Cannes 2015: Audiard, Haynes & Director's Fortnight

The eagerly awaited Official Selection for this year's 68th Cannes Film Festival (13-24 May) was announced in Paris this morning. As previously revealed, celebrated sibling filmmakers and Cannes regulars Joel and Ethan Cohen will preside over the jury this time around. Emmanuelle Bercot will become the first female director to open the festival in 28 years with her comedy-drama La Tête Haute (Head Held High), starring Catherine Deneuve and Rod Paradot. Meanwhile, highlights of this year's Palme d'Or race include new films from Jacques Audiard, Matteo Garrone, Todd Haynes, Jia Zhangke, Paolo Sorrentino, Gus Van Sant and Denis Villeneuve. Directors whose latest films appear to have missed out this year include Terence Davies, Michael Haneke and Ben Wheatley.

Interview: Carol Morley on new film 'The Falling'

Carol Morley was in high spirits on the breezy spring morning CineVue met her (she likens press junkets to speed dating). The wind rustled in the air outside, but not with the sense of foreboding mysticism of her remarkable new feature, The Falling (2014). They are the winds of change, of a Britain embracing counter-culture as it rebels from its stuffy past in the late 1960s. Maisie Williams (Arya Stark in HBO's Game of Thrones) plays schoolgirl Lydia, whose fainting spells spark into an all-out outbreak of hysteria in a countryside girls' school still grieving the loss of a star pupil (breakout actress Florence Pugh). It marks a significant change from her previous film, Dreams of a Life (2011), the docudrama about Joyce Vincent, a Londoner whose body was left undisturbed by friends and family for three years.

Kinoteka 2015: 'The Saragossa Manuscript' review

★★★★☆
There's a conversation in Wojciech Jerzy Has' hallucinatory picaresque epic, The Saragossa Manuscript (1965), in which a character utters the following words, "if I don't understand but I can write it down, I approach poetry." This could well be the filmmaker imparting wisdom through the mouth of his character, or perhaps comfort to the critic who will go slowly insane attempting to convey the plot. Insanity may or may not play a major part in proceedings depending on your point of view, but either way Has' Matryoshka narrative envelopes you even as it confounds. It begins with a pair of soldiers happening upon a dusty tome in an abandoned building in Saragossa during the Napoleonic War.

Kinoteka 2015: 'The Hourglass Sanatorium' review

★★★★★
Wojciech Jerzy Has took great relish in toying with narrative convention in the nestled labyrinthine pages of The Saragossa Manuscript (1965). He dispenses with it entirely in The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973), an oneiric odyssey through the cob-webbed recesses of memory and into the great beyond. Jan Nowicki plays Josef, who is first introduced on a decrepit old train where his Charon-like conductor encourages him to alight and make his way through a cemetery to the titular institution in which his pa resides. Once he gets there, recollections of his childhood and his father are grotesquely contorted into disconcerting fantasy with surreal majesty.

Film Review: 'Stonehearst Asylum'

★★☆☆☆
"Believe nothing you hear and one half of what you see", is a line lifted from Edgar Alan Poe's The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether that is uttered by a plummy-toned Brendan Gleeson at the opening of Brad Anderson's entertaining Grand Guignol genre-piece Stonehearst Asylum (2014) (previously Eliza Graves). Based on Poe's book, the story opens at the beginning of the last century, where a naive young doctor, Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess), embarks on his first position at a remote asylum in the wilderness of North Yorkshire. Upon his arrival, he is greeted by the institutes head shrink, the archly named Silas Lamb (Ben Kinsley).

Film Review: 'The Good Lie'

★★★☆☆
It's not often that an actor who is arguably the fourth lead in a film gets top billing, an unfortunate but necessary marketing tactic for The Good Lie (2014), which uses Reese Witherspoon's face prominently in all advertising despite not being the star. The English language debut of director Philippe Falardeau - Monsieur Lazhar (2011) - tells the story of four Sudanese refugees (known as the 'Lost Boys of Sudan'), forced to walk hundreds of miles to escape war in their country and find a new life in America. Foreign conflict, particularly in Africa, has always been met with patchy portrayals by Hollywood studios. All too often underdeveloped African characters simply wait for a Hollywood actor to come in and save the day.

