Review: ‘Two of Us’ (2021), starring Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier

February 7, 2021

by Carla Hay

Martine Chevallier and Barbara Sukowa in “Two of Us” (Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

“Two Of Us”

Directed by Filippo Meneghetti

French with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in France, the dramatic film “Two of Us” features an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two elderly women who have been longtime secret lovers have different ideas on when to make their romance public, and then one of them has a stroke that takes the relationship in another direction.

Culture Audience: “Two of Us” will appeal primarily to people are interested in compelling dramas that deal with issues of LGBTQ people who are afraid to reveal their sexual identities and issues about health care for elderly people.

Léa Drucker and Martine Chevallier in “Two of Us” (Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

The French dramatic film “Two of Us” shines an emotionally powerful light on an issue that’s almost never covered in mainstream films: What happens when LGBTQ partners have a health crisis that needs caregiver aid, but one partner has no legal right to care for the other? The issue becomes more complicated when the couple’s romance has been kept a secret and the ailing partner wants to keep the relationship “in the closet.”

“Two of Us” is the first feature film from writer/director Filippo Meneghetti, who shows a knack for telling this story in an artful and respectful way. There are a few unexpected twists and turns in the movie, but it’s also a film that is entirely believable. Thanks to an intriguing screenplay and convincing performances from the cast members, “Two of Us” touches on universal themes about the freedom to love openly and how that freedom is often restricted by bigotry and fear. It’s no wonder that “Two of Us” was France’s entry for the 2021 Academy Awards.

“Two of Us” tells the story of retirees Nina Dorn (played by Barbara Sukowa) and Madeleine Girard (played by Martine Chevallier), who live across the hall from each other in an apartment building in an unnamed city in France. To the people they know, Nina and Madeleine seem to be platonic neighbors. But in reality, Nina and Madeleine (whom Nina has affectionately nicknamed Mado) have been secret lovers for about 20 years.

Madeleine is a native of France, while Nina is originally from Germany. It’s revealed later in the story that Nina used to be a tour guide in various countries, and it’s implied that Nina met Madeleine this way. Madeleine is a widow whose husband has been dead for a few years, so Madeleine is now the only owner of her apartment.

It’s mentioned more than once in the film that Madeleine’s marriage was an unhappy one, and her late husband was abusive to her emotionally and possibly physically. But now that Madeleine’s husband is dead, she and Nina are free to have sleepovers at each other’s place. They have keys to each other’s apartment.

Nina is the one who usually goes to Madeleine’s apartment, where in one of the early scenes of the movie, they have a lovers’ tryst that shows their passion for each other hasn’t dwindled. In another scene, Madeleine and Nina slow dance closely to the love song “Chariot (Sul Mio Curro),” which is their favorite song as a couple. It’s a song that they like to play to get in a good mood.

Madeleine and her late husband have two children, who are now in their 30s: daughter Anne (played by Léa Drucker) and son Frédéric (played by Jérôme Varanfrain), who visit Madeleine on a regular basis. Anne has a son named Théo (played by Augustin Reynes), who’s about 10 or 11 years old. Madeleine is much closer to Anne than she is to Frédéric, who seems to resent Madeleine because he suspects that Madeleine was unfaithful in her marriage.

Anne is a stylist at a hair salon, and so she’s naturally her mother’s hair stylist too. When Ann does her mother’s hair, it’s their time to catch up on “girl talk.” Anne thinks that she and her mother have the type of relationship where they can tell each other anything. But it won’t be long before Anne finds out that there’s a lot she didn’t know about her mother.

In the beginning of “Two of Us,” Madeleine and Nina are blissfully happy but have reached a crossroads in their relationship. Nina has been bringing up the idea for them to move to Rome and get a place together. Madeleine is more cautious about that idea, but she has agreed to sell the apartment and to finally tell her family about the true nature of her relationship with Nina.

There is very little revealed about Nina’s background. She doesn’t mention having any family members or former lovers. It’s implied that Nina left everything behind in Germany to move to France. Nina is a lot more comfortable with the idea of living openly as a lesbian, but Madeleine is the one who’s resistant to “come out of the closet” because Madeleine is afraid that her children will be upset and reject her.

One day, Madeleine has a prospective buyer come over to look at the apartment. (Apparently, Madeleine is acting as her own real-estate agent, since no agent is seen or mentioned every time she discusses selling the apartment with anyone.) The prospective buyer is a professional-looking man in his 30s named Mr. Brémond (played by Hervé Sogne), who makes an offer of €250,000 to buy the apartment.

Nina plays the part of a nosy neighbor who invites herself over when Madeleine is showing the apartment to Mr. Brémond. Nina’s tells Mr. Brémond that she and Madeleine are friends and her apartment layout and size are identical to Madeleine’s apartment, so Nina says she’s curious about what a prospective buyer would think. Privately, Nina has told Madeleine that she’s saved up enough money for it to be realistic for them to move Rome. Nina’s dream is to live near the Tiber River.

While all of these plans are going on, Madeleine has a small birthday celebration in her home with just her children Anne and Frédéric and grandson Théo. It’s here that Madeleine plans to tell her family that she and Nina are lovers and that they plan to move to another country together. But Madeleine can’t bring herself to tell them. The celebration hits a sour note when the subject turns to Madeleine’s late husband, and Frédéric angrily tells Madeleine that she couldn’t wait until her husband died.

The next day, Nina asks Madeleine with anticipation how Madeleine’s family took the news. “They agreed,” Madeleine tells Nina. It’s a lie of course. And Nina inevitably finds out when she happens to see Mr. Brémond outside the apartment building, and he tells her that Madeleine changed her mind about selling the apartment.

Just at that moment, Madeleine is looking out her apartment window and sees Nina talking to Mr. Brémond. She quickly goes outside to try to diffuse the emotional explosion that’s about to happen. But it’s too late.

Nina furiously confronts Madeleine about her lies and says she can’t take hiding their relationship anymore. Nina then asks Mr. Brémond if he has a problem with two “old lesbians.” A flustered and embarrassed Mr. Brémond says no. Nina then rips into Madeleine some more and ends the argument by calling Madeleine “pathetic” before Nina storms off.

The next day, Nina is over at Madeleine’s place when she notices an unattended frying pan that’s lit on the stove. She senses that something is wrong and looks for Madeleine in the apartment. The next thing you know, an ambulance is called to take Madeleine to a hospital.

Nina and Anne go to the hospital, but since Nina isn’t considered a family member, she can only wait to find out what happened from Anne. In the waiting area, Anne tells Nina that Madeleine had a stroke and the prognosis isn’t good. Although Madeleine is in stable condition, the doctors say it’s unlikely that Madeleine will be able to speak again.

It’s devastating news. And Nina gets even more distraught when she finds out that Anne and Peter have hired a live-in caretaker named Muriel (played by Muriel Bénazéraf), who firmly declines Nina’s offers to help Muriel look after Madeleine. Muriel is also very strict about when Nina can come over to visit Madeleine, by limiting the visiting hours only to during the day. At this point, Muriel and Anne have no idea that Nina has a key to Madeleine’s apartment.

The first time that Nina tries to visit Madeleine when she comes from from the hospital, Muriel tells Nina to come back at 8:30 the next morning. Nina can’t wait that long though, so she sneaks into the apartment while Muriel is asleep. Nina rushes to Madeleine’s side and tells her that she’s sorry for the insulting argument that she had with Madeleine. Unfortunately, Madeleine stares ahead and gives no indication that she’s aware of what Nina is saying or even knows who Nina is.

The movie then shows a forlorn Nina sitting in her apartment the next morning and waiting for the clock to get to 8:30. Nina is careful about appearing too over-eager because Muriel and later Anne begin to show signs that they’re suspicious of Nina. They think it’s odd that Nina shows a little too much interest in being around Madeleine.

