REVIEW: The Immigrant

1 07 2014

immigrant_noquote_finalCannes Film Festival – Official Competition, 2013

Over a year ago, I had the distinct honor to attend a panel in memory of my hero in the realm of film criticism, the late Roger Ebert, in Cannes.  His widow, Chaz, was in attendance a little over a month after his passing.  We all took a “500 Thumbs Up for Roger” picture (if you like a good Where’s Waldo puzzle, try to find me in this picture) and signed a book letting Chaz know how much her husband meant to everyone who cherishes film.

But it was not the words that I left her that mattered that day; rather, it was the words she left me and everyone else in attendance.  Kicking off the panel, she remarked, “Roger said that the cinema expands your imagination.  And when it’s done well, what it will do is allow the individual to be transported beyond linear boundaries and to take you to a world that you hadn’t seen before and allow you inside and outside to become a better person.”

People that take the time to write seriously about these illusionary worlds of light, shadow, and pixel have most likely achieved this exhilarating narrative transport.  It’s a difficult and thus extremely rare feat for a film to pull off.  Yet the sensation feeds the soul in such a sublime manner that it’s worth seeking out even if it means wading through seemingly endless mediocrity.

By year’s end, I manage to let the awards hype delude myself into thinking I have experienced this transcendent feeling multiple times.  In actuality, however, these little miracles only occur every few years or so.  I’m overjoyed to report that James Gray’s “The Immigrant” is one such film.

Most movies nowadays return me to the same spot from which I departed.  This masterpiece, on the other hand, picked me up at one place and deposited me at a higher ground.  The story of “The Immigrant” alone left me feeling spiritually enriched.  The complete package assembled by producer, writer, and director Gray left me renewed and reaffirmed in the power of the cinema.  I remain so stunned in slack-jawed awe at this exquisitely beautiful work that few words can fully capture my strong sentiments.

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REVIEW: Blue Is the Warmest Color

15 06 2013

Blue is the Warmest ColorCannes Film Festival – Official Competition

Producers of the upcoming film adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” I have found your director.  Thank me later.

In the past three weeks since I’ve seen Abdellatif Kechiche’s “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” I have gone back and forth on whether I deem it to be pornography.  What I can say without a doubt, however, is that it features the most graphic depictions of sexuality between any two people that I have ever seen on film.  It takes that honor away from Steve McQueen’s 2011 masterpiece “Shame,” which used pornographic aesthetics to ironically point out just how little pleasure was present in the carnality occurring before our eyes.

Kechiche’s camera, whether voyeuristic or artistic, captures human sexuality between the timid young Adele (newcomer Adele Exarchopolous) and the nubile Emma (Lea Seydoux) at an extremely intimate level.  On the one hand, it seems almost animalistic as we feel their every body movement, see the saliva drip, and hear their every moan.  Yet at the same time, it’s also highly erotic.  Kechiche seems more focused on capturing the act from every angle and less on the experience that Adele and Emma are having.

The story just stops as we are left to gaze at Adele and Emma entangling in a frenzied sexual embrace.  Acting halts as well since the camera just cares about Exarchopolous and Seydoux’s extremities, not their faces.  In addition, Kechiche’s segues into sensuality are so abrupt and unexpected that once the first scene occurs, it’s impossible not to be constantly wondering if the next edit will lead into intertwining limbs or passionate moans.

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Cannes 2013: Let me explain…

31 05 2013

So I know you’ve all been wondering where all my updates from Cannes were this year.  Last year, I did a pretty intensive journal and wrote most of my reviews during the festival itself.

Well, no one year at Cannes is quite like the other (or so I’ll generalize from my two years at the festival).  This year, the movies were better, the experience was better, and the time was maximized.  Not that my readers and my writing isn’t important.  But all my writing can get done later – the festival is there for 12 days and then it’s gone.

It also didn’t help that my Wi-Fi was poor at the hotel where I stayed.  I could have written from my phone like I did last year, but that got me into a number of binds where I was low on battery at crucial moments – and I wasn’t too keen to repeat those instances.  If I had to worry about conserving my phone battery, it could limit my opportunities.  I also could have brought my laptop into Cannes, but it would be bulky and could get stolen.

Plus, this year’s festival was pretty simple for me.  I worked, I ate, and I saw movies.  25 of them, to be exact.  (Paradise for me, right?!)

I also had to sign a confidentiality agreement for my employer this year, so that limited what I could write about.  Rather than tell tales of eating yet another Nutella banana crepe or waiting in yet another line, I figured I would spare myself the effort to journal.  And at the same time, you all would be spared my monotony.

And yes, the festival did end 5 days ago – but I’ve been in transit getting from France to home to school.  I’ve been living on planes and out of suitcases.  It’s been exhausting, and I normally get too drained to write reviews.  But starting tomorrow, June 1, I will begin to document my thoughts on the Cannes titles I saw.  You’ll get my opinions, don’t you worry.  A little later than Variety or The Hollywood Reporter, sure.  But if all you want is immediacy, then you probably shouldn’t read me anyways.

Thanks for your patience.  I hope you enjoy the sneak preview of a fantastic year in cinema that awaits!





Cannes Deux (Pronounced “Can Do”)

14 05 2013

Last year was the age of YOLO (You Only Live Once), so the phrase “YOCO” circulated around my friends at Cannes last year – standing for “You Only Cannes Once.”  The point was, you should live it up this year because you only have one time at the Cannes Film Festival.

Well, all those times I said “YOCO” last year were a lie.  Because now I’m back at Cannes for a second year at the festival.  So prepare yourself for another two weeks of reviews.  I’ll be attempting to diversify outside my mainly official competition, primarily American slate from last year.  Although it’s going to be hard because there are so many fantastic American films in competition this year…

But this place hasn’t aged a day since I left.  And I’m excited to see what kind of great experiences await in 2013.  Go like the Facebook page for Marshall and the Movies for more instantaneous updates on my time at Cannes!

Palme