The Arty Semite

Cannes Diary #1: 'Mr. Turner' and Israeli Incest

By A.J. Goldmann

  • Print
  • Share Share

Amid clear sunny skies and swaying palm trees, the competition of the Cannes Film Festival opened on a strong note with British auteur Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner,” about the great painter J.M.W. Turner. Leigh is one of the six Jewish directors who have films in the official competition section of the festival (others include the Canadian surrealist David Cronenberg and “The Artist”’s Michel Hazanavicius, whom we hope to profile later in the festival).

A beautifully sensitive period piece constructed with substance and subtlety, “Mr. Turner” is Leigh’s fourth venture to make it to the Croisette (his family drama “Secrets and Lies” won the “Palme d’Or,” the festival’s top prize, in 1996). It succeeds where main other biopics of painters have failed, both as an incisive character portrait and an engaging and finely wrought piece of filmmaking.

Thanks to brilliant cinematography and lighting, “Mr. Turner” achieves truly painterly effects. Much credit for the film’s success is due to Timothy Spall — one of Leigh’s regular actors — an absolutely overwhelming presence in the title role. Far from a hagiography, the film delivers a warts-and-all-portrait of the artist as an old man and Spall plays him with both sensitivity and oafishness.

Speaking at the press conference, Leigh said that he has always been interested in exploring conflicting forces, wills and temperaments in his work. It was difficult of me not to think of the director himself, who often comes off as downright curmudgeonly at festivals and in interviews, but makes films of immense psychological and aesthetic perception.

The first full day of the festival also saw the world premiere of Keren Yedaya’s “That Lovely Girl” (Harcheck mi headro), the only Israeli film to make it into the official program this year. Yedaya, who won the Camera d’Or (given for best first film) in 2004 for “My Treasure,” about a prostitute and her daughter, presented her latest in the Un Certain Régard section.

If picked up for distribution, it seems certain that “That Lovely Girl” will become known simply as “the Israeli incest film.” It is a gut-wrenching portrait of Tami, a frightened and submissive young woman (Maayan Turjeman in a painfully committed performance) struggling to break free from a sexual relationship with her domineering, highly manipulative father (Tzahi Grad).

In its frank, unsparing approach to taboo subject matter, the film brings to mind the work of the controversial French director Catherine Breillat. Yet, unlike some of Breillat’s films, the graphic sexual and violent content of “That Lovely Girl” never seems gratuitous; rather, the film’s shocking candor works to expose the tortured nexus of abuse and love (or the need for love) that make up Tami’s emotional world, and the savage power dynamic at the core of this most unnatural of relationships. In that, it’s one of the most morally incisive films I’ve ever seen, as well as one of the most uncomfortable to watch.

Check back with us for further updates from The Cannes Film Festival.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Mr. Turner, Mike Leigh, Film, Keren Yehaya, Cannes Film Festival, Cannes Diary, That Lovely Girl

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.