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May 26, 2019

‘Mektoub’: On-Set Witness Alleges Pressure on Actors to Perform Unsimulated Sex, Alcohol Given – Report

The initial outcry about Abdellatif Kechiche’s film “Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo” had mainly addressed its artistic merits (or lack thereof) for including a nearly 15-minute scene of unsimulated oral sex and and a seemingly never-ending parade of butts. But a report from a French paper is alleging that Kechiche had to employ unorthodox methods to convince his unwilling actors to perform the oral sex scene.

“Intermezzo” is the sequel to “Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno,” which premiered at Venice back in 2017. Both films, based on François Bégaudeau’s novel “La Blessure, la vraie,” feature Ophélie (Ophélie Bau) and Amin (Shaïn Boumédine) at the center of a complicated web of attraction and affairs.

In the scene in question, a man performs consensual oral sex on the character Ophélie. The Midi Libre posted an account Saturday morning from a person close to production who says that Kechiche had to push his actors to create that scene. A tweet translating part of the publication reads: ”Kechiche absolutely wanted a non-simulated sex scene, something the actors didn’t want to do. But by the way of insistence, and over time and with alcohol being regularly consumed, he managed to get what he wanted.”

Le Figaro also delved deeper into the Midi Libre report. According to the longer account, “The director had the scenes of the disco replay for hours and hours, exhausting all the actors and the filming was prolonged very late at night, begins the informant of the local newspaper. He absolutely wanted to get to have a sex scene not simulated, which the actors were not willing. But as he insisted over the hours and while alcohol was regularly consumed on the spot, he managed to get what he wanted. ”

It’s a disturbing report on many levels that would call into question the ethics of how the scene was shot and whether or not the actors were in any condition to consent to what was being asked. Furthermore, anyone on set could be seen as complicit if the account is true.

In a review by IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, he notes, “[Ophélie] has roughly 389 alcoholic drinks over the course of the night that follows, and every one of them makes it feel as though she’s trying to force her own hand.” Although this exaggerated observation is a commentary on a perceived storytelling choice, it may actually reflect the conditions under which Bau had to be coerced into shooting the scene.

Already there’s speculation that shady treatment may have alienated the film’s actors. Bau was conspicuously absent from Cannes on Friday for a press conference and photo call for the film.

This would not be the first time that Kechiche’s treatment of actors have been called into question. Actresses Lea Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos later detailed inhospitable filming conditions on the “Blue Is the Warmest Colour” set, decrying Kechiche’s behavior in overseeing a number of their scenes together. Last fall, Kechiche was accused of sexual assault, charges which his lawyers said the director “categorically denies.”

Source: IndieWire film

May 26, 2019

‘Echo In the Canyon’ Gets Warm Hometown Welcome as Lone Specialty Box Office Standout

Once again, with a huge opening in Los Angeles for music documentary “Echo in the Canyon” (Greenwich), the genre is playing a vital role in keeping arthouses healthy. With “The Biggest Little Farm” (Neon) leading the way among holdovers as it adds theaters, documentaries’ central role in the specialty market stands out in stark contrast to what should have been a strong narrative opener, smart-girl comedy “Booksmart” (United Artists).

Until recently, that well-reviewed SXSW breakout would have been likely to build buzz in limited and play at specialized theaters, but instead opened wide this weekend. Though many core theaters are able to play it, competing theaters lessen their grosses, and in many cases they find themselves replaced by major chain competitors.

Opening

Echo in the Canyon (Greenwich) – Metacritic: 78; Festivals include: Los Angeles 2018

$103,716 in 2 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $51,858

Boomer appeal, top theater placement in Los Angeles, and special appearances by producer-star Jakob Dylan and others added up to a spectacular opening for this documentary in its initial two theaters. These are among the top specialized initial numbers in some time. Jakob Dylan tells the story of musicians’ haven Laurel Canyon and surrounding communities in the late 1960s/early1970s, a subject which resonates with both older music fans and younger ones curious about a fabled time.

What comes next: New York opens this Friday. With these numbers expect much wider interest ahead.

The Tomorrow Man (Bleecker Street) – Metacritic: 48; Festivals include: Sundance 2019

$19,327 in 4 theaters; PTA: $4,832; Cumulative: $23,739

The latest example of the once reliable older audience becoming less so, this Sundance romance between two eccentric seniors (John Lithgow and Blythe Danner, both successful in recent similar films) failed to gain much traction in its initial New York/Los Angeles dates. The film landed top theaters and the usual strong push from Bleecker Street, but mediocre reviews hurt the cause.

What comes next: Five initial new cities open Friday, with further beyond.

The Proposal (Oscilloscope) – Metacritic: 84; Festivals include: Tribeca, Hamptons 2018

$12,100 in 1 theater; PTA: $12,100

Another case of a niche topic documentary — preserving the archives of a leading Mexican architect — that finds an initial audience, this well-reviewed film opened at New York’s IFC Center to excellent initial results.

What comes next: Los Angeles this Friday starts the national roll-out.

Halston (1091) – Metacritic: 67; Festivals include: Sundance, Tribeca 2019

$11,824 in 1 theater; PTA: $11,824

No matter how many documentaries are made about iconic fashion figures, the next one seems to find an audience. The latest, opening at New York’s Quad theater, is no different with a good debut in a limited-seated screen.

What comes next: This Friday sees Los Angeles and Boston as the initial new dates.

Diamantino

“Diamantino”

Diamantino (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 77; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2018

$6,412 in theaters; PTA: $6,412

This topical Portuguese comedy (about a fading soccer star who takes on the role of defending refugees and fighting the rise of neo-fascism) follows strong festival play with some initial attention in its exclusive New York date.

What comes next: This has planned dates in other top cities ahead.

The Spy Behind Home Plate (Ciesla)

$10,250 in 1 theater; PTA: $10,250

While many narrative films follow a well-received documentary, the process is reversed here. Last year saw “The Catcher Was a Spy” nab some specialized interest in its retelling of the post-baseball life of Moe Berg. This documentary opened in one theater in Washington, an unusual strategy that initially clicked with a strong initial gross.

