Archive for the ‘CANNES 2020’ Category

Elvis (2022)

Dir.: Baz Luhrmann; Cast: Tom Hanks, Austin Butler, Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh; US/Australia 2022, 159 min.

Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-1977) was – and still is – the most successful recording artist on this planet, so hiring Baz Luhrmann, well known for his baroque output, to make a film of his life and turn in a handsome profit seemed like a brilliant idea.

But casting Tom Hanks as the singer’s gambling, cheating and lying manager Colonel Tom Parker put Austin Butler’s Presley at a glaring disadvantage. Parker, who voices the linear narrative, is also a rather unreliable witness to the proceedings; Butler certainly looks the part as the titular hero but does he do a convincing job as the hip-swivelling legend? Let’s just say few performers would have fared better opposite a behemoth like Hanks. Olivia deJonge, as Elvis’ wife Priscilla is even more short-changed: she brings up the kids and suffers in silence, while her husband shags and devours pills like candies. And no mention is made of her being a teen bride; Priscilla was fourteen when she met the twenty-four-year-old Elvis for the first time in 1959.

The writers offer no real explanation as to why Elvis left for the army as a rebel in 1958, only to return two years later his bad boy instincts buttoned down. Amateur psychology is used to lay the blame on Parker and his greed – we are meant to believe the scrupulous manager had a hold over Elvis, whose father Vernon (Roxburgh) was a weak role model and ended up in jail. Elvis’ actress mother Gladys (Thomson) is also just an underwritten sketch.

Luhrmann dishes up the legend’s mammoth musical history in all its glittering details. DoP Mandy Walker, who worked with Luhrmann on Australia, pulls out all the stops in a biopic that runs for nearly three hours. Rather than zero-in on a pivotal era of the star’s career, Luhrmann merely touches on his entire life, and any depth or resonance is lost in the cacophony of flashing lights and noise.

Behind the cinematic showcase lies a hollow heart. Luhrmann, an obsessive showman himself, again goes overboard with his obsession for split screens in another sparkling montage that will satisfy the lowest common denominator. But having spent all his budget on appearances there’s nothing left for the script. The story is a classic but the straightforward chronicle approach takes away the element of surprise leaving us with an ‘all singing all dancing’ cabaret showpiece, a burnished biopic to please the investors rather than arthouse enthusiasts with discerning minds. AS

IN CINEMAS FROM JUNE 24TH 2022

Marcel! (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir.: Jasmine Trinca; Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Maavane Conti, Giovanna Ralli, Umberto Orsini, Valentina Cervi, Valeria Golino; Italy 202, 93 min.

Cruelty to animals and their tragic deaths features highly in many indie and arthouse film underlining our important bond with these vulnerable creatures. And nowhere more so that this year’s Cannes where dogs and donkeys bare the brunt of man’s callous behaviour.

Actress turned director Jasmine Trinca;s debut feature is an absurd, surrealistic comedy in the style of Fellini, but with, literally, much more bite. The titular Marcel is a canine, obsessively loved by street performer Alba Rorwacher, much to the chagrin of her daughter Maavante Conti, who just wants to be loved by her mum, and not always parked with grandparents Giovanna Ralli and Umberto Orsini.

Told in ten chapters, the story of this dysfunctional family is grim as well as fascinating. As far as mothers go, Rohrwacher is a nightmare: not only does she neglect her daughter, but she lets her pet dog Marcel sit at the dinner table, feeding him carrots. She is also a fan of divination, throwing coins around with great gusto – and to add to her talents she acts as a medium. An elderly admirer brings her flowers, and attends all her performances in the town square. Her daughter is forced to watch, but not allowed to play her saxophone, which would certainly enhance her mother’s amateurish performance.

Marcel soon goes missing, And no prizes for guessing the outcome or culprit involved in his disappearance. Later, mother and daughter drive to a county fair, were the child has to act Marcel’s part, before discovering the the macabre reality. Not having had much success with their act, the two then travel to visit family; a cousin (Cervi) is well aware of Rohrwacher’s shortcoming as a performer. Proceedings are livened with one family member fancying themselves as a hunter with the whole living room full of stuffed animals, a wild boar being next prey on the agenda.

Rohrwacher is a wonderful eccentric, Trinca calling her a “Buster Keaton disguised as a panther”. But the main reason why this often unstructured script comes together is Maavane Conti, who can be wonderfully expressionless and unfazed by the most turbulent of circumstances. Her limpid blue eyes seem to be cast out of marble, and she manages to remain obdurate in deflecting the guilt her mother accusingly projects on her with grandfather claiming:”it was your father’s dog”. Said father is absent, presumed dead, having left some dark drawings which make the flat even more gloomy.

DoP Daria d’Antonia creates the right ambience for this madcap trip, the colours being as crass as the action. Director Trinca is already planning ahead, hoping that Conti will be her “Antoine Doinel”. At least she rely on the actors baling her out, because MARCEL! has even at just 93 minutes offers too little substance. Quirky it certainly is, but if only the episodically nature could be replaced by more cohesion. Still, a stunning ending shows that Trinca is not short of of ideas. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

The Stars at Noon (2022) joint Grand Prix

Dir: Claire Denis | France Drama, 138’

Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn play a pair of star crossed expats in Claire Denis’s political thriller set in Nicaragua Sandinista regime during the 1980s and updated from Denis Johnson’s novel with a pandemic twist to further its unsettling atmosphere .

Qualley is skanky journalist turned grifter, Trish, using her body rather than her writing to maintain a precarious existence when she meets the debonair aid worker Daniel DeWaan who is supposedly there on an humanitarian mission.

Claire Denis uses her considerable seasoned talent to imbue this with a highly charged erotic atmosphere that adds a sexual frisson to the sinister goings on in this central American republic. There is an undercurrent of unrest between the locals and the neighbouring Costa Ricans and although the Qualley and Alwyn’s chemistry offers combustible screen time it does not quite offer enough heft to lift this into more heavyweight territory given the dangerous times they are living in, particularly as Daniel soon turns out to be entirely unsuitable for the tricky mission he is undertaking.

In contrast Trish is a canny survivor who has the best lines when describing her contacts and these add a dry burst of humour to their rather gruelling exploits in surviving, and their bid to escape when the going gets rough. On the road to Costa Rica they run up against an abrasive CIA agent – Benny Safdie in a punchy turn.

Based on Denis Johnson’s novel ‘The Stars at Noon’, this is certainly a sensual and absorbing  experience not least for its woozy jazz score by Tindertsticks but not quite as memorable as her early films Beau Travail or Chocolat. MT

CANNES FILMS FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION

 

Eo (2022) Cannes Film Festival | joint Jury Prize

Dir: Jerzy Skolimowski | Drama, Poland 97’

Another film that sees the world through the eyes of an animal concluding that most humans are no better than exploitative beasts.

Cow took a bovine perspective at Cannes last year, and Gunda was all about the pecking order of pigs. Polish master Skolimowski, who at 84 has been making films since the 1960s, recreates Robert Bresson’s arthouse original Au Hasard Baltazar with a strikingly fresh and intense piece of visual storytelling and minimal dialogue save the occasional braying that endears us to its bidable beast of burden, a humble donkey called Eo.

Eo is a self-determining character whose destiny is often driven forward by personal choice rather than human ownership, his wanderlust taking him on to pastures new. And the director makes use of the donkey’s diverse life stages to expound a richly thematic narrative that trots through concerns as diverse as animal welfare, football hooliganism, family conflict and the ongoing debate about sustainable farming and the food industry. It does so with impressive artistic flair, a dynamic blood red visual aesthetic, and the masterful camerawork of award-winning DoPs Michal Dymek and Pawel Edelman.

Starting out in a travelling circus Eo will enjoy a life of extremes from a gruelling time harnessed to a scrap metal truck; to the bucolic pleasures of chomping through daisy strewn fields and a cushy billet in an Italian palazzo owned by Isabelle Huppert’s elegant countess, but he never forgets his first experience of human kindness from his circus trainer Kasandra (Sandra Dryzmalska) and suffers bouts of separation anxiety throughout these times of joy and pain. The final scenes will break even the hardest heart. This donkey’s doleful, disarming demeanour and stoical endurance make him worthy of the Best Actor award in this year’s Cannes. In reality the film went on to share the Jury Prize and Best Composer for Pawel Mykietyn’s commanding score. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022 | Won the Jury Prize ex-aequo

Showing Up (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

Dir: Kelly Reichardt | Cast: Michelle Williams, Hong Chau, Maryann Plunkett, John Magaro, André Benjamin, James Le Gros, Judd Hirsch | US Drama 108′

Kelly Reichardt’s lowkey but thematically rich tale of creative life in the West Coast town of Portland Oregon is a quietly amusing rumination on contemporary counterculture and a tribute to the famous art college there.

More zen like and offbeat than Certain Women, it follows along similar lines in depicting the everyday uneventfulness of a generation busy doing very little to change the world but making a big deal about it in the process.

Michelle Williams is Lizzy a sculptress and ‘artist in residence’ who pours her heart into her misshapen clay figures but shows no compassion for a bird mauled by her assertive pet cat Ricky. Throwing into her garden with a callous: ‘go and die somewhere else’ the animal then makes a speedy recovery under the care of her fellow artist and landlady Jo (Hong Chau). Both are stressed out preparing for their various shows in this chilled out rural backwater that makes a setting for Reichardt to expose their petty foibles and trivial existence and she does so without judgement or cynicism in a film which is truly delightful in its lowkey languorousness.

There is a veiled animosity and irritation between these women that Reichardt handles so gracefully as to be almost imperceptible and the same goes for Lizzie’s relationship with her chipper father Bill (Judd Hirsch) and his freeloading houseguests (Amanda Plummer and Matt Malloy) who have overstayed their welcome but serve to fill the void in Bill’s life since he and Lizzy’s mother Jean (Maryann Plunkett) who runs the art school, are separated. The same goes for her troubled brother Sean (John Magaro), whose main concern is losing a TV channel. Reichardt totally avoids cliche  in this tender almost wistful study of family interactions, friendship and the human need to make our mark in a world where almost everything has discovered or been done before and survival is guaranteed. MY

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION

Close (2022) joint Grand Prix | Cannes Film Festival 2022

Dir: Lucas Dhont | Cast: Eden Dambrine, Gustave De Waele, Emilie Dequenne, Kevin Janssens, Igor Van Dessel, Marc Weiss, Léa Drucker, Marc Weiss, Leon Bataille | Drama | 103’

A straightforward but emotionally rich and resplendent second feature from this Belgian director who won the Camera d’Or for best debut feature with Girl and the Grand Prix at Cannes 2022 with Close. Love and loss are explored through two teenage boys Remi (Gustave De Waele) and Leo (Eden Dambrine) whose budding relationship enters troubled waters when they hit puberty, to say more would spoil the plot. But what shines out here are the stunning settings and cinematography and the memorable performances particularly from Eden Dambrine who clearly has a promising career ahead of him. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | joint Grand Prix winner 2022

 

Pacifiction (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Albert Serra | Drama, 138′

Catalan auteur Albert Serra follows Liberte his voyeuristic foray into 18th century Berlin with a kitschy French language feature – a metaphor for modern politics – in the Polynesian Island of Tahiti where the tropical climate and sultry sun-drenched sunsets are a hedonistic hideaway for a shadowy expat community headed by Benoit Magimel’s top ranking French fonctionaire De Roller, a soi-disant ‘representative of the state’. But behind this patina of charm seethes a cynic of savage mistrust.

The prowling voyeurs are back again looming out of this palm-fringed neon twilight zone of cocktail bars and nightclubs, only this time it’s the 21st century. Serra’s regular actor Marc Susini as a light-footed admiral of the submarine, and Sergi Lopez as a sleazy club owner Morton. Montse Triola’s role as a published writer returning home doesn’t quite work as the token female. But there are go-go girls and boys a plenty and the sexually ambivalent De Roller seems enamoured with their trans lead dancer Shannah (Mahagafanau). And we gradually relax into this mellow milieu inhabiting the intoxicating torpor of the tropical tale and its weird protagonists.

Serra is not a man to be hurried and once again he takes time to flesh out his antihero Romane De Roller: a bloated, besuited, supercilious, self-seeking bureaucrat who talks in repetitive platitude-strewn cliches, often finishing his sentences with a token “voila”. And Magimel is majestic in the role. Endless languorous days see him driven round the windswept island in a white Mercedes, visiting local mayors and claiming to have uncovered a rumour about the government starting nuclear testing again after twenty years, in a submarine located off the coast: You would not trust him to post a letter, let alone quell a conspiracy theory. But storm clouds soon threaten De Roller’s last days in paradise when a Portuguese diplomat turns up (Alexandre Melo) complaining to have been robbed of his papers. Is he a spy or a nuclear specialist? His appearance only adds to the sinister atmosphere of impending doom.

The most impressive scene takes place on the high waves during a surfing competition where a rip tide gives way to stratospheric ocean rollers. De Roller dices with death on the back of a jetski smugly declaring his mastership of land and sea: “I do what you do but in politics”. Serra’s bizarre style may not suit everyone but he is undoubtedly one of the most avantgarde and distinctive filmmakers of today. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crimes of the Future (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: David Cronenberg | Sci-fi, Horror, 138

Surgery is the new sex in David Cronenberg’s latest body horror sci-fi thriller that fast forwards us to a suture-licking future where pain has been eliminated and new organs can be generated by the body itself for practical uses or as an artform.

Viggo Mortensen is the cypher like central character, the renowned performance artist Saul who lives with his creative partner Caprice (a voluptuous Lea Seydoux). He sleeps in form-adapting orchid bed and eats plastic breakfast bars on a tentacled highchair that eases his body functions, the self-generated organs are then removed by Caprice in the custom-made Sark autopsy unit and both derive intense sexual pleasure form the procedure in subterranean twilight locations that bring to mind Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s fantasy drama Evolution. Caprice then tattoos the organs and passes them on to the National Organ Register staffed by a criminally underused Kristen Stewart as a vapid functionary (clearly stifling her disappointment in such a slight role just to be in a film by Cronenberg).  Fans will lap it all up, newcomers to the cultish shrine of Cronenberg will be bemused. The Canadian luminary is back with a vengeance. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | In Competition

Nostalgia (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

Dir: Mario Martone | Cast: Pierfrancesco Favino, Francesco Di Leva, Tommaso Ragno, Aurora Quattrocchi | Italy, Drama 117′

Mario Martone’s moody mournful thriller Nostalgia, adapted from the novel by Ermanno Rea, sees a man returning to his past in Naples having made his mark in the Middle East. But this attempt to turn back time and is not greeted with the warmth he had hoped for in all quarters.

Martone floods the screen with the faded glory of the southern Italian seaport in a lush and classically styled rumination that contrasts the positive outlook of his central character Felice Lasco (Favino) with the bitter resentments he finds back home. His moribund mother Teresa is overjoyed to see him but his attempts to reconnect with an old sparring partner, the infamous gangland ‘Badman’ Oreste Spasiano (Ragno), are less successful to say the least – their nefarious past is pictured in flashbacks  –  and he is warned to keep away from the crumbling neglected backwater of Rione Sanita where Orest now hangs out under the protection of his acolytes.

But although Felice is determined to gloss over the ups and downs of his complex relationship with Oreste, who tears up at their reunion, an unresolved incident from the past is still a sticking point between the two men; one who has found success personally and professionally, the other failure in a life of crime. The simple but satisfying plot works to the film’s advantage allowing Martone to embellish his local characters, the most memorable is the local priest Don Luigi Rega (Francesco Di Leva) who still provides a spiritual touchstone to the community from his base in the vast cathedral. Buzzing around on a motorbike in full ecclesiastical regalia he is a comforting but commanding figure, his steadfast moral compass providing the guiding light. But Felice will soon become trapped in his determination to heal the past. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL |  IN COMPETITION 2022

 

 

 

Godland (2022) Un Certain Regard

Dir: Hlynur Pálmason | Iceland, Demark | Drama, 128′

Faith is tested to the limit in this striking and spiritual fable that follows a pioneering 19th century Danish priest with a noble mission to found a church in Iceland and photography its people. The deeper he travels into the remote and rugged wilderness the more he will lose his way, literally and metaphorically.

Icelandic filmmaker Hlynur Pálmason has won multiple awards for his distinctively dour and beguiling beautiful dramas Winter Brothers and A White, White Day. Godsland shows that not all men of God are good, or even likeable. Infact, Danish missionary Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) has no redeeming features whatever apart from his photographic skills and so it remains a mystery as to why he was chosen by the religious eminence gris in the film’s opening sequence.

Iceland is an extraordinary setting for this powerful battle of determination and adversity powered forward by the priest’s desperation to conquer the elements and reach his destination before winter closes in with its icy grip. But his religious fervour and will to serve God is no match for the sheer grit of his Icelandic guide (Hilmar Guðjónsson) and a rash decision to ignore his superior grasp of the region and hostile conditions soon lead to tragedy.

An unsettling soundscape echoes the elements. Fire, water, sodden peat bogs and incandescent volcanic eruptions provide a treacherous terrain where Lucas fails to collaborate with his fellow travellers or their animals in his dogged bid to press on at his own pace, and for once the lengthy runtime justifies this epic Herzogian slog. The academy ratio suits the mission well echoing the glass plates Lucas uses to compose his photographs.

Reduced to a chapped and blistered wreck when he finally reaches the northern outpost, his host Carl (Jacob Hauberg Lohmann), and two daughters Anna (Vic Carmen Sonne) and Ida (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir), provide a welcome warmth this sombre masculine drama but even their kindness cannot thaw the chilly heart of the intractable loner: “We don’t need men like him,” Carl tells his younger daughter who takes a shine to the pallid preacher and so begins another uphill struggle to breathe humanity into his troubled soul. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD

The Green Perfume (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir.: Nicolas Pariser; Cast: Sandrine Kimberlain, Vincent Lacoste, Rüdiger Vogler, Léonie Simaga, Arie Worthalter, Jenna Thiam, Pascal Rénéric, Thomas Chabrol; France 2022, 104 min.

A really seductive title that fails to live up to expectations, Le Parfum Vert tries hard, perhaps too hard, to revive Hitchcock mysteries in the style of Jacques Rivette. And while the French New Wave master would be delighted with the central pairing – two Jewish oddballs – along with the theatre setting; Nicolas Pariser is less successful when it comes to the modern version of Hitchcock: the plot is, to say the least, weak, setting aside the simplistic political plotline.

Martin (Lacoste), an actor, is witness to the onstage murder of his friend Vlad (Rénéric) during Anton Chekhov’s play ‘Ivanov’. In his last breath Vlad implicates the Green Perfume group. Martin, always the hypochondriac, freaks out when it turns out he is the main suspect. Fellow actor Caroline (Thiam) tries to calm him down but Martin is then abducted by a right-wing group with links to Russia, led by the sinister Hartz (Vogler), a cartoonish Austrian. Martin is then released the following morning, and running away from the police, led by detective inspector Louise (Simaga), meets Claire (Kimberlain), a cartoonist and owner of a bookshop, who is hounded by her sister and mother, phoning her in the middle of the night with a link to a Jewish dating agency.

Claire has spent a long time in Israel, she dislikes the snobby French but has to admit Israel is not European any more. Martin, who also spent time in Jewish summer camps, is more obsessed with his health and lack of love in his relationships: he is in the middle of a divorce and as self-obsessed as his new partner. Somehow, Louise catches up with the pair on Martin’s next engagement in Budapest where Corneille’s ”L’Illusion Comique” is on the programme. The Hartz Group will try to get hold of a super disinformation system. The clue to its whereabouts will be triggered by one of the actors who will use the wrong cue – the play is in French, the audience has a Hungarian translation. To find the traitor Claire follows Martin in the hunt, in spite of a bullet wound in her leg, before she too is abducted by Harzt and his men in the Budapest theatre.

Forget the farcical plot, The Green Parfum succeeds largely due to the compelling chemistry of the leads – both lonely and out of luck in love. A Jewish identity gets you only so far, and both have not really grown up and still hankers after ideas which are now on the scrap heap. Like Hansel and Gretel, they have lost their way home, only existing only in their imagination. Unaware of the danger of the real conspiracy, they save themselves by falling in love.

DoP Sebastien Buchmann pictures Paris and Budapest in a nostalgic glow. The chase scenes in the theatre are lively, but Buchmann is (like Pariser) most convincing, when it comes to small details, like the observations on the train when the two chases their pursuers – or find a corpse. Every day life is much more exciting than the wildest political plots – particularly when poorly executed. AS

THE GREEN PERFUME | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Decision to Leave (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

Dir: Park Chan-took | South Korea, Thriller, 138′

Park Chan-wook returns to Cannes after nearly six years and his latest, a dazzling Neo-noir love story spiked with dark humour and enveloped in a crime thriller, has won him Best Director. Decision to Leave is certainly a slick and seductive character drama although the choppily editing may cause some frustration in the second half, and at well over two hours it rather overstays its welcome considering Claude Chabrol was making these kind of thrillers – admittedly on a much smaller budget – in a tightly-wound ninety minutes, always leaving you wanting more.

Decision to Leave revolves around an insomniac detective (Park Hae-li) investigating the death of a climber who fell from a shard-like mountain of the South Korean coastal location offering vertiginous contrast to the shadowplay of the more sombre domestic scenes, and adding to the thriller’s sultry allure. Seo-rae (Tang Wei), his Chinese widow, is not overly devastated by the loss of her husband and her blasé attitude leaves the pragmatic and happily married detective intrigued as he is slowly entranced by the widow’s enigmatic personality and beguiling beauty, prolonging the course of the murder investigation in a texturally rich narrative that touches on the enduring power of sex in longterm relationships, and the role of nutrition in healing the body.

Detective Hae woon’s behaviour raises suspicions not only with his wife but also his colleague who questions him about his professional commitment to crime-solving. Meanwhile Seo-rae picks up on his interest in her which goes beyond the call of duty, particularly when he invites her to a lush sushi dinner and also prepares her favourite Chinese food in the privacy of her own kitchen.

Hae-joon and his wife eventually make the decision to move to another part of town to get some distance from a situation that grows more complex when sinister details about the Chinese woman’s past emerge from police immigration records.

Decision to Leave is a sinuous piece of filmmaking and the interplay of detective and suspect offers its strongest moments, Park using his signature subtle wit to explore the sensuous serpentine dynamic between the two: the cool and procedural cop and the geisha girl with a mysterious past. The second half becomes more erratic and loses its grip, the camera jumping around with a final reveal that feels unconvincing, and an underwhelming denouement.

That said, a captivating thriller largely due to the potent interplay between Tang-Wei and Park Hai Li whose chemistry smoulders in the same way as Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray in Double Indemnity (1944). But will this South Korean affair still be memorable in another eighty years? MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | BEST DIRECTOR

 

 

 

 

Little Nicholas (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

Dir.: Amandine Fredon, Benjamin Massoubre; Voices of Alain Chabat, Laurent Lafitte, Simon Paliu; Graphics by Jean-Jacques Sempé; script by Anne Goscinny, Michel Fessler; France/ Luxembourg 2022, 80 min.

Little Nicholas follows the adventures of a mischievous French boy (in the style of ‘Just William’). The creative child of author René Goscinny (1926-1977) and artist Jean-Jacques Sempé (Lafitte), he first saw the light in 1959 as a cartoon in the pages of the Sud-Quest newspaper. The duo would go on to create over two hundred popular children’s stories, before Goscinny died at 51. Co-written by Goscinny’s daughter Anne and Michel Fessler of March of the Penguins fame, schoolboy Nicholas is brought to life, sharing the death of his co-creator with Sempé.

The name Nicholas actually came from a passing vehicle while the authors where having coffee one day. The first episodes are rather formulaic, with Nicholas’ parents and maternal grandmother fighting over the right to bring up the child. Growing up, Nicholas will soon experience the dissolution of gender stereotypes, and a degree of anarchy at school.

The film work best in the segments involving Nicholas (voiced by Paliu) and Sempé after the death of Goscinny (voiced by Chabat, who directed the adaption of Asterix&Obelix: Mission Cleopatra in 2002) leaving Sempé, once again traumatised. Both artists shared a rotten childhood: Goscinny lost most of his family to the Holocaust while he escaped to Argentina with his parents. Sempé’s father was an alcoholic who abused his son and ruined his childhood. In the dialogue between Nicholas and Sempé it soon becomes clear that the two men created a perfect world through their character to compensate for their own misfortune. “Now René and I will live on through you” tells Sempé the boy. Anne Goscinny adds, “there is no finer way to pay tribute to my father, than to tell his story through the art he cherished the most: animation. The graphic novel was a path to the cinema and more precisely to animation”. The camera mournfully catching Nicholas, always looking at the figures of Asterix and Obelix on Sempé’s desk.

The directors chose two different styles of animation: they were inspired by Sempé’s drawings for the “New Yorker”, using classical cinematographic effects like shadow and light, where fresh primary colours dominate. For Nicholas’ world, which was originally black-and-white in the newspapers, the aesthetic is more washed out and sparse, water colours underlining the lyrical components.

