I just landed in the sunny south of France for the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, cinema’s most prestigious, annual jamboree! ☀
British directors not named Leigh or Loach have frequently struggled to win their films a Cannes Competition slot. Helping to break that mould is Andrea Arnold, whose great Fish Tank won the Jury Prize in 2009 and is back again with her first film set outside the UK. Billed as a sprawling road movie across the American Midwest, it centres on Star (19-year-old newcomer Sasha Lane), a troubled teen who runs away with a travelling sales crew and gets embedded in their hard-partying, outlaw lifestyle. Co-starring Shia LeBeouf and rising star Riley Keough (The Girlfriend Experience), few Cannes entries are as highly anticipated and it’ll be fascinating to see what Arnold, whose wonderful eye for poetic British social realism and untested talent, comes up with as she hits the road Stateside.
The last time Dutch director Paul Verhoeven competed on La Croisette was with, believe it or not, 1992’s V-neck-and-knicker-free erotic thriller Basic Instinct. In his first major feature since 2006’s underrated World War Two spy drama Black Book (which launched Game of Thrones’ Red Witch Carice van Houten), he’s back with a project that smacks of his wonderfully lurid Hollywood Instinct / Showgirls heyday: a revenge thriller about an executive who turns the tables on the stalker who violated her in a home invasion. That Elle’s star is the legendary Isabelle Huppert - look her up, kids - has us crossing more than just legs that’s it a late-career return to form for a filmmaker who, at his best, is so much more than just a slightly pervy provocateur (though he’s absolutely that too).
When the stylish and brutal Oldboy swept to 2004’s Grand Prix (effectively, second place), naysayers palmed it off as Asian Extreme fanboy adoration from jury president Quentin Tarantino. Then the rest of the world saw Park Chan-wook’s ferocious modern classic, plus the equally hypnotic and beautiful installments in his “vengeance trilogy” and realized that this was a filmmaker of the highest (if sometimes nastiest) caliber. After his uneven if still underrated English-language debut Stoker (2013), Park returns to his South Korean homeland, but with an adaptation of Sarah Waters’ cult Victorian novel Fingersmith. Resetting the story to pre-World War Two, Japanese-occupied Korea, but no doubt keeping the thrillingly sensual lesbian seductions, betrayals and pickpocketing, the trailer and poster elicit a coolly transgressive allure that’s instantly seductive.
IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD
He’s twenty-seven now, so who knows how much longer we’re required to prefix “enfant terrible” or “wunderkind” to French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan. In any event, he’s back at Cannes with his sixth feature and follow-up to Mommy (which shared Cannes 2014’s Jury Prize with Jean-Luc Godard, no less), not to mention Adele’s “Hello” video. Apparently inspired by the late Jean-Luc Lagarce’s play Juste la fin du monde, an all-star French cast – Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Lea Seydoux – surround Gaspard Ulliel’s writer who returns to his hometown to announced his impending death to his family, triggering a wave of recriminations and conflicts. Meaty, emotional stuff, then, potentially a perfect fit for Dolan’s melodramatic flare when teamed with such powerhouse performers.
THE NEON DEMON
Feted for 2011’s thrillingly self-conscious Drive, booed for 2013’s laughably self-important Only God Forgives, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn is never merely “comme-ci, comme-ca” at Cannes and this lavish horror flick looks no exception. Promising L.A. neon-soaked noir and cannibalistic models, it pits virginal Elle Fanning’s rising starlet against a vampiric industry that literally feeds off youth and beauty: so your basic day-in-the-life of Hollywood, then. The trailers look suitably sleek and dazzling, as does a supporting cast that includes Christina Hendricks, Abby Lee and even Keanu Reeves. Composer Cliff Martinez has described “the first half as a melodrama like Valley of the Dolls, and the second half is like Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” Consider us front row for Winding Refn’s psycho fashion show.
