“My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea” is the greatest/most spot-on movie title since “Snakes on a Plane” (and is much better than “Snakes on a Plane”)

“I like this idea,” the character of Dash Shaw says in the filmmaker Dash Shaw’s “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea.” “It has the quality of a dream.”

myentirehighschoolsinkingintothesea_02That notion holds for all of Shaw’s striking feature debut. The cartoonist is a well-known and prolific quantity in underground comics circles. NPR named  his “New School” one of the best of 2013. “Bottomless Belly Button” (Fantagraphics) and “Bodyworld” (Pantheon) are strong and distinctive — part Gary Panter punk squiggle, part Charles Shulz emotion, part fine art color sense, part 21st century technique.

“My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea,” written and directed by Shaw, takes his distinctive technique — a blend of traditional drawing, animation techniques (such as acetate drawings and paintings laid over a background that might be painted or colored by hand) and Photoshop – and translates it to a full-length animated feature. Well done, everybody.

Dash Shaw (voiced, in a perfect bit of casting, by Jason Schwartzman, who has made a career out of unlikable protagonists) is a sophomore. He and his best pal Assaf (Reggie Watts) work on the school newspaper with Verti (Maya Rudolph). Indeed, the three are the newspaper, and their daily lives are filled with what you remember from high school: mean girls such as Mary (Lena Dunham, also note perfect), weird lunch ladies named Lorrain (a very gravely Susan Sarandon) and various bullies.

Dash, who sees himself as the hero of his own life and possibly everyone else’s, loves the sound of his own voice, especially when overwriting for the paper. As Assaf and Verti grow closer, Shaw is feeling left out, printing bitter rants about his now-estranged friend. Determined to get a real scoop, Dash discovers a genuine problem with the school. Too late — an earthquake sends it literally falling into the ocean.

The allegory for struggling in high school becomes concrete (and rather damp) as Dash and his band of outcasts must avoid sharks, drowning and despair as they ascend the Titanic-like school to get to the senior floor and the roof, hopefully to “graduate” by surviving

Shaw (the creator) does a fine job mixing emotional nuance, surrealism and one of the most striking stylistic mash-ups most animation fans have ever seen (though it is almost exactly like Shaw’s comics work). Crude-looking (but very canny) black outlines are filled with flat, ever-shifting colors depending on mood and plot. Watercolors blend with gouache and oils, John Cameron Mitchell shows up as the king jock and there’s a really great ongoing Go Nagai joke.

Which all makes for a movie that turns a tired indie trope — the outcasts in high school flick — into something fresh, weird and at all times lovely to look at.

 

‘Arrival’ is the year’s best sci-fi film, bar none

"Arrival"
“Arrival”

Let’s get one thing clear: It takes nothing away from “Arrival” — as powerful as it is — to note that director Denis Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer were working with extraordinary raw material.

“Arrival,” which screened Sept. 21 as part of Fantastic Fest and will open wide in November, is based on “Story of Your Life” by the amazing Ted Chiang. It is perhaps the single best sci-fi novella of the past 25 years.

(Chiang, it should be noted, releases no wine before its time — of his 15 *total* short stories, novelettes and novellas, seven have won a total of 14 awards; dude’s batting average is insane).

Now, that said, “Story of Your Life” is a deeply internal work, and it is a tiny miracle that Villeneuve and Heisserer figured out a way to translate this tale to film in the first place, let alone make it so touching and smart.

It’s a movie about the day the world metaphorically shifted on its axis, but it is mostly the story of one woman.  Like the very best science fiction, “Arrival” is hopeful and a bit implausible and slightly corny and mind-bending and a little bit sad. It fills a where-do-we-go-from-here shaped hole in the heart and manages to be a canny look at the nature of grief and time at the same time.

We first see Lousie Banks (Amy Adams, as good as she gets without having a scene-chewy part) mourning the loss of her daughter, whom we see, in a montage, from her joyful birth to too-early death. Then, we see the aliens arrive — 12 smooth, black ovals, hovering over various points on the globe.

Banks, a brilliant linguist, is brought in by the military (represented by Forest Whitaker) and the CIA (represented by Michael Stuhlbarg) to attempt to communicate with the aliens — massive, seven-legged creatures that humans come to call “heptapods.” Their speech is impenetrable but, working with physicist Ian Donnelley (Jeremy Renner), Banks starts communicating with the heptapods, whose written language may or may not be the key to their presence on Earth.

While Banks holds off the U.S.’s military, the rest of the world (by which I mean the Chinese and Russians, mostly) is starting to freak out at this stuff. Paranoia soon takes over, and suddenly nobody is sharing information with anyone else. The question hangs in the air like one of the alien ships: Do the heptapods mean to do us harm, or are they here for another reason?

Adams gives a tight, measured performance, while Villeneuve,  cinematographer Bradford Young, composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and editor Joe Walker dole out information and color it in knowing ways, building to third act revelations that make for profoundly moving film-making, the sort that demands that you watch it again from the beginning.

 

 

“Oldboy” director Park Chan-wook explores crime, sensuality and colonial Korea with “The Handmaiden”

South Korean director Park Chan-wook at the Fantastic Fest film festival at the Alamo Drafthouse-South Lamar in Austin, Tx, on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. The filmmaker was on hand to introduce his new movie “The Handmaiden.” ALYSSA VIDALES/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
South Korean director Park Chan-wook at the Fantastic Fest film festival at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar on Sept. 22. The filmmaker was on hand to introduce his new movie “The Handmaiden.” ALYSSA VIDALES/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Park Chan-wook paces around the small karaoke room at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Given the savagery of the South Korean filmmaker’s increasingly legendary “Oldboy,” one of the gnarliest tales of revenge ever lensed, you’d perhaps think he was pacing “like a caged tiger” or “a man imprisoned” or some such nonsense.

Nope. Just a bad back.

Park, whose “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” Tim League himself has said was a direct influence on starting Fantastic Fest, is in town for the festival with his new film, “The Handmaiden,”  which is based loosely on Welsh author Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel “Fingersmith.” Park and his frequent writing partner Chung Seo-kyung move the story from Victorian England to Japanese-occupied Korea in 1930s.

And yes, some small spoilers follow.

“The Handmaiden” follows a pickpocket named Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) who is ordered by the con man leader of her crew, Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo), to get herself hired as a servant to the wealthy heiress Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) so Fujiwara can ingratiate himself with Hideko and steal her wealth.

Instead, Sook-hee and Hideko fall in love. And things get complicated. Extremely, plot-twisty complicated. Three-chapters-from-three-different-perspectives complicated.