Sometimes over-sentimental, and uneven in structure: the parallel narratives do not always mesh together, but the symbolism is still very persuasive, emotional loss can never be fully reconstructed in any art form. Little Nicholas is a testament to art surviving all. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022 | Special Screenings 2022

Forever Young | Les Amandiers (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

Dir: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi | Cast: Nadia Tereszkiewicz, Sofiane Bennacer, Louis Garrel, Micha Lescot, Clara Bretheau | France, Drama 126′

Captivating, chaotic and tenderly nostalgic, this attempt to distill the essence of student life at the acting school founded by director Patrice Chéreau (La Reine Margot) at the famous Theatre des Amandiers in Nanterre is the fifth feature from Italian French actor/director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi who follows a group of students honing their craft in her own alma mater in the late 1980s.

Bruni Tedeschi, who wrote her screenplay with Noémie Lvovsky and Agnès de Sacy, explores this intense environment through the dizzy central character of Stella (Tereszkiewicz) who feels semi-autobiographical for Bruni Tedeschi, the peachy young blonde resides in a palatial flat with a butler (her father was a wealthy Italian industrialist) and gives her all in an melodramatic audition that wins her a coveted place. She falls for fellow student Etienne (Bennacer), a sultry Alan Delon lookalike with come-to-bed eyes, who will be trouble from the start. It’s a doomed relationship that will feel familiar to many as fraught first love affair captured woozily in Julien Poupard’s kinetic camerawork.

Most of the students are soon taking drugs and sleeping with each, and the fear of AIDS rears its ugly head. Chéreau (Louis Garrel in his best performance yet) and his assistant director and Pierre Romans (Micha Lescot) join in the fun while maintaining the rigour of the teaching style in this incestuous but supportive acting community. Forever Young’s only fault is that the freewheeling style lacks structure despite its dramatic peaks and troughs. But the heart and soul is there in a deeply affecting film that feels authentic and achingly romantic but also frustrating at times in its efforts to maintain the narrative’s focus: what is being an actor? MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burning Days (2022) Un Certain Regard

Wri/Dir: Emin Alper | Turkey, Thriller 129′

Emin Alper made his debut with Beyond the Hill, a searing thriller centred on a family holiday. A decade later and Burning Days, playing in Un Certain Regard, seethes with the same savage sense of dread as genre thriller Frenzy (2015), taking us deep into southern Turkey it tackles poverty, corruption and homophobia in a close-knit village of Yaniklar, dominated by its authoritarian mayor.

Emre (Selahattin Paşali), a clean-cut young prosecutor, represents the progressive city-dwelling face of modern Turkey, arriving from Ankara to bring order, respect and social justice to the chaos of the traditional, populist movement that thrives on corruption and nepotism in the rural backwater.

The sound of gunfire greets him as a slaughtered wild boar is dragging its bloody entrails through the streets. A drought had caused vast sink holes to open up in the desert wasteland beyond the town, not to mention a plague of rats. But Emre faces a far more serious issue in this seedy community, that of homophobia, when he forms a bond with Murat (Ekin Koc) the owner of the local newspaper.

Once again Alper generates a creeping feeling of dread and genuine fear for his earnest, upstanding central character who soon finds out the mayor’s influence overrides law and order using the microcosm of the Yaniklar to thoroughly explore Turkey’s modern malaise in an absorbing and visually striking arthouse parable. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD

 

Holy Spider (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Ali Abassi | Cast: Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Hedi Bejastani, Arash Ashtiani | Thriller 114′

Border was a surreal gender bender fantasy set in Sweden. This time around Ali Abassi returns to his native Iran blending true crime and salient social comment with a scuzzy serial killer thriller that unfolds in the Islamic pilgrimage town of Mashhad, where millions come to worship at the shrine of Imam Reza .

This is where middle-aged Saeed Hanaei (Bajestani), a dedicated family man and construction worker, murdered sex workers at the turn of this century before being trapped by a tenacious female journalist who nearly lost her own life in the process as she wades through the mire of a chauvinistic society fighting off advances from an incredulous policeman to convince an unscrupulous judge.

Holy Spider sets off in the sordid backstreets of the city (filmed in Amman) where it follows ex Iran-Iraq war veteran Saeed as he picks off his victims on a motorcycle, riding them back to a squalid basement where he strangles the women with their own hijabs, earning him the name of ‘Spider Killer’.

Tehran-based journalist Rahimi (Zar Amir Ebrahimi), arrives in town determined to track Saeed down, and will stop at nothing, not least the misogyny of the police and local authorities, who undervalue women and particularly ‘loose’ women, to bring him to justice. And her ongoing investigation exposes the wider implications of these murders in a society that holds men and marriage in high regard. And Saeed truly believes he is doing a service to Islam in ridding his community of these ‘low life’ women who are seen as no more than vermin on the streets of the city.

Border was mesmerising in its zinging Nordic setting but Holy Spider an is an exotic neon nightmare, Nadim Carlsen’s intimate close-ups gripping us by the throat in experiencing the strangulations for ourselves: the twisted purple lips, the bloodshot eyes, and bruised bodies, the sordid salaciousness of it all. A droning electronic soundscape from Lajos Wienkamp-Marques escalates the tension, feeding every fear engendered by the wickedness of this anti-female annihilation.

As Rahimi pursues the murderer she is beset on every side by negative forces aiming to discredit her in a narrative that persuades us that this task is a not just about exposing the truth but managing the lies and the wide-held belief amongst Saeed’s family and supporters that he is righteous in his crusade to wipe out junkies and prostitutes. And the suspense needles on until the final horrifying moments. MT

CANNE FILM FESTIVAL | BEST ACTRESS WINNER (Zar Amir Ebrahimi)

 

 

R.M.N. (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir/Wri: Cristian Mungiu | Cast: Marin Girgore, Judith State, Macrina Baladeanu, Orolya Moldovan, Andrei Finti, Mark Blenyesi, Ovidiu Crisan | Drama 125′

A young Romanian boy has a nasty experience in the woods on his way to school one morning and this echoes the widespread social unrest in the Romanian village where he lives with his family.

Not quite as richly satisfying as his earlier fare, Cristian Mungiu unloads a truckload of issues in his latest Cannes Palme d’Or hopeful, a dour drama that unfolds in the multicultural region of Transylvania, once home to Dracula but now to the equally unsetting evil of racial tension and political dysfunction, both at home and further afield.  .

R.M.N is another rather time indulgent drama – and there a quite a few in this year’s Cannes competition. It casts a slow-burn gaze over one of the last countries to join the EU through a group of diverse characters trying to make the best of things. Amongst them is the rather intractable Matthias (Marin Grigore) whose bad time in Germany has brought him back to the family fold in his birthplace of Recia, where he joins his estranged wife Ana (Baladeanu), young son Rudi ((Blenyesi), who has not spoken since the forest interlude, and an ageing father Papa Otto (Fini). Matthias is also attempting to rekindle a relationship with Hungarian-speaking Csilla (Judith State), a musician who runs the local bakery where she is managing two new employees from Sri Lanka whose arrival has caused ructions in the local community, along with Matthias’ reappearance in town, in the run up to Christmas.

Once again the mountains provide a dour but scenic backdrop on the widescreen, and this allows for many scenes to play out uncut including one revealing scene where the locals air their racial musings in one uninterrupted static sequence. An impromptu concert provides a welcome burst of Christmas spirit that adds light relief to the simmering tensions of village life. Once again Mungiu provides an engaging contemporary snapshot of his changing homeland but it feels like a film we have already seen before. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022 | IN COMPETITON.

The Mountain (2022) Directors’ Fortnight 2022

Dir.: Thomas Salvador; Cast: Thomas Salvador, Louise Bourgoin, Laurent Poitrenaux, Martine Chevallier, Andanic Mavet, Adam Pouilhe; France 2022, 116 min.

Mountains loom large in this year’s Cannes Film Festival and this sophomore feature from French director/co-writer Thomas Salvador (Vincent), who also stars, is a supernatural love story with eco undertones. Another feature exploring the power of psychogeography on the human soul it contrasts the vulnerability of its almost wordless characters with the perilous Alpine peaks of Chamonix.

The glaciers are captured with verve by DoP Alexis Kavyrchine. Aesthetically the film is an homage to the German “Bergfilme” of the 1920/30s. The film also bears a striking similarity with its eco-surreality to Julian Polsler’s memorable feature The Wall (2012) starring Martina Gedeck.

Parisian robot designer Pierre (Salvador) is meeting his business team in Chamonix, but instead of going back to the capital, he makes the rather reckless decision to embark on a climbing expedition intoxicated by the vertiginous scenery and clear air. Inviting his family to join him, he organises provisions for his stay. His mother (Chevallier) is anxious, his brother Marc (Poitrenaus) angry, but his younger sibling Julien (Mavet) just wants him to have a good time. He also connects with Lea (Bourgoin), the chef of an alpine restaurant .

The effects of climate change have profoundly altered the glaciers, literally ungluing their icy particles, and Pierre manages to catch one of them with his hand causing his right arm to glow with an x-ray like effect, and sucking him into the rocks with intriguing consequences, transforming him from nerdish robot engineer to mountain saviour.

Léa’s past is also enigmatic: she has travelled the world, only to come home again. Both Pierre and Léa are somehow other-wordily, very much in contrast to Pierre’s work colleges and his bickering family. Beguiling and beautifully soothing, The Mountain pulls us slowly under its spell. Radical in its implications, the feature retains its ambiguity, and for once the two hour plus running time is justified. MT

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

Triangle of Sadness (2022) Winner Palme D’Or

Dir: Ruben Ostlund | Cast: Charlbi Dean, Vicki Berlin, Henrik Dorsin, Zlatko Burić, Jean-Christophe Folly, Iris Berben, Dolly De Leon, Sunnyi Melles | Drama, 144′

All you worst fears about luxury cruising will be confirmed in this savage satire from the Swedish director Ruben Ostlund whose disconcerting film The Square won the Palme d’Or five years ago with its lacerating look at the art world. The gloves are off with this louche and lurid takedown of capitalism and communism, social influencers, the idle rich, and the fashion business. There is no finesse here but there are laughs aplenty. In fact, no one escapes Ostlund’s snide-tongued first film in the English language. The simple statement here is that life is not fair.

The triangle of sadness is known in the model business as the frowny bit between forehead and the bridge of the nose. It’s not a good look on the catwalk. And this is where we first meet vapid model Carl (Dickinson) whose self-satisfied social influencer girlfriend Yaya (Charlby Dean) has won them a break on a luxury cruise. The two bicker endlessly over the restaurant bill the night before: they both want to be equal but their canny taxi driver gives sappy Carl a savvy word of warning on the way back to the hotel: “be careful, once she has all the power it’s over”.

The cruise throws up all the rich, unsavoury characters you care to imagine. And throwing up is very much the name of the game once the ship enters stormy waters: literally and metaphorically, under the captaincy of Woody Harrelson’ Marxist-leaning Master. Soon our motley crew are washed up on a desert island with nothing but their human wiles to sustain them. And naturally this sorts the men from the boys, the women coming out on top. An ability to fish and kindle a fire comes in handy for the Filippino ‘toilet manager’ (Dolly De Leon) who now rules the roost, a social switcheroo along the lines of ‘in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”. Trading favours – sexual and financial – with the survivors understand’s human behaviour despite her hitherto lowly social position. There’s no prize here for guessing who she selects to sleep with her in the nighttime privacy of the shore-marooned lifeboat. But a trek into the mountains with Yaya will turn the tables once again and the Filipino cleaner much make the most of her place in the sun.

With its crass churlishness and whip smart scenes of political and social debate Triangle Of Sadness reaffirms the sad truth: that men and women are all beasts when reduced to lowest common denominator. It’s a dog eat dog world out there whoever you are, and especially if you’re a donkey. Go figure. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | PALME D’OR WINNER 2022

The Night of the 12th (2022)

Dir: Dominik Moll | Cast: Bastien Bouillon, Bouli Lanners, Théo Cholbi, Johann Dionnet, Thibaut Evrard, Julien Frison, Paul Jeanson, Mouna Soulam, Pauline Serieys, Anouk Grinberg, Lula Cotton Frapier | Thriller 114′

Dominik Moll’s memorable arthouse drama goes to intriguing places with a realistic and richly crafted narrative more focused on the moods and motivations of its authentic characters that the whodunnit at its core. Even though The Night of the 12 is an inconclusive crime drama it leaves you with a feeling of calm satisfaction rather than jangled nerves.

On the way home from a girls’ get together Clara (Lula Cotton Frapier) is.torched to death in an otherwise peaceful village in the suburbs of Grenoble. An extensive police investigation fails to flush out her murderer but in the process we are introduced to the local French detectives Bastien Bouillon (Yohan) and Bouli Lanners (Marceau) playing a rookie and hardened duo whose personal lives add valuable insight to the police procedural by exploring the wider implications of this violent murder in the context of contemporary attitudes towards women in France.

Moll and his regular co-writer Gilles Marchand base their script on an a section of Pauline Guéna’s essay novel, 18.3 – ‘Une année à la PJ, Paris’ that deals with this real crime but translocates the action to southeastern France. The remoteness of the mountain setting thrusts our focus onto the intense exchanges between Marceau and Yohan, and adds a scenic allure to the internal scenes of the police procedural with its acerbic macho observations of modern life and the eternal ongoing conflict between the sexes.

Marceau, whose wife has just left him, is increasingly disenchanted by the modern world; the lack of romanticism and culture amongst the young, and their glib attitude towards relationships. This spills over onto his dealings with the various suspects, and he eventually retires from the case. But Yohan is the most mesmerising of the two; a deep thinker quietly fascinated by his work and the people he comes into contact with especially his new colleague Nadia (Soualem) who brings her female gaze to the investigation:”men are often the perpetrators and women the targets” and the local judiciary judge, Anouk Grinberg, sublime in a cameo role. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022 | SPECIAL SCREENINGS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plan 75 (2022) Un Certain Regard

Dir: Chie Hayakawa | Japan, drama 115′

In a world rapidly filling up with an ageing population, have the young any right to ask them to politely move on?

That’s the premise of this first feature from Japanese filmmaker Chie Hayakawa, whose old people look more in their nineties than their seventies but conceal a latent anger with the usual Japanese decorum as they share food in a clinical looking care home, forced smiles painted on their wrinkly faces.

The Plan 75 in question is a state initiative to offer a financial incentive to prompt mid-septuagenarians plus to shuffle off their mortal coil. And there’s a lot to be said about it. Why waste time financing your life while friends die around you, bodily functions start to fail and aches and pains only get worse. Particularly if family has ceased to become a concern. As the director points out: there’s always been an honour in death the Japanese way (Hari Kari anyone?).

A slow-burning and thought-provoking contemplation that proceeds with measured dignity. The veteran actress Chieko Baisho is Michi, a woman with no next of kin who opts for the plan, but then there’s a plot twist as two interweaving narrative strands come into play involving a Plan 75 salesman (Hayato Isomura) and a Filipino worker, contrasting the various pro cons. A well thought out and chewy debut to mull over but no great surprises on the mise en scene front. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

The Stranger (2022) Un Certain Regard 2022

Dir: Thomas M Wright | Australia, Thriller

Two strangers meet on a bus ride in the outback in this tense Australian thriller written and directed with visual flair and ingenuity by Thomas M Wright. (Acute Misfortune).

At first The Stranger feels like one of those heist movies, one last trick before retiring for a bearded and biddable loner Henry (Sean Harris) hired by Paul (Mouzakis), an amiable undercover cop. Henry is down on his luck and looking for a gig ‘but nothing violent’. Paul then introduces his new pal to his criminal circle and an uncertain Henry goes along for the ride soon bonding with Mark (Joel Edgerton), who will show him the ropes.

Paul and Mark soon emerge as police detectives working on a cold case, an unsolved crime involving the disappearance of a boy eight years earlier in 2002. The police have been working tirelessly to find a body and murderer but so far have been unable to pin down Henry, the only suspect, who was seen in the area at the time the boy vanished. But when they discover Henry has another identity things start to fall into place.

Based on Kate Kyriacou’s book The Sting: The Undercover Operation that Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer, The Stranger is a gripping and sinuous piece of filmmaking with a twisty, tantalising narrative and convincing performances from Harris and Edgerton, who also produces.

Mark works hard to win Henry’s trust and their close relationship runs parallel to the nationwide police investigation that will gradually get to bottom of Henry’s murky past. Until the police get firm tangible evidence to place murderer and victim at the scene of the crime their killer could still slip away, after eight years on the run. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

 

Corsage (2022) Un Certain Regard 2022

Dir: Marie Kreutzer | Drama, Austria 115′

In her fifth feature Austrian auteuse Marie Kreutzer plays fast and loose with the memory of Empress Elisabeth of Austria in an entertaining and sumptuously realised film about the curse of beauty for a woman no longer in the flush of youth who still wants to be valued for her other talents.

Corsage blends tradition with contemporary touches, very much along the lines of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and lightly underpinned here by political references to the newly created Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Elisabeth, a fantastically theatrical creature – according to records – is played by a gracefully spunky Vicki Krieps. In modern terms she only just reached her prime, but back in the 1870s being forty was deemed ‘over the hill’. Kreutzer points at a regal middle age crisis for a woman who has been worshipped for her beauty and now feels distinctly undervalued and redundant with only her charity work, dogs and horses to keep her entertained. During a winter sojourn in Northamptonshire – an inspired choice – she flirts with a stable boy but returns minus her favourite black steed who is  killed in an accident. Elisabeth takes to her bed, unconsolable.

In the dilapidated grandeur of the palace a rigid diet of finely sliced oranges and black tea keeps her in impeccable shape, further assisted by waist-nipping corsetry. But she is hungry for love and affection and regularly visits the local mental asylum to commiserate with the deranged women chained to their beds. And when her husband the Emperor Franz Joseph (Florian Teichtmeister) offers ‘anything her heart desires’, she requests a bengal tiger or an extension to the asylum facilities. A stunningly realised drama with flashes of wit and modern music choices and another tour de force from the lovely Luxembourgeoise actor Vicki Krieps. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2022

 

Tchaikovsky’s Wife (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Kirill Serebrennikov | Cast: Alyona Mikhailova, Odin Lund Biron, Yuliya Org, Miron Federov | Biopic Drama 143′

Best known for his multi-award winning feature debut The Student, the exiled Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov – who was last in Cannes with Petrov’s Flu – continues to blaze a trail with another inspired biopic drama – a first to explore the turbulent, sexless relationship between the  19th century Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky from the perspective of his wife Antonina Miliukova in Moscow in the late 1870s.

It appears that Tchaikovsky was in fact a homosexual and that the innocent Antonina was oblivious to the fact: in her diaries she supposedly wrote: “Thank God he belongs to me and no-one else. Now he is my husband and no-one can take him away from me”. But Tchaikovsky cannot tolerate life ‘a deux’, and especially with a woman whose quite normal nubile demands eventually drive him away. And although our sympathies are with Antonina we are not oblivious to her faults which clearly go beyond religious insistence and eventually become tiresome in the final stages.

Those expecting a sweeping epic filled with vast tracks of the composer’s romantic music will be disappointed.True to its title Tchaikovsky’s Wife is first and foremost a lavish and lyrical but often cold-eyed portrait of obsessional and misguided love, it also touches on the prickliness of an artist trying to develop his talent, but in this respect it is less successful.

Enriched by modern dance sequences, inventive camera angles and occasional flashes of Tarkovsky, each frame is a painterly portrait straight out of Manet, or Berthe Morisot with the delicate detailing of Ingres before the tone grows more sombre and louche with scuzzy naked sequences featuring well-hung studs, inspired by Tom of Finland staged in an rather misogynist attempt to excite the young woman and lure her away from her husband.

We first meet Antonina Miliukova in 1877 as a tender young woman of fortune tentatively seeking a husband and lovestruck by her first sighting of the struggling composer. Fifteen years later she is reduced to a poverty ridden emotional wreck unable to accept that her marriage has irretrievably broken down and her affair with the divorce lawyer has turned abusive.

What starts as hopeful story of triumph over expectations, after the couple’s marriage of convenience, soon descends into a tragedy of melodramatic proportions when Miliukova’s promise of family wealth comes to nothing and Tchaikovsky is unable to countenance having a relationship with anyone but his own genius. The final scenes play out as a tragedy Miliukova having become a caricature of herself having lost her three children but determined not to relinquish the unique status of being the wife of a man who would eventually become one of the world’s most legendary composers. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION 2022

Armageddon Time (2022) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: James Gray | Cast: Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Strong, Domenick Lombardozzi | US Thriller, 115′

Anthony Hopkins and Anne Hathaway star in this coming of age story about growing up in Queens in the 1980s, But they cannot save a rather bland, sentimental drama that feels overlong and underwhelming, competing here in the main competition line-up here in Cannes.

Gray is no stranger to the Cannes Film Festival. In fact the American director has been nominated four times for the coveted Palme d’Or: in 2000 with The Yards; in 2007 with We Own the Night; a year later with The Lovers. His last appearance on the Croisette was with The Immigrant in 2013, but for the first time his regular collaborator Joaquin Phoenix does not have a role.

Armageddon Times certainly seems flaccid and artificial when you think of Scorsese’s gutsy, kinetic New York urban dramas such as Goodfellas. This tale of a working class Jewish family – the Graffs – trying to fit in is certainly no kickass affair despite some violent moments at home and in the classroom. The plot lines are predictable, and references to the Holocaust are a hollow echo of much more moving dramas on the subject of antisemitism. The oblique references to the local influential Trump family feel like cheap point-scoring with intentionally unlikeable cameo roles from John Diehl as Donald Trump’s father Fred, and Jessica Chastain as the hard-faced US judge Maryanne Trump, along with the fact that the Graff family hail originally from Ukraine.

The youngest boy Paul (Banks Repeta) is possibly an autobiographical portrait of the young James Grey – unruly, artistic and at odds with the rest of the striving family, particularly his hot-headed father (Jeremy Strong), he only connects with his grandfather Aaron (Hopkins) who will finance his private education after a few dust-ups at the local ‘comprehensive’ with his black friend Johnny ending up taking the rap. Celebrated cinematographer Darius Khondji tries to lift Armageddon out of the torpid settings but all and all this is a pale rider in contrast with Gray’s previous Cannes feature, the space-hopping Ad Astra (2019). MT

IN COMPETITION | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

1976 (2022) Directors’ Fortnight 2022

Dir.: Manuela Martelli; Cast: Aline Kuppenheim, Nicolas Sepulveda, Hugo Medina, Alejandro Goic, Carmen Gloria Martinez, Gabriel Urzua; Vilma Verdejo, Yasna Ríos; Chile 2022, 97 min.

Another classically styled arthouse drama taking us back to the turbulent 1970s in Latin America seen through the eyes of a well to do Santiago woman, under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte.

1976 is a first feature for Chilean director/co-writer Manuela Martelli who works with a predominantly female crew and seasoned actress Aline Kuppenheim (A Fantastic Woman) who gives a sensitive performance in this lowkey but thematically vibrant domestic drama as 49 year old Carmen.

Carmen is redecorating the family’s holiday home near the beach in time for the season. As she chooses paint for the walls the sound of gunshot is clearly audible in the nearby street. Back at the house, she meets the local priest Father Sanchez (Medina) who has been involving her in various charity efforts, and his latest suggestion is that she takes in a young homeless man called Elias (Sepulveda).

Elias has been classified as a fugitive from Pinochet’s ‘Secret Police’, and is currently sheltering in one of the out-houses. He seems mild-mannered enough although in need of medical attention for a bullet in his thigh. Carmen always wanted to be a doctor but her father would not allow her to follow in his path, but somehow Elias brings out her caring side, and her recent Red Cross stint certainly comes in handy to took after the young man.

Father Sanchez later reveals that Elias was put in charge of two children after the Pinochet putsch, but that he panicked and became traumatised when they were later murdered. Carmen’s three grandchildren arrive with their mother and the rest of the family, the kids complaining that their favourite TV programme has been interrupted by a broadcast from Pinochet, adds further context. During all this, Carmen looks after Elias, tending to his bullet wound, soon finding herself assisting Elias is some of his underground work. She meets Silvia (Ríos), a fellow conspirator who gives her the code name “Cleopatra”, and sets up a meeting with another link in the resistance chain, who want to spirit Elias away.

Carmen’s husband Miguel, a doctor in Santiago, arrives at the house, much more interested in his college Osvaldo, who has chosen Miguel (Goic) to “re-organise” the hospital where one of the doctors has already fled the country. But when a young girl is found dead near the beach, and the writing is on the wall. Carmen’s next rendezvous with a parish priest does not go according to plan, and she is followed in her car which is later ransacked. Carmen knows she is living on borrowed time, and her maid Julita (Verdejo) soon confirms Carmen worst fears in a rather spooky scene at dusk. Will Carmen’s status and marriage save her?

The main thrust of the narrative is the developing relationship between Elias and Carmen. Keeping her distance at first, and seeing Elias as just another charge to take care for father Sanchez. But somehow, the memory of her thwarted career, and the negligence and nagging by her husband, who seems to see her as a ‘trophy’ to show her off to family and friends, changes the dynamic between them. The tipping point for Carmen is another dig by Miguel, for wearing a dress showing off her figure: Carmen cuts the dress to pieces, but also ends all emotional ties to her status. She asks Elias jokingly, if she will be remembered after the downfall of the Pinochet regime, and he claims a hospital will be named after her. But Elias is also aware of the danger for Carmen: “Tell them, that you never saw me, that you did not know my name. They will believe you”.