Now that Nina can no longer come and go whenever she wants into Madeleine’s apartment, Nina has to decide how she’s going to handle being able to see Madeleine on a daily basis. Nina’s comes up with two options in her plan: win over Muriel or try to get Muriel fired. In the limited time that Nina now spends with Madeleine, she notices that Madeleine seems to be aware of her presence and her physical abilities seem to improve.

Aside from the pressing matter of how much Madeleine can be rehabilitated, there’s the lingering question of how much longer Nina and Madeleine’s relationship can be kept a secret. Nina knows that Madeleine wasn’t ready to tell her family, but should Nina make the decision for her, now that Madeleine can’t speak? And would the family negatively react if they found out the truth?

Madeleine has her stroke about 25 minutes into this 95-minute film, so the rest of the movie really shifts to Nina’s perspective. Her turmoil is compounded by the fact that she has no one she can turn to for help, since Nina and Madeleine really kept their secret love affair only to themselves. It’s enough to drive anyone a little crazy. And there are some things that Nina does that indicate she might be slipping close to that edge.

“Two of Us” has a some melodrama, but not enough to take away from the emotional sincerity of the film. It’s a somber meditation that shows how homophobia can often affect LGBTQ partners from living openly and legally being able to take care of each other if someone in the relationship needs round-the-clock caregiving. From Nina’s perspective, her heartbreak also comes from wondering if the woman she loves is gone forever, because Madeleine can no longer speak and no longer has the personality she used to have.

Sukowa anchors the film with a quiet intensity that takes viewers through Nina’s emotional nightmare and increasing desperation. And although Chevallier’s Madeleine character is a stroke patient for most of the movie, she delivers an impressive performance where she must act primarily with her eyes when Madeleine becomes otherwise physically incapacitated. Before the stroke, Nina seemed to be more the more mysterious one in the relationship since her personal history is very vague. But by the end of the movie, Nina is the character that viewers will end up feeling like they know better, for obvious reasons.

“Two of Us” writer/director Meneghetti doesn’t make any preachy judgments on what happens in the movie. Anne and Nina end up clashing with each other over decisions on how to handle Madeleine’s rehabilitation, but the movie doesn’t try to be heavy-handed about who’s right and who’s wrong. People can see both sides of the argument and find reasons to see why each woman believes strongly that she knows what’s best for Madeleine. In its own heartbreaking way, “Two of Us” is an example of how true love can endure, but it’s better when that love can be expressed openly and honestly.

Magnolia Pictures released “Two of Us” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and on VOD on February 5, 2021.

Review: ‘The Price of Desire,’ starring Orla Brady, Vincent Perez, Francesco Scianna and Alanis Morissette

June 2, 2020

by Carla Hay

Francesco Scianna and Orla Brady in “The Price of Desire” (Photo by Julian Lennon)

“The Price of Desire”

Directed by Mary McGuckian

French and English with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in France from the 1920s to the 1970s, the drama “The Price of Desire” has an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class and upper-class.

Culture Clash: The film tells the story of Irish architect Eileen Gray and her conflicts over sexism and E-1027, a modernist villa that she designed in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal mostly to people who have an interest in the history of 20th century European modernist architecture.

Vincent Perez in “The Price of Desire” (Photo by Julian Lennon)

“The Price of Desire” sounds like it could be the name of a thriller about a crime of passion, but this slow-paced feature film (which is based on a true story) tells how Irish architect/interior designer Eileen Gray (who died in 1976, at the age of 98) was deprived of being credited for much of her work because of sexism in the industry. Written and directed by Mary McGuckian, “The Price of Desire” gets much of the production design correct,  but the movie’s turgid tempo might bore people who have absolutely no interest in the history of 20th century European architects.

A great deal of the movie’s cinematography from Stefan von Björn is over-filtered, giving it a dreamy look that movies often use for flashbacks or scenes where people are supposed to be experiencing a heavenly atmosphere. The story of “The Price of Desire” definitely takes place on Earth (France, to be more specific), but this lens filtering is at times distracting. And because Gray was known for her minimalist style, the costume design for the movie is a little too obvious about it, since almost everyone wears clothes in neutral colors, such as white, black, brown or gray.

“The Price of Desire” begins with the Christie’s auction in 2009 that famously sold Gray’s “Dragons” chair for €22 million, which set an auction record for a piece of 20th-century furniture. The movie then flashes back to an elderly and partially blind Eileen (played by Orla Brady) toward the end of her life in the mid-1970s. She is shown a photo of E-1027, a modernist villa that she designed and which was built from 1926 to 1929, in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France.

This photo triggers her memories of the story behind E-1027, which is considered her first major architectural work and is now a French national monument. And those memories lead to the movie flashing back to how she met the man who became her lover and who was the muse for E-1027.

Jean Badovici (played by Francesco Scianna) was a Frenchman of Romanian descent who was 15 years younger than Eileen. He met her in 1926 to interview her for L’Architecture Vivante magazine. It’s clear that Jean is immediately attracted to and in awe of Eileen, but she’s somewhat resistant to his obvious interest. When she asks him if he’s a writer or a journalist, he tells her that he’s neither because he’s really an architect.

Eileen is bisexual, so Jean tactfully tries to find out from Eileen how much of her sexual preferences lean toward men. (Near the beginning of the film, Alanis Morissette has a cameo as singer Marisa Damia, one of Eileen’s lovers whose affair with Eileen is over by the time Eileen meets Jean.) Because Eileen and Jean share a passion for architecture and have a growing attraction to each other, they inevitably become lovers, and they soon decide to become work collaborators too.

Eileen tells Jean that she’s not interested in getting married to anyone and that she needs freedom to create and think. Jean tells Eileen, “You’re frittering away your talent on furniture. You’re 46 years old.”

Jean suggests that they design a house together. They name the white modernist villa E-1027, after the initials of their first and last names and where those letters are ranked in the alphabet.  “E” standing for Eileen, “10” stands for the “J” in Jean, “2” stands for the “B” in Badovici and “7” stands for the “G” in Gray.

But there’s one big problem: Perhaps in a “love is blind” decision, Eileen paid for the villa to be built and she gave Jean the house’s deed/title. Jean also took credit for designing the villa, which Eileen didn’t mind too much at first when their relationship was going well. They were live-in partners and his career began to thrive because of his association with Eileen, who is shown in the movie as being the brains behind his designs. But then, Eileen caught Jean cheating on her, and they had a bitter breakup not long after the house was completed in 1929.

By the time the breakup happened, Jean had become a close friend Swiss-French architect/artist Le Corbusier (played by Vincent Perez), who had become a titan of the industry as one of the pioneers of modern architecture. Le Corbusier (whose real name was Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) has a sexist attitude toward women in architecture, so he and Eileen inevitably end up having conflicts with each other, even though she says in the movie she remains a “passionate admirer” of Le Corbusier.

Adding insult to injury, after Eileen moved out of E-1027, Le Corbusier painted the walls with several colorful murals, which clashed with the villa’s white palette and minimalist style. To many people, the murals could be considered graffiti. And where is Jean in all of this? He’s taken the breakup with Eileen very hard, so he’s become an alcoholic, and he lets the more powerful Le Corbusier take over the villa.

Although “The Price of Desire” is supposed to be about Eileen Gray, the movie dilutes her perspective by making the character of Le Corbusier speak directly to the audience and share his thoughts. It’s a somewhat odd and distracting choice that McGuckian makes in this film’s narrative.

In real life, Le Corbusier was falsely credited for many years with designing E-1027, until the truth was revealed. Maybe having Le Corbusier narrate the film’s story is McGuckian’s way of demonstrating that even in a movie about Gray, Le Corbusier is trying to dominate and steal her thunder. But viewers of “The Price of Desire” would have to know this part of architectural history to understand this metaphor.

There’s a scene in “The Price of Desire” where Le Corbusier sums up how different he is from Eileen, when he interrupts a scene to talk to the audience about her: “There is so much uncertainty about sex, unless it’s paid for. In art, I can see clearly. In love, not so well. To me, they were incompatible and confused. To [Eileen Gray], they seemed utterly and intrinsically infused.”

