Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cannes Review Round-up: "Melancholia"

I wish could do more of these review round-ups, but with so many films debuting (and well, since I'm not there) keeping tabs on the reception of every film in (and out of) competition throws me all over the place. Still, there are those that I'm determined to keep up with, one of which debuted this morning. Melancholia comes from love-him-or-want-to-kill-him director Lars von Trier, and mixes basic sci-fi elements (a planet colliding with earth) with dysfunctional family drama. While guaranteed to be less out there than Antichrist, part of me still expected nothing short of outrage over something in von Trier's latest. Apparently that's not the case, for while some label Melancholia emotionally draining, nothing so far indicates anything hugely sensationalist about it, which only intrigues me more:
The Hollywood Reporter - Todd McCarthy: (N/A) "...this contemplation of the planet's demise predictably provides not an ounce of comfort or redemption, nor does it offer characters or ideas with which to meaningfully engage..."

indieWire - Eric Kohn: (A) "Melanholia is supremely operatic, enlivened by its cosmic sensibility, and yet amazingly rendered on an intimate scale."

The Telegraph - Sukhdev Sandhu: (5/5 stars) "It takes a baffling, almost bone-headed premise...and from it creates a mesmerizing, visually gorgeous and often-moving alloy of family drama, philosophical meditation, and anti-golfing tract."

Movie Line - Stephanie Zacharek: (N/A) "The actresses' performances intertwine beautifully, like twin climbing vines vying for the attention of the sun."

Rope of Silicon - Brad Brevet: (C+) "It's a melancholy, sad sack kind of feature and what I perceived to be von Trier's boredom with it hit me quite hard."

The Film Stage - Raffi Asdourian: (A) "...the end result of Melancholia [is] a powerful statement on the futility of our lives as we try to escape our own inevitable fate."

Digital Spy - Mayer Nissim: (5/5 stars) "It's visually stunning from beginning to end, with the opening and closing moments in particular being (quite literally) breathtaking." - Alex Billington: (7/10) "[Von Trier] starts with a big idea, then just lets it slowly trickle out for 130 minutes, ending at the moment everyone is expecting, but without having said much throughout."

Time Out London - Dave Calhoun: (2/5 stars) "Melancholia isn't a provocative or confrontational film, but it's too often a dull one."

Additional Comments: The film's opening and closing sequences are given unanimous praise for their spacey beauty and stylized destruction. The performances, however, are usually treated with mild compliments, some of which border on indifference. Consensus seems to be that none of von Trier's cast will be anywhere in the running for acting prizes at Cannes. Finally, the cinematography earns across-the-board raves.

Cannes Verdict: Though strikingly beautiful, von Trier's take on the end of the world sometimes fails to make much of an impact, despite many moments of visual and emotional power.

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