Film Review: 'The Falling'

★★★☆☆
In August 2011, 14 students from Le Roy High School in upstate New York inexplicable began exhibiting perplexing medical symptoms including, but not limit to, verbal outbursts and seizures. Doctors were baffled, describing the incident as an outbreak of mass hysteria or a 'phenomenon of collective suggestion'. This incident, and others like it form the basis of Carol Morley's The Falling (2014) a mysterious drama set in an all-girl school in the 1960s where a single case of spontaneous fainting quickly becomes an epidemic. The mysteries at the heart of Morley's lurid exploration of female adolescence aren't medical, however.

Film Review: 'Exit'

★★★★☆
Celebrated Taiwanese cinematographer Chienn Hsiang's debut feature Exit (2014) is a tactile and strikingly vivid expression of isolation which alludes to wider national anxieties. Bristling with sexual repression Exit's familiar tale of generational disparity and middle-aged melancholy is elevated thanks to the poignant performance of Tsai Ming-Liang regular Chen Shiang-Chyi. With a precocious teenage daughter devouring her youth and a hospitalised mother-in-law ushering her into old age, 45-year-old Ling (Chen) finds herself trapped in a hopeless situation. Having recently lost her job as a seamstress at a nearby textile factory Ling struggles to get by on a meagre stipend from her husband.

Film Review: 'The Emperor's New Clothes'

★★★☆☆
It seems only fitting that England's prized louche comic-turned-activist, Russell Brand, should find his latest on screen venture in Michael Winterbottom's documentary The Emperor's New Clothes (2015). Brand assumes the lead, taking aim at the bankers and corporations that form the world's top 1% of the wealth pyramid, looking to expose the problems in their practices and the more severe issues of income inequality that stem from those practices. Brand is able to bring his signature levity to an otherwise grim topic. He shines in his connections to the public, never shying away from the opportunity to charmingly mouth off to passers-by, security guards - anyone really.

Film Review: 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'

★★★★☆
There was a shot in Joss Whedon's box office behemoth Avengers Assemble (2012) which set fan's tongues a-wagging when it popped up in a trailer. The camera panned around the team of superheroes as they regrouped against an overwhelming alien hoard. If sequels are supposed to be bigger and better, then its lucky that the equivalent shot in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) is not just superior, not just more impressive, but arguably the most spine-tingling visual interpretation of the comic book form ever committed to celluloid. Earth's Mightiest Heroes are back and it's with a right-hook that floors the competition. Chris Evans' Captain America would be oh-so proud.

Film Review: 'A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence'

★★★★☆
Widely-acclaimed Swedish director Roy Andersson's latest offering, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014), aims to demythologise the commercial image of reality, shutting the door on the stock-photo swaths of smiling happy faces of advertising and instead focus on the world's ignored. Observing humanity's endless capacity for error, cruelty and self-humiliation, Pigeon presents the audience with thirty-nine tragic sketches that pontificate on varying themes of solitude, regret, boredom, and death in a fittingly mordant finale to to the Swedish auteur's trilogy about 'being human' which began in 2000 with Songs from the Second Floor and continued with You, the Living (2007).

DVD Review: 'The Square Circle'

★★★★☆
There's much treasure to behold in Amol Palekar's The Square Circle (1996), an Indian film that has aged incredibly well. Its a searing indictment against masculine hegemony as well as a beautifully told portrait of female friendship amidst a search for establishment of identity. It's an empowering road movie of the highest order, where the women here speak plainly and openly about the woes and wonders of womanhood. As they come to understand each other and help each other grow, they work together against the staunch regulations of image and gender that Indian society seems eager to cast them into. It's a powerful piece of cinema that arguably feels more relevant than ever before.