What comes next: An exclusive New York date opens this Friday, with Los Angeles and San Francisco leading the wider expansion the following week.

Woodstock: The Days That Defined a Generation (PBS) – Metacritic: 66; Festivals include: Tribeca 2019

$8,150 in 2 theaters; PTA: $4,075

The other counter-culture summer event a half century ago noted this year (Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” has dibs on the second one) is recaptured in this documentary, which opened in two New York theaters to decent reviews and modest initial response.

What comes next: The Bay area is the next big city opening this week, with Los Angeles among those the following week.

“The Souvenir”

A24

Week Two

The Souvenir (A24)

$141,496 in 23 theaters (+19); PTA: $6,152; Cumulative: $263,152

Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical story of a young filmmaker (Tilda Swinton sprig Honor Swinton Byrne) in a troubled relationship expanded to initial top cities. Continuing to earn top-end reviews, it is showing decent but not great early response.

Photograph (Amazon)

$119,564 in 122 theaters (+109); PTA: $964; Cumulative: $169,965

The latest Mumbai-set film from the director of the popular “The Lunchbox” isn’t having the same response as it quickly widened nationally. The earlier 2014 effort grossed over $4 million.

Trial By Fire (Roadside Attractions)

$11,575 in 45 theaters (-64); PTA: $257; Cumulative: $136,255

Veteran director Edward Zwick’s latest, a death penalty drama, barely held on to a second weekend after its initial weak grosses.

Walk On Water (Kino Lorber)

$16,986 in 8 theaters (+6); PTA: $2,183; Cumulative: $45,536

Another documentary about a creative figure, the artist Christo, showed modest interest as it added two west coast cities.

biggest little farm

“The Biggest Little Farm”

TIFF

Ongoing/expanding (Grosses over $50,000)

The Biggest Little Farm (Neon) Week 3

$492,350 in 180 theaters (+135); Cumulative: $1,022,288

As is becoming the new normal, the top wider specialty release is a documentary. This study of a Southern California biodiverse farming community continues to show national interest as it adds theaters across the country.

The White Crow (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5

$357,361 in 356 theaters (+220); Cumulative: $1,182,000

Rudolf Nureyev and key moments of his early career are recreated in Ralph Fiennes’ biopic, which more than doubled its theaters. It has passed the $1 million mark, with a gross approaching $2 million likely.

Amazing Grace (Neon) Week 10

$145,200 in 152 theaters (-75); Cumulative: $3,958,000

Aretha Franklin, performing decades ago, remains a current force to be reckoned with. The documentary about a 1972 recording session still is adding gross at the end of its second month of release.

All Is True (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$138,207 in 64 theaters (+44); Cumulative: $295,062

Director-star Kenneth Branagh’s imagining of Shakespeare’s life and times (costarring Judi Dench and Ian McKellen) broadened to more major markets with a continued modest response.

Red Joan (IFC) Week 6

$128,732 in 132 theaters (-62); Cumulative: $1,390,000

Judi Dench, as the older British home office intelligence worker who gave secret information to the Soviets early in her career, has been the main draw for this older audience drama. Though it has outperformed most recent narrative specialized releases, the film has drawn less interest than the typical Dench release.

Non-Fiction (IFC) Week 4

$124,318 in 60 theaters (+35); Cumulative: $315,188

Olivier Assayas’ latest quintessential French adult drama with Juliette Binoche continues to perform at a level above the average of other recent subtitled films.

Also noted:

Apollo 11 (Neon) – $20,000 in 20 theaters; Cumulative: $8,709,000

The Chaperone (PBS) -$13,430 in theaters; Cumulative: $566,792

Source: IndieWire film

May 26, 2019

Memo to Distributors: Buy These 2019 Cannes Film Festival Movies

The Cannes Film Festival may be one of the great celebrations for cinema on Earth, but even the best lineup doesn’t guarantee a strong market. Yes, movies sold at the 2019 edition: Highlights such as “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (NEON/Hulu), “Les Miserables” (Amazon), “The Climb” (Sony Pictures Classics), and “Atlantics” (Netflix) found homes at the festival and will likely continue to generate buzz throughout the year. But the international context of the festival makes it hard to gauge how films that play in the cinephile-friendly gathering can find success in release. Needless to say, there were several Cannes highlights that ended the festival without North American distribution in place. Here are a few of them. If distributors are reading this, take note: We know you can do this.

“Bacurau”

“Bacurau”

Nothing in Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Sonia Braga drama “Aquarius” could have prepared audiences for this unclassifiable dystopian Western fever dream, co-directed by Juliano Dornelles. “Bacurau” unfolds in a near-future desert setting, as the eponymous remote community contends with a water crisis and a mysterious pack of American vigilantes who have been picking off their people one by one. The movie’s cryptic plot is equal parts John Carpenter and Sergio Leone as it builds to a bloody showdown between warring factions straight out of “Seven Samurai.” In other words, it’s exactly the sort of love letter to first-class filmmaking that a former critic like Filho would make, as well as a visionary cinematic achievement on its own terms.

Among the many joys of “Bacurau”: Sonia Braga as a hard-drinking, no-nonsense doctor; Udo Kier as a demented killer; an ebullient neighborhood guitarist who follows locals around and sings songs about their lives; and a local fixation on psychedelics, which enter into the plot more than once. “Bacurau” moves along in remarkable fits of inspiration, careening from playful explorations of communal support and progressive relationships to violent showdowns and ideological spats. Plus, there are UFOs and ghosts. What else do you need to know? The movie may strike some distributors as a tough sell, but consider this: It’s got sex, violence, dramatic payoff, and conversation-starting ideas about the modern world. Lean into those selling points, cut a killer trailer, and “Bacurau” could be a surprise hit. —EK

Sales Contact: contact@sbs-distribution.fr

“Beanpole”

“Beanpole”

There’s no sugar-coating the fact that Kantemir Balagov’s heartbreaking “Beanpole” isn’t the easiest sell in the world. Inspired by Svetlana Alexievich’s book “The Unwomanly Face of War,” the film is a methodical and sometimes grueling 134-minute period drama about two Russian women — best friends — who grow so desperate for any kind of personal agency after the Siege of Leningrad that they start using each other to answer the unsolvable arithmetic of life and death. Starring Viktoria Miroshnichenko as Iya, a nurse suffering from post-concussion syndrome, and Vasilisa Perelygina as Masha, a traumatized soldier whose son Iya accidentally suffocates to death, “Beanpole” isn’t for the faint of heart; imagine a cross between “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days” and an Andrei Tarkovksy film and you’ll be on the right track.

