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Sep 13 2015

TIFF: Did Dheepan deserve its Cannes win?

Amircontinues our coverage of TIFF '15 with a review of this year's Palme d'or winner,Jacques Audiard's Dheepan.

Whether Jacques Audiard's latest film,Dheepan,benefits from the pedigree of its Palme d'or or becomes victim to raised expectations isn't clear.What is already clear,however,is that the film's reception has been truly baffling: on the one hand,the Cannes prize is one of the festival's more curious decisions;on the other,the extent of vitriol that the film receives seems equally unwarranted.Dheepanis on the same emotional and stylistic wavelength as Audiard's previous films,and it is about ten minutes -- admittedly a disastrous ten minutes — away from being on par with his best work...

The story revolves around three Sri Lankan refugees,who escaped civil war in their home country to reside in the notorious suburbs of Paris.Dheepan (Jesuthasan Antonythasan),Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) and Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby) are not a family,but pretend to be husband,wife and daughter to gain political asylum.The titular character finds work as a caretaker in a residential complex that houses violent gangs.It's an environment not entirely unlike the war zone from which they've fled.

Much of the strength of the film lies in its universality.It's a particularly timely film,as the refugee crisis rages on in the real world,andDheepanisn't particularly tied to the specifics of Parisian neighborhoods or Tamil tigers.The story of this immigrant "family"is moving precisely because it relatable irrespective of the details.In its best moments,Audiard's film is tense and heartbreaking.Antonythasan and Srinivasan both deliver remarkable performances,deftly portraying the balance of vulnerability and defiance that their characters embody in their new home.

What works to the film's detriment is Audiard's insistence on weaving the family's narrative to the minutiae of the violence engulfing them.Some of these connections are simply nonsensical—Dheepan is threatened in one intense and seemingly momentous scene by a Tamil warlord,for example,but the subplot is never revisited—and others are merely muddled.All of their conflicts with the gang members build up to a violent breakout near the film's end,a shrill,amateurishly stylized sequence that diminishes the film's emotional impact.Audiard's attempt to rectify this digression makes matters even worse,when the complexity of the story is diluted through rose-tinted glasses.It's a misstep entirely uncharacteristic for a filmmaker who's built a career from melodramatic treatments of tough subjects,and one that unfortunately endsDheepanon an unsatisfying note.

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Reader Comments (4)

I couldn't read the full review yet since I want to know as little as possible before seeing the film.But I like how there's a backlash happening to the backlash.Cannes has had such a sterling run with the Palme d'ors ('Palmes d'or'?) since 2007,I was hoping it hadn't quite been spoiled this year.

September 14,2015 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Goran: I agree about the sterling run;it's why,recently,I've found the Palme d'or more fun to follow than the Oscars,亚博主页mired as they are in biopic worship and category fraud.But I kind of thought that Winter Sleep spoiled that run a little.
I'm hoping Dheepan gets them back on track (for me).It's hard to be disappointed in a major prize for Audiard.(And I think at least part of that initial backlash was because people loved Carol,The Assassin and Son of Saul so much.Between those three films,this one,and The Lobster and Macbeth,I suspect I'll be marking more Cannes contenders on my calendar this fall/winter than Oscar contenders.)

September 14,2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Yeah I've noticed my Top 10 each year has roughly 5-6 Cannes entries on average (not all of them from official competition) and at best 1-2 BP nominees.And though I love this blog obviously,I do wish fewer posts were fixated on the Ampass decree

I actually adored Winter Sleep last year - I think Ceylan gets people and the things they refuse to face about themselves in a profound way,he's the closest we have to a living Chekhov - so even that hasn't compromised the Cannes record for me.Though Two Days,One Night was by far my favourite.

September 14,2015 | Unregistered Commentergoran

I think I'd have been on team Mr.Turner last year,but I thought a lot of the entries were really strong.
I *maybe* need to see Winter Sleep again to appreciate it,but another 3.5 hours with that one is a lot to give up for something that I may not like any better the second time.
At any rate,we're only 8 months away from Cannes 2016!And these are the 8 months where the 2015 titles start opening up.

September 14,2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

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