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Japanese actress Makiko Watanabe, actor Jun Murakami, actor Nijiro Murakami, director Naomi Kawase, actress Jun Yoshinaga and actress Miyuki Matsuda pose as they arrive for the screening of the film ‘Still the Water’ (Fututsume no Mado) at the 67th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France
‘Still the Water’ a masterpiece Japanese female auteur draws mixed reception

CANNES, France, May 21, (AFP): Japanese director Naomi Kawase on Tuesday unveiled her Cannes contender “Still the Water”, a lyrical look at love, death and sex that she has called her “masterpiece” worthy of the coveted Palme d’Or. Kawase, an auteur who has already bagged two awards at previous Cannes festivals, is one of two women vying for the Palme d’Or to be awarded by a jury led by New Zealand’s Jane Campion, the only female director to win the top prize. Last year, the 44-year-old Kawase became the first Japanese filmmaker to serve on the Cannes jury. Critics, however, gave her latest project mixed reviews. The film explores the lives of two teenagers, Kyoko and Kaito, growing up on Amami Oshima, an isolated island off the southern coast of Japan where life is shrouded by the constant threat of vicious typhoons.

Kyoko’s mother, a shaman offering spiritual guidance to her fellow islanders, is ravaged by an unspecified illness and returns home to die just as Kyoko has fallen in love with Kaito. Kaito, however, is still reeling from his own parents’ breakup and resists Kyoko’s attempts to explore their budding sexuality. One day he finds a tattooed corpse washed up on the beach, a dead man whom he believes to be his mother’s new lover. He angrily confronts her about the grisly discovery, touching off a struggle that eventually allows him to find peace with his father’s absence. The visually stunning, deeply sensual film espouses a belief in the redemptive power of nature and sex in the face of destruction and death.

Kawase burst onto the international scene with her 1997 award of the Cannes Camera d’Or for “Suzuka”.
That success was followed in 2007 with the festival’s Grand Prix for “The Mourning Forest”. Kawase told reporters in Japan before the 12-day festival that she had her sights firmly set on the top honour this year.
“There is no doubt that this is my masterpiece,” she said of ‘Futatsume no mado’ (literally, ‘The second window’). At the festival, Kawase played down those ambitions, saying the main point of taking part in Cannes was to introduce the film to a global audience.

“I believe that this is the most sophisticated film I’ve ever made in terms of the performances of the actors, from a technical point of view, in terms of the breadth of the topic addressed,” she said. “It’s very moving to have the film viewed by people from around the world, that’s what’s most important. We’re not at the Olympic Games.” Kawase said the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the earthquake and tsunami that claimed the lives of 18,000 people, had driven her to explore the themes in the film. “It was nature that went wild,” she said.

“What makes nature so beautiful and captivating is that despite the danger, people choose to live close to the potential threat.” US movie website Indiewire gave the film a strong shot at the festival’s prizes, saying Kawase’s “lyrical and personal style of cinema adds another treat to an already fantastic slate, and should make the competitive scuffle for the number one spot that more interesting”. French cinema website AlloCine said it was “already among the favourites for the Palme d’Or”. However trade magazine Hollywood Reporter lambasted “chunky” dialogue and “insubstantial characters” while critic Peter Bradshaw of Britain’s Guardian gave it just three out of five stars. “Kawase’s film is sometimes beautiful and moving but I couldn’t help occasionally finding it a little contrived and self-conscious,” he said.

Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling served up his hugely-anticipated directorial debut “Lost River” in Cannes Tuesday, a psychedelic fantasy with strong David Lynch echoes that had some critics screaming in pain and others singing his praise. Journalists jostled with movie-buffs to get into the festival hall’s plush movie theatre for what was one of the most eagerly awaited events of the Cannes Film Festival, and many ended up being turned away. “Dumb-foundingly poor”, “a first-rate folie de grandeur”, “mesmerising”, “impressive”... Critics could not make their mind up over the 33-year-old’s sombre, visually-stunning picture set in a decaying American ghost town called Lost River.

“Mad Men” star Christina Hendricks stars as Billy, a single mother-of-two who works at a local striptease joint, desperately trying to make ends meet to keep her rundown, mortgaged home. She decides to take another, mysterious job touted by her sinister bank manager (Australia’s Ben Mendelsohn), and discovers a shady, cabaret underworld where Cat (Eva Mendes) performs gory stunts to the delight of locals. Meanwhile, her teenage son Bones (“Agents of SHIELD” actor Iain De Caestecker) spends his days tearing copper pipes out of derelict houses to earn some cash. He grows close to his solitary neighbour Rat, played by rising Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, who lives in a ramshackle house with her mute grandmother and tells him about a curse over the town.

