Juliette Binoche is at a crossroads. She started her career with the younger role in a two-hander drama and still identifies with that role, but a new director wants to stunt-cast her as the older role opposite a young Hollywood celebrity. The play’s author, her mentor, has just died. At least her personal life is well-managed by assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart), but as Binoche starts rehearsing scenes with her, playing the pathetic, delusional actress to Valentine’s cynical manipulator, the lines take on multiple meanings.

Binoche is as great as she’s ever been, and Stewart nearly matches her. Chloe Moretz doesn’t have enough screen time for greatness, but is at least given an amazing introduction within a fake sci-fi film. On top of the overwhelming performances, the actresses’ own stories and celebrity are beautifully woven into the characters, as a major plot point is casting young action-movie stars in serious productions. Moretz plays the self-assured, paparazzi-hunted superstar and Stewart gets to be more reigned-in, gradually asserting herself then suddenly vanishing.

Assayas admits this:

It’s a movie where you never lose consciousness of who the actresses are, and in the end that’s a very important element of the film. But that’s something I only realized gradually.

but also:

It’s not a meta movie, it’s not a movie about cinema — it’s not even a movie about theater. It’s a movie about very basic human emotions, which have to do with time passing, the perspective you have on your past.

English folk singer Johnny Flynn (he looks convincingly like a Johnny Flynn) plays Chloe’s girlfriend whose wife attempts suicide, Angela Winkler (star of The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, The Tin Drum and Benny’s Video) is the original play director’s widow and Lars Eidinger (Goltzius and the Pelican Company) is directing the new version.

S. Tobias mentions Bergman and D. Ehrlich mentions All About Eve. Played Cannes last year – and since Cannes 2015 was just beginning when I watched this at the Ross, this was supposed to kick off Cannes Month, in which I watch movies I missed from this decade’s fests – but it’s a busy month, so we’ll see. Nominated for everything at the Cesars, mostly beaten by Timbuktu but Kristen Stewart won for supporting.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Singer (1974, Chris Marker)

It’s not a short (an hour long), but I have little to say about it, so this is a short entry. The movie’s probably of more interest to fans of Yves Montand’s singing career than of Marker’s filmmaking or their shared politics. Marker focuses on Montand’s rehearsals for an upcoming concert benefitting Chilean refugees and he cuts to clips from the concert itself, and clips from Montand’s political films (Z, The Confession, The War Is Over).

Shot by the IMDB-credited Pierre Lhomme (Mr. Freedom, Army of Shadows) as well as Jacques Renard (Celine & Julie Go Boating) and Yann Le Masson. A nicely put-together little movie, but more like your standard fly-on-wall doc mixed with a celebrity personality piece than Marker’s usual style. Montand is passionate about the details, but it’s not my kind of music so I’m not sure what he’s going for. M. Legrand was involved somehow.

Some dude on the sidelines sports a Flo & Eddie shirt:

Lady Blue Shanghai (2010, David Lynch)

Plays like a total Inland Empire outtake (or Darkened Room 2). A confused Marion Cotillard calls security on an expensive handbag (the short was commissioned as a handbag advertisement) found in her room. She grabs it and half-remembers some alternate-existence romantic rooftop chase scene, featuring herself, an attractive man from Shanghai, and an expensive handbag.

My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117 (2002, Chris Morris)

An unstable Paddy Considine is left in charge of the dog, but can’t manage it. Dog dies, Paddy ends up at the pond screaming at ducks. Nice Warp-sounding music from the director. I enjoyed it.

Mermaid (1964, Osamu Tezuka)

Katy likes when I show her movies I haven’t already watched, then criticizes this one for being depressing and My Wrongs for being unfunny. None of Tezuka’s shorts have been sad before (well, Male has a murder scene), so how was I to know? A re-run of Haanstra’s Glas was better-received. This one’s a 1984/freedom-of-thought parable about a boy who catches a fish and imagines its a mermaid, until the thought police imprison him and try to brainwash away his imagination so he’ll see the fish as a fish. Naturally it ends with the boy freeing his fish and either becoming a merman or drowning himself.

The Uneasy Three (1925, Leo McCarey)

A Hal Roach short starring Charley Chase as a wannabe thief who, with his girl and her brother, pretends to be a musical trio to gain entry to a high-society party and steal a valuable brooch. That’s such a generic-sounding description that now I can’t recall if I wrote it or I copy/pasted it from somewhere. Anyway, they successfully fake being musician/entertainers and frame the real musicians for the crime.

Bull Montana, harpist:

Winston Tong en studio (1984, Olivier Assayas)

A studio recording of a silly-sounding song. I missed the vocalist’s interview in French, but enjoyed Jah Wobble’s rant against commercialism. Also liked the filmmakers’ sound mix, keeping bits of the last take in the mix over the interview, dialing up and down the backing music while Tong is singing. Besides Assayas it’s got Nicolas Klotz (La Blessure, La Question Humaine) editing.

