[Marxism] You know it’s bad when the best movie so far is “The Great Gatsby.”

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri May 17 18:14:57 MDT 2013

NY Times May 16, 2013
Ducking Rain and Competition at Cannes

CANNES, France — For many, the Cannes Film Festival summons up 
shimmering images of beautiful men and women drifting up a red carpet as 
photographers shout their names. “Leo!” “Carey!” “Leo!” “Carey!”

That would be Mr. DiCaprio and Ms. Mulligan to the rest of us, but here 
the stars are delivered to the patient — the several thousand media 
worker bees, but also the fans camped out for hours near the red carpet 
— like exotic flowers that are tantalizingly in reach yet also 
inaccessible. “That’s Leo’s hand,” I heard a woman say of a photograph 
she had just taken after the Wednesday news conference for “The Great 
Gatsby,” holding her digital relic with the veneration of the devout.


Certainly, after two days of dreary movies and weather, Cannes could use 
some brightening. As one wit said in the festival headquarters, you know 
it’s bad when the best movie so far is “The Great Gatsby.” There’s a 
perception that the organizers front-load the event with lesser titles, 
perhaps to keep attendees from leaving early from what always ends up 
feeling like a very long 12 days. (The festival closes on May 26.) The 
problem is that when the movies are as weak as those that had played by 
Thursday afternoon, the mood can soon sour. Jet-lagged festivalgoers 
become (more) irritable, and the booing begins. And when the first film 
in competition also includes a scene of someone lighting a man’s crotch 
on fire, well, let’s just say it can make the critics a tad cranky.

This particular and thoroughly unnecessary set piece takes place in the 
Mexican movie “Heli,” one of those exploitation films that sells its 
violent goods with art cinema pretension. Directed by Amat Escalante 
(“Sangre”), it turns on the title character, a young factory worker, who 
lives with his family some five hours from Mexico City. An unfortunate, 
ill-advised act — without thinking, he destroys someone else’s drug 
cache — leads to spiraling, horrific violence. Mr. Escalante presents 
this with great calculation and numerous art film clichés, including 
long shots of cars driving across dusty landscapes to nowhere and an 
adorable white puppy that, as soon as it appears, is doomed as one of 
those symbolically sacrificed innocents of cinema, yet without 
discernible point or politics.

Presumably Mr. Escalante is trying to say something meaningful about the 
ghastly war on drugs in his country, yet “Heli” manages only to offer up 
one gory reminder after another of how easily filmmakers can lose 
control of screen violence. In this regard, the artfully arranged 
opening shot — a close-up of a military boot resting on the bloodied 
face of a man whose head is next to a corpse’s feet — is 
characteristically visually arresting and empty. Just as bad is Mr. 
Escalante’s representation of his indigent characters as scarcely more 
articulate or animated than a cow Heli observes. Somehow, the animal has 
become trapped in a deep watering hole, which, given the rain outside 
the theater and dankness inside, made it feel like a Cannes-specific 

The bad news continued on Thursday with the staggeringly obtuse “Young & 
Beautiful,” from the reliably unreliable French director François Ozon. 
The young, beautiful Marine Vacth, one of those gazelles who routinely 
drift into French films with vacant expressions and bared breasts, plays 
the title character. Isabelle is 16 when the movie opens and eager to 
lose her virginity on summer vacation. She succeeds, awkwardly, maybe 
unhealthily: while having sex the first time, she hallucinates that 
she’s watching herself. “So?” her brother later asks. “Done,” she 
answers flatly. Her first time isn’t just a dissociative bummer, though; 
it also leads her to become — mon dieu! — a prostitute, a decision that 
Mr. Ozon treats as an ordinary, actually banal stage in her 
developmental life.

Equally unpersuasive, despite being based on a true story, is “The Bling 
Ring,” the latest from Sofia Coppola. The opening selection for another 
competition section, Un Certain Regard, the movie takes its inspiration 
from a group of Los Angeles teenagers who in 2008 and 2009 went on 
veritable shopping sprees — grabbing Gucci, Chanel and Prada, and shoes, 
bags and jewels — in the often unlocked homes of celebrities like Paris 
Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Based on a Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo 
Sales, the movie essentially consists of scenes of the teenagers (one 
played by a strong, funny Emma Watson) hanging out at home or in clubs 
or in the trespassed celebrity digs, kind of like all those frenzied, 
faceless revelers wild-partying toward 1929 in “The Great Gatsby.”

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