France

Stars at Noon (Claire Denis, France)

By Giovanni Marchini Camia / June 21, 2022

After waiting 34 years to return to the Cannes Competition, Claire Denis deserved a warm welcome back. Instead, she got to be the chosen victim of the Brown Bunny Syndrome, the annually recurring compulsion among festival attendees to proclaim a film as the worst ever to compete for the Palme d’Or. Although she received some vindication from the jury, who awarded her the Grand Prix (ex aequo, but still…), the critical vitriol is baffling.

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Festivals: Berlin | A Flower in the Mouth (Éric Baudelaire, South Korea/France/Germany)

By Deragh Campbell / March 21, 2022

Screening in this year’s Berlinale Forum, Éric Baudelaire’s unique take on Luigi Pirandello’s 1923 short play The Man with the Flower in His Mouth assumes the form of  a diptych: the first part is an observational documentary of Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer, the world’s largest flower market in the Netherlands; the second, a fictional, more explicit adaptation of Pirandello’s text, a conversation taking place over an evening in a Paris bar.

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The Tale of King Crab (Alessio Rigo de Righi, Matteo Zoppis, Italy/France/Argentina)

By Jay Kuehner / March 21, 2022

Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis expand and deflate, by slyly cinematic means, upon a tradition of racconti popolari and fiabe.

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El Gran Movimiento (Kiro Russo, Bolivia/France/Qatar/Switzerland)

By Jay Kuehner / January 4, 2022

By Jay Kuehner The tacit assumption of the “city symphony” is of a metropolis invariably harmonious, conducive to and cooperative with the machinations of both camera and director, the coalescence of an industrial apparatus. Kiro Russo’s native La Paz defies any such arrangement in El Gran Movimiento, which channels the inherent dissonance and manifest disparity…

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A Night of Knowing Nothing (Payal Kapadia, India/France)

By Erika Balsom / January 4, 2022

The sleep of reason produces monsters—or so said Francisco Goya, who used the phrase as the title of an aquatint published in 1799. The words appear as if etched into the side of a desk, atop of which a male figure slumps in slumber. From behind him, the menace comes: bats, owls, and cats emerge from the darkness with petrifying gazes, crowding around the man.

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The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, Norway/France/Sweden/Denmark)

By Beatrice Loayza / January 4, 2022

Desire tends to figure as a destructive force in the work of Joachim Trier. Anders (Anders Danielson Lie), the protagonist of Oslo, August 31 (2011), is a recovering drug addict who, by the end of the film, slips back into his old ways after a day of morale-crushing confrontations with his past.

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France (Bruno Dumont, France)

By Lawrence Garcia / September 20, 2021

the seven years since P’tit Quinquin, it has become impossible to continue tagging Bruno Dumont with the longstanding clichés of Bresson criticism. Epithets like “ascetic,” “severe,” “punishing”—already limited descriptors of his first two works, La vie de Jésus (1997) and L’humanité (1999)—have only become more obviously incapable of describing Dumont’s recent films, from the carnivalesque contortions of Ma Loute (2016) to the musical extremes of his Jeanne d’Arc movies.

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Ahed’s Knee (Nadav Lapid, France/Israel/Germany)

By James Lattimer / September 20, 2021

might leave a bigger scar. The Kindergarten Teacher (2014) and Synonyms (2019) already flirted with autobiography, but his fourth feature pushes forward into full autofiction, sending a director named Y. (Avshalom Pollak) to the Arava desert for a screening of one of his films, only to discover that open discussion of its content is frowned upon.

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Titane (Julie Ducournau, France/Belgium)

By Phil Coldiron / September 20, 2021

The erotic history of the car in cinema extends back nearly to the dawn of the medium: there’s Chaplin, in 1914, asserting in his first film that he’s a more enticing view than the soapbox derbies at the Kid Auto Races (no engines yet).

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New Order (Michel Franco, Mexico/France)

By Adam Nayman / June 15, 2021

“Mexico’s upper classes are asking for trouble,” Michel Franco told Variety last fall. With New Order,trouble has found them. The deep-crimson dress selected by prosperous newlywed Marianne (Naian González Norvind) for the lavish post-wedding party at her family’s spotless steel-and-glass estate is couture at its most ominous; don’t look now, but there will be blood.

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Azor (Andreas Fontana, Switzerland/France/Argentina)

By Jay Kuehner / June 15, 2021

Mark Twain’s quote that virtue has never been as respectable as money could easily delineate the sumptuously sordid habitat limned in Azor, except that it’s precisely the kind of wisdom that the film’s wealthy habitués and their attendant financiers might invoke with complacent irony from within their insulated milieu of smoky parlours, agapanthus-lined lobbies, manicured hippodromes, and dutifully swept piscinas.

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Beginning (Dea Kulumbegashvili, Georgia/France)

By Lawrence Garcia / December 22, 2020

By Lawrence Garcia Beginning opens with a sermon on the Old Testament tale of Abraham and Isaac, delivered to a Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Georgia’s predominantly Orthodox Christian Caucasus region. Just as the preacher, David (Rati Oneli), starts to expound on its implications regarding belief, the Kingdom Hall is firebombed by unseen attackers, transforming the…

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Transit (Christian Petzold, Germany/France)

By James Lattimer / September 28, 2018

By James Lattimer Christian Petzold’s progressive drift away from realism gathers pace in Transit, another melodrama of impossibility and despair that unfolds in a hyper-constructed amalgam of past and present as unstable as it is seamless. Yet the deliberately unresolved tension between ’40s Marseille and today is hardly the only element of slippage in the…

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The Load (Ognjen Glavonic, Serbia/France/Croatia/Iran/Qatar)

By Azadeh Jafari / September 28, 2018

By Azadeh Jafari The debut fiction feature by Ognjen Glavonic is the second time that the Serbian writer-director, who lived through the Yugoslav wars as a child, has explored the same shocking incident from the time of the Kosovo conflict. In his feature-length documentary Depth Two (2016), he mixed spoken testimonies from those involved with…

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Passion (Brian De Palma, France/Germany)

By Andrew Tracy / March 20, 2013

By Andrew Tracy Allow for the possibility that perspective can trump prejudice, I suppose. Eight months after seeing Brian De Palma’s Passion and thinking it ludicrous (probably intentional) and dreadful (presumably not), I’ve since scaled it back to the former—though the fact that it isn’t dreadful does not ipso facto mean it’s any fucking good.…

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Holy Motors (Leos Carax, France)

By Dennis Lim / June 24, 2012

By Dennis Lim The media gauntlet is so much a part of the Cannes infrastructure that Leos Carax’s decision to withdraw from it was both bold and telling. Despite having one of the most talked-about films at this year’s festival with Holy Motors, Carax granted no interviews, and his public pronouncements were confined to a…

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