Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Director: Joe Berlinger
Spinal Tap made flesh in this entertaining all access peek at Metallica’s attempt to reconvene and solve various personal in-fighting issues and record a new album. Along for the ride is a psychoanalyst, trying to get them in the ‘zone’ and justify his $40,000 per month fee. Frequently hilarious (the lyric writing sessions are especially amusing), it’s a well-made (if a tad overlong) and intelligent access-all-areas doc that should continue the recent renaissance of the documentary as a theatrical entity. Not just for the ageing heavy metal fans amongst us.
Down to the Bone
Director: Debra Cranik
Low-key, even lower-budget but extremely affecting blue collar tale of drug addiction amongst working class American families. Likely to be reviewed favourably – the approach to the material is non-sensationalist and the central performances from a cast of relative unknowns are top notch.
Director: Nicole Kassell
Provocative tale of a ‘reformed’ paedophile – a characteristically committed Kevin Bacon replacing James Woods as the scumbag of choice – attempting to piece his life back together following a lengthy spell in prison. Bacon performance aside (his spouse Kyra Sedgwick offers strong acting support, as does rapper Mos Def) the film drew something of a mixed reaction and is certainly overly simplistic and schematic on numerous levels (for example the Bacon character is re-housed opposite a junior school). That said, films of this nature are rarely without flaws and for the most part the material is approached with sensitivity and care.
The 7th Day
Director: Carlos Saura
Based on a real-life tale of a violent, repeatedly simmering feud amongst villagers in a small Spanish village, Carlos Saura’s The 7th Day marks a strong return to form for the highly regarded Spanish auteur. The film is beautiful to look at – and features a wonderful score – and the end, when it comes is genuinely shocking and unsettling.
Director: Alfonso Arau
The most expensive film in the history of Mexican cinema, Zapata is something of a disappointment given that it marked Alfonso Arau’s much heralded return to domestic production. A historical account of the life and death of the Mexican revolutionary, the performances are uneven, the narrative trajectory confusing and the special effects unconvincing.
Musica Cubana: Sons of Havana
Producer: Wim Wenders
Clichéd look at the attempts of an ageing Cuban musical legend’s attempts to draw together the emerging singers, songwriters and musicians that will hopefully forge the future musical identity of his country. Sentimental and Buena Vista Social Club-lite, this feels like an adjunct to that superior (if overrated) movie. Great music though.
Coffee and Cigarettes
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Series of vignettes in which the likes of Tom Waits, Bill Murray, Jack and Meg White and Steve Coogan meet and discuss the pleasures of, you’ve guessed it….coffee and cigarettes. Shot over a period of some ten years – resultantly a number of the pieces have been seen previously – it is an intermittently amusing curiosity piece with some sequences working far better than other. Best of the bunch, a barely disguised Bill Murray turning down green tea from RZA and Genius/GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan.
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
One of several digital restorations, this sixties classic stood up extremely well. Though its snail’s pace narrative may test the patience of a commercial, paying audience but its status amongst cineastes can only be enhanced. A fitting epitaph for David Hemmings, never better than in the lead role of the photographer, and the Herbie Hancock soundtrack (also featuring The Yardbirds) still sounds fantastic.
Director: Vinko Bresnan
Largely unsung Croatian film revolving around a child who witnesses the execution of her father and must therefore herself be killed, I found this one of the most intelligent, satisfying and prescient films of the festival. Beautifully shot and played and employing a complex but beguiling narrative structure (á la Kieslowski, the same events are repeated from the perspective of different characters), this is sadly unlikely to gain distribution in the UK and I was firmly in the minority in liking it.
Director: Jean Luc Godard
Admired by some, though I found this a huge disappointment after Eloge de l’amour. It’s certainly topical and pretty to look at, but suggestions that this is the film Michael Moore should have made are perplexing. Not without its moments but largely opaque, dense and frequently downright impenetrable.
Director: Richard Hawkins
A film with few redeeming features. As a man, for personal reasons later revealed to relate to his daughter, interested in the activities of a Soho prostitute, Ray Winstone distils his whole career into one lazy, unfocused turn. Sheds little light on prostitution or sexual proclivity, there is very little to recommend it.
Director: Piotr Trzaskalski
Relentlessly grim but utterly compelling look at life in contemporary Poland, focusing on the attempts of the Edi (Eddie) of the character to eke out a meagre living by collecting scrap metal whilst avoiding the attentions of a pair of sadistic debt collectors. The film opens with a shot of rain pouring down onto the chilly streets and thereafter maintains a suitably dour, melancholic tone.
The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Flat, uninspiring but watchable (just) account of a seemingly charmless and certainly self-hating Peter Sellers. Geoffrey Rush is intermittently impressive in the central role but the rest of the cast is a largely unappetising hotchpotch of British also rans (Nigel Havers as David Niven!) and director Hopkins displays a remarkable lack of subtlety throughout. One or two decent moments (John Lithgow as Blake Edwards is involved in most of them), but overall a disappointment. The decision to replicate key scenes from Sellers movies also seems spectacularly misjudged.
Director: Olivier Assayas
Began unsteadily and is certainly clichéd, but this account of the widow of a dead rock star attempting to piece her life back together in order that she can get access to her young son gradually morphed into something rather moving (a kind of Kramer versus Kramer for the ipod generation). Maggie Cheung won the best actress prize in the central role and there’s support from Nick Nolte, Beatrice Dalle and Don McKellar. Director Assayas can be very hit and miss (as the recent Demonlover revealed) but he was back to something approaching his best here and this was a sobering, intelligent picture.
The Big Red One
Director: Sam Fuller
One of the most pleasurable experiences of Cannes 2004 was the fully restored cut of Fuller’s classic – if all too rarely seen – war epic. Featuring over 60 minutes of augmented footage, this was powerful, invigorating stuff that drew a wildly appreciate response from a sell out audience. The length may count against it but this certainly deserves to be back and viewed on the big screen. Lee Marvin is phenomenal.
Director: Sebastian Cordero
A riveting hunt for a child murderer led by a news hungry, self-serving TV reporter (John Leguizamo, surprisingly effective) set in contemporary Ecuador, this film has a real potential to break out in the same way as Amores Perros and y tu mamá. The pedigree behind the film is impeccable, with Alfonso Cuarón, Bertha Navarro and Guillermo del Toro all producing. There are parallels with Natural Born Killers in the way in which the media manipulates truth for its own ends, and though this does flag slightly in the middle, this is so much better.