And now it’s time for the heavy hitters. Enter Juliette Binoche and Robert Redford in two equally spare one-handers. In Bruno Dumont’s film it’s one (unmarried and independent) woman against the world of men. And Juliette Binoche gives one of her best and rawest performances in Camille Claudel 1915, as the ravaged sculptor slowly losing her lucidity following her incarceration in an asylum by her ex-lover Rodin and Catholic conservative brother Paul. Filmed with real-life psychiatric patients, it’s an austere sideways look at a male-centred society before women’s emancipation, paranoia and plagiarism.
While in J.C. Chandor’s virtually dialogue-free All Is Lost, Robert Redford shows the golden boy has still got it. Nimbly scaling masts, and almost continually soaked through from capsizing and falling overboard, the septuagenarian narrates his eight-day mission to survive when his sailing boat is skewered by a floating container. From calm and methodical repairs to his boat to thirst-stricken and hopeless desperation, All Is Lost is a beautifully photographed portrait on the process of survival and the illusion of independence.
From Japan, there’s also Hirokazu Kore-eda’s delicately delightful family drama Like Father Like Son, in which a father’s love for his son is laid bare when a hospital reveals his son isn’t really his. It’s a question of nature versus nurture, as the parents must choose between the boy related to them by blood and the son they have loved for six years and already invested with so much blood, sweat, toil and tears. It’s a wry observation of aspirational parenting, and like Nebraska another look at the fragile bond between fathers and sons. So good in fact that Steven Spielberg has even bought the remake rights.
There’s a certain sadness to Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said (as James Gandolfini’s penultimate film), but with great performances from both Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, it’s a well observed and sensitive film on friendship and second love. Jill Soloway’s Afternoon Delight is another US indie comedy in the same vein, with much handwringing and unnecessary angst, but when Juno Temple’s lap-dancer moves into a couple’s family home, it becomes incendiary. And then there’s Anthony Wilcox’s low-budget but underwhelming Hello, Carter, a British romantic comedy of errors in the vein of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours. It’s refreshingly low-key, and features some good performances, notably from Jodie Whittaker, but never quite manages to lift off the ground.
Of the documentaries, there’s Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkeley, an interesting but overly long look at the importance of education for social mobility in the States, comprised largely of faculty meetings and seminars at the Californian university. Nicholas Wrathall’s bio-doc Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia is an intriguing glimpse into the life of the American writer on the state of the nation. It’s a chronology of the late thinker’s life and works, but pieced together out of existing broadcast footage, it leaves many a stone unturned, not quite getting past Vidal’s own presentation of himself. And from the archives, finally a chance to see Shirley Clarke’s tragicomic Portrait Of Jason – a drunken brawl between director and subject as the interview goes from questions to recriminations. And laughs turn slowly to tears.