stuff, written by me

Tag Archives: Only God Forgives

This is the day that I pack with film watching! Feels like being at a film festival, finally, except that almost everyone’s already left town and it actually feels like everything is over just as I’m hitting my stride. On day one or two, I felt like I had already been here for months, but now it seems like the whole thing whizzed by in the blink of an eye.

I kick off the day with a screening of the competition film Borgman, which is apparently the first Dutch film in competition in over 30 years. It’s absurd and funny and defies description (and really, any description would be a bit of a spoiler, and the surprises in this one are so satisfying). Loosely, the plot is about a man who slowly worms his way into the lives of an unassuming family, with unexpected and bizarre consequences. Refreshing!

Borgman is a trip

Borgman is a trip

Next up, I pop into the Quebecois film Sarah Prefers to Run, which is in the Un Certain Regard programme. It’s a small and simple movie about a young woman who loves to run. Sarah’s commitment to running has all but eliminated any hopes of a normal social life (or any kind of life outside of running), but considering how awkward she is in all her human interactions, perhaps it’s for the best. After all, given a choice, Sarah prefers to run over pretty much any other activity.

This is Sarah. Guess what she prefers?

This is Sarah. Guess what she prefers?

After a short break for quick snacks, I race across from the Palais to the Theatre Croisette (a whopping 10 minute walk, really) to catch Erik Matti’s On the Job. The film looks fantastic and there are a lot of great action moments in it, but I can’t help feeling that a lot is lost in the cultural translation about the way Philippine society works. The plot centres around two inmates who are routinely let out of prison by corrupt guards in order to work as assassins. The relationship between the two is interesting, but the ins and outs of the prison system are difficult to understand at first, and once the film broadens into the larger corruption (it reaches to the top, naturally), I missed the intimate story about the two hitmen that we’d started with.

Erik Matti's On the Job

Erik Matti’s On the Job

The final film of the day is Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, which had just a couple of days ago received some boos in the press screening but was then seemingly well received by the later public audience. None of the negative reactions lessened my excitement, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. The film is slow, highly stylized, and Gosling isn’t really the hero or even the main character (Thai actor Vithaya Pansringarm is, and he’s great). I loved the Thai colour palette, the deliberately languid pacing and the dreamlike atmosphere. And I loved Kristen Scott Thomas! She is the best bad mom ever.

Kristen Scott Thomas in Only God Forgives

Kristen Scott Thomas in Only God Forgives

But anyway, being booed puts the film into some pretty fantastic company, as this Booed at Cannes retrospective at BAM in Brooklyn points out.

After Only God Forgives, Colin and I go off to dinner with some friends who work in distribution, back at Papa Nino’s, our favourite pizza place in town. There’s a weird amount of pizza joints in this town. I don’t know if it’s the proximity to Italy or what, but you couldn’t spit without hitting a pizza place in Cannes. They’re all pretty decent, but Papa Nino’s is by far the best. It’s a small mom & pop shop that seats 30 (tops) and I hope it never gets too popular, because it’s so good. We’ve eaten there three times on this trip and it hardly feels like enough times.

no one can get enough of "the one with the egg on it"

no one can get enough of “the one with the egg on it”

Spending the day watching movies did wonders for my sense of calm and wellbeing. At this point, getting through the odds and ends of the last couple of days seems like it’ll be a breeze.


The market is starting to draw to a close, and I am starting to feel incredibly guilty for not seeing more movies. Self doubt is creeping in. I’m wondering if I did this all wrong, if focusing on only meetings was a bad idea and if I should have been scouting the market more. I talk to journalist pals who’ve been cramming five films a day into their schedules, and festival programmers who’ve managed to achieve a decent balance of two to three films a day in between their meetings. I’ve seen a few in the market and a few out of Director’s Fortnight, but nowhere near as many as I’d hoped.

Yes, there are still a few days left and the official films are being replayed, so I’ll get my chance to catch up on many of those, but all this is just to say that I’m not an expert at managing film markets yet, and I’m not sure I did this one as well as I could have. Next time, I’ll be striving for more balance between business and … business.

Other than my sudden panic over seeing too few movies, this rainy Wednesday was a success. Attended the Fantasia Frontieres cocktail, where lots of people turned up to toast to the upcoming co-production market in spite of the rain. Since I’m representing a project that’s been selected for Frontieres this year (The Void, by team Manborg), I wouldn’t have missed the cocktail for all the rain in the world.

Stephanie Trepanier of Fantasia / Frontieres does bizness

Stephanie Trepanier of Fantasia / Frontieres does bizness

In the evening, Colin very nearly got us a pair of tickets to the red carpet screening of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, but they turned out to be for an afternoon screening that had already passed by the time we were given the envelope. Boo!

It did save us the trouble of racing back to our apartment in the rain to change into formal wear, so instead we caught up with some friends over drinks on a lovely terrace over (what else?) rosé.

Colin chats on a fabulous terrace.

Colin chats on a fabulous terrace

At midnight, we overcame our sleepiness and went to the Only God Forgives party & drank champagne. I probably would have rather seen the film, to be honest. Since the film was screened at 10:30pm, the party didn’t start until midnight, so it was quite brief. As in most places, Cannes has a few strict rules about noise & such, so all beach parties have to be shut down at 2am sharp. Other places will keep serving alcohol until much later into the night, but the high-end beach-front clubs and restaurants where most of the films end up having their premiere parties can’t go past 2.

The party was reasonably subdued, but we were still in a bit of a social mood, so we strolled to the Petit Majestic to end our night at the rowdy street party full of festival hooligans (probably the last truly packed night at the Petit of this fest, since lots of folks are already leaving). Two drunk steamed hotdogs later, we managed to get home to bed around 3:30am. Finally a truly late night out in Cannes! We waited long enough.

The sidewalks around the Petit Majestic are reasonably bustling

The sidewalks around the Petit Majestic are reasonably bustling