DoP Yarará Rodgriguez lets the camera glide over the beautiful coastal landscape, but his close-ups of Carmen are equally impressive, marking all the changes she going through: she is anything but a dutiful member of the underground: thanks to Father Sanchez, she has stumbled into something much more dangerous than she can imagine, but she also has a point to prove: her resistance is personal, disobeying her husband and all he believes in, has become her tool for resistance. Aline Kuppenheim is brilliant as Carmen, and the ensemble cast is also equal to the task. 1976 is a small gem, made on a mini-budget it brings together the personal and he political in a subversive way. Maria Portugal’s mournful score very much underlines the lyrical aspects of the narrative. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CANNES PREMIERES 2022

The Blue Caftan (2022) Un Certain Regard

Dir/Wri: Maryam Touzani | Cast: Saleh Bakri, Lubna Azabal, Ayoub Messioui | Drama 118′

The ancient craft of caftan styling is at the heart of Maryam Touzani’s sophomore feature, a slow-burning sensuous Magrebi menage a trois competing in the this year’s Un Certain Regard sidebar at Cannes Film Festival. 

Halim (Bakri) and Mina (Azabal) run a traditional caftan atelier in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas. Fashions are constantly changing and the married couple are aware of a need to cater for a more demanding clientele. But their decision to take on a new apprentice (Messioui) will have intriguing consequences for the business and their own relationship. Saleh Bakri and Lubna Azabal have a mesmerising chemistry as the couple at the centre of the story, but Messioui is also captivating in his feature debut performance as the gifted but impetuous young apprentice very much in tune with modern sensibilities.

The Blue Caftan is a drama as indulgent and intricately woven as the silky garments themselves. Touzani’s first feature Adam focused on love in a Casablanca bakery and this is another domestic tale of local craftsman that speaks to tradition while keeping pace with the modern world. Esentially a three-handed chamber piece the film occasionally ventures out into the sunbaked streets and hazy hammams of its coastal location, Touzani delicately teasing out her layered character study that will reveal a subtle love story that works both as a gay awakening piece and a testament to enduring marital love. And apart from the meticulous lensing the clever premise is why this sumptuous drama is so enjoyable, albeit a little over-wrought – like the old-fashioned caftans themselves – in the final heart-rending scenes. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

Rodeo (2022) Un Certain Regard

Dir.: Lola Quivoron; Cast: Julie Ledru, Antonia Buresi, Yannis Lafki, Ahmed Hamdi, Dave Nsaman Okebwan, Loius Sutton; France 2022, 104 min.

Lola Quivoron makes her Cannes debut with a provocative tour-de-force of daring motorcycle stunts and a heroine, who behind her tough facade, is a feminist fighter in a world of macho men.

Rodeo has much the same striking visual allure as Julia Docournau’s Palme d’Or winner Titane, particularly in the cold blue and green aesthetic; both directors graduated from La Fémis. Titane daringly explored obsession between a woman and her car, Rodeo has a more humane angle but Quivoron’s heroine often falls too easily onto her feet given the difficult path she has chosen .

A shouty opening sequence sets the tone for the rest of the feature: We briefly meet Julia (Ledru) before she disappears, obviously homeless. On an illegal racecourse in the countryside, she embarks on a vain attempt to kick start motorbike stunt racing with a gang of macho ‘dirt riders’. But disaster strikes early when one of the guys Abra (Okebwan) has an accident and later dies in the hospital -“they pulled the plug on him” comments one of his friends.

Julia is able to connect with the big boss Domino, who operates a ‘swiping’ ring involving expensive motor cycles from the seclusion of his prison cell. She persuades him to let her sleep in the garage, where the gang’s top of the range machines are housed. For this, Julia has to swipe on order a motor cycle the boss has his eye on. Julia will fill her bag with small stones, telling the owner of the motor cycle she will just have a quick go on one of the bikes, leaving him her bag “with my keys, identity and credit cards”. Julia will repeat this modus-operandi successfully throughout the film. The guys in the garage, among them Kais (Lafki), Mous (Hamdi), and Ben (Sutton), are not sure how to take Julia.  there’s definite frisson with Kais, but the chemistry fizzles with her and Domino’s long-suffering wife Ophélie (Buresi) and Domino soon cottons on to the situation. Rodeo culminates with a high octane robbery – re allong that famous scene in Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines – with a massive trailer of glossy motorcycles, unfolding like a ballet sequence, using quad bikes. But Quivoron has a dramatic yet poetic ending in store for her heroine Julia.

Rodeo is a rollercoaster ride, but Julia’s temper tantrums often show her vulnerability. She cannot allow herself any feelings for the opposite sex, hiding behind her men-eating persona. But her desired liaison with Ophélie is doomed. Somehow we see a perverse Cinderella motive: Julia wants to be invited to the ball of motorbikes and mayhem – but because of her gender she is reduced to the villain of the piece. The daring stunts provide the cut and thrust of Quivoron’s lesbian themed arthouse drama but, the heart and soul is Julia’s search for an identity not determined by gender.AS

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES 2022

Esterno, Notte (2022) Cannes Film Festival – Special Screening

Dir/Wri: Marco Bellocchio | Cast: Margherita Buy, Fabrizio Gifuni, Toni Servillo, Fausto Russo Alesi, Daniela Mara, Pier Giorgio Bellocchio | Italy, Drama, 5hours

After Good Morning, Night, seasoned Italian director Marco Bellocchio turns his camera on the kidnapping and murder of Italian statesman Aldo Moro, experimenting for the first time with a broad-based serial narrative form to approach the multiple points of view of the main proponents and victims of that tragic period in Italian history.

A dour and classically styled political epic Esterno, Notte, unfolds in the tense and turbulent climate of 1978, in an Italy divided by civil war. The infamous Red Brigades, the principal armed organisation of the extreme left are locked in a battle with the State, and the narrative unfolds from the perspective of two RB partners in crime Valerio Morucci (Montesi) and Adriana Faranda (Marra) who are also lovers. After a brief domestic vignette that flips back to March 1976 the action moves onto the beach for a showcase shoot-out, the Red Brigades giving us an example of their ferocious firepower. Street violence, kidnappings, kneecappings, gunfights and murder attempts will erupt on the wide screen while behind closed doors intense internecine discussions offer insight.

Rich industrialists and their families are being tormented by kidnappings. For the first time in a country of the Western bloc, a government backed by the Communist Party (PCI) was about to take office in an epoch-making alliance with the historic conservative bulwark of the Nation: The Christian Democratic Party (DC).

Meanwhile Aldo Moro, the President of the DC (here played gamely by Fabrizio Gifuni) is the main proponent of the agreement marking a decisive step in the mutual recognition between Italys main parties. On 16 March 1978, on his way to Parliament Aldo Moro is kidnapped after an ambush in which his entire police escort is massacred. It was a direct attack on the heart of the State. His imprisonment would last 55 days, marked by Moros letters and the communiqués of the Red Brigades: 55 days of hopes, fears, negotiations, failures, good intentions and bad moves. 55 days at the end of which his body was abandoned in a car in the centre of Rome, halfway between the headquarters of the two Parties, the DC and the PCI. This is a comprehensive and highly intelligent piece of filmmaking that will resonate with those who lived through the era and offer newcomers a valuable testament to an episode of nation’s gritty past.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | SPECIAL SCREENING

The Woodcutter Story (2022) Critics’ Week

Dir/Wri: Mikko Myllylahti | Cast: Jarkko Lahti, Iivo Tuuri, Katja Küttner, Marc Gassot, Ulla Tapaninen | Finland, Drama

Roy Andersen and Aki Kaurismaki clearly influenced a fresh new voice in the Finnish directing firmament. Best known so far for co-scripting The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (2016), winner of the Prix Un Certain Regard. Myllyahti’s feature debut is a quirky, darkly humorous hotchpotch of horror, sci-fi and wickedly dark drama underpinned by a politically infused existential narrative.

With a deadpan tone and Arsen Sarkisiants striking hyper realist images this Critics’ Week entry tells the tale of Pepe who works in a small industrial wood-processing plant deep in snowy heart of Finland’s northern forests where he lives a humdrum existence with his wife and little son. Myllyahti clearly understand the milieu having grown up in the small northern town of Tornio. The highlight of Pepe’s day is sharing a TV dinner with his wife after sharing a few beers with the locals. But his contented life takes a turn for the worse after a series of tragic events gradually destabilise the placid status quo. At first Pepe seems to take it all in his stride but soon his discombobulation gets the better of him. The Woodcutter is one of those films with niche appeal – but there’s some laugh out loud scenes – and you can’t deny its wacky inventiveness and unique style. MT

61st SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

 

Return to Seoul (2022) Un Certain Regard

Wri/Dir: Davy Chou | Drama, 115′

French Cambodian director Davy Chou has made a name for himself with his unique cinematic gaze on Cambodia and its people. His graceful prize-winning feature debut Golden Slumbers reminisced on Cambodian cinema from the 1960s to the mid 1970s.

But his latest, a drama with the apt title Return to Seoul is an obtuse look at cultural identity seen through the eyes of its main character, a twenty five year old French woman who returns to her native South Korea to track down her birth mother.

From the start you are not going to like Freddie (Ji-Min Park). Flouncing into a bar in downtown Seoul she flirts outrageously with a Korean guy who then makes romantic overtures, only to be told, point blank, that she already has boyfriend ‘back home’ in Paris. Arrogant and extremely pleased with herself, on the face of it, she then tells another lover who has selflessly accompanied her back to Seoul for one of her business meetings, later in the film, that “she could erase him from her life at any minute”.

Of course all this hides a deep emotional wound at her core: inflicted by a biological mother who first abandons her as a baby in a Seoul orphanage, and then declines to meet her when she painstakingly tracks her down via the Seoul orphanage where she was given up.

Told in a series of off-kilter episodes tracking her life from that first meeting in the bar, until her early thirties, the film is full of awkward characters that are neither appealing nor relatable, the exception being a French businessman (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) who turns from lover to employer, All the People is a brave but not always successful attempt to explore the complexities of forging ahead with meaningful personal and romantic relationships when your heart has been shattered at birth. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2022

The Water (2022) Directors’ Fortnight 2022

Dir: Elena Lopez Riera | Cast: Barbara Lennie, Nieve de Medina, Luna Palmies, Alberto Olmo | France, Spain, Switzerland | Drama, 104′

In a small village in south-eastern Spain legend has it that certain women are destined to disappear when the river bursts its banks during the summer storms. And this popular myth forms an intriguing premise for first time filmmaker Elena Lopez Riera, whose fantasy drama The Water screens in this year’s Directors’ Fortnight.

In the sultry heat of summer evenings the riverbank would be a perfect place to hang out if only it wasn’t for the foul stench of the water which has almost become a joke for the local teenagers who find the best way to ignore is by chain-smoking, flirting and dancing the night away. The unusual phenomenon is then explores through the love affair of Ana (Pamies) and José (Olmo) fall for each other in the intoxicating atmosphere leading up to the storm. Their lust for each other connects with the female myth that has been past on by other women in the village particularly Ana’s mother (Nieve de Medina) and her grandmother, who shares some naughty memories of her own antics as a newly married woman.

Lopez Riera skillfully combines interviews with other local women and aerial footage of the flooded village from the archives and deftly interweaves these to create a visually alluring and thought-provoking fantasy drama based on anecdotal evidence. The Water is an inventive ethnographical portrait of modern Spain that fuses reality and folklore into an impressive arthouse drama. MT

SCREENING DURING DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2022

Harka (2022) Un Certain Regard

Dir: Lofty Nathan | Cast: Adam Bessa, Najib Allagui, Salima Maatoug, Iqbal Harbi | 90′

French Tunisian actor Adam Bessa gives one of the most powerful performances of the festival so far as a young man dreaming of a better life but ground down by frustration and poverty in a Tunisia still down on its knees in the aftermath to the Arab Spring.

Making its world premiere at Cannes Un Certain Regard, Harka is the feature debut of US Egyptian filmmaker Lofty Nathan (12 O’Clock Boys) who won the Red Sea Souk Award at Saudi Arabia’s inaugural Red Sea Film Festival in December 2021.

Ali is making a pittance by selling gasoline, when his dreams of migrating to Europe are shattered by the news of his estranged father’s death from cancer. His two younger sisters are now entirely his responsible as his elder brother has since moved his own family to the tourist resort of Hammamet to run a restaurant. But there’s a sting in the tail when he discovers his father’s unpaid debts will mean losing the family home. 

The dust, heat and grime are potently palpable elements here along with police corruption and government bureaucracy, making it hard for the poor and semi illiterate Ali to make a living from anything but hand to mouth grifting with his illegal contraband activities. Ali fails in an attempt to take up his father’s old job at the local government offices. He then tries his hand at another black market endeavour that proves highly lucrative until the police catch up with him. Nathan keeps us engaged in a well-paced arthouse gem that plays out like a thriller with a strong dramatic arc, and although Ali is not a particularly likeable character, we feel for him in his plight. 

With his mental health at rock bottom Ali is prone to violent outbursts, darting hostile glances of savage mistrust at anyone close to him but (like the Kray Twins) reserving a tacit respect for his sisters whom he still cherishes, even buying the youngest a puppy in scenes that provide tender relief from the gritty social realism of a film that dwells on the social and political ills of a North African nation divided by wealth and abject poverty, the current affairs overhead in the coffee bars as men gather to shoot the breeze. But despite the overarching tone of anxiety and often brutal violence Tunisia’s arid landscape, vibrant colours and break-taking coastlines captured in Maximilian Pinter’s artful framing and camerawork make this a striking and emotionally moving first feature. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES 2022

Domingo and the Mist (2022) Un Certain Regard

Dir.: Ariel Escalante; Cast: Carlos Urena, Sylvia Sossa, Esteban Brenes Serrano, Aris Vindas, Janko Navarro; Costa Rica/Qatar 2022; 90 min.

Costa Rican writer/director Ariel Escalante fuses reality and fantasy in an original hybrid of ghost story and environmental drama that sees a struggling community raging against the forces of modernism screening in this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard.

Deep in a tropical village a disintegrating  community is being threatened by local developers. 65-year old Domingo resents being forced out of his house and land by the company building a new local highway, but there is much more to his stubborn refusal than initially meets the eye. Domingo (Urena) clings to the happy times he shared there with his wife and her memory haunts him, day and night.

So the likeable widower digs his heels in along with his friends Paco (Vindas) and Yendrick (Serrano) who forge a doomed alliance against the mighty developers whose sinister tactics are menacing the villagers to move on. At the same time, Paco is slowly going broke, his potatoes are infested, and he has no money to buy pesticides and he is sorely tempted to give in. Domingo is also at odds with his daughter Sylvia (Sossa) who seems to have a different recollection of the past. It Yendrick has messed his own marriage up and is still depressed about it although he has since remarried and has another family .

The action takes place mostly in darkness Escalante and DoP Nicolás Wong Diaz inculcating an atmosphere of terror and insecurity with elements of magical realism involving swirling mists, striking images and an atmospheric soundscape punctuated by raucous gunfire deep into the night.

Every evening Domingo is at the ready with his shotgun, aiming at anything that moves, eventually to his own detriment. The whirling mists follow him everywhere, particularly in the woods and the house that now serves as shrine to his wife. He promises her “we will visit all our favourite places, when I am dead”.

Domingo in the Mist is a slow burner, languid and lyrical, luxuriating in the innermost fears and feelings of a terrorised community. Urena in the title role gives a soulful performance, and Escalante impresses with an image-driven narrative with a neo-classical framing of guilt and redemption.

CANNES | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2022

Dalva (2022) Semaine de la Critique

Dir: Emmanuelle Nicot; Cast: Zelda Samson, Alexis Manenti, Fanta Guirassi, Sandrine Blancke, Jean-Louis Coulloc’h; Belgium/France 2022, 85 min.

Emmanuelle Nicot wrote and directed this audacious first feature about a sensitive twelve-year old girl, the titular Dalva (Sansom), who has been sexually groomed by her incestuous father, the two sharing an intimate and outwardly loving relationship, more like lovers rather than father and daughter.

Nicot’s skills as a casting agent are key to her successful drama: Samson is totally convincing in the role of the outwardly shy and vulnerable young girl who has the assured gracefulness of a Geisha girl, knowing how to play every man she meets. Dressed titillatingly in lacy black dresses, drop earrings and stockings, she has clearly been a target for paedophile clients and the film’s violent opening scenes witness her being forcefully separated from her father (Coulloc’h) who has literally kept her to himself, moving rapidly from place to place, to escape the authorities, and her mother (Blancke).

She arrives, kicking and screaming, at the foyer for vulnerable females demanding to be re-united with her father. When she is told by her new carer Jayden (Manenti) that he abused her sexually, she claims: “But I never said no”. Isolated from the other girls, she tries several times to escape, and these scenes picture her negotiating walls in slinky evening dress. Brought back to the home, she befriends Samia (first timer Guirassi) who has been raised by a negligent sex-worker mother, the two offering each other complementary tips on how to survive the rough and tumble of the institution.

But Dalva has not given up the idea of seeing her father again, and she tries to manipulate Jayden with inappropriate sexual overtures, trying to seduce him into being a second father figure. Finally, the authorities give in, and Dalva is allowed to visit her father in jail, accompanied by Jayden. In a moving vignette, her father admits to being a paedophile abuser, destroying Dalva’s world for good.

Nicot directs with assurance, guiding Samson through the often upsetting confrontations. DoP Caroline Guimbal captures the ‘female gaze’ with her delicate images of Dalva’s interpretation of mature womanhood, keeping to the role her father has groomed her for, to perfection. It’s a performance within a performance. The close-ups of Dalva are particularly evocative, Samson has that rare ability of conveying strong emotion without over-acting, quite an achievement for one so young.

But Nicot is also honest enough to show the reasons for Dalva’s insistence at being a “wife” to her father, who is acting out against her mother, still frantically searching for Dalva. This portrait of evil shows a father poisoning his daughter against his ex-wife in allowing Dalva to believe she has succeeded in replacing her mother – just to make her even more malleable to his illicit intentions. Dalva takes the audience on a strange psychological journey: the long and painful way back to girlhood, after the enforced role of being an ‘adult’ sex object. Passionate, provocative and brilliantly executed.

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | 17-28 May 2022

La Jauria | The Pack (2022) Semaine de la Critique

Dir/Wri: Andres Ramirez Pulido | Cast: Jhojan Estiven Jimenez, Maicol Andres Jimenez, Miguel Viera | Drama, Colombia France | 86′

Latin American directors continue to mine their turbulent history – past and present – in this thundering thriller that takes place deep in the Colombian tropical forest.

Premiering in Semaine de la Critique La Jauria is a confident debut from first time filmmaker Andres Ramirez Pulido who has fleshed out the ideas from his Palme d’Or nominated short film Damiana (2017) into a story crime story with a subtly redemptive twist.

Eliu (E.Jimenez) is serving time in an experimental hacienda-style young offenders institution for crimes he committed with his friend El Mono (M Jimenez), a recovering drug addict. The petty criminals are supervised by para-military forces under the control of Godoy (Rincon), an elderly ex-offender who practises obscure breathing exercises, believing the therapy will cure the men of the evil spirits possessing them.

The arrival of El Mono changes the dynamic in the camp and Eliu, who has always hated his father for physically abusing his mother, decides under the influence of drugs and alcohol, to murder him – only to learn later that he and El Mono have killed the wrong person. Worse still, they cannot find the place where they dumped the body in the caves. Meanwhile the police are growing tired of Godoy’s slow and avant-garde methods, and when another inmate Calate ((Vasquez), raises concerns about Godoy’s style of therapy, the punishment meted out to him spins out of control.

DoP Balthazar creates a haunting atmosphere of surreal horror which works particularly well in the night scenes. Working with a cast of mostly non-pros, Pulido ramps up the tension, his poetic realism worthy of the great Fernando Birri. The Pack is a great example of the signature cinematographic language of the South American continent, with the director overcoming the limits of his budget with vision and inspiration. AS

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

 

Cannes – Un Certain Regard 2022

The Cannes Film Festival competition sidebar known for auteur driven features and alluring visual storytelling rather than star-strewn casts.

 

LES PIRES Lise AKOKA, Romane GUERET 1st film

First time directors Lisa Akoka and Romane Gueret take the brave step of making a film with teenage cast from the same neighbourhood, during the summer break.

KURAK GÜNLER (BURNING DAYS) Emin ALPER

Best known for his atmospheric widescreen thrillers Beyond the Hill and Frenzy and rural parable A Tale of Three Sisters, Alper’s latest feature – and his first time in competition at Cannes – takes him back to the Turkish countryside for a tale of smalltown political intrigue.

METRONOM Alexandru BELC 1st film

The doomed days of first love in Romania, 1972, are depicted in this feature debut from Alexandra Belc and starring Vlad Ivanov (The Whistlers).

SICK OF MYSELF Kristoffer BORGLI

A toxic relationship takes a turn for the worst in a darkly comic tale of oneupmanship from Norwegian filmmaker Borgli.

ALL THE PEOPLE I’LL NEVER BE Davy CHOU

An adopted French woman’s attempts to rediscover her biological roots in South Korea are not as she imagines in this sophomore feature from French Cambodian director Davy Chou.

DOMINGO Y LA NIEBLA (DOMINGO AND THE MIST) Ariel ESCALANTE MEZA

Unscrupulous property developers uncover a mysterious past and a surreal present when they threaten to take over a rural village in Mexico in this sophomore feature.

PLAN 75 HAYAKAWA Chie 1st film

Eugenics provide the haunting subject matter for this timely debut drama set in the Philippines.

UNTITLED PINE RIDGE PROJECT Riley KEOUGH, Gina GAMMELL 1st film

Actress turned filmmaker Riley Keough joins Gina Gammell behind the camera for this first feature that follows two Lakota boys as they grow up in Pine Ridge Reservation.

CORSAGE Marie KREUTZER (main image)

After winning various awards at Berlinale, Austrian auteur Marie Kreutzer tackles the thorny subject of ageing and feminine allure taking a regal example as her main character. Empress Elisabeth of Austria was known for her sartorial elegance and the film explores her desire to keep up appearances as she turns 40, considered ‘old’ in 1877. Vicky Krieps stars.

BACHENNYA METELYKA (BUTTERFLY VISION) Maksim NAKONECHNYI 1st film

In an incendiary subject for this year’s Cannes line-up, Maksim Nakonechnyi’s first feature explores rape and unwanted pregnancy from the perspective a POW returning home from active service on the Ukrainian front.

 

VANSKABTE LAND / VOLAÐA LAND (GODLAND) Hlynur PÁLMASON

This Islandic filmmaker has won multiple awards for his distinctively dour and beguiling beautiful dramas such as Winter Brothers and A White, White Day. This latest is a moral fable that follows a pioneering 19th century Danish priest with a noble mission to found a church in Iceland. The deeper he travels into the remote wilderness the more he loses his way, literally and metaphorically.

RODEO Lola QUIVORON 1st film

So many ideas here been done before – the misfit angle, the woman in a man’s world who struggles against the odds after further setbacks – let’s see if first time filmmaker Quivoron can bring something new to the party.

JOYLAND Saim SADIQ 1st film

Pakistani LBGT filmmaker Saim Sadiq has won awards for blazing a queer trail in his shorts Nice Talking to You and Darling. His first feature film centres on a patriarchal family back in Pakistan and is certainly crammed with ideas, but can he put them together in a meaningful way for mainstream audiences?

THE SILENT TWINS Agnieszka SMOCZYNSKA

The inexplicable bond between twins provides the intriguing heart of this latest feature from Polish director Smocynkska whose distinctive fantasy drama The Lure caused quite a stir at Locarno 6 years ago.

THE STRANGER Thomas M WRIGHT

Along with ‘The Promise’, The Stranger is possibly the most over-used title for a film – a brief glance at imdb alone provides no fewer than five films with the title. But this Adelaide-set crime thriller from actor turned director Thomas M Wright – whose Acute Misfortune was described by Hollywood Reporter’s Neil Young as “one of the most striking and accomplished directorial debuts of 2018”. Plus it has a strong cast of Sean Harris and Joel Edgerton – so what could go wrong? Watch this space.

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 17 – 28 MAY 2022

 

 

Cannes Classics – 2022 restorations

This year’s Cannes Classics strand opens with Jean Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore in celebrating of its restoration 50 years after shooting began in 1972. The mammoth undertaking runs for over three hours and would later go on to win the Grand de Jury presided by Ingrid Bergmann, and the Prix de la Critique, causing riots back in the 1973. A full retrospective of the director’s work will in slated for 2023 in French cinemas.

Sciuscià | Vittorio de Sica | 1946, 1h33, Italy

Presented by The Film Foundation and Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna. Restored in 4K by The Film Foundation and Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata in association with Orium S.A. Restoration funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation

Thamp (The Circus Tent) | Aravindan Govindan | 1978, 2h09, India

A presentation of Film Heritage Foundation, India. Restored by Film Heritage Foundation, The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, Cineteca di Bologna at Prasad Corporation Pvt. Ltd.’s Post – Studios, Chennai, and L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory, and in association with General Pictures, National Film Archive of India and the family of Aravindan Govindan. Funding provided by Prasad Corporation Pvt. Ltd. and Film Heritage Foundation.