Adding to the over-filtered cinematography, “The Price of Desire” also presents much of the movie’s scenes as if the story were a visual romance novel. Many scenes are filmed with too many slow-motion shots, some of which are almost laughable. Even when Eileen is doing the dirty work of breaking ground for the villa, she’s wearing no protective gloves and she’s dressed as if she’s about to go have a picnic in the park.

The movie has depictions of several real-life notable people from the mid-20th century artistic culture. The supporting character who gets the most screen time is artist Fernand Leger (played by Dominique Pinon), who’s a mutual friend of Eileen, Jean and Le Corbusier. Most of Fernand’s scenes consist of him witnessing some of the conflicts between his friends and trying to stay neutral, although in one scene he whispers to Eileen that she deserves to be happy, after she’s disrespected by Jean.

“The Price of Desire” also features cameo portrayals of writer Marcel Proust (played by Arnaud Bronsart); writer/artist Jean Cocteau (played by Fabien Boitiere); and Gray’s lesbian friends Gertrude Stein (played by Sammy Leslie), writer Natalie Barney (played by Natasha Girardi) and art promoter/filmmaker/choreographer Gabrielle Bloch (played by Caitriona Balfe). And it wouldn’t be a movie about high-end art without at least one billionaire. In this case, Aristotle Onassis (played by David Herlihy) makes an appearance.

There’s also a brief depiction author/adventurer Bruce Chatwin (played by Martin Swahey), who visits Eileen in her home toward the end of her life. She just happens to have a photo of Patagonia on her wall, and she mentions that she’s never been there. She then says to Chatwin: “Why don’t you go there for me?” Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

“The Price of Desire” is not a horrible film. It’s just not a very compelling one. The actors in the cast do a serviceable job, but much of the movie’s dialogue just isn’t good enough to elevate, no matter who is speaking the lines.

And worst of all, “The Price of Desire” makes the mistake of having Le Corbusier (who’s portrayed as a misogynistic blowhard) continually interrupt the story to talk directly to the audience. If the point of the movie was to give the proper respect to Gray because she experienced gender discrimination, that intention is ruined by diminishing her perspective and making the story’s narration come from the sexist egomaniac who tried to oppress her in real life.

Giant Pictures released “The Price of Desire” in North America on digital and VOD on June 2, 2020. The movie was already released in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2016.

Review: ‘Shadows of Freedom,’ starring Robert Satloff, Robert Gildea, Jeannine Verdès-Leroux, Brian Lane Herder, Helen Fry and Christopher Kolakowski

May 1, 2020

by Carla Hay

U.S. troops with Algerians during World War II in “Shadows of Freedom” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“Shadows of Freedom”

Directed by Amos Carlen and Aline Robichaud

Culture Representation: This documentary, which interviews an all-white group of history experts, examines the underreported World War II history of Jewish resistance fighters in Algeria who were influential in helping the Allied Forces build a military strategy to defeat the Nazi regime.

Culture Clash: The Jewish resistance fighters in Algiers had to battle with the Nazi-controlled Vichy government in France, while United States and the United Kingdom disagreed on which Nazi-occupied country to invade first.

Culture Audience: “Shadows of Freedom” will appeal primarily to people who want to learn more about World War II history that took place in North Africa.

José Aboulker in a 1972 TV interview (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

Much has been written about and reported on Jewish resistance fighters in Europe during World War II, but most people aren’t aware (because it’s rarely taught in history classes) that Jewish resistance fighters in the North African country of Algeria played a crucial role in the Allied Forces winning the War. “Shadows of Freedom” (directed by Amos Carlen and Aline Robichaud) is a very traditionally made documentary that tells this underdog story through the use of archival footage, some animation and interviews with World War II history experts.

Narrated by Youssef Iraqi in an appropriately serious tone, “Shadows of Freedom” begins with a brief summary of the events that led up to World War II, such as Adolf Hitler-led Nazis invading several countries in Europe from 1938 to 1940. France became divided between two territories with two separate governments: the democracy government in the free territory and the Vichy government in the Nazi-controlled territory. Also at stake where the North African countries Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Algiers, the capital of Algeria, was the largest city in this African region.

It was in Algiers that the seeds of resistance were sown with a Jewish man who is widely considered the leader of the Jewish resistance movement in Algeria: José Aboulker, who came from a French immigrant family of left-wing intellectuals. José’s father Henri was a professor of medicine and an activist. José’s brothers Rafael and Stephan also were influential members of the Jewish resistance group in Algeria.

The talking heads who provide commentary in the documentary are Robert Sayloff, executive director of the Washington Institute of Near East policy; Oxford University professor Robert Gildea, author of “Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of French Resistance”; Jeannine Verdès-Leroux, a historian and José Aboulker biographer; Brian Lane Herder, author of “Operation Torch 1942: The Invasion of French North Africa”; World War II historian Helen Fry, author of “Churchill’s German Army”; and Christopher Kolakowski, director of the MacArthur Memorial Museum in Norfolk, Virginia.

José Aboulker, who was a 20-year-old medical student at the time he formed the resistance group, is described in the documentary as intelligent and well-connected. With the help of his brothers, José recruited members of the group under the guise of having health-club/gum gatherings, so as not to raise suspicions of the government. It was a clear ruse, since the meetings would serve twofold purpose of making plans and giving physical training to the resistance members, most of whom were young (18 to 40 years old) but with no military experience.

Other key members of the French resistance in Algiers were two members of the free French government: Henri D’Astier de la Vigerie (a soldier) and Colonel Germain Jousse. And although the majority of the resistance members were Jewish immigrants from France, many were also Jews born in Algeria and some were non-Jewish Algerians.

During the formation of the Jewish resistance in Algeria, there were also disagreements brewing between the United States and the United Kingdom on what military strategy to use to win World War II. The U.S. had resisted getting involved for years in fighting the Nazis, until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1941 was the catalyst for the U.S. to get involved in World War II as part of the Allied Forces with the United Kingdom.

The U.S. military wanted to invade an embattled France first to free it from the Vichy regime. However, the U.K. military thought a better strategy would be to defeat Germany in other Nazi-occupied countries first, starting with those in North Africa, and then working up to Europe. The U.K. strategy is the one that was taken, and it turned out to be the correct strategy, because it have the Allied troops the experience and the confidence needed by the time they got to Europe.

In order to free the countries in North Africa, the Allied Forces would have to battle the French/Vichy military controlling these countries. A relatively small group (about 388 people) of Jewish resistance fighters, led by José Aboulker, played a crucial role by taking over the city of Algiers on November 8, 1942. The resistance fighters took police officers and city officials into custody for about six hours, which was longer than the resistance movement had expected.

The resistance fighters’ takeover of Algiers cleared a path when the Allied troops entered Algeria and finished what the resistance fighters started in the famous Operation Torch siege, by defeating the Nazi-sympathetic governments in Algeria and in other parts of North Africa. Unfortunately, the resistance fighters in Algeria were later marginalized in the Darlan Deal, brokered by French admiral Jean Louis Xavier François Darlan after the Allied Forces’ defeat of North Africa. Many of the resistance fighters were imprisoned for their helpful actions during Operation Torch.

The documentary’s pundits say that this mistreatment of the resistance fighters is an embarrassing part of French history, and it’s one of the reasons why the resistance movement in Algeria is not widely taught in history classes. Likewise, Americans and Brits also downplayed or tried to erase the contributions of the resistance fighters in Algeria, because Americans and Brits had to fight against the French in Algeria, and it doesn’t fit the usual narrative that the French were allies to Americans and Brits during World War II.

At 65 minutes long, “Shadows of Freedom” is a completely efficient retelling of this underrated part of World War II history. The archival footage includes early 1970s TV interviews of José Aboulker; his cousin Bernard Karsenty, who was also part of the Jewish resistance in Algeria; and Marc Jacquet, who called D’Astier de la Vigerie “an archangel with a sword” and a “true leader.”

