By Moira Sullivan.
Arnaud Des Pallière’s Michael Kohlhaas failed to engage spectators because of the slow pace and tough to chew narrative construction. The dramaturgy forced viewers to wait out the step-by-step construction of the film. For relief, most of Kohlhass is shot in the Cévennes mountains and there is even the birth of a young colt.
In the film, Michael Kohlhaas (Mads Mikkelsen) is a successful landowner who raises horses. One day his servant is beaten and his horses are stolen and replaced with nags who are dirty and injured, all to pay a toll tax. His appeal for justice is rejected and he is told to cease his protest or he will be imprisoned. When his wife offers to go to the Princess of the province to plead his cause, he dissuades her. However, she leaves anyway and is returned home by carriage with a fatal injury.
At this point, Kohlhaas takes revenge on the Baron and kills his servants. This act helps to emphasize the corruption of the times, Cévennes during the 16th century, as crude and purposeless. “The Theologist” (Denis Lavant) tries to intervene and asks Kohlhass to lay down his arms, so that at least his servants can receive amnesty. In real life, Martin Luther himself had asked Kohlhaas to relent.
In addition to Mikkelsen there are outstanding actors such as Bruno Ganz – “The Governor”, Sergi Lopez as an armless man, and Lavant. This kind of talent cannot do much when the script and the pace of the film is cumbersome, but for those who love this story by Heinrich von Kleist it probably doesn’t matter how it was made.
Cinéma de la Plage: Cinema on the Beach
A series of classic films were screened on the beach of the Croisette during the Cannes festival and on closing night it was Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). This event must be attended on time, since once it starts no one is allowed to enter. The immense size of the screen and the amplification of sound made it an event that attracted regular patrons and pedestrians. The girders that support the screen are partly submerged in water, close to the shore.
A recent biopic on The Birds‘ lead actress Tippi Hedren, The Girl (2012), and another on Alfred Hitchcock, aptly named Hitchcock (2012), both take swings at depicting the notorious director and “the girl.” In Hitchcock, Alfred Hitchcock’s wife Alma makes a point of telling Janet Leigh, the lead in Psycho (1960), that she is unlike the other girls he worked with and praises her integrity, implying that all the others asked for trouble. Hedren has gone on record to say that she was nearly forced to be Hitchcock’s mistress during the shooting of The Birds. She also revealed that in one of the final scenes of the film she was subjected to several unannounced hours with live birds, which was an ordeal that left her with injuries, something that The Girl shows. While watching The Birds on the beach at Cannes, it was difficult to absorb the final scene without recalling what went into the making of the film, especially during this huge panoramic screening.
2013 Queer Palm Award
The Queer Palm jury awarded L’Inconnu du Lac (see Day 3) the Queer Palm at the 66th Cannes Film Festival. The awards ceremony held at Plage d’Albion attracted a huge crowd. Organizer Franck Finance-Maduriera invited the jury on stage, headed by Portuguese director João Pedro Rodrigues, who announced the award.
It was a joyous occasion for director Alain Guiraudie to be chosen as the recipient of the Queer Palm, who also won the director’s award earlier in the evening at the Un Certain Regard competition. He came on stage together with his lead actors Pierre de Ladonchamps, Christophe Paou, the producer of the film, and several of the other actors. The award is well earned, as the crisp evenness of Guiraudie’s L’Inconnu du Lac offers a no frill, somber introspection into gay life at a lake in the Côte d’Azur area. The harshness of the stony beach where men show up to be seen, and the unglamorous opportunity it provides for gay men to later have a shag in the woods nearby, is part of a methodical study in the hands of an excellent craftsman.
Moira Sullivan is an accredited journalist at Cannes, and served on the Queer Palm Jury 2012. She is a member of FIPRESCI with a doctorate in cinema studies from Stockholm University and graduate studies in film at San Francisco State University.