But, with a little patience, Balagov’s “Closeness” follow-up offers a tremendous bounty of rewards. Told with steely resolve, brutal honesty, and the kind of post-war production detail that deserves comparison to that seen in “Roma,” “Beanpole” accumulates an immense power as its story gradually sprouts from the miserablism where it begins. Balagov elicits astounding performances from his lead actresses (both newcomers), and they in turn elevate this film to a rarefied place of emotional transcendence in the unshakeable final scene. A boutique distributor with an eye for quality and a flair for connecting with adventurous audiences would be wise to put their stamp on a film that will only grow in renown over the years to come. —DE

Sales Contact: Wild Bunch

“First Love”

“First Love”

A boxer with a brain tumor, a crooked cop with terrible luck, a screw-up yakuza who’s seen too many movies, a dismembered Chinese gangster who wields a pump-action shotgun with his one remaining arm, a terrified prostitute who’s stalked by a ghost in tighty whities, an un-killable femme fatale who will kick a man to death just for being in her way, and the world’s most wonderful heroin. Those are just some of the many different ingredients that prolific Japanese auteur Takashi Miike swirls into his frequently sublime new gangster film, a piece of work so feral and full of life that you’d never guess it was (at least) the 90th feature its director has made in the last 30 years. And while the opening act might seem too serious to support the cutesy title, the most amazing thing about “First Love” is how sincerely it feels like Miike’s take on an ensemble romantic comedy, as the movie explodes into a hilariously absurdist ride that brings all of its characters together in the wackiest of ways, and even forges some beautiful bonds between them in the process.

“First Love” would play just fine on VOD (especially if people watched it together with their friends), but it would have the potential to blossom into a genuine cult hit if a smart distributor with a taste for grindhouse-adjacent fare gave it the theatrical run Miike deserves, and allowed audiences to experience this hugely satisfying crowdpleaser as it was meant to be seen. The crowd at Cannes erupted into spontaneous applause on at least two different occasions during the Directors’ Fortnight premiere, and that energy could easily translate across the pond. —DE

Sales Contact: HanWay Films

“Lux Æterna”

Lux Æterna

“Lux Æterna”

Cannes

The insuppressible Gaspar Noé took a gig to make a 15-minute Yves Saint Laurent ad and turned it into a freewheeling, neon-drenched 50-minute exploration of the filmmaking process. Béatrice Dalle is hilarious in the lead role as a version of herself, making her directorial debut on a film shoot that keeps going very wrong. Charlotte Gainsbourg (also playing herself) is tasked with acting in a post-modern tale of witchcraft, but Noé’s rapid-fire narrative has a lot more on his mind than this straightforward plot. The movie regularly cuts away to text-based musings on the filmmaking process, and climaxes with an unnerving 10 minutes of stereoscopics. But despite its visceral provocations, “Lux Æterna” always shows the mark of a filmmaker in control of his outlandish material, and the movie manages to deliver its outrageous twists with a consistent fixation on the chaos of the creative process. An adventurous distributor could propel this unclassifiable shot of cinematic inspiration to a successful launch on VOD, but rumor has it that Noé has more footage for “Lux Æterna” and could actually transform it into a more traditional feature-length achievement — which would make it a terrific candidate for word-of-mouth success. In any case, Noé is a singular film artist whose work deserves an audience. —EK

Sales Contact: Wild Bunch

“Tommaso”

Tommaso

“Tommaso”

Courtesy of Cannes

Fatherhood and midlife doldrums are not the usual terrain for director Abel Ferrara, whose dark tales of angry urbanites have coalesced into a striking vision of despair across several decades, but everyone grows up sometime. In the scrappy and often endearing drama “Tommaso,” Ferrara casts regular muse Willem Dafoe as a fictionalized version of the filmmaker himself, a broken man still picking up the pieces from his prior misdeeds to find some measure of stability. Having found a new life in Italy with a much younger wife and child — both played by the real ones in Ferrara’s life — Tommaso struggles to reconcile a new beginning with the stumbles of the past.

A microbudget “Birdman” about the travails of a once-successful artist losing his grasp on reality, “Tommaso” comes across as Ferrara’s most personal work on many levels. The lo-fi chamber piece is a messy, ruminative self-portrait, elevated by Dafoe’s extraordinary performance and a striking intimacy that sets the movie apart from much of Ferrara’s work. The lo-fi aesthetic may scare off some distributors, but Dafoe is arguably entering his greatest period as an actor, and “Tommaso” is another distillation of his unparalleled talent. A strong campaign built around his performance could yield solid returns, as well as a welcome opportunity to evaluate Ferrara’s resilience as a filmmaker. —EK

Sales Contact: Match Factory

Source: IndieWire film

May 26, 2019

Cannes 2019: Palme d’Or Winner ‘Parasite’ Defined a Year of Movies About Class Warfare

Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or winner “Parasite” revolves around a family that overtakes a wealthy residence, bit by bit, but the best sequence finds them trapped. When an unexpected development (no spoilers here) puts their scheme at risk, they’re forced to hide in various corridors of the expansive house, under floorboards and in the walls. It’s a startling visual embodiment of the class warfare at the heart of the movie — and in much of Bong’s work, from “Barking Dogs Never Bite” to “Snowpiercer” — wherein less fortunate people attempt to take control of the conditions holding them down, and wind up stuck somewhere in the middle.

Bong’s directorial talents were long overdue for this prize: His slick ability to compose rich visuals in every frame, with complex characters almost too driven for their own good, has made him one of the greatest working filmmakers for years now. But “Parasite” was also an ideal choice for the top prize at this year’s Cannes in a year when many of the best movies in Competition dealt with the same potent theme.