Park says he changed the setting for very specific narrative reasons. “It is a story about these two women falling in love,” Park says. “The first hurdle in their relationship is class. The second: the fact that they are deceiving each other. Thirdly, the fact that they are of the same sex. These are the three elements getting in the way of their love.”

In moving the story to Japanese-occupied Korea, Park was able to add a few more elements.

“They are now of different nationalities, two different nations that are opposed to each other, and they have to overcome this animosity as well,” Park says. “I added on top of that the age difference between the two characters. There is more of a gap between the two in the movie than in the novel. In Asian cultures, age difference adds a bit of hierarchy. All of these are hindrances for these characters to achieve love as equals.”

Park adds that the topic of Japanese-occupied Korea is still a delicate one: “Because it’s a touchy subject,” he says, “it’s not properly dealt with in mainstream cinema.”

Then again, it also allowed for Park to introduce the character of Uncle Kouzuki, a Korean collector of rare erotica who is posing as Japanese. Kouzuki lives in a bizarre home (literally one half is a European mansion, the other half is a traditional Japanese house) and is a key figure in the complicated narrative

“Kouzuki is basically a Japanese sympathizer, and his presence is felt throughout the film,” Park says. “Even in the scenes he is not there, because he has designed this house with those philosophies. He is worshiping the Japanese and Western culture filtered by the Japanese that has made it into Korea.”

Explicit but never pornographic, the sexiest scene might be the least conventionally hot, when Sook-hee files down her mistresses tooth while the latter takes a bath.

Park says this was a key scene for him deciding to make the movie. “They were clothed in the book, but I could imagine the sound of the thimble (used to file the tooth) and I could imagine the characters in such proximity that they could hear each other’s breaths and heartbeats,” Park says. “I wanted to see this scene in a film.

“It is such a sensual moment and I wanted to amplify it a bit by moving it to the bath with the steam and the flowers all around. These two women are shy, they will avert their gaze from each other. But it is a scene about that moment when you are taken by somebody. Your heart is beating because you have fallen head over heels for somebody so quickly. It is a moment of emotional tremor.”

“The Handmaiden” will be in theaters in October.

 

Tim Burton brings ‘Miss Peregrine’ to Fantastic Fest!

" Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children"
” Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

Tim Burton brings his adaptation of “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children” while  Don Coscarelli, architect of the Phantasm series, delivers the world premiere of “Phantasm: Ravager” and a “remastered” print of “Phantasm” reps for Fantastic Fest announced Tuesday.

The 12th edition of the Drafthouse-based, genre-focused festival runs Sept 25 to 29.

Fantastic Fest 2016 posters
Fantastic Fest 2016 posters

Fantastic Fest also broke out the first wave of screenings, inlcuding a block of new and repertory South Asian features, including director Anurag Kashyareap’s cut of his violent 2016 picture “Psycho Raman,” the centuries-spanning epic “Magadheera” and the stylish Bollywood gangster film “Khalnayak.”

“We are celebrating not only Bollywood but also Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam cinema, said Fest programming head Evrim Ersoy. “highlighting the kaleidoscope of textures and content that is as wide and varied as the subcontinent itself.”

The special screening of “Phantasm: Remastered” which will stream live to art house theaters across the country celebrating Art House Theater Day Sept.24.  Coscarelli will be joined in attendance with cast members and “Ravager” director David Hartman.

Alamo Drafthouse’s film collectibles arm Mondo will also be participating with poster, apparel and soundtrack releases made exclusively for the screenings.

Fantastic Fest is also partnering with Los Angeles virtual reality studio Dark Corner to world-premiering Guy Shelmerdine’s  VR film “Mule,” his follow-up to “Catatonic,” which will also screen. Look for Justin Denton’s two-part horror piece “Burlap,” which is both a two-dimensional short film and an immersive VR experience. Audiences can watch the short film, then step inside the story with “Burlap: Reflections,” where they will experience the killer’s sinister obsession firsthand.

Everything Is Terrible! bring work to Fantastic Fest for the first time with the world première of their latest assemblage of found footage, while legendary exploitation filmmaker James Bryan (“Lady Street Fighter;” Don’t Go In the Woods) will be on hand to world-premiere his never-before-seen VHS-era horror movie “Jungle Trap.” Shot in 1990, the film was shelved unedited and without a musical soundtrack, but has finally been cut and scored a quarter century later.

Check out first wave film lineup below (and let us know what you think):

 

24X36: A MOVIE ABOUT MOVIE POSTERS

Canada, 2016

World Premiere, 83 min

Director – Kevin Burke

Through interviews with art personalities from the past four decades, 24 x 36 examines the birth, death and resurrection of illustrated movie poster art.

 

A DARK SONG

Ireland, 2016

World Premiere, 99 min

Director – Liam Gavin

Sophia is a determined young woman who hires a weird occultist to perform a ritual which will risk not only their lives and souls, but also the very essence of their being.

 

ALOYS

Switzerland, France, 2016

US Premiere, 91 min

Director – Tobias Nölle

Aloys Adorn is a lonely private investigator who, after the death of his father, finds himself sucked into a mysterious “telephone walking” game with a mysterious woman who might be his only hope.

 

AMERICAN HONEY

United States, 2016

Texas Premiere, 158 min

Director – Andrea Arnold

Andrea Arnold’s first US feature follows 18-year-old Star as she leaves her home in Oklahoma and goes in search of adventure, adulthood and America.

 

BELIEF: THE POSSESSION OF JANET MOSES

New Zealand, 2015

US Premiere, 89 min

Director – David Stubbs

The true story of the Wainuiomata exorcism provides the basis for David Stubbs’ striking debut feature, a documentary exploring the tragic death of Janet Moses in a traditional Maori exorcism ceremony.

 

THE CREW

France, 2016

US Premiere, 81 min

Director – Julien Leclercq

It’s bad men face versus worse men as thieves face off against dealers in this super slick French heist thriller from the director of Chrysalis and The Assault.

 

DEAREST SISTER

Laos, France, Estonia, 2016

World Premiere, 100 min

Director – Mattie Do

After moving to the city, a poor woman realizes her recently blinded cousin can not only commune with the dead, but they can provide a path to much-needed wealth.

 

DOWN UNDER

Australia, 2016

North American Premiere, 87 min

Director – Abraham Forsythe

In the aftermath of massive race riots, two carloads of dim-witted alpha males set off to defend their respective territory with outrageous results in this sharp edged Australian satire.

 

THE DWARVES MUST BE CRAZY

Thailand, 2016

World Premiere, 92 min

Director – Bhin Banloerit

A Thai village of little people is attacked by evil, butt-munching, fart-tracking Krause spirits – floating heads with attached intestines – in this slapstick horror-comedy.