D’Astier de la Vigerie is credited with being influential in the Jewish resistance movement in Algeria, but the documentary also points out that although he was anti-Nazi, he also had right-leaning political views that favored the idea of France going back to being a monarchy instead of  democracy. Satloff (who is the most compelling and articulate pundit in the documentary) also mentions that José Aboulker, who died in 2009 at the age of 89, was also probably not given enough credit in historical accounts of Operation Torch because of José Aboulker’s unpopular political views later in life. José Aboulker advocated on behalf of Algerian Muslims, which was a controversial stance for a Jewish person.

The documentary’s illustrations/animation by Joseph Sherman adeptly complement the story that’s told in the movie. There is a small editing error toward the end when subtitles are absent for historian Verdès-Leroux, who speaks in French. However, “Shadows of Freedom” musical score by co-directed Carlen is on point, ranging from majestic to poignant. “Shadows of Freedom” is the type of documentary that can easily be shown in history classes as part of any curriculum about World War II. However, you don’t have to be a history buff to be inspired by the courage of ordinary people who made a positive difference in an extraordinary period of humankind.

Gravitas Ventures released “Shadows of Freedom” on digital and VOD on April 24, 2020.

Review: ‘Resistance,’ starring Jesse Eisenberg, Clémence Poésy, Matthias Schweighöfer and Ed Harris

March 27, 2020

by Carla Hay

Jesse Eisenberg in “Resistance” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“Resistance” (2020)

Directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz 

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in World War II-era France, “Resistance” has a predominantly white cast of characters in a dramatic film inspired by the true story of a young Marcel Marceau and his involvement in the French Resistance movement against the Nazis.

Culture Clash: Marcel, whose artistic dreams are discouraged by his skeptical father, is at first reluctant to join the French Resistance, but he and others in the Resistance end up risking their lives in their fight against the Nazi regime.

Culture Audience: “Resistance” will appeal mostly to people who have an interest in World War II stories or inspirational biographies told in a melodramatic way.

Clémence Poésy, Jesse Eisenberg and Bella Ramsey (second from right) in “Resistance” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

People who know about Marcel Marceau as one of the world’s most famous mime entertainers might or might know about his involvement in the French Resistance that saved thousands of Jewish people’s lives during the horrors of the World War II-era Holocaust. The emotionally riveting melodrama “Resistance” primarily tells the story of this part of Marceau’s life from 1938 to 1942 (when he was 25 to 29 years old), and his transformation from aspiring entertainer to war hero.

The movie (written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz) begins on November 9, 1935, in Nazi-controlled Munich, Germany. A Jewish mother and father (played by Aurélie Bancilhon and Edgar Ramírez) lovingly kiss their 14-year-old daughter before she goes to sleep for the night. But their lives are shattered when Nazis break into the home, kidnap the parents, and murder them in the street before the terrified daughter’s eyes. What happens to this girl is shown later in the story.

Meanwhile, the movie flashes forward to 1945 in Nuremberg, Germany, with U.S. General George Patton (played by Ed Harris) addressing a large group of American soldiers in a stadium. Patton says he’s going to tell them a story about “one of those unique human beings who makes your sacrifices and heroism completely worth it.”

It’s then that the story of Marceau begins in Strasbourg, France. It’s November 1938, when he was known by his birth name, Marcel Mangel. Marcel (played by Jesse Eisenberg) doing a mime impersonation of Charlie Chaplin on stage at a cabaret. No sooner does he get off the stage, he is pulled out into an alley by his disapproving father, Charles Mangel (played by Karl Markovics), an immigrant from Poland who thinks Marcel is wasting his time trying to be an artist. Charles wants Marcel to follow in his footsteps in the family’s butcher business, which Marcel does reluctantly as a “day job.”

Meanwhile, one of the butcher shop’s female customers has a daughter named Emma (played by Clémence Poésy), who Marcel asks about when she comes into the store. Marcel jokes that his father wants Marcel to marry Emma, but viewers can see from the Marcel’s demeanor when he sees Emma later that he doesn’t need any parental interference to be interested in her. They have the kind of back-and-forth “I’m trying to play it cool but deep down I’m attracted to you” banter that would-be couples have in movies when you know that there will be some romantic sparks between them later.

Emma and her sister Mila (played by Vica Kerekes) are part of the underground French Resistance movement that includes Marcel’s cousin Georges Loinger (played by Géza Röhrig), who was the head of the Jewish Boy Scouts during World War II. Georges, Emma, Mila and Marcel’s older brother Alain (Félix Moati) are all involved in helping rescue orphaned Jewish children and finding them a place to live.

Georges has asked Marcel to use his mime skills to entertain the children, but Marcell initially says no because he wants to use his free time to work on a play and his other artistic interest of painting. Marcel and Alain come from a  tight-knit Jewish family (their parents have a solid marriage), but Alain and Marcel have a strained relationship because Alain thinks that Marcel is too self-centered and arrogant.

And the movie shows that Alain is right. Even though Marcel is a mime on stage, he hates it when people call him “a clown.” As he tells his father haughtily, “I’m an actor!” Marcel also thinks that he’s too good to be a butcher and he’s destined for greatness as a famous and respected artist. No one can tell him otherwise.

But when a group of 123 orphans arrive in Strasbourg, and Marcel volunteers to borrow his father’s truck to transport them to an abandoned castle where the orphans will be staying, it sets in motion a life journey that at the time Marcel didn’t even know that he would be taking. In this group of orphans is a teenager named Elsbeth (played by Bella Ramsey), and she’s the same girl viewers saw in the beginning of the film. Elsbeth ends up bonding with Emma, who acts like a surrogate older sister to Elsbeth.

While at the castle, the frightened orphans are slowly put at ease by Marcel’s mime antics. It’s during these performances that Marcel realizes that he can use his art for something more important than his own career ambitions. However, Marcel still doesn’t want to give up his dreams of being an artist.

One day, while Charles watches his son Marcel working on a painting, he asks Marcel, “You dress like a clown. You paint a clown. Why do you do it?” Marcel replies, “Why do you go to the bathroom?” Charles answers, “Because my body gives me no choice.” Marcel tersely says before he walks out of the room, “There it is. That’s my answer.”

However, Marcel’s artistic dreams are put on hold when it becomes clear that the Nazis are getting closer to invading the region of France where he lives. Alain tells the others that they need to train the children to survive. And sure enough, the Nazis order the evacuation of the border towns in France. The Mangel family, like so many other Jewish families in the region, comply and think that they will eventually be allowed to go back to their homes. Tragically, they are mistaken.

It’s 1941. And while in France’s city of Limoges in Vichy, Marcel puts his  precise painting skills to good use and finds out he has a knack for forging passports, which he does for himself and several fellow Jewish refugees. It’s during this period of time that he changes his last name to Marceau, in order to hide his real Jewish surname.

Meanwhile, Marcel and Emma have gotten closer, while Alain and Mila have started their own romance. Along with Georges, they are all still heavily involved with helping orphans find a place to live. And it’s around this time that Alain and Marcel officially decide to join the Resistance. They tell their father, who is supportive.

As this is going on in France, viewers are then taken to Berlin, where Nazi lieutenant Klaus Barbie (played by Matthias Schweighöfer) is inflicting violence and terror on Jews and some of his fellow Nazis. (In one brutal scene, he viciously beats another Nazi in front of others because the man is gay.) The movie shows that this sadistic Nazi has a soft side when it comes to his family (he has a wife and baby daughter), which illustrates how several Nazis had the duality of being heartless murderers but also loving family men.

Before the end of the movie, Marcel and his group have a lot of harrowing, heartbreaking and life-threatening experiences. “Resistance” is not an easy film to watch if you’re extremely sensitive to seeing terrifying acts of murder and torture. It makes it all the more painful to watch because these are re-enactments of what millions of Jews and other people went through in real life.

And the movie also shows that the Nazis were not the only people to blame for the Holocaust. An untold number of non-Jewish people in Nazi-occupied countries betrayed their fellow Jewish citizens by giving up information about them for cash or other rewards. “Resistance” effectively shows how the culture of complicity allowed the Nazi reign of terror to thrive for as long as it did.

