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Live From Cannes: The Quietus Film Blog Part II
Eftihia Stefanidi , May 18th, 2010 17:03

The latest reviews from Cannes, by the Quietus' Eftihia Stefanidi. Read part I here

Another Year – Mike Leigh Official Selection – Completion

Mike Leigh's favourite playground of the intimacy of human relationships, set against the backdrop of the everyday is masterfully presented in his new film. It hits you where it hurts. A gentle psychodrama with some life-affirming breaths of hope, Another Year depicts, over the course of four seasons, the way people live through loneliness. At the tranquil centre are Tom and Gerri, a balanced married couple that become the solid rock for the rest of the characters to lean on. These are fully-fledged personalitiess, drawn out with extraordinary realism. However, it is all about Mary (the matured, darker alter-ego of Happy-Go-Lucky's Poppy), who stands for the distressed, yet extravagant single friend, desperately longing for companionship. Lesley Manville is tremendous at exposing the finest nuances of an often disregarded fear: that of being alone while growing older. Another Year affirms the necessity of coming to terms with this fear and celebrating life, as well as accepting that being a normal person with problems is OK. Ordinary is the new black. Extraordinary stuff.

Chatroom – Hideo Nakata Un Certain Regard

Have you ever imagined what chat rooms on the web would look like if they were real rooms, with real members? Hideo Nakata realises exactly this in this ambitious film. It might have actually been a great idea to explore, if people still used such things (am I the only one that got over them?). The main problem, however, is not the choice of an outdated instant communication outlet as subject matter, but rather the graphical transitions between the internet world and the real one.

In Chatroom, a 'millennial generation' escape from the problems of adolescence, which seems to be an abnormally mean-spirited place (though I assume that's just one of the side effects of internet binging). Shot around London, the city is vividly depicted, but somehow at odds with the imaginary world Nakata creates. By the time you've adjusted to the made-up setting, a return to the familiarities of London challenges your ability to believe in this device. To be fair, the first half of the film does actually engage your imagination, and the interpretations of net rooms into striking, tangible chambers can be momentarily entertaining; but once the main troublemaker (Kick-Ass hero Aaron Johnson) turns diabolic, you'll wish you had unplugged that internet cable earlier. Oops, it's wireless.

Heartbeats (Les Amours Imaginaires) – Xavier Dolan Un Certain Regard

Canadian actor-director Xavier Dolan returns to Cannes with a story of a make-believe "ménage à trois", shot in impeccable style. Heartbeats centres around the obsessive side of love, as two good friends of the opposite sex fall deeply for the same statuesque guy. Dolan might have carried the narrative patterns he introduced in his very promising autobiographical first feature I Killed My Mother a bit far this time - the film resembling a slow-paced flip-book, courtesy of Wong Kar-wai. With little dialogue or real-time action, the focus is on a meticulously studied surface: coming across as a metrosexual "cinema du look". Colours, styling and spectacle are the pleasing ingredients here and the film does hit some truly poetic moments, fusing pop culture with high brow literature. Even if he succeeds in establishing a signature style, Dolan's downfall is that his storytelling offers less substance than saturated visual indulgence. Stll, at a young age, he is certainly already among the cinephile literati, well aware of how to manipulate the camera and inject sophistication into his lustrous facades. In time, his film might well become an inspiration for editors and video art lovers, and its soundtrack, especially Dalida's Italian version of 'Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)', is truly effective.

Kaboom – Gregg Araki Official Selection/ Out of Competition

For the small but loyal band of devotees of Gregg Araki’s queer culture films, the midnight screening of his latest creation would have been a delight. Kaboom revisits the surrealistic liberties he took with the "Teen Apocalypse Trilogy" (Totally F***ed Up, The Doom Generation and Nowhere), blending nods to Twin Peaks with his usual defiance against marketable norms. The full synopsis of the film is sufficiently self-explanatory and you shouldn't miss out on the pleasure of discovering the story for yourself. But to give you some hints of what goodies to expect, think of mystery, drug hallucinations, plenty of clumsy sex (all kinds and all sexes are welcome), and an investigation into a deep family secret threatening to end the world! For the sporadically appreciative viewers of Araki, or those who are just discovering him, the film might be perceived as over-the-top, with an excessive useage of kitsch and camp. However, in Kaboom, these elements are moulded by experienced hands, creating a film which is both structured and audaciously free-spirited. Chaos reigns!

The Silent House (La Casa Muda) – Gustavo Hernandez Directors' Fortnight

Speaking of DIY filmmaking, what can we say about the astonishing facts of The Silent House, a thriller filmed with an HD Canon EOS “still” digital camera in a single 76-minute, continuous shot? This impressive entry from Uruguay succeeds in sustaining the suspense and making you jump out of your seat. The film follows Laura, a young girl settling down with her father in a dilapidated cottage. While they attempt to restore the place, eerie sounds emanating from the empty rooms set in motion a journey into the dark. The remarkable thing about the film is that, apart from looking visually superior in spite of its minimum budget, it also manages to maintain a steady rhythm and pace (some moments of repetitiveness notwithstanding ). The Silent House is very creative within its limited means, especially with the highly original ways it plants the seeds of fear using some well orchestrated cinematic tricks and especially sound design. But what I was really wondering by the end of it, is how that poor actress endured the entire screaming, crying, blood-spouting ordeal in real time? The occasional improbability of her decisions did make the audience lose faith at times; but, then again, isn't the victim always walking towards the pitch-black room in 99% of horror movies? Even if The Silent House is, in parts, raw and mildly clumsy, it's still an outstanding film that will absolutely surprise you - a stellar example of real, "budget" filmmaking.

Stay tuned for more updates from Eftihia throughout the festival.