FAULTLESS

France, 2016

North American Premiere, 103 min

Director – Sébastien Marnier

After burning out in Paris, Constance returns to her home town only to find herself in lethal competition with a younger girl for her old job.


FRAUD

United States, 2016

Texas Premiere, 53 min

Director – Dean Fleischer-Camp

A family’s home movies document a desperate crime, and the subsequent bid to escape the consequences in this impressionistic meta-fiction born from the manipulation of hundreds of hours of innocuous uploads to YouTube. An extraordinary feat of editing, a provocative parable of the pursuit of happiness and a disturbing demonstration of the mutability of the stories we share in the Internet age.


THE GREASY STRANGLER

United States, 2016

Special Screening, 93 min

Director – Jim Hosking

Ronnie fears his first love affair is turning his father into a bloodthirsty monster who’s covered in grease and has an 18-inch penis that looks like a dead chicken.

 

JUNGLE TRAP : Presented By Bleeding Skull

United States, 1990/2016

World Premiere, 80 min

Director – James Bryan

Exploitation demigod James Bryan’s massively entertaining, decapitation-fueled shot-on-video horror masterpiece about a jungle hotel haunted by kill-crazy ghosts in loin cloths, shot in 1990 and unreleased until THIS VERY MOMENT.

 

KHALNAYAK

India, 1993

Repertory Screening, 190 min

Director – Subhash Ghai

Ballu is an unrepentant gangster who has dedicated his life to the celebration of villainy. He is a bad, bad man and not ashamed one bit. However, with the help of his mother and a sympathetic cop, Ballu will rise above his circumstances to gain satisfying redemption.

 

MAGADHEERA

India, 2009

Repertory Screening, 157 min

Director – S.S. Rajamouli

Harsha, a dirt bike racer, lives for thrills. One day he crosses paths with Indu, a girl with whom he feels strangely connected. Through this bond, Harsha discovers his hidden identity: a reincarnated warrior king.

 

MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

United States, 2016

Special Screening, 123 min

Director – Tim Burton

From visionary director Tim Burton, and based upon the best-selling novel, comes an unforgettable motion picture experience.  When Jake discovers clues to a mystery that spans alternate realities and times, he uncovers a secret refuge known as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As he learns about the residents and their unusual abilities, Jake realizes that safety is an illusion, and danger lurks in the form of powerful, hidden enemies. Jake must figure out who is real, who can be trusted, and who he really is.

 

ORIGINAL COPY

Germany, 2016

Texas Premiere, 95 min

Directors – Florian Heinzen-Ziob and Georg Heinzen

In the heart of Mumbai, behind the screen of one of the last Hindi Film cinemas, lives Sheik Rahman, the city’s last painter of film posters. This is his story.

 

PHANTASM: REMASTERED (1979)

United States, 1979

Special Screening, 88 min

Director – Don Coscarelli

One of the most influential and important horror films of all time, Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm returns to Alamo Drafthouse’s screens in a gorgeous 4k remaster.

 

PHANTASM: RAVAGER

United States, 2016

World Premiere, 87

Director – David Hartman

The fifth and final film in the classic Phantasm film series, Phantasm Ravager follows our intrepid everyman hero Reggie on his quest across dark dimensions as he struggles to confront and vanquish the sinister Tall Man.

 

POPOZ

The Netherlands, 2015

International Premiere, 85 min

Directors- Erwin van de Eshof & Martijn Smits

Festival favorite Huub Smit (New Kids Nitro; New Kids Turbo; Bros Before Hos) stars as a Dutch cop raised on far too many American action films in this outrageous action comedy.

 

PSYCHO RAMAN

India, 2016

US Premiere, 127 min

Director – Anurag Kashyap

Raghavan is a cop: brutal, violent, and drug-addicted. Ramanna is a criminal: psychotic, unpredictable, and vicious. It’s only a matter of time before they meet and when they do, Mumbai’s slums will be colored deep crimson.

 

SALT AND FIRE

Mexico, 2016

North American Premiere, 93 min

Director – Werner Herzog

Herzog’s most wildly unpredictable film, Salt and Fire is a meticulously slow burning, quasi-ecological thriller punctuated by moments of the lyrically poetic and the inexplicably, outrageously absurd.

 

S IS FOR STANLEY

Italy, 2016

North American Premiere, 82 min

Director – Alex Infascelli

Alex Infascelli’s documentary about Emilio D’Alessandro, Stanley Kubrick’s personal assistant for more than thirty years, which provides never-before-seen insight into the private auteur.


THE VOID

Canada, 2016

World Premiere, 90 min

Directors – STEVEN KOSTANSKI & JEREMY GILLESPIE

Trapped in a hospital with a handful of people, a small town sheriff finds himself caught up in the demented plot of a death-obsessed madman.

 

 

 

WE ARE THE FLESH

Mexico, 2016

Texas Premiere, 80 min

Director – Emiliano Rocha Minter

Somewhere within a ruined city, a man makes an offer to a pair of siblings who wander into his abandoned building: food and shelter in exchange for building a strange room…

 

ZOOLOGY

Russia, France, Germany, 2016

US Premiere, 87 min

Director – Ivan I. Tverdovsky

Natasha is a lonely, middle-aged woman who still lives with her mother and feels insecure about her tedious life… until she grows a tail.

 

 

 

Cannes, the final day: Britain’s Loach wins Palme for ‘I, Daniel Blake’

Hayley Squires and Dave Johns in "I, Daniel Blake."
Hayley Squires and Dave Johns in “I, Daniel Blake.”

 

In a big surprise, Britain’s Ken Loach won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival Sunday evening, his second after 2006’s “The Wind That Shakes the Barley.”

And in yet another surprise, the highly divisive “It’s Only the End of the World” from French-Canadian director Xavier Dolan took the grand prix, or second prize, while the critical favorite, “Toni Edmann,” by Germany’s Maren Ade was shut out. Also missing from the award winners were two highly acclaimed American films, Austin director Jeff Nichols’ “Loving” and Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson.”

“The Salesman” from Iran’s Asghar Farhadi took best screenplay and best actor, for Shahab Hosseini. Best director was shared between Romania’s Cristian Mungiu for “Graduation” and France’s Olivier Assayas for “Personal Shopper,” another highly divisive film that starred Kristen Stewart.

Britain’s Andrea Arnold won third place, the jury prize, for the American-set “American Honey,” while Jaclyn Jose of Brillante Mendoza’s “Ma’ Rosa” won best actress. The latter was also a surprise, since Isabelle Huppert wowed critics with her performance in Paul Verhoeven’s thriller “Elle.”

