Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review: ‘Le Redoutable’ (Redoubtable)

An ironic satire of Jean-Luc Godard’s unconventional life.

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Director: Michel Hazanavicius

Writer: Michel Hazanavicius

Producer: Daniel Delume, Florence Gastaud, Michel Hazanavicius, Riad Sattouf

Main Cast: Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, Berenice Bejo, and Micha Lescot

Running Time: 107 minutes

The background noise faintly rises, mentioning the launch of an invincible missile submarine called the Redoutable. The main ensemble ignores the mention of this ballistic missile ship, but this slight interjection sets the stage for the arc of Jean-Luc Godard’s artistic career. The parallels between this formidable submarine, whose expiration date came too soon, parallel Godard’s slow downfall into an ignorant, blatant director whose eyes and ears were closed to those around him. Once thought to be the most significant film director of his era, Godard throws his reputation to the wind as he chases after a political activist lifestyle. Rather than create traditional films to appease to a larger audience, Godard identifies with the ‘New Wave’ concept; this movement pushes for the innovation and experimentation of film as opposed to the more traditional style of film. His radical mindset soon transitions from passenger to controller, dictating his every move. Those closest to Godard do not appreciate his increased detachment from normality, causing tension to rise and relationships to fall as Godard grapples with his slipping slope of a life.

Director Michel Hazanavicius is back again, finding the limelight once more after his internationally acclaimed film The Artist. His take on Jean-Luc Godard’s life is quite intriguing, for Godard’s life somewhat parallels his own. Both The Artist and Le Redoutable feature Berenice Bejo, Hazanavicius’s wife. The premise of Le Redoutable focuses on Godard’s newest film, which features his newlywed. This director-actor relationship becomes intertwined with their personal lives, erasing the boundaries between the two. Thus, Hazanavicius brings a unique perspective to Godard’s situation, for their lives are somewhat similar. Because of this ironic position, Hazanavicius pokes fun at both Godard and himself through the use of comedic dialogue and self-deprecating plot lines. The dialogue often infuses sharp one-liners; these one-liners are delivered by the actors straight to the camera, so that the audience is invited to participate in the comedic effect. In one particular scene, Louis Garrel, who is acting as Jean-Luc Godard, stares into the audience’s eyes and states, “I’m not a particularly good actor playing Godard.” He later mockingly discusses society’s ignorance regarding foreign cultures. He states to the audience that “I don’t know Chinese. Chinese names are complicated.” Although seemingly uncalled for, these scripted lines make the film relatable and relevant, pointing out both personal flaws and intrinsic biases. By doing so, the film is able to adapt an older biographical tale to modern times.

The film’s highlight is its screenwriting, as both the dialogue and ironic scenes hold the audience’s attention for over an hour and a half. These satirical shots mock both the cast and crew and the film industry itself, fixating on the superficial and glamorized version of the business. The film begins by mocking its actors and actors’ expectations in regards to privacy on screen. Both Jean-Luc Godard and his wife, Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin), are fully nude in the bedroom. Whilst the two are casually brushing their teeth, they discuss how they could never be fully nude for an acting role. This situational irony turns upon itself, ridiculing those people that are directly creating the film. Scenes like these keep the audience attentive, for it is rare that films put itself in compromising situations. However, if an audience can develop an emotional connection to those within the film, the film’s chance of success will skyrocket.

The film further pokes fun of itself by critiquing its selection for the Cannes Film Festival. Godard brushes off the notion that his friend’s film has been selected for Cannes, stating “Who cares about Cannes?” The line may have been intended for pure comedic effect, but also implies an alternative political statement. Cannes is notorious for choosing films based upon reputable directors, and Le Redoutable is no exception. With The Artist winning five Academy Awards in 2012, including Best Director for Hazanavicius, Le Redoutable was immediately put on Cannes’s radar. Cannes prefers films with luxurious armies to back them, especially those with small golden statues for shields.