Consider “Atlantics.” Mati Diop’s surreal Grand Prix winner follows a group of women in Dakar abandoned by several young men who flee to the ocean in a quest to reach the coast of Spain. Ada (Mama Sané) is left to contend with a forced marriage to Omar (Barbara Sylla), a wealthy man whom her family hopes will support them. Ada feels trapped: On the one hand, she resents her lover abandoning her in a dreary, impoverished life; at the same time, she’s expected to suppress her emotions for the sake of her family’s stability.

As “Atlantics” heads in an eerie, supernatural direction, and the ghosts of men who departed for the sea come back to haunt Ada’s small community, the movie creates the impression of a world defined by the haves and have-nots. Only through a profound, otherworldly set of circumstances can Ava even begin to contemplate the idea of an escape, but never once does it seem realistic.

atlantics

“Atlantics”

So it goes in “Les Miserables” and “Bacurau,” the movies that shared this year’s Jury Prize. In Ladj Ly’s “Les Miserables,” thick-skulled police officers persecute a Muslim community in Paris for no reason other than their ongoing desire to confirm their superiority. Their mounting acts of aggression toward one rebellious Muslim youth lead to a dynamic showdown in an apartment complex when the entire neighborhood acts out in revolt.

That ending is mirrored rather closely in “Bacurau,” Kleber Mendonca Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ futuristic Brazilian Western, when a remote town bands together to fight back against mysterious vigilantes. Their purpose hovers in an ambiguous state for much of the story, but they take on a profound symbolic quality as the movie builds to its bloody finale, as a self-sustaining world defined by its self-sustaining ethos suddenly must fight to sustain its existence.

The stakes take on more personal ramifications in “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” Celine Sciamma’s screenplay winner, which finds a wealthy young woman named Heloise (Adele Hanele) falling for lower-class painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) in the 18th century. Their bond is powerful, intimate, and essentially impossible: While the movie doesn’t waste time exploring the taboos associated with same-sex attraction at the time, remaining close to its main characters’ developing bond, it magnifies just how much Heloise has been trapped by her palatial circumstances. As with Ada in “Atlantics,” Heloise is expected to marry a man who can support her and keep her comfortable, but that assumption doesn’t take into account what she actually wants for herself. Her love affair is a quiet act of rebellion against the system holding her in place.

While the fixation of these Cannes entries suggests a mounting discontent with wealth and persecution around the world, Ken Loach got there first. The British auteur has been the ultimate chronicler of underclass frustrations for over half a century, and his Competition entry “Sorry We Missed You” is a vintage example. Tackling the gig economy head-on, Loach focuses on desperate family man Ricky (Kris Hitchen) as he takes on a contract gig driving a delivery van around London, signing away his rights in the process. Loach excels at showing how vast industrial systems exploit the working man, and Ricky’s innocuous descent into a machine keen on eating him alive is tragic to watch, mostly because it feels so real.

"The Dead Don't Die"

“The Dead Don’t Die”

courtesy of Cannes

Nevertheless, the narrative of this year’s Cannes goes back to the beginning. Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die” opened the festival to lukewarm reviews, but the master of deadpan’s dark zombie comedy is nothing if not a pointed critique of an exploitative system. The undead in Jarmusch’s kooky ensemble are drawn to products that they obsessed over in their lives — wifi, Xanax, coffee, you name it — and it doesn’t take much to see just how much contempt Jarmusch has for the way we’ve all become materialistic slaves.

It’s a blunt metaphor, explained in bitter terms in Tom Waits’ apocalyptic voiceover, but in retrospect it set the stage for the festival’s many depictions of global outrage against capitalist persecution. Wealth attracts and it takes away; in the process, it catalyzes dramatic narratives that must be told. Even bad movies can be portals to the fears, anxieties, and frustrations of the times in which they’re made; the 2019 Cannes Film Festival brought us some great ones.

Source: IndieWire film

May 25, 2019

‘Atlantics’: Netflix’s Aggressive Africa Push Continues With Acquisition of Cannes Grand Prix Winner

Netflix has acquired worldwide rights (excluding China, Benelux, Switzerland, Russia, France) to French-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop’s feature debut, the award winning “Atlantics,” which premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded the Grand Prix.

The film’s Cannes premiere earned Diop, niece of the late, great Senegalese cinema pioneer Djibril Diop Mambéty, a spot in the history books: she became the first woman of African descent with a film in the 72-year-old festival’s Competition section, and has proven to be one of the biggest breakouts at Cannes this year.

Previously titled “Fire Next Time” (although not based on James Baldwin’s famous essay collection of the same name), the film was in rare company. Diop and French-Malian Ladj Ly were the only filmmakers of African descent represented in Competition at the world’s most prestigious film festival this year.

The acquisition represents Netflix’s ongoing aggressive push into the African continent — a still relatively untapped source of talent and content. The news comes just months after the streaming giant announced its first original African series “Queen Sono,” starring veteran South African actress Pearl Thusi (“Quantico”), as well as “Mama K’s Team 4,” its first African animated original. There was also February’s series order of the South African teen drama “Blood & Water,” to be directed by Nosipho Dumisa, the helmer behind the buzzy 2018 SXSW thriller “Number 37.”

atlantics

“Atlantics”

Earlier this year, Netflix announced its acquisition of South African drama “Shadow,” which was released globally as a Netflix Original on March 8. And finally, at TIFF 2018, the streamer acquired Nigerian drama “Lionheart,” the directorial debut of Nollywood (Nigerian cinema) superstar actress Genevieve Nnaji. Also picked up as a Netflix Original movie, the film was released worldwide on January 4, 2019.

These aggressive moves by Netflix shouldn’t come as a surprise. In December, the company signaled that it planned to get serious about ordering/acquiring original series and films from the African continent, created by Africans — a step which is in line with its global ambitions.