Although this is certainly an important story to be told, “Resistance” might have some people rolling their eyes at the melodramatic tactics used in telling the story. There’s a scene where one of the main characters goes missing and is found in a big city, just at the moment when this person is about to jump in front of train in a moment of suicidal despair and is rescued from committing that deadly act. This kind of too-good-to-be-true coincidence looks like it was fabricated just for the movie.

And in another part of the story that doesn’t make much sense, one of the characters is captured and tortured by a Nazi and then inexplicably allowed to leave. In reality, this person would’ve been killed, but it seems that this person’s life was spared in order to further the plot in another part of the movie. However, it’s one of the few parts of “Resistance” that doesn’t ring true. The rest of the film, which unabashedly tugs at people’s heartstrings, tells the story in a way that could have reasonably happened in real life.

“Resistance” director and Jonathan Jakubowicz and cinematographer M.I. Littin-Menz imbue the film with a sense of urgency in the war scenes and a sense of dramedy in the more light-hearted scenes. There are many sweeping shots at 360-degree angles that give the viewers a head-spinning overview of what usually is a pivotal scene in the story. But even with these artsy camera tricks, the movie doesn’t trivialize the dark side of this story.

As Marcel, Eisenberg gives a compelling performance, even if his real-life American accent occasionally slips out in the dialogue. He convincingly portrays Marcel as someone who evolves from thinking that nothing is more important to him than his art to realizing that there are other ways that artists can make an important difference in the world without giving up their passion for art. (Eisenberg’s mother was a clown in real life, so doing the mime scenes must have had special meaning for him.) “Resistance” is undoubtedly a story about how someone can triumph over tragedy, but it’s also a reminder that the horrors of the Holocaust must never happen again.

IFC Films released “Resistance” on digital and VOD on March 27, 2020.

2020 Cannes Film Festival postponed due to coronavirus pandemic

March 19, 2020

by Carla Hay

 

Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie at the world premiere of “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood” during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 21, 2019. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/REX/Shutterstock)

The 73rd annual Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, has been postponed until further notice. The event had been scheduled to take place May 12 to 23, 2020. The news should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows about the worldwide cancellations/postponements of events since the coronavirus outbreak was classified as a pandemic in March 2020. France is one of the countries that has been hardest hit, with movie theaters, restaurants and many other businesses ordered to be shut down.

Although a statement on the Cannes Film Festival website says that the event will hopefully be rescheduled for June or July 2020, those months seem very unrealistic, considering that it will take France several months to recover from the pandemic. Many other events around that world that are taking place in June and July 2020 are being postponed or cancelled.

A Cannes Film Festival press conference to announce the movies selected for the 2020 festival was scheduled to take place on April 16, 2020, but that press conference has also been postponed.

The Cannes Film Festival has long been considered the most prestigious film festival in the world. Many of the films that win prizes at Cannes go on to win or get nominated for Oscars. The South Korean film “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joo Ho, won the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize (the Palme d’Or) in 2019, and the movie went on to win four Oscars, including Best Picture.

Even with the prestige, the festival has been at the center of controversy in recent years. The controversies include the festival’s low percentage of films from female directors; a policy instituted in 2018 that bans people from taking selfies on the red carpet; and the festival’s refusal to allow films to compete unless they can be released theatrically in France at least three months before they’re available on home video or streaming services. This latter policy has resulted in Netflix no longer participating in the Cannes Film Festival, as of 2018. Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux, who has held the position since 2007, has gotten the majority of the criticism for these controversies.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Lee is serving as president of the 2020 Cannes Film Festival grand jury. It’s the first time a black person has been president of the jury. Lee’s movies “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986), “Do the Right Thing” (1989) and “BlacKkKlansman” (2018) all had their world premieres at Cannes. “BlacKkKlansman” won the Grand Prix (second place) at Cannes in 2018. The movie went on to win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, an award that was shared by Lee and his fellow “BlacKkKlansman” screenplay co-writers Kevin Willmott, David Rabinowitz and Charlie Wachtel.

In an interview with Variety, Lee commented on the 2020 Cannes Film Festival being postponed: “I agree 100% with Thierry and the Cannes Film Festival. The world has changed and it’s changing every day. People are dying and France’s president has said, several times—I’m paraphrasing—‘We are at war.’ We are in a war-like time.”

Lee continued, “The stuff that we love has to take a back seat: movies, TV, sports, the NBA is a global sport, baseball. So many things have been postponed, and I agree with this move.”

Click here for an updated list of other corona virus-related cancellations and postponements in the entertainment industry.

Review: ‘Zombi Child,’ starring Louise Labeque, Wislanda Louimat, Katiana Milfort, Mackenson Bijou

January 24, 2020

by Carla Hay

Louise Labeque and Wislanda Louimat in "Zombi Child"
Louise Labeque and Wislanda Louimat in “Zombi Child” (Photo courtesy of Film Movement)

“Zombi Child”

Directed by Bertrand Bonello

French with subtitles

Culture Representation: Set in modern-day France and 1962 Haiti, the horror film “Zombi Child” has a racially diverse cast of white and black actors who portray the upper-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: The movie shows what happens when the worlds of voodoo and zombies collide and span different generations.

Culture Audience: “Zombi Child” will appeal to people who like their horror films to be artsy and somewhat unpredictable.

Clockwise from lower left: Adilé David, Ninon François, Mathilde Riu, Louise Labeque and Wislanda Louimat in “Zombi Child” (Photo courtesy of Film Movement)

Most zombie stories take place in a post-apocalyptic setting where zombies have taken over the world, so it’s refreshing when a zombie story raises the possibility that zombies could be walking among us in the current world, and they don’t have the obvious appearance of rotting, flesh-eating corpses. The French-language horror film “Zombi Child” is a moody, atmospheric and occasionally disturbing zombie story with scares that are more psychological than bloody and gory.

“Zombi Child,” written and directed by Bertrand Bonello, takes place in two different countries in two different eras: contemporary France and 1962 Haiti. The movie starts out in a deceptively “normal” and “controlled” setting: a prestigious boarding school for teenage girls. Almost all of the students are white except for a new arrival named Mélissa (played by Wislanda Louimat), a Haitian orphan whose parents died in the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. Mélissa is currently living in France with her aunt Katy (played by Katiana Milfort). 

As a new student, Mélissa is treated like an outsider. She doesn’t seem to mind too much about being a loner at school, and her mysterious confidence intrigues a fellow classmate named Fanny (played by Louise Labeque), who leads a clique of popular girls at the school.

Inside and outside of classes, Mélissa and Fanny strike up a tentative acquaintance. Although Fanny might look like she’s in control of her life on the outside, on the inside, she’s experiencing a lot of turmoil. In voiceovers, we hear her talking to a boyfriend, whom she says she misses terribly and can’t wait to be in his arms again. Is she reading a letter? Is she thinking about the last time she talked to him? Or is she imagining a conversation that she’s having with him?

We find out later that the boyfriend’s name is Pablo and something has happened in his relationship with Fanny that has caused her a lot of despair, to the point where she’s ready to do something extreme. Meanwhile, Fanny hides her troubles away from the people she knows and acts as if nothing is wrong with her.

Fanny eventually decides to let Mélissa into her clique, which secretly meets at night to drink alcohol and gossip in one of the empty classrooms. One night, Mélissa joins them for one of their candlelit meetings, and Fanny tells her that she can officially join the group if Mélissa tells them a secret and if they like what Mélissa tells them.

Mélissa then reads them a poem-like statement called “Captain Zombi” about African-descended zombies taking back power from white oppressors. While the other girls go in another room to decide if Mélissa can join the group, she stays inside the room and listens to music. The girls come back in the room and tell her that she’s been accepted into the group.