Le Redoutable was both entertaining and inquisitive, a feat difficult to master for most. The cinematography and camerawork were nothing superb, but what makes this film worth watching is Hazanavicius’s independent, no nonsense mindset. He recognizes the reasoning behind his film’s selection and decides to blatantly point out this discrepancy at the core of his film. He makes fun of himself, his cast, crew, and workplace, in an obvious and tasteful manner, which left me quite impressed. I cannot tell if this film will go over well with general audiences, but then again, films are complicated.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review: ‘Aus Dem Nichts’ (In the Fade)

Fatih Akin’s exploration of a mother’s loss is both timely relevant and heart-wrenching.

Director: Fatih Akin

Writer: Fatih Akin and Hark Bohm

Producer: Fatih Akin, Ann-Kristin Hofmann, Nurhan Sekerci-Porst, Herman Weigel

Main Cast: Diane Kruger and Numan Acar

Running Time: 106 minutes

The camera shakes violently, encapsulating the violent undertakings of the scene at large. Shaky camerawork sometimes equivocates to sloppy directing, but in the case of In the Fade, it is quite the opposite. The intentional misdirection of the camera captures the raw and unapologetic emotions of the main ensemble during a time of crisis—a time that within ten minutes of the film, determines the course to come. This particular crisis explores themes of depression, political ideologies, and social justice as the protagonist of the film, Diane Kruger’s Katja Sekerci, copes with the loss of her husband and child. A sudden and heart-breaking loss, the audience explores Katja’s pain as she embarks on an adventure of rectification and reason.

Never have I been so immediately captivated by a main actor’s performance. For the immediate ten minutes of the film, the audience watches Katja’s relationship with her husband, Nuri (Numan Acar), flourish. The audience becomes captivated by their unconventional circumstances, as Nuri is a convicted drug dealer who has been released from prison. The two have a son, Rocco, who becomes their shining star. Whilst the family stands out from most, their love for one another is unparalleled. As soon as the audience admires their situation, the plot turns on itself. Katja’s world is flipped upside down, leaving both the audience and Katja dumbfounded. Diane Kruger’s performance is exemplary, for I felt the anger, confusion, and genuine depression she felt as she coped with the loss of her world. As circumstances intensify once the deaths are deemed homicides, Katja’s grief turned vengeance fulfills the audience as well. The war-path for redemption esteems every party involved, fighting for justice for the lives of two pure souls.

Alongside the moving acting performances, the film’s score strengthened emotional scenes. During vulnerable takes, the score would become solemn and subdued to resonate with Katja’s grief. Because grief is a universal emotion, the audience can understand and empathize with Katja’s quest for self-consolation. In one particular scene, Katja is seen cradling her son’s belongings while lying in his bed. Tears steadily flow down her face as both the score strengthens and the outside rain pours. The rain symbolizes the audience’s frame of mind as sympathy overtakes everyone; the viewers can easily place themselves in Katja’s position as her precious son is gone forevermore.

However, possibly the sincerest portion of the film is the directing. The audience becomes tethered to the characters—anything they feel or do, the audience believes they do as well. As Katja walks into her husband’s store and explores the wreckage that is her former life, she recognizes her family’s blood plastered upon the walls. The blood taunts her, openly bullying her predicament. Her scream pierces the audience like a bullet, shattering our hearts into pieces. We soon realize that Katja’s tears and screams are our own, for everyone can relate to those taken away from us too soon. But possibly the most tender moment of the film is Katja’s reactions to the trial proceeding. Two suspects have been arrested in relation to the crime and undergo civil proceedings in court. Katja acts as a co-plaintiff during the proceedings and listens as witnesses, coroners, and psychologists assess the situation at hand. When the coroner reviews the details of Rocco’s death, including ripped limbs, burns, and torn organs, Katja politely asks to leave the room. But, whilst walking towards the door, Katja innately lashes out at Mrs. Möller, one of the suspects. This raw, pure act of violence stems directly from a mother’s love and fierce protection of her child. The mother lion ferociously protects her cub, a basic instinct that resonates within all.

