By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Down the Croisettea few paces, Cannes’ renegade parallel festival, the Directors Fortnight, got off to a strong start in its 41st year with the world premiere of Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro, another reported competition also-ran that nevertheless finds the Godfather auteur delivering his most ambitious, personal and richly satisfying film in the 20 years since Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Like most of Coppola’s best films, Tetro is another coded autobiography about success and failure, domineering patriarchs and sibling rivalries, here set in contemporary Buenos Aires (although the high-contrast black-and-white images and generally dreamlike mood evoke a timelessness), where a quixotic aspiring writer (Vincent Gallo) who has fled from the family nest is visited by his adoring younger brother (18-year-old newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, with the devil-may-care smirk of the young Leonardo DiCaprio).
Elsewhere at the Fortnight, Portugal’s Pedro Costa unveiled the feature-length version of his performance film Ne Change Rien (an in-progress excerpt screened during Costa’s 2007 Los Angeles retrospective), in which he documents the French actress and singer Jeanne Balibar rehearsing and performing an extensive repertoire that ranges from husky-voiced torch songs to Jacques Offenbach’s La Périchole. The last of those is sung repeatedly by Balibar while taking exacting notes from an offscreen vocal coach, by which point it has become clear that Costa’s very beautiful film is, like his earlier portrait of the filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, a rare chronicle of work and the creative process. Also shooting in lustrous black-and-white, Costa first shows Balibar onstage performing the song “Torture” from her 2003 Paramour album, and he proceeds to film her in a variety of poses and locales as she works out various approaches to a song, always (even in close-up) retaining a respectful distance from his subject, never vulgarizing her in typical music-video fashion.
The wonderfully idiosyncratic South Korean director Hong Sang-soo was in fine form with Like You Know It All, his latest film à clef about the peccadilloes of emotionally immature Korean men and the women they hopelessly lust after. Like many Hong films, this one is set in and around the film industry — specifically, at a film festival where Hong’s onscreen avatar is invited to serve on a jury. Once there, the filmmaker proceeds to miss and/or sleep through most of the screenings, something that happens a good deal more frequently than most festival organizers would care to admit.
Meanwhile, back in Un Certain Regard, another film shed light on a rarely heralded aspect of the movie business — the maverick independent producers who gamble their livelihoods on the uncommercial visions of leading art filmmakers. The film, Mia Hansen-Løve’s The Father of My Children, takes its inspiration from the real case of the late French producer Humbert Balsan, who killed himself in 2005 with his company on the verge of bankruptcy. In sharp relief to Hollywood’s constant supply of mawkish dead child/parent weepies, Hansen-Løve’s film — her second — casts its clear-eyed gaze upon the unpleasant business of lawyers, unpaid debts and everything else that must be reckoned with before anyone has the time to sit around grieving. (As one who has spent much of the past year settling my own father’s untidy estate, I had many moments in which I sensed my life passing before my eyes.) Ultimately, the film renders tribute to Balsan’s artistic vision (which supported films by the likes of Claire Denis, Youssef Chahine and Bela Tarr), to the many others who work for little personal gain to make the movies that broaden our cinematic horizons, and to the festivals, like Cannes, where we line up to see them.
For more Cannes coverage throughout the festival, check LA Daily for Foundas on Film reports.
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