Fanny wants to hear more about Mélissa and her family background, so Mélissa tells them about being an orphan. Mélissa also mentions that she lives with her aunt when she’s not at the boarding school. Mélissa says that her aunt is a mambo. Later, Fanny looks up “female mambo” on the Internet and sees that it means someone who practices voodoo.

Intrigued, Fanny finds Mélissa’s address and shows up unannounced at the house of Mélissa’s aunt. She tells the aunt that she knows Mélissa from school, and so the woman lets her in the house. It’s there that Fanny makes a very unusual request.

Meanwhile, there are mysterious flashbacks to Haiti in 1962, where we see a black man named Clairvius Narcisse (played by Mackenson Bijou), who’s been sent to work at a sugar plantation. He appears to be mute and acting like a zombie. Who this man is and what happened to him are revealed in the movie.

Meanwhile, Mélissa’s roommate tells Fanny that Mélissa has been making strange grunting noises at night, and she doesn’t know if she’s making the noises while awake or in some kind of trancelike state. Mélissa is also heard making the noises while she’s in other places on campus, so it’s established that she’s definitely making the noises while she’s awake.

“Zombi Child” is not going to satisfy zombie fans who are looking for scenes of people being chased by rabid zombies. (The actual horror scenes in the film aren’t until near the end.) The movie takes an approach that being in a zombie-like state is more of a demonic spiritual possession rather than a physical transformation where people turn into monster cannibals. “Zombi Child” is an artsy horror film, but underneath the surface is a nuanced commentary on social classes and what happens when people are complacent about wrongful oppression.

Film Movement released “Zombi Child” in select U.S. cinemas on January 24, 2020. The movie was originally released in France in 2019.

2019 DOC NYC movie review: ‘Vas-y Coupe!’

November 18, 2019

by Carla Hay

Jacques Selosse employees in "Vas-y Coupe!"
Jacques Selosse employees in “Vas-y Coupe!” (Photo courtesy of By the By Productions)

“Vas-y Coupe!”

Directed by Laura Naylor

French with subtitles

World premiere at DOC NYC in New York City on November 9, 2019.

UPDATE: “Wine Crush (Vas-y Coupe!)” is the new title of the movie.

If you’ve ever wondered about some of the people behind the making of French champagne, you’ll get a look in “Vas-y Coupe!,” a candid but slow-paced peek into the crucial harvesting process. “Vas-y Coupe!” translates to “Go ahead, cut!” in English. This movie focuses on Jacques Selosse, a family-run vineyard in France’s Champagne region and what happens during harvest season. The documentary was inspired by director Laura Naylor’s real-life experiences harvesting grapes at the vineyard in 2016, about a year after she first discovered the vineyard through a sommelier friend.

Founded in the 1950s, Jacques Selosse is located in the small village of Avize, and much of the culture in the movie feels like a 1950s time warp. The roles of the men and women are, for the most part, sharply segregated by gender. Although there are a few harvesters who are female (and they’re briefly spotted on camera), the male harvesters and their male supervisors get most of the focus in this documentary. The women in the film are primarily shown in the kitchen and fulfilling the roles of cooks, food servers and maids. The women are preoccupied with preparing meals and trying on beauty products, while the men do the dirty work of picking and distilling the grapes. Even with the Selosse family that owns the vineyard, the men in the family are the ones who get to taste and evaluate the company’s product made from the harvested grapes.

In addition to the gender lines that are clearly defined, there are also class lines that are almost never crossed. The laborers know their place as servants, and there’s sometimes tension with the vineyard owners/supervisors over wage issues. The rough-and-tumble nature of this working-class crew sometimes leads to them clashing with each other, as minor squabbles are captured on camera. But if you’re looking for shocking, dramatic moments, you won’t find them here in this mostly quiet film. To its credit, what’s shown in this movie doesn’t look staged, like a reality show.

But to its detriment, the movie suffers from editing that shows too much repetition of mundane tasks. It’s not necessary for viewers to keep seeing similar scenes of the women in the kitchen discussing the meals they’re preparing, followed by scenes of the women serving the meals to the laborers gathered in the dining room area. In order for a documentary like this to stand out, there has to be at least one big, riveting personality to keep viewers interested, but the people in this movie are just too average to make this a compelling story. And unfortunately, the movie gets bogged down in so much “slice of life” footage that the end result is a documentary that is duller than it should be.

UPDATE: First Run Features has renamed the movie “Wine Crush (Vas-y Coupe)” and will release the movie on digital and VOD on October 8, 2020.

2019 Cannes Film Festival: ‘Parasite’ wins Palme d’Or; complete list of winners

Cannes Festival logo
May 25, 2019

The 72nd Annual Cannes Film Festival took place from May 14 to May 25, 2019. Here is the complete list of the event’s winners, voted for by appointed juries, and awarded at Grand Théâtre Lumière in Cannes, France, on May 25, 2019.

FEATURE FILMS – COMPETITION

PALME D’OR (Best Picture)

GISAENGCHUNG (Parasite) directed by Bong Joon-Ho

The Palme d’or was awarded by Catherine Deneuve and Alejandro González Iñárritu.

GRAND PRIX

ATLANTIQUE (Atlantics) directed by Mati Diop

The Grand Prix was awarded by Sylvester Stallone.

BEST DIRECTOR

LE JEUNE AHMED (Young Ahmed) directed by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne

The Best Director Prize was awarded by Viggo Mortensen.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR

Antonio Banderas in DOLOR Y GLORIA directed by Pedro Almodóvar

The Best Performance by an Actor Prize was awarded by Zhang Ziyi.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS

Emily Beecham in LITTLE JOE directed by Jessica Hausner

The Best Performance by an Actress Prize was awarded by Reda Kateb.

JURY PRIZE (tie)

LES MISÉRABLES directed by Ladj Ly

BACURAU directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles

The Jury Prizes were awarded by Michael Moore.

BEST SCREENPLAY

Céline Sciamma for PORTRAIT DE LA JEUNE FILLE EN FEU (Portrait of Lady on Fire)

The Best Screenplay Prize was awarded by Gael García Bernal.

SPECIAL MENTION

To Elia Suleiman for IT MUST BE HEAVEN

The Special Mention was awarded by Chiara Mastroianni.

UN CERTAIN REGARD

UN CERTAIN REGARD (Best Picture)

A VIDA INVISÍVEL DE EURÍDICE GUSMÃO (The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao) directed by Karim Aïnouz

BEST PERFORMANCE

Chiara Mastroianni for CHAMBRE 212 (On a Magical Night) directed by Christophe Honoré 

BEST DIRECTION

Kantemir Balagov for BEANPOLE 

COUP DE COEUR AWARD (tie)

LA FEMME DE MON FRÈRE (A Brother’s Love) directed by Monia Chokri


THE CLIMB directed by Michael Angelo Covino

JURY PRIZE

O QUE ARDE (Fire Will Come) directed by Oliver Laxe

JURY SPECIAL MENTION

JEANNE (Joan of Arc) directed by Bruno Dumont

CAMÉRA D’OR

NUESTRAS MADRES directed by César Díaz presented as part of LA SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE

The Caméra d’or Prize was awarded by Rithy Panh, President of the Caméra d’or Jury and by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi.

SHORT FILMS – COMPETITION

PALME D’OR

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US AND THE SKY  directed by Vasilis Kekatos

SPECIAL DISTINCTION BY THE JURY

MONSTRUO DIOS directed by Agustina San Martin

The Palme d’or and the Jury Special Mention for Shorts Films were awarded by the President of the Short Films and Cinéfondation Jury, Claire Denis and by Nadine Labaki, President of the Un Certain Regard Jury.

CINEFONDATION

FIRST PRIZE

MANO A MANO directed by Louise Courvoisier
CinéFabrique, France

SECOND PRIZE

HIẾU directed by Richard Van
CalArts, USA

THIRD PRIZE (tie)

AMBIENCE directed by Wisam Al Jafari
Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture, Palestine
DUSZYCZKA (The Little Soul) directed by Barbara Rupik
PWSFTviT, Poland

The 2019 CST Artist-Technician Prize goes to Flora Volpeliere, as editor and Julien Poupard, as set and lighting designer of Ladj LY’s film LES MISÉRABLES.

