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The Salle Debussy, which seats 1065, sits just next to the larger 2300 seat Grand Theatre Lumiere (2300 seats) on the Croisette in Cannes. It is in this smaller theater that the Un Certain Regard section of Festival de Cannes takes place.
It’s always been difficult to pinpoint the difference between this sidebar and the competition film. Perhaps these are “edgier” films; maybe they’re “smaller” films that might be swallowed up by the high expectations of the competition. In any event, some of the more interesting films of the festival can be found here. This year first time filmmakers shared the venue with veterans.
Mathieu Almaric, the prolific French actor, was here with his fourth feature as a director, The Blue Room. Almaric co-wrote the screenplay from a Georges Simenon novel and he also stars in this story of lovers under investigation for murder. As a director, Almaric lends a certain precision and clarity to his work. Here he even shoots the film in a standard academy ratio (more square than widescreen) to add a claustrophobic note. Although it didn’t win a prize, “The Blue Room” was one of the more successful films in the section.
Somewhat less successful in the final analysis, but quite fascinating in conception is Jessica Hausner’s Amour Fou. Hausner has turned the suicide of German Romantic-era poet Heinrich von Kleist into a 19th century rom-com –- a very dry comedy.
Ruben Ostlund, whose previous film Play was in Directors Fortnight in 2011 won this year’s Un Certain Regard jury prize for Force Majeure, a morality play of sorts. The fabric holding a young family together begins to tear and pull apart when a near accident threatens their skiing holiday. Ostlund always makes his audience think, but in a politically-uncomfortable way, so the conversations about his work can as complex as the films themselves.
Lisandro Alonso has been making a name for himself with small jewels of films, such as La Libertad and Liverpool. Starring Viggo Mortensen, Jauja is a gripping adventure with Mortensen as a Danish engineer searching for his daughter in the mysterious landscape of Patagonia. Visually rich, this film could get Alonso noticed on a larger stage.
Ryan Gosling entered Un Certain Regard with his debut film as a director, Lost River. Having such regard for him as an actor, hopes were high. But unfortunately the story, of a mother trying to raise her sons in a seedily mysterious town, doesn’t hold up.
Asia Argento made an appearance with her fourth film as a director. Misunderstood is a story of a young girl’s struggle to find herself in the middle of a family of narcissists. Argento’s protagonist, who narrates the film – or is she just telling a story? – conflates her own reality with fantasy and the result is charming, witty and poignant.
White God won the grand prize in this section, and with good reason. This Romanian feature, directed by Kornel Mundruczo (who has been in Cannes with other films, Delta and Tender Son – The Frankenstein Project among them) is a grand story of good vs evil as well as a coming of age tale. As a young girl tries to find her pet dog who has been thrown into the streets by her father, she grows up fast while the dog learns hard lessons in the street.
All of these films, as well as the rest that make up the Un Certain Regard selection, offered an overview of what boundary-pushing films will be coming up on theater screens in the coming year. It was a great way to get started.
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