Hokusai: An Animated Sketchbook (1978, Tony White)

Tony, an assistant on Richard Williams’ A Christmas Carol brings acclaimed Japanese woodcut artist Hokusai’s drawings wonderfully to life for a five-minute short. Not having any previous Hokusai exposure myself, I can’t tell which drawings are his and which are interpreted by White. Teshigahara had also made a short doc on Hokusai, and a few years after this Kaneto Shindo would make a feature with the great English-language title Edo Porn.

Endangered Species (2006, Tony White)

I found Tony’s other short on YouTube – a eulogy for the lost art of hand-drawn animation, made in collaboration with Roy Disney. So ol’ Walt is championed at the expense of his competitors at Warner Bros. Also parodied: Roger Rabbit, Fritz the Cat, Beavis & Butthead, artistic diversity, and corporations that would cruelly try to control independent animators and diminish their freedom. Seems weird that a pro-Disney film would be against huge companies. Seems to have mixed feelings about Pixar, and tags Hayao Miyazaki as animation’s hope for the future.

Wire! The Feelies! A long three-part series/feature about a so-called terrorist who operated by a strict moral code can’t help but get compared to Soderbergh’s Che, but the strong use of quality 1970’s and 80’s music throws a Marie Antoinette comparison into the mix.

Watched in nice widescreen over netflix streaming on the TV. Despite its epic length, the movie felt small and far away. Lots of political and historical touchstones that I didn’t recognize, because I have no education or sense of history. Carlos’s motives weren’t clearly explained (something about the Palestinian Struggle), nor were his origins (“It’s no longer Ilich. It’s Carlos”). But his battles, his public terrorist acts, his relationships, hideouts and escapes are all laid out in glorious detail. I’m generally a fan of Assayas films, but didn’t connect with this one at all. I’m thinking netflix is to blame.

Edgar Ramirez can’t be blamed anyway, was magnetic, as they say, as Carlos.

The movie was so long, and petered out in such an energy-depleting way, that I can’t bring myself to write a whole lot or even to read a bunch of articles. So I took to D. Hudson’s great notebook summary and cut out three points I would’ve made if I’d given it more thought (or took better notes).

G. Andrew:

Certainly, the film doesn’t feel anything like television. It’s shot in Scope, boasts the fleet way with narrative, camera movement and cutting that are characteristic of Assayas at his best and has a sense of scale, depth and seriousness of purpose that is essentially cinematic.

M. Dargis:

He lacks substance. He doesn’t have much to say, and his rhetoric gets cruder as the years pass (as does his treatment of women). He’s a man of action, not ideas. Mr Assayas, by contrast, is a director of ideas. … Carlos isn’t Che slogging through the jungle for the cause: Carlos is a mercenary, a thug.

T. McCarthy:

One element that vividly pops out from the film’s vibrant fabric are the numerous scenes in which government officials from Arab and Eastern bloc countries directly order, sponsor or otherwise facilitate terrorism and mayhem in other nations…. I can’t recall ever seeing scenes quite like these in any movie, and they are bracing.

Assayas’s idea of a good, fun b-movie, except he forgot the “good” and the “fun.”

Asia Argento used to do demeaning sex work for powerful businessman Michael Madsen in order to turn him on and steal business secrets, and now after years she is back. Long push-pull dialogue segments prep us for twisty psychological intrigue, but nothing is ever especially twisty. Oh wait, Madsen has a big-money disagreement with Alex Descas (scientist/vampire-boyfriend in Trouble Every Day) but that couldn’t possibly be important. Asia pulls a gun and kills Madsen, planned by her new boyfriend Carl Ng, whose wife Kelly Lin (Zu Warriors, ex-wife/cop in Mad Detective) is in on the plot.

Girls still faint in movies:
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But will Kelly really let Asia get away with the crime and leave with her husband? No, well, yes, sort of. Shocker: Alex Descas shows up at the end. It was his idea to kill Madsen! None of the surprises are surprising and none of the tension is tense… Demonlover had more twists in its last five minutes than this one can manage in ninety. If I’d seen this when it first came out I might have skipped Summer Hours, which would have been a mistake. Guess Assayas can be inconsistent but still makes great films.

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It might hurt Michael Madsen’s feelings to be cast in what the director calls a b-movie, but he’s not any good, nor is Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon as a Hong Kong crime boss, and even Asia isn’t giving a knockout performance. I’d think Kelly Lin stole the show if there was much of a show to steal. Turns out most critics agreed with me – I didn’t re-check the reviews, probably got this confused with Go Go Tales in thinking it was well-loved.

