The 71st Cannes Film Festival, which is scheduled from May 8 to 19 this year, will open with Iranian writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows, a psychological thriller starring real-life couple and Oscar winners Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz. Farhadi’s previous film The Salesman premiered in competition at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and went on to win the 2017 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film will open theatrically in France on May 9, a day after its Cannes premiere.
Today Max Gail is 75, and Stewart Lee is 50. Today is also the birthday of Roger Corman, Hayley Atwell, Lily James, Pharrell Williams, Krista Allen, Michael Moriarty, Jane Asher, Mitch Pileggi, Peter Greenaway, Andrea Arnold, Colin Powell, and the late Spencer Tracy, Gregory Peck, Bette Davis, Melvyn Douglas, Walter Huston, Frank Gorshin, Nigel Hawthorne, John Le Mesurier, Christopher Hewett, Michael V. Gazzo, Grady Sutton, Robert Bloch, and Albert R. Broccoli. Howard Hughes died 42 years ago in 1976 at age 70. Kurt Cobain died 24 years ago in 1994 at age 27. Allen Ginsberg died 21 years ago in 1997 at age 70. Charlton Heston died ten years ago in 2008 at age 84.
Today Gene Reynolds is 95, and Estelle Harris is 90. Today is also the birthday of Robert Downey Jr, David Cross, Barry Pepper, Hugo Weaving, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Gadon, Natasha Lyonne, Clive Davis, Graham Norton, David Blaine, David E. Kelley, Christine Lahti, Nancy McKeon, Aki Kaurismäki, Lorraine Toussaint, Jill Scott, Rachel Korine, Jamie Lynn Spears, and the late Heath Ledger, Anthony Perkins, Andrei Tarkovsky, Éric Rohmer, Muddy Waters, Maya Angelou, Kenneth Mars, Elmer Bernstein, Marguerite Duras, Peter Vaughan, Elizabeth Wilson, Bea Benaderet, and David White. Jason Robards Sr. died 65 years ago in 1963 at age 70. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated 50 years ago. He was 39. Gloria Swanson died 35 years ago in 1983 at age 84. Roger Ebert died five years ago at age 70.
Today Doris Day is 96, Alec Baldwin is 60, and Matthew Goode is 40. Today is also the birthday of Eddie Murphy, David Hyde Pierce, Marsha Mason, Ben Mendelsohn, Cobie Smulders, Adam Scott, Amanda Bynes, Jane Goodall, Tony Orlando, Wayne Newton, Rachel Bloom, Jamie Bamber, Catherine McCormack, Eric Braeden, Marisa Paredes, Josh Safdie, Cristi Puiu, Lamberto Bava, Alice Lowe, Pat Proft, and the late Marlon Brando, Leslie Howard, Dooley Wilson, Washington Irving, Jan Sterling, Richard Manuel, Iron Eyes Cody, Ray Combs, Mary Anderson (who would be 100), Harry Earles, and Allan Dwan. Conrad Veidt died 75 years ago in 1943 at age 50. Warren Oates died 36 years ago in 1982 at age 53.
Today Gloria Henry is 95, and Jesse Plemons is 30. Today is also the birthday of Michael Fassbender, Christopher Meloni, Emmylou Harris, Linda Hunt, Adam Rodriguez, Dr. Demento (Barret Eugene Hansen), Pedro Pascal, Clark Gregg, Pamela Reed, Allan Corduner, Donald Petrie, Marc Caro, David Frankel, and the late Alec Guinness, Marvin Gaye, Buddy Ebsen, Jack Webb, Hans Christian Andersen, Émile Zola, Giacomo Casanova, Charlemagne, Leon Russell, Dabbs Greer, Debralee Scott, Ron Palillo, and Rodney King.. Jean Epstein died 65 years ago in 1953 at age 56. Buddy Rich died 31 years ago in 1987 at age 69. Jesús Franco died five years ago in 2013 at age 82.
I just started watching Hill Street Blues. It was a groundbreaking police series because of its realism and the adult subject matter. The documentary aesthetic and morally complex themes made it more daring than many of the previous television series about the police and crime.
Today is the birthday of Jane Powell, David Oyelowo, Asa Butterfield, Method Man, Rachel Maddow, Mackenzie Davis, Taran Killam, Jane Adams, Ali MacGraw, Bijou Phillips, Barry Sonnenfeld, Tomas Alfredson, Albert and Allen Hughes, Chang-dong Lee, Annette O’Toole, Rob Bottin, Susan Boyle, Richard Christy, and the late Debbie Reynolds, Toshirô Mifune, Lon Chaney, Wallace Beery, Otto von Bismarck, Grace Lee Whitney, Gordon Jump, and Harry Lewis. Noah Beery died 72 years ago in 1946 at age 64 on the birthday his brother, Wallace Beery. Marvin Gaye was murdered 34 years ago in 1984 at age 44, one day before his birthday. Leslie Cheung committed suicide 15 years ago in 2003 at age 46.
Today Christopher Walken and Roy Andersson are 75, Rhea Perlman and Al Gore are 70, Tony Cox is 60, and Daniel Mays is 40. Today is also the birthday of Ewan McGregor, Richard Chamberlain, Deborah Kara Unger, Shirley Jones, Gabe Kaplan, William Daniels, Marc McClure, Volker Schlöndroff, Alejandro Amenábar, Kate Micucci, Jack Antonoff, Paul Mercurio, Angus Young, Barney Frank, and the late René Descartes, Nagisa Ôshima, Richard Kiley, Patrick Magee, Cesar Chavez, Eddie Quillan, Robert Stevenson, Dermot Morgan, Henry Morgan, and Ted Post, who would be 100. Brandon Lee died 25 years ago in 1993 at age 28.