The Trial  | Orson Welles | 1962, 2h, France / Germany / Italy

This restoration was produced in 2022 by STUDIOCANAL and the Cinémathèque Française. The image and sound restoration were done at the Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory (Paris-Bologne), using the original 35mm negative. This project was supervised by STUDIOCANAL, Sophie Boyer and Jean-Pierre Boiget. The restoration was funded thanks to the patronage of Chanel.

If I Were a Spy… | Bertrand Blier | 1967, 1h34, France

Presented by Pathé. 4k restoration, done scanning the original negative film. A project undertaken by the Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory (Paris-Bologne). Restoration funded by the Centre national du cinema et de l’image animée (CNC).

Poil de Carotte | Julien Duvivier | 1932, 1h31, France

A TF1 presentation. New 4K restoration done by TF1 studios, with the backing of CNC, using the original nitrate negative and a combined dupe negative on non-flammable film. Digital and photochemical work done in 2021 by the Hiventy laboratory.

The Last Waltz | Martin Scorsese | 1978, 1h57, USA

MGM Studios’ The Last Waltz (1978) is presented by Park Circus thanks to a new 4K digital restoration from the Criterion Collection, approved by director Martin Scorsese.

Itim | Mike De Leon | 1976, 1h45, Philippines

A Mike De Leon presentation, distributed in France by Carlotta Films. Restoration done using the original 35mm negative and optical soundtrack, stored at the British Film Institute. This presentation is a preview of the French release of Mike De Leon’s entire restored body of work, slated 2022-2023.

Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol | Glauber Rocha  | 1964, 2h, Brazil

Presented by Metropoles.com and Paloma Cinematográfica. Restored from the original 35mm negative preserved at Cinemateca Brasileira and with a brand new 4K restoration by Estudios Cinecolor and Estudios JLS, Cinematographer Luis Abramo/Rogerio Moraes and with the supervision of Rodrigo Mercês.

Sedmikrásky (Daisies)  | Vera Chytilová | 1966, 1h14, Czech Republic

Digital restoration of this film funded by the donation of Mrs. Milada Kučerová and Mr. Eduard Kučera was carried out by Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in collaboration with the Národní filmový archiv, Prague and the Czech Film Fund in UPP and Soundsquare.

Viva la muerte  | Fernando Arrabal | 1971, 1h30, France / Tunisia

Viva la Muerte! was scanned and restored in 4K by the Cinémathèque de Toulouse using the original 35mm image negative, the original 35mm sound negative of the French version, and a 35mm interpositive element containing the end credits missing from the original negative.

Documentaries

Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman by Ethan Hawke The Last Movie Stars
Ethan Hawke, episodes 3 and 4 | 1h47, USA

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodwind enjoyed one of the most enduring relationships in Hollywood. Actor, director and producer Ethan Hawke and executive producer Martin Scorsese explore their lives and careers in a captivating, intellectual, and moving documentary. Divided into six chapters the film features Karen Allen, George Clooney, Oscar Isaac, Zoe Kazan, Laura Linney and Sam Rockwell, with archive interviews of Elia Kazan, Sydney Pollock, Paul Newman, who discuss the iconic couple and American cinema. Screened in the presence of Ethan Hawke and Clea Newman Soderlund

Romy, A Free Woman | written by Lucie Cariès and Clémentine Déroudille, Dir: Lucie Cariès | 1h31, France

Romy Schneider was a regular in Competition at Cannes, starting in 1957 with Sissi, and notably with Claude Sautet’s Les Choses de la Vie. This exceptional documentary recounts her illustrious career with passion and dedication.
Screening in the presence of Lucie Cariès and Clémentine Deroudille

Jane Campion, Cinema Woman | Dir: Julie Bertuccelli | 1h38, France

Director Julie Bertuccelli paints Jane Campion’s portrait with great sensitivity, humour and admiration, telling the tale of the first-ever woman to win the Palme d’Or in 1993.
Screening in the presence of Julie Bertuccelli.

Gérard Philipe, le dernier hiver du Cid Dir: Patrick Jeudy, 1h06, France

An adaptation of Jérôme Garcin’s novel Le dernier hiver du cid, this documentary built exclusively on archive footage and a delicate storytelling style celebrates the 100th anniversary of Cannois Gerard Philipe. His memory will flood back to the Croisette through a screening of Fanfan la tulipe.
Screening in the presence of Patrick Jeudy, Jérôme Garcin and Anne-Marie Philipe.

Patrick Dewaere, mon héros (Patrick Dewaere, My Hero) | Dir: Alexandre Moix, 1h30, France

The actress Lola Dewaere chronicles the film career and traumatic life of celebrated actor Patrick Dewaere, the father she never knew, under the watchful eye of director Alexandre Moix.
Screening in the presence of Alexandre Moix and Lola Dewaere.

Hommage d’une fille à son père Dir: Fatou Cissé, 1h11, Mali

Fatou Cissé accompanies her father, Malien director Souleymane Cissé, in a trip through his film career, painting an intimate and poetic picture of one of Africa’s most celebrated actors. Screening in the presence of Fatou Cissé and Souleymane Cissé.

L’Ombre de Goya par Jean-Claude Carrière | Dir:José Luis Lopez-Linares, 1h30, France

A restoration that rediscovers the magical language of the late screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, as he researches the painter Goya. An incredible trip through culture, emotion, cinema, painting and Spain. A French-Hispanic-Portugese coproduction: Screening in the presence of José Luis Lopez Linares.

Tres en la deriva del acto creativo (Three in the Drift of the Creative Act) Fernando Solanas | 1h36, Argentina

Last homage to the great director Fernando Solanas who came many times to the Festival En Competition and two times to Cannes Classics.  .

Screening in the presence of Victoria and Juan Solanas, and Gaspar Noé.

CANNES CLASSICS  | 17-28 May 2022

Cannes Film Festival 2022 – Programme additions

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL will celebrate its 75th Anniversary with a line-up featuring four previous Palme d’Or winning directors, three features by women, and nothing – one again – from the United Kingdom. That said, it’s a glittering programme featuring all the usual suspects plus a few new faces on the block. Tehran born Ali Abbasi was last in Cannes with his darkly dystopian troll fantasy Border, his latest Holy Spider is an Iranian-set religious-themed crime thriller, the detail is still under wraps.

Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi always turns up trumps – either behind the camera or infront of it – here she has her first shot at the main competition directing a drama about the trials and tribulations of pioneering a creative path in life seen through the prism of Nanterre’s famous acting school Les Amandiers. Canada’s David Cronenberg has never won the main prize but bagged the Special Jury prize back in 2004 with his contraversial 1996 thriller CrashCrimes of the Future, starring Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart, will see him return to the Cannes line-up for the 7th time.

The Belgian Dardennes Brothers are now a legend in their own lunchtime with their left-leaning politically charged social dramas and Tori and Lokita is the latest in a long line of Cannes winners that started with Rosetta and The Child winning the main prize in 1999 and 2005 respectively. Claire Denis is arguably one of France’s most successful women filmmakers with a long career spanning back to her first short film in 1971 and continued with stylish arthouse fare such as Beau Travail and more recently sci-fi hit High Life. and comedy Let the Sunshine In both with Juliette Binoche. She has already bagged a Silver Bear at Berlinale this year for her love triangle drama Fire. The Stars at Noon based on a novel by Denis Johnson, is another romantic drama this time set during Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution where Margot Qualley and Joe Alwyn play the leading roles.

Arnaud Desplechin is a classical veteran of CANNES FILM FESTIVAL and made the competition line-up with Deception in 2021 and again with Oh Mercy in 2019. His latest feature will be his seventh attempt to win the coveted Golden Palme: Brother and Sister stars Marion Cotillard and Melville Poupard in a domestic drama that sees the two siblings brought together again at the death of their parents, after a long-standing feud.

A drama about a ballet dancer catapulted Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont to the international recognition as the Camera d’Or winner in 2018. Girl won three awards at Cannes for its delicate depiction of teenage gender dysphoria while Close centres on an intense friendship between two teenage boys. The sparkling Brooklyn set ’80’s thriller We Own the Night was James Grey’s first foray into the competition back in 2007. His fourth entry Armageddon Time takes him back again to New York of the era, and stars Anne Hathaway and Anthony Hopkins in a coming of age story about growing up in Queens.

Broker is another child-centred story from Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-Eda (Like Father, Like Son) his sensitive domestic dramas deal with the intricacies of family dynamics where kids are concerned. Now competing in Cannes for the eighth time, Hirokazu won the Palme d’Or in 2018 for his darkly amusing satire Shoplifters. South Korean star Bae Doona leads in this unusual story that centres on a ‘baby box’ facility where passers by can leave their unwanted children.

Nostalgia, Mario Martone’s follow-up to his biopic of Neopolitan theatre legend Eduardo Scarpetta, is another project co-written by his wife Ippolita Di Majo. He previously competed at Cannes with l‘Amore Molesto back in 1995, based on another novel by Elena Ferrante of The Lost Daughter fame.

Cristian Mungiu – in competition this year with RMN – is known for his hardcore social realist dramas: his 2007 Palme d’Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days tackled illegal abortion in 1980s Romania, he took a more nuanced approach to a lesbian relationship between two nuns in a convent in Beyond the Hills which won Best Screenplay in 2012.  Contrary to its title, director Ruben Ostlund’s latest Cannes hopeful, Triangle of Sadness, (below) is a dark comedy that sees two models at the crossroads of their career. The Swedish director divided Cannes critics with his ambivalent satire Force Majeure that scooped the Jury Prize at Un Certain Regard in 2015, and the Palme d’Or for The Square two years later. Starring Woody Harrelson and Oliver Ford Davies this promises to be another off-field outing for the provactive filmmaker.

South Korean maverick Park Chan-wook scandalised Cannes audiences with his rebarbative revenge thriller Old Boy seizing the Grand Jury prize back in 2004. He stormed back five years later with a stylish vampire outing Thirst grabbing another Jury Prize. The sensually sumptuous Handmaiden followed in 2016. And this year he is back again going for the jugular (?) with Decision to Leave a detective mystery thriller set in the mountains of South Korea.

2022 is set to be American auteuse Kelly Reichardt’s defining moment: with a feature Showing Up in the main competition line-up – her fourth collaboration with Michelle Williams – and a Special Tribute at this summer’s Locarno Film Festival she is one of the most individual of directors with her richly resonant fare. Set in Portland, Oregon her follow up to First Cow centres on an artist preparing for a life-changing exhibition. Iranian director Saeed Roustaee rose to fame in 2016 with his award-winning debut Life and a Day. His first film in competition is Leila’s Brothers.

Fares Fares (The Nile Hilton Incident) and Mohammad Bakri are the stars of Boy from Heaven Egyptian filmmaker Tarik Salee’s Cannes Festival debut, it sees the death of the main Imam in Cairo’s prestigious university lead to a bitter battle for overall control. Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov won the Francois Chalais award for his impressive 2016 feature The Student  Two years later he was prevented from attending Cannes with Leto, a musical paean to the Leningrad Rock scene of the 1980s that would win the Best Soundtrack Award 2018, and Petrov’s Flu followed in 2021. Abandoning his disgraced homeland, Serebreninikov is now living in Berlin where he wrote and directed his latest lyrical drama Tchaïkovski’s Wife. 

This year’s festival welcomes Polish Greats director Jerzy Skolimovski back into the competition line-up with the enigmatically titled EO. His comedy King, Queen and Knave was in the competition line-up back in 1972, he then took the Grand Jury Prize with Alan Bates starrer The Shout six years later, and won Best Screenplay for Moonlighting in 1982. Success is the Best Revenge went home empty- handed from the competition in 1984, as did his Torrents of Spring five years later. His latest feature, a contemporary adaptation of Robert Bresson’s 1966 cult classic Au hasard Balthazar a road movie that begins in a Polish circus and ends in a slaughter house for its tragic star, a donkey. EO is described in the blurb as “a panopticon of human behaviour towards a defenceless animal, a suggestive picture of social relations and cultural exchanges taking place in the modern world”. We wish him the best of luck!

There are three late additions to the programme announced on 14th April. Catalan auteur Albert Serra is known for his audacious often provocative highly individual but always sublime fare. His latest feature follows on the heels of the exquisitely niche drama Liberte that bagged the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 2019. Starring Benoit Magimel and Sergi Lopez (Harry He’s Here to Help) Torment on the Isles sees politics clash with a coup de foudre for a crisis-ridden novelist and an ambassador on the steamy island of Bora Bora.

Sophomore director Leonor Seraille’s moves from her directorial debut and Golden Camera winner Jeune Femme to the main competition with Un Petit Frere. Father/son buddy movies are always popular with the (male) critics and Belgian directors Charlotte Vandermeersch, Felix Van Groeningen have found another winning formula along these lines with their Palme d’Or hopeful The Eight Mountains set in Italy’s Aosta mountains. MT

PALME D’OR COMPETITION

Holy Spider Ali Abbasi
Les Amandiers  Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi
Crimes of the Future – David Cronenberg
Tori et Lokita Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne
Stars at noon Claire Denis
Frère et sœur Arnaud Desplechin
Close Lukas Dhont
Armageddon Time  James Gray
Broker Hirokazu Kore-Eda
Nostalgia  Mario Martone
RMN  Cristian Mungiu
Triangle of Sadness – Ruben Östlund
Decision to leave  Park Chan-Wook
Showing up Kelly Reichardt
Leila’s brothers  Saeed Roustaee
Boy from Heaven Tarik Saleh
Tchaïkovski’s Wife Kirill Serebrennikov
Eo Jerzy Skolimowski

The Eight Mountains Charlotte Vandermeersch, Felix Van Groeningen
Un Petit Frere Léonor Serraille
Torment sur les Îles Albert Serra Spain

OUT OF COMPETITION  :

Top Gun 2 : Maverick  Joseph Kosinski
Elvis  Baz Luhrmann
Novembre Cédric Jimenez
Three thousand years of longing George Miller
Mascarade de Nicolas Bedos

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 17 – 29 May 2022 

Titane (2021) Palme d’Or | Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Julia Ducournau | Cast: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier, Laïs Salameh, Bertrand Bonello, Dominique Frot | France Thriller 108′

Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winning female revenge thriller is a strange dark comedy: for a lot of the time you’re bored between outbursts of unspeakable violence, its tortured heroine taking self-harm to a different level after a dysfunctional upbringing forces her into a life of crime.

As a little kid we see her kicking the back of her stepfather’s carseat, a habit that drives him mad and sends the vehicle careering into a top spin leaving Alexia in need of brain surgery – she’ll bear the scars forever, physically and mentally. Performing a lap dance style routine on the boot of a car is the way she earns her living in a louche local nightclub. Her hairpins come in handy for fending off unwanted advances: one incident sees her piercing a fan through the ear spurting his brains everywhere, in another Monty Pythonesque moment she forces a barstool leg into another man’s mouth – calmly sitting on it.

French filmmaker Decournu’s film life started with Raw – a seedy vampire story about a student who develops a penchant for blood. Here stabbing is the method of dispatching victims, although one night Alexia gets rather more than she bargained for in a raunchy one night stand. All this is conveyed in a colour-popping neon visual style, awkward camera angles delivering a stylish avant-garde allure to what is basically arthouse body horror.

Tortured and troubled after her murder fest, Alexia retreats to a public lavatory where she breaks her nose on the ceramic sink and crops her hair into a boyish bob to escape the authorities. Now as man, she seeks refuge with her musclebound firefighter father (Vincent Lindon). But then there’s her bulging stomach – has she been impregnated? Again the hairpin comes in handy for firking about in her vagina in an effort to bring on a miscarriage.

Fluid in its sexuality, this is a Palme d’Or winner that ticks all the boxes virtue-signalling wis: Ducournau is only the second woman ever to win the top prize, the first was Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993). To complete the zany picture this year at Cannes, Jury President Spike Lee announced the winning title right at the beginning of the ceremony – a gaffe that transformed the show into Mel Brooks’ style comedy mayhem – pure Hollywood, but that’s entertainment. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL – WINNER PALME D’OR

 

 

The Restless | Les Intrinquilles (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Joachim Lafosse | Belgium Drama 105′

If Damien Bonnard wasn’t a manic depressive in his latest film you’d punch him in the face. He plays the lead like a spoilt manchild. but that’s the sad side affect of his mental disturbance in this summery drama from Belgian’s Joachim Lafosse.

Success as abstract artist has provided Damien with one of those gorgeous 19th century Cote d’Azur villas where he lives with his likeable wife Leila (Leila Bekhti) and young son Amine (Merz Chammah). But their seaside idyll becomes increasingly fraught when his illness gets out of control, powering him forward in a sleepless manic mission to achieve everything while Leila and Amin are left exhausted by his insatiable often violent moods that eventually requirement hospitalisation. .

With its elliptical narrative, this three-hander is a brave attempt to tackle mental illness but The Restless is predictably an irritating film to watch until almost the end. Enthusiastically crafted and acted it will transport you to lush Mediterranean locations, but relaxing or particularly enjoyable it ain’t. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Nitram (2021)

Dir: Justin Kurzel | Cast: Caleb Landry Jones, Judy Davis, Essie Davis, Anthony LaPaglia, Sean Keenan, Conrad Brandt | Australia: Drama 118′

Justin Kurzel blows us away with this scorching arthouse psychodrama commemorating the Port Arthur tragedy, exploring the milieu that created a murderer (Martin Bryant) who would kill 35 people on that fateful day in 1996.

Not since Snowtown has a film engendered such utter terror through its central character – the titular Nitram – played by a coruscating Caleb Landry Jones – as a fully formed enfant terrible who lives with his long-suffering parents (Judy Davis and Anthony LaPaglia) in the sleepy seaside town.

Snowtown writer Shaun Grant again shows how long-term parental abuse and a casually toxic environment turns Nitram ((Martin backwards his hated school nickname) into a vulnerable, isolated loner who wreaks havoc wherever he goes. A display of his anti-social behaviour opens a story driven forward by an unpredictable behaviour even more frightening than his brutal strength: like a firecracker he goes off without warning, but is also capable of loving affection for his mother who diminishes him with constant putdowns.

But his unpredictability is nerve-shredder here. And the film open with a typical episode of antisocial behaviour when Nitram sets off firecrackers  from the rooftop of his parent’s house in a bid to dispel his sense of ennui and hopelessness – there’s nothing else to do here but surf, and we watch him floundering in the waves, driven to tears by another failed attempt to stay onboard.

Port Arthur feels more like an English seaside town in the 1960s, charmingly down-at-heel and raffling. Redolent of its faded but questionable glory as a colonial outpost, basking in the lush green landscapes leading down to the sea. But when Nitram meets ditzy local heiress and Gilbert & Sullivan fan Helen (Essie Davis) things are set to change. An offer to mow the extensive lawns of her rambling mansion with its menagerie of dogs leads to a touching friendship, Nitram finding acceptance and a contentment of sorts as the misunderstood misfits rub along together in a ‘folie a deux’ before thunder clouds once again gather and his fate is finally sealed.

Kurzel and Grant show how Nitram is unable to empathise as a result of his dysfunctional family dynamic. Davis and LaPaglia are charismatic as his callous mother and depressive father, Nitram’s flawed emotional touchstones as the story seethes towards a devastating finale. All this contrasts with the serene shambolic beauty of the painterly settings – particularly of Helen’s home. This is a mesmerising look at mental illness made all the more pitiful by the tragedy that could have been avoided. As a master of quirky psychological dramas Kurzel is back at the top of his game. MT

IN CINEMAS FROM 1 JULY 2022

Bunuel: A Surrealist Filmmaker (2021) Cannes Classics

Dir; Javier Espada | Spain, Doc 90′

Spanish filmmaker Javier Espada shares his birthplace of Calanda (Aragon) with the legendary Spanish surrealist Luis Bunuel whose story forms the subject of this engaging new documentary playing in the Cannes Film Festival Classics section.

As a teen during the Easter Semana Santa processions Espada escaped the loud drums of the ceremony for relative calm of his local fleapit and was instantly bewitched by  Bunuel, the image of Christ fusing with the character of the Marquis de Sade in his subconscious, creating subversive undertones.

His obsession would later lead to a lifelong friendship with Bunuel’s regular screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière whose script for Diary Of A Chambermaid would continue with cult classics such as Belle De Jour and The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie. It and would also lead to Bunuel’s memoirs ‘My Last Breath.’

A recently restored archive from stereoscopic glass plates, clips and personal photos – provided by his sons Juan Luis and Rafael – and the Luis Bunuel Film Institute is enlivened by Espada’s own thoughts and those of Bunuel providing insight into a charismatic career that started with his traditional upbringing in a well to do influential family in Calanda. But a tragic incident involving a donkey would put a subversive spin on the director’s output and much of his work would be banned banned by Franco’s regime due to its controversial subject matter. DoP Ignacio Ferrando Margeli provides a pristine black and white aesthetic in this deep dive into cinema history. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | CANNES CLASSICS

 

 

Memoria (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir: Apichatpong Weerasethakul | Thailand, Fantasy Drama 139′

Memoria is the delicately mesmerising and meditative first English language film from Thai artist and film-maker Apichatpong Weerasethakul.  

Well known for his awarded experimental filmmaking and avant-garde art installations, he won the Palme d’Or back in 2004 for his bewitching fantasy drama Uncle Boonmee but Memoria is his most thematically rich and accessible film so far.

Tilda Swinton is the quietly haunting main character Jessica, an English expat who seems ethereal yet down to earth gliding gently through a story touching on folklore, sci-fi and mysterious happenings linked to  unusual sonic events in the Colombian capital of Bogota. Unfolding in a series of hypnotic long takes Memoria ponders the meaning of life and the negative impact of man’s imprint on the natural world in a way that is exquisitely subtle rather than forced on the audience. 

Jessica is a horticulturalist based in Medellin and visiting Bogota where her sister Karen (Agnes Brekke) is recovering from an unexplained respiratory affliction in hospital. That same morning Jessica woke to a strange sonic boom, and this sound, unheard by Karen and her husband Juan (Daniel Giménez Cacho, leads Jessica to sound engineer Hernan (Juan Pablo Urrego) to try and uncover its origins. That same night the sound once again resonates at a dinner with Karen and Juan but they are unaware of it. Further investigations seem to point to construction work in the nearby countryside where ancient bones belonging to a little girl have recently been unearthed in the disruption. There may be a connection with Karen’s illness – pointing to a covid-style virus that been released in building work but this theory remains unproved and part of the film’s enduring allure.

Hernan manages to replicate the sound – a deep metallic thud – and the two seem to be on the verge of a breakthrough. But when Jessica goes back to his studio later on Hernan appears not to have been a figment of her imagination, and he never appears again. Walking in the lush tropical surroundings of Bogota Jessica then meets another man called Hernán (Elkin Diaz) who belongs to a community who sleep dreamlessly and with their eyes open. In his ramshackle home mysterious memories start to flood Jessica’s subconscious, but whether they are hers or transmitted by the spirits unearthed in the building works is the mystery at the heart of her zen-like odyssey.

Echoing the work of Lav Dias Memoria is a film experience that places us under its spell in a parallel universe enveloping all the senses. Enigmatic, beguiling and astonishingly captivating throughout Memoria explores fundamental aspects of our existence in a natural world that is is very much a force to be reckoned with, slowing taking its revenge in subtle and unfathomable ways. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

House Arrest (2021) Un Certain Regard

Dir: Aleksey German Jr. | Wrs: Aleksey German Jr., Maria Ogneva

Cast: Merab Ninidze, Anna Mikhalkova, Roza Khairullina, Anastasia Melnikova, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Alexander Pal, Anastasia Talyzina, Alexandra Bortich, Von Duanugiz | Drama USSR 106′

A middle-aged academic accused of embezzlement is the focus of this discursive arthouse feature from Russian director Aleksey German Jr. David (Ninidze) may be confined to house arrest by the authorities but his mind is free to expose a rich minefield of social issues affecting modern Russia.

There’s nothing particularly to this story that treads old ground for the most part. David’s critique touches on corruption, state-sponsored violence and anyone who dares to speak out against the system. But  filtered through David’s own troubled state of mind, his bruised ego and indignation at being cooped up by the system that drew sharp criticism after his sketch of the Mayor having sex with an Ostrich, the story becomes more interesting. As such this is a rich character drama as much as a social satire. House Arrest is the most accessible film German Jr has made so far following in the footsteps of his recent features Dovlatov (2018) and Under Electric Clouds (2015), and premiering in this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard sidebar.

People seem more concerned with the sex act itself rather than what it represented, and herein lies the dark irony of the situation further enriching the film’s plotlines. As an eminent professor specialising in Russian literature and particularly a late 19th century period referred to as the ‘Silver Age’ – fellow writer German clearly feels the professor’s anger acutely, and provides David’s mother (Roza Khairullina) as a wise stooge allowing him to expound on his ideas. Ex-wife (Anastasia Melnikova) is reluctant to become involved as her husband is part of the system but she supports him with food parcels in his increasingly untidy prison. The only person entirely onside is his lawyer Anna (Anna Mikhalkova) and she has her work cut out when strange men arrive at the flat in the middle of the night to beat him up. This is a timely if claustrophobic drama that will resonate with everyone who has been trapped in their lives and forced to ruminate and navel gaze in these Covid times. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | UN CERTAIN REGARD

 

 

A Hero (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Dir/Wri: Asghar Farhadi | Cast: Amir Jadidi, Mohsen Tanabandeh, Fereshteh Sadre Orafaiy, Sahar Goldust | Iran Drama 127′

Another moral satire from Asghar Farhadi that mulls over truth, honesty and family life in modern Iran.