The film also stars British actor Matt Smith of “Doctor Who” fame as Bully, a rabid man-about-town who spreads terror in Lost River and likes to cut the lips off those who displease him. Burning houses, graffiti-laden buildings, flooded streets, smoky corridors and a rousing, oppressive music score throughout...
The film sucks the audience into a surreal world with strong — and perhaps too many — echoes of Lynch and Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, with whom Gosling worked on “Drive” and “Only God Forgives”, the ultra-violent film that competed for the top Palme d’Or prize last year and also divided viewers. “This film is a present from directors I have been lucky to work with over the past few years,” Gosling, who also wrote the screenplay, said in production notes. “As an actor, I went from films deeply anchored in reality by Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”) to the imaginary world of Nicolas Winding Refn.”

The film was shot in Detroit, the once-thriving Motor City that has since declared the largest bankruptcy in US history, leaving parts of the city near deserted and in shambles. Gosling said he had taken his inspiration from the city when he went there to shoot George Clooney’s political drama “The Ides of March”.
“Even though I spent just a few days there, this city left a deep mark on me,” he said. “There were deserted districts stretching over 60 or so kilometres (37 miles), and in some of the recesses of these districts, parents were trying to raise their children not far from burnt-down or demolished houses. “At one time, (Detroit) was a postcard for the American dream, but today, for families in these districts, that dream has morphed into a nightmare,” Gosling said.

And a nightmare it was for some critics, who tore their hair out at what one termed a “crapocalypse.” “Ryan Gosling confuses ‘making film’ with ‘assembling Tumblr of David Lynch & Mario Bava gifs’. Dumb-foundingly poor,” the Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin tweeted. “Lost River a cacophony of meaningless motifs stumbling round in service of a plot best summed up by ‘woman decides to move house’,” said Indiewire’s Jessica Kiang. But for entertainment industry observer Anne Thompson, Gosling’s film was an “impressive, impressionistic, well-wrought debut.” “Gosling’s Motown fantasy blitzes eye and mind,” the Toronto Star’s Peter Howell said. Gosling’s film is competing in the Un Certain Regard section of the film festival, which seeks to recognise new talent and encourage innovative, daring work. The Canadian actor-director came to the French Riviera resort in 2010 to promote “Blue Valentine” and again in 2011 for “Drive”, which won the Best Director Award.

Behind the scenes at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday: Square-Basher: John Boorman has been in a nostalgic mood this year with his film “Queen & Country” bringing memories of Britain in the 1950s flooding back. “Bleak” years they may have been but the antics of the autobiographical lead character Bill Rohan and his army chum Percy had the audience roaring with laughter. And despite the privations of the era, Boorman said he had enjoyed immersing himself in period details such as the strange clipped way people talked back then in the middle of the last century.

The film must be one of the longest awaited sequels in history. Boorman’s 1987 hit “Hope and Glory” tells the story of his earlier nine-year-old self thrilling to London’s blitz while all the adults around him suffered.
The follow-up takes in Boorman’s compulsory spell in the army and everyone in the film is based on a real person such as Percy who copes with the boredom of endless square-bashing and boot polishing with various misguided projects. “In the film, Percy steals the regimental clock and the camp is turned upside down in an attempt to find it,” Boorman recalled. “The real Percy caused even more havoc by stealing several valuable items at two-week intervals,” he said. Committing his own life to film also left him struggling to distinguish between what was real and what was not.

“David Hayman, who plays my father in both films, now seems more like my father than my father was, (and) Vanessa Kirby who plays my sister is so uncannily like her that I often felt in her scenes transported back to those days,” he said. Oscar talk: The festival is only just over half way through and already critics and movie buffs are abuzz with Oscar talk. Funny man Steve Carell donned a prosthetic nose for his role as chemicals fortune heir John du Pont and his fatal obsession with two Olympic wrestlers played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher”.

His performance prompted Ramin Setoodeh of entertainment magazine Variety to declare: “Steve Carell is an Oscar lock.” The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin meanwhile tweeted: “Get ready for a world in which the phrase ‘Academy Award nominee Channing Tatum’ exists.” Best bash Palme: If a Palme d’Or existed for the most stylish Cannes party venue it would surely go to LA-based actor and liquor heir Sid Mallya whose family owns the world’s third largest spirits company.

Guests to his castle on the Ile Sainte-Marguerite, just off the coast of Cannes, were allowed to roam as they wished around the three-and-a-half-acre private estate and Mallya made sure the drinks flowed, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The island, once owned by Louis XIV, is best known as the place where prisoner Eustache Dauger, aka the Man in the Iron Mask, was locked up in the seventeenth century.

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