Today Criterion announced an upcoming Bluray of Bob Fosse‘s All That Jazz (’79) on 8.26. It impressed me the first time (the Manhattan press screening was at Cinema 1) but irritated me the second time. Parts are hammy or ham-fisted and not very hip, but it was quite the film of its day. Roy Scheider gave a career-peak performance as Broadway musical director Joe Gideon, whose story was modelled on Fosse’s own in the early ’70s. “Almost every scene is excruciating (and a few are appalling), yet the film stirs an obscene fascination with its rapid, speed-freak cutting and passionate psychological striptease,” wrote critic Dave Kehr. “This is the feverish, painful expression of a man who lives in mortal fear of his own mediocrity.” Time‘s then-critic Frank Rich wrote that “as a showman, [Fosse] has no equal. Music, performers, movement, lighting, costumes and sets all blend together in Fosse productions to create brilliant flashes of exhilarating razzle-dazzle. Yet the man just does not know when to leave well enough alone.”
I’m slated to see four films today (i.e., Friday, 5.16), which will allow for very little time for postings. Atom Egoyan‘s 113-minute The Captive begins the day at 8:30 am inside the Grand Lumiere. I’ll have two and a half hours to file before the 1 pm press screening of Gabe Polsky‘s Red Army (80-something minutes) at the Salle Bazin. (This means skipping the Mr. Turner lunch from 12:45 to 2:30 pm.) At 3 pm comes the mother of long-runnning-time Cannes competition films — Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s Winter Sleep at 196 minutes. Then I stay to the end or blow off the last hour to attend a Weinstein Co. preview event at the Majestic starting at 5:30 pm. Then comes the 8pm screening of Hilla Medalia‘s The Go-Go Boys, a doc about Cannon Films’ Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. After which there’s a Red Army premiere after-party starting around 10:30 pm.
All this stuff jammed in today, and they couldn’t program one of these films or events to happen yesterday or particularly the day before, which was all but dead?
Keren Yedaya‘s That Lovely Girl (a.k.a., Loin De Mon Pere or Far From My Father) is a dull, dreary, self-indulgent film about a longterm father-daughter incestuous relationship. The film proves how the mere presentation of shocking or uncomfortable situational subject matter is not enough. You need to deliver a story of some kind, and a resolution that offers some sense of completion and/or just desserts. The monster is Moshe (Tzahi Grad), a 60 year-old father, and the victim is Tami (Maayan Turgeman), his 22 year-old daughter. It’s an acrimonious, highly sexual relationship that’s probably been going on for a decade. Cruel, horrific. All the more so given Tami’s compliance and emotional neediness and self-abuse (over-eating, cutting herself). In basic payoff terms Girl delivers far too little. No tension, no intrigue, no gathering of forces. The film is flat and odious. Sasha Stone hated it so that makes two of us. You can also add the five or six people who walked out of my corner of the Salle Debussy within the first 25 or 30 minutes.
Maayan Turgeman, Tzahi Grad in Keren Yedaya’s That Lovely Girl.
Sasha says That Lovely Girl is as icky and debilitating as Markus Schleinzer‘s Michael, an Austrian film about a child molester that played at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Wrong. Michael “isn’t pleasant to watch,” I wrote, “but it’s brilliant — emotionally suppressed in a correct way that blends with the protagonist, and aesthetically disciplined and close to spellbinding.”
Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn is reporting that “a number of whispers [are suggesting] that the Argentinean ensemble drama Wild Tales — from director Damian Szifron, whose other features have rarely screened outside of South America — would blow people away with its premiere this weekend, making it an early contender for the Palme D’Or.” A Guy Lodge Hitfix summary says that Wild Tales “is apparently bringing the comedy — and in quite a dark, unconventional fashion. Festival director Thierry Fremaux [has] said the film was chosen to ‘wake up’ festivalgoers and provoke strong reactions, which could mean any number of things. [Pic is] a compilation of six independent stories apparently hinging on the quest for success in the modern world and the heated emotions it inspires. “Many people get stressed out or depressed,” reads the synopsis. “Some burst. This is a film about them.”
Mike Leigh‘s Mr. Turner (Sony Pictures Classics, 12.19) is a masterfully captured, atmospherically captivating period biopic of J.M.W. Turner (Timothy Spall), the 19th Century genius painter of impressionistic landscapes. Like his 1999 Gilbert and Sullivan film Topsy Turvy, this is another of Leigh’s “portrait of an artist, warts, whims, peculiarities, obsessions and all” films. I was alert and attuned start to finish, but I can’t honestly say I was riveted. Leigh’s basic observation about Turner being a bit of a compulsive, anti-social creep is not exactly novel or startling — I think we all know that gifted types tend to be difficult in various ways. A journalist friend found the film beautiful but flat, “like watching paint dry.” And I frankly couldn’t hear half the dialogue. (Thank God for the French subtitles.) When Spall began speaking at the press conference I said to myself, “Wow, I can understand him so clearly!”
But the performances (particularly Spall’s) are uniformly delicious and Dick Pope‘s cinematography reflects the colors and framings of Turner’s paintings, and the historical details (production design, costumes, etc.) are mesmerizing. You feel you’re really there. Leigh’s orchestration of time-trip authority is immaculate.
Sony Pictures Classics is opening Mr. Turner stateside on December 19th. Cultivated 35-and-olders will come out in strength for the first couple of weekends, but Mr. Turner is more of an exacting study than a compelling drama. It’s essential to see as there’s no such thing as a bad or under-nourishing Mike Leigh film, but it’s much more cerebral than emotional. It impresses but doesn’t really get you deep down.
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