Lowkey in its sober setting but brimming with a growing complexity the story takes place in and around a modern prison in Shiraz where the likeable working class hero Rahim (Amir Jadidi) is a regular visitor for his various petty crimes involving debt.

The Royal Tombs of Persepolis provide a striking showcase early on when Rahim meets up with his brother brother-in-law (Alireza Jahandideh) to discuss ways of refinancing his life and paying back the money he owes a former other brother-in-law, Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh), who won’t let him get away with a penny, determined him suffer over the divorce. Meanwhile Ramin is hoping to marry career-minded Farkhondeh (Sahar Goldust) once things are back to normal.

But the crux of the story revolves around a lost handbag containing a number of gold coins that turns up on a bus. Farkhondeh naively takes the bag home and Rahim tries to sell the coins through a dealer, but the amount offered doesn’t begin to cover the money he owes so he decides instead to put an announcement in the small ads, a relieved woman eventually coming forward to reclaim it.

This simple act makes Rahim a hero in the small local community boosting his self esteem with his family, and particularly his young son who has learning difficulties. But when the national press and TV get hold of the news his popularity leads to family jealousy, particularly for Bahram who digs his feet in over the money. And so Rahim’s naive act of honesty sets him back even further the envious family start picking, holes in story, and his motivations – they can’t quite believe him to be capable of such a selfless act. Rahim’s lack of confidence causes him to change his take on events and soon he’s the proverbial creek without a paddle, Farhadi deftly weaving a social media strand involving false news into his thorny narrative, just for good measure, once again triumphing with this immersive, elegantly paced modern parable in screening in competition at Cannes 2021

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Lamb (2021) Un Certain Regard 2021 | Un Certain Regard

Dir: Valdimar Johannsson | IFantasy Sci-fi | Iceland, 103′

This surreal sci-fi for animals lovers is one of a new breed of arthouse films that blends folklore and fantasy horror with a surprising touch of dark humour.

A first feature for Icelandic director Valdimar Johannsson, its intriguing premise invites us to suspend our disbelief when a childless couple in a remote farmstead in Iceland unexpectedly become parents during the lambing season. Ingvar (Hilmir Snaer Guonason) and Maria (Noomi Rapace) realise this is no ordinary newborn. But the sense of joy they feel at finally being a family of sorts fills the couple with a warm contentment. The docile baby takes pride of place in their bedroom, and life goes on as normal.

But there’s an unsettling undertone to this birth that leaves a nagging doubt in our minds and fuels this sober arthouse curio with eerie dread. The reason for their muted joy soon becomes apparent in a way that is both amusing and bizarre, with its distinct references to Cannes 2021 title Annette and even the recent Border.

Johannsson’s spare soundscape echoes around the bleak lunar-landscapes of Iceland’s craggy peaks and windswept terrain. But the tone lightens with a visit from Ingvar’s musician brother Petur (Bjorn Hynur Haraldsson) whose reaction to young Ada is hilarious but also worrying until he gets used to the unorthodox new household. This amusing interlude provides the story with an upbeat vibe and some rather touching family scenes as the two bond both outsiders in their own special way. But the nagging suspicions remain. And it’s the film’s cruel finale that provides a tragic twist that reminds us that Ada may have been nurtured by loving parents but is still a wild child at heart. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | UN CERTAIN REGARD

Bergman Island (2021)

Wri/Dir: Mia Hansen-Løve | MCast: Vicky Krieps, Tim Roth, Mia Wasikowska, Anders Danielsen Lie | Drama 112′

In the Swedish island of Faro two filmmakers explore their work and their love for each other in Mia Hansen-Løve’s dreamy sun-kissed drama that combines a documentary stye to explore the island’s cinema legacy.

The ghost of Ingmar Bergman fills this sensuous summer story through the emotional encounters of a group of friends there to celebrate a wedding and a writers’ workshop. Filmmakers Chris (Krieps) and Tony (Roth) will stay at the famous house where Bergman shot Scenes from a Marriage. Krieps is the same diffident, restless woman she was in Phantom Thread, finding the peace and tranquility of the island oppressive and missing her daughter June. Tony is laid-back, supportive and secure in his skin as the two discuss their various projects, Chris keen to probe his ideas on her outline film script which forms the core of this film within a film that sees Mia Wasikowska as Amy, the slated central character and also a guest at the wedding where she is reunited with her ex-lover Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie) their affair rekindled, although both are now spoken for back home. Chris also makes friends with a Swedish film student (Hampus Nordenson), whose role is to instruct us on the Bergman background.

Mia Hansen-Løve directs with confidence and a lightness of touch deftly integrating the various strands of her story with seamless ease in a drama that explores the ups and down of love and the complexities of modern relationships exposing both the pleasure and the pain in a breezy beachside reverie. Faro is very much a character here DP Denis Lenoir’s luminous landscapes providing the backcloth for this enjoyable and affecting drama. MT

NOW ON RELEASE FROM 3 JUNE 2022

 

Tre Piani | Three Stories (2021)

Dir: Nanni Moretti | Wri: Nanni Moretti, Federica Pontremoli, Valia Santella | Cast: Margherita Buy, Riccardo Scamarcio, Alba Rohrwacher, Nanni Moretti | Italy 119′

Nanni Moretti’s latest will certainly appeal to fans of his classically filmed dramas featuring Italy’s best acting talent. Since winning the Palme d’Or in 2001 for The Son’s Room  he has been turning out spirited stories about life for middle class people, and this circuitous story involving neighbouring families is darkly witty and enjoyable, although more muted than his earlier fare. The women are peacemakers, the men the troublemakers, apart from Moretti himself who plays a powerful man of integrity, naturally – he’s the director.

Based on a novel by Tel Aviv writer Eshkol Nevo, Moretti transports the intricately plotted action to Rome where a car accident sets the cat amongst the pigeons for those living nearby. Local resident Monica (Alba Rohrwacher) is waiting for a taxi to take her to hospital where she will give birth to her first child when a speeding car collides with a nearby pedestrian, hurtling into the ground floor flat where Sara (Elena Lietti) and Lucio (Riccardo Scamarcio) live with their 7-year-old daughter.

At the wheel of the car is a drunkun Andrea (Alessandro Sperduti), the problem son of two judges, Dora (Margherita Buy) and Vittorio (Moretti) who will refuse to pull any strings for their son, causing a long-lasting rift in the family when his prison term is finally up.

Meanwhile Monica gives birth to baby Beatrice with her usual elfin delicatesse, her alluring husband Giorgio (Adriano Giannini) is working abroad offering no emotional support to deal with the baby or her ageing mother, but female empowerment saves the day. A mini mafia subplot with Giorgio’s estranged brother gives the story another showcase for its signature male rivalry and violence, Monica batting off his sexual advances with grace.

Meanwhile Sara (Elena Lietti) and Lucio (Riccardo Scamarcio) become suspicious of the old man next door Renato (Paolo Graziosi), who regularly babysits their daughter and who provides the film’s child abuse theme that will see Lucio himself in a flirtation with young neighbour Sara (Elena Lietti) later accusing him of sexual misconduct.

Elegantly paced and thoughtful with some inspiring music choices and delightful performances, Moretti delivers another class act. MT

ON BFI PLAYER

Mothering Sunday (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Eva Husson | Cast: Odessa Young, Josh O’Connor, Sope Dirisu, Colin Firth, Olivia Colman, Glenda Jackson | UK Drama 110′

A nostalgic reflection on English family life ravaged by loss in the Great War is the subject of Eva Husson’s languorous female empowerment melodrama.

Slim of plot but indulgently languid in its evocative sensuality Mothering Sunday is seen through the eyes of a young girl in service reflecting back on a fateful summer day in 1924 when tragedy changed her life forever: and decided to become a writer. The timeline sashays backwards and forwards, Glenda Jackson adding grist as the older novelist Jane shrugging off the success of her prize-winning in the modern day.

Based on Graham Swift’s novella Mothering Sunday – a day when staff in service were given the day off to visit their mothers – evokes the sultry atmosphere of a doomed affair between a maid Jane Fairchild (Odessa Young) and Paul Sheringham (Josh O’Connor) the only surviving son of a well to do family in the verdant English countryside. Released from duties Jane spends the day in bed with her lover at his stately mansion in his parents’ absence. Paul is going to be marrying Emma in a fortnight’s time, so both he and Jane know their affair is over.

In the background Colin Firth and Olivia Colman play the Nivens, an older generation broken by loss and still mourning their sons killed in the war. But the focus here is on sensuality rather than storyline, and the camera lingers on their love scenes as Jane prances around naked. Meanwhile on the grassy lawns of Henley the Nivens keep calm and carry on over a tearful lunch with their coterie of bereaved friends, Colin fronting up well, Colman morose.

But there’s only so much loving-making and visuals of fusty libraries and flowers in a china vase a film can take. And rather than focus on Jane’s literary aspirations and how they eventually take shape and blossom professional – we see her occasionally penciling a word on a page, or in brief vignettes during a marriage in the 1940s, Husson is more concerned with the atmosphere, permeating this soulful story with a pent up feeling of loss and longing, that eventually erupts in the tragic denouement. In this sense the film is a missed opportunity to make better use of its strong cast of Colin Firth, Olivia Colman and Glenda Jackson. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

 

Benedetta (2021)

Dir: Paul Verhoeven | Cast: Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling, Daphné Patakia, Lambert Wilson, Olivier Rabourdin, Louise Chevillotte

Dutch director Paul Verhoeven is still best known for his scandalous sex saga Basic Instinct. It set the 1990s on fire with Sharon Stone’s memorable naked crutch shot and a brilliant script by Joe Eszterhas that felt racy and groundbreaking. Next came Showgirls and Elle, notable for their leading ladies Gina Gershon (who won a Razzie award) and the incandescent Isabelle Huppert.

Benedetta attempts to recreate the world of Ken Russell’s The Devils and Walerian Borowcyck’s Blanche without their narrative ballast despite an opening credit that proudly announces “based on a true story”: of a naughty nun in Renaissance Italy entitled’ Immodest Acts’ by one Judith C Brown.

Benedetta Carlini claimed to have seen a vision of Jesus and subsequently devoted her life to her saviour. But the only devotion here is to the misogynist male gaze in a shagged-out shaggy dog story that drew sniggers of derision from an audience of critics at its Cannes premiere in 2021.

Benedetta (Virginie Efira), works her way shamelessly through the ecclesiastical hierarchy in a convent in Northern Italy city of Pescia after hoodwinking the Abbess Felicita – Rampling adding a touch of class in a difficult role as the Convent head. Efira doesn’t hold a candle (let alone a wimple0 to Sharon Stone in the erotic scenes, her approach too raunchy and too coarse.

Benedetta is warned early on that “your worst enemy is your body,”. But this is a caveat that soon falls by the wayside when dark-eyed novice Bartolomea (Patakia) is admitted to convent escaping her father’s cruel abuse. The story soon takes a more sinister turn when the two are bonded by their fatal attraction – far less alluring or convincing that that of the Stone and Douglas affair.

What starts out a lushly-mounted period drama soon descends into a dark-edged Carry on at the Convent-style caper that is more corny than provocative. Verhoeven has a field day as his absurdist melodrama burns through a bloated budget in extraordinary set pieces, its lush Tuscan locations evocatively lensed by Jeanne Lapoirie. Under the influence of Bartolomea, Benedetta turns into a bodice-ripping virago with a deep baritone voice. Worse is to come involving CGI snakes, blood-letting and stigmata in scenes featuring a sexually ambivalent Christ on the Cross.

A series of torrid encounters between the two young nuns drives the pacy plot forward, Felicita soon ‘smelling a rat’ through a peephole in the convent wall. Verhoeven and his Elle writer David Birke attempt to add moral complexity to the story by suggesting that Felicita is jealous of ‘their thing’ and this catapults the film towards its ludicrous finale  playing out in Florence and featuring a glowering Lambert Wilson as the Catholic church’s top dog, the Nuncio.

This was a time where women were regularly burnt at the stake and had minimal social and sexual agency. In the confines of a convent cloistered exploits clearly allowed them a mode of sexual expression. But Verhoeven trivialises rather than champions the women’s cause by making these encounters porny than horny, at least for his female audience.

Overstaying its initial welcome at two hours (plus) this clunky bonkbuster feels both tedious and exploitative. What could have been seductively subversive is just silly and salaciously over the top. We are left smirking in our seats by the showcase showdown – but not in a good way – not caring what happens, as long as it ends. MT

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 15 APRIL

 

Great Freedom (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Fir: Sebastian Meise | Drama 104’

Franz Rogowski is the dynamite that burns through this outré arthouse portrait of illicit homosexuality in post war Berlin from Austrian filmmaker Sebastian Meise.

Arrested for cottaging in the grubby confines of a public lavatory in the claustrophobic early cine-camera scenes he is Hans Hoffmann, a man who will spend the remainder of the film in prison surrounded by murderers and thieves, before homosexuality was decriminalised in 1969.

Meise makes no attempt to make his characters likeable in this sordid slice of social realism but Rogowski always brings an appealing sense of vulnerability that softens the hard edges of this overlong sober prison drama with its flecks of brilliance. The final scene is a memorable masterstroke.

The narrative unfolds across three interlinking timelines seeing Hans in a series of sexual encounters in the same sordid prison where he often finds himself in solitary confinement for doing so. The touchstones are 1945, 1957 and 1968 where he forms a close relationship with homophobe Viktor (Georg Freidrich) who is serving time for murder but whose sexual yearnings are for women, not men.

But Meise plays on the theme of sexual fluidity here in a story that very much explores sex as a physical release as much as an emotional need in a pivotal part of the storyline that leads to the men’s relationship soon developing into a close bond of friendship and reliance that touches on love but never speaks its name.

Hans dabbles in other affairs in the story’s most poignant scenes and here he gives full throttle to his signatory romantic sensuality in a gutsy performance that carries the film through its rather low-key narrative where tighter writing in the middle act could have made this more intense.

Nevertheless this is a nakedly unflinching look at a time when men weren’t allowed to show their love for each and a worthwhile warts of all expose of the German prison system of the era. MT

Rehana Maryam Noor (2021) Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard

Dir/Wri: Abdullah Mohammad Saad Cast: Azmeri Haque Badhon, Afia Jahin Jaima | Drama 107

Bangladesh makes its first appearance ever in this year’s competition selection at Cannes 2021.

The claustrophobic, seething, slice of social realism is a second feature for writer-director Abdullah Mohammad Saad. It follows moralistic widow Dr. Rehana Maryam Noor in her daily round at a teaching hospital in Dhaka where she works as an assistant professor and mother of a recalcitrant teenage daughter, Emu (Afia Jahin Jaima).

Invigilating in the exam room in the opening scene of this tense psychological drama, Dr Noor unceremoniously expels a medical student for scribbling notes on her yellow ruler. This draconian approach sets the tone for a vehement tirade that plays out in grim close-up as she then comes across a professor abusing a student: there will be hell to play!.

Maryam – a smouldering Azmeri Haque Badhon – has a difficult backstory which slowly unfolds in parallel with the main narrative. Unbalanced by her fraught home life she is a woman who is unflinching in her approach to anyone who breaks the rules. A tough, spiky feminist she also makes for an unlikeable heroine clearly shaped by her tough life in this male-dominated sexist society.

In sharp contrast her boss Prof. Arefin (Kazi Sami Hassan) is almost lackadaisical towards the young students in his care, giving them a cautionary ticking off when they err. Especially in the case of Annie, a student who fetches up as Arefin’s office in tears. But when it transpires that the young girl has been sexually abused it’s impossible for Rehana not to get involved, determined to make those involved come forward and take the rap to safeguard the safety of future female students. But Rehana’s severe attitude soon points to her own repressed sexual nature, gradually complicating an already complex state of affairs that plays out in the second half of the film.

There so many themes going on in Saad’s richly textured script making this an engrossing but not particularly enjoyable film to watch which its intransigent characters and baleful tone. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | COMPETITION 2021

 

 

Cow (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Director: Andrea Arnold | UK Doc 94′

Andrea Arnold returns to her native Kent for a first documentary feature that follows the daily life of a most-loved farmyard animal, the Cow. An intrusive almost wordless look that starts with the birth of a female calf to Luma, a long-lashed beauty with a glossy black and white splodged coat. Hooves first, the baby emerges and all we see is an enquiring eye looking round at the world in amazement, Luma wiping a lustrous tongue round her fluffy ear. But mother and baby are soon parted, the calf is taken away to the plastic teat of the farmer’s bottle. Dairy cow Luma will then be milked mechanically for our own consumption til the end of her life.

Cow has echoes of the 2012 shocker Leviathan where Lucien Castaing Taylor and Vanessa Paravel took an intense arthouse gaze at commercial fishing through the eyes of the fish. Gunda took a similar wide-eyed approach: A human attempt to see things from the animals’ perspective, where the animal becomes our friend and the human a cruel, opportunistic interloper. When the black bull arrives to do his business, Luma carries on unimpressed. The only moment of bliss in her life is grazing in the bucolic peace of the summery Kentish meadows, chewing buttercups and lush grass in the moonlight. Overhead a plane comes into landing its lights flashing like an alien spaceship in her natural world.

The mass production of milk is big business but Arnold doesn’t bore us with the facts or figures, or even talking heads. The only heads here are furry bovine ones, and muddy bottoms caressed by swishing tails. Bemused, bewildered and beguiling the cows look out in wonder at a world of exploitation. And when Luma’s calf disappears into a plastic pen with a plastic teat, Luma moos loudly in protest as the two are parted. And as each of her calves is born Luma comes  become protective, or at least that’s what we hear from a disembodied human voice. Clearly cows have feelings too. But here she exists to produce milk – gallons of it – and that repetitive diurnal task it what seems to lead to her tragic demise in the film’s shockingly blunt finale. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CANNES PREMIERES

Everything Went Fine | Tout est bien passe (2021)

Dir: François Ozon | Cast: Sophie Marceau, André Dussollier, Géraldine Pailhas, Charlotte Rampling, Éric Caravaca, Hanna Schygulla, Grégory Gadebois, Jacques Nolot, Judith Magre, Daniel Mesguich, Nathalie Richard | France 98′

Francois Ozon always has a cheeky grin in his films. And Everything Went Fine is no exception. This candid end of life drama is a delightful follow-up to the darkly drole Summer of 85, a funny version of The Father with the same piquancy and sharp attention to detail. It could be anyone’s family story once parents get to ‘un certain age’. It could even be yours.

Charlotte Rampling is back, along with his regular collaborator the late novelist Emmanuèle Bernheim who wrote Under The Sand, Swimming Pool and 5X2 and on whose book this new story is based. Refreshingly honest and laced with Ozon’s classic subversiveness, André Dussollier plays the classic stroke-ridden 84 year old with an arch naughtiness and poignancy. The relationship with his long-suffering middle-aged daughters Emmanuelle and Pascale is spiky, to say the least. There’s even a cameo role for veteran Hanna Schygulla who advises on euthanasia.

What elevates this from trite comedy territory is the cast who really capture the essence of fraught family life with an honesty that tonally transcends sentimentality. Some may call it a ‘love hate relationship’ but this is exactly what happens with life and death, and Ozon craftily navigates these prickly relationships making us believe that he’s really been there himself.

Emmanuèle’s father André Bernheim is a cultured man with an ego not unlike Dustin Hoffman’s character in The Meyerowitz Stories that premiered at the festival in 2017. A rather selfish gay art collector who rediscovered his sexuality after marrying the girls’ sculptress mother – a cool-handed Charlotte Rampling – he keeps on the ball despite his stroke leaving him physically challenged.

Many may baulk at the humour Ozon playfully uses to convey a desperate family tragedy but this is really how it is – as those affected can frankly testify. And it’s this complete authenticity that keeps you glued to the screen and nodding in agreement, rather than the cardboard worthy scenario many may envisage.

Euthanasia is also thoughtfully handled, offering the film a morally meaty maze with plenty to chew on. This is a satisfyling mouthful that will make you laugh to self rather than out loud. A light-hearted comedy that unflinchingly faces reality with heart and humanity. MT

ON RELEASE from 17 June COURTESY OF CURZON | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

Val (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Dirs: Leo Scott and Ting Poo | US Doc 104′

The thing about Val Kilmer is his silly humour. It shines out in this warm biopic of an actor who struck gold commercially but still wants to make it in the arthouse world. Now in his early 60s, a glittering past is behind him, a cancer survivor clinging on cheerfully despite a robotic voice like Stephen Hawking, he still smiles radiantly. A shadow of his former self but his spirit is strong and full of positive energy for the future. And once you get used to the voice you realise he’s much the same as he ever was: just older and wiser – and more resigned.

In Val, directors Leo Scott and Ting Poo use a hotchpotch of videos and snapshots mostly taken by Kilmer himself: an actor and writer but most of all a big human whose love for life and his family radiates through the 40 years of archive footage in a documentary that takes us from his childhood years in California to the Batman years for which he is most famous, and beyond. His latest project – a tribute to Mark Twain – is still ongoing and clearly fascinates him. 

The film starts with him playing around in his trailer with Rick Rossovich during the making of Top Gun, his complex character comes out in another scene where he’s filming John Frankenheimer on the set of The Island of Dr. Moreau. Ordered to stop filming Kilmer carries on regardless. The director had threatened to walk out and so Kilmer bargains with him to stay and the camera continues rolling.

A training at New York’s Juilliard school has clearly instilled a strong sense of quality in his work. And this is probably the root cause of his reputation for being ‘difficult’. He was billed for the main role in the 1983 production of “The Slab Boys,” a Broadway hit play, Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon later pulling rank for the main parts. His creativity went on to be stymied by the commercial system that ultimately offered little by way of freedom to express himself, and this theme sets the tone for an entertaining portrait of a real man, rather than just a jobbing player of parts. This is why his story remains one of success rather than failure, despite the decrepit guy in the picture. Loss is a big theme: his marriage and divorce from Joanne Whalley affected him badly, and obviously the cancer diagnosed in 2015. But he soldiers on making us laugh with an infectious humour in this feelgood movie. 

Batman was a personal disaster for him weighed down by a heavy costume and hardly able to breathe, let alone speak. It crushed his performance and he signed out after one go at the Caped Crusader: “every boy wants to be Batman, but not play him”.

The Top Gun episode was a blast with much fooling around off set, sealing his reputation:“For the rest of my life I will be called Iceman by every pilot at every airport I ever go to.” he comments from his Malibu beach hideaway. But he wanted more than fame. Inspiration was really his watchword. In a bid to work with Kubrick and Scorsese he sent them audition tapes but nothing came of it. His force of personality projected him forward for choice roles but he didn’t always get them. Willow was another disaster but the The Doors would be special and he honed his performance again and again, even wearing the leather trousers in an obsession that ultimately cost him his marriage. 

Family intervenes throughout the film: particularly his sadness over his brother Wesley who died in a jacuzzi accident in his teens. And his mother was a big influence and he reminisces over her in some tearful sequences. Although his father was a big business man Val ultimately had to bail him out. His faith Christian Science also figures strongly and clearly gives him the strength to pursue his artistic projects. He may have fallen from the pantheon of stardom but seems to have found peace with his kids and a boundless enthusiasm drives him forward to the future. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | SPECIAL SCREENINGS

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

 

 

 

Zero Fucks Given | Rien a Foutre (2021) Semaine de la Critique

Dir.: Emmanuel Mare, Julie Lecoustre; Cast: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Mara Tarquin, Alexander Perrier, Jonathan Sawdon; Belgium 2021, 115 min.

This bizarre but brilliant first feature for French duo Emmanuel Marre and Julie Lecoustre follows a shameless young air-stewardess on a flight to nowhere, emotionally speaking. We soon understand why.

Cassandra (Exarchopoulos from Blue is the warmest Colour) works for a budget airline mostly around Europe. She dreams of being hired by Emirates Airlines or even a high-paying company called Private Jets, but speaks only a little English apart from French.

From her base in Lanzarote relationships are tricky so she signs out of reality, keeps her family at a distance and opts for an online life on Tinder under the pseudonym ‘Carpe Diem’, a bare-breasted selfie setting the tone for some casual sexual encounters. In some ways she is typical of the resigned young millennial who literally doesn’t care what happens as long as she’s having fun.

Not only is the job repetitive and unfulfilling, Cassandra spends most of her time in airline terminals, a hostile and alien environment made worse since Covid. Drugs and disco are her favourite release on breaks from the inflight tedium. When her contract runs out, she is re-assigned to a course that includes saving passengers with CPR – an exercise Cassandra fails dismally, unable to interact even with a dummy: “You are breaking all his ribs” the course leader tells her, after Cassandra pummels the model doll mercilessly. Job follows job largely down to Cassandra’s ability to sell her persona on Zoom interviews ‘Seize the day’ very much captures the economic and social climate of this disposal world.