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Truth 24FPS agrees:

The project must have seemed promising, at least on paper – a globe trotting thriller with kinky sex, drug deals gone awry, murder, double and triple crosses, gun fights. But the film comes across as tepid, warmed over trash, and strangely, contains none of the kinetic forcefulness of the Hong Kong films Assayas champions. Assayas’ view of the world can at least partially be gleaned from his casting choices – an Italian who speaks French and English, with American and Chinese lovers, who travels from Paris to Hong Kong and eventually encountering a crime boss played by an indie rock icon. … The first half of the film consists of [Argento & Madsen] squaring off in increasingly repetitive encounters, with a kind of will they or won’t they do it sexual tension (answer: who cares?).

Asia Argento only liked the movie thiiiis much:
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Dissent from G. Kenny:

His mastery of the camera and his always innovative approach to setting are constant, knotty pleasures; the Paris of the film’s first half is as alien to our recieved ideas of Paris as Godard’s Alphaville was, while his Hong Kong is a crumbling labyrinth where the only clues about which corner to turn are provided by cell phone rings.

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But my favorite comment is from a forum poster on Premiere: “It made me want to punch Asia Argento in the face, but that would probably turn her on.”

The highlight for me here was Edith Scob. I only know her as the virgin Mary in Bunuel’s The Milky Way forty years ago, but she was totally recognizable as the deathbed matriarch here. I mean, yeah Juliette Binoche is always good, but Charles Berling (Scob’s costar in Ruiz’s Comedy of Innocence) was more the star here (and blonde L’Enfant star Jérémie Renier played their brother).

I heard this was a great movie, but right before it started I realized what I’d gotten myself into… an acclaimed family-secrets drama – surely another underwhelming handi-cam video a la A Christmas Tale or Rachel Getting Married. But no, fortunately this was the kind of filmmaking I can get behind, everything in order, with shaky cameras and close-ups only where necessary. Kind of surprising, really, that the director of hyperkinetic Irma Vep and Demonlover makes a classical-style family drama, but I’d seen Clean so I wasn’t too amazed. Another thing compared to the other recent dramas is that everything is supremely understated in this. Its themes are obvious, but they don’t come out in big emotional climaxes. The big payoff shot, Berling’s daughter framed in front of the family home, telling her boyfriend that she’s kinda sad that her grandmother is dead and the place is being sold, is tear-free and quickly interrupted and didn’t really hit me until a few minutes later in the parking lot.

Opening scene has three siblings at their mother’s house with Berling & Renier’s wives and kids (Binoche is too much the high-powered businesswoman to have time for a husband or kids), Scob talking privately about what will happen to the house and her possessions after she dies. Next scene a few months later, predictably, she is dead and the kids spend the rest of the movie deciding what to do with her house and possessions. It’s decided pretty easily that everything will be sold and the loyal servant (Isabelle Sadoyan, also a servant in Blue) will be dismissed, so there’s not much conflict, more the family members coming to terms with the property sale, the kids becoming the oldest living generation in their family.

A program of shorts that played at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival to mark its 60th anniversary. Pretty terrific bunch of 3-5 minute shorts by possibly the best group of directors ever assembled… worth watching more than once. Each is about the cinema in some way or another, with a few recurring themes (blind people and darkness, flashbacks and personal stories). Katy watched/liked it too!

First half of shorts (second half is here):

Open-Air Cinema by Raymond Depardon
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One Fine Day by Takeshi Kitano, continuing his self-referential streak.
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Three Minutes by Theo Angelopolous is a Marcello Mastroianni tribute starring the great Jeanne Moreau.
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In The Dark by Andrei Konchalovsky
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Diary of a Moviegoer by Nanni Moretti
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The Electric Princess Picture House by Hou Hsiao-hsien
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Darkness by the bros. Dardenne
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Anna by Alejandro González Iñárritu
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Movie Night, the first of two gorgeously-shot outdoor movie starring chinese children, by Zhang Yimou.
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Dibbouk de Haifa, annoying business by Amos Gitai.
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The Lady Bug by Jane Campion.
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Artaud Double Bill by Atom Egoyan.
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The Foundry, comic greatness by Aki Kaurismäki.
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Recrudescence, stolen cell-phone bit by Olivier Assayas.
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47 Years Later very self-indulgent by Youssef Chahine.
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Maggie Cheung won best actress at Cannes in May 2004, and it didn’t open here till June 2006, then left in a week. I was busy that week so rented it, damn it all.

Maggie’s rocker husband ODs in a hotel room and she’s off to prison for a few months. The rocker’s Nick-Nolte dad watches the kid while she’s away. She uses all her old connections to try to get back on track, ending up with a bunch of crap jobs and a vague hope for a future in music, while Nick is dealing with his dying wife and a grandkid turned against his mom. Maggie sort of lets Nick down at the end, but he doesn’t throw it in her face. Interesting characters, great looking movie.