"A natural anomaly," the resort manager says at the beginning of the film. Yes, indeed it is. This is one of those lines from early on in the film that is a big wink at what's to come – not only about the film itself but with the strange beach they end up at. Old is the latest film from provocative, twisty filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, trying something new by adapting a French graphic novel called "Sandcastle" by Pierre-Oscar Lévy & Frederick Peeters. The story follows a family that visits a secluded tropical beach while on vacation, only to discover that not only are they trapped there, but everyone seems to be getting older extremely fast. It's an ambitious concept to turn into a film, not only to visualize correctly with regards to aging but to get the performances that make it all seem believable. Shyamlan does well, and the film is thrilling and chilling, but not the most impressive or satisfying creation. I enjoyed watching, but still wanted even more out of it.
This is one story that isn't worth telling. The Story of My Wife (also known as A Feleségem Története in Hungarian) is the first English language film made by the acclaimed, award-winning Hungarian filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi. She's a wonderfully talented filmmaker and usually knows how to craft nuanced, powerfully moving stories about love and life, but not this time. I really wish this was better… I had high hopes for it. But it's such a let down. The Story of My Wife is a gorgeous-looking epic three hour romance about a sea captain and his French wife. Alas, the slow-burn rage of jealousy is drawn out over two hours and it drags on and on. And with a runtime just 10 minutes shy of three hours, it's a powerfully tedious affair, a story that goes on and on without ever becoming interesting or worthwhile. Right from the start I could tell these two lovers didn't have any chemistry, and it's almost painful to watch their romance flounder over 169 minutes.
It's not easy to make a good film. It's also not easy to make a good film about the filmmaking process. But many filmmakers have tried, and a few do succeed. Nowadays, many filmmakers like to reminisce about the past and dream about making films as unforgettable as their cinema heroes - Scorsese, Welles, Fellini, Lean, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Varda, Buñuel, Bergman. But how do you go about letting yourself be inspired by these filmmakers in just the right way to make a film that is also as iconic and unforgettable as their films? That's one of the questions are the core of this film – Bergman Island, the latest feature written & directed by French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve. She takes us on a light and breezy stroll around the island of Fårö, located off the coast of Sweden to the south of Stockholm, better known as "Bergman Island" because he spent lots of time living there and even shot a few of his films there. What can a visit to this island teach us?
Often the most engaging, thought-provoking stories in cinema are those with complex characters and moral provocations. They don't offer black and white interpretations, they make us question whether our prejudice is tainting our opinion on what's happening, and allow us to learn even more about the incessant complexity of humanity. Acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has returned to the 2021 Cannes Film Festival with his latest film, a drama called A Hero (originally Ghahreman in Persian) set in modern day Shiraz. This is his best film since A Separation, a return to form for Asghar Farhadi telling incredibly taut, thrilling stories about morality tales and characters trying their best in a world that won't let them succeed. I loved it and was caught up in it and was so shaken by the film that it messed up my emotions for the rest of the day.
THIS is the film every critic was waiting to finally see at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Something so bold and audacious and original and incredible and energetic that we all erupt into applause as soon as it's over. Titane is the second feature film made by French filmmaker Julia Ducournau, who made her debut with the horror hit Raw back in 2016. She returns to the Cannes Film Festival again to premiere her latest film, Titane, and it fucking rules. Absolute metal. File this one under "you have never seen anything like this" - wickedly original, jaw-drop cinema. Not at all what you're expecting, not what anyone is expecting. Which is the best kind of film to enjoy at a festival. Titane is an extremely brutal, audacious, vivacious take on bad fathers. Which is the simplest description that does not come close to properly capturing everything in this.
One of the best films at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival is a Norwegian romantic drama about a young woman on the verge of turning 30. It's a refreshingly intellectual and mesmerizing look at romance and love in our modern world, and all the remarkably empowering and frustrating challenges that come with it. The film is titled (in English) The Worst Person in the World, and the original Norwegian title is Verdens Verste Menneske, though the French title is Julie (en 12 Chapitres) or simply Julie (in 12 Chapters) - which is somewhat better than the English version. But none of these titles really do it justice, nor do they really fit with this film overall, nor capture how beautiful and excruciating and understanding and exhilarating it really is. But aside from that, there's so much to adore about this film and the depths of romance it explores, diving in so deep it may just make you question your own choices and who you're with in life with right now.
