Cannes: Ears to the Ground (5)

By Robert Koehler

Well, some of those well-sourced rumors proved to be on the mark, others less so. As predicted, Terrence Malick’s <emThe Tree of Life, his semi-autobiographical meditation-cum-space odyssey on the Meaning of It All, wins the Palme d’Or. The Grand Prix is a tie between Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s widely admired murder-mystery-in-the-night-darkness, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, and the Dardenne Brothers’ well-reviewed The Kid with the Bike, thus continuing Ceylan’s run (after his best director prize for Three Monkeys) as the bridesmaid and not the bride in Cannes. One of the most wildly loved …

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Cannes: Ears to the Ground (4)

By Robert Koehler

Woody Allen’s Paris tourism promotion film, Midnight in Paris, clearly caught its Cannes audience–who saw it opening night, some 100 films and what may seem like a century ago–in a forgiving mood. A few, perhaps sufficiently jet-lagged, drunk, who knows, were actually willing to call it a masterpiece, and the same willingness to let Allen slide was something I witnessed the other night at the Academy Theatre, where Midnight made its U.S. premiere. A strange goodwill continues to hover around the character of Allen, whom some believe has made many good films, some great, and even …

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Cannes: Ears to the Ground (3)

By Robert Koehler

Surprisingly, the general critical response out of Cannes to Lars Von Trier’s end-of-the-world, end-of-a-wedding romance, Melancholia, has thus far been generally positive. In our track of the current reviews rolling out, including a few from the French press, the pros outnumber the cons 16 to 8, with very few mixed. As can be seen in the responses thus far, the views of Melancholia are frequently seen under the looming shadow of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, specifically in the two films’ contrasting depictions of the beginning and end of planet Earth. This is because …

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Cannes: Ears to the Ground (2)

By Robert Koehler

Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life begins, all too appropriately, with a yolk-colored blob. Like a scientist’s experiment which has been fussed over until it’s lost its original hypothesis (let alone any proof), Malick’s new film is the work of a man who has so overthought his material that it has flipped, and become underthought, a welter of contradictory ideas, a toxic brew of literalism and spiritualism, an acid trip without the necessary acid. He has turned a chamber piece about a Texas family in the post-war era into a bloated behemoth. He has fatally forgotten the …

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Cannes: Ears to the Ground

By Robert Koehler

It’s both a strange year and a good year to be away from the Cannes film festival. To not participate in the annual May ritual of descending on the Cote d’Azur (always via TGV off the plane at Paris De Gaulle) and subject yourself to ten days of virtually nonstop viewing from 8:30 a.m. until past midnight–minus times away at the laptop to shoot out hopefully crafted critical responses, composed recklessly when the films are still warm, an athletic process that turns movie watching into an exercise in extreme physical focus toward the screen and away from …

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Berlin Viewing 4

By Robert Koehler

The Turin Horse begins with a micro-fiction by Laszlo Krasznahorkai, reminiscent of both Donald Barthelme’s short fictions placing historical figures in fictitious situations and W.S. Merwin’s prose-poems which combine many different values, but frequently stress two: radical brevity and openness. Krasznahorkai wrote “The Turin Horse” micro-fiction in the early ’80s, and his friends Bela Tarr and Agnes Hranitsky first heard it in a public reading at that time. The story simply tells of a horse in 1888 being mercilessly beaten by its frustrated owner for not budging, and how Nietzsche, passing by on the street in Turin, …

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