. My favorite place for a quick update, so far, is The Hollywood Reporter; you can even download their daily festival newspaper as a PDF, and they also have a festival app.

This morning, they posted this, the first official still from Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups.” From what I can gather, the story involves two beautiful people frollicking on a beach. That sounds very Malick, actually …

Photo posted by The Hollywood Reporter

The National: Live, and on the Big Screen

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I’m stoked to be seeing the National at the State Theatre in Ithaca tomorrow night, where the band is kicking off its Trouble Will Find Me world tour. After being blown away by the band at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in June 2010 (a couple weeks before my son was born), I could not be more excited. In fact, the only disappointment is that I have not yet had a chance to see the documentary on the band, “Mistaken for Strangers.”

The film, directed by frontman Matt Berninger’s brother, Tom, has drawn some real raves at the Tribeca Film Festival and at Toronto’s Hot Docs. Pitchfork unveiled the trailer here a few weeks ago, and the new album is streaming on iTunes. It’s great.

 

Photo courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival

Gosling, Coens, and More Reasons I Should Really Be in Cannes This Week

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The Cannes Film Festival kicks off today in the south of France, and yes, I should be there. Not only is it probably sunny and warm, but there are the movies, and the boos, and crazy photographers.

But let’s stick with the movies. Cannes often sets the rest of the film-going year in motion. Last year’s Palme D’Or winner, Michael Haneke’s stunning “Amour,” went on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and even squeaked into the Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Actress categories. It probably should have won those four, too.

Sometimes, other awards stand out. In 2011, “The Artist” missed out on the Palme D’Or but received major praise, earning Best Actor honors for Jean Dujardin. (Remember him?)

On a personal level, I’ve been keeping track of Cannes for years now. I can recall watching the awards on some choppy, buffering website in the early 2000s, and seeing the late Roger Ebert host coverage on cable at some point. Some of my most beloved movies of recent years – “Drive,” “Rust and Bone,” “Holy Motors,” “Blue Valentine” – screened there, and waiting anxiously to hear what earned cheers and what earned jeers has become a May pastime.

The 2013 lineup has its share of highlights. Here are the top five reasons I wish I were sitting in a crowded movie theater in Cannes:

  • “Only God Forgives”: I don’t know what it is about “Drive,” exactly. I saw it shortly after its TIFF premiere in 2011, and my response was, roughly, “Meh.” Then, days later, I noticed I couldn’t get it out of my head. I began listening to the soundtrack like mad, and when I saw the film again, it had easily burrowed its way onto the (lengthy) list of my favorite films. The idea of Nicholas Winding Refn working together again, this time on a film about revenge and Thai boxing clubs? Yeah, I’m in. The trailer sealed the deal. This is my most eagerly awaited film of the summer.
  • New Polanski: “Carnage” was stagy and a bit dull, despite some strong performances and some piercing dialogue, but his new film, “Venus in Fur,” stars his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, and the actor I would cast in a Polanski biopic, Mathieu Almarac. (I just enjoyed his great performance in “Chicken and Plums.”) Quite frankly, it’s always interesting to see what Roman is up to.
  • Capital-M MAJOR directors unveiling their latest creations: Alexander Payne, the Coen Bros., James Gray, Sofia Coppola, Jim Jarmusch. Wow. We will get to see Coppola’s “Bling Ring” soon, but the others might not show up until autumn, at the earliest.
  • The jury is fascinating: I love the idea of Steven Spielberg as jury president. What will he seize on? Wouldn’t it be awesome if it was “Only God Forgives”?! But the jurors are also fascinatingly diverse: Nicole Kidman, Lynne Ramsay (fresh off of her “Jane Got a Gun” controversy), Ang Lee (who just beat Spielberg for a Best Director Oscar!),Christoph Waltz, Daniel Auteuil, Cristian Mungiu, Indian actress Vidya Balan, and Japanese director Naomi Kawase. I’d love to be in on those jury meetings.
  • The premiere of Paolo Sorrentino’s “La Grande Bellezza”: I see a lot of movies. So when I say I was taken aback at a film’s utter strangeness, that means something. “Il Divo” director Sorrentino’s last film, the Sean Penn-is-Robert Smith-sorta “This Must Be the Place” is truly, truly odd. It is streaming now on Netflix, and note I did not say it is bad, exactly. I’m not quite sure how I’d rate it, honestly. But it’s certainly unique, and I can’t wait to see how Sorrentino follows it up. I know little about “La Grande Bellezza” (“The Great Beauty”), but this IMDB description intrigues me: “The story of an aging writer who bitterly recollects his passionate, lost youth. A portrait of today’s Rome.” Will “banga banga parties” be referenced?

The Cannes Film Festival runs through May 26. My Palme D’Or pick: I could see Spielberg and co. embracing Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska.” I don’t expect a Spielberg-led jury to go for Takashe Miike, so “Nebraska” seems a safe choice.

Poster art courtesy of Radius-TWC