A Special Mention from the Jury goes to Claire Mathon, Director of Photography of the films ATLANTIQUES (Atlantics) and PORTRAIT DE LA JEUNE FILLE EN FEU (Portrait of Lady on Fire).

The Jury also noted Lee Ha-jun’s outstanding work as Artistic Director of GISAENGCHUNG (Parasite)

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT

SOCIETY OF DRAMATIC AUTHORS AND COMPOSERS PRIZE 

AN EASY GIRL directed by Rebecca Zlotowski

EUROPA CINEMAS LABEL

ALICE AND THE MAYOR directed by Nicolas Parisier

ILLY SHORT FILM AWARD

STAY AWAKE, BE READY directed by An Pham Thien

CRITICS’ WEEK

NESPRESSO GRAND PRIZE

I LOST MY BODY directed by Jérémy Clapin

SOCIETY OF DRAMATIC AUTHORS AND COMPOSERS PRIZE

César Díaz, “Our Mothers”

GAN FOUNDATION FOR DISTRIBUTION

The Jokers Films, French distributor for “Vivarium” by Lorcan Finnegan

LOUIS ROEDERER FOUNDATION STAR AWARD

Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, “A White, White Day”

2019 Cannes Film Festival: feature film slate announced

April 18, 2019

UPDATED May 2, 2019, after new films were added to the festival programming.

by Carla Hay

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (Photo by Andrew Cooper)

The 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival—set to take place in Cannes, Frances from May 14 to May 25, 2019—has announced its lineup of feature films. As previously reported, the opening-night film is the zombie flick “The Dead Don’t Die,” directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny and Steve Buscemi. The most high-profile film at Cannes this year that is not screening in competition is the Elton John biopic “Rocketman,” directed by Dexter Fletcher and starring Taron Egerton as Grammy-winning superstar John. “Rocketman” is screening out of competition, and will premiere at Cannes on May 16. The festival is usually dominated by independent films, and Paramount Pictures’ “Rocketman” is one of the few Cannes movies this year from a major studio. “Rocketman” is due out in U.K. cinemas on March 24, and arrives in U.S. theaters on May 31.

There are 21 movies in competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. As expected, they are from several different countries and include a mix of famous and lesser-known directors. The high-profile directors who have films in competition this year are Quentin Tarantino with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”; Terrence Malick with “A Hidden Life”; Xavier Dolan with “Matthias and Maxime”; Pedro Almodóvar with “Pain and Glory,” also known as “Dolor y Gloria”; Ken Loach with “Sorry We Missed You”; Ira Sachs with “Frankie”; and Bong Joon Ho with “Parasite,” also known as “Gisaengchung.”

Other well-known directors who have movies at Cannes this year include Abel Ferrara with “Tommaso” and Werner Herzog with “Family Romance, LLC.” Both movies are not in competition at Cannes and will have special screenings.

In 2019, Oscar-winning Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Birdman,” “The Revenant”) is the president of the Cannes grand jury, while Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki is the president of the Un Certain Regard jury. Labaki’s “Capernaum” was in competition at Cannes in 2018, and the movie went on to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Diversity and Representation

Mati Diop (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

There are four female directors with movies in competition at Cannes this year, which an increase from three female directors the previous year. The three female directors are Mati Diop with “Atlantique”; Jessica Hausner with “Little Joe”; Justine Triet with “Sibyl”; and Céline Sciamma with “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” also known as “Portrait de la jeune fille en feu.” The 2019 Cannes Film Festival has a total of 13 female directors with feature films. Diop (who is of French and Senegalese descent) is the first black female director to have a film in competition at Cannes. She is also an actress whose credits include the indie films “Simon Killer,” “Hermia & Helena” “Fort Buchanan” and “L for Leisure.”

There are two black directors with a film in the Cannes competition this year: the aforementioned Diop and Ladj Ly, who brings his remake of “Les Misérables” to Cannes. There was only one black filmmaker (Spike Lee) in competition at Cannes in 2018. Just like last year, there are no directors of Latin-American descent in the Cannes competition this year. Almodóvar is from Spain, and is considered a white European.

The representation numbers went down this year for directors of Asian and Arab/Middle-Eastern descent in competition at Cannes. In 2018, there were four Asian (non-Middle Eastern) directors, compared to two in 2019: Bong Joon Ho with “Parasite,” also known as “Gisaengchung”; and Diao Yinan with “The Wild Goose Lake” also known as “Nan Fang Che Zhan De Ju Hui.” In 2018, there were three directors of from the Middle East in the Cannes competition. In 2019 there is just one: “It Must Be Heaven” director Elia Suleiman, who is a Greek-Palestinian.

The Streaming Service Effect

 

Miles Teller in “Too Old to Die Young – North of Hollywood, West of Hell” (Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime Video)

For the second year in a row, Netflix is skipping Cannes, due to festival rules that movies allowed in the Cannes Film Festival competitions must be available for theatrical release in France for at least six months before they are released on home video or any streaming service. Netflix was at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival with “Okja” and “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” before Cannes enforced this rule. Netflix was reportedly going to world premiere director Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, but since Netflix is boycotting Cannes for now, “Roma” ended up having its world premiere at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, where it won the top prize (the Golden Lion) , and ended up winning three Oscars.

Netflix might no longer be part of the Cannes Film Festival, but Amazon Prime Video is still participating. Amazon is at the 2019 Cannes Festival with a sneak preview of the episodic series “Too Old to Die Young – North of Hollywood, West of Hell,” a crime drama directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring  Miles Teller and Billy Baldwin.

New streaming services Apple+ and Disney+ are launching before the end of 2019, and it remains to be seen if they will submit any of their original content to the Cannes Film Festival. Based on what these streaming services have announced so far, they will both have original series and movies, but the majority of movies on Disney+ content will be Disney-owned movies that were already released in theaters. Therefore, Apple+ is more likely to have original movies that could potentially premiere at film festivals. It will be interesting to see how these new streaming services will affect the film-festival landscape in 2020 and beyond.

Here is the announced lineup of feature films at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival:

IN COMPETITION

Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny and Adam Driver “The Dead Don’t Die” (Photo by Abbot Genser/Focus Features)

“Atlantique” (Directed by Mati Diop)

“Bacarau” (Directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles)

“The Dead Don’t Die” (Directed by Jim Jarmusch) **OPENING NIGHT FILM**

“Frankie” (Directed by Ira Sachs)

“A Hidden Life” (Directed by Terrence Malick)

“Intermezzo” (Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche)*

“It Must Be Heaven” (Directed by Elia Suleiman)

“Les Misérables” (Directed by Ladj Ly)

“Little Joe” (Directed by Jessica Hausner)

“Matthias and Maxime” (Directed by Xavier Dolan)

“Oh Mercy!” (Directed by Arnaud Desplechin)

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (Directed by Quentin Tarantino)*

“Pain and Glory” also known as “Dolor y Gloria” (Directed by Pedro Almodóvar)

“Parasite” also known as “Gisaengchung” (Directed by Bong Joon Ho)

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” also known as “Portrait de la jeune fille en feu” (Directed by Céline Sciamma)

“Sibyl” (Directed by Justine Triet)

“Sorry We Missed You” (Directed by Ken Loach)

“The Traitor” also known as “Il Traditore” (Directed by Marco Bellocchio)

“The Whistlers” also known as “La Gomera” (Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu)

“The Wild Goose Lake” also known as “Nan Fang Che Zhan De Ju Hui” (Directed by Diao Yinan)

“The Young Ahmed” (Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne)

UN CERTAIN REGARD

Leyna Bloom (pictured at right) in “Port Authority” (Photo courtesy of Madeleine Films)

“Adam” (Directed by Maryam Touzani)

“Beanpole” also known as “Dylda” (Directed by Kantemir Balagov)

