Cannes Critics: Bright Star, Thirst, Fish Tank

With this year’s Cannes Film Festival well underway, reviews have started flooding out from the Croisette about the various features screened during the first few days of competition. Here’s a quick analysis of the reactions so far:

Bright Star
“The Piano” director Jane Campion’s return to filmmaking after several years away is getting positive nods all round. Unlike her bleak 1993 effort, this is described as much more cheery and romantic in its tale of the love affair between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne.

Screen Daily says its “Campion’s most fully realised, satisfying achievement in a long while” and cites that its meticulously detailed recreation of the time avoids the “starchy quality often found in lesser period dramas…We are invited into this world rather than kept at arm’s length because nothing jars or seems out of place”.

The Hollywood Reporter calls it a “treat for romantics and those who take their poetry seriously”. It’s success is guaranteed as “festivals will eat it up, art house audiences will swoon and it will have a lucrative life on DVD and Blu-ray, not to mention the BBC and PBS”

Variety calls the film an “impressive return” for Campion in an effort that shakes off its period piece stuffiness with “piercing insight into the emotions and behavior of her characters”. However the film’s “poetic orientation and dramatic restraint” could stop it from breaking out into a wide hit, and they site Abbie Cornish’s work as notably stronger than her co-star Ben Whishaw.

Hollywood Elsewhere wasn’t as enamored, saying it is “struck me nonetheless as too slow and restricted and…well, just too damnably refined”

Inspired by “Therese Raquin”, Park Chan-Wook (“Oldboy”) delivers a vampire tale with his trademark style that sounds better than his recent fare but suffers from tonal and storytelling excess.

Screen Daily says the “complex and supremely inventive work sees the filmmaker back on top form” though cites a tonal shift about 3/4 of the way into the film to Park Chan-wook’s more usual hyperkinetic style is “slightly unnerving, and it robs some power from what might have been an even more heartbreaking final scene”

Variety wasn’t so kind, calling the film “an overlong stygian comedy that badly needs a transfusion of genuine inspiration”. The trade adds that the picture is “slow to warm up and largely goes around in circles thereafter, with repetitive (and often plain goofy) jokes.”

The Hollywood Reporter enjoyed its “deliciously sadistic gallows humor” but wasn’t so keen on the “script’s soapy excesses”. They also say the “atmosphere is that of macabre farce rather than the novel’s haunting psychological depth” though the film’s “stunning production quality” and extreme subject matter should pull in Western audiences.

Fish Tank
Impressing with her Glasgow-set debut “Red Road”, Andrea Arnold’s second feature about a teenage girl living on a British housing estate is drawing equally strong notices.

Though the film is “certainly over long”, Screen Daily was very impressed with the “multi-layered characters and naturalistic dialogue”. The acting got praise as well, notably Michael Fassbender and Katie Jarvis in a “performance that should win her a lot of attention and add profile to a film that will have to fight for its audience.”

The Hollywood Reporter says “newcomer Katie Jarvis gives a star-making performance…she will go far” while the filmmaker Andrea Arnold has a “gift for unblinking observation”.

Variety says the film feels special because of its “unflinching honesty and lack of sentimentality or moralizing, along with assured direction and excellent performances.” It also wasn’t a fan of the length, citing that a “bit of trimming on the pic’s two-hour running time might not have gone amiss.”

Hollywood Elsewhere says that the film is “extremely well captured with a powerhouse performance by Jarvis” while Michael Fassbender’s performance is “natural and believable, charming and genuine”.