Friday, May 13, 2011

Cannes Coverage 2011: "Sleeping Beauty"

If this seems a bit redundant, it's because I've actually posted this already. I posted it about two days ago, right after the film actually debuted at Cannes Film Festival. Then Blogger underwent maintenance and wiped away a few of my posts which I then had to recreate, including this one. I'd say no hard feelings, but this has been causing me one hell of an afternoon. Not at all what I had hoped for waking up at noon, but it's a start to the day. What pains me is that I was so sure that I had nailed what I'd written the first time, that it's such a chore to have to go back and do it again. I really enjoy writing about such things, but not to the point of repetition.

So even though it has been a whole two days since its premiere, and word has already spread on to bigger and better things, Sleeping Beauty was still one of the most talked about films heading into the festival. I knew from the trailer that released on the day it was announced as a Cannes competitor, this was going to be one to watch for. I could tell that Julia Leigh wasn't about to play it safe with her film, and that it was going to be one to divide critics. Within hours of the film's premiere, such divisive word had already broken out. Some call it great, while others call it pointless. I look forward to figuring that out for myself. What I can be sure of is a film that will shock me, which deserves acknowledgment for that capability alone.

Guy Lodge (In Contention), ***1/2: "'Humane' might be a stretch for a film this severe, this stainless-steel in its makeup, but Leigh is plainly troubled with as well as by her protagonist: Lucy may be stingy with words and expressions alike, but she’s no blankly symbolic victim, dropping sparse fragments of backstory that allude to so many years of interfolded error, neglect and over-defensive self-treatment. As played by 22 year-old Emily Browning in a startling breakthrough turn (forget Sucker Punch, if you haven’t already) that balances a child’s wan irresolution with short, bitter stabs of wit, she’s a calculatedly incomplete being — which makes her drugged, unconscious debasement at the hands of a string of wealthy older clients, seeking only tactile sensations with no emotional returns, that much harder to watch."

Brad Brevet (Rope of Silicon), D: "Could it be about objectivity? Is it about poverty? Is it about job security? Is it about the subjugation of women? Is it about children with absentee parents? Loss of identity? Loss of respect? I can ask the questions and give you examples as to why I'm asking them, but there are no answers. Does a film deserve our praise if it has us asking questions? Or does it deserve praise only if we care while asking? At one point Browning's character says, 'My vagina is not a temple.' At another, Ben Frost's score begins to overwhelm the picture. Both had me thinking to myself, Okay, now we're going heading somewhere. Unfortunately, 'somewhere' never arrives and while the film is superbly shot by Geoffrey Simpson and inspires forced conversation, it ends up going nowhere and is one film I would never feel comfortable recommending."

Eric Kohn (indieWIRE), B+: "The most unforgettable scenes of Sleeping Beauty take place in the chamber itself, during a trio of incidents where elderly men toy with Browning’s nude body, cussing her out and sometimes inflicting damage. Leigh shows viewers the events she can’t know about in her unconscious state, which makes her curious expressions each morning after imply the suspenseful possibility that she might try to uncover the horrific details. Leigh engineers each scene in such a way to create extreme dread. The tragedy that takes place in the final minutes is unfortunately undercut by her persistently cerebral approach. Still, there’s nothing fairylike about this haunting tale, which maintains a dreamlike feel even when its adventurous protagonist wakes up."

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