10 movies from Cannes that we can’t stop talking about

CANNES – Spend a few days at a major film festival and it won’t take long to run into someone who has an opinion on a movie. With the end of the 66th Cannes Film Festival drawing near, it’s intriguing to look at some of the films that have generated a lot of buzz over the past week and a half.

Are people still talking about films from the beginning of the festival? Well, in the case of”Great Gatsby,” “Jeune & Jolie” and “Bling Ring” they’ve almost been forgotten. “Jimmy P”? This year’s consensus whipping boy (and for obvious reasons). “Only Lovers Left Alive”?  The latest polarizing title that seems split down the middle.  There haven’t been a lot of god awful movies at this Cannes, but opinions certainly vary.

With that in mind, here are 10 other films everyone’s been talking about and my quick opinions on each.

Michael Kohlhaas
Director: Arnaud des Pallières
Stars:  Mads Mikkelsen, Mélusine Mayance, Delphine Chuillot, David Kross, Denis Lavant
Grade: C
Lowdown: Based on a classic 1811 novella, des Pallières succeeds brilliantly at turning this into the most unexpectedly boring film at the festival.  “Kohlaas” wastes the talents of its cast (particularly Mikkelsen who finds himself beheaded on screen for the second time in the past year after “A Royal Affair”) and Adrien Debackere and Jeanne Lapoirie’s gorgeous cinematography.

Venus in Fur
Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric
Grade: C+
Lowdown: Polanski adapting yet another play. And it all takes place in the same location. Sound familiar?  Unlike “Carnage,” which featured four actors, “Venus in Fur” features Seigner and Amalric. The duo have chemistry, but it’s basically a filmed play (again). And for someone with Polanski’s talents, it’s disheartening. Especially since you can figure out the play’s theatrical conceit a mile away.

Blood Ties
Director: Guillaume Canet
Stars: Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Lili Taylor, Zoe Saldana, Mila Kunis, James Caan, Noah Emmerich, Matthias Schoenaerts
Grade: C
Lowdown: Canet’s directing skills are quickly becoming overrated.  After helming the very commercial and Cesar-winning thriller “Tell No One” he took a dramedy turn with a French version of “The Big Chill,” the forgettable “Little White Lies.”  Now, he’s adapted  2008’s “Rivals” (which starred in) with James Gray into an English language thriller set in New York City during the 1970’s and the result is pretty much a misfire. The brother vs. brother storyline is just silly, much of the ensemble is miscast (notably Canet’s own partner Cotillard whose accent jumps all over the place) and the first 40 minutes or so may be the worst lit star studded movie I’ve seen in years.  And somehow, Lionsgate and Roadside thought it was still worth picking up.
[Read Guy Lodge’s review]

Only God Forgives
Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Vithaya Pansringarm
Grade: B
Lowdown: Anyone expecting this to be an action thriller in the vein of “Drive” will be seriously disappointed. Refn is much more in “Bronson” mode here as he wrestles with much bigger philosophical themes within the context of a revenge pic. He doesn’t quite nail it (having Gosling’s character remain so silent may have been a mistake), but it’s arguably his more gorgeous film yet and that is  saying something.  Whether you love it or hate, it’s hard to find any critic who wasn’t impressed by Kristin Scott Thomas balls to the wall turn that will make even the fiercest drag queen blush.
[Read Guy Lodge’s review]

As I Lay Dying
Director: James Franco
Stars: James Franco, Logan Marshall-Green, Danny McBride, Ahna O’Reilly, Tim Blake Nelson
Grade: C+
Lowdown: James Franco may be getting better as a filmmaker, but his adaptation of the classic William Fauklner tale feels like it needs another 2 months of editing. To make matters worse, the film is almost completely sabotaged by a horribly overwrought performance by Tim Blake Nelson who is ripping of his own work in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Yikes.
[Read Guy Lodge’s review]

Strange by the Lake
Director: Alain Guiraudie
Stars: Pierre de Ladonchamps, Christophe Paou, Patrick d’Assumcao
Grade: B+
Lowdown: Perhaps no Cannes title stuck with me more during the fest than Guiraudie’s impressive thriller which one the directing award from the Un Certain Regard jury. Once you get past the film’s gratuitous gay sex scenes you find a filmmaker who has a lot to say about the sometimes hypocritical and selfish way gay men sometimes treat each other.  It’s a striking note with gay marriage rights exploding around the globe.
[Read Guy Lodge’s review]

Inside Llewyn Davis
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Stars: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake
Grade: A-
Lowdown: Perhaps the funniest Coen Bros. film since “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” “Davis” features a star-making performance by Oscar Isaac and will find itself a key player for a best picture nomination later this year.  Hard to find anyone who doesn’t like it.
[Read Guy Lodge’s review]

Blue is the Warmest Color
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Stars: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Lea Seydoux
Grade: B
Lowdown: This coming of age lesbian tale is based on a popular series of graphic novels in France so the fanbase among French critics has been surprisingly strong. The drama is a long and often unnecessary three hours, features a gratuitous amount of lady sex and a powerhouse performance from Exarchopoulous. Kechiche shoots the film almost entirely in close ups and ever scene feels like it’s a bit longer than it needs to be.  Yes, it’s captivating at times, but as a portrait it’s over worked and more cliche than it thinks it is.
[Read Guy Lodge’s review]

Le passé (The Past)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Stars: Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mossafa
Grade: B
Lowdown: Farhadi follows up “A Separation” with yet another family melodrama (this time on the outskirts of Paris) where one revelation after another after another after another brings the tension to a dramatic head. Berenice Bejo and Tahar Rahim are superb, but it feels like Farhadi has covered this territory before. He does it well, but it also feels a bit too much “been there, done that.”
[Read Guy Lodge’s review]

Director: Alexander Payne
Stars: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk
Grade: C+
Lowdown: A father and son take a road trip from Montana to Nebraska to collect $1 million prize that actually doesn’t exist. Payne, who didn’t write the screenplay for this one, does everything he can to liven the proceedings, but his ensemble feels like the third and fourth choices for a better Payne movie. Ouch.
[Read Guy Lodge’s review]

Which of these movies are you most looking forward to seeing?  What reviews have perked your interest? Share your thoughts below.