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Posted: 4:33 p.m. Friday, May 16, 2014

Cannes Day 3: Jeers, cheers and laughs 


"The Captive"
AP Photo/Cannes Film Festival
This image released by Cannes Film Festival shows Ryan Reynolds, left, and Mireille Enos in a scene from "The Captive."

By Charles Ealy

American-Statesman staff

The first weekend of the Cannes Film Festival kicked off Friday with the disastrous world premiere of Canadian director Atom Egoyan's "The Captive," starring Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman and Rosario Dawson. At the end of the screening, the crowd of critics erupted into jeers. But by 6 p.m., the same crowd was cheering as the closing credits rolled for the three-hour, 15-minute premiere of Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Winter Sleep." And then the crtics packed the Debussy theater for the premiere of the riotously funny "Wild Tales" from Argentina.

It was a rollercoaster ride that probably won't be topped for the rest of the festival.

First, the disaster. "The Captive" focuses on a young girl who is kidnapped from the back seat of a truck that's being driven by her father (Ryan Reynolds). He has stopped at a diner to buy a pie, and when he comes out, the daughter is gone. 

What follows is a bizarre tale of a family that splinters over the disappearance, with multiple jumps back and forth in time. Yet another storyline deals with the romance between two detectives (Dawson and Speedman) who spend eight years trying to solve the case. And then you have yet another storyline of the captive girl, who has grown in the eight years since her disappearance and has developed an odd relationship with her captor, played quite menacingly by Kevin Durand. As it turns out, Durand's Internet executive has been using his captive to go online and lure young girls into web conversations that will lead to their eventual kidnapping for a porn ring.

But here's the problem: There's way too much going on. The movie would have been much more effective if it had focused on the perils of the family disintegration after the kidnapping and on the relationship between the captor and captive. The Speedman/Dawson romance is simply one storyline too many.

The movie also leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Is the Internet porn ring a massive conspiracy? Was the best friend of the young girl who was kidnapped somehow involved in her fate? Is a major Internet corporation in cahoots with the kidnapping ring? It's way too messy. And even the critics from Canada, who justifiably try to support movies from their native land, lashed out at the movie.

It was a sad day for Egoyan.

Ceylan's "Winter Sleep," meanwhile, received a huge standing ovation after its premiere. The director of the acclaimed "A Night in Anatolia" has many fans in Cannes, and they all turned out  for a packed screening that left many high-profile critics out in the hallways as the movie began. (Even Manohla Dargis of the New York Times and Justin Chang of Variety had to struggle to find a seat).

The movie focuses on a former actor, Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) who runs a small hotel in Anatolia region of Turkey. He lives there with his young wife Nihal (Melisa Sozen) and his sister Necla (Demet Akbag), who has recently divorced her husband and is growing increasingly bored.

Aydin bickers almost constantly with his sister. And his relationship with his wife isn't much better. The audience quickly learns that Aydin doesn't like to lose an argument, and you'll see some of the most drawn-out disputes go on and on. Hence the long running time. Amid these arguments, a couple of backstories play out involving a poor renter whose son has thrown a rock at a truck carrying Aydin, and it turns out that the renter is way behind on his payments to Aydin, who's apparently a major landlord in the region.

A few hotel guests come and go, but the vast majority of the movie takes place in Aydin's library, where he has a running argument with his sister, and in his private apartment with his wife, who is trying to set up a nonprofit school group that Aydin opposes.

As winter sets in, the arguments increase, and Aydin and his wife become so alienated that a separation is being contemplated. It all adds up to a very low-key version of a domestic dispute, and after two hours, numerous menbers of the audience began to walk out. By the end, those who stayed saw much to praise. But make no mistake: "Winter Sleep" is strictly arthouse fare, and it probably won't play to big crowds in the States. 

The third competition title of the day was "Wild Tales" from Argentine director Damian Szifron. It's composed of several vignettes, all of which have to do with revenge. And it's very funny.

Take, for instance, the opening scene on an airplane. A classical music critic tries to put the moves on a young model, only to discover that she used to date an aspiring classical musician whom the critic savaged long ago. As they discuss the failings of her ex-boyfriend, another person on the plane pipes up and says she used to be the aspiring musician's teacher, and that he was a terrible student. Then another person says that she knows the ex-boyfriend, too. And then everyone realizes that all the people on the plane know the man in some capacity, and all of them have either rejected, humiliated or fired him at some point in their lives.

Uh-oh. It sounds like something out of "The Twilight Zone," but it's totally played for laughs, a la Pedro Almodovar.

The other vignettes play out in similar fashion as various people seek revenge for what they perceive as slights. And some of the revenge-seekers have good reasons for their actions. 

The final set piece revolves around a new bride who discovers during the wedding celebration that her husband is having an affair with one of the guests. It's possibly the most unusual of all, with a surprise twist that's both believable and riotous.

In between these three arthouse titles, Dreamworks rolled out the world premiere of "How to Train Your Dragon 2," which is set five years after the original movie. And it got good reviews in such trade publications as Variety.

Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg continued to make a splash in Cannes by staging various events around town, including the appearance of a dragon on the Croisette. On Friday evening, he was hosting a massive party to celebrate the movie's debut.

Next up for Saturday: an early morning screening of the new biographic film "Saint Laurent," dealing with the French fashion icon.

About Charles Ealy

Charles Ealy writes and edits stories about movies, books and the arts for the Austin American-Statesman.

Send Charles Ealy an email.

 
 

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