The Camera d’Or, which goes to first-time directors, went to “Divines,” which played in Directors’ Fortnight.

MORE FROM CANNES: Talking animals and religion with director Jim Jarmusch

The ceremony capped a contentious festival, where many critics voiced strong opinions about the competition entries. The biggest victim of the annual barrage of vitriol was Sean Penn’s “The Last Face,” which ended up getting the lowest score in history from the critics featured in the British trade journal Screen International. It got only 1 star from two critics, and the rest gave it an “X,” or “F.”

Loach’s Palme winner, however, was in the middle of the critical pack. It has an overt political message, criticizing the bureaucracy that administers the British welfare system. It stars Dave Johns as Daniel Blake, a pensioner who faces loss of payments, and Hayley Squires as Katie, a single mother of two who is befriended by Daniel after she, too, loses battles with the welfare bureaucracy.

It’s a very touching, humanistic tale, as most of Loach’s movies are. But it treads dangerous ground in almost becoming too preachy — a turnoff for most critics. Still, it has heart, and Loach is a veteran, beloved filmmaker in Cannes.

Dolan’s victory was greeted with boos in the press audience. But his movie, which deals with a gay man who goes home to tell his family that he is dying,  has been far underrated by critics, some of whom deride the 27-year-old for his early success. He first appeared in Cannes when he was only 19 and has become Canada’s filmmaking prodigy.

It’s too early to say which films from Cannes will be contenders for an Oscar. Certainly, Iran’s “The Salesman” should be among the best foreign language Oscar contenders, if Iran chooses to submit it. Variety and other American outlets have been predicting that Nichols’ “Loving” will also be an Oscar contender.

Cannes Day 10: Two fine movies close out competition

Isabelle Huppert gives a wicked performance in "Elle."
Isabelle Huppert gives a wicked performance in “Elle.”

Two fine but very different movies — Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle” and Asghar Farad’s “The Salesman” — closed out the competition this weekend for the Palme d’Or in Cannes. And either one could get a major prize.

First, let’s talk about the deliciously evil and perverse “Elle.” Verhoeven, who brought “Basic Instinct” to Cannes in 1992, is back with another tale of a woman in danger who is also dangerous.

This time, it’s the brilliant Isabelle Huppert as Michele, a video game company founder in Paris who is raped by a man in a black ski mask in her luxurious home at the beginning of the film. Michele doesn’t act the way you might think. Once the rapist leaves, she calmly cleans up the broken glass from the floor. Then she takes a hot bath, not crying, just going about cleaning up in a methodical way.

She doesn’t call the police. At first, she doesn’t even tell anyone. She goes to work the next day and pretends nothing happened while giving instructions to her employees about how to build the suspense in a violent video game.

We slowly discover why Michele has an aversion to going to the police, and why she’s so determined to stay in control of life. When she was a child, her father went on a killing spree in Paris, and after the massacre, he came back home and asked his girl to help burn up the family possessions. She did, and as her father was being arrested, she was photographed in front of the fire, with ashes on her face. Ever since, she has been associated with the murders and has fought hard to build a prosperous life.

The rapist has her cell number and starts texting her, and she suspects that the perp might be someone who works for her. But we’re kept guessing.

She has a loser son, Vincent (Jonas Bloquet), who works at a fast-food joint. The husband whom she divorced is named Richard (Charles Berling), and he’s a frustrated writer. Her best friend is Anna (Anne Consigny), who co-founded the game company with Michele. And her next-door neighbors are the stockbroker Patrick (Laruent Lafitte) and his religious wife Rebecca (Virginie Efira).

All of these characters are introduced with skill by Verhoeven, but the movie centers on Huppert’s Michele, who is in every scene.

The movie is full of suspense, irony and, surprisingly, many laugh-out loud moments. Most of these come from Michele’s bluntness about those around her, and her peculiar take on life — that she’s going to live her life in freedom and not be constrained by societal norms.

In no way does the movie suggest that she’s come to terms or is OK with the rape, as some have suggested. Far from it. She plots to figure out who the rapist is, and then she carefully maneuvers the man, who knows that his identity has been discovered. And rather than immediately turn him in to police, she begins a rather unnerving game. It’s not a revenge thriller, necessarily, although you might end up interpreting it that way. But there’s more ambiguity than you might think. And the movie is very French. It’s hard to imagine anyone except, perhaps, Sharon Stone, playing such a role in an American film.

Huppert does so with wry glee. There’s a disturbing glint in her eye, and you come to understand that she’s completely amoral, in an almost scary way. But that’s why the movie is deliciously perverse. Huppert and Verhoeven are a great team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t walk away with the best actress prize at Sunday’s awards ceremony. Her main competition: Ruth Negga of Austin director Jeff Nichols’ “Loving,” or possibly Kristen Stewart of “Personal Shopper.”

Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti in "The Salesman."
Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti in “The Salesman.”

The other late standout in Cannes is Iran’s “The Salesman,” which follows the fate of Rana (Taraneh Aliodoosti) and her husband  Emad (Shahab Hosseini). The two work at a local school, and both are starring in a play, Arthur Miller’s “The Death of a Salesman.” One day, Rana thinks the person ringing her high-rise bell below is her husband, coming home from practicing the play, and she buzzes the caller in without asking. She starts to shower, but ends up being attacked by an intruder. She hits her head on the bathroom glass and goes unconscious, and neighbors discover her lying on the floor as the intruder runs down the steps.

When Emad gets home, he discovers that his wife is in the hospital, possibly with a concussion. But his wife won’t tell Emad exactly what happened. He suspects the worst, possibly a sexual assault, but his wife refuses to discuss the matter. She’s scared, and she doesn’t want to stay in the apartment any more.

While Rana tries to return to normalcy, her husband becomes obsessed with finding the attacker. It turns out that the man left his keys to his truck, a cellphone and some money behind. And Emad finds the truck and waits for the owner to come back to claim it, planning on a confrontation.

To say much more would give away some key plot points, but the director, whose previous films include “The Past” and “A Separation,” is masterful at building tension between the wife and husband, leading us to wonder where all of this will go.

With the premieres of “Elle” and “The Salesman,” the race for the major prizes on Sunday becomes more complicated. Some think “American Honey,” from British director Andrea Arnold, will score big. Others think Nichols’ “Loving” has a shot at a major prize. Some, including me, think Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” has to be among the contenders. And it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Germany’s Maren Ade become the second woman to win the Palme d’Or, for “Toni Erdmann.” Jane Campion is the only other woman who has won such an honor in Cannes, for “The Piano.”