THE NICE GUYS
Sometimes when Hollywood or star-driven genre cinema hijacks Cannes – witness 1998’s Godzilla debacle – it’s shown up as the cynical attempt to strong-arm the world’s media that it is. And sometimes – last year’s barnstorming Mad Max: Fury Road – it’s a bracing adrenaline shot to all that weighty, lengthy arthouse fare, a fix of wisecracking profanity, punchy action and fizzing star chemistry you hadn’t realized you needed as a palate cleanser. Advance word on Shane Black’s retro ‘70s buddy movie is heavily slanted towards the latter. Certainly the dynamite trailers of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling’s odd couple looks like Black’s previous buddy thrillers – the script for Lethal Weapon, meta-as-hell Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – on steroids.
I am very inspired 👍 by the film SOLD!
SOLD is a narrative, feature film adaptation of the globally acclaimed novel by Patricia McCormick. Based on true stories, SOLD, is the story of Lakshmi who journeys from a pastoral, rural village in Nepal to a gritty brothel/prison called 'Happiness House' in Kolkata, India. Through one extraordinary girl's story, SOLD illustrates the brutality of child trafficking, which affects millions of children around the globe every year. Globally the average age of a trafficked girl is thirteen, the same age as the girl in the film. SOLD is a call to action, and a testament to the power and resilience of the human spirit. It is a must see! Please read about my involvement at FAIR GIRLS here and get involved!
Check out my recent interview at The Wild Mag.....
Alessia Sushko is the rising actress and all-round esthete with good looks and bang-up style to boot. She started turning the cogs of culture at an early age as a competitive dancer and ballerina back in Belarus. Now based in the Big Apple, she’s tipped for the top as an avant-garde performer who fuses art with good causes.
When Alessia Sushko strolls into the café on West 3rd Street just off Washington Square Park, her ultra-cool elegance seems in keeping with her Belarusian roots. But her measured poise belies the sizzling, high-octane intensity the 27-year-old has been pouring on to the screen and into the theater since her House of Cards debut last year, in which she plays the politically shifty femme fatale, Svetla, embroiled in a dense thicket of Machiavellian mischief. A skilled method actor and avant-garde thespian, the Belarusian transplant is one of the most spine-tingling ingénues working in NYC today. A natural risk-taker, she prefers the raw, under the radar parts that mainstream up-and-comers tend to eschew. But there is upside to taking on contrarian and risqué roles. “I get to explore compelling roles I’d otherwise never know about,” she says enthusiastically in her suave, ultra-subtle slavic drawl. “It’s a form of ‘immersionism’ that I’m fortunate and happy about—I get to do what I love and work with amazing writers, actors and filmmakers. But it is often tough.”
Alessia started out as a dancer and ballerina from the age of 5, enduring endless practice and grueling physical discipline in the aftermath of the USSR’s rumbustious collapse. She got encouragement from her steadfast mom and kid sister, both of whom gave her oodles of inspiration and moral support in Belarus’ post-Soviet swamp. “I grew up in a sordid place in the midst of economic and political chaos,” she says. “It was a tough as nails environment that instilled in me a lot of grit and personal strength. To stir my imagination, I read Agatha Christie mysteries and ruminated endlessly on Russian classics and Dostoevsky novels. I went to school and studied a wide range of subjects—dance, literature, art, economics, etc. and got hooked on Tennessee Williams (my fave!) and Woody Allen. They were my windows unto other, more alluring worlds. It paved the way for what I’m doing today.”
Fast forward a decade and half to now. Alessia’s acting credentials were established via a patchwork of parts and pieces—HBO’s Girls,The Mysteries of Laura, Gossip Girl, a few obscure TV and internet gigs in which she made quick cameos and punchy one-liners, and the newly launched Billions, in which she plays the sultry Ariadne. She also got big props for her role in FX’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll last year starring Denis Leary and produced by Jim Serpico. Since then, Alessia has been flitting between LA, London and NYC working with talents like Kevin Spacey and Damian Lewis. When she’s not imbibing screenplays and internalizing scripts, she’s at the gym getting fit or shooting campaigns for the likes of Redken, Aveeno and Nicole Miller.
Fresh off the plane from LA, we stole a few minutes of Alessia’s time in the West Village to chat about artistic risk, why drama is unconscious therapy and Pussy Riot.
