Shield of Straw

By Moira Sullivan.

Swedish Film Institute’s 50th Anniversy

The Swedish Film Institute celebrates its 50th anniversary at Cannes this year. A press conference was held and new projects were discussed such as the upcoming Waltz for Monica to be released in December about the Swedish jazz singer Monica Zetterlund. Directed by Per Fly and written by Peter Birro, the film also stars Edda Magnason as the talented vocalist who died tragically in 2005 from a fire in her apartment. Magnason, Birro and Fly all attended the anniversary dinner.

Swedish Film Institute Anniversary Gala (Pictured from left to right: Ninja Thyberg, Anna Serner, Erika Wasserman)

Earlier at a press conference, the CEO of the Swedish Film Institute, Anna Serner, introduced an international equality initiative for films. Armed with facts, Serner proclaimed that of the thousand-plus films that have competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in the past 50 years, only fifty-four of them have been directed by women and only one women has won (Jane Campion). Additionally, only four women from the more than four hundred who have been nominated for an Oscar for best director and again only one has won (Kathryn Bigelow).

“In Sweden women have directed roughly ten percent of all feature films over the last fifty years”, said Serner. Furthermore, eight women have won the Swedish National Film Award for best director in the last fifty years, five of them in the last ten years. Serner put forth an equality package of mentoring, an inside look at the industry and a study of women who are about to make their second feature. She urged film industries, filmmakers, producers and film festivals around the world to look at this question and help to bring about international equality.

  Film Highlights on Day 6

Inside Lleyn Davis

Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis has so far garnished the most points from selected journalists at Screen, the market journal that is most relied on at Cannes for film ratings. However, with Llewyn Davis, the directors offer one of their least ambitious projects with the least to say, so it is unsettling that the film has become so popular. One reason could be the short scenes with punchy dialogue, delivered by excellent actors Oscar Issac (Llewyn Davis) and Carey Mulligan (Jean Berkey). Still, the substance of the dialogue is empty, focusing on what a horrible man Llewyn is for getting Jean pregnant, and how there is no money in his music. Other largely pointless scenes have to do with a cat that escapes from one of the sofas he crashes on as an unemployed musician. Llewyn finds his life as a folk singer unrewarding and yearns to escape to the Merchants Marine and pack it in. In the end, the emergence of Bob Dylan as a young folk singer with a ratchety voice and profound lyrics eclipses his own career.

Shield of Straw

Takashi Miike’s Shield of Straw was another film marred by uncharacteristically low ambition. The director has made several films about serial killers, such as Ichi the Killer (2001) and Audition (1999), so he has a strong background in presenting the psychology of a criminally insane assassin. Based on the novel by Kazuhiro Kiuchi, the film tells the story of a billionaire who offers a huge reward for the execution of Kunihide Kiyomaru (Tatsuya Fujiwara), the murderer of his granddaughter. The offer appeals to many low income and down on their luck Japanese. Several attempts on the killer are made while police try to escort him to trial, including attempts by the police themselves. In this respect the film has something to say: how far could someone go to defy the justice system with a vigilante reward. No one can be trusted and orders come from high up to execute the killer, since a condition for collecting the reward is that the government sanctions the execution. Fujiwara is excellent as the killer but in general there is far too much dramatic screaming going on in the film. Takashi was in attendance at the Cannes premiere with his two actors Nanako Matsushima and Takao Osawa, who both play the cops who try to bring in Kiyomaru for sentencing.

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.

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