As Above, So Below
It's that rare found-footage film with a strong premise, a memorably eccentric style, and plenty of energy to burn. It's also poorly conceived, and hard…
Barbara Scharres is the Director of Programming at the Gene Siskel Film Center, a public program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
In this capacity she is the artistic director for one of the largest cultural exhibition programs of world cinema in North America. She has published articles and criticism in film magazines and journals including American Cinematographer, Film Comment, Chicago Reader, Variety, and the Chicago Sun-Times, and has contributed to books including Hong Kong Babylon, edited by Fred Dannen.
Scharres was named a "Chicagoan of the Year in the Arts" by the Chicago Tribune three times, in 1989, 1991, and 1999. In 2006, the French government awarded her one of its highest honors by designating her a Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her role in advancing French culture through cinema.
James Gray's "The Immigrant" maintains a tight focus on the Ellis Island experience, and Mohammad Rasoulof's "Manuscripts Don’t Burn" dramatizes the inside of the cruel Iranian secret service.
Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" brings black and white, to the competition, while "Omar" delivers moral shades of gray to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and "Michael Koolhaas" looks good in the long shots, but needs more emotional subtlety.
"Only God Forgives" commits the unforgivable sin of being boring, "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight" is about old white men arguing about race, and "Blue is the Warmest Color" takes its time to follow the transition from uncertain teenager to knowing adult.
Steven Soderbergh's "Behind the Candelabra" disappoints, Claire Denis's "Bastards" baffles, and Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's "Grisgris" is a mixed bag. So it goes sometimes at Cannes.
Boos for Takashi Miike's "Shield of Straw," a muddled "Blind Detective" from Johnnie To and Paolo Sorrentino's "The Great Beauty" lives up to its name.
A day of grim films in which "Borgman" attempts Haneke-like surreal grimness and falls short, "The Missing Picture" and "Death March" turn artifice to their advantage to explore the horrors of war and loss, and Claude Lanzmann returns with a film about controversial figure Benjamin Murmelstein, the last president of the Jewish Council of Elders in the Theresienstadt ghetto.
After duds "Jimmy P." and "Grand Central," the Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" saves the day for Barbara Scharres.
Asghar Farhadi ("A Separation") returns with another look at unsolvable dilemmas, an erotic thriller goes all the way, and Hirokazu Kore-eda ("Nobody Knows") tells another gentle tale of family life.
Barbara Scharres has a few choice words for François Ozon's "Young & Beautiful" and Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring," but finds a gem in Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale Station."
Power is rarely discussed at Cannes, and it’s ostensibly all about art, although careers can hang on critics’ approval, and whether films are sold here, and to how many regions of the world. The annual jury press conference on the opening day is the first and foremost love-fest in which the concept of competition is downplayed and jurors find novel ways to sidestep the question of comparing one film to another in order to award the Palme d’Or in ten days.