Cannes, Day 7: Takashi Miike’s high school musical, Brad Pitt and The Sapphires

Tuesday May 22nd 2012

I don’t want to come across all Mail Online here but why does Brad Pitt always have better hair in his movies than he does in real life? In Killing Them Softly, his latest collaboration with Assassination of Jesse James director Andrew Dominik — and Pitt’s third competition film in four years — he sports an epic pompadour only a few inches short of his iconic Johnny Suede do. Down at the Palais this morning, he looked like he’d just hopped off the plane from Burning Man.

Coiffure-related concerns aside, Pitt’s presence on the Croisette was yet again a good omen, with Killing Them Softly turning out to be one of the most enjoyable films in competition. A heist movie built on dynamic set pieces and jet black humour, it’s reminiscent of last year’s little-neo-noir-that-could Drive — in fact, it could almost be a sequel. It’s a shame then, that Dominik saddles the film with a heavy-handed political subtext that would echo much louder if it spoke a little quieter. When characters are having to pause their conversations so we can ‘happen to overhear’ an Obama speech on a nearby radio, it’s hard to take whatever point Dominik might be making very seriously.

And the whole incongruously-cheerful-music-over-brutal-violence thing? Shit’s been played out for twenty years, guys. Sort it out.

After his 3D samurai epic Hara-Kiri made the competition last year, it’s no major surprise to see Takashi Miike’s new film For Love’s Sake (one of four he’s made this year) score a midnight screening at the Grand Théâtre Lumière this time around. That is, until you find out it’s a 2hr+ musical love story set in a Japanese high school. Featuring all manner of unintentional ROFLs and some of the worst dance choreography ever committed to film, Miike’s first foray into the musical genre is most notable for its achingly literal dialogue: upon learning of the arrival of teenage badboy Makoto into his fancy academy, one student helpfully asks, “what’s a rebel like him doing in our elite school?”

Almost any film would seem hopelessly unimaginative when paired with For Love’s Sake, but The Sapphires — a formulaic Australian dramedy barely visible behind all the hopes The Weinstein Company have pinned on it — makes for a particularly dreary successor. Telling the true life story of four Aboriginal women who overcame adversity to take their soul group on a tour of the Vietnam War, the film is pretty much guaranteed a good slice of box office/Oscar success when it opens in the States later this year. Its treatment of Big Themes like racism, war and oppression however, is shallow to the point of repulsion. Look out for the scene in which a paraplegic war veteran is wheeled on purely to give the group something to get a bit weepy about.

Tonight promises karaoke, yet more pizza and (hopefully) a relatively early night before tomorrow’s big screening of On the Road. I’ll want to be wide awake for all the authenticity that’s sure to be on display.