By Jake Howell jake.howell@utoronto.ca

Cannes Reviews: REDOUBTABLE, 120 BPM

REDOUBTABLE

More bourgeoisie than lavish parties and designer clothing stores that line the Croisette is seeing a film about the Cannes Film Festival at the Cannes Film Festival. While its segments on Cannes take up only a relatively small portion of the film, vanity remains a key problem for Redoubtable, Michel Hazanavicius’ inessential, boring study of Jean-Luc Godard’s fraught marriage with Anne Wiazemsky, the actor and writer who starred in many of the director’s films before their divorce in 1979. (The screenplay is adapted from Wiazemsky’s memoir, “Un an apres,” or, “One year later.”)

Both Louis Garrel (Godard) and Stacy Martin (Wiazemsky) deliver competent performances in what is little more than a tedious and repetitive Woody Allen riff, which, chapter-by-chapter, also apes characteristic looks and techniques that Godard pioneered or appropriated. (C’est drôle, right?) But I take issue with the film’s basic telos: It strikes me that the best biographic portrait of Godard—an artist so critical of the form—would be one that was never made in the first place. At the very least, it’s embarrassing in so many ways to think that a film this cautiously dull would be a worthwhile consideration of an auteur so significantly different.

Beyond outlining just how much of an asshole Hazanavicius’ Godard is—including a stupid running joke that seems to suggest the man derives his snobbish power from his sunglasses, which he repeatedly breaks throughout the film—Redoubtable is little more than a series of regrettable decisions that began the moment Hazanavicius started his adaptation.120bpm

Saving face for French cinema is 120 Beats per Minute, Robin Campillo’s compassionate drama about the Paris branch of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) in the late 1980s.

Directed in an intimately similar style to 2008 Palme winner The Class (for which Campillo wrote the script), 120 BPM’s title may be more than a reference to the scenes of nightclub dancing that break apart the drama—additionally, it could apply to just how quickly this script flies by; intense discourse being one of Campillo’s screenwriting mainstays. To further this pace, Campillo keeps us mostly interior; his locations, like a lecture hall where ACT UP congregates, reverberate his dialogue effectively in his consistently tight framing.

It’s also comprised of strong performances, working in concert for a film less rah-rah than 2014’s Pride, a British crowd-pleasing rabble-rouser on LGBTQ activism that was emotional, certainly, but mostly upbeat. 120 BPM is, on the other hand, more cardiovascular: Given its pulse on HIV, watching splatters of fake blood in ACT UP’s more visual protests—and, for example, the image of a sanguine Seine—result in something urgent and present.

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“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch