Archive for the ‘CAIRO’ Category

Annette (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Dir/Wri: Leos Carax | Marion Cotillard, Adam Driver, Simon Helberg | Drama France, 139′

French auteur Leos Carax last graced the Croisette with Holy Motors a weird and mysterious odyssey into the mind of one man. Annette his latest creation sees him back in Cannes nine years later with another cinematic sensation: another journey into the complexities of male psyche that explores the nature of fame and the fragility of love through his first English language film.

Adam Driver haunts this moody modern opera with a muscular expressiveness that lurches from rage to almost religious fervour as offbeat comedian Henry, although his comedy act sequences are overlong and not particularly amusing and detract from the central narrative which already has more than enough references to his anger issues. Marion Cotillard shimmers exquisitely as the diva he falls for but the baby they make together is simply out of the world.

Visually stunning in the style of Holy Motors, is Caroline Champetier once again beguiles with her luscious cinematography in a highly original film that blends its bizarre ideas and tonal switches with elegance, always surprising the audience: particularly with erotic sex scenes laced with obsidian black humour: this is a richly thematic modern classic with a focus firmly in the future.

The cult rock band Sparks performs and composes a score that is daringly racy and poignant in the style of a Greek tragedy (complete with a black female chorus) where its central character Henry (Driver) is a meglamaniac narcissist whose lust for new experiences and extreme carnal compulsion will be his devastating downfall, destroying everything challenging his dominance.

Opera singer Ann (Marion Cotillard) melts his heart with her dulcet tones – for a while at least – and the two wander deliriously in a verdant garden of Eden crooning the film’s catchy musical leit-motif “We Love Each Other So Much”. and soon their baby Annette is born and their joy now complete.

But storm clouds soon gather over on the loved-up paradise in a melodramatic tone shift. Carax goes into overdrive in a full-blown expose of macho toxicity where passions are given full throttle during Henry’s hysterical nighttime motorbike rides home to his tropical hideaway, the dizzying camerawork  recalling Holy Motors‘ nocturnal taxi forays. There is a third narrative strand in shape of Simon Helberg’s compelling turn as Ann’s spurned lover now reduced to her accompanying pianist at her elegantly-staged opera gigs. Once again Cotillard get the chance to play Lady Macbeth and this will be teased out suggestively in the film’s third act.

Baby Annette is like a benign female version of ‘Chucky’, her blue eyes and auburn locks adding an endearing appeal and vulnerability to the subtle scariness she engenders but also hinting at A.I. She will grow up to be a thoughtful and intuitive little girl, whose presence pivotal to the storyline. At this point Carax uses the female chorus to clever effect as a #MeToo theme kicks in and this feeds into Henry’s violent anger management issues which are now the central focus of the story and pivotal to the final reveal.

Annette is a compelling visual masterpiece that utterly captivates and confuses for nearly two and half hours. An atmospheric soundscape, dreamlike images and extraordinary performances coalesce in a contemporary rock melodrama the like of which has never been seen before, and it world premieres here at Cannes. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

 

 

Curfew (2020)

Dir.: Amir Ramses; Cast: Elham Shahin, Amina Khalil, Ahmed Magdy, Kamel El Basha; Egypt 2020, 96 min.

In this impressive domestic drama that won the main prize at this year’s Cairo Film Festival, Egyptian writer/director Amir Ramses takes on one of the biggest taboos in the Arab world: paedophilia. Flashbacks relating to the crime are coy but nevertheless disturbing considering the perpetrator is a senior member of his family, Ramses finding just the right balance to get his message across without upsetting the censors. s great to see veteran actor Elham Shahin back on the screen again, after so long,

Set in the autumn of 2013, the story revolves around an extended family in Cairo. Faten (Shahin) leaves prison after twenty years, having served time for the murder of her husband. Rumours say it was a ‘crime passionnel’ over her love affair with Yahia (El Basha), who – still lives – in the same apartment block – but the real motive has never surfaced.

Meanwhile, her embittered daughter Layla (Khalil) in waiting for her at the prison entrance with her husband Hassan (Magdy), a doctor in the local hospital. Layla has only visited her mother once in prison and is deeply resentful about her taking her father away from her. A local curfew makes it impossible for the former teacher to escape to her home in the country but she has her granddaughter Donia for company, and she also reconnects with Selma, Hassan’s niece. But Donia and Faten cross the line and reveal an unpalatable secret with tragic repercussions for all concerned.

Hassan is shown as an example of a progressive Arab man, Ramses  criticising working conditions for women: the nurses have only one way of promotion: a recommendation of a doctor – for which they have to pay with sex. His decision to stage most of the drama in domestic environments gives the feature an Ozuesque quality in its unity of space and time. The Curfew avoids sentimentality and dramatic overkill, finding a way to raise the profile of a society repressed by a cult of poisoned masculinity, camouflaging itself as religion. AS

THE CURFEW WON THE CAIRO FILM FESTIVAL‘s Golden Pyramid Award, along with BEST ACTRESS for Ilham Shaheen 2020

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