Friday Movie Roundup: Cannes Controversy

May 20, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Cincinnati is a long way from Cannes. And, barring a merger with Conde Nast or a hefty donation from George Soros, CityBeat will not be sending me to cover the Cannes Film Festival anytime soon. Lucky for us, our fellow AAN peeps at Village Voice Media still take film criticism seriously enough to send its lead film critics, The Village Voice's J. Hoberman and LA Weekly's Karina Longworth, to the grandaddy of all film festivals, which wraps up this weekend.—-

As is often the case when he's in town, Danish bad-boy Lars von Trier stole the show — so much so that he's apparently been booted from the festival for comments he uttered at a press conference for his new film, Melancholia, during which he supposedly sympathized with Hitler. I obviously wasn't there, thus the context of Von Tier's comments are not immediately discernible, but my initial reaction is the same as most Cannes-generated controversies: everyone, from the press to the festival's inner sanctum, seems to be overreacting — especially given the guy involved; a willfully subversive provocateur who admittedly suffers from depression.

The other big story at Cannes 2011 was the unveiling of Terence Malick's long-gestating, hotly anticipated Tree of Life, which Hoberman trashes, writing that “Malick goes one on one with God, not to mention Stanley Kubrick, and on both counts comes up short — very short.”

Here's Hoberman's take on the fest to date. And here's Longworth's; for the record, she says Melancholia was the best film she saw at Cannes and that, like much of the non-Hoberman critical crew at the festival, Tree of Life's merits far outweigh its issues.

Back home in Cincinnati, it's another curious week for opening movies, highlighted by Jodie Foster's long-delayed The Beaver, which is said to feature a strong performance from Mel Gibson as a acutely depressed guy who communicates via a hand puppet; a pair of documentaries, including the return of Morgan Spurlock; and yet another Pirates of the Caribbean movie marked by the bemused presence of Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow.

Opening films:

THE BEAVER — Mel Gibson's cinematic mea culpa might not equate to a public apology to the countless people he's insulted in recent years. Still, and more importantly to moviegoers, the embattled actor turns in a memorable performance as a suicidal character grasping for straws. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Rated R.) Grade: B-

COST OF A SOUL — First-time writer/director Sean Kilpatrick's crime drama tells the tale of two wounded Iraq War veterans (Chris Kerson and Will Blagrove) who come back home to the gritty Philadelphia neighborhood that spawned them. Tough, soul-crushing times apparently ensue. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated R.) Not screened for review

ELEKTRA LUXX — How writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez got upper-crust actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Julianne Moore to take part in this unmitigated flop is a mystery. Everything about this movie is off. Subplots don't connect. The tone is that of a comedy, but nothing is funny. As a sex-romp, nothing is sexy. Even the songs provided by the terrific Robyn Hitchcock don't work. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — CS (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D

THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD — There’s a sense of Jazz, a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants vibe to the approach of documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. He sees a problem, a social issue that is ripe for debate or investigation, and he just dives in. And in the case of The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Spurlock entices several leading national brands to chain themselves together with him. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B-

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES — Johnny Depp's now-iconic Jack Sparrow returns (minus Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom) in this fourth installment of the Pirates series. Rob Marshall, who is best known for his film adaptations of musicals (Chicago, Nine), directs what turns out to be something of a bore. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — tts (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D

QUEEN OF THE SUN —  Taggart Siegel's documentary investigates how we’ve now managed to screw up the life of honeybees — there’s a crisis of what’s known as “colony collapse disorder,” in which the worker bees are disappearing from hives. And this has a threatening impact on the entire world, since we’re crucially dependent on pollination for agriculture. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Kenwood Theatre.) — Steven Rosen (Not Rated.) Grade: B