In the Fade epitomizes its solemn, melancholy tone through the use of dark clothing and light backgrounds. The morning after Nuri and Rocco’s death, Katja can be seen wearing all black clothing while grieving in her living area. The sun’s rays shine bright through the room, but Katja looks like the black sheep amongst a sea of light. A similar situation occurs during the court proceedings. The harsh lighting of the court room contrasts against Katja’s and the prosecutors’ dark clothing. This subtle, but evident, symbolism references the grief that Katja experiences, but also the harshness of her situation. The civil proceedings are brutal, particularly as the defendants viciously attack Katja’s life and judgment. However, scenes like this one emphasize the social justice system’s turbulent, and sometimes unfair, procedures. During an era where race, gender, and social strata influence certain privileges, our social justice system should view each situation without bias. Yet, corrupt situations arise, in which this film indicates is a universal situation. Although this is a German film, the emotional availability and political allegories are relevant to each person and state. These political references are needed in these divisive times, for the universal tie of film can bring us together once more.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review: ‘The Clapper’

An attempt at an awkward situational comedy.

Eddie Crumble casually strolls the streets as he makes his morning walk to work. The fictional, cartoonish background changes quite smoothly, transitioning into pastel-colored depictions of a grand city. Yet, Eddie is not a cartoon. His surroundings look something from a graphic novel, but Eddie himself is out of place. This opening scene gives viewers a glimpse into the mundane life of Eddie Crumble—a life that is filled with a monotonous job, few friends, and a quaint apartment in the heart of Los Angeles. Whilst most people living in Los Angeles seek the fast-paced life found within the film industry, Eddie is perfectly content being anonymous.

The audience watches as Eddie (Ed Helms), a forty something year old man, navigates his life as a ‘clapper.’ Eddie, along with his best friend (Tracy Morgan), are the official audience members of various commercials. He sits in the audience, donning a new costume each day, and claps at the appropriate moments. His routine never falters. Eddie’s life seems like it would get tiring after some time. But, Eddie becomes a ‘somebody’ once a late night talk show host notices Eddie’s appearance in multiple infomercials. The search is on to find the infamous ‘clapper,’ but Eddie does not want to be found. Eddie prefers his lost and found box of a life, tucked away for the world to forget and ignore. Eddie’s attempt to avoid an attention-filled life becomes turbulent, affecting both his personal and professional life. His friends and potential girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) become intertwined in his quest to remain hidden, to keep private the once unknown name of Eddie Crumble.

The premise of the film seemed interesting, as the film focuses upon the consequences of undesired fame. Eddie does not want to be in the limelight. His shyness wraps himself like a cocoon and this caterpillar is not ready for metamorphosis. The film does not shy away from capitalizing upon its awkwardness, but it does so in an uninteresting manner. Films like Juno and Superbad have catapulted socially awkward humor to the forefront of comedies, but this film falls flat in doing so. The jokes are expected and familiar, leaving the audience embarrassed for those telling them. The timing of the jokes is often ten seconds too late, leaving a train-wreck of misfit jokes to linger around the audience. By the mid-point of the film, the unoriginality of these conversations becomes blatant, like a stain upon a white t-shirt. These stained jokes tarnish the quality of the film’s plot, distracting the audience from Eddie’s life crisis.

However, the film’s humor is not the sole black sheep. The rough editing of a few long scenes left me dazed and confused. Eddie and his girlfriend are on their first date, enjoying a ‘romantic’ meal inside of a fast-food restaurant. Rather than the camera focusing upon one person for a short while, and then cutting to the other person, the camera quickly flips back and forth between the couple. For every line of dialogue, the camera focuses upon that person. So, if the person solely says a few words, the camera is cutting quite closely. These choppy transitions during the conversation were distracting and mind-numbing. I began to focus on the camera angles more than the actual dialogue, which left me further puzzled.

Many of the shots of the film focused on the background noise alongside the forefront dialogue. The shots were incredibly wide, which made me question the validity of the scenes. The Los Angeles highways were irrelevant to conversations, so the looming background became a distraction rather than a scenic background. If the shots were better-angled or closer up, I would have focused more upon the words being said rather than the pedestrians walking through the local gas station. These background interactions proved unrelated to the plot line, so I remain confused as to the purpose of various scenes.

