Cannes Film Festival Recap: Days 7-8

Fred Topel reviews Sarah Prefers to Run, Cleopatra, All is Lost and La Vie D’Adele Chapitre. 1 & 2.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

You might notice I’m seeing fewer movies per day than I do at Sundance, SXSW and TIFF. I have separated a few movies into full individual reviews but still it amounts to about three a day. That’s an unusual thing about the Cannes schedule. It would be possible to see four or five but if you have one interview, or need to, you know, eat, you’re missing a movie. So, sorry for avoiding starvation and dehydration (they don’t even allow water in the theater so you have to make time to drink), but here are the movies I saw in the last two days.

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Sarah Prefers to Run

Sarah Prefers to Run

Sarah Prefere La Course is a calm, gentle movie and I needed calm at this point in Cannes. Sarah (Sophie Desmarais) is a high school track runner and her mother doesn’t want her to go to college for running. So Sarah marries her friend Antoine (Jean-Sebastian Courchesne) to get a marriage grant (Oh, Canada) to afford college. There she also becomes infatuated with a woman and suffers some heart problems that threaten her physical activity.

There is a significant plot to move Sarah through her story but this is really a character movie. The best sequences are full takes of running or pre-running stretching. I even picked up a few good stretches that should help me in real life. It is the cinematic simulation of a runner’s high, just zoning out with endorphins. The romance and relationship conflicts are heartfelt and they work because director Chloe Robichaud will just hold on Sarah, just letting her be. We get absorbed into her world and the film takes a tender approach to her self-discovery.



Cleopatra has been vindicated after 50 years. The movie was the Gigli of its day, but now it’s played at the Cannes Film Festival. Elizabeth Taylor plays Cleopatra and Richard Burton is her Mark Anthony in the four hour epic.

I can see some of what made Cleopatra seem like a travesty in 1963. When Cleopatra describes her breasts and hips for childbearing to Caesar, it’s ridiculous. I’d still hit that though. It’s silly sexy. The line “Rome must see Caesar’s Son” must have been a tongue twister. All the palace dancing, particularly African style tribal dances, reek of excess but they’re kind of glorious to see.

There’s one scene that cuts to three different costume changes within the same scene, between cuts. It’s very awkward, but a nice avant-garde touch I wish there had been more of in the otherwise straightforward historical epic. Taylor’s reactions to tragedy, are over the top, but that’s the old school style of melodramatic emoting that was still valid in ‘60s cinema.

There is the real story of Anthony and Cleopatra in here though. It could have used more battles, maybe switch out some of the palace dances for a swordfight or two, but the climactic ship battle is awesome for its day. Cleopatra gets tough with Mark Anthony in the last hour and she’s badass.

The 50th anniversary screening was put on by Fox Home Entertainment who is releasing the Blu-ray. On the big screen, the transfer looked beautiful so the Blu-ray will be amazing. It’s a flawless print with bright colors and lavish costume detail. The skin tones on Taylor are inconsistent, as she’s sometimes darkened to be Egyptian and sometimes just white, but you can’t retroactively make that more appropriate so they do what they could to make the footage look authentic to what they shot.


All is Lost

All is Lost

Everyone’s going to say it, so I’ll just try to be first. This is Robert Redford’s Life of Pi without a tiger. That would mean that in this case, Redford himself may just be an allegorical metaphor and may not exist, but he doesn’t really talk in the film so we’ll never know.

A sailor (Redford) in the middle of the ocean wakes up to find a loose shipping crate has torn a hole in his boat. He proceeds to pry himself loose, patch the hole, repair his flooded equipment and eventually solve every problem that this accident creates. He says nothing except for an opening voiceover, an attempt at radio contact and one frustrated exclamation.

You know how I love survival movies with supplies so All Is Lost is a masterpiece of problem solving and doesn’t even have to use exposition. We just watch the sailor go about his business. The film is shot beautifully on the ocean and the sound design is interesting, playing with atmosphere above and below water. I don’t need all the bells and whistles though. You had me at life raft.


La Vie D’Adele Chapitre 1 & 2

La Vie D’Adele Chapitre 1 and 2

I decided to go see a three hour French movie about a lesbian coming out en Francais, because it seemed like the thing to see when one is in Cannes. Not only did the three hours of La Vie D’Adele Pt. 1 and 2 pass by with ease, it was a touching, poignant, erotic and passionate film.

Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) is a high school girl who hasn’t been with men yet, and becomes infatuated with Emma (Lea Seydoux). Her relationship with Emma is an epic romance that continues through her graduation and adult life a a schoolteacher. Adele’s overcoming insensitive friends and finding true acceptance with Emma could really help girls, if not all gay teens, understand potential social threats they face and give them strength. They should remake this in English too because even closeted American kids won’t read subtitles.

Close-ups on Adele and Emma’s loving faces are heartwarming. The three hour run time makes room for some intense love scenes, and it’s French so they really explore passionate lovemaking. We’ve got to be watching some real oral here. It’s usually obscured by their arms but there are a few shots where we clearly see contact. The rumor about French girls not shaving is false. There’s even some Human Centipede action. Go France!

This is all to say the graphic nature of the love scene contributes to the power of our involvement and connection to this relationship. Their problems are relatable to every relationship, straight or gay. One partner can have work stress, the other can feel disappointed, one can worry about fitting in with the other’s friends and both can be wondering about their future. Three hours certainly gives us a complete arc, but I would be down for Pt. 3 if they’re inclined to continue. 



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Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Shelf Space Weekly. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.