Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s Salvo has won both the Nespresso Grand Prize and the France 4 Visionary Award at this year’s Critics’ Week awards, which, going by the reviews, may not come as a surprise to many.
The jury, presided over by Miguel Gomes (its other members: Film Society of Lincoln Center programmer Dennis Lim, Bradford Film Festival co-director Neil Young, and journalists Alin Tasciyan and Alex Vicente), has also given special mention to Agustin Toscano and Ezequiel Radusky’s Los Dueños.
The short film jury, presided over by Mia Hansen-Løve (the other members: Toronto International Film Festival programmer Brad Deane, Biennale College of Cinema program officer Savina Neirotti, International Film Festival of Stockholm program coordinator Johannes Palmroos, and Cinemart International Film Festival of Rotterdam advisor Lorna Tee), has presented the Discovery award to Daria Belova’s Come and Play.
The Society of Authors, Directors and Composers Award for best screenplay goes to Sébastien Pilote for Le Démantèlment.
Reviewing “this lovingly crafted but overlong pastoral reverie” for the Hollywood Reporter, Stephen Dalton writes that “Gabriel Arcand, younger brother of the feted Quebecois director Denys, gives a thoughtful and internalized performance as Gaby Gagnon, a world-weary 63-year-old divorcee carving a bare-bones living on the isolated sheep farm he inherited from his father in the impoverished rural fringes of French-speaking Canada. His self-absorbed grown-up daughters, suburban housewife Marie (Lucie Laurier) and aspiring actress Frédérique (Sophie Desmarais), both live hours away in Montreal and rarely come home to visit.”
“One day,” writes Screen‘s Mark Adams, “eldest daughter Marie makes a brief visit with her two young sons, and ends up asking for money to try and save her house which she fears may be lost when she separates from her husband. Gaby decides that the only option is to sell his farm.”
“What follows,” adds Variety‘s Peter Debruge, “is a naturalistic account of the various steps required for Gaby to extricate himself from the life he’s followed for the past 60-odd years—the ritual dismantling of a routine that otherwise would have occupied him until frailty made it impossible to rise at dawn and see to his sheep. Pilote indulges no subplots, privileges no flashbacks and fails to recognize (or simply rejects) that a dose of carefully deployed humor would’ve made the entire experience more palatable.”
Updates, 5/24: “Sony Pictures Classics today acquired North American rights to The Lunchbox, winner of the Viewer’s Choice Award, Grand Rail d’Or,” reports Indiewire. In the Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young‘s called it “a charming first feature which describes denizens of the sprawling Mumbai metropolis in a tender, ingenious tale of romance by correspondence. Instead of using modern social media, the virtual couple meets through a lunchbox mix-up that could only happen in India. What is most endearing is the delicacy with which writer-director Ritesh Batra reveals the hopes, sorrows, regrets and fears of his everyday people without any sign of condescension or narrative trickery.”
Robert Koehler, writing for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, notes that The Lunchbox features Irrfan Khan [Life of Pi] “in one of his richest performances.” He “plays an insurance claims clerk on the verge of retiring who feels the pressure to train his younger (and no doubt cheaper) replacement staffer…. Khan’s lunchbox, a set of tins which are packed in a kitchen and then delivered in an elaborate process across the vast stretches of Mumbai by bike and train, becomes the repository of a sea of emotions for him and the woman who has prepared a lunchbox for her husband that accidentally gets delivered to Khan’s office desk.”
Jay Weissberg in Variety: “Batra’s understanding of visuals, in collaboration with d.p. Michael Simmonds, results in a meaningful use of space, such as the way the multi-stacked lunchbox sits at the far end of Saajan’s desk, a conspicuous tower separated from him and his paperwork. Even more important for composition and character, early scenes of Saajan’s commute have him in the middle of the packed train cars, clearly hemmed in by society, while later he’s shifted to a space by the open window, allowing him to breathe in the possibilities opening up before him.”
“Eschewing the pitfalls of what appears, on face value, to be a highly schematic set-up, Batra infuses his film with warmth and humanity,” writes Fionnuala Halligan in Screen.
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