The Clapper’s intentions were pure, but seemed to be misguided in its quest to humor the audience. I was too often distracted by careless edits and rough transitions to listen to Eddie Crumble’s disorienting life crisis. Whilst Ed Helms and Amanda Seyfried performed their roles well, the screenwriting was such that it simply did not matter. It is difficult to turn poorly written material into an entertaining film, regardless of how superb the cast is. I hope that this film is a bump in the road for the main ensemble of the film, for I cannot imagine this film doing well at the box office. I advise saving ten dollars for a film ticket and seeing another film. You’ll thank me later for doing so.

Director: Dito Montiel

Writer: Dito Montiel

Producer: John M. Bennett, Michael Bien, Ray Bouderau, Maurice Fadida

Main Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Leah Remini, Ed Helms

Running Time: 89 minutes

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review: ‘Dhogs’

A trifling glimpse into humanity’s weakest moments.

Dhogs begins similar to how it ends: blank faces stare intently ahead, dumbfounded by the scene before them. By blank faces, I am not referring to the audience watching Dhogs, but rather to the audience staring back at us. The scene invites us to become spectators during the film, to join those in the theatre backdrop and thoughtlessly watch the events to come. However, the shot quickly transitions to another blank face—that of an aging, saddened taxi driver. The camera is placed before the man, towards the front of the vehicle, so that we are unaware of where this man is going. But, the destination is not as important as his facial expression as he avoids conversation with the middle-aged man he is driving. The camera flips back and forth between the front and rear of the vehicle, focusing on the taxi driver always. The middle-aged man soon exits the vehicle at his destination and the scene ends. While this opening scene appears rather insignificant, the scene glimpses the film’s intersectionality of characters, lack of dialogue, and demoralizing theme.

A rather bleak film, Andrés Goteira’s psychological thriller explores the depths of the human psych. In particular, Goteira sheds light on humankind’s perilous decision-making. These decisions affect the sequence of events to come and are analyzed through a series of unrelated characters and their lives. One character runs into another, this character affects the other’s future plans, and the course of the film is altered. The film focuses on no more than a few characters at a time, and does so by splitting the film into three sections. Each section presents a fresh perspective to the film through the eyes of new characters, but the stories of previous characters continue to develop. By the conclusion of the film, around eight characters have become intertwined in a tale that connects all of them together.

Because the character development is tedious, the film’s plot is often confusing and trying. The film’s intentions are vague and unannounced until the viewer is almost finished with the film. However, the finale truly ties the film’s characters together, telling the viewer how each character affected the life of another. Through the use of stellar tracking shots, the film often follows a character to his or her destination. The middle-aged man that was driven by the taxi driver is followed to a grand hotel; he sits at the bar and meets a beautiful young woman. The two strike a playful conversation and spend more time together later in the evening. After this short rendezvous, the young woman leaves the hotel to return home. But, by staying out later than intended, she runs into someone else on the way home that she would not have before. These interactions are the core of the film and glimpse the raw undertakings some of us hold. Whilst some hold true intentions, others do not—a first impression is not always what it seems.

The film’s adjustment of sound during pivotal scenes proved to be effective, especially during action or adventure sequences. When the aforementioned woman is walking down the street after her hook-up, the camera pans to the young man following her. The sound gradually increases as the audience, and the woman, becomes aware of the woman’s predicament. The sound climaxes as the man catches up to the woman, but immediately cuts out as the screen turns black. Sound fluctuations like this one greatly improved the suspense of the film, often leaving the viewer uncomfortable and suspicious. Yet, where the sound performance was excellent, the timing of the plot was not. There were many a time when the audience scene would be brought back again, leaving a still scene for close to a minute. These repetitious scenes lengthened the film by five to ten minutes, which became exhausting and somewhat of a nuisance. If used more carefully, the film wouldn’t have been so tedious.

It is evident that the producers put lots of thought into the film, for the editing was the best part of the film. Dhogs was one of the more artsy film thrillers I’ve seen in some time, which brought an air of originality to the film. I would recommend that others view the film to pass their own judgments, but I find the film to be a breath of fresh air. Rather than utilizing its time doing jump scares or gory death scenes, the film slowly built a stage of uncertainty—a stage of unknown possibilities and realist situations. A stage that is unfortunately relatable for some, for the situations presented in the film are raw and sensitive. But, without films like these, which presents situations in a shameful light, humankind would be more irrational than it already is.