Even Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Fremaux recognizes the potential, telling Variety ahead of this year’s event, “There is an exciting new generation coming out of the African continent and women are making half of [those works], if not more. We’re sensing a simmering in Africa. Women are are driving it and Cannes is its arena.”

Indeed. In fact, the last two years alone have been noteworthy for the festival, with Zambian filmmaker Rungano Nyoni’s “I Am Not a Witch,” Wanuri Kahiu’s “Rafiki,” and Diop’s “Atlantics,” all feature debuts by women of African descent, premiering at the festival.

"Les Misérables" director Ladj Ly

“Les Misérables” director Ladj Ly

Meanwhile, French-Malian filmmaker Ladj Ly’s feature debut “Les Miserables,” which also premiered in competition and picked up a jury prize, was acquired by Amazon. Two Cannes award winners picked up by primarily streaming platforms is certainly noteworthy, especially at a time when the festival negotiates its relationship with non-traditional distribution platforms like Netflix, who also acquired Cannes Critics’ Week Award Winner “I Lost My Body,” Jérémy Clapin’s animated feature debut.

Release dates and strategies for “Atlantics,” “Les Miserables” and “I Lost My Body” have yet to be set, and will likely be closely observed.

Fionnuala Jamison negotiated “Atlantics” for mk2 Films on behalf of the filmmakers. And Carole Baraton did the same for “I Lost My Body” for Charades on behalf of the filmmakers.

Source: IndieWire film

May 24, 2019

World Premiere of Booksmart at SXSW 2019 [Video]

“My dream from the beginning was to premiere the movie here [SXSW]. It is just such a warm, film-loving crowd; ready to enjoy films, and have fun, and experience them and participate in them, and I am just so happy.” – Olivia Wilde

Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart is an unfiltered comedy about high school friendships and the bonds we create that last a lifetime. Capturing the spirit of our times, the film is a coming of age story for a new generation.

During the Q&A at the SXSW Film World Premiere of Booksmart, Director of SXSW Film Janet Pierson asked if Wilde always wanted to be a director. “Absolutely, but it takes a lot of courage to do it and I had to spend a lot of time paying attention and observing. I started with music videos and shorts. I just had a dream of making a film like the ones that I loved and still love.”

“It was films like Breakfast Club, Dazed and Confused, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless, and I thought we need one of those for this generation. I want to add to that conversation.”

The last few minutes were devoted to audience questions and one person asked about Beanie Feldstein’s character Molly, who is the classic overachiever. “It was so fun to collaborate with Kaitlyn [Dever] and build that relationship because you get to see Molly behind closed doors and how silly, and fun, and loving she is. So much of the film is learning about the duality of people – how you can see something on the outside and they can be totally different on the inside,” said Feldstein.

Want more Booksmart? Be sure to take a look at Olivia Wilde’s Film Keynote, her profile in SXSWorld Magazine, and the Booksmart Women Featured Session! Catch Booksmart in theaters on May 24.

Check out more videos from SXSW 2019 on our YouTube channel.

Watch Now

Dive into SXSW 2019 Photo Galleries from March 8-17 including sessions, screenings, showcases, and more. And as always, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SXSW News to stay current with all things SXSW.

Booksmart World Premiere – Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW

The post World Premiere of Booksmart at SXSW 2019 [Video] appeared first on SXSW.

Source: SxSW Film

May 22, 2019

Olivia Wilde Discusses the Powerful Moments in Her Life That Lead to Her Directorial Debut Booksmart [Video]

I can now call myself a SXSW Filmmaker, and that is a huge honor.

Olivia Wilde is a modern-day Renaissance woman with a resume ranging from director and actress to producer and activist. The day after the World Premiere of her incredibly successful directorial debut, Booksmart, Wilde delivered a 2019 SXSW Film Keynote. Her speech touched upon her early career, finding a creative partner, and the importance of giving people chances.

“I realized if I wanted things to change, if I wanted to make my voice heard, I was going to have to shift the paradigm from within and that is really hard. Especially because I have been working in this industry since I was eighteen…for seventeen years, almost two decades, which is truly insane. I got to celebrate my 35th birthday, here, last night at my premiere, and it was truly the most special day of my life.”

Wilde also recounted another powerful moment in her life at SXSW 2013 with the World Premiere of Joe Swanberg‘s Drinking Buddies. “I was a producer on the film and I felt our tiny team had truly crafted something unique together. I’m grateful for that movie because it shoved me into the realization that my instincts were actually worth listening to,” said Wilde.

Watch Olivia Wilde’s full 2019 Film Keynote and more videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch Now

To learn even more about Wilde, check out our profile on her in SXSWorld Magazine and our Booksmart Women Panel! Watch the trailer for Booksmart and be sure to check it out in theaters May 24!

Dive into SXSW 2019 Photo Galleries from March 8-17 including sessions, screenings, showcases, and more. And as always, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SXSW News to stay current with all things SXSW.

Olivia Wilde Film Keynote – Photo by Danny Matson

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Source: SxSW Film

May 19, 2019

‘John Wick 3’ Wins the Box Office, but Weekend Totals Dropped $60 Million from 2018

“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” opened to a domestic total of $57 million; after “Us,” it’s the best opening for a non-Marvel release this year. That’s encouraging as we approach a summer that largely features sequels to previous hits, but — after three very strong weekends — it’s the first weekend in which the total gross lagged behind last year, when “Deadpool 2” debuted to $125 million.

In total, all films grossed around $150 million, for a $60 million shortfall against 2018. For the year so far, grosses are running $400 million short, or 9% below — a gap that would be much worse without “Endgame.” Memorial Day weekend lies ahead, with “Aladdin” leading the way. But advance predictions of its gross place it below what “Solo: A Star Wars Story” did last year, so we could see another falloff before some of June’s major openers come around.

John Wick 3 Halle Berry

“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum”

NIKOTAVERNISE.COM

In the meantime, there is nothing but positive vibes from “Parabellum.” Its opening weekend is the best in the entire run of the franchise, and comes close to doubling the first sequel’s 2017 opening. It’s also the first R-rated non-fantasy action film to hit #1 since “The Equalizer 2” last summer, double that of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” and ahead of any of the three “Taken” — the Liam Neeson-starring franchise that is this genre’s template.

