Indie Focus: In Cannes, eyeing the future, insulting our French



Hello! I'm Mark Olsen, and welcome to another edition of our Indie Focus newsletter, which we like to think of as an ongoing field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

We've got a pair of really exciting Indie Focus Screening Series events coming up in June. Keep an eye out for more info soon. 

Nonstop movies. Movies nonstop.


Members of the Cannes jury at the opening ceremony and premiere of "La Tete Haute" ("Standing Tall"), from left, General Delegate of the Cannes Film Festival Thierry Fremaux and jury members Ethan Coen, Sophie Marceau, Rossy de Palma, Guillermo del Toro, Rokia Traore, Xavier Dolan, Sienna Miller, Jake Gyllenhaal and Joel Coen. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

The Cannes Film Festival is winding itself up this weekend. Any number of this year’s most talked-about titles, including Todd Haynes’ “Carol,” Laszlo Nemes’ “Son of Saul,” Joachim Trier’s “Louder Than Bombs,” Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth” and Yorgos Lantimos’ “The Lobster” already have stateside distribution, so now begins the period of waiting for them all to arrive on screens on our fair shores.

Our own Steven Zeitchik filed a fascinating report on how Cannes, a bulwark of tradition for the international film business, is responding to the influx of digital-based companies such as Netflix. One industry veteran noted the wave of “new companies, new models, new experiments.”

And Kenneth Turan found himself chastised by filmmaker Jacques Audiard for his language skills.

"Every year, your French does not improve," Audiard said. "Why do you keep coming back to France?"


Actress Blythe Danner is photographed during a day of press for the new film, "I'll See You in My Dreams." (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Last week we mentioned the movie “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” and this week Amy Kaufman unveiled her insightful profile of the film’s star, Blythe Danner.

Our own Amy K. has a real knack for getting people to open up in unexpected ways, and here she finds Danner (and her daughter Gwyneth Paltrow) talking candidly about family dynamics and dealing with aging both professionally and personally.

"I find women dealing with age in such curious ways," Danner said. "I have a senior citizen card for the subway in New York, and I know several women who won't use it. They would rather pay full price. Some women just don't want to grow old."


Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, center, and Kennedi Clements in a pale remake of 1982’s “Poltergeist.” (Kerry Hayes / 20th Century Fox

I reviewed the remake of the '80s horror film “Poltergeist,” which opened this week. The short version: Coulda been worse; wish it were better. Any movie that finds a way to get Rosemarie DeWitt, Sam Rockwell, Jane Adams and Jared Harris onscreen together can’t be all bad.

The best part of working on this – besides an excuse to rewatch the original, still fantastic – was stumbling upon a clip of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert reviewing 1988’s “Poltergeist III.” You have not lived until you’ve watched them scream the name “Carol Anne” at each other for fun. (It gets incredible around 2:55.)


German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder was astonishingly prolific, making nearly 40 feature films before his death in 1982 at age 37. Yet even now he remains a really modern filmmaker, his work still dazzling and instructive. There’s also something overwhelming about him and his work, which can make it intimidating and difficult to figure out where to start. (And, of course, there's now the near-constant confusion of last names between Fassbinder and actor Michael Fassbender.)

The six-film series “Fassbinder and His Friends” put together by the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theater is a terrific point-of-entry. Running Thursday, May 28, to Saturday, May 30, the program is a smart selection of films, including “The Marriage of Maria Braun” and “The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant,” that serves as a sampler of Fassbinder’s high style and deep emotions. As critic Manny Farber once wrote, “Fassbinder has two sides, the operatic and the forthright brash.”


We had a fantastic, full-house Indie Focus Screening Series event the other week with a free show of the new movie “Good Kill” followed by a Q&A with writer-director Andrew Niccol. The film, a portrait of modern drone warfare starring Ethan Hawke and January Jones, is still in theaters and is now on VOD as well.

We’re hoping to venture into recording our post-screening Q&As soon for people who can't be in the room. In the meantime, Grantland recently posted a video interview with both Niccol and Hawke. They’re smart and thoughtful, with a lot to say about a film with a lot to say.


Email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions, and follow me on Twitter @IndieFocus

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