Blu-ray Review: 'The Offence'

★★★★☆
When Sean Connery agreed to return to play James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), as a sweetener United Artists offered to finance two pictures of Connery's choosing. One of those pictures was Sidney Lumet's The Offence (1972), a gritty police drama about a detective sergeant (Connery) who beats to death a suspected child molester. A million miles from the globe-trotting super spy, The Offence takes place in an unlovely England, rain swept place as seen a year earlier in Mike Hodges' Get Carter (1971). The climate is reflected in the hard-bitten faces of everyone standing around smoking in the office, with women at home and pints coming in bevelled glasses.

Blu-ray Review: 'Midnight Run'

★★★★★
From an era where the buddy movie became a ubiquitous fixture comes the one film which firmly stood out from the rest. The first film to showcase a looser, comedic turn from Robert De Niro (and considerably more grounded than his Meet The Parents shtick), Marin Brest's Midnight Run (1988) provided the best use of profanity as poetry until Malcolm Tucker turned up on the big screen decades later. Celebrating its 27th anniversary this year (the film was released at a time when co-star Charles Grodin was still considered hot box office property) this digital spruce-up offers a welcome return for a film which has lost none of its potty-mouthed charm.

DVD Review: 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies'

★★★☆☆
Thirteen years on from the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson completes his journey through Middle Earth with action-packed and satisfying finale, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014). Proceedings open in the depths of night in Lake Town in the midst of chaos; the town's inhabitants scream and panic as the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) looms overhead, belching fire. Jackson spends no time recapping the events of the previous chapter, preferring to get audiences' hearts racing with a sky-high duel between the barrel-toned fire-drake and Bard (Luke Evans) who, whilst doing his best Strider impression, stumbles through a plethora of dud lines.

DVD Review: 'Dumb and Dumber To'

★★☆☆☆
Twenty years after the release of Dumb and Dumber (1994) Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) return with another dose of malodorous humour in Dumb and Dumber To (2014). Lloyd has been in a fallow state for two decades but now he's back and itching to go on another road trip with Harry whose just discovered he has a long-lost daughter with the one time love of his life, Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner). The pair sets off to find Penny (Rachel Melvin) just as she heads off to a big science symposium to give an important speech on behalf of her adoptive father Dr. Pinchelow (Steve Tom). Two ineffectual and methane-loving knights in shining armour, the pair follow Penny to the symposium.

Blu-ray Review: 'Coffy'

★★★☆☆
As composer Roy Ayers' silky lounge-jazz score comes in during the credits and that era-specific funky typeface fills the screen, you're more than aware of what's in store for you with 1973's Coffy. This is a blaxploitation offering with all the wonderful chintzy seventies trappings, lashing of scuzzy violence (including one particularly horrific comeuppance) and a villain sporting the greatest pimp get-up ever to grace the screen. Coffy's avenging angel/vigilante storyline was rehashed by director Jack Hill the following year for Foxy Brown, and everything here is pretty much touched upon in that subsequent film, be it the racial and social politics or that uneasy mix of female empowerment and objectification.

Blu-ray Review: 'Carl Theodor Dreyer Collection'

★★★★☆
Carl Theodor Dreyer may be the titan of Danish of cinema but for a whole host of international cineastes, knowledge of his films doesn't stretch far beyond the likes of The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Vampyr (1932) and Ordet (1955). Indeed, in an essay that accompanies the British Film Institute's fantastic new Blu-ray box set, the Carl Theodor Dreyer Collection, Casper Tybjerg suggests that many people are more familiar with the great director's name than much of his work. That can be remedied, of course. The BFI's new high definition-only release includes four features, half a dozen shorts and a wealth of additional material to fill in any gaps.

DVD Review: 'Big Eyes'

★★☆☆☆
Released today on DVD, Tim Burton's Big Eyes (2014) stars Amy Adams as Margaret Keane (née Ulbrich), a woman we first encounter on the brink of divorce. It's the late 1950s and, with her daughter in tow, Margaret forsakes the colour-coded conformity of suburbia for a new life in the big city, painting furniture during the week and selling her own art at weekends. It's at an art fair that she first meets Brian Keane, played by Christoph Waltz, a charming charismatic salesman full of the giddy enthusiasm of art, the happy amateur brimming over with his time on the Left Bank in Paris and vaguely ashamed of his day job as a successful realtor.

