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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Not at Cannes

Cannes started today without me yet again. The lineup looks particularly stacked with high profile filmmakers this year, and there also seems to be something of a horror bent to many of the titles. I will be looking forward to reading others' reports from Cannes and hopefully catching many of the films as they travel the festival circuit or perhaps find distribution in the United States. There is often not much to go on when looking at the lineup so I'm usually drawn to directors that I like or perhaps if something grabs me in the description. Perusing the program, here are 10 films I am most anxious to see (in alphabetical order).

Air Doll (Hirokazu Kore-Eda)
Based on a manga comic, Air Doll sounds a little bit like the surprisingly touching Lars and the Real Girl. It’s the story of a life-size blowup doll who develops a soul and falls in love with a video clerk. Kore-Eda is probably best known in the U.S. for the tender and heartbreaking Nobody Knows, and a similar touch seems appropriate here.

Antichrist (Lars Von Trier)
It sounds like a standard horror film: a grieving couple goes to their cabin in the woods as an escape to try to repair their relationship, but then things start to go badly as nature or the supernatural takes its course. But there’s no reason to expect anything “standard” from the director of Breaking the Waves, Dogville, and Dancer in the Dark among others. A trailer can be seen here:

Don’t Look Back (Marina De Van)
Marina De Van’s debut feature as a director, the self-cannibalism film In My Skin, examined themes such as identity and dissociation, and it appears that she continues those themes in her new film. Jeanne is a writer with a husband and two children, who begins to notice that her perception does not match the world around her and feels that her body is transforming though no one else seems to notice. A photograph motivates her to track down a woman in Italy, and there, completely physically transformed, she will learn the secret of her identity. Jeanne is played by both Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci in what is sure to be a mind-bender.

Enter the Void (Gaspar Noe)
Gaspar Noe hasn’t made a feature film since Irreversible in 2002. Perhaps the world needed that time to recover from that beautiful, harrowing film. He returns with the story of a brother and sister recently arrived in Tokyo, where he is a small time drug dealer and she works as a stripper. When he is killed, his spirit remains faithful to the promise he made to protect his sister and refuses to abandon the world of the living. The press notes promise that “Past, present and future merge in a hallucinatory maelstrom” which sounds like a good two hours of cinema to me.

Looking for Eric (Ken Loach)
Ken Loach is known for his films featuring everyman heroes and social realism. A past winner of the Golden Palm for The Wind That Shakes the Barley, I more associate him with films like My Name is Joe, Sweet Sixteen, and Ae Fond Kiss. In Looking for Eric, a down on his luck postman turns to soccer star Eric Cantona (playing himself) for advice and guidance.

Nobody Knows about Persian Cats (Bahman Ghobadi)
Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi has already established himself with films such as A Time for Drunken Horses, Marooned in Iraq, and Turtles Can Fly. He has generally focused on Kurdish people in his films and often features musicians as his main characters. Nobody Knows about Persian Cats follows a young man and woman who form a band and become underground musicians trying to leave for Europe to play the music they are unable to play in Iran.

Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu)
Corneliu Porumboiu, writer/director of 12:08 East of Bucharest (ATLFF 2007), returns with his follow-up film about a police officer assigned to perform surveillance on a teenager who is accused of selling pot. In the process of gathering evidence, the police officer also develops sympathy for the teen and is torn between his professional duty and not wanting to destroy this young man’s life. Romanian cinema has exploded in recent years, and this looks to be another worthy entry.

Thirst (Park Chan-Wook)
I’ve been a fan of Park Chan-Wook since stumbling across JSA: Joint Security Area, and that continued, of course, through his “revenge trilogy” of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance. Here he takes on a vampire story, and from the looks of the trailer (, it could be a nice companion piece to last year’s Let the Right One In to provide a new look at the well-worn vampire genre.

To Die Like a Man (Joao Pedro Rodrigues)
Inspired by the real life of a Portuguese drag performer. Her star status is being threatened by younger performers, her boyfriend is pressuring her to undergo a sex change operation to turn her into a woman, and her son whom she abandoned as a child returns after going AWOL from the army. She and her boyfriend leave town and wind up lost in an enchanted forest where they come across an enigmatic figure who will reveal the secrets of life and transfiguration.

The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)
You can always count on something interesting from Michael Haneke (Cache, The Piano Player, Funny Games). In a rural school in 1913 Germany strange accidents befall the students and residents and these accidents gradually take on the character of a ritual punishment and may relate to the rise of fascism.