Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ★½

1995 Cannes Film Festival (In Competition)

This is easily the most inexplicable Competition selection*, lacking even the misguided ambition of Beyond Rangoon. After five maudlin minutes of Stephen Rea brooding and the appearance of a fresh-faced young girl, it becomes abundantly clear what kind of movie this is and how stringently it will adhere to formula. Set aboard a ship where no one seems to do anything besides smoke and play cards, the film is extremely short on everything but Rea’s uninflected despair. Hänsel doesn’t just employ a long shot of him gloomily holding a cat; she dollies in, as if there’s something more to reveal. The film is full of pointless gestures like this. Never mind who this plucky Chinese girl is, how she got here, how she feels; she only exists to fill his void. She might as well be opium.

*They did, however, do their best to bury it, giving it just a single screening at 11pm the night before three Competition films.