Kinoteka 2015: 'Knights of the Teutonic Order' review

★★★★☆
"Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever," quoth the Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero. The turning wheel of time on which the master orator predicated this assertion is one that is palpably intertwined with the viewing experience of Aleksander Ford's bombastic Knights of the Teutonic Order (1960), Poland's first blockbusting epic which still remains the most viewed film in the country's history. Based on Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel of the same name it is medieval pomp in glorious Eastmancolor, set against the backdrop of Poland and Lithuania's decisive conflict with the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410.

Kinoteka 2015: 'Blind Chance' review

★★★★☆
Traditional narrative tropes of chance and fate are employed to glean some insight into living in Communist era Poland in Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blind Chance (1987). Imagine Sliding Doors (1998) but rather than setting in motion very different romantic entanglements, the failure to catch a train fundamentally turns on a pin someone's worldview. This is what happens to Witek (Boguslaw Linda) via three different visions of his life after a desperate run along a station platform. They interrogate the formulation of individual values in the arguably unchanging everyman, as well as exploring various facets of contemporary Polish society and politics with a humanistic but pessimistic bent.

Kinoteka 2015: 'A Short Film About Killing' review

★★★★★
"Since the days of Cain, no punishment has improved the world or deterred anyone from committing crimes." A Short Film About Killing (1988) - Krzysztof Kieslowski's expansion on the fifth chapter of his lauded Dekalog series - sets out its stall. Far more than mere advocacy against the death penalty (although the film played an integral part in its abolition in Poland) it is a mournful and distressing meditation upon the act, eliding the senseless individual murder of a taxi driver with the state-sanctioned retribution dished out to his killer. A difficult and intense watch, it is vital viewing that has - and will continue to have - a deep lasting effect on those that seek it out.

Film Review: 'Town That Dreaded Sundown'

★★☆☆☆
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) is a bizarre remake/sequel hybrid of the 1976 film of the same name. That film, directed by Charles B. Pierce, recounted the real life murders attributed to a serial killer called 'The Phantom' who haunted the streets of Texarkana, located on the border of Texas and Arkansas and who was never caught. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's debut feature opens with a documentary précis of the situation thus far, setting the scene for the annual Halloween showing of the 1976 version of The Town that Dread Sundown. A de Palma-like tracking shot roams the audience of the drive in, as the local reverend passes out leaflets, the kids neck and nerds dress in costume.

Interview: Kristian Levring chats Dogme 95 and 'The Salvation'

Kristian Levring looks like one of the characters in his new film The Salvation (2014) - a distinct face, long dark hair, you could imagine him taking out someone with a rusty Victorian sniper. But the Danish director, who lives in North London, is more the intellectual than the aggro marksman, a former Dogme 95-signatory with a cineaste's mind and a political brain. That political edge comes out because his revenge western has a dynamic, multicultural element, led as it is by Mads Mikkelsen's Jon, a Dane who moves to America to start a new life - like many of his generation in the late 1800s. "The western is a weird thing for a European to do," he explains, "even though there have been good European directors. When you read about the West, the frontier was inhabited by Europeans, by immigrants."

Film Review: 'The Salvation'

★★★☆☆
The first film in over eight years for director Kristian Levring, The Salvation (2014) was a much-needed outlier on the festival circuit. A rare genre piece in a field of arthouse heavyweights, it served as a timely reminder of cinema as the ultimate medium of pulp. Outside of this context it may not prove itself to be as much of a palette-cleanser, but it's still an enjoyable, down-and-dirty western. Though it talks loftily of Westward expansion and the pioneer spirit, it is in essence a picture in thrall to the masters of pulp; from the combustible Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone to the unfussy American grit of Walter Hill, no reference point is left unchecked. The Salvation is, like so many of its predecessors, a tale of revenge.

Film Review: 'Last Knights'

★★☆☆☆
Over a decade on from the success of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films, fantasy is still proving a crowd pleasing genre both in cinemas and on television. Game of Thrones continues to dominate the small screen, while Jackson's own Hobbit trilogy is a multi-billion dollar success despite being anathema to many fans of the original films. Hoping to continue in this vein is Last Knights (2015), perhaps more medieval than Middle Earth but clearly aiming for similarities in tone and theme. Clive Owen takes the lead, playing a knight who gathers his comrades for revenge when his master is killed by a corrupt nobleman (Aksel Hennie).