Exarchopoulos gives a stunning performance as the women “with no attributes”, an empty vessel not even trying to find an engagement with the outside world. She is vague to the point of disowning herself, constantly on the move in transit positions. She is the modern young woman honed for the quick-turnaround of her professional life, opting for a quick fix while treading water in the hope of a better opportunity, always with her eye to the main chance. Cassandra is the opposite of her sister and father: rootless and uninterested in her past, leaving them to fight with the emotional consequences of the mother’s death. DoP Olivier Boonjing excels with the cold airport images where contrast, the warmer colours of Cassandra’s hometown. Zero Fucks Given is certainly original: an almost sinister study of a modern milliennial. Hugely recommended. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 2021

 

Intregalde (2021) Quinzaine – Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir: Radu Muntean | Romania, 104′

“No good dead goes unpunished” is the idea behind this latest film from Romania’s Radu Muntean (One Floor Below). Întregalde ponders how modern Romania has gone backwards and forwards at the same time through a richly thematic psychodrama playing in this year’s Quinzaine selection at Cannes.

Written by Răzvan Rădulescu, Alex Baciu and Radu Muntean it centres on three friends Maria, Ilinca and Dan (played by Maria Popistașu, Ilona Brezoianu and Alex Bogdan) who embark on a humanitarian mission to deliver food parcels to a remote part of Transylvania.

But on their way home the upbeat charity jaunt soon turns into a stress-fuelled nightmare when they pick up a mysterious old man in the forest. Kente (played by non-pro actor Luca Sabin) takes them wildly off track, before leaving them on a muddy track in the autumnal gloom of the Apuseni mountains.

Early scenes strike a familiar note for most of us used to charity efforts, food banks and child poverty, now at 21st century reality. In the back of their land-rover the two stranded women talk about relationships and fertility problems while they wait for Dan (Bogdan) to get help to repair their stricken vehicle. Arguments follow as they all fall out over their decision to leave the main road in the bitterly cold falling snow. By the morning the woods are transformed into a winter wonderland where time seems to have shifted back hundreds of years in the village of Întregalde.

Muntean gives us a sardonic vision of a country where two worlds collide: one is the complex modern existence, the other is caught in a fairytale past of painted wooden houses and rural traditions. Both exist in the 21st century: Kente still believes in his imaginative stories and folklore and lives sustainably off the land and his livestock. The three helpers have been catapulted into an economic reality where food and money are now scarce for many ordinary people, caught in the poverty trap of modern Romania. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | QUINZAINE DES REALISATEURS.

 

 

 

Europa (2021) Quinzaine – Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir/Wri: Haider Rashid | Adam Ali, Svetlana Yancheva, Mohomed Zouaoui, Michael Segal | Italy, Thriller 75′

This gritty immigration clearly takes it cue from the 1964 Czechlovak classic Diamonds of the Night that followed two Jewish teenagers escaping from a train taking them to Dachau concentration camp. Haider Rashid’s debut may be more colourful but the sombre subject remains the same. A breathless handheld camera follows a young Iraqi Muslim who reaches the coast of Bulgarian on a boat, trafficked from North Africa. Hoping for a better life, rather than escaping certain death like the teens in Jan Namec’s New Wave debut that ends in tragedy, Europa is more enigmatic.

DoP Jacopo Caramella keeps his camera right up close to Kamal (Ali) as he rushes on through the bosky undergrowth. Occasionally the focus broadens to the near distance where his pursuers are hot on his trail. Europa is about the pain, fear and gruelling tiredness suffered by this modern refugee who may be young and fit but is also injured and exhausted by his dangerous odyssey, and ill-equipped for to endure the perilous journey that lies ahead when night falls.

Writing with Sonia Giannetto, Haider keeps the tension taut in this fact- based drama driven forward by Kamal’s terrorised POV. We feel his sheer exhaustion, his fear-fuelled energy sapping away. Eventually he reaches a safe haven in the woods but not for long. Adam Ali grew up in the safety of Manchester but his performance as Kamal is fraught with palpable terror in this tightly- wound unhurried  tragedy that ponders the unkindness of strangers. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 

The Heroics | Les Heroiques (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Maxime Roy; Cast: Richard Bohringer, Francois Creton, Romeo Creton, Ariane Ascaride, Patrick D’Assumçao, Clothilde Couran, Clara Ponsot, Mai and Cosmo Gernay-Fouquin; France 2021, 99 min.

This ‘Men behaving badly in Paris’ buddy movie reunites Maxime Roy with the cast of his short film Beautiful Losers. It’s a world where drugs and alcohol fuel physical and psychological abuse for the punk generation Francois Creton – who co-wrote the script – plays 53-year old bruiser Michel, who has fathered a baby called Arno despite his longterm addiction to Meths, Although he’s spend the last six months on the waggon.

Michel’s meets up with a close coterie of friends at the classic AA meeting, where he breaks down cursing himself and the world in general. But a visit to the hospital doctor confirms the damage wreaked on his body. Although his friends exhort him to ‘grow up’ on a regular basis: he does not want and therein lies the problem. ,

He sees himself as the perpetual Peter Pan character freewheeling through life in an alcoholic daze of music, drugs and his motorcycle. Reality – he feels – has conspired against him. And he’s fallen with nearly everyone, not least Arno’s mother Hélène (Couran) whose advice is: “Do your son a favour, get out of our lives”. Michel’s mother committed suicide and his relationship with his father Claude (Bohringer) – who has anger management issues and is dying of cancer – is even is more fraught, the two men have a big blow up, accusing each other for her death. Despite the bust up, Claude tries to get his son a job as a welder with a friend, but Michel is too proud to go on the training course.

Claude lives with Josiane (Ascaride), who is trying to broker a truce between son and father but even she give up in the end, along with Michel’s oldest son eighteen year-old Leo (R. Creton) who finds out that the fatherly role model is a cul-de-sac, and soon moves out. Michel has a softer side, supporting his AA pal Lily (Ponsot) who can’t face the first hour of alcohol free existence

This this richly textured character piece is no hyper-realist film in the Ken Loach tradition. Nothing could be further from the truth: Roy shows Michel’s depravity in all its glory but opts for a European form of Magic Realism, connected to the South American tradition of Glauber Rocha or Alejandro Jodorowsky.

DoP Balthazar Lab’s fluid camera captures moments of pure poetry: the baby sleeping serenely while a water leak causes mayhem in Michel’s flat.  The motorcycle sequences, shot often at night, are also particularly impressive, when the baby, again, is oblivious to the danger, while his mother is doing her nut. Bohringer and Ascaride triumph along with a talented ensemble cast steered by finely tuned Roy’s finely-tuned direction  in this darkly comic French tragedy that’s competing in this year’s Camera D’Or in the Cannes Special Screening sidebar. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | CAMERA D’OR.

Anaïs in Love (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir: Charlene Bourgeois-Tacquet | Cast: Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi, Anais Demoustier, Denis Podalydes, Jean-Charles Clichet,

Anaïs in Love is light, fluffy but real in its depiction of a young girl enjoying her Parisian life, flirting and indulging in a varied sex life while trying to pay the rent – and who better to play her than a gorgeously flip and froufrou Anais Demoustier who strikes just the right chord between frivolousness and concern for her mother – recently diagnosed with cancer – as the titular Anaïs, who can shed a tear although a smile is never far from her pouting red lips.

This is French filmmaker Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s feature debut and she writes and directs with confidence and a lightness of touch in a freewheeling narrative that sashays gaily around Paris in the summer. Of course, it always helps to have Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi in this sort of upbeat sweet-hearted drama, and she adds a touch of class in her usual slightly ‘distraite’ style as Emilie, a vaguely blue-stocking woman who lectures on creative writing at a summer school that piques Anais’ attention. The two bond and frolic immediately, drawn together  by the stylish allure they both exude, and a strong sexual attraction.

Of course, Anaïs is short of cash and has to blag herself onto the class where upfront payment is de rigueur. Here she meets Yoann whose father has just died of cancer, reminding Anaïs to write to her mother (cue John Ireland’s mournful score of “When I am dead”). But it’s Emilie who holds the strongest interest for the young Anaïs, until it soon turns out that they also share the same man, in the shape of much older Daniel (Denis Podalydes) who turns up unexpectedly to join the fun in this enjoyable literary-themed romantic drama with its scarlet aesthetic and vibrant lesbian twist. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | Camera D’Or COMPETITION

La Traviata – Mes Frères et Moi (2021) Un Certain Regard Cannes 2021

Dir/Wri: Yohan Manca | Cast: Jael Mouin Berrandou, Judith Chemla, Dali Benssalah, Sofian Khammes | Drama France 108′

A 14-year-old  boy broadens his cultural horizons caring for his bedridden mother in this fresh and lively family drama from France’s Yohan Manca.

Nour – a fresh-faced Jael Mouin Berrandou – has just finished school for the summer, but going on holiday is not on the cards. Sharing a council house with his four brothers brings tensions the usual tensions as the four of them struggle to look after their mother whose love of opera music – particularly La Traviata – fills their cramped home in the South of France.

When Nour crosses paths with Sarah (Manca’s real life partner Judith Chemla), who is teaching an Opera summer school, he finally finds the opportunity to come out of his shell and explore new horizons. Manca directs with real joie de vivre in this charming cinema verite crowdpleaser, his characters coming alive despite the challenges of the setting. There’s a raw energy connecting the men to their mother who while desperately sick still acts as a stabilising loving influence for her argumentative family. Chanelling a message of hope with its positive depiction of life’s challenges this is an upbeat feelgood contender for this year’s Un Certain Regard and Camera D’Or. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | UN CERTAIN REGARD

 

 

The Employer and the Employee (2021) Quinzaine – Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Manolo Nieto; Cast: Nahuel Perez Biscayart, Christian Borges, Justina Bustos, Fatima Quintanilla, Carlos Lacuesta, Virgine Mendez, Manuel Guedes; Uruguay 2021, 105 min.

Another big screen treat from South America in this year’s Quinzaine selection, this time from Uruguay stars trailblazing Argentine actor Nahuel Perez Biscayart who has been the toast of the international festival circuit for Persian Lessons, Beats Per Minute, and See You Up There. 

Elegantly paced and thoughtful despite its rather cumbersome title this ‘upstairs downstairs’ parable unfolds in a rural community in the north Eastern part of Uruguay near the Brazilian border where the magnificent widescreen landscape is very much the star of the show.

Uruguayan writer/director Manolo Nieto’s family affair has strong magic realist undertones: his titular boss and employee are not conventional by any means – and neither are their other halves. DoP Arauco Hernandez Holz conjures up lush, languid images in a richly textured slow burn tragedy in the style of Bunuel and Nuri Bilge Ceylan Greek where servant and master are forever bound together in a paternalistic system.

The way we meet Rodrigo (Biscayart), the titular boss, is symptomatic of all the main characters: caught at the border with some weed, he looks like your typical university dropout, and not a clever one at that. A  family doctor swings by to get his baby boy Bautista to sleep in the most unorthodox way possible. Wife Federica (Bustos), a blue eyed blonde, is concerned about Bautista’s health, and later they will take him to hospital for tests, in a nice little tense undercurrent that burbles on til the film’s finale.

Uruguay’s agricultural production had to change from traditional animal farming to soya planting, and only a few labourers can manage the sophisticated machinery for the harvest. Rodrigo sets out to meet the old retainer and farm hand Lacuesta (Lacuesta) who puts forward his teenage son Carlos (Borgoes) for the job. The young man also has a baby daughter with Estafania (Quintanilla) but lacks experience or any real commitment, preferring the more glamorous job of looking after the horses, and one in particular is Hidalgo, a race horse destined to be sold to the Arabs, if it does well in a 115 km marathon race. Carlos hopes to be selected as his jockey. But clearly he’s not up to the job of driving a tractor and a serious accident reveals his shortcomings as an employee.

Surprisingly, Rodrigo gives him another chance, even taking him to a brothel, where Carlos blacks out. The situation becomes even more bizarre when Rodrigo invites Estafanie to work on the hacienda as a maid. Federica and the young woman nearly come to blows over baby Bautista’s care. But Rodrigo is in a bind: the Farmworkers’ Union has filed a lawsuit against him as the boss with overall responsibility for the tractor accident, and so he promises Carlos can ride on Hidalgo at the famous race in Santa Fe where loyalties explode in a racy finale. Manolo Nieto delivers a calmly-paced and contemplative modern thriller that ponders on the past and the present in his native Uruguay. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | QUINZAINE DES REALISATEURS

Lingui (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir/Wri: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun | Achouackh Abakar Souleymane, Rihane KHALIL ALIO BRAHIM Youssouf DJAORO FANTA Briya GOMDIGUE | Chad, Drama, 87′

Visual storytelling at its most resplendent Lingui is a simple tale gracefully crafted by a director at the top of his game and brought to life by his talented cast.

In a landlocked Muslim country Lingui (The Sacred Ties) follows Amina an observant single mother living on the margins of a male-dominated society with her teenage daughter Maria. The men not only hold sway, they hold themselves above the law, laying it down harshly for their womenfolk. So the women are forced to play them at their game as we discover when Maria falls pregnant and cannot, by law, have an abortion.

With his vibrant compositions and exquisite framing the director keeps dialogue to a minimum in this filmic ‘whodunnit’ relying on strong cinematic language and a propulsive occasional score by Wasis Diop to show how moments of pleasure occasionally break into the harsh realities of life in Chad’s main city of N’Djamena, where a tribal society has given way to strictly enforced Islam with mosque attendance ‘de rigueur’. Woman are expected to the subservient and cover themselves up in public, ritual circumcision is routinely practiced and performed by the women themselves when the girls are still very young. To be an unmarried mother is considered sinful whatever the circumstances and so for Maria the future looks especially bleak. And rumours spread fast.

Amina makes metal household equipment which she sells for a pittance by the roadside, but not enough to pay for illegal medical intervention. Maria is a typical young teenager: proudly defiant and living by her own modern standards, but her pregnancy will take her back to the dark ages of backstreet abortions and sham. Worse still, she won’t reveal the truth behind her pregnancy until circumstances suddenly a solution. MT

Born in Chad, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun first won critical acclaim for his short films before directing his first feature, Bye-bye Africa (Best First Film, Venice Film Festival 1999). He then went on to direct Abouna (Our Father) (Director’s Fortnight, Cannes 2002), Daratt, Dry Season (Special Jury Award, Venice Film Festival 2006), A Screaming Man (Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival 2010), Grigris (Vulcain Prize for Best Cinematography, Official Competition, Cannes Film Festival 2013). Hissein Habr , A Chadian Tragedy, his first documentary film, was selected at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Official Selection – Special screening. A Season in France, is his first feature film shot in France, starring Eriq Ebouaney and Sandrine Bonnaire. Selected at the Toronto International Film Festival 2017 – Special Presentation. New York paid tribute to Mahamat-Saleh Haroun by hosting two retrospectives of his films: in 2006 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and in 2018 at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). In 2010, he received at the Venice Mostra the Robert Bresson Award for his complete works and in 2013, the Fellini Medal awarded by UNESCO.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | IN COMPETITION | WORLD PREMIERE

Cinema de la Plage | Cannes outdoor cinema 2021

This year’s Cannes Film Festival certainly promises better weather with its July slot taking over the usual rainy May programme when nvariably grey skies threaten to scupper the Cinema de la Plage – this year it’s going to be hot, hot, hot, with temperatures already in the 30s. So prepare for some balmy evenings watching films.

In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-wai (2000, 1h38,

Hong Kong/China)
Awarded at the Festival de Cannes in 2000, Wong Kar-wai’s major work is one of the greatest romantic films of all time, set in a hypnotic and colourful universe with an enchanting original cast. A restored copy will be screened before its re-release in France on July 21, 2021 and worldwide starting in the summer of 2021.

Wednesday, July 7, 9:30 p.m.

Scarecrow by Jerry Schatzberg (1973, 1h52, USA)

Ten years ago, the photo of Faye Dunaway taken by Jerry Schatzberg was featured in the Cannes Festival poster. At the age of 94, as senior member of filmmakers still in service, Jerry will be in attendance on the Croisette to present the film that won the Palme d’or in 1973. One of the gems of great American cinema of the 1970s, with Al Pacino and Gene Hackman in a picaresque American road movie, it is an ode to freedom and to film.
Presented by Jerry Schatzberg

Thursday, July 8, 9:30 p.m.

Tom Medina by Tony Gatlif (2021, 1h40, France/Switzerland)
World premiere – Official Selection Cannes 2020
Ciné-Concert !

A “Camargue Western”, the new film from the great Tony Gatlif, winner of the Best Director Award at Cannes in 2004, will also bring us, prior to the screening, his trademark kind of surprise: the “Tom Medina Concert”, rock, flamenco, gypsy music performed by thirteen musicians, including Karoline Rose Sun, Nicolas Reyes, Manero, Norig, Cécile Évrot and flamenco dancer Karine Gonzales.
The evening is presented and moderated by Tony Gatlif

Friday, July 9, 9:30 p.m.

Black Cat, White Cat by Emir Kusturica (1998, 2h10, Germany/France)

A family adventure, funny and fantastical, with eccentric – one could say “kusturician” – characters, for a plunge into the depths of the colourful, musical and poetic world of Emir Kusturica, a two-time Palme d’or winner at Cannes.

Saturday, July 10, 9:30 p.m.

The Summit of the Gods (Le Sommet des Dieux) by Patrick Imbert (2021, 1h34, France/Luxembourg) World premiere – Official Selection Cannes 2020

Adapted from the famous manga by Jirô Taniguchi, himself inspired by the novel by Baku Yumemakura, The Summit of the Gods is an extraordinary animation film, a great adventure and an investigation into the thrilling realm of conquering the world’s most challenging peaks.
Presented by Patrick Imbert

Sunday, July 11, 9:30 p.m.

JFK (Director’s Cut) by Oliver Stone (1991, 3h25, USA/France)

The most famous film about the event that traumatized America in 1963. The investigation carried out on a drum roll on the assassination of President Kennedy: suspense, politics and history. Oliver Stone presents his personal thesis, with conviction and often convincing, that there were several killers and that it was a plot against America. Screened in its full version, as Oliver Stone wished, it will also raise the curtain on the next day’s screening in Official Selection of the world avant-premiere of another fascinating documentary: JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass.
Presented by Oliver Stone

Monday, July 12, 9:30 p.m.

Fast and Furious 9 by Justin Lin (2021, 2h23, USA)
European avant-première

For the return of the Festival in Cannes and of film in our hearts, Universal Studios is offering the Cannes audience a magnificent gift and one of the highlights of the summer: opus 9 of the motorized saga, screened in avant-première in France prior to its release on July 14. Vin Diesel and his band, the family, harrowing stunts and crazy car chases. The blockbuster of the summer.

Tuesday, July 13, 9:30 p.m.

Fast and Furious 9 by Justin Lin (2021, 2h23, USA)

Rain check date in the event of bad weather the previous evening. If the July 12 screening is held normally, then another film will be screened on July 13.

Wednesday July 14, 10 p.m.

Bastille Day – Fireworks put on by the City Hall of Cannes.

Thursday, July 15 9:30 p.m.

Lovers Rock by Steve McQueen (2020, 1h08, UK)
Official Selection Cannes 2020

In the 2020 Official Selection, and at long last on the big screen in France, the Small Axe anthology is like a long trance, a slow combustion of desire on a backdrop of reggae in London of the 1960s, that represents almost everything you weren’t allowed to do under physical distancing. In this summer of 2021, this is the perfect film by which we can come out of confinement (cautiously)!
Presented by Steve McQueen

Friday July 16, 9:30 p.m.

Amélie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001, 2h01, France/Germany)
Thrust into the limelight two decades ago, Amélie depicted Paris and Parisians, Montmartre and garden gnomes, extraordinary actors (Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Jamel Debbouze) and a splendid tribute to French cinema of the 1940s. Jeunet at his best.
Presented by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Saturday, July 17, 9:30 p.m.

David Byrne’s American Utopia by Spike Lee (2020, 1h45, USA)Spike

Lee’s latest film, never released in France. A percussive concert of extraordinary beauty by New York singer David Byrne, directed by the 2021 President of the Jury. The best way to close the Festival: with music!

ALL SCREENINGS TAKE PLACE ON THE BEACH | ALL WELCOME

Where is Anne Frank (2021) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Ari Folman | With voices of Emily Carey, Ruby Stokes, Neil Barlow, Skye Bennett, Sebastian Croft, Stewart Scudamore | US Animation 109′

On a dark stormy night in Amsterdam a red-haired beauty breaks into the city’s Holocaust Museum to steal a diary from a crystal centrepiece showcase. The woman is Kitty and the diary belonged to the famous woman who created her, Annelies Marie Frank (1929-45).

Ari Folman’s latest animation is a playfully evocative take on the tragedy of the Anne Frank (Emily Carey) whose final months are reflected through the eyes of her gadabout muse and confidante Kitty, vividly brought to life here by Ruby Stokes. Bristling with ideas that buzz around like fireflies in the vibrantly rendered animations, this thematically rich slice of European social and political history pulses to an upbeat syncopated score, but doom is never far away.

Ink spots on the diary implode to reveal telling episodes of the Anne’s daily life before and after her Jewish family’s confinement in an Amsterdam attic, Folman reveals a tense and introspective young daddy’s girl (her father Otto was the sole survivor) escaping into her imagination, pushed away by an unloving mother, an envious elder sister Margot and a collection of unsuitable boyfriends in the shape of Herman Kupman and Rob Cohen, growing up in wartime Amsterdam. Finally she settles for the gentle unassuming hypochondriac Peter van Daan, thoughtfully voiced by Sebastian Croft.

In the present day, Kitty comes alive as an inquiring young girl about town desperate to find out what happened to creator who disappeared nearly eighty years ago. Gradually the past and present collide through a kaleidoscope of comic and tragic touchstones: flashbacks to Anne’s final birthday with a cake and bottle of 4711 cologne; Nazis troops marching into the city as supersized Darth Vader monsters shrouded in black, the Occupy Europe era, and the current immigration crisis shoehorned in as a pivotal plot twist, ingenious but somehow a step too far.

More convincing is the film’s ‘cancel culture’ theme that sees the wan and prickly teenage Anne confessing to missing the cinema as she huddles with her family in their attic hideout while the Nazis set fire to the city banning Jews from everywhere in the ensuing mayhem. Her dream that Clark Gable will scoop her up on a white charger and save her from the macabre encroaching Nazi forces feels real and poignant covid-wise.

In their hideout the Frank family are joined by a genteel family the Van Daans. This allows Folman to work his insightful take on human nature and the well-loved Jewish food and hypochondriac themes. These comedy moments bring relief and ponder farting from too much cabbage, and Peter’s penchant for staying in bed all day feigning illness.

After Anne’s disappearance Kitty files a ‘missing person’s report’ and meets little Ava who has managed to enter Europe by boat courtesy of her sailor father. The police are ever vigilant, one even has an Israeli accent, but the shadow of the death camps darkens the film’s final segment in haunting widescreen animations that see trains travelling East to Westerbork transit camp where Anne and her mother are briefly united before she goes with Margot to Bergen Belsen and beyond.

There is a romantic scene towards the end that captures Anne and Peter kissing under a frosty star-strewn sky, set to Chopin’s Piano Etude #3 In E. This is the loveliest memory of a film that occasionally dazzles with its  wealth of thoughts and memories of a terrible time in history when Europe was divided as it is in some ways still today. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | SPECIAL SCREENINGS

 

Evolution (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir: Kornél Mundruczó, Kata Weber | Hungary Drama 97’

In a blistering follow-up to Pieces of a Woman, Kornél Mundruczó and Katia Weber return with this powerful drama tracing three generations of a family, from a surreal memory of World War II to modern day Berlin, unable to process their past in a society still coping with the wounds of its history.

False memories, real memories, recollections and reminiscences still haunt those affected as they surface, bob along or drown in a tide of feelings haunted by the past and connected by the Hungarian filmmaker’s evocatively visual imagery and Weber’s thoughtful storytelling.

Drawing on her Hungarian Jewish roots Weber crafts a three stranded story, the first, entitled Lena, is one of the most unusual opening scenarios of recent years set on a second world wartime battlefield, the second is about Lena, a discursive two handler that sees a mother recounting her Holocaust early months as a baby born in Auschwitz, and the third is set in modern Berlin where her own daughter is now living with a son Jonas who is having a difficult time at school. While generational traumas find new expression in the present, the family in EVOLUTION looks towards a more hopeful future despite its troubled past. MT

Retour a Reims (Fragments) (2021) Cannes Film Festival, Quinzaine 2021

Dir.: Jean-Gabriel Périot; Documentary with a narration by Adèle Haenel; France 2021, 83 min.

Adèle Haenel is the force behind this sober big screen essay film from French writer/director Jean-Gabriel Périot, based on the autobiography of philosopher and author Didier Eribon (*1953) Retour a Reims (2009) it works as a social and political commentary of the past 100 years.

Eribon is a controversial figure in French literary circles winning the prestigious Brudner Prize, which he later returned. Retour has also been adapted for the stage by Laurent Hatal in 2014.