You mentioned that acting is a form of ‘unconscious therapy.’ Can you talk about that?
Yeah, for me, acting is a form of therapy because it transforms and transcends at the same time. It goes beyond the mere physical-mental realm; it supersedes the moment and liberates me on an unconscious, conscious and subconscious level all at once. The effect is overwhelmingly therapeutic and extremely empowering.
Who are a few of your role models and inspirations?
I have so many. Film-wise, I love Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Woody Allen and Alejandro Inarritu. My favorite philosophers are Albert Camus, Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Bukowski. Some personal role models include my mom and sister, Christy Turlington Burns, Liv Ullmann and Emma Watson. And there are many more people who have shaped me as a person and informed my worldview.
What does art mean to you and how would you sum up your personal philosophy?
Art is a mechanism for transforming and transcending meaning. It is a way of seeing and becoming; a way to experience personal growth and to see new vistas. To paraphrase the poet Charles Bukowski, “You have to die a few times before you can really live.” That means you have to take on risk and get comfy with uncertainty to grow.
You are involved with the organization FAIR GIRLS and often campaign on behalf of women and humanitarian causes. Can you be more specific about what you do?
FAIR GIRLS is an anti-human-trafficking organization based in DC. It stands for Free, Aware, Inspired, Restored. I actively serve as a counselor to girls who have been victims of bonded labor and human trafficking and I do my very best to help traumatized young women get back on their feet and empower themselves through educational programs and mental health. I’m a huge fan of Andrea Power, the founder of FAIR GIRLS, and I’m honored and delighted that I can try to make a difference in the lives of those affected by sexual slavery and inhumane conditions.
Why is Tennessee Williams so important to you?
He is my God and his plays are sacred to me. He is one of the most autobiographical of American playwrights and I’m enamored of his unshakable commitment to his art. I have so much respect for Williams’ masterful character development, plot construction and writing—his plays are always perfectly integrated and connect theme, plot and characterization in the best, most nuanced ways.
What was it like to work with Pussy Riot on House of Cards and why were they even on the show in the first place?
They were amazing! They are the world's number one balaclava-clad punk protesters and Russian rebels. In the third episode of House of Cards, Pussy Riot attended a state dinner held by power-luster President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), along with Russian President Viktor Petrov. After an acrimonious meet and greet, Pussy Riot and activist Pyotr Verzilov (also playing himself) interrupted Petrov's fancy toast with a tirade against the Kremlin kleptokrat. I consider them to be art-political agitators fighting for the rights of women, the oppressed, and waging a war on censorship and obscurantism. Respect!
Favorite fashion lately?
I love any and all avant-garde rebels and underground designers who are shaking up the industry. I’m really inspired by Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons. I loved what Chanel just showed in Paris—the ‘eco-couture’ concepts were really cool and relevant!
What do you do in your spare time?
Lately I’ve been learning how to play the piano.
To all my friends and fam! One love! ♥
- The Wild Magazine
Alessia Sushko and Damien Lewis on the set of Billions (SHOWTIME).
"Hedge fund king Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod (Damian Lewis) comes under investigation by U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti). It’s a high stakes war set in the fast-paced, ego-driven world of high finance where both men are forced to answer the question: What is power worth?"
Here are a few of my favorite films...
Alessia Sushko and Sedly Bloomfeld perform a scene from Shakespeare’s Othello at Artists Without Walls.
I just experienced Julian Rosefeldt's 'Manifesto' at HAMBURGER BAHNHOF MUSEUM FOR CONTEMPORARY ART in Berlin. Amazing!! Julian is based in Berlin and trained as an architect before turning to multi-media and art. His work reflects a fascination with day-to-day reality, and the stereotypes, clichés and repetitions that suffuse popular culture and film. This exhibit/installation integrates various types of artist manifestos from different time periods with contemporary scenarios and focuses on sound and choreography. Manifestos are depicted by 13 different characters, among them a school teacher, factory worker, choreographer, punk, newsreader, scientist, puppeteer, widow, and a homeless man. A must see!
Alessia Sushko 🎭 | Theater | Film | Performing Arts ↓ News