Film Review: 'The Last Five Years'

★★★☆☆
With a riveting performance in The Last Five Years (2015), Anna Kendrick has proved she may be a contemporary Judy Garland. She plays the wildly ambitious, almost foolishly optimistic Cathy, a young singer from New Jersey trying to turn her passion into a career in the Big Apple. When she meets Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), a hopeless romantic wannabe novelist, the two are immediately drawn to one another. Cycling between their present and past, the film - based on Jason Robert Brown's Broadway play - honestly, if not exaggeratedly, explores the pains and hardships even the most stable of relationships suffer from when one person's dreams have begun to bloom and the other's are still being chased.

Film Review: 'The Invisible Life'

★★★☆☆
"It was a low, late afternoon light ... that only spoke of distant things." And so it is that a film seems to perfectly encapsulate itself in the delivery of a single line of dialogue. Those words are spoken by the protagonist of Vítor Gonçalves' The Invisible Life (2013) in a typical moment of reflective voiceover as he traverses a dimly lit hallway. This is a film that clearly has ambition to expound poetically about existential malaise and deep-seated loneliness; but it's all fustian, amounting to little more than its muted brown hues, some strikingly elegant compositions and vague discussions of things too remote for them to ever drift into clear focus. Drifting is the apposite word.

This is not a film that is driven by any narrative or thematic concerns, but which instead moves at a gloomy glissade. The Invisible Life is Portuguese director Gonçalves' first work in over 25 years and has much in common with A Girl in Summer (1986), the debut for which he is known. Nostalgia - in this case, unquantified - permeates the milieu of a man wandering through a mournful ennui. Hugo (Filipe Duarte) has just learned that his older colleague, Antonio (João Perry), is to go into hospital for surgery. This inspires an hour and a half of soul-searching somnambulism from Hugo punctuated by cuttings from Super8 home videos of Antonio's - whose relationship to Hugo sorely lacks context - and stilted discussions between Hugo and his ex-girlfriend Andriana (Maria João Pinho).

Where the scenes between the former lovers could be used to glean insight, they arguably just obfuscate further, but not by reaching in and actively muddying the water - they are more like a languid hand idly disrupting the reflection on the water's surface. Even these scenes between characters with intimate history remain at arm's length, observing them in wide shots from across the room and scarcely venturing closer than a mid-shot let alone ever trying to get beneath their skin. Fortunately, Leonardo Simões' photography remains pleasing to the eye and evocative of personal solitude despite feeling as though film might have served it better than digital does. That's a minor quibble, though, and Simões' framing proves a saving grace amidst periods of ponderous meditation that remain frustratingly inert, throughout. "You seem lonelier," says Adriana in one of their meandering conversations that are inflected with an oddly theatrical and artificial tone. When Hugo asks her how she knows, she replies "I can feel it." Sadly, that's the kind of emotional response that those watching might be hoping The Invisible Life will illicit, but which it sadly lacks.

Ben Nicholson | @BRNicholson

Film Review: 'Gente de bien'

★★★★☆
There are a number of key scenes in Columbian director Franco Lolli's superb Gente de bien (2014) - a playful title that means both 'Decent People' and 'Well-off People' - where it feels like it was written as a sequel to Vittorio De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948). The setting (Bogotá) and the language (Spanish) are immaterial to the notion that the neorealist classic is this French-Colombian co-production's spiritual cousin. The story of a working-class man and his son passing through an upper-class world (thanks to a kindly employer) is a beautifully observed tale about familial estrangement, the false consciousness of the class system and reconciliation between a parent and child that barely know each other.