And it’s in the “Taken” comparisons that really “Parabellum” stands out. The opening for the first “Taken” sequel doubled the original for a series best and grossed an amazing six times multiple. The third “Taken” was down a bit from #2, while ahead of the initial entry. But it barely doubled its opening, and the series ended.

By comparison, “John Wick” is taking on the feel of the “Fast and Furious” series. With limited expectations, its surprise initial success spawned a slightly bigger second film, while the third provided the best opening yet.

Future prospects are great, with Keanu Reeves’ continuing a great career turnaround. (He seemed past his due date when “47 Ronin” bombed in 2013). It’s similar to what Tom Cruise continues to do with the “Mission: Impossible” series. Those and the “Fast and Furious” entries, of course, are much bigger, but they are also substantially bigger investments. The budget for “Parabellum” has not been officially reported, but the previous ones had estimates of $40 million or less.

It’s also a big boost for recently struggling Lionsgate and represents the studios’ first major success since the final “Hunger Games” film. That’s vital in an industry increasingly dominated by Disney, Warner Bros., and Universal.

Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton in "The Sun is also a Star." (Warner Bros.)

“The Sun Is Also a Star”

Warner Bros.

Combined, the other openers barely broke $10 million. “A Dog’s Journey” — not a sequel, but similar to the recent “A Dog’s Purpose” — opened to less than half of that January release. January also had “A Dog’s Way Home” from Sony, which debuted better than “Journey.” Even counting by dog years, this looks like overkill. An A Cinemascope provides some faint hope it might stick around.

“The Sun Is Also a Star” threatens to break the wrong kind of record: It made just $2.6 million in over 2,000 theaters. It has a female director in Ry Russo-Young, who rose from the independent world to make “Before I Wake” in 2017. Based on a YA novel, it’s a standalone project with two minority leads (Caribbean and Korean roots) and an overlay of immigration legal drama. Correct or no, its failure tells the industry that trying to be different is risky and tough to justify.

Marvel

“Endgame” dropped out of first spot, with another 54% fall. Its ultimate figures are coming into view, but it will remain the film to beat in 2019. Like “Parabellum,” it gives hope that upcoming sequels in franchises like “Godzilla,” “Secret Life of Pets,” “Toy Story,” “Spider-Man,” and “Fast and Furious,” along with the live-action “The Lion King,” will right the struggling box-office ship.

“Pokemon: Detective Pikachu”

Warner Bros.

A potential long-term franchise that seems shaky in its second domestic weekend is “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,” which dropped 54%. It suggests a domestic final total under $140 million, which wouldn’t be that bad if this weren’t underperforming overseas: Foreign is $112 million compared to $94 million domestic. It’s hard to see the ultimate worldwide take reaching much more than $300 million. With combined production and marketing costs somewhere around that number, that makes the prospect of a sequel as risky as, say, “The Sun Is Also a Star.”

Post-Mother’s Day opening, “The Hustle” fell 53%, with the Riviera-set female scam artist comedy failing to get sufficient word of mouth. Two films in their third week are seeing better results. Sony’s thriller “The Intruder” dropped 44%, but at an $8 million budget it’s another decent showing for the Screen Gems unit. “Long Shot” dropped 45%, which is fairly impressive since it lost half of its dates. Its per-theater average only went down slightly.

Two STX releases round out the Top Ten, with the second weekend of their female-aimed comedy “Poms” falling 61% from its bad start. “UglyDolls,” losing a big chunk of theaters, also fell 61%.

The Top Ten

1. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic: 74; Est. budget: $50 million

$57,025,000 in 3,850 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $14,812; Cumulative: $57,025,000

2. Avengers: Endgame (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #1

$29,411,000 (-53%) in 4,220 theaters (-442); PTA: $6,969; Cumulative: $770,806,000

3. Pokemon Detective Pokemon (Warner Bros.) Week 2; Last weekend #2

$24,815,000 (-54%) in 4,248 theaters (-46); PTA: $5,842; Cumulative: $94,002,000

4. A Dog’s Journey (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic:42 ; Est. budget: $(unknown)

$8,000,000 in 3,267 theaters; PTA: $3,267; Cumulative: $8,000,000

5. The Hustle (United Artists) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$6,081,000 (-%) in 3,077 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,976; Cumulative: $23,146,000

6. The Intruder (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #4

$4,025,000 (-44%) in 2,231 theaters (+9); PTA: $1,804; Cumulative: $28,058,000

7. Long Shot (Lionsgate) Week 3; Last weekend #5

$3,400,000 (-46%) in 4,248 theaters (-46); PTA: $1,804; Cumulative: $25,723,000

8. The Sun Is Also a Star (Warner Bros.) NEW – Cinemascore: B- ; Metacritic: 52; Est. budget: $9 million

$2,600,000 in 2,073 theaters; PTA: $1,254; Cumulative: $2,600,000

9. Poms (STX) Week 2; Last weekend #6

$2,090,000 (-61%) in 2,750 theaters (no change); PTA: $760; Cumulative: $10,010,000

10. UglyDolls (STX) Week 3; Last weekend #7

$1,600,000 (-61%) in 2,030 theaters (-1,622); PTA: $788; Cumulative: $17,244,000

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Source: IndieWire film

May 19, 2019

‘The Souvenir’ Is the Top Specialized Opener as Business Remains Soft

As the Cannes Film Festival presents prospects for the next year of specialized releases, distributors at home are praying for better fortunes ahead: For titles in their third week or beyond, the best gross is under $250,000 for “The White Crow.” Ongoing releases traditionally form the bulk of art-house business, and that’s likely the lowest-ever best gross for a film in its third week.

Within this context, a decent opening — $20,000 in four top theaters — for Joanna Hogg’s highly praised “The Souvenir” is positive news. It’s good enough to serve as the basis for much wider play, but doesn’t suggest a strong prognosis for the business.

Meanwhile, documentaries continue to provide specialized releasing whatever good news there is: “The Biggest Little Farm” showed continued growth in its second weekend.

