Director Pablo Trapero scored a home run with the first of two Argentine films in competition at the Cannes Film Festival this year. “Leonera” (Lion’s Den) put a believable, complex character into harrowing circumstances and made sure that the audience stayed on her side. The film opens with a blood-spattered Julia waking up in an apartment that has become a crime scene. Soon thereafter, she’s hustled off to prison where she eventually gives birth to a son. Is she guilty? We’re not sure. The film’s ambiguity avoids a simplistic “Innocents Behind Bars” message movie. Her jailhouse life is credible without trying to be a sociological study and her ultimate redemption (through her child, of course) manages to be gently surprising. Tighter editing would have helped the film’s pace which drags at times but the performances are always compelling.
All that waiting, and the opening night film of the Cannes Film Festival was a bust. Directed by the Brazilian Fernando Meirelles and with an excellent cast that includes Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo, “Blindness” nevertheless proved to be a drawn out, lackluster affair. It starts with one person and then the whole world starts going blind with the unexplained exception of Julianne Moore who plays the Doctor’s Wife. The blind lead the blind (Allegory Alert!) and –who would have thought?–civilization descends into barbarity. People are really mean to each other but, in the end, Love prevails. There you have it. Although Julianne Moore worked hard, her character was thinly written but, then again, characters don’t count in this movie. It’s the Big Idea that counts.
The 61st Cannes Film Festival, led by jury president Sean Penn, is starting to shape up. Does it seem very last minute for a festival starting in three weeks? It is. This year more than any other was marked by last minute crises over if and when certain films would be finished. Clint Eastwood and Steven Soderbergh contributed to the suspense; their entries were confirmed only hours before the announcement yesterday. And we still don’t know which films will be opening and closing the festival!
Here’s the list of the films in competition:
“Uç Maymun” (The Three Monkeys): Turkey: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
“Le silence de Lorna”: Belgium: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
“Changeling”: USA: Clint Eastwood
“Un Conte de Noel”: France: Arnaud Desplechin
“Adoration”: Canada: Atom Egoyan
“Waltz with Bashir”/ Israel: Ari Folman
“La Frontiere de l’Aube”: France: Philippe Garrel
“Gomorra”: Italy: Matteo Garrone
“24 City”: China: Jia Zhangke
“Synecdoche, New York”: USA: Charlie Kaufman
“My Magic”: Singapore: Eric Khoo
“L Mujer sin Cabeza”: Argentina: Lucrecia Martel
“Serbis”: Philippines: Brillante Mendoza
“Delta”: Hungary: Kornel Mundruczo
Linha de Passe”: Brazil: Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas
“Che”: USA: Steven Soderbergh
Il Divo” : Italy: Paolo Sorrentino
“Leonera”: Argentina: Pablo Trapero
“The Palermo Shooting”: Germany: Wim Wenders
Stay tuned for more news about the festival including my secret advice for seeing festival films without a badge. And it’s legal! See more about visiting Cannes, France.