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ROUND UP II: “Fever,” “Fish,” and Francis Ford

ROUND UP II: "Fever," "Fish," and Francis Ford

The 62nd Cannes Film Festival continued in the south of France today, with Andrea Arnold’s “Fish Tank” and Lou Ye’s “Spring Fever” kicking off the fest’s official competition.

“Evoking the graphic sex in John Cameron Mitchell’s ‘Shortbus,’ which stirred the Cannes fest three years ago, full on sex with scenes that don’t use cinematic trickery to imply intercourse hit the screen within moments of the film’s opening and are peppered liberally throughout,” indieWIRE‘s Brian Brooks wrote of “Fever”. The film follows Wang Ping (Wu Wei), whose wife suspects him of adultery. She hires Luo Haitao (Chen Sicheng) to spy on him and discovers that her husband’s ongoing trist is with a man, Jiang Cheng (Qin Hao). “I didn’t film homosexuality,” Brooks reported director Ye commenting, “I showed feelings and complex relationships. While evaluating these relationships, I show a complex world.”

Reviews for the film have been generally mixed. Screen Daily‘s Howard Feinstein noted that the film is “a poignant note with floral imagery,” though admits that while Ye “does delve successfully into more universal subjects such as loyalty, betrayal, and obsession,” there’s an “overall triteness undermines their impact.” Variety‘s Derek Elley, meanwhile, calls “Fever” “overlong and very Euro-flavored,” though singles out actress Jiang Jiaqi as “superb,” noting her scenes “are among the few authentically emotional and gripping sequences in the movie, which otherwise schematically moves feelings and characters around at the script’s convenience.” Utpal Borpujari seems to agree, writing for Dear Cinema.com that he was rather confused as to what exactly the film was trying to say, and that Lou’s “storytelling gets somewhat convoluted with one relationship moving to another.”

Much more glowing notices met the other competition entry for the day. “A social drama at once bucolic and grimy,” The Guardian‘s Sukhdev Sandhu writes, “‘Fish Tank’ draws a magnificent performance from newcomer Katie Jarvis, who plays Mia, a fierce-tempered, beer-guzzling teenager.”

indieWIRE‘s Eugene Hernandez noted that Jarvis just might be the discovery of the festival in his report from “Tank”‘s screening. “Starring as Mia in every scene in ‘Fish Tank,’ Katie Jarvis is the first major acting discovery of the 2009 Cannes Film Festival,” Hernandez said. “It’s just a shame she isn’t in the South of France for her moment in the spotlight. The 17 year old gave birth to a baby one week ago, so she declined to attend.”

Andrea Arnold, director of the Cannes competition entry “Fish Tank,” at the festival today. Photo by Eugene Hernandez

Jarvis was also singled out by Screen Daily‘s Allan Hunter, who writes that she finds “the vulnerability of the teenager without recourse to sentimentality or surrendering any of her anger or sarcasm.” Hunter goes on to also note that the film confirms director Arnold’s “status as a torchbearer for the social realist traditions of Ken Loach and the Dardenne brothers.” Variety‘s Leslie Felperin calls Jarvis “mesmerizing” and says of the film: “What makes [‘Fish Tank’] feel special is its unflinching honesty and lack of sentimentality or moralizing, along with assured direction and excellent perfs.”

Perhaps the most high-profile screening of the day, though, happened outside of the competition. Francis Ford Coppola premiered his family saga “Tetro” in the Director’s Fortnight, and reviews have mostly been lukewarm.

“Neither complete misfire nor triumphant return to form, Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Tetro’ works as a competent family drama right up until the messy final act,” Eric Kohn wrote for indieWIRE. “If a first-time filmmaker had directed this stylish black-and-white-and-sometimes-color melodrama, it might gain some notice for suggesting great things to come. Instead, on its own terms, the movie is only a mildly interesting entry in Coppola’s thirty-plus years of work.”

Similarly mixed, Screen‘s Lee Marshall writes that although the film “feels at times like a vanity project, some strong performances – most notably by Spanish actress Maribel Verdu, but also Vincent Gallo in the title role and newcomer Alden Ehrenreich – save all but ‘Tetro’’s most cringeworthy lines.” While Variety‘s Todd McCarthy calls the film of “modest ambition and appeal,” continuing: “The angst-ridden treatment of Oedipal issues makes the picture play out like a passably talented imitation of O’Neill, Williams, Miller and Inge, and thus it feels like the pale product of an over-tilled field.”

The Hollywood Reporter‘s Kirk Honeycutt, however, is considerably more kind, offering nearly a rave: “Once so dazzling in his ambition and audacity, Coppola was forced by financial woes to make other people’s movies for so many years that when he returned to indie filmmaking with 2007’s ‘Youth Without Youth,’ the result was a confusing, pretentious work that found favor with few. ‘Tetro’ erases that memory. It has style to burn, eye-catching acting by an international cast and a story that harkens back to many literary classic with its themes of a family torn apart, brothers in conflict and a son’s rivalry with a towering father figure.”

Finally, on a brief aside, check out one festival’s coverage of another as Toronto programmers Thom Powers and Colin Geddes blog their experience at Cannes.

Be sure to check back here at indieWIRE for ongoing coverage of the Cannes Film Festival. You can also track any of the competition titles on indieWIRE’s freshly launched Cannes film pages, which have now been updated in respect to the films that screened today.

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