I haven’t missed a press film screening in Cannes so far (despite of my lowest-of-the-low shit-coloured badge), thanks to the majestic 2,000+ seating capacity of the Grand Théâtre Lumière. Three films in a row today I had to catch in the superbly decked cinema palace without breaking a sweat, smoothly gliding through the queues, the plush red-carpeted stairs and into the film auditorium. Seriously, one can get used to this so easily.
However, early screening for the new Atom Egoyan didn’t go down well, as The Captive turns out to be a thuddingly conventional, even laughably preposterous child abduction drama that tries hard to be Cronenbergian in its first-half then ripping off Denis Villeneuve’s similarly-themed Prisoners in its latter half. It’s no coincidence that they’re all Canadian filmmakers. What a messy screenplay with poor plotting and clunky characterisations. I feel mildly sorry for Ryan Reynolds, who’s stuck in all of this clusterfuck, and his performance is actually the finest element in an ill-conceived film. If you want to see a better, star-making performance from Reynolds, go see Marjane Satrapi’s The Voices instead. The guy has wonderful acting chops.
Fancying a break from all the heavy arthouse lifting throughout the entire festival, I gave Mathieu Amalric’s elegantly-titled La Chambre Bleue for something more decidedly commercial and colourful How To Train Your Dragon 2. Because highbrow taste right now can just suck it all up. I loved the first installment, and it’s one Dreamworks animation that I don’t find insulting nor patronising. The sequel is a burst of joy – both spectacular and engaging. The animation quality is world-class, and despite being targeted to preschool kids, there are themes of war, diplomacy, fealty, family and sacrifice that feels totally au fait in the grown-up world. It is, of course, as sequels go, marginally inferior than the predecessor, but it delivers the goods and the Sigur Rós soundtrack is as delightful as the Riviera sun.
After the cheerful break and a quick baguette lunch under the sun, I made my way back to the Lumière after half and hour of trying to get through the security barriers around the Croisette. Turns out it’s the red-carpet premiere of Winter Sleep, with serial funster Nuri Bilge Ceylan in da house, y’all. If that all sounds incredibly upbeat, the film isn’t. I subjected myself away from the magnificent Riviera sunshine into the crepuscular darkness to watch a 3-hour and 16-minute meandering dialogue that’s more potent than a sleeping pill (it’s not entitled Winter Sleep for nothing). I found out afterwards that many liked it, even some praised it as Ceylan’s masterpiece. But I think otherwise. It’s deeply philosophical and contemplative at times, but most of Winter Sleep are made out of self-indulgent conversation pieces that tries hard to say IMPORTANT things about marriage, morality, the forces of good, the evil in the world, broken car windows, Shakespeare and white horses. It feels like Ceylan has seen Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation and Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes of a Marriage in one-sitting (come and think of it, this would make an awesome double-bill) and tried conceiving his own variation and ends up extending every scene into extreme lengths. It gives ‘slow cinema’ a new terrible meaning, and Winter Sleep is overwritten, overlong and over-satisfied of itself. Even Bergman’s slowest films have rhythm to them. Ceylan’s approach is slower than a funeral march.
I didn’t even try to queue up for my intended fourth film of the day, the Argentinian Relatos Salvajes as I was monumentally tired. A hot shower was needed and the bed just looked so ultra-seductive. Please don’t crucify me for hitting the sack so early on a Friday night in the French Riviera, of all places. God, I’m getting old.