Film Review: 'Dark Horse'

★★★★☆
Truth is often stranger than fiction, a hoary truism that has led to many a documentary making its mark on the film world. The latest to do so is Dark Horse (2015), which won the audience award at January's Sundance Film Festival, a feat in keeping with the film's subject. Director Louise Osmond chronicles the career of race horse 'Dream Alliance'. Owned by a syndicate of working class people in a small town in Wales, the horse defied convention, injury and expectation to win some of the most prestigious races in Britain. The picture is as textbook an underdog story as anything to have come out of Hollywood, and yet it's the sincerity of the principles who tell the story that make it so uniquely compelling.

Film Review: 'Cry of the City'

★★★★☆
Rereleased to coincide in the forthcoming retrospective at the BFI of director Robert Siodmak, the supporting promotional blurb around the 1948 New York-set crime yarn, Cry of the City (1948) mentions its influence over one the city's favourite cinematic sons, Martin Scorsese. The grimy depiction of the mean streets of Little Italy might be a surface comparison, but the themes of catholic guilt and the symbiotic relationship between cop and criminal certainly feel somewhat ingrained in the director's psyche. Siodmak's strong directorial style (he cut his teeth on a number of B-films prior to this feature) offers up a heavily atmospheric and surprisingly gritty vision for the time.

Film Review: 'Child 44'

★★☆☆☆
The prospect of a drama starring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke and Noomi Rapace based on Tom Rob Smith's bestselling novel Child 44 suggested that it would be a great film. Sadly, in the hands of Daniel Espinosa, who was responsible for the "Martin Scorsese Presents" gangster flick Easy Money, that prospect dwindles into tedium, laced with out-dated, dodgy foreign accents and sloppy narrative structure. The story opens with a quote, stating "There is no murder in paradise," a mantra handed down by Stalin and the Kremlin insisting that they have created an idyllic state, far removed from the corruption of the capitalist West, where it's impossible to consider the idea of murder.

Film Review: 'A Little Chaos'

★★★☆☆
For his second feature as director - following on from the Emma Thompson-starring The Winter Guest (1997) - Alan Rickman brings audiences the period folly A Little Chaos (2014), a film as mildly diverting and inoffensive as its title suggests. Based on a true story and adapted from ex-Casualty star Alison Deegan's debut screenplay, the film tells of a most ostensibly mundane period of King Louis XIV's tenure at Versailles, doing so in an entirely lightweight and likable manner that, though befitting a casual ITV costume drama, is saved by a wealth of assured hands both on and off screen. Set in 1682, Academy Award winner Kate Winslet plays widowed, green-fingered landscape designer Sabine De Barra.

Kinoteka 2015: 'Eroica' review

★★★★☆
With the fires of the Second World War still smouldering European cinema rose from the embers across the continent. At one time such resurgence took place through the Polish Film School, a movement intended to make films that would help their country come to terms with the war and all that had happened within her borders. Directors such as the colossal Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Kawalerowicz and Wojciech Jerzy Has made films that sought to express the deep ramifications of the conflict and deconstruct national myths that they felt hindered healing. Notions of heroism are firmly in the sights of Andrzej Munk with his pitch black satire, Eroica (1958).

DVD Review: 'What We Do in the Shadows'

★★★★☆
Taking into account the countless iterations of vampire mythology in popular culture over the last few years, you'd be forgiven for thinking that a stake had been driven through the heart of originality when it comes to the cinematic exploits of the toothsome undead. Thankfully, What We Do in the Shadows (2014) proves that not every last drop of blood has been drained. Akin to Edgar Wright's 2004 zom-rom-com Shaun of the Dead, this is a film that doesn't set out to outwardly parody the genre, instead using those long-established vampire tropes as a hook for the humour, flipping them for comedic effect in a whole variety of imaginative ways.

DVD Review: 'Maidan'

★★★★☆
Maidan Nezalezhnosti is a square in the centre of Kiev in Ukraine. It gained its name - literally translated as Independence Square - in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukraine's subsequent declaration of independence. It has been a focal point for protest and dissent, forming the fire point for the Orange Revolution which saw the election of Viktor Yushchenko in 2004. The square was in fact such a thorn in the oligarchy's side that at one point extensive renovations were planned in order to cordon off the public space and so stifle public protest. In late 2013, the Euromaidan protest began, initially demanding a closer integration with Europe and a shift away from Russia.
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