There are several people, mainly among the European press, who think Olivier Assayas’ “Personal Shopper,” starring Stewart, will be among the award winners. And it would not be a surprise to see Kleber Mendonca Filho of Brazil win something for his Brazilian tale of a widow fighting a corrupt developer in “Aquarius.” And, no, you can’t rule out the Dardenne brothers, who premiered “The Unknown Girl” and are longtime Cannes favorites.

Sunday should be interesting.

Tonight, the winner of Un Certain Regard, the prestigious sidebar event, will be named.

 

Cannes Day 10: 5 reasons why Sean Penn’s ‘The Last Face’ is a disaster

Javier Bardem and Charlize Theron in "The Last Face."
Javier Bardem and Charlize Theron in “The Last Face.”

 

Sean Penn told the Financial Times that he had a lot riding on the Cannes premiere of his new directorial effort, “The Last Face.” If he was counting on gaining support in Cannes for his film, he’s in a lot of trouble. It was one of the worst receptions of a film I’ve ever seen in Cannes, and he still has to do a press conference later in the day. Here are a few reasons why the movie failed so badly.

  1. Here’s a film about the ravages of war in Africa, mainly in Liberia and the South Sudan. But unlike last  year’s “Beasts of No Nation,” there are no significant roles for black people.
  2. Instead, Penn focuses his story on a love affair between two doctors who work in refugee camps. They’re played by Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem, and the central argument in their relationship is whether they could do more good at the United Nations in Switzerland or helping the wounded in Africa. Theron’s character prefers the halls of the U.N., while Bardem prefers the camps. They argue and argue. But the dialogue is dreadful. And most of the words spoken in the film are mumbled voiceovers.
  3. The supporting cast is equally awful, including poor Jean Reno, who utters some of the most ridiculous lines ever penned for the screen.

    MORE FROM CANNES: Five weird moments at the festival

  4. The movie features lots of surgeries, with an approach that almost seems like war-wound porn. We see legs being chopped off. We see a Caesarean section done in the jungle, on a woman who has had her throat slit. We see gaping wounds in legs and stomachs and elsewhere. It’s rather clear that Penn is trying to show us the horrors of war, but he goes too far.
  5. The movie is so didactic that it ends with a lecture, given by Theron at a gathering of philanthropists, where she talks of the dreams of refugees and how they’re just like us. But lets make this clear: While Penn’s intentions might be good and warm-hearted, his movie is woefully tone-deaf. Cannes is the temple of art films, and there’s an artful way to tell the tragic story of African wars. See the aforementioned “Beasts of No Nation.” This is didacticism at its worst. It’s hard to believe that Penn, who has been known for his philanthropic works, hasn’t been warned about the “white savior” complex. But he walks right into it in “The Last Face.” He might want to return to acting.

The Paramount Theatre announces Summer Classic Film lineup; goes digital

It’s repertory season, also known as summer, which means the lineup for the 2016 Summer Classic film series at the Paramount and Stateside Theatres is out now.

2016 marks 41 years of Paramount’s signature classic films series, which goes from May 26 through September 4. Film tickets are on sale now at austintheatre.org.

This year, the Paramount unveils a new digital projection system, new sound system and  new screen (they will retain the capacity to screen 35mm and 70mm prints whenever available).

Before the series formally starts, look for the “Bridesmaids” Pub Run May 24. There will be booze and then a screening of Paul Feig’s modern comedy classic.

MPW-11602This year’s series once again kicks-off with Michael Curtiz’s “Casablanca” as the opening night film with screenings May 26 and 27.

The popular Martinis & Manicures event returns July 10 with, as one might imagine, martinis and manicures before a screening of Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike.”

Additionally, Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam (a former Dripping Springs resident who moved to North Carolina in 2014) will return July 22 for a special screening of Austin filmmaker Andrew Bujalski’s”Computer Chess.”

There are a whole mess of anniversary screenings this year.

Look for 75th anniversary presentations of the 1941 classics “The Maltese Falcon” and “Citizen Kane” as well as the 100th anniversary of  D.W. Griffiths’ “Intolerance,” the 80th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s still-perfect “Modern Times,” and the 95th anniversary of Chaplin’s “The Kid,” which screen in a new digital restoration.

Also look for the 50th anniversary of Sergio Leone‘s “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and Mike Nichols’ “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” the 20th anniversary of the Coen brothers’ “Fargo” and Baz Luhrmann’s  “Romeo + Juliet.”

The Family Film Festival series kicks off with a double feature of Joe Pytka’s “Space Jam” and Michael Pressman’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” on June 5, and a special 50th anniversary screening of Les Martinson’s “Batman: The Movie” (aka Batman ’66), July 30.

To celebrate the end of primary season, expect the Leo McCarey’s Marx brothers movie “Duck Soup,” Alan J Pakula’s “All the President’s Men,” John Fankenheimer’s “The Manchurian Candidate” and more.

There are musicals and science-fiction, foreign films and  “Grease” sing-along. In late August, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean will be feted with screenings of Howard Hawks’ “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot,” Elia Kazan’s “East of Eden,” Nicholas Ray’s “Rebel Without a Cause” and George Stevens’ “Giant” (the latter turns 60 this year).  The Summer Classic Film Series closes Sept. 4 with “Gone with the Wind.”

There are a couple of ticketing options.

Tickets are available online, by phone, or at Paramount Box Office.  General Admission is  $12, Film Fan Admission is $7. The Film Fan program involves free admission to two member parties, reserved seating, discounted tickets and more. Full details available online at www.austintheatre.org/filmfan.

The Flix Tix program gives you a book of 10 admissions, good in any combination to the Paramount’s Summer Classic Film Series for only $60 ($50 for Film Fans).

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Here is a the full slate.  Films screening at the Paramount will be marked with a (P), while films screening at Stateside will be marked with a (S). DCP means the print is digital.

 

(P) “Casablanca” (1942, 102min/b&w, 35mm)  7pm Thurs 5/26, 9pm Fri 5/27.

(P) “The Maltese Falcon” (1941, 100min/b&w, DCP)  Directed by John Huston. 9pm Thurs 5/26, 7pm Fri 5/27.

(P) “The Third Man” (1949, 104min/b&w, DCP) Directed by Carol Reed. 3pm Sat 5/28, 4:15pm Sun 5/29.

(P) “Citizen Kane” (1941, 119min/b&w, 35mm) Directed by Orson Welles. 5pm Sat 5/28, 2pm Sun 5/29.

(P) “The Thin Man” (1934, 93min/b&w, 35mm)  Directed by W.S. Van Dyke. 7pm Tues 5/31.