Opening

The Souvenir (A24) – Metacritic: 94; Festivals include: Sundance, Berlin 2019

$85,851 in 4 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $21,463

With “The Souvenir,” Joanna Hogg supplanted “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” as the year’s best-reviewed release. Another example of A24 putting its considerable weight behind a new talent and trying to help her reach the next level, this is a tough-minded romantic drama about a talented film student whose growth is challenged by a difficult relationship.

Placed at top New York/Los Angeles theaters, and with Tilda Swinton in a key (though not lead) role, this had by far the best opening. The per-theater average is close to “First Reformed” a year ago and, more recently, “High Life.” Both were also core art-house appeal titles backed with strong reviews and cinephile interest. Still, spring 2018 also saw “You Were Never Really Here” and “Disobedience” open at twice this level.

The Saturday increase of 46% is a positive sign. Reviews suggest this will rank high on year-end best lists and could compete for awards; A24 has incentive to maximize this.

What comes next: Expect an aggressive expansion push starting this Friday.

“Trial by Fire”

Trial By Fire (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic: 48; Festivals include: Telluride 2018

$78,822 in 109 theaters; PTA: $723

Director Edward Zwick’s credits include “Glory,” “Legends of the Fall,” and “The Last Samurai.” Of late, he has had less impact. The results, in multiple cities nationwide, were very soft for this death-penalty drama starring Laura Dern. Soft reviews were no help.

What comes next: Prospects for a box-office reprieve seem low.

Photograph (Amazon) – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Sundance 2019

$(est.) 39,000 in 13 theaters; PTA: $(est.) 3,000

Ritash Batra had a surprise success five years ago with his Mumbai-set “The Lunchbox.” Spurred by word-of-mouth, it grossed over $4 million and was one of the best-grossing Indian films as a specialized release. His new film, also set in Mumbai, opened in seven cities to a much lesser response (at deadline, they atypically have not reported their estimate). Despite Amazon’s admirable preference to take their productions theatrically before their home-site streaming, the result here shows the challenges they face.

What comes next: This goes to multiple new cities this Friday.

Walking On Water (Kino Lorber) – Metacritic: 60; Festivals include: Locarno 2018

$10,826 in 2 theaters; PTA: $5,413

This documentary on iconic artist Christo (not his first documentary appearance) opened in two limited-seating theaters in New York and Toronto to initially positive results.

What comes next: This should find additional dates ahead in key cities.

“The Biggest Little Farm”

Week Two

Biggest Little Farm (Neon)

$270,000 in 45 theaters (+40); PTA: $6,000; Cumulative: $406,708

Biodiverse farming — the subject of this documentary — might seem like a niche topic. But similar to its initial two city response, this rapid national expansion is showing surprisingly fertile response. A documentary is again easing the pain of an otherwise challenging market.

All Is True (Sony Pictures Classics)

$65,400 in 20 theaters (+16); PTA: $3,270; Cumulative: $130,273

Kenneth Branagh’s latest pushed into several new top cities this weekend. But as with many other current films, these aren’t the kind of results that sustain core theaters.

The-White-Crow

“The White Crow”

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

The White Crow (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$234,082 in 136 theaters (+86); Cumulative: $705,669

Ralph Fiennes’ biopic about Rudolf Nureyev’s early career is now playing nationwide. It continues to play ahead of most recent releases. Like most films, it is not performing as well than similar ones did in past years.

Amazing Grace (Neon) Week 9

$200,880 in 227 theaters (-83); Cumulative: $3,709,000

The decades-long delayed release of this filming of Aretha Franklin’s 1972 gospel album continues its multi-month run with an ultimate $4 million-$5 million total likely.

Red Joan (IFC) Week 5

$192,167 in 192 theaters (-3); Cumulative: $1,202,000

Judi Dench (playing the older half of a two-part characterization) as a Soviet agent unmasked in her 80s is the main draw.

Non-Fiction (IFC) Week 3    5-106

$62,684 in 25 theaters (+20); Cumulative: $169,271

Olivier Assayas’ latest French drama, as usual with favorable critical backing, expanded to more large cities this weekend. The results are on the modest level in the range other acclaimed subtitled releases like “Transit” and “Birds of Passage,” both of which received less audience interest than they deserved. This will reach the rest of the top 25 markets this weekend.

Also noted:

The Chaperone (PBS) – $37,385 in 122 theaters; Cumulative: $528,236

Wild Nights With Emily (Greenwich) – $30,960 in 56 theaters; Cumulative: $453,8588

Meeting Gorbachev (1091) – $26,837 in 34 theaters; Cumulative: $103,162

Hesburgh (Creadon) – $13,550 in 23 theaters; Cumulative: $153,810

Apollo 11 (Neon) – $17,400 in 23 theaters; Cumulative: $8,681,000

The River and the Wall (Gravitas Ventures) – $10,804 in 4 theaters; Cumulative: $2,701

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Source: IndieWire film

May 19, 2019

‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ Review: Céline Sciamma Unveils a Painterly Masterpiece — Cannes

IWCriticsPick

Halfway through Céline Sciamma’s razor-sharp and shatteringly romantic “Portrait of a Lady Fire” — as perfect a film as any to have premiered this year — the three main characters sit around a candlelit dinner table and argue the meaning of what happened between Orpheus and Eurydice. More specifically, the point of contention hinges on what motivated Orpheus to ignore the instructions he was given and turn around to look at his love, even though he knew it would cause her to vanish from the world forever.

Sophie (Luàna Bajrami), a naïve young house servant, opts for the most literal interpretation of the ancient tale: She insists that Orpheus was an idiot. But Héloïse (a brilliant Adèle Haenel), the older, booksmart, but similarly inexperienced daughter of the absent widow who owns the place, awakens to a different understanding. To her mind, Orpheus was completely in control of his wits, he just decided to choose the memory of Eurydice over the real thing. And why not? Eurydice has already died once, and there’s no telling how long her second life might last. But in Orpheus’ heart, she will always be young and perfect. Perhaps it’s better to keep her there.

