Another of our most-anticipated Cannes premieres was shown to press early today, Cannes time, and reviews are hitting the web. Pedro Almodovar‘s The Skin I Live In represents his first collaboration with actor Antonio Banderas in twenty years, and also marks a break in subject matter for the director.

Based on Thierry Jonquet‘s novel Tarantula (aka Mygale), the story follows an ambitious plastic surgeon (Banderas) whose wife was burned in an accident, leading him to attempt to synthesize a new, superior form of human skin. The picture seems like a weird medical horror/thriller story, and indeed, at the film’s press conference, the director said, “It’s a thriller indeed because it fits in with my life at present. Throughout my career as a director, I’ve worked in different genres—comedy, drama and now I’m in a thriller period. Through thrillers, you can touch on other types of genre. I don’t think it’s completely necessary to stick to the rules of a type of genre like people naively did in the ‘50s.”

Reviews so far praise elements (Banderas’ performance) while clucking a bit over the fact that the film isn’t supremely focused. That seems to be par for the course at Cannes this year, where there has been little overwhelming critical consensus about any film other than Lynne Ramsay’s widely-praised We Need to Talk About Kevin. We’ve got three clips and a small review sampling for The Skin I Live In, after the break. Read More »

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Cannes Bans Lars Von Trier

Early this morning, the Cannes Film Festival declared Lars Von Trier “persona non grata, with effect immediately,” effectively expelling him from this year’s festival. This was in response to Von Trier’s remarks about Nazis, despite the fact that said remarks were made jokingly, specifically intended to provoke, and apologized for after the fact.

It is unclear if the ban will extend to future festivals, or if it will affect the prize-winning chances of Von Trier’s well-received festival film, Melancholia. According to the The New York Times, the film will still be in contention but if it wins any awards, von Trier will not be there to accept them.

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You can say this for Lars Von Trier: he doesn’t believe in treading lightly. If today wasn’t so busy I’d spend a few hours digging up the director’s old comments from Cannes press conferences and correlating their level of pseudo-outrage to the quality of the film he’s promoting. His latest movie, Melancholia, premiered at Cannes today and the reviews are (perhaps predictably) mixed, with some of the most telling comments coming in the form of negative reviews from normally sympathetic fans. (There are also some significant raves.)

‘Sympathetic’ is the byword for LVT today, as the press conference for Melancholia featured the director baiting the press with statements about feeling that he understands Hitler and being a Nazi. Depending on how you look at it, press-baiting may not even have been his goal — it is more like the Nazi comments grew out of an attempt at a joke that, like a poor SNL routine, went on too long and wound down into an awkward sort of ‘oops’ conclusion. (A conclusion that proved perhaps appropriately apocalyptic, given the context of promoting a film about the end of the world.) The discourse about him today is dominated this current provocation, but we’ve also got early reviews of Melancholia and a few more upcoming career details. Read More »

Well, it’s out in the open now. Terrence Malick‘s new film The Tree of Life, many years in the making and the subject of massive speculation and anticipation over the past two years, has premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and the reaction is mixed. I’ve been generally avoiding reviews in anticipation of my own screening tomorrow afternoon (and Peter is seeing it right now, which may lead to a review this evening) but figured we should pass along some of the first reactions. They range from ‘brilliant’ to ‘pretentious’ — in other words, the first responses to The Tree of Life are the responses to Terrence Malick’s entire career, cast in miniature.

One of the first things that we heard, via Twitter, was that the debut screening — for which the line was reportedly quite impressive, rendering the wait to get in nearly as long as the film itself — ended with a smattering of boos. But this is Cannes. People boo. It happens a lot. In this case, we’re talking about only the fifth film in the 40-year career of a director that is one of cinema’s most analyzed creators. Expectations for The Tree of Life were particularly high, and so some specifically vehement reactions were to be expected from those who found it lacking.

After the break we’ve got a brief round-up of some reactions. This is by no means meant to be a comprehensive report, but rather a snapshot of the first takes. Read More »

The working team of director Pedro Almodovar and actor Antonio Banderas was once potent, and while Mr. Almodovar has continued to make excellent films since their last pairing (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! in 1990), Antonio Banderas has been slowly defanged over many years. So their reunion was reason enough to celebrate. The fact that their first film together in 20 years, The Skin I Live In, is a very messed-up sounding story about a surgeon and his… unusual… relationships with women make it even more tantalizing.

The film premieres very soon in Cannes and has a November release date planned via Sony Pictures Classics in the US. Now there is a wildly creepy teaser, which you can see after the break. This one is either going to significantly increase your interest in seeing the film, or help that interest dissipate altogether. Read More »

Takashi Miike is best known for his hyper-explicit button-pushing films like Ichi the Killer, Audition and Visitor Q, but he has dabbled in just about every possible film genre. Lately he’s been in ‘stately samurai’ mode. His film 13 Assassins has been available on iTunes for a few weeks and opens in some theaters today. (And is very, very good.)

His next, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a 3D film, and will premiere at Cannes in just a couple weeks. The teaser trailer for that one is out now, and it looks just as good as 13 Assassins, if in a slightly different way. Read More »

With this poster, the Julia Leigh film Sleeping Beauty continues to look like the arthouse alternate-reality Sucker Punch. Emily Browning stars in the movie as a student who becomes a prostitute specializing in an unusual service: she ‘works’ while drugged into slumber, and cannot remember her clients after they take advantage of her. The poster is a little bit American Apparel, a little bit Sofia Coppola, and quite pretty, but combined with the known plot and the look on Emily Browning’s face, there’s an uncomfortable undercurrent there, too. The trailer (embedded again below) is equally gorgeous and unsettling. Both are after the break. Read More »

One of the films officially announced as part of the competition slate for this year’s Cannes Film Festival is Sleeping Beauty, which tells the story of a prostitute in a very strange brothel. There is now a gorgeous, if oppressive and strange, trailer for the film that, thanks in part to the central presence of Emily Browning, makes it look a bit like Sucker Punch filtered through an extreme art-house sensibility. Read More »

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