8be67ff49a859cf843760b167c5b7bc5(P) “Cabaret” (1972, 124min/color, DCP) Directed by Bob Fosse.  8:50pm Tues 5/31.

(P) “Labyrinth” (1986, 102min/color, 35mm) Directed by Jim Henson. 7pm Thurs 6/2.

(P) “Purple Rain” (1984, 111min/color, DCP) Directed by Albert Magnoli. 9pm Thurs 6/2.

(P) “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964, 94min/b&w, DCP) Directed by Stanley Kubrick. 7pm Fri 6/3.

(P) “The Shining” (1980, 144min/color, 35mm) Directed by Stanley Kubrick. 8:55pm Fri 6/3.

(P) “Space Jam” (1996, 88min/color, DCP) Directed by Joe Pytka. 2pm Sun 6/5.

(P) “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze” (1991, 90min/color, 35mm) Directed by Michael Pressman. 3:45pm Sun 6/5.

(P) “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939, 129min/b&w, DCP) Directed by Frank Capra. 7pm Tues 6/7, 8:25pm Wed 6/8.

(P) “Duck Soup” (1933, 70min/b&w, 35mm) Directed by Leo McCarey. 9:25pm Tues 6/7, 7pm Wed 6/8.duck_soup_xlg

(S) “All the President’s Men” (1976, 139min/color, DCP) Directed by Alan J. Pakula. 7pm Thurs 6/9.

(P) “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962, 126min/b&w, DCP)  2:45pm Sun 6/12.

(P) “The Great Dictator” (1940, 126min/b&w, 35mm) Directed by Charlie Chaplin. 5:05pm Sun 6/12.

(P) “Dumbo” (1941, 64min/color, DCP) Directed by Ben Sharpsteen. 1pm Sun 6/12.

(P) “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962, 123min/b&w, 35mm) Directed by John Ford. 7pm Mon 6/13, 9:15pm Tues 6/14.

(P) “The Searchers” (1956, 119min/color, 35mm) Directed by John Ford.  9:20pm Mon 6/13, 7pm Tues 6/14.

(P) “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (1966, 179min/color, DCP) Directed by Sergio Leone. 7pm Wed 6/15.

(P) “Shane” (1953, 118min/color, DCP) Directed by George Stevens. 7pm Thurs 6/16.

(P) “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969, 110min/color, DCP) Directed by George Roy Hill.  9:15pm Thurs 6/16.

Stagecoach_US_half2(S) “Stagecoach” (1939, 96min/b&w, DCP) Directed by John Ford.  7pm Fri 6/17.

(S) “High Noon” (1952, 85min/b&w, DCP) Directed by Fred Zinnemann. 8:55pm Fri 6/17.

(S) “A Little Princess” (1995, 97min/color, digital) Directed by Alfonso Cuaron.  1pm Sat 6/18.

(S) “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975, 133min/color, DCP) Directed by Milos Forman.  3:15pm Sat 6/18, 4:35pm Sun 6/19.

(S) “A Clockwork Orange” (1971, 136min/color, DCP) Directed by Stanley Kubrick.  7pm Sat 6/18, 2pm Sun 6/19.

(P) “All About Eve” (1950, 138min/b&w, 35mm) Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.   7pm Tues 6/21, 9:05pm Wed 6/22.full.allabouteve-24623__58879.1462509140.360.360

(P) “Double Indemnity” (1944, 107min/b&w, DCP) Directed by Billy Wilder. 9:35pm Tues Tues 6/21, 7pm Wed 6/22.

(S) “Laura” (1944, 88min/b&w, DCP) Directed by Otto Preminger. 7pm Thurs 6/23.

(S) “Fargo” (1996, 98min/color, DCP) Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. 8:45pm Thurs 6/23.

(P) “Blazing Saddles” (1974, 95min/color, DCP) 7pm Fri 6/24.

(P) “This Is Spinal Tap” (1984, 82min/color, DCP) 8:50pm Fri 6/24.

(P) “The Godfather” (1972, 177min/color, DCP)  Directed by Francis Ford Coppola.   3pm Sat 6/25.

Adventures_of_Robin_Hood_(1938) 1xs(P) “The Godfather Part II” (1974, 200min/color, DCP) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. 7 pm Sat 6/25.

(P) “Ben-Hur” (1959, 212min/color, DCP) Directed by William Wyler.  3:30pm Sun 6/26.

(P) “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938, 102min/color, 35mm) Directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley. 1pm Sun 6/26.

(P) “Intolerance” (1916, 170min/b&w/silent w/English intertitles, DCP) Directed by D.W. Griffith. 7pm Tues 6/28.

(P) “Modern Times” (1936, 87min/b&w/silent w/English intertitles, 35mm) Directed by Charlie Chaplin. 7pm Wed 6/29.

(P) “The Kid” (1921, 53min/b&w/silent w/English intertitles, DCP) Directed by Charlie Chaplin. 8:45pm Wed 6/29.

(P) “Oklahoma!” (1955, 145min/color, DCP) Directed by Fred Zinnemann. 7pm Tues 7/5.

(P) “The King and I” (1956, 133min/color, DCP) Directed by Walter Lang. 7pm Wed 7/6.timthumb

(P) “Gigi” (1958, 115min/color, DCP) Directed by Vincente Minnelli. 7pm Thurs 7/7.

(P) “Moulin Rouge!” (2001, 127min/color, DCP) Directed by Baz Luhrmann. 9:15pm Thurs 7/7.

(P) “Dirty Dancing” (1987, 100min/color, DCP) Directed by Emile Ardolino. 7pm Fri 7/8.

(P) “Flashdance” (1983, 95min/color, 35mm) Director by Adrian Lyne 8:55pm Fri 7/8.

(P) “The Sound of Music” (1965, 174min/color, DCP) Directed by Robert Wise. 3pm Sat 7/9.

(P) “Grease” (1978, 110min/color, DCP) Directed by Randal Kleiser. 7pm Sat 7/9.

(P) “Magic Mike” (2012, 110min/color, DCP) Directed by Steven Soderbergh. 2pm, 6pm Sun 7/10.

(P) “Metropolis” (1927, 148min/b&w/silent w/English intertitles, DCP) 7pm Tues 7/12.

ThingPoster(P) “The Thing” (1982, 109min/color, 35mm) Directed by John Carpenter. 7pm Wed 7/13, 9:15pm Thurs 7/14.

(P) “Blade Runner” (1982, 118min/color, DCP) Directed by Ridley Scott. 9:05pm Wed 7/13, 7pm Thurs 7/14.