“A Brother’s Love” (Directed by Monia Chokri)

“Bull” (Directed by Annie Silverstein)

“Chambre 212” also known as “Room 212” (Directed by Christophe Honoré)

“The Climb” (Directed by Michael Covino)

“Evge” (Directed by Nariman Aliev)

“Freedom” also known as “Liberté” (Directed by Albert Serra)

“Invisible Life” also known as “Vida Invisivel” (Directed by Karim Aïnouz)

“Joan of Arc” also known as “Jeanne” (Directed by Bruno Dumont)

“La famosa invasione degli orsi in Sicilia” (Directed by Lorenzo Mattotti)*

“Odnazhdy v Trubchevske” (Directed by Larissa Sadilova)*

“Papicha” (Directed by Mounia Meddour)

“Port Authority” (Directed by Danielle Lessovitz)

“Summer of Changsha” also known as “Liu Yu Tian” (Directed by Zu Feng)

“The Swallows of Kabul” (Directed by Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobé Mévellec)

“A Sun That Never Sets” also known as “O Que Arde” (Directed by Olivier Laxe)

“Zhuo Ren Mi Mi” (Directed by Midi Z)

OUT OF COMPETITION

Taron Egerton in “Rocketman” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“The Best Years of a Life” (Directed by Claude Lelouch)

“Diego Maradona” (Directed by Asif Kapadia)

“La Belle Époque” (Directed by Nicolas Bedos)

“Rocketman” (Directed by Dexter Fletcher)

“Too Old to Die Young – North of Hollywood, West of Hell” (Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn)

MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS

“The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil” (Directed by Lee Won-Tae)

“Lux Aeterna” (Directed by Gaspar Noé)*

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Waad al-Kateab in “For Sama” (Photo by Waad al-Kateab)

“5B” (Directed by Dan Krauss)*

“Chicuarotes” (Directed by Gael García Bernal)*

“Family Romance, LLC.” (Directed by Werner Herzog)

“For Sama” (Directed by Waad Al Kateab and Edward Watts)

“Ice on Fire” (Directed by Leila Conners)*

“La Cordillera de los sueños” (Patricio Guzmán)*

“Que Sea Ley” (Directed by Juan Solanas)

“Share” (Directed by Pippa Bianco)

“To Be Alive and Know It” also known as “Être vivant et le savoir” (Directed by Alain Cavalier)

“Tommaso” (Directed by Abel Ferrara)

*Addition to lineup announced on May 2, 2019.

CRITICS’ WEEK

“Litigante” (Directed by Franco Lolli)

“Heroes Don’t Die” (Directed by Aude Léa Rapin)

“Tu Mérites Un Amour” (Directed by Hafsia Herzi)

“Dwelling In The Fuchun Mountains” (Directed by Gu Xiaogang)

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT

“Alice and the Mayor” (Directed by Nicolas Pariser)

“And Then We Danced” (Directed by Levan Akin)

“The Halt” (Directed by Lav Diaz)

“Song Without a Name” (Directed by Melina León)

“Deerskin” (Directed by Quentin Dupieux)

“Ghost Tropic” (Directed by Bas Devos)

“Give Me Liberty” (Directed by Kirill Mikhanovsky)

“First Love” (Directed by Takashi Miike)

“To Live to Sing” (Directed by Johnny Ma)

“Dogs Don’t Wear Pants” (Directed by Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää)

“The Lighthouse” (Directed by Robert Eggers)

“Lillian” (Directed by Andreas Horwath)

“Oļeg” (Directed by Juris Kursietis)

“Blow It to Bits” (Directed by Lech Kowalski)

“Les Particules” (Directed by (Directed by Blaise Harrison

“The Orphanage” (Directed by Shahrbanoo Sadat)

“Perdrix” (Directed by Erwan Le Duc)

“For the Money” (Directed by Alejo Moguillansky)

“Sick Sick Sick” (Directed by Alice Furtado)

“Tlamess” (Directed by Ala Eddine Slim)

“An Easy Girl” (Directed by Rebecca Zlotowski)

“Wounds” (Directed by Babak Anvari)

“Yves” (Directed by Benoît Forgeard)

“Zombi Child” ((Directed by Bertrand Bonello)

2018 Cannes Film Festival: ‘Shoplifters’ wins Palme d’Or; complete list of winners

 

Cannes Festival logo

May 19, 2018

The 71st Annual Cannes Film Festival took place from May 8 to May 19, 2018. Here is the complete list of the event’s winners, voted for by appointed juries, and awarded at Grand Théâtre Lumière in Cannes, France, on May 19, 2018.

FEATURE FILMS – COMPETITION

PALME D’OR (Best Picture)

MANBIKI KAZOKU (Shoplifters) directed by Kore-Eda Hirokazu

The Palme d’or was awarded by Cate Blanchett.

GRAND PRIX

BLACKKKLANSMAN (Black Klansman) directed by Spike Lee

The Grand Prix was awarded by Benicio Del Toro and Chang Chen.

BEST DIRECTOR

ZIMNA WOJNA (Cold War) directed by Pawel Pawlikowksi

The Best Director Prize was awarded by Abderrahmane Sissako, Kristen Stewart and Denis Villeneuve.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR

Marcello FONTE in DOGMAN directed by Matteo Garrone

The Best Performance by an Actor Prize was awarded by Khadja Nin and Roberto Benigni.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS

Samal Yeslyamova in AYKA directed by Sergey Dvortsevoy

The Best Performance by an Actress Prize was awarded by Ava Duvernay and Asia Argento.

JURY PRIZE

CAPHARNAÜM directed by Nadine Labaki

The Jury Prize was awarded by Gary Oldman and Léa Seydoux.

BEST SCREENPLAY

Alice Rohrwacherfor LAZZARO FELICE (Happy as Lazzaro)

Jafar Panahi for SE ROKH (3 Faces) directed by Jafar Panahi

The Best Screenplay Prizes were awarded by Robert Guédiguian and Chiara Mastroianni.

 SPECIAL PALME D’OR

LE LIVRE D’IMAGE (Image Book) directed by Jean-Luc Godard

The Special Palme d’or was awarded by Cate Blanchett.

UN CERTAIN REGARD

UN CERTAIN REGARD (Best Picture)

GRÄNS by Ali Abbasi

BEST PERFORMANCE

Victor POLSTER for GIRL by Lukas Dhont

BEST DIRECTION

Sergei Loznitsa for DONBASS

BEST SCREENPLAY

SOFIA by Meryem Benm’barek

JURY PRIZE

CHUVA É CANTORIA NA ALDEIA DOS MORTOS (The Dead and the Others) by João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora

CAMÉRA D’OR

GIRL directed by Lukas Dhont presented as part of UN CERTAIN REGARD

The Caméra d’or Prize was awarded by Ursula Meier, President of the Caméra d’or Jury.

SHORT FILMS – COMPETITION

PALME D’OR

ALL THESE CREATURES directed by Charles Williams

SPECIAL DISTINCTION BY THE JURY

YAN BIAN SHAO NIAN (On the Border) directed by Wei Shujun

The Palme d’or and the Jury Special Mention for Shorts Films were awarded by the President of the Short Films and Cinéfondation Jury, Bertrand Bonello.

CINEFONDATION

FIRST PRIZE

EL VERANO DEL LEÓN ELÉCTRICO (The Summer of the Electric Lion) directed by Diego Céspedes
Universidad de Chile – ICEI, Chili

SECOND PRIZE (tie)

KALENDAR (Calendar) directed by Igor Poplauhin
Moscow School of New Cinema, Russie

DONG WU XIONG MENG (The Storms in Our Blood) directed by Shen Di
Shanghai Theater Academy, Chine

THIRD PRIZE

INANIMATE directed by Lucia Bulgheroni
NFTS, Royaume-Uni

The CST Jury decided to award the VULCAIN PRIZE FOR ARTIST-TECHNICIAN to: Shin Joom-Hee for her remarkable artistic contribution to match the inventiveness of the film BURNING.