My faith in cinema has been gloriously restored today by the new Dardenne brothers film Two Days, One Night (or its much better sounding title Deux Jours, Une Nuit). Perhaps it’s somewhat predictable that two of the most celebrated filmmakers in world cinema have produced another bonafide masterwork, something that’s expected with every new Dardenne output, a matter of fact that nearly everyone takes for granted.
Some minority has condemned the siblings for regurgitating the same thematic patchwork, with Two Days, One Night tackling the same working-class milieu that the brothers have been championing ever since their breakout La Promesse in 1996. This is true in some levels, but you can never condemn them for lacking creativity and humanity. Their latest one is up there as one of their finest in the pantheon occupied by masterpieces The Son, The Child and Rosetta, featuring an immense, towering, finely nuanced performance by Marion Cotillard, who seems to take the acting profession like a walk in the park these days and still manage to deliver a powerhouse turn.
It’s the first day I decided to wear a suit (the things that I do for the Dardenne), but that’s soon spoiled as watching Two Days, One Night made me weep into my crisp linen shirt, which I had to blow dry later in the wash room. This is the film I’ve seen in the Competition so far that so truly deserves to bag the Palme d’Or this Sunday, and it will be one for the history books with the Dardennes brothers winning their 3rd Palme. Fingers crossed.
From the immensely affecting to the provocative territoryI proceeded to Canadian stalwart David Cronenberg’s furious and infuriating Maps to the Stars only to miss out on fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River (I still personally prefer the erstwhile title How To Catch A Monster). Baby Goose can wait, as Cronenberg takes an upper-hand in my must-watch list.
Just look at that queue outside Salle de Soixantiéme, fans are camping out for Cronenberg under the sun.
And the film hardly disappoints, sending a jet-black missive to the Hollywood tinseltown that’s as black as tar. It’s his strongest work since Eastern Promises. A Dangerous Method delivered fine performances at the expense of a satisfying film and Cosmopolis was fatally self-possessed and too talky for its own good, while Maps redeems the Cronenbergian predilection for dark, deliciously twisted narratives, subverting the Hollywood satire with edgy self-awareness and freakshow dynamics that’s not so dissimilar from Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard via David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Cronenberg includes in his dark tale, among many other crazy badassery, delusional fading stars, murderous schizophrenics, drug-addled child stars, submissive stage parents, ghosts, threesomes and incest that’s more Lynchian than what Lynch produces these days, which is next to none. It’s not always 100% satisfying and somehow falls short of greatness, but it fascinates and bewilder in equal measure. There’s also Julianne Moore deliciously chewing the scene, and Mia Wasikowska proving a cunning choice of casting, remarkably extending his excellent work in Park Chan-wook’s Stoker.
So from two splendid films, my seventh day in Cannes went downhill quickly as I manage catch Ryan Gosling’s directorial deeyboo Lost River, which is a strong contender for the most divisive film to play in the festival this year. Baby Goose along with voluptuous Christina Hendricks and cool guy Matt Smith are all in the house for the premiere in Salle Debussy. There was tremendous applause, but I suppose that’s obligatory for celebrities. Last year, I saw Only God Forgives in Cannes and I loved it, fought for its reputation and even argued its merits. While Lost River is very similar to Refn’s aesthetics, it’s not one for the battle. This is a losing game.
Sure, my love for visually-driven, stylish movies have been stroked to satisfaction, but I emerged out of this film empty. It’s a visually accomplished work – hypnotic, bizarre and sometimes striking – but Baby Goose really needs to knuckle down and enroll himself to a writing workshop. His characters are one-dimensional, despite Christina Hendricks looking like a pitch-perfect Lynchian damsel in distress and Ben Mendelsohn usurping the one crazy motherfucker role that Dennis Hopper used to own in Blue Velvet. Lost River wears its influences on its sleeve unabashedly, and we shouldn’t crucify first-time directors for their influences as we live in a postmodernist world where everyone emulates somebody else (go ask Tarantino). Gosling borrows/recycles David Lynch, Nicolas Winding Refn, Terrence Malick and the Italian Giallo horror to a fault, but what did we exactly expect from Baby Goose, something groundbreakingly original? Of course not.
Let Gosling make a second film, and let’s see how he figures out his own cinematic voice. Time will tell.