Today Maurice LaMarche is 60, and Céline Dion is 50. Today is also the birthday of Warren Beatty, Eric Clapton, John Astin, Paul Reiser, Robbie Coltrane, Kenneth Welsh, Peter Marshall, Katy Mixon, Ian Ziering, Juliet Landau, M.C. Hammer, Norah Jones, Tracy Chapman, Michael Lehmann, Mark Consuelos, Bill Corbett, Piers Morgan, and the late Vincent van Gogh, Francisco Goya, Herbert Anderson, Richard Dysart, Anna Q. Nilsson, Anna Sewell, Sydney Chaplin, Jean-Claude Brialy, Shirley Stoler, and Ray McAnally. James Cagney died 32 years ago in 1986 at age 86. Michael Jeter died 15 years ago in 2003 at age 50.
The Young Karl Marx (2017)
Directed by Raoul Peck. Starring August Diehl, Stefan Konarske, Vicky Krieps, Olivier Gourmet, and Hannah Steele.
Raoul Peck, director of the 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro about James Baldwin, has made another film about a monumental political writer who altered the way people thought about their time and society, this new one in the form of a bio-pic, set a century earlier, and all across Europe. The Young Karl Marx is a richly crafted period piece about the revolutionary German economic and political thinker Karl Marx, which Peck wisely mounted as an intimate historical drama and character study about the man and his friends, family, and detractors and their radical ideas and convictions that have been debated ever since they were written.
The film begins in the 1840s with, as the film promises, the young Karl Marx (August Diehl), befriending a fellow writer, Friedrich Engels (Stefan Konarske), a man who was stuck between two opposing worlds that helped shape his worldview and politics. His father was a fierce factory owner and businessman who is shown early in the film worrying about what his young factory workers’ losing fingers will do to his bottom line. While Engels comes from a wealthy background, he writes about the plights and struggles of those very workers, especially the downtrodden foreigners like his Irish wife Mary Burns (Hannah Steele). He wants to understand the working and lower class citizens and how they live, or how they barely do. Although he dresses as dapper as a man of the time can and comes from upon high, he goes down the alleyways and into the backrooms of Germany to see what makes his father’s factory and society function. From the beginning of the film Marx is portrayed as a man of principle and strong political ideals, which puts him at odds with the bourgeois society surrounding him and makes him and Engels allies right away. Marx’s mind is over flowing with ideas, which also made it hard for him to finish a paper or book, putting emotional and financial stress on his family. His wife, Jenny, played by Vicky Krieps, who was so transcendent as Daniel Day-Lewis’s muse in Phantom Thread, is a loving and supportive wife but a strong woman who does not linger in the shadows of history.
The women and the relationship between the male leads are what make the film as compelling and human as it is. Peck makes the costumes and sets feel lived-in and real, not stuffy PBS recreations of history. The film certainly deals with the political turmoil of the time, but the human interactions are what sell the characters and situations. Because the famous people are indeed young, part of the charm of the film is seeing stuffy black-and-white historical figures dusted off and trotted across bustling mid-19th century Europe. Like most people throughout history and up to the modern day, they were thinner in their twenties. Karl does not have the massive grey bush of hair sprouting from his face and head. When Karl and Jenny make love, it is tactile and sensual and in the moment, but there is a childish desire to point out that this is Karl Marx boning. He runs away from the police (in a humorous chase that is oddly reminiscent of Raising Arizona). He even vomits! These characters are human beings, not wax figures barely animated. The film’s production design and costumes are exquisite, but the real test of the craft is that while watching the film it does not feel like a posh recreation. The sweat on the brow and the dirt on the roads are palpable. The actors add a great deal to that illusion. Like with the best Shakespeare adaptations or any literature from years ago, the actors have to make the setting and dialogue immediate and real. The funny beards and tall hats and antiquated buildings have to drift away enough for the drama to spark. Those period elements are vital, but they have to aid the performances, not entomb the actors in the past.
Besides making the well-known figures human, Peck makes the film work as entertainment by striking the right balance of making the politics and theories understandable for a receptive audience but not dumbing them down or lecturing. A dilemma in making films with complex historical facts or political content is to summarize and dramatize the information in a way that does not leave the audience confused while also not having the characters deliver pat and condescending dialogue that they would never say in reality. Because the film is focused on a few years early in their lives, the relationships and ideas are in their early stages. This is Muppet Babies for the fathers of Communism. Many scenes consist of men standing in a room debating the tenets of the movement, but it remains gripping because of the personal details and relationships built throughout the film. Peck also does something that absorbing art based on true events does: he takes issues or events that the viewer may have little or no interest in or knowledge of and makes it riveting. What they are talking about may be uninteresting to some, but their passion and dedication are so compelling that it engages the casual viewer. It does not matter if one cares about the subject; one cares because of how much the characters care.
A few times it feels like a “Big Important Moment” is happening in history rather than the real life delicately rendered throughout the film. Every time they discuss what the title of their new work should be, one almost mouths, “The Communist Manifesto” in anticipation. The film also opens with an attack on some poor people “stealing” wood in a forest, hitting the audience over the head, stating too emphatically that this is not just an intellectual debate…this is people’s lives. Peck should be applauded for maintaining a reasonable approach through most of the film. One does not have to agree with Karl Marx or his beliefs to find the film worthy, just like with Steven Soderbergh’s Che Guevara bio-pic Che. It is a political film that always remains human and intelligent without being ponderous or dull.