Day 3 - Casa Grande, The New Girlfriend and Mr. Turner #LFF

Day 3 then. And a very mixed bunch of movies today. From upper-middle class Brazilian strife through decidedly odd French grieving to, well, mostly just grunting.....

casa grande.jpg

Casa Grande is Fellipe Barbosa's first feature length movie and I'll warrant not his last. Set in the higher echelons of Brazilian society, it sees Jean (Thales Cavalcanti) struggle to cope with growing up and the growing revelation that his wealthy parents are going broke.

Filmed almost exclusively with non-professional actors (Jean's parents are the only exceptions), the movie concentrates on the Brazilian class system seen through the eyes of the most privileged. Jean's suspicions are first aroused when his driver and confident Servinho is fired and he is forced to take the long bus journey to school. Meeting a girl on the bus (his only previous experience with girls being a trip to a whorehouse with Servinho and many nights of unrequited lusting in the maid's room) opens Jean's closeted eyes for the first time and he finally stops repeating his father's wisdom verbatim and starts to question the world around him.

Barbosa's movie is a wonderfully subtle view of the divisions seen even at the top of the Rio food chain (the Favelas are mentioned but only visited in the final scenes). His cast of non-professional actors do him proud, particularly Cavalcanti and Bruna Amaya as his radiant girlfriend. Casa Grande's long opening shot of Jean's father slowly locking up his mansion is the perfect start and the movie doesn't put a foot wrong thereafter.

 The New Girlfriend is Francois Ozon's latest following his successful Dans La Maison which I didn't get on with but Jo loved. This one is anyone's guess. It's difficult to describe too much about it without getting into spoiler territory but suffice to say it revolves around a particularly unusual way of grieving.

Anaïs Demoustier's Claire and Isild Le Besco's Laura are inseparable from the day they meet at primary school. Both are married and still best friends when Laura dies just months after giving birth. Claire makes a promise to Laura on her deathbed to look after both her daughter and her husband. It's fair to say she got more than she bargained for.

Ozon's work is always interesting and often skates very close to the good taste / bad taste line and this is no exception. Genuinely laugh out loud funny in places, it also contains more than its fair share of 'whaa??' moments and will probably leave you somewhat disorientated.

Mr Turner arrives on the high praise of gaining Tim Spall the top acting gong at this year's Cannes along with another award for Dick Pope's cinematography. Both of these awards could not be more deserved. Spall's performance is a marvel to see. Never before has a character been brought to life so well by a series of grunts and barely comprehensible speech. Likewise, Pope's cinematography really does do justice to Turner's art. Margate has never looked so impressive.

To be completely honest though, that's probably as good as it gets praise-wise for this one. Mike Leigh will of course gain plaudits as the national treasure he so rightly is, but the remainder of this 150 minute (!) epic left me cold and somewhat adrift. Leigh doesn't approach this in the traditional sense of a biopic, there is little background to tell us where Turner came from or how his paintings changed over the years. Instead we get a series of barely connected sketches, picking up Turner being variously unpleasant to a succession of people. 

In all, Mr Turner is a little frustrating then. On the one hand, it succeeds in presenting elements of the artist's character and in its central performance it has an almost certainty of an Oscar nominee In Spall. On the other, despite its lengthy runtime, I don't feel I know Turner a great deal more than before I watched the movie.