Michael Douglas hits a career high with Steven Soderbergh’s masterful Behind the Candelabra, the love story about Liberace and Scott Thorson slated for an HBO release. One of the best films to play here so far, Behind the Candelabra is really about the lengths gay men had to go in decades past to have a relationship that equaled marriage, and for an icon like Liberace to even admit he was gay at all. Much has changed since then yet there is still, astonishingly, a debate going on about the legitimacy of gay marriage. Though Liberace wanted his sexual identity to remain hidden after his death (ruled by his own doctor as “heart attack from an extreme watermelon diet”), his official diagnosis was AIDS.
Soderbergh has made his best film in years, an honest rendering of a passionate, sometimes silly, love affair between the much older Liberace and the much younger Scott Thorson. Plucked from obscurity when he was just 18, Thorson was immediately attractive to Liberace, and it isn’t long before Liberace wants him to move in and do whatever odd jobs were available — take care of his animals, for instance. What drew Scott into his world wasn’t so much the lure of money but the lure of love and family.
One of the standout films in the main competition here in Cannes has to be the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. God kills a kitten every time a hipster calls it “minor Coen brothers.” It wasn’t that long ago when no one thought The Big Lebowski was even very good, let along the comic masterpiece that it became. The Coens’ films demand constant re-evaluation. Declaring anything definitively negative about Llewyn Davis right now is a fool’s game. But go right on ahead if that is your inclination. Make sure it’s written in ink somewhere. For all time.
The studio invited press to come to the Carlton hotel — one of the luxury hotels facing the glittering sea this side of the Croisette. A roundtable junket style meet-and-greet, as a way for journalists to better get to know, I’d guess, the film’s rising star, Oscar Isaac. How else are you going to get journalists to write about him than to promise them free food and drink and a chance to sit fairly closely to the elusive and always in demand Coens.
The first thing that happened to me upon entering the Carlton hotel was to notice how awful I looked. My flat doesn’t come with a hair dryer, and I’d forgotten to bring mine. Even if I had brought mine I felt sure it would have blown out the french outlet like it did last year. I could have bought one here but I never thought I’d need it. Looking at what my mother would call a “rat’s nest” that managed to simultaneously hang flatly on top and straggle at the bottom I was suddenly horrified. “I can’t go in there,” I said to Craig Kennedy who was also along for the junket. “Is there anything I can say to make you feel better?” “No, no. There isn’t.”
Oh what the hell, I thought, I’ll just sit in the back. Believe me, if it were only the hair I think I could have managed that but by the time I sat down I was thinking — I am a walking fashion, hair and makeup disaster. I never should go out in the light of day, much less to hobnob at the Carlton hotel in Cannes. But I was there to do a job, of course, to help promote the film Inside Llewyn Davis, which is like asking me to help promote the French croissant. Not the hardest job in the world.
Audiences will go in to Shield of Straw hoping for something other than what director Takashi Miike has in mind, especially devotees of this director’s more violent, cult-horror style. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The worst thing a filmmaker can do is stagnate, relying on the same formula. There is no danger with that with Miike, who often dips into different styles throughout his prolific body of work. His latest, in competition at the Cannes Film Fest, will likely be another step in a new direction. It could leave viewers less than satisfied as it adheres to its objective, refusing to ever give his audience the blood lust they seek and is so seldom given.
Shield of Straw is about a police security team hired to protect a loathsome criminal, in custody for brutally raping and killing a 7 year-old girl. Disgusted, her grandfather offers a bounty to anyone who can successfully kill him. He adds two conditions — it must be sanctioned by the police and it must be considered “involuntary manslaughter.” But those conditions don’t appear to be on the minds of those who want the billion yen reward for carrying out the execution.
(Press release) BEVERLY HILLS, CA – The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences approved rules for the 86th Oscars®. The most significant change affects the Animated Feature Film category.
In this category, the new rule designates a maximum of two award recipients, one of whom must have a producer credit. The director and/or key creative individual shall continue to be a recipient, and in the circumstance of a two-person team with shared and equal director credit, a third statuette may be awarded.
French proverb: Patience passe science.
(There’s nothing so shrewd as patience.)
Cannes, once again soaked under a deluge of rain and cold weather, isn’t how the residents and business owners of Cannes like it to be this time of year. You can’t stop the weather.
The festival so far has been mostly marked by rain, with so many umbrellas as far as the eye can see, and those cheerfully selling umbrellas on the street are the only street vendors having a good season. It was into this on Saturday that I made my way down to the Debussy to wait in line to see the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, which was having its first screening at the smaller theater here in Cannes.
Two hours early is way too early for a screening at that theater, as usually one hour — if you have a blue badge — will suffice. But a popular screening like this one, even in the cold and rain, was going to be packed. Being at the front of the line maybe meant you could get in but I was taking no chance that I wouldn’t, after a two hour wait. In the rain.
Another blogger, Hollywood.com’s Matt Patches vowed to join me and sure enough, there he was, first in line down at the Dubussy. Shortly after that, Craig Kennedy showed up and little by little people starting crowding the line. Even the yellow-badged festival goers were lining up, on the slim chance they’d get in. You give it your best shot, even if it seems futile. Inside Llewyn Davis ought to have been shown in the bigger theater, the Grande Lumiere but for some unknown reason it was screening at the Dubussy. Perhaps it required a slightly more intimate first look or maybe there was something else scheduled at the Lumiere.
I’m going into each film here at the festival knowing as little in advance as I can possibly manage. I’m not even reading the official catalog entries so I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect from prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike. My only hope was that he’d help blow off a little mid-festival langueur and he certainly did that with Shield of Straw, a brisk crime thriller that sneaks in a uniquely Japanese cultural punch. Every year, Cannes manages to work one or two nifty genre exercises in between the Important humanist tone poems and this year Miike fit in nicely.
Two excellent cops, a man and a woman of similar skill but different personalities, are assigned to escort a child murderer from Fukuoka to Tokyo. The hitch is that the man has just been let out of prison for his crimes, but DNA evidence at a new crime scene points directly at him. When the victim’s super-rich industrialist grandfather offers up a billion yen reward for the suspect’s murder, just about everyone in Japan all the way up the echelons of the police force, want a piece. As attempt piles upon attempt, it becomes increasingly clear someone connected is leaking the whereabouts of the transport.