(P) “The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001, 228min/color, DCP) Directed by Peter Jackson. 7pm Fri 7/15.

(P) “The Two Towers” (2002, 235min/color, DCP) Directed by Peter Jackson. 2pm Sat 7/16.

(P) “The Return of the King” (2003, 263min/color, DCP) Directed by Peter Jackson. 2pm Sun 7/17.

(P) ”Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986, 106min/color, 35mm) Directed by Woody Allen. 7pm Tues 7/19, 8:50pm Wed 7/20.

(P) “Annie Hall” (1977, 93min/color, 35mm) Directed by Woody Allen. 9:05pm Tues 7/19, 7pm Wed 7/20.

(P) “The Graduate” (1967, 106min/color, DCP) Directed by Mike Nichols. 7pm Thurs 7/21.Original_movie_poster_for_the_film_Who's_Afraid_of_Virginia_Woolf-

(P) “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966, 131min/b&w, 35mm) Directed by Mike Nichols. 9:05pm Thurs 7/21.

(S) “M*A*S*H” (1970, 116min/color, DCP) Directed by Robert Altman. 2pm Sun 7/24

(S) “Nashville” (1975, 159min/color, DCP) Directed by Robert Altman. 4:15pm Sun 7/24.

(P) “Computer Chess” (2013, 93min/b&w, DCP) Directed by Andrew Bujalski. 7pm Fri 7/22.

(P) “Adaptation” (2002, 115min/color, 35mm) Directed by Spike Jonze. 7pm Tues 7/26.

(P) “BBill_&_Tedarton Fink” (1991, 116min/color, 35mm) Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen  9:10pm Tues 7/26.

(P) “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975, 91min/color, DCP) Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. 7pm Wed 7/27, 8:45pm Thurs 7/28.

(P) “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (1989, 90min/color, DCP) Directed by Stephen Herek. 8:50pm Wed 7/27, 7pm Thurs 7/28.

(S) “Hoop Dreams” (1994, 172min/color, DCP) Directed by Steve James. 7pm Fri 7/29.

(P) “Batman: The Movie” (1966, 105min/color, 35mm) Directed by Leslie H. Martinson. 2pm Sat 7/30.

(P) “Goodfellas” (1990, 145min/color, DCP) Directed by Martin Scorsese. 3:30pm Sat 7/30, 6:55pm Sun 7/31.

(P) “Reservoir Dogs” (1992, 99min/color, DCP) Directed by Quentin Tarantino. 6:10pm Sat 7/30, 5pm Sun 7/31.

(P) “The Age of Innocence” (1993, 139min/color, DCP) Directed by Martin Scorsese. 7pm Tues 8/2.

(P) “Romeo + Juliet” (1996, 120min/color, DCP) Directed by Baz Luhrmann. 7pm Wed 8/3.Orlando_film_poster

(P) “Orlando” (1992, 94min/color, 35mm) Directed by Sally Potter. 9:15pm Wed 8/3.

(P) “The Italian Job” (1969, 99min/color, DCP) Directed by Peter Collinson. 7pm Thurs 8/4, 9:20pm Fri 8/5.

(P) “How to Steal a Million” (1966, 123min/color, DCP) Directed by William Wyler. 8:55pm Thurs 8/4, 7pm Fri 8/5.

(P) “Aladdin” (1992, 91min/color, DCP) Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. 1pm Sat 8/6.

(P) “Jaws” (1975, 124min/color, DCP) Directed by Steven Spielberg. 3:15pm Sat 8/6, 4:30pm Sun 8/7.

(P) “Jurassic Park” (1993, 127min/color, DCP) Directed by Steven Spielberg. 5:30pm Sat 8/6, 2pm Sun 8/7.

Persona_Poster(P) “Persona” (1966, 84min/b&w/Swedish w/ English subtitles, 35mm) Directed by Ingmar Bergman. 7pm Tues 8/9.

(P) “Blow-Up” (1966, 110min/color, DCP) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. 8:40pm Tues 8/9.

(P) ”Beauty and the Beast” (1946, 93min/b&w/French w/ English subtitles, 35mm) Directed by Jean Cocteau.7pm Wed 8/10, 9:30pm Thurs 8/11.

(P) “The Red Shoes” (1948, 133min/color, 35mm) Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. 8:50pm Wed 8/10, 7pm Thurs 8/11.

(S) “Ran” (1985, 162min/color/Japanese w/English subtitles, DCP) Directed by Akira Kurosawa. 3:45pm Sun 8/14.

(P) “Annie” (1982, 128min/color, DCP) Directed by John Huston. 1pm Sun 8/14.

(P) “The 39 Steps” (1935, 86min/b&w, DCP) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 7pm Tues 8/16, 9:15pm Wed 8/17.

(P) “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956, 120min/color, 35mm) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 8:45pm Tues 8/16, 7pm Wed 8/17.

(S) “Notorious” (1946, 101min/b&w, digital) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 7:15pm Tues 8/16, 9:10 pm Wed 8/17.

(S) “The Lady Vanishes” (1938, 97min/b&w, DCP) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 9:15pm Tues 8/16, 7:15 pm Wed 8/17.Strangers_on_a_Train_(film)

(P) “Strangers on a Train” (1951, 101min/b&w, 35mm) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 7pm Thurs 8/18, 9 pm Fri 8/19.

(P) “Suspicion” (1941, 99min/b&w, 35mm) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. T9:00pm Thurs 8/18, 7pm Fri 8/19.

(P) “Rear Window” (1954, 112min/color, 35mm) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 4pm Sat 8/20, 4pm Sun 8/21.

(P) “Psycho” (1960, 109min/b&w, 35mm) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 6:05pm Sat 8/20, 2pm Sun 8/21.

(P) “Mary PoppinsIndiana_Jones_and_the_Last_Crusade_A” (1964, 140min/color, DCP) Directed by Robert Stevenson. 1pm Sat 8/20.

(P) “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968, 160min/color, 70mm) Directed by Stanley Kubrick. 7pm Tues 8/23, 7pm Wed 8/24.

(P) “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989, 127min/color, 70mm) Directed by Steven Spielberg. 7pm Thurs 8/25, 7pm Fri 8/26.

(P) “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962, 216min/color, 70mm) Directed by David Lean. 3pm Sat 8/27, 2pm Sun 8/28.

(P) “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953, 91min/color, DCP) Directed by Howard Hawks. 7pm Tues 8/30, 9:20pm Wed 8/31.

(P) “Some Like It Hot” (1959, 121min/b&w, DCP) Directed by Billy Wilder. 8:50pm Tues 8/30, 7pm Wed 8/31.

(P) “East of Eden” (1955, 115min/color, DCP) Directed by Elia Kazan.  7pm Thurs 9/1, 9:10pm Fri 9/2.338px-Kingkong33newposter

(P) “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955, 111min/color, DCP)  Directed by Nicholas Ray. 9:10pm Thurs 9/1, 7pm Fri 9/2.

(P) “Giant” (1956, 201min/color, DCP) Directed by George Stevens. 3:30pm Sat 9/3

(P) “King Kong” (1933, 104min/b&w, DCP) Directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedstack. 1pm Sat 9/3.

(P) “Gone with the Wind” (1939, 238min/color, 35mm) Directed by Victor Fleming.

Cannes Day 4: Early standouts are ‘Toni Erdmann’ and ‘The Student’

Sandra Huller and Peter Simonischek in "Toni Erdmann"
Sandra Huller and Peter Simonischek in “Toni Erdmann”

“Toni Erdmann,” a German comedy from newcomer Maren Ade, has to be one of the early favorites in the annual race for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

It screened Friday night, and even at 2 hours and 42 minutes, it constantly kept engaging the audience. Part of the reason: It’s a woman’s film, directed by a woman, with all sorts of nuances about the corporate life of a seemingly money-grubbing capitalist, Ines, played with much depth by Sandra Huller.

She exudes the corporate mentality, staying on the phone constantly, ignoring other people even at family gatherings, obsessing over how to get ahead, putting work above all else. She wears the same old black pantsuit, and does everything she can to fit in with her corporation team. But she’s trying a bit too hard, and the casual sexism that she faces is demoralizing.

But Ines’ biggest problem isn’t sexism in the workplace. It’s her dad, Toni (Peter Simonischek), who’s a practical joker of the highest order. And when he sees what’s happening to his daughter, he thinks she needs to lighten up, to make more time for her private life, and to laugh a little. So he shows up unexpectedly at her Bucharest office, where she’s trying to negotiate a corporate downsizing.

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Any attempt to describe the father’s antics will sound cliched, like the bucktooth mouthpiece he keeps in his front pocket. Yet there’s genuine pathos in his attempts to reach his daughter. And she’s amazed that he keeps showing up in disguises wherever she goes.

Two scenes in particular are laugh-out-loud: When he father forces her to sing a cheesy pop song before a crowd, and when she melts down and decides to through a birthday party where she and all the guests must be naked. It’s absolutely nuts.

Many more competition films have yet to screen, and there are always surprises. Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” sounds promising. So does “Loving” from Austin director Jeff Nichols. And then there’s the enfant terrible Nicolas Winding Refn, who’ll be screening “Neon Demon,” and French-Canadian whiz kid Xavier Dolan, who’ll be showing “It’s Only the End of the World.”

In the Un Certain Regard sidebar, where films are eligible for the Palme d’Or, there’s still another early standout. It’s “The Student” from Russia’s Krill Serebrennikov. Once again, he’s a newcomer to Cannes, but his movie packs a wallop.

It deals with a teenage Russian boy who abruptly decides to obsess over the Bible and memorize various passages. He begins quoting these passages to his befuddled teachers, and he  warns that the young women in swim class should be wearing one-piece swimsuits rather than sexually proactive bikinis, which he finds sinful. He continues to battle his science teacher over evolution and sex education, and he starts a protracted battle with her that borders on dangerous.

She’s just as adamant that the student will not sidetrack her progressive teaching methods, and it’s pretty much all-out war.

As the student, Peter Skvortsov is full of rage, spouting off verses that he has memorized. But there’s a big difference between memorizing the Bible and comprehending its meaning, and he’s falling far short in the latter category.

As the teacher, Victoria Isakova delivers another fine performance, showing a stubbornness that matches her student’s. And you end up with a preachy Bible student and a strident science teacher amid a movie that’s remarkably not didactic.

But make no mistake. There’s a clear undercurrent about the dangers of fanaticism, and that’s a timely message for a festival that’s facing heightened security because of perceived threats from Islamic fundamentalists in France.

One other movie deserves a shout-out. It’s Park Chan-Wook’s “Mademoiselle,” or “The Handmaiden.”

The Korean film takes us back to the 1930s, during the period of Japanese occupation, and it deals with a Japanese heiress, Hideko (Kim Min-Hee), who has recently employed the services of a handmaiden, Sookee (Kim Tae-Ri).

Sookee plays all dumb, and Hideko plays like she’s sexually innocent. But neither woman is what she seems. And in the middle of the action is a fake count (Ha Jung-Woo), who is wooing Hideko and seeking some way to get all of her money.

The movie unfolds in three acts, and the cinematography is drop-dead gorgeous, as is the set design. There’s a bit of overlap in the storytelling, as we see the events from different perspectives, and there are far more twists and turns than expected.

I suspect this has the potential to be a cult arthouse favorite. But the sexuality and nudity are strong elements, and its distribution will probably be limited. If it opens in the States later this year, it’s well worth your time.

Park’s most famous movie is another cult favorite, “Oldboy,” which played in Cannes in 2003.

SXSW winner ‘Transpecos’ gets distribution deal

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Here’s an uplifting tale for aspiring filmmakers out there. And it also illustrates why festivals like South by Southwest, Fantastic Fest and the Austin Film Festival are so important.

Austin resident Greg Kwedar got his debut feature, “Transpecos,” into the narrative feature competition this March at South by Southwest. It was unheralded, and few people in the Austin film crowd even knew who Kwedar was.

But securing a spot in the competition – and providing an early screener to critics – helped build buzz,, and the  thriller about the Border Patrol went on to win the audience award – which means festival attendees thought it to be the best of the bunch.

Kwedar and his team had no distributor for the film, however. And without a distributor, most movies just end up screening here and there, at places like the Austin Film Society and various festivals, without reaching a wide audience.

But that’s what festivals are for – raising the profile of small, independent films. And this week, Kwedar got the best news possible. Samuel Goldwyn Films is buying the rights to “Transpecos” and plans a theatrical release in the fall.

And in May, Screen Media Ventures will be attending the Cannes Film Festival, trying to sell distribution rights to international territories.

The deal was first reported by Deadline.com. And Peter Goldwyn of Samuel Goldwyn Films said, “Greg is a raw talent in independent cinema. ‘Transpecos’ is an accomplished first feature that we’re eager to deliver to audiences in theaters and in homes across the country.”

Details of the deal were not disclosed.

The thriller stars Johnny Simmons, Gabriel Luna and Clifton Collins Jr. Kwedar co-wrote the script with Clint Bentley.