Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Annual hello from The Guardian and Some Notes.

After last year’s big hello from Pete Bradshaw, we, this year, receive a similarly warm greeting from Xan Brooks, one of the Guardian’s mighty team of journalists covering the festival. We had just emerged from Jodie Foster’s The Beaver and …

Wed, May 18, 2011, 14:56

   

After last year’s big hello from Pete Bradshaw, we, this year, receive a similarly warm greeting from Xan Brooks, one of the Guardian’s mighty team of journalists covering the festival. We had just emerged from Jodie Foster’s The Beaver and we both felt that it was a very ordinary film masquerading as a very strange one.

Apologies for not updating the web log yesterday, but connections kept dropping and so forth. Anyway, as we anticipated, this year’s Cannes has proved to be a significant improvement on the 2010 edition. That said, the worst films in the main competition have been considerably more  ghastly than those on last year’s reject pile. The main theme of the rubbish has been creepy eroticism. I have already droned on about Sleeping Beauty, but even that dire film seemed like a small masterpiece when set beside  Bertrand Bonello’s House of Tolerance (a virtue I will not be exercising when the time comes to review it). Set in a brothel during the dying days of La Belle Epoque, the picture is narratively disordered, unnecessarily leering and hilariously vulgar. Never mind the scene where a character actually cries tears of , well, male love juice. What about the sequence where the girls all dance to Nights in White Satin? The director should know that the answer to the question “Which iffy prog-pop single can be used with near impunity?” is not the Moody Blues song. It is Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale.

Anyway, the whinging aside, what about the decent pictures? The real surprise has been a strange, amusing piece of French nostalgia entitled The Artist. Shot in black and white, almost entirely silent, it is romantic and charming throughout. I can’t be bothered to look it up, but I assume that, if it wins the Palme d’Or (which it could), it would be the first silent film do to so.

I enjoyed The Tree of Life, but I found it a tad philosophically muddled and visually overblown. The new film from The Dardennes Brothers, The Kid with a Bike, is yet another triumph of social-realism from the Belgian siblings. It’s a little less deliberately shocking than their  earlier work, but still undeniably the work of masters. Then there’s the cracking Le Havre from Aki Kaurismaki. As ever, he takes a scenario that could deliver grim kitchen-sink miserablism and turns it into a sprightly, off-kilter comedy.

And what of the new Lars Von Trier? Knowing how much our old pal Michael Dwyer dreaded the Dane’s later work, I always feel a bit guilty giving him the thumbs up. But for all its moments of adolescent silliness, Melancholia remains something of a triumph. You can catch the full review in the paper tomorrow.

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