Oh my goodness, this is an instant personal favorite. No exaggeration, this goes on my "all-timer" list right away. I want to watch it again right now. I want the posters, I want frames of the film on my wall, I want to listen to the score non-stop, I want to buy copies of the graphic novel it's based on. It has everything I love, everything that amazes me about this world: photography, mountains, Nepal, the Himalayas, Japan, Tokyo, the starry night sky. The Summit of the Gods (also known as Le Sommet des Dieux) is a French animated film made by animation filmmaker Patrick Imbert, based on the Japanese manga also titled The Summit of the Gods written by Jiro Taniguchi. It tells a riveting story about a Japanese adventure photographer and mountain climber who becomes obsessed with searching for a long lost Japanese mountain climber hiding out in the Himalayas who may have found a camera from an early Everest expedition. An engrossing story.
"I've wanted to tell a story about acting for a very long time… About the place where you end, and the character begins. About truth… and illusion." How do you put together an entire life into one film? How do you tell that story and make it meaningful? Val is a documentary about the actor Val Kilmer, made by Val and his son Jack Kilmer, and co-directed by Ting Poo & Leo Scott. After an extensive acting career, Val went quiet. Now we know that has spent the last few years fighting and then recovering from throat cancer, but is now left with a hole in his throat and a completely different voice due to the chemotherapy. So, as he says in the film, "now that it's more difficult to speak, I want to tell my story more than ever. A story about my life." And that's exactly what we get. Val is wonderfully candid journey through the life of an actor. It's so rich and so full of love, and so profoundly honest. One of the very best films at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival so far.
It's not often that the Cannes Film Festival plays science fiction films, but when they do, they're some of the best science fiction films all year. After Yang is the second feature film directed by the Korean-American filmmaker known as "Kogonada", who made his debut in 2017 at the Sundance Film Festival with a feature called Columbus after creating video essays about cinema for years before that. It seems he has taken his experience with that film (and his vast knowledge of cinema) and developed even more as a filmmaker in crafting After Yang, a remarkably astute and beautifully compelling story about family and memory. After Yang is the best sci-fi film about artificial intelligence since Ex Machina, the kind of film that pulls you in and entices repeat viewings right away. It's one of these films that is going to be dissected and analyzed for years. The details in every frame, the depth in the storytelling, all while remaining so slick and minimalistic.
There will be before Cow, and there will be after Cow. But in all seriousness… Andrea Arnold's documentary film Cow is the latest offering on the Vegan Cinema menu, premiering at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival in a brand new out-of-competition section called Cannes Première. The film features almost no talking, and no dialogue except for a few words spoken in the background by farm workers. There is some music, but that's a different surprise. Instead, the camera focuses on cows at a factory farm in the UK. Specifically one older bovine and two of her calves, which she gives birth to in the film. This isn't the first film to do this – Viktor Kosakovskiy's Gunda, which premiered at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival, also features nothing but footage of farm animals roaming around. But this time we get a much closer look at the brutality of factory farming, and the sickening process of breeding and raising animals solely to produce food for humans – and that's it.
What better way to kick off the 2021 Cannes Film Festival than with an epic, wild, absurdly original musical about the vanity and selfishness of show business. "So may we start?" Annette is the latest creation of French director Leos Carax, who certainly has a knack for musical cinema, and the Sparks Brothers, two extremely talented musical brothers (who are also profiled in this year's documentary The Sparks Brothers directed by Edgar Wright). Together they've created an unquestionably original and unquestionably wild big screen musical based around a love story which eventually turns into something else entirely involving an odd wooden puppet baby as its plays out over 2 hours, 20 minutes. There's something beautifully admirable about a movie musical that is this audacious, and this cynical when it really gets into the depths of the plot.
Dystopian science fiction movies encourage ambivalent feelings in me; they both terrify and enthrall me, especially when the plot revolves around time loops, the future, and the end of the world. For example, imagine you're watching a soccer game when suddenly a purple, cloud-like mass appears right on the field, revealing a group of soldiers dressed in black who claim to be from the future. That is essentially how Chris McKay's The Tomorrow War begins - and it's frightening. The film, directed by the man behind The Lego Batman Movie, delivers a fun time and the entertainment you probably need after a long day. At the same time, it appears to be more of a one-time watch and nothing more than just a decent summer sci-fi flick.