Périot successfully avoids talking heads and instead overlays Adèle Haenel’s narration of the text with a 83-minute collection of French newsreel, documentary and feature film clips from the 20th century. As the camera slowly pans over a working class district of the city, Retour a Reims opens with a discourse on the family’s history, recounting how his grandfather, who died aged 54, kept it all going with to two jobs during the 1940s when the average live expectancy of manual workers was around 59. There then follows a long diatribe about a reconciliation with his mother, visiting her for the first time in 30 years, after the death of his homophobic father. “My hatred for him has been forged by the violence of the social world. His fate was determined by his upbringing. leaving school at fourteen like all working class kids of his generation. The powers that be knew that Culture was a corrupting force, controlled by the middle and upper classes, they were kept apart from the workers”.

An interview during the 1950s documents the power of this ruling ideology: “At work I can be free, in school we had to be quiet, but at work, we sing, talk and so on.” As in much of Europe, only the privileged entered higher education. Working class parents could not help their children with home work, they could not even, as one of the mother recalls tearfully, give the children fruit.

Eribon’s parents started their marriage in a single room without a bath. Their family was completed with two sons. In the 1950s illegal abortions were common, so some couples put their sex life on hold. After his mother’s insistence paid off, the family was given a two-bedroom apartment in one of the new estate on the city’s border. Later, his father was made redundant, and his wife was forced to work in the factory.  Traumatised by losing control of the earning power, he joined other men in the local bars near the factory gates to see if their wives were being faithful.

Most working class men had a privileged position in the family set-up: their wives managing the domestic routine often holding down part-time jobs as well as child and home care. Meanwhile the men were away for long hours of social life in the bars and fishing “to get peace from the noisy family life”. Eribon’s parents voted Communist during the 1950s and 60s. This was not so much a political project, but a reaction to the hardship of every-day life. “We don’t know what happy ness is, because we do not have it”.

The advance of the National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the early 1970s, was fuelled by the deep-seated racism of the white working class. “A million unemployed means a million immigrants too many”. The replacement of the Communist Party of France by the NF as the main party of the French proletariat is mirrored in a scene from a feature film: in a bar full of French workers, a mixed race couple as accosted, the white woman called a “whore”. One of the workers has a grim message: “I would simply drop an A-bomb on Algiers”. Another one has a better solution:” No bombs. What we should do is put all immigrants onto planes, and then open the doors over the sea”.

Eribon “adopted the racism against the workers from North Africa”. After his mother ‘confessed’ to having voted NF, Didier told her “that Le Pen’s Party was against abortion rights”, but she went on complaining about the hordes of immigrant children.” They have to learn that these places here are not like the hovels they have back home”. After his parents moved away from the estates, her son comes to the conclusion that “the NF is the last bastion of the working class to preserve the identity against those politicians from the right and left, who have trampled on it.” And “My mother’s racism was a compensation for her own repression, so that she could feel superior to those even worse off than herself.” But isn’t the stance of the disenfranchised? The outlook, according to Eribon, is not rosy; somebone painting a slogan on a shop window after the 2017 election “Macron 2017, Le Pen 2022”.

What makes Retour so fascinating is the mixture of personal memory and historical research. Somehow, the author’s guilt at becoming a “class traitor”, seeps below the surface of his studied distance. But most intriguing is the parallel rail of film and commentary: the seventh art as a witness of history. Brilliant. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | QUINZAINE 2021 | SUNDAY JULY 11, 2021

Small Body (2021)

Dir: Laura Samani Wri: Marco Borromei, Elisa Dondi, Laura Samani | Cast Celeste Cescutti, Ondina Quadri | Italy / France / Slovenia – 2021 – 89′ – Friulan and Venetian dialect

A spiritual journey into the unknown is at the heart of this haunting debut feature from Italy’s Laura Samani whose work explores the mystical connection between faith and womanhood.

Celeste Cescutti is the determined female driving force of this eventful odyssey that starts in a fishing community on the shores of the Adriatic at the turn of the 20th century and culminates in the lofty Dolomite mountains. She is Agata a young woman celebrating the imminent arrival of her first child with special ceremony that takes place on the seashore.

The small body of the title refers to her stillborn child – a baby girl – who is buried by her husband before Agata even has a chance to see or hold her. In the Catholic faith, baptism is only for the living, and the local priest denies the child a Christening, leaving its soul languishing in Limbo. When Agata hears about a holy sanctuary in the mountains where infants can be baptised, she courageously sets off with the body of her daughter to ensure she has a place in Heaven, against the odds.

Essentially a two-hander, Small Body (Piccolo Corpo) is an assured feature debut for Samani whose luminous style echoes the lightness of touch in Corpo Celeste and The Wonders by fellow Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher. The film explores the mystique of religious devotion and its links to folklore and ancient tradition, making use of magic realism in a way that feels tonally convincing transporting the story into the realms of spirituality despite the harsh realities of Agata’s mission in difficult conditions and a hostile terrain.

Rather like Jesus Christ’s journey in the wilderness, Agata’s ‘pilgrimage’ north is hampered by highwaymen, unsavoury characters and adverse weather. She also has to convince her mysterious guide (Quadri) not to abandon her, luring them on with a secret package, and promising to share its precious contents if the mission in successful. Quadri, who has already won awards for a role in Ariana, joins a cast of non-pros as the rather enigmatic wayfarer Agata meets on her journey north. The two rebels bond without altogether trusting one another as they pursue their individual goals. An original score by Frederika Stahl adds a sinister undercurrent to proceedings in this beguiling drama lensed by Slovenian DoP Mitja Ličen whose magnificent landscapes of Venezia Friuli Giulia and the Italian Dolomites create a surreal sense of place. MT

NOW ON RELEASE | SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Tom Medina (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Tony Gatlif; Cast: David Murgia, Slimane Dazi, Karoline Rose Sun, Suzanne Aubert, Lyes Ouzeri; France 2020/21, 95 min.

The latest from French, Algerian born director/writer Tony Gatlif is a passionate portrait of a young drifter, the titular Tom Medina, who fails to adjust to life in the romantic surroundings of the Camargue.

Drawing on his ethnic heritage as a Romani, Gatlif shows Tom in permanent transit transported by magical landscapes, DoP Patrick Gheringhell conjures up a parallel universe where Tom is much more comfortable than in reality.

Tom is a petty criminal on the run from his family heading for Spain where he hopes to become a matador. But his identity papers are in disarray and his gothic rock star daughter Stella (Rose Sun) and father are still bemused by his sudden disappearance. Now on probation along with his sidekick Bob, (Ouzeri), a marionettist who entertains everybody with his witty performances, the two are entrusted to the care of Ulysse (Dazi), a horse trainer cum probation officer, with a penchant for Provençale literature. The journey south kicks off at a bullring where Tom watches the matador leaving the stage, having crossed paths with a black cat. Tom tries gamely to replace him, but the animal gets the better of him.

In a small town not far away, Tom meets up with Suzanne (Aubert), his female alter ego. She sells bunches of rosemary in the town square, but really longs to be united with her baby-daughter who now lives with foster parents in Montpelier. On this spiritual journey of sorts the motley crew find themselves in all sorts of scrapes but luckily Ulysses always manages to save the day, Tom eventually finding satisfaction, redeemed by the power of love.

Transcended by the wild beauty of the Calmargue, the feature centres on a core collective of loveable idiosyncratic oddballs. The episodic nature of the narrative is possibly not really about to sustain the running time, but the performances are entertaining enough to capture our imagination for a while, and Gatlif directs with great sensibility and paternal care for his assorted oddballs. A Misfits for our time. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Are You Lonesome Tonight (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Wen Shipei; Cast: Eddie Peng, Sylvia Chang, Wang Yanhui, Zhang Yu; China 2021, 95 min.

Memory and obsession dominate the debut of Chinese director/co-writer Wen Shipei in a contemporary version of Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’.

Taking its title from the iconic Elvis tune which is rendered by numerous artists on various media outlets, Are You Lonesome Tonight smoulders with hallucinatory visuals from Andreas Thalhammer, most of the action taking place night in an old fashioned trippy experience.

Xue Ming (Peng) tries to get by as an air-con engineer, but hardly makes ends meet. His much younger girl friend (Peiyao), is dismayed when he misses another date in the local cinema, without even apologising. Driving along in a clapped out mini-van Ming runs over a man, and decides to dispose of the corpse rather than alert the authorities. His victim is Mr. Liang; his widow Liang Ma (a brilliant Sylvia Chang) puts up ‘Missing Person’ posters all over town. But it soon turns out Liang was also a smalltime gangster, and the lucrative spoils from life of crime are hidden in a locker at the railway station. Ming finds a key but is unaware of the fortune.

As it happens, Liang Ma’s air conditioning breaks down, and Ming is only too willing to repair it for free, in an effort to assuage his burgeoning guilt for her husband’s death. Liang Ma reveals that the police have found her husband’s body and identified his killer. Meanwhile Peng becomes obsessed with his crime and the surviving victim, following Liang Ma everywhere, desperate to make a clean breast of it, and finally finding the courage to confess.

Enter Detective Inspector Chen (Yanhui), who gets obsessed with the case. The chase and shootings that follow are the weakest part of the feature, which redeems itself with the last part, after Peng’s release from the prison after an eight-year sentence in 2005.

A non-linear structure underpins this episodic feature, so whenever Shipei shifts into action mode, the narrative loses its integrity: the key to the treasure in the railway station is merely a McGuffin, and Shipei would have done better to treat it exactly as such. Ma Liang’s guilt at wishing her husband dead, before he left on that fateful evening, is as lingering as Ming’s guilt for killing the unsavoury husband.

Detective Chen is the third member of this rimorse-ridden trio, trying to avenge the death of his partner. Their struggle to liberate themselves is a long one, but there is hope for all of them.

Are you Lonesome is a brilliant exercise in aesthetics. Fewer conventional action scenes would have made more impact in this  impressive-looking modern drama. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Softie – Petite Nature (2021) Semaine de la Critique

Dir.: Samuel Theis; Cast: Aliocha Reinert, Antoine Reinartz, Melissa Olexa, Izoa Higelin, Jade Schwartz, Mario Gallo, Romane Esch, Abdel Bensehendikh; France 2021, 93 min.

Class and gender politics are delicately explored in this sophomore feature from writer/director Samuel Theis, graduate of the famous La FEMIS film school and co-director of Party Girl (2014) which won the Camera d’Or at Cannes.

The film explores how boys process and absorb ideas of self and masculinity through ten year old Johnny (Reinert) who lives on a council estate in Forbach near the German border. Highly intelligent and mature for his age, he’s already a star pupil at the local primary school and very much the prodigal son of his broken family, taking care of little sister Melissa (Schwartz) and tearaway teenage brother Dylan (Gallo). His mother Sonia (Olexa) has just shacked up with a new boyfriend  (Bensehendikh) and now works as a shop assistant in a grocery store.

But everything changes when a new teacher arrives at the school, taking Johnny under his wing. Jean Adamski (Reinartz) lives with his partner Nora (Hegelin) in a posh suburb – light years away from Johnny’s estate. Off they all go on visits to the local museum in Metz, where Nora works. Johnny even spends the night at the couple’s home, where Nora teaches him all about body language. This short encounter has serious consequences. Johnny tries out Nora’s ideas on Jean, kissing him on the lips. Jean is horrified, and shuts down all contact with his pupil. Johnny’s life soon spins out of control.

In his debut Aliocha Reinert gives a stunning performance as Johnny. With long blond hair, his androgynous look hints at gender identification issues, even though these are mostly ambivalent. But the social gap is always made transparent, Jacques Girault’s luminous camerawork keeping things light despite the thorniness of the core themes. The rough and tumble of life on the estate, and the modest but artistic household are clearly on different planets. Theis directs with great sensitivity, always giving the actors enough leash to express themselves naturalistically. Who is afraid of the second film, then? AS

CANNES SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | 2021

Bruno Reidal: Confessions of a Killer (2021) Semaine de la Critique, Cannes 2021

Dir: Vincent Le Port | Cast: Roman Villedieu, Jean-Luc Vincent, Dimitri Dore | France, Drama 101′

Some things you never forget. And for young Bruno Reidal it was the traumatic annual pig slaughter at his family farm.

Competing for this years Camera d’Or this classically told period drama is the feature debut of Vincent Le Port who shows with dispassion and meticulous detail how a killer is made from early childhood through his introverted sullen central character evocatively played by Dimitri Dore.

Mulling over themes of guilt, masturbation and Catholicism, there’s actually a touch of the Bruno Dumont’s about this elegant and captivating period chronicle that gracefully explores the grim genesis of murder (Jean Luc Vincent also appeared in Camille Claudel 1915 and Slack Bay).

Based on the real writings of a convicted murderer at the turn of the last century, the film opens in 1905 with a gruesome murder, the camera focusing on the strenuous efforts of young Bruno as he decapitates a child – we later see the headless body lying arms up-stretched in its leafy grave.

Bruno (Dimitry Dore) then gives himself up to the authorities denying to doctors that he a criminal or insane. So despite the serious nature of his crime, the investigating doctor Lacassagne (Vincent) puts the pasty-faced boy into a bare room and orders him to write down his life story. Meanwhile an invasive interrogation by a team of doctors forms the backbone to a lushly dramatised chronicle of Bruno Reidal’s life.

Bruno was born in rural Raulhac, Cantal (Auvergne) on June 12,1888, one of six children of modest but intelligent farming stock, his formal and undemonstrative parents were hard-working, his father would die before  Bruno even reached puberty. Taking over farming duties one summer’s day Bruno suffers a coup de soleil. And this along with the traumatic annual pig slaughter at the family farm makes an horrific impression on the boy’s rather sensitive frame of mind, seemingly turning his thoughts to matters macabre. All this is negativity is enforced by an unloving early sexual experience – he is interfered with by an old wayfarer one day in the fields and this becomes the blueprint for his obsessive need to masturbate connecting sexual pleasure with violent intent. His mother then sends him away to a Catholic seminary where the ascetic religious education sees Bruno continually haunted by terrible thoughts of killing and torturing his fellow students, and of course, masturbating. And then he meets fellow student Blondel.

The verdant rolling countryside of the Auvergne provides a glorious pastoral setting for this serene and solemnly paced drama, contrasting wildly with its cruel and murderous narrative and perverted central character of Bruno who we feel a strange pity for despite his cold and calculating personality. MT

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

Medusa (2021) Quinzaine – Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Anita Rocha da Silveira | Cast: Bruna Linzmayer, Thiago Fragoso, Lara Tremouroux, Mariana Oliveira | Brazil horror 127′

Woman are supposed to be the fairer and more gentle sex. But not according to Medusa. This psychedelic female-centric psychodrama makes florid use of magic realism to expose the rank hypocrisy still rife in modern day Brazil through a group of friends who pretend to be morally whiter than white. Of course, quite the opposite is true as we discover in this trenchant take down of hyper-feminism and religious devotion under right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro.

In her follow-up to Mata Me For Favor (2015) Anita Rocha da Silveira’s jagged sociopolitical satire is an eye-popping yet strangely serene selection of episodes that invite us to take a walk on the wild side with its unusual characters – mostly women – who occasionally break loose when they’re not being ultra demure. The reason is to attack other women who they consider  out of order on religious or moral grounds.

Medusa kicks off with a mob scene that sees masked women at war with each other, accusing them of debauchery, during a blackout in the north-east of Brazil. The women have a band, ‘The Princesses’, which preaches obedience to men and eternal love for God. The narrative is centred around the lead singer of ‘The Princesses’, Michele (Tremoroux), and newcomer Mariana (Oliveira). The men form a cabal called ‘The Watchmen’, clad all in bright green. The spiritual leader is the narcissistic Pastor Guilherme (Fragoso), who loves the sound of his own voice.

Mari sets out to find Melissa Garcia (Linzmeyer), an actress, who, some time ago, suffered an acid attack at the hands of ‘an angel-like woman’. Both have since disappeared. Bible reading and book-burning go hand in hand, whilst at the same time – in a contradictory twist – the women must be immaculate dressed and coiffured. Disfigured by a tragic accident Mari is then sacked from her job at the beauty clinic, and work in a sinister clinic caring for comatose victims of plastic surgery, where she falls for a male nurse Lucas (Fazao), even though he is one of the ‘wordy’ men because he enjoys sex.

But Guilherme suffers a heart attack whilst exorcising a demon stage, but is saved. Whilst Mari finds clues to what happened to Melissa, Michele becomes embroiled in a fight with members of her band, and falls into a pond. After a passionate kiss with Mari, a grand finale will answer some of the many open questions, after Guilherme asks Michele to marry her and the latter refuses.

Medusa is all about grand theatre: its shock factor fired up by a potent brew of horror and over-the-top performances. DoP João Atala has a field day with his roving camera in a film that overstays its welcome in the final stretch. Da Silva certainly drives home her message, but less would have been more. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

 

 

Cannes Classics 2021

As every year, the Festival de Cannes presents a selection of the best restored prints and invites us to explore again the history of Cinema.

The curtain rises with Mark Cousins’ pre-opening documentary; the rediscovery of director-actor Kinuyo Tanaka and Spanish director actress, screenwriter and producer Ana Mariscal; a tribute to director and actor Bill Duke; a close-up on the first African-American director Oscar Micheaux; the 1959 Palme d’Or; the 70th anniversary of Les Cahiers du cinéma; the modesty of Jacques Doillon; two wonders from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger; Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation and the World Cinema Project; Tilda Swinton’s first role; cinema from the Ivory Coast, former Yugoslavia, Italy and former Czechoslovakia; Alain Resnais’s film at Cannes in 1966; Irène Jacob by Krzysztof Kieślowski and Jeanne Moreau by Philippe de Broca; some French thriller; “soviet” films welcomed in competition at Cannes; Orson Welles’s magic, the style of Max Ophüls; four outstanding documentaries on the great producer Jeremy Thomas, Satoshi Kon, Luis Buñuel and Yves Montand; a docudrama full of cinephile fury; and twenty years later, the unsolved mystery of Mulholland Drive…

Here is Cannes Classics 2021

A Tribute to Bill Duke

The director, actor (for John McTiernan, Samuel Fuller, John Landis or Steven Soderbergh) and producer, in Competition at Cannes with A Rage in Harlem in 1991, returns to the Croisette with his first film as director, presented at the Semaine de la critique in 1985.

THE KILLING FLOOR by Bill Duke (1985, 1h58, United States)

Presented by Made in U.S.A. Productions, Inc. The UCLA Film & Television Archive facilitated in-house 4K scanning of the film’s 16mm original picture negative, which is vaulted in the Archive’s Sundance Institute Collection. Under the supervision of film’s executive producer/co-writer, Elsa Rassbach, Made in U.S.A. Productions completed the 4K restoration with color grading by Alpha-Omega digital in Munich and Planemo post-production in Berlin. In addition, the soundtrack was digitally restored by Deluxe Entertainment Services Group from the film’s original 35 mm audio mono mix mag track. The film was restored in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Chicago Race Riot.

Director Bill Duke and executive producer and co-screenwriter Elsa Rassbach in attendance.

Kinuyo Tanaka, actress and filmmaker

Kinuyo Tanaka, one of the greatest Japanese actresses, made her first film in 1953, entering the Cannes Competition in 1954. She returned in 1961 and 1964 as a performer. She was the only active filmmaker of the golden age of Japanese cinema and her second feature film, presented here, is a reflection of her immense talent. This new version restored in 4k by Nikkatsu inaugurates the Tanaka event, a forthcoming retrospective of her 6 films.

Tsuki wa noborinu – THE MOON HAS RISEN by Kinuyo Tanaka (1955, 1h42, Japan)

Presented by Nikkatsu and distributed in France by Carlotta Films.
Restored from the original 35mm positive preserved by Nikkatsu Corporation. 4K restoration by Nikkatsu Corporation and The Japan Foundation at Imagica Entertainment Media Services, Inc laboratory.

Ana Mariscal, Spain in the feminine form

Pioneer director of Iberian cinema, Spanish actress, screenwriter and producer Ana Mariscal directed ten rich films, as non-conformist as they are visually splendid. As a foretaste of her work, here is a nostalgic chronicle of a modest Spanish village in the 1960s.

EL CAMINO – The Path by Ana Mariscal (1964, 1h31, Spain)

Presented by David García Rodríguez. 4K digitalization and restoration supervised by Ramón Lorenzo Sierra from the original edited negative and vintage dupe. Sound restoration from the original sound negative. Laboratory: Vivavision (Madrid). Theatrical distribution in France: Karmafilms Distribution. Release in France: October 2021. On video in France: UHD collector edition, November 2021.

Oscar Micheaux

The first African-American director in the history of American cinema is honored in a sublime restored copy of one of his greatest films accompanied by a fascinating documentary.

MURDER IN HARLEM by Oscar Micheaux (1935, 1h36, United States)

Presented by Cineteca di Bologna. Restored in 2021 by the George Eastman Museum and Cineteca di Bologna in association with the Film Foundation, Quoiat Films and Sky from a 35mm nitrate print in the SMU/Tyler Film Collection, SMU Libraries, deposited at the George Eastman Museum. Restoration performed at George Eastman Museum Film Preservation Services and L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. Followed by:

Oscar Micheaux – The Superhero of Black Filmmaking by Francesco Zippel (1h20, Italy) – Director Francesco Zippel in attendance

Orfeu Negro, Palme d’or in 1959

The Cannes Film Festival continues to explore the Palmes d’Or that have marked its history. This year, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice will be revisited by Marcel Camus in Brazil and set to music by Antônio Carlos Jobim to bossa nova, samba and jazz. Dazzling.

ORFEU NEGRO – Black Orpheus by Marcel Camus 1959, 1h45,

Presented by Solaris Distribution. Presented by Impex Films and Tigon Film Distributors. 4K digital restoration by Impex Films and Tigon Film Distributors with the help of the CNC, from the original 35mm negative. Original monophonic sound digitized from a viewing print which was also used as reference for color grading. Laboratory: Hiventy Classics. Theatrical distribution in France: Solaris Distribution, to be released in France by the second semester of 2021.

Rossellini and Les Cahiers du cinema

While the Cineteca di Bologna continues its visit to Rossellini’s work, the Cahiers du cinéma celebrate their history in Cannes. André Bazin, the co-founder of the magazine was even a member of the Jury in 1954 and kept a diary recounting this experience.To celebrate the anniversary of the mythical monthly, what better way than to screen a film by Roberto Rossellini? He was assisted by François Truffaut, Bazin considered him a major figure in the same way as Renoir, Hitchcock or Hawks and this work signed by the Italian director was reviewed in the first issue in April 1951.

FRANCESCO – GIULLARE DI DIO – The Flowers of St. Francis) by Roberto Rossellini (1950, 1h27, Italy)

Presented by Cineteca di Bologna and The Film Foundation. Restored in 2021 by Cineteca di Bologna and The Film Foundation, in association with RTI-Mediaset and Infinity+, at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. Restoration funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation.

All the restored films of Cannes Classics 2021

LA DRôLESSE (The Hussy) by Jacques Doillon (1978, 1h30, France)

Presented by Malavida. 2k scan and restoration made from the negative image, by Éclair Cinéma laboratory. Sound restored from the negative by L.E. Diapason. Restoration made by Gaumont with the support of the CNC. In preview of the retrospective « Jacques Doillon, jeune cinéaste » starting on November 3rd 2021.
Director Jacques Doillon in attendance

I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING ! by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
(1945, 1h32, United Kingdom)

Presented by the Film Foundation. Restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation in association with ITV and Park Circus. Restoration funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. Additional support provided by Matt Spick.

LUMUMBA: LA MORT DU PROPHETE  (Lumumba: Death of a Prophet) by Raoul Peck (1990, 1h09, France / Germany / Switzerland / Belgium / Haiti)

Presented by The Film Foundation within the framework of the World Cinema Project. Restored by the The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata/L’Image Retrouvée in collaboration with Velvet Film and supervised by Raoul Peck. Funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. This restoration is part of the African Film Heritage Project, an initiative created by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers and UNESCO – in collaboration with Cineteca di Bologna – to help locate, restore, and disseminate African cinema.

FRIENDSHIP’S DEATH by Peter Wollen – (1987, 1h18, United Kingdom)

Presented by the British Film Institute (BFI). The 4K remastering by the BFI National Archive was from the original Standard 16mm colour negative. The soundtrack was digitised directly from the original 35mm final mix magnetic master track. The remastering was undertaken in collaboration with the film’s producer, Rebecca O’Brien and cinematographer, Witold Stok.

Actress Tilda Swinton in attendance

BAL POUSSIERE by Henri Duparc – (1989, 1h33, Ivory Coast)

Presented by the CNC and the Henri Duparc Foundation. Restoration of the original 16mm negative image by the CNC laboratory. 2K scan. Color grading: Hiventy. Sound restoration from the original 16mm magnetic: L’Image retrouvée.

THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE  by Krzysztof Kieślowski (1991, 1h38, France / Poland)

Presented by MK2. Restoration carried out by Hiventy from the original negative in 4K, supervised by director of photography Sławomir Idziak. Theatrical distribution in France by Potemkine.
Actress Irène Jacob in attendance

F FOR FAKE by Orson Welles (1973, 1h25, France/ Iran / Germany)

Presented by Les Films de L’Astrophore and La Cinémathèque française in collaboration with Documentaire sur grand écran. Restored by Les Films de L’Astrophore and La Cinémathèque française in collaboration with Documentaire sur grand écran, the Cinémathèque suisse and the Audiovisual institute of Monaco, with the support of Hiventy and the company foundation Neuflize OBC. Restoration work, image and sound made by the Hiventy laboratory, from the original negative and at L.E. Diapason Studio from the 35mm magnetic track.

