Most of these films are North American premieres which had buzz-drenched critical runs at Cannes08 and, of those, I most certainly will catch Lorna's Silence, Of Time and the City, and Three Monkeys. The World Premiere of Paul Schraeder's Adam Resurrected likewise has my complete attention, as does Agnès Varda's Les Plages d'Agnès.
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Achilles and the Tortoise (Achilles to Kame)—Takeshi Kitano, Japan. Story of Machisu (Kitano), an aging man determined to fulfill his life-long dream of becoming a painter. Faced with frustration and failure, he persists in living out his passion with help of his wife, who continues to support her husband amid the harsh realities of success; or, lack thereof. With roughly 70 pieces of Kitano's own artwork, Achilles and the Tortoise completes the filmmaker's self-reflective trilogy. Spurred on by Mark Schilling's advance copy at Variety, the film is highly anticipated at Twitch. Dave Hudson has gathered together the critical response from the Venice International Film Festival for The Greencine Daily, where Ronald Bergan has likewise dispatched his assessment of the competition as stands. Bergan writes: "[T]his parable of artistic passion deteriorates into a broad comedy where the noble theme is degraded, echoing the phrase 'Art is a hoax,' expressed by a character at one stage." North American Premiere.
Adam Resurrected—Paul Schrader, Germany/Israel/USA. Director Paul Schrader's newest film, Adam Resurrected, is based on the crowning achievement of one of Israel's literary masters, Yoram Kaniuk. Adam Stein (Jeff Goldblum) is a charismatic patient at a mental institution for Holocaust survivors in Israel. Before the war, Adam was a Jewish vaudeville performer in Germany, until he found himself in a concentration camp confronted by Commandant Klein (Willem Dafoe). He survives the camp by becoming the Commandant's "dog", entertaining him with his musical and comedic talents. While at the institution years later, Adam must confront his past head-on for the sake of someone else's salvation. Essential background on Schrader can be had at Girish Shambu's site. I'll also be reading George Kouvaros's University of Illinois Press monograph on the plane. World Premiere.
Everlasting Moments (Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick)—Jan Troell (The Emigrants; As White as in Snow) Denmark/Sweden. From Academy Award™-nominated Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell comes a true story from early 20th-century Sweden. In a time of social change and poverty, the young working-class woman Maria wins a camera in a lottery. The camera enables Maria to see the world through new eyes, but it also becomes a threat to her somewhat alcoholic womanizing husband, as it brings the charming photographer Pedersen into her life. World Premiere.
Four Nights with Anna (Cztery noce z Anna)—Jerzy Skolimowski (Moonlighting), Poland/France. A hospital worker once witnessed the brutal rape of Anna, now a young nurse in the same hospital. Secretly forcing himself into her life, and bedroom, he develops an intense fixation that begs the question, "How far will he go?" At The Greencine Daily, Dave Hudson has gathered the critical response from Cannes08. In her Cannes report to Film Comment (July/August 2008, p. 52), Amy Taubin writes: "Skolimowski is said to have been painting and writing poetry in the 17 years since his last film, and the eloquently framed winter landscapes and bleak interiors that mark his return to moving images truly merit the overused adjective 'painterly.' Shot largely from the point of view of a middle-aged hospital-crematorium assistant (a remarkable performance by Artur Steranko) who is obsessively in love with a nurse for whose rape he had been wrongfully convicted years before, Four Nights With Anna is a melancholy film punctuated by moments of hilarious black humor." TIFF08 Program Capsule. North American Premiere.
Les Plages d'Agnès—Agnès Varda, France. Autobiographical documentary about the life of director Agnes Varda.
Lorna's Silence (Le Silence de Lorna)—Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France/Italy. A young Albanian in Belgium (Arta Dobroshi), becomes entangled in a sham marriage orchestrated by mobster Fabio, an arrangement that will end in murder if Lorna chooses to keep silent. At The Greencine Daily, Dave Hudson has gathered together the critical response from Cannes08, where Lorna's Silence won the Prix du Scenario (best screenplay). For FIPRESCI, Barbara Lorey writes that Dobroshi's "resistance against dehumanization" is demonstrated "with unobtrusive yet radiant strength", by which she "achieves truly heroic greatness through her humanity." In his Cannes report to Film Comment (July/August 2008, p. 62), Larry Gross characterizes that "The Dardennes specialize in enclosing their protagonists in prison worlds of cramped, underfurnished apartments, fast-food joints, low-rent bars, all filmed in a documentary style that emphasizes the debilitating struggle to preserve one's humanity amidst an unfeeling social order." At Senses of Cinema, however, Markus Keuschnigg finds the film "a major disappointment", precisely because he feels the Dardennes have created a variation of their greatest creative achievements. "Its at times strange and unmotivated, even clumsy plot developments, feels almost like 'just another script', this time adapted by talented directors." At Melbourne Film Blog, Paul Martin disagrees and claims Lorna's Silence as his festival favorite, praising Dobroshi's performance: "She skillfully treads a fragile path between deceit and criminality on the one hand, and innocence and an empathetic character on the other. She depicts vulnerability, valor and resourcefulness wonderfully." TIFF08 Program Capsule. North American Premiere. Picked up for distribution by SONY.
This Night (Nuit de chien)—Werner Schroeter, France/ Germany/Portugal. This powerful and provocative film follows Ossorio Vignale as he arrives in his hometown in search of Clara, the woman he loves. Much to his horror, Clara has gone missing and his once-beloved town has been taken over by a terrifying militia led by a rich mercenary. Once he starts hearing contrasting reports on the whereabouts of his beloved, Ossorio realizes that everyone is a potential threat. Together with Victoria, a friend's daughter, he struggles to escape peril and flee the town safely. North American Premiere.
Of Time and the City—Terence Davies (Distant Voices Still Lives, House of Mirth), United Kingdom. Davies returns to his native Liverpool and his filmmaking roots to capture a sense of the city today and its influences on him growing up in the late '40s and early '50s. Anticipating Cannes, Frank Cottrell Boyce interviewed Davies for The Guardian. Jason Anderson had the honors for Cinema Scope and Jason Solomons for The Observer. At The Greencine Daily, Dave Hudson has gathered together the critical response from Cannes08. In his Cannes report to Sight and Sound, Nick James describes Davies' voiceover monologue as characterized by "his inimitable darkling breathy delivery" wherein he "utters poetry quotations, passionate insights and camp upsweeps." At l'Humanité, Jean Roy selects choice quotes from Davies' voiceover monologue; my favorite: "I have lived under Paul VI, John-Paul II and Clitoris the Umpteenth." Dispatching to The Telegraph from the Edinburgh Film Festival, Tim Robey doesn't find much not to thrill to in Davies "enthralling docu-ode." At Film Journey, Doug Cummings provides an incantatory review. TIFF08 Program Capsule. Canadian Premiere.
Three Monkeys (Üç maymun)—Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/France/ Italy. A family dislocated when small failings blow up into extravagant lies battles against the odds to stay together by covering up the truth. In order to avoid hardship and responsibilities that would otherwise be impossible to endure, the family chooses to ignore the truth, not to see, hear or talk about it. But does playing Three Monkeys invalidate the truth of its existence? At The Greencine Daily, Dave Hudson has gathered the critical response from Cannes08, where Three Monkeys earned Ceylan the Best Director Award. At Film Comment, Kent Jones is not impressed: "Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Three Monkeys [is] another film that would be just as much at home in a gallery as in a cinema. Ceylan is a perfect example of a filmmaker whose sophistication is so confined to the limits of his own moment as to amount to a kind of naïveté: all that is memorable in his cinema is the insistence and extremity of his fashionable choices." North American Premiere.
Tokyo Sonata—Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Bright Future, Doppelganger), Japan/The Netherlands/ Hong Kong. Tokyo Sonata from filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a portrait of a struggling Japanese family: a father who abruptly loses his job and conceals it from his family; the eldest son who hardly ever returns home from college; the youngest son who furtively takes piano lessons without telling his parents; and the mother, who knows deep down that her role is to keep the family together, but cannot find the will to do so. Somehow a single, unforeseeable rift has developed within the family, spreading quickly and quietly, and threatening to break them apart. At The Greencine Daily, Dave Hudson has gathered together the critical response from Cannes08 where Tokyo Sonata won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize. In her Cannes report to Film Comment (July/August 2008, p. 54), Amy Taubin discerns, "The film would seem to be a turning point for Kurosawa; the sustained quiet anxiety that pervades the early scenes and the eruption of hysterical behavior toward the end are grounded in realism with no reference to the paranormal phenomena that have been at the center of his work." At Senses of Cinema, Markus Keuschnigg writes that Kurosawa's "somber family tale" exceeds expectations. "Kurosawa's assured directing makes way for a new family structure that falls into place at the very end of the movie." From the Sydney Film Festival, Matt Riviera reviews the film. TIFF08 Program Capsule. North American Premiere.
Cross-published on Twitch, where trailers for Achilles and the Tortoise, Of Time and the City, Silence of Lorna, Three Monkeys and Tokyo Sonata can be found at the Twitch TIFF Trailer Park.