Blue is the Warmest Colour (La vie d'Adèle - Chapitres 1&2)
directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
This is an otherwise simple and entirely predictable story made exceptional by perfectionist filmmaking and fearless acting. Kechiche is a master of making everything seem entirely natural, and both actresses leave absolutely nothing on the table. It's strongest moments are during the first half, with the extraordinarily detailed introduction and development of Adèle's character, and during the last half hour where this chapter in her life is brought to a hopeful conclusion.
directed by Alexander Payne
Bruce Dern won Best Actor at Cannes for his role in this, and it is an admirably strong performance. However, the film felt over-sentimental, and is full of one note cartoonish supporting characters. On the plus side, June Squibb has some scene stealing hilarious dialogue; and the stark black and white cinematography, which purposefully gives the film a 1970's look, is perfect for the Middle-America small town setting.
Manuscripts Don't Burn
directed by Mohammad Rasoulof
As deliberate of a political film as you will ever see. Because of its blatant message, this thriller feels rather tedious at times, but it is amazing that it even exists. The creative situation in Iran right now reminds me of the one in Czechoslovakia at the end of The Prague Spring. Brave filmmakers risking everything to present their work to the world while under an oppressive regime.
Tom at the Farm (Tom à la ferme)
directed by Xavier Dolan
A complete departure from Dolan's usual work, especially compared to last year's epic Laurence Anyways. Gone are the showy slow motion 'music video' flourishes, but his undeniable sense of style is still highly evident. Most noticeably, the aspect ratio changes to widescreen during the action sequences. It's a solid psychological thriller, and the rural setting and dialog help to create and maintain a strong sense of unease. If nothing else, this stands as proof that Dolan is capable of playing more than one note.
directed by Thomas Arslan
The tale of a group of German American immigrants heading for the 1890's Gold Rush in northern British Columbia. Feels like a faster paced Meek's Cutoff, and has a score highly reminiscent to Neil Young's in Dead Man. As always, Nina Hoss easily commands the screen, but it's fascinating to watch what the long and difficult trek does physically and mentally to the entire group.
directed by Hong Sang-soo
Full of the director's trademark statically shot long conversations over food and alcohol. These lead to quite a few funny moments, but also lots of repetition that comes close to crossing the line between amusement and tedium.
directed by Rachel Boynton
A brave and balanced documentary that takes a behind the scenes look at what happens to a business, the government, and the local people when a massive oil field is discovered off the coast of Ghana. Remarkable for the amount of willing participants that the director managed to get in the film. All sides get fair representation with candid interviews that include CEOs, presidents, and armed rebel leaders.
The Great Passage
directed by Yûya Ishii
An enthralling and highly enjoyable tale set in the mid 1990s, that follows a socially awkward bookworm hired by a publishing house to create a new modern dictionary. A solid ensemble cast (including an outstanding Ryuhei Matsuda), carries this quirky film across a few different genres before coming to a touching end.
Harmony Lessons (Uroki garmonii)
directed by Emir Baigazin
A chillingly bleak but effective tale that underlines the inescapable brutality and violence that exists within man and nature. The stark cinematography received the award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution at this year's Berlinale, and it was well deserved. Every single shot is absolutely stunning, you can't look away even when the onscreen actions are at times so very horrifying.
directed by Peter Greenaway, Edgar Pêra, Jean-Luc Godard
Any collection of shorts is guaranteed to be uneven, and this is no exception. Greenaway's segment is the most accessible, and plays out as a one take live annotated museum tour through the Portuguese city of Guimaraes; Godard's is an intense and fascinating film history lecture/montage that cheekily calls out 3D as the 'Three Disasters'; While Pêra's incomprehensible sci-fi segment is what the fast forward button was invented for.
directed by Flora Lau
Lau's quiet feature debut premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes this year. It has that sleek and elegant look you'd expect from a film shot by Christopher Doyle. Carina Lau is excellent as a rich housewife who suddenly has to adjust her lifestyle. Chen Kun is equally good as her chauffeur who has some desperate problems of his own. It's pretty to look at, trouble is, we're never given anything to become truly invested in these characters and the conclusion seems slapdash.
Another House (L'autre maison)
directed by Mathieu Roy
Director Mathieu Roy's highly personal first feature film is another involving family drama from Quebec. It's about an Alzheimer's sufferer and his two battling sons. He began his career with documentaries, and that is evident here in the many on-location sequences. Particularly impressive is the final aerial shot.