Thursday, May 20, 2010


The 2010 edition of the Cannes Film Festival is past the midway mark, so it's time to evaluate how the Latin American contingent has fared so far. Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Biutiful," the only Latin American film in the main competition, has already screened and received a mixed critical reception. Eric Kohn, Indiewire's newly-appointed chief critic, called it a "misguided melodrama", explaining that the director doesn't know the difference between "understanding the tools of melodrama and successfully putting them together." Read his review here. Hollywood blogger Anne Thompson printed this positive critique, saying that she "dived right into this chaotic milieu, caring for the guy" - referring to Javier Bardem's lowlife character. She reported that foreign critics were generally more positive about the film than their American counterparts, and that the film may have a hard time finding an audience stateside (it still doesn't have a U.S. distributor). The Hollywood Reporter, however, gushed about the film, calling it a "a gorgeous, melancholy tone poem about love, fatherhood and guilt." You can read the review here. The one constant in all the reviews I read was that Bardem gives a stellar performance. Could he be headed to the Kodak theater in Hollywood again next year?

French filmmaker Oliver Assayas came to the Croisette with "Carlos," his 322-minute opus about "Carlos the Jackal." Edgar Ramírez ("Che") plays the starring role. The film has received unanimous praise from critics, especially former Variety critic (now working for Indiewire) Todd McCarthy. He calls it "an astonishing film" and compares Ramírez to "Brando in his prime." Read his entire review here. Another overwhelmingly positive review came courtesy of Variety's Justin Chang who called it (click here for his review) "a spectacular achievement." I know I'm stretching it here since Assayas is not a Latin American filmmaker but the subject matter warrants a write-up, me thinks.

Another notable film is "Los labios" ("The Lips"), Santiago Loza and Ivan Fund's documentary-like drama about three women on a government-sponsored poverty mission to the outbacks of Argentina. The film screened in the Un Certain Regard sidebar. The Hollywood Reporter writes that the filmmakers "show enormous respect for these selfless idealists and for the people unto whom they minister." But they warn, "It's an exceedingly small film that will find little space outside festivals." Click here for the complete review.

Brazil seems to have a hit in their hands with "5 x Favela: Now By Ourselves," a collection of 5 short films set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The project was the brainchild of Carlos Diegues and Renata De Almeida Magalhaes, who gathered over 80 young filmmakers and gave them the opportunity to tell stories about the places they know so well. Serving as teachers and advisers were big-name filmmakers Fernando Meirelles and Walter Selles. The Hollywood Reporter says it "renews faith in the kind of moviemaking that lives and breathes, and reflects the human spirit in all its colors." The film will be distributed next August by Sony and was screened out of competition at Cannes. For some interesting background on the project (it is actually a new incarnation of a groundbreaking 1962 collection of shorts by the same name), check out this article in the Wall Street Times.

"Carancho," Pablo Trapero's follow-up to the mesmerizing "Leonera" ("The Lion's Den") is being called "tough-as-nails." The film follows the exploits of an unscrupulous lawyer (Ricardo Darín) who takes advantage of Argentina's corrupt (at least in the eyes of Trapero) health-care system. Twitch calls it "the film of the festival," and adds "Trapero serves notice here that he is one of the very best film makers in the world today. Period." Read Twitch's review here. Screendaily considers it "an expertly crafted thriller steeped in the social injustices of Buenos Aires, it combines crisp storytelling with appealingly flawed characters and moments of startling violence." Read the complete review here. Every review I read seems to highlight the film's visceral violence. I'm really looking forward to seeing this one, despite my previous criticisms of Darin in this blog.

Finally, a couple of curios:

"Leap Year" is a Mexican film by Australian transplant Michael Rowe. A chamber piece featuring three people stuck in a room for the entire film, it reportedly drove out audiences from screenings due to the explicit nature of the sex scenes. Hollywoord Reporter believes that "In the U.S. it would have to undergo major cuts to escape an X rating." Full review here.

"La casa muda" ("The Silent House") is Gustavo Hernández's haunted house horror pic. This Uruguayan film is actually made up of a SINGLE 78-minute take. The HR loved it, calling it a "meticulously crafted first feature." Read the review here.

"Nostalgia for the Light," is Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán's surreal documentary which juxtaposes the tragedy of those who perished under Pinochet's rule with ASTRONOMY! Variety calls it "often breathtaking" (click here for the full review), while the Hollywood Reporter claims the unusual concept "produces electrifying and unexpected results." (click here for the review).

As I come across more reviews I'll continue to add them to this post. And I'll be sure to report back when the awards are announced.