This year’s Un Certain Regard jury, presided over by Isabella Rossellini (other members: Haifaa al-Mansour, Nadine Labaki, Panos H. Koutras and Tahar Rahim) have presented the Prix Un Certain Regard to Grímur Hakonarson’s Rams. “A small story about two old estranged brothers and their animals gently morphs from gentle near-absurdist comedy to something close to tragedy in Rams, a simply but skillfully told tale of the hardships of isolated rural life in Iceland even today,” writes the Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy.
Variety‘s Alissa Simon finds that “Hakonarson, an experienced documentarian, capitalizes on his extensive knowledge of Icelandic bachelor farmers and the unique landscapes of his homeland, while spicing the proceedings with some wonderfully wry, charmingly understated comic moments. Like his compatriot Benedikt Erlingsson in Of Horses and Men, Hakonarson lovingly captures a deeply rooted rural culture that is closely connected to the Icelandic national spirit.”
“It is a lonely life for the stoical Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjonsson) even although his brother Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson) shares their family land and lives in a neighboring farmhouse,” writes Allan Hunter in Screen. “The discovery of the lethal disease scarpie in the flock means that all the sheep must be slaughtered. Compensation will be paid but for many it is the last blow in their struggle to survive. Clandestine moves to keep the flock alive might be the only thing that will force the brothers to finally set aside their differences. Rams may sound bleak and unforgiving but it has a generous spirit and wit that make it entirely accessible.”
“Part of its charm is due to the tranquil nature of the film but it’s also born from the earnest humanity that emanates from both brothers,” writes Raphael Deutsch at the Film Stage. “There is a natural allure and honesty which extends to the aesthetic look of the film, creating an environment which doesn’t feel too produced but rather a snapshot of organic, country life.” More from Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa.
The Un Certain Regard “Prix du Jury” goes to Dalibor Matanic’s The High Sun. “The cruel ethnic wars fought in former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 2001 are revisited with passion and compassion in Dalibor Matanic’s absorbing drama,” writes the Hollywood Reporter‘s Deborah Young, noting that it “looks back at the beginning and end of the conflict in a trio of poignant love stories. Though the stories and characters are different, all three feature the superb young actors Goran Markovic and Tihana Lazovic as war-crossed lovers, linking the narrative with a bridge of anguish, guilt and redemption. The film hits a high-water mark for Croatian writer-director Matanic (Fine Dead Girls, Kino Lika).”
“It’s handsomely mounted and expertly edited, offering rewards quite apart from the too cliched but well-meaning script,” finds Jay Weissberg in Variety. Screen‘s Allan Hunter: “There is a glimmer of hope at the end of this long, languid production but the fact that the first story is easily the most arresting and tightly constructed leaves the remainder of the film struggling in its wake.”
“India’s inexorable rise as a 21st century global power may be undeniable but it remains a country tethered to a past firmly marked by the caste system, class division and deeply ingrained religious beliefs,” writes Allan Hunter in Screen. “Neeraj Ghaywan’s very engaging debut feature Masaan confronts the tensions between ancient and modern through a Paul Haggis-style approach of intertwining tales of love, loss, grief, police corruption and crumbling moral certainties set in Benares, the holy city of the Ganges.”
“Ghaywan juggles a balance between social realism and a more melodramatic strain of filmmaking,” writes Barbara Scharres at RogerEbert.com. “Devi (Richa Chadda), a student, meets her boyfriend at a hotel for an illicit tryst that will end in his suicide after the police stage a raid and a corrupt cop makes her a pawn in an extortion scheme. Engineering student Deepak (Vicky Kaushal) falls in love with a woman well above his caste but the fate of their relationship is not to be determined by either of them.”
And Cannes has posted its interview with Ghaywan. Update, 5/24: “Anurag Kashyap’s assistant on Gangs of Wasseypur delivers a muddled feature debut with the narratively challenged Masaan, a heartfelt yet overambitious tale of class and gender inequality,” finds Variety‘s Jay Weissberg. Update, 5/25: Varun Grover’s screenplay “modestly frames the rebellion of India’s Internet generation in a classically poignant drama of star-crossed love,” writes Deborah Young in the Hollywood Reporter. “The choice to shoot in Varanasi, India’s holy city on the Ganges and veritable symbol of traditions stretching back thousands of years, makes the drama even starker.”
“Were the title not already taken, Nahid writer-director Ida Panahandeh could easily have called her debut feature A Separation, for its similarly fraught portrait of the byzantine legal complications and social stigmas concerning divorce and remarriage in Iran,” writes Variety‘s Scott Foundas. “That thematic connection is hardly lost on Panahandeh, who has cast A Separation co-star Sareh Bayat in the title role here, as a small-town divorcee who finds herself navigating a peculiar minefield known as ‘temporary marriage.’ The result is a reasonably absorbing, well-acted melodrama that lacks the taut dramatic construction and universal resonances of Asghar Farhadi 2011 Oscar winner, but adds another valuable voice to the cinematic chorus concerning the generally deplorable position of women in Islamic society.”
“With a distant and unhurried style that sometimes recalls the work of Yasujiro Ozu, Panahandeh films her heroine in a series of fixed medium-shots, as if Nahid were incapable of escaping the frame,” writes Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s a technique that corresponds well to her predicament, although one that sometimes lacks verve.”
Screen‘s Allan Hunter suggests that Panahandeh is “a welcome addition to the ranks of compassionate, social realist filmmakers that stretches from Vittorio De Sica to the Dardenne brothers.” More from Barbara Scharres at RogerEbert.com.