As with each of Sciamma’s three previous features, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is a profoundly tender story about the process of self-discovery and becoming. But while all of her work has been immaculate in one way or the other, and her 2007 debut — about the sexual awakening of a girl on a synchronized swimming team — was even dubbed “Water Lilies” for its English release, this is the first of her films that could be described as “painterly.” And while all of her work has been about the images that her characters project, this one is more concerned with the ones they leave behind. Austere where “Tomboy” was anxious, and hesitant where “Girlhood” was recklessly confident, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is a period romance that’s traditional in some ways, progressive in others, and altogether so damn true that it might feel more like staring into a mirror than it does running your eyes over a canvas.

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

The story, which isn’t based on any particular people but is nevertheless inspired by all the centuries of female artists who were overwritten and/or erased by their male contemporaries, is set on the rocky shores of Brittany circa 1770. Marianne (a careful, tender, and violently present Noémie Merlant) is teaching a painting class while tearing up at the sight of — you guessed it — a portrait of a lady on fire. The rest of the tale is comprised of heartbreaking backstory, as Sciamma twists this potentially clumsy framing device into a necessary bit of context: The romance that’s about to unfold will end with a painting in lieu of a partnership.

And, as if to confirm the inestimable value of paintings in this film, the main plot begins with a slightly younger Marianne throwing herself into the ocean in order to save her canvases; the ensuing shot of Merlant sitting naked by a fire in between her two white slabs of wet linen is an indelible harbinger of a film in which every frame could be mounted on a gallery wall. Marianne has come to the creaky home of a wealthy comtesse (“Daughter of Mine” star Valeria Golino) who’s comissioned the artist to paint a wedding portrait for her daughter Héloïse — or of her daughter Héloïse, and for the unseen Italian man who might be persuaded to take her as his bride.

That task will prove easier said than done, as Héloïse is fresh out of a long stint in a strict convent, and in no mood to be married to some guy she’s never met. Her older sister may have felt the same way; she jumped off a cliff some time ago, bequeathing her fate down the line. Marianne will have to pose as a hired companion and paint Héloïse in secret — from memory — so that the subject can be sold off without her knowledge.

The two women forge their bond under false pretenses; Marianne a shrewd but strangely vulnerable brunette, and Héloïse a bratty but clever blonde. Their hair cuts a marvelous contrast into the blue skies and clay sounds that surround the chateau. Costume designer Dorothée Guiraud assigns them both a uniform that they wear throughout the film (Marianne in red and Héloïse in emerald), which makes it that much easier to appreciate how their complexions flush out as their friendship blooms and their dresses buckle. Sometimes Marianne wears a beige smock that makes her look like a Jedi in training, as Merlant’s concentration is complicated by layers of talent and desire that she tries to hide by clenching her jaw.

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

In some ways, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” might seem a bit stodgy and old-fashioned, not least of all from a filmmaker whose previous work continues to burn hot with the urgency of our modern age. Both Marianne and Héloïse are products of their time — even if they both have their eyes cast on a future that takes women seriously — and Sciamma doesn’t ask them to subvert history for the sake of their contemporary audience. The film is paced at the speed of a world that’s lit by candlelight, the sex is sensual without being provocative (although Haenel does something with her armpit hair that might inspire the entire patriarchy to get together and re-evaluate their ideas about grooming), and the third act will frustrate anyone hoping for a more radical takedown of heternormative structures.

At the same time, Sciamma crystallizes why queer romance stories often tap into deep-seated universal emotions that straight ones seldom bother to explore. When Marianne and Héloïse finally get intimate after several increasingly tense days of sitting on either side of a canvas and staring at each other, their terrifying leap of faith is galvanized by the sheer thrill of discovery. “Do all lovers feel as though they’re inventing something?,” Héloïse asks the first partner she’s ever had. Sciamma doesn’t have to answer that question for us, even if that feeling is ultimately more valid for some than it is for others; her film expresses that discovery as vividly as any that’s ever been made, as the drama’s spartan backdrop only adds to the intensity of its blaze.

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

All lovers also feel as though they’ve lost something, and that’s where “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” mines its true power. This is as much a story of absence as it is a story of togetherness, and as much a story of personal liberty as it is a story of matrimonial bondage. That Marianna and Héloïse don’t end up together isn’t a plot twist so much as the entire point, which is why it’s telegraphed from the opening frames. Sciamma’s deliriously moving film is laser-focused on the space between having something and keeping something, and she visualizes that space by creating a sliver of distance between her characters and their shadows. Just as Héloïse’s mom was shocked to find her own wedding portrait already hanging on a wall of the house when she first moved in, there exists a visceral disconnect between flesh and memory — who people are, and how they’re remembered.

Here, that disconnect can be so vast and filled with elemental power (the scene that lends the film its title burns with enough unspoken desire to char a hole through the screen) that it can belittle the more constructed schisms that tend to keep people apart; Sciamma plays with class politics and social mores until the bitter end, but such things are totally irrelevant to the memory that Marianne and Héloïse have of each other. This is a movie about how people set each other free, not how they don’t (a point which an infuriatingly topical subplot hammers home).

From the arresting first shots to its all-timer of a final shot and a second act choral performance that might even top the Rihanna singalong in “Girlhood,” “Portrait of a Girl on Fire” is an unforgettable film that cooks at a low simmer until going incandescent in its closing minutes. It’s a magnificent love story about how our formative romances can shape us and sweep us forward, whether we have to move along because life presents us an opportunity or if we have to move on because life denies us a million more. It’s a film that captures the feeling you get from the last scene of “Roman Holiday” and stretches it over a full two hours in which not a single moment is wasted.

Most of all, it’s a film that sympathizes with Héloïse’s ostensibly selfish logic. In Orpheus’ heart, she will always be young and perfect. Nothing lasts forever — no one is as beautiful as the impression they leave behind. And love, like a painting, is never really finished. But only when the work is stopped can someone trust that it will be theirs to keep.

Grade: A

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” premiered in Competition at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. It is currently seeking U.S. distribution.

Source: IndieWire film