YASHAGAIKE (Demon Pond) by Masahiro Shinoda (1979, 2h04, Japan)

Presented by Shochiku. Digital remaster by Shochiku Co., Ltd. For the 4K remaster, the original 35mm negative was provided by Shochiku, sound remastered by Shochiku MediaWorX Inc. and the image remaster conducted by Imagica Entertainment Media Services, Inc. French distribution in theaters: Carlotta Films.

LA GUERRE EST FINIE  (The War is Over) by Alain Resnais. (1966, 2h01, France)

Presented by Gaumont. First digital restoration in 4K presented by
Gaumont with the support of the CNC. Restoration made by Éclair Classics laboratory.

ÉCHEC AU PORTEUR (Not Delivered) by Gilles Grangier, (1957, 1h27, France)

Presented by Pathé. 4K scan and 2K restoration from the original safety negative (negative image, a standard dupe, a negative optical sound). Work made by L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory (Paris-Bologne). Restoration with the support of the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC).

CHERE LOUISE (Louise) by Philippe de Broca (1972, 1h45, France / Italy)

Presented by TF1 Studio. New 4K restored version by TF1 Studio and Warner Bros. from the original negative image. Digital work made by Vdm laboratory in 2021. Theatrical release to come: Les Acacias. Blu-ray collector release: Coin de Mire.

Napló gyermekeimnek (Diary for my children) by Márta Mészáros
(1983, 1h49, Hungary)

Presented by National Film Institute Hungary – Film Archive. The 4K digital restoration was carried out as part of ‘The long-term restoration program of Hungarian film heritage” of the National Film Institute – Film Archive. The restoration was made using the original image negatives and magnetic tape sound, it was carried out at the National Film Institute- Filmlab. The Digital grading was supervised by Nyika Jancsó, DOP of the film.
Director Márta Mészáros and DOP Nyika Jancsó in attendance

Až přijde kocour (The Cassandra Cat) by Vojtech Jasný
(1963, 1h45, Czech Republic)

Presented by the Národní filmový archiv, Prague. 4K digital restoration based on the intermediate positive was done by L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Bologna, 2021. The donors of this project were Mrs. Milada Kučerová and Mr. Eduard Kučera. Restored in partnership with the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. French distribution: Malavida Films.
Actress Emília Vašáryová in attendance

MONANIEBA (Repentance) by Tenguiz Abouladzé
(1984, 2h33, Georgia)

Presented by Georgian National Film Center. Interpositive: goskinofond. 4K scan and color grading: UPP Prague. Digital restoration, sound work and DCP: Studio Phonographe, Tbilissi. Funding: Georgian National Film Center.
Actor Avtandil Makharadze and screenwriter Nana Janelidze in attendance

Dan četrnaesti (The Fourteenth Day) by Zdravko Velimirovic

(1960, 1h41, Montenegro / Serbia)
Presented by Crnogorska kinoteka, Podgorica & Jugoslovenska kinoteka, Belgrade. Digitally restored film from a 2K scan of the original black & white negative.

IL CAMMINO DELLA SPERANZA (The Path of Hope) de Pietro Germi
(1950, 1h45, Italy)

Presented by the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca Nazionale. Restored by Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca Nazionale from the original 35mm negative made available by
CristaldiFilm, completed by a dupe of the Cineteca Nazionale and optical sound of a positive by the Cineteca Nazionale.

LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN  (Lettre d’une inconnue) de Max Ophüls (1948, 1h27, United-States)

4k restoration from the original negative image and a 35mm positive. Sound restoration from the original negative. Work done by Technicolor for the image and Chace Audio by Deluxe for the sound, under the supervision of Paramount Pictures Preservation.
Theatrical release by La Rabbia, february 2022.

MULHOLLAND DRIVE by David Lynch – (2001, 2h25, United-States)

Presented by Studiocanal. Restoration made by Criterion and Studiocanal from the original negative, scan in 4K at Fotokem, sound remastering from the original 5.1 sound. Sound and image were validated by David Lynch, in Cinéma and HDR format. French distribution by Studiocanal, with a theatrical release and a collector Blu-Ray UHD box set.

Cannes Classics 2021 : the documentaries

THE STORMS OF JEREMY THOMAS by Mark Cousins (1h29, UK)

A yearly drive with the famous British producer Jeremy Thomas from London to Cannes, on his way to the… Festival de Cannes. A life in the service of cinema, a journey towards the discovery of new films and talents in the company of the cinephile director and author Mark Cousins.
Presented by David P. Kelly Films. Produced by David P. Kelly with Creative Scotland, Tim Macready and Visit Films.
Jeremy Thomas and Mark Cousins in attendance.

SATOSHI CON, l’illusionniste by Pascal-Alex Vincent
(1h21, France/Japan)

A subtle portrait of Japanese director Satoshi Kon by the specialist of Japanese cinema Pascal-Alex Vincent and a dive into a rich work. With interviews of the greatest Japanese, French and American directors inspired by his work.
Presented by Eurospace and Genco (Tokyo) in collaboration with Carlotta Films et Allerton Films (Paris).
Director Pascal-Alex Vincent in attendance

Buñuel, A SURREALIST CINEASTE by Javier Espada
(1h23, Spain)

Luis Buñuel and the Festival de Cannes is a great love story – the theater where the films of Cannes Classics are screened is called Buñuel itself. The documentary is filled with culture and is dedicated to the screenwriter, who was so close to the Spanish filmmaker and wrote many films with him, Jean-Claude Carrière. The documentary brilliantly explores the themes of the genius filmmaker.
Presented by Tolocha producciones.
Director Javier Espada in attendance

ALL ABOUT YVES MONTANT by Yves Jeuland
(1h40, France.)

As an actor in Le Salaire de la peur (Grand Prix in 1953) or in La Guerre est finie presented this year, President of the Jury in 1987 (Maurice Pialat received the Palme d’or), Yves Montand has left a mark on the Festival de Cannes. Yves Montand has left a mark as strong in cinema as in music hall. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 30th anniversary of his death, Montand est à nous is an exceptional documentary.
Written by Yves Jeuland and Vincent Josse.
Presented by Zadig Productions. Film produced by Zadig Productions, in coproduction with Diaphana Films, with the participation of France Télévisions.
Director Yves Jeuland and co-writer Vincent Josse in attendance,

Et J’AIME A LA FUREUR (Flickering Ghosts of Love Gone By) by André Bonzel (1h50, France)

A very personal self-portrait of André Bonzel, co-director of the cult film C’est arrivé près de chez vous, based on images from amateur films that he has always collected, including some shot by his great-great-grandfather, a familiar face of the Lumière brothers. A unique, moving film that tells the story of a family cinephilia over several generations, set to music by Benjamin Biolay.
Produced by Les films du Poisson.
Director André Bonzel in attendance

CANNES CLASSICS | Cannes Film Festival 6- 18 July 2021

Olga (2021) Semaine de la Critique | Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir: Elie Grappe | Wri: Elie Grappe, Raphaelle Desplechin | Cast: Nastya Budiashkina, Sabrina Rubtsova, Jérôme Martin

It’s 2013 and a 15-year-old gymnast is torn between Switzerland – where she is training for the European Championship in preparation for the Olympics – and Ukraine, where her widowed mother is a controversial anti-government journalist, reporting on the Euromaiden revolt.

As much a sports film as a character drama Grappe and his co-writer Raphaelle Desplechin (sister of Arnaud) keep dialogue lowkey leaving the film’s strong visual aesthetic to drive the story forward, Lucie Baudinaud’s widescreen camerawork making the locations – particularly of the built environment – a star of the show, adding a strong docudrama feel to the feature along with the ample news footage of the ongoing riots that enforce in Olga a strong sense of national pride, despite her new Suisse nationality.

The female centric narrative portrays the tough physical and emotional challenges women face in their careers. It all gets off to a stunning start when Olga and her mother’s car is hit by an unidentified object on the way to dinner one night, spinning out of control in the centre of Kiev. This sets the tone for a feisty confrontation over their respective work priorities. Olga also has a fraught relationship with her French trainer who works her hard, but draws firm boundaries – the training rapport is similar to that in the recent Slalom

When she’s not training tough cookie Olga (a strong-featured Anastasia Budiashkina) must study and speak French with her fellow elite gymnasts and it’s during these online sessions that she sees her mother caught up in the violence back home, pictured in new clips. Although she channels her negative emotions into her training routines the stress clearly has a destabilising affect on the resilient teenager but often erupts into violence in the changing rooms amongst the other girls. A fiercely feminist film that packs a punch with its intense storyline and appealing visual aesthetic. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE 2021

 

The Story of Film: A New Generation Cannes Film Festival (2021)

Dir/Wri: Mark Cousins | Doc, UK 160′

A decade after The Story of Film: An Odyssey, comes Mark Cousins’ latest deep dive inquiry into the state of filmmaking in the 21st century. The Story of Film: A New Generation, sees Cousins focus on the past decade in a fascinating reflection on world cinema from 2010 to 2021. The film opens with Joker and Frozen showing the transformative power and its ability to bring stories from the desperate and disenfranchised on the world stage. Cemetery of Splendor features heavily in this exploration of recurring themes and emerging motifs, from the evolution of film language, to technology’s role in moviemaking today, to shifting identities in 21st-century world cinema.

Cousins’ research is encyclopaedic as he confidently talks us through a staggering array of films – not just from the last ten years but reconnecting to examples that demonstrate connections with the past that have influenced filmmakers of the present and future. Rather like fashion and architecture, cinema is an eternal reimagining of what has gone before marking out trends and themes only to reinvent them to appeal to a new generation, weaving in historical touchstones such as Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter as the world responds to its environment.

Plundering the archives for those iconic features there is everything from Jonathan Glazer’s visually and thematically groundbreaking Under the Skin to reworked upstairs/downstairs satires such as Parasite and Us which explores the dark and light sides of the human psyche through the an invasion thriller. In With films like Lover’s Rock and Moonlight Cousins identifies films, filmmakers and communities under-represented in traditional film histories, with a particular emphasis on Asian and Middle Eastern works, as well as boundary-pushing documentaries and films that see gender in new ways.

The streaming age has taken us from ‘cinema on show’ to ‘cinema on demand’. Cousins tracks the latest trends of the digital age with viewers calling the shots, a trend accelerated in the light of the recent pandemic. He looks forward to the future but what remains is a recurring motif that drives cinema forward: our profound desire to escape and travel beyond the ordinary, or see ourselves reflected through the medium of the silver screen as we are transported to a place of wonder and euphoria.

The Story of Film: a New Generation will be showcased to the press and festival attendees in the afternoon of Tuesday, July 6th in the Debussy Theatre of the Palais des Festivals.

Babi Yar. Context (2021) Ukrainian Conflict

Dir: Sergei Loznitsa | Documentary, 120 min, b/w and colour, 2021 | The Netherlands, Ukraine

History comes back to haunt us in this recent documentary from Ukraine’s Sergei Loznitsa. It reconstructs the events leading up to the massacre of over 30,000 Jews in German-occupied Kyiv in September 1941, and the aftermath of the tragedy and other genocides committed by the German Army, Gestapo and SS soldiers during the occupation of  Ukraine between 1941 and 1943. The prolific Ukrainian documentarian also mentions the collaboration of the huge majority of Ukrainian citizens in the crimes. His aim is to “plunge the viewer into the atmosphere of the time”.

 

After the invasion of Soviet Ukraine by German in June 1941, the vast majority of Ukrainians actually supported the invaders. Banners were put up, proclaiming “Glory for Hitler and Melinek”. In Lviv (formerly Lemberg), Ukrainian Auxiliary Forces helped to round up Jewish citizens of the city on 1st of July. The Jews were accused of collaboration with Soviet Forces and the Secret Police of the NKDW. A month later, the population greeted Hans Frank, the General Governor of Poland, to celebrate the incorporation of Galicia into the German controlled governance with Poland.

Hitler salutes of the Ukrainians, coming across as entirely genuine, and the women dance enthusiastically in their traditional costumes. Ukrainian men parade on horses, and the women offer up their flowery tributes to the Nazi leader. Banners again proclaim “Long Live Adolf Hitler the Leader of the German people”. Flags with the Nazi Party symbol are put on trams, so are photos of Hitler, proclaiming him the Liberator of ‘the Ukraine’.

On Monday, 24th of June 1941, all Jews in Kyiv are ordered to gather at 8 am at the corner of Melnikova and Dokterivska Street, bringing their valuables and warm clothing. The proclamation is stark: “all Jews not obeying will be shot immediately.” “Citizens breaking into Jews’ homes will be shot”. On September 29/30 the ‘Sonderkommando 4a of the ‘Einsatzgruppe C, assisted by two battalions of the Police Regiment South and the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police – without any resistance from the local population – shoot 33, 771 Jews in a ravine in north-west Kyiv. The local press celebrates the massacre, talking to about 150 000 Jews who have left the capital, so that hour by hour, life in the city can revert to normal: “Kyiv is liberated from oriental barbarians, finally a new life begins.” The Jews of Lubny, Poltava, Kharkov, Kremchug, Borispol and Lugotin among others, will follow. Vasily Grosman talks mournfully about the centuries of Ukrainians and Jews living peaceful together.

In November 1943 Soviet troops re-take Kiyv, not many turn out to greet the liberators. Courts hear cases of genocide, one is simply called Nr. 1679. One of the accused is SS man Hans Isenmann, his military rank would be Sergeant. He goes into details of the murders as if describing a sporting event, in which he played a winning part. “I had to round up and shoot Jews. We divided them into groups of seventy to ninety, then later into smaller groups with six men to be shot, and six to be guarded. In the end, 45 to 50 were led to the ravine. We used one machine gun, two sub-machine guns and rifles. I shot with the sub-machine gun of Unterscharführer Rennert and killed 120 Jews. The valuables of the Jews were collected by Special Commandos, but I do not know what happened afterwards.”

Witness Dina Pronicheva, an actress, told of her narrow escape – so many things had to go according to plan for her to be able to serve as a witness. She lied to a Ukrainian policeman, so she would not be shot immediately, but could sit with a group of women near the massacres, hoping to escape in the evening. But a German commando picked up the whole group, and led them to the ravine to be shot. Pronicheva jumped at the right moment and landed on the pile of corpses. Then the Germans scattered soil over the dead, and Pronicheva nearly suffocated. The Germans, wanting to keep the massacre ‘under wraps’, sent a commando unit down into the ravine to kill off the few who were still breathing. One of the SS men stood on Pronicheva’s chest and arm, the nails in his boots piercing her skin. By now it was dark, and she managed to crawl out from under the rotting corpses, the Germans had gone and she fled into the night.

On February 2nd 1946, thirteen men were hanged publicly on Kyiv”s Kalinin Square. Among them was Hans Isenmann. About 1.4. million Jews were murdered in Ukraine; even now new mass graves continue to surface. The ravine of Babi Yar is now a reservoir for liquid industrial waste.

Loznitsa’s impressive ‘Trauerarbeit’ seems even more relevant at a time when some want to re-write history and emerge as the sole victims in today’s new conflict. But like in the case of the Baltic States, mass graves do not lie.

BABI YAR. CONTEXT is Loznitsa’s 7th film presented in the Official Selection of the Festival de Cannes. Loznitsa decribes his feature as “a film about our past, it’s about our present and, possibly, about our future.” Sadly his words have come true. AS

Produced with the support of the BABYN YAR HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL FOUNDATION. The film screened in the Séance Spéciale strand of the 74th edition of Cannes Film Festival.

Drive my Car (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir/Wri: Ryusuke Hamaguchi | Cast Hidetoshi Nishijima, Toko Miura, Masaki Okada, Reika Kirishima, Park Yurim, Jin Daeyeon | Drama, Japan

Ryusuke Hamaguchi follows Wheel of Fortune and Fame with another thoughtful love story this time Hidetishi Nishijimia is Yusuke Kafuku, a stage actor and director preparing to direct Uncle Vanja at a theatre festival in Hiroshima.

Daily rides to and from work in a stylish red Saab with his shy young driver Misaki (Miura) provide a safe space to share his feelings as a tentative relationship develops between the two lonely hearts as secrets from the past and heartfelt confessions gradually surface.

Based on the short story Drive My Car in Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami, the Japanese director is still riding high on his feature Wheel of Fortune and Fame that won a Silver Bear earlier this year at Berlinale 2021. Once again this explores loneliness and the intense human need to share and be understood. Kafuku is a passionate and highly relatable character whose professional skills and strong sense of self belie his deep longing for a kindred soul to complete his happiness.

Modest in terms of his material needs Kafuku has a complex psyche with a rich emotional inner world and his soul is often laid bare during intimate chats with female chauffeur Misaki. She is a woman whose harsh and extreme life has afforded her a maturity beyond her years. And although the two comes are from different generations Hamaguchi’s textured script and layered characterisations show them to be highly intuitive and emotional intelligent.

The film’s ample running time allow for an indepth understanding of what it is to be lonely while also a complete human being from a intellectual and professional point of view. It’s a subtle, engrossing and enjoyable piece of cinema showing Hamaguchi at the top of his game as one of the world’s leading auteurs

 

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | WINNER | BEST SCRIPT 2021

 

A Radiant Girl (2021) Semaine de la Critique

Dir/Wri: Sandrine Kiberlain | Cast: Rebecca Marder, Ben Attal, India Hair, André Marcon, Anthony Bajon and Florence Viala.

Garlanded actress Sadrine Kiberlain makes her debut behind the camera with this wartime drama about a young Jewish woman living in Paris in the early days of the German occupation in 1942.

Comédie-Française actress Rebecca Marder who recently starred in Spring Blossom, the debut feature of Kiberlain’s daughter Suzanne Lindon. She plays 19-year-old Irene whose passion for acting is only dimmed by the shadow of war.

Far too often cinema pictures the plight of Jews under the Nazis, the latter dominating, the production design getting the lion share of the budget, the victims very much stereotypes. Kiberlain offers a refreshingly different approach and appears to have solved the conundrum: her middle class Jewish family in the Parisian summer of 1942 lives under occupation, but the emblem of evil only appears for a few seconds.

Irene (Marder) is nineteen years old and lives with her older brother Igor (Bajon) in a flat with her grandmother Marceline (Widhoff) and Andre (Marcon), a father figure, Irene’s biological father is an unnamed “public accountant”. We learn this when Andre begs Irene’s drama tutor to classify her as “half Jewish” for the forthcoming audition for the Conservatoire of Dramatic Arts. By then we are more than half way through the film, which starts with rehearsals for Marivaux’s ‘La Meprise’ (The Misconception), in which Irene has a part as well as her love-interest Jo (Attal), who is also Jewish.

Irene is playful, the Marivaux rehearsals are much more dominant in her life than Marceline’s struggle: Andre had to go to the police to have a red “J” stamped in all of their identity-cards. The agnostic Marceline finally relents and gives Andre the documents, after hiding them. Andre is relieved: “Nothing will happen to us, we are French. I heard of Madame K. being arrested, but she was Polish”. Irene meanwhile feels dizzy and has fainting spells. Doctor V. prescribes vitamins and an eye test, conducted by Jacques (Metzger). Irene falls for him, since Jo has disappeared. Best friend Viviane (Hair) dresses up as a boy to take Jo’s place in the play.

When the day arrives for the results to be handed out much has changed: The families’ radio and binoculars have been confiscated, Andre finds a note asking him “to please enter the building by the backdoor”. At the bakery the family is not served: “sold out” says the shop assistant, with the racks bulging with baguettes. Igor’s long time girl friend Heloise suddenly cancels her invitation to spend the Shabbat with the family, and the only non-Jewish guest, Josiane (Viala), is no great help either: “I like Jews personally, and find other cultures interesting, like travelling”. Students share their dreams about what they will do if selected. Vivienne and Irene (now wearing the Yellow Star) have the highest hopes, when Vivienne spots something and the screen goes dark.

Kiberlain’s minimalist approach has been shot in contemporary Paris, focusing on the Germans’. psychological tactics of isolating Jews and leaving them in fear what will happen next. In spite of all this, A Radiant Girl is often playful like its titular character. We are reminded of Rivette’s La Bande des Quartre, with four treasure hunting young women also being in a Marivaux play: ‘La double Inconstance’.

Rebecca Marder is pitch-perfect: just hitting the right notes between romantic innocence and provocative wilfulness. DoP Guillaume Schiffman’s images capture the sunset of the family, conjuring  up a bourgeois Paris, where the victims are shunned by their own class. A passionate and mature debut. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

 

 

Amparo (2021) Cannes – Semaine de la Critique 2021

Dir/Wri: Simon Mesa Soto | Sandra Melissa Torres, Diego Alejandro Tobon, Luciana Gallego, John Jairo Montoya | Colombia, Drama 97′

In the early 1990s Medellín, in Colombia, was the most violent city in the world. The homicide rate reached unprecedented levels not least because of notorious cocaine baron Pablo Escobar who used Medellin as a base for his cartel. Young men were also being swept off the streets and drafted into an army, particularly in the poorest and most deprived parts of the city. And this is where Simon Mesa Soto’s feature debut Amparo takes place. It’s a cruel-eyed, claustrophobic drama that keeps a tight grip on its eponymous heroine, following her relentlessly through the backwaters of Colombia second largest city where she struggles to bring up two children from men long since gone. Her feisty mother is the backbone of the family with her finger on the pulse. The voice of Colombia’s strong matriarchal tradition she sums up her daughter’s life in a nutshell: two kids from two different fathers, one roaming the streets with no job and no money. She thinks the army may be the making of aimless Elias. But Amparo thinks differently, and Sandra Melissa Torres plays her with a gritty but glum sense of resignation.

Amparo is not a particularly likeable single mother. Worn down by the years of worry she couldn’t care less about her little daughter Karen (Gallego) but is devoted to her spoilt monosyllabic son Elias (Tobon) whose hopeless plight drives the story forward. In the opening scene he is being interrogated off camera by an officer from the army. Soon he will be transferred to a dangerous base in the southern outpost of Caqueta, rumoured to be a point of no return. Amparo will do everything in her power to keep him at home.

Simon de Soto Mesa establishes a sense of slow-burning steely determination in his world weary characters in this atmospheric first feature burnished by Juan Sarmiento’s voyeuristic camerawork that plays along with a secretive society built on transactional relationships, corruption and greed. Every single character is open to persuasion and manipulation in this dog eat dog world, but Amparo keeps her eye on the end game – to secure the release of her much loved son. And it’s a race against time where human nature is laid bare in all its depravity. But one thing stands out – a deal is a deal, even in Godforsaken Medellin. And Amparo must bargain with the men in control to let Elias go. And despite a rather predictable outcome this is an evocative thriller masterfully told. MT

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES 2021

 

Prayers for the Stolen (2021) Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2021

Dir/Wri: Tatiana Huezo | Cast: Ana Cristina Ordonez Gonzalez, Marya Membreno, Norma Pablo, Mayra Batalla, Eileen Yanez, Emeo Villegas Olivia Lagunas | Drama 100′

Making its premiere at this year’s Un Certain Regard sidebar this lush and haunting tale of friendship and survival draws us into the vortex of oppression and fear felt by three girls growing up during wartime in rural Mexico.

Based on the 2014 novel by Jennifer Clement this is the latest human drama from Tatiana Huezo who has been quietly raising the profile of social and personal abuse for woman all over Latin America – from Civil War in El Salvador (in El Lugar mas pequeno in 2011) to human trafficking in Mexico (Tempestad (2016)). This is her third and most accomplished feature to date.

In a tight-knit community nestled in the Mexican mountains, we first meet eight year old Ana (Ordonez Gonzalez), digging a hole in the ground with her mother Rita (Batalla). Ana will hide here when the guerrilla soldiers come to kidnap the local girls. They will be turned into captives and slaves. In the bosky remote hillside violence is an everyday part of growing up. So Ana and her two friends create their own impenetrable parallel universe where they play at being women, comforting each other with an affectionate bond of friendship, singing and painting their lips with beetroot. Soon Ana’s long hair will be cut into a boyish crop to avoid detection. On lonely days she hides out in the empty houses of villagers who have long disappeared or fled, such as Juana and Don Pancho, whose abandoned flock of cows now roams free in the village.

Strong on atmosphere the film is cinematic study of what it means to grow up as a girl in a hostile environment where men are almost constantly the enemy. Ana’s father is supposedly working on the other side of the valley but he has not sent money back for several years and so Ana and her mother are forced to fend for themselves on the brink of poverty. One surreal scene pictures Rita desperately trying to get a mobile signal on the top of a mountain, along the other abandoned women whose ‘phones light up the darkness like mini torches in the gloom.

Five years later, at thirteen, the girls become teenagers as they face the harsh reality of what being a woman really entails in this toxic climate of war and macho culture. Abstract danger becomes an inescapable threat, as a Russian roulette plays out one day when soldiers arrive to take Ana, forcing her into the dugout as her mother is threatened with death.

Some films are moving but this rich character drama is actually harrowing too, as we become emotionally invested in the girls’ story, joining them in their descent into traumatised hell as a daily experience. The casual involuntary abuse from Ana’s mother is echoed by the disorientating fear she feels from the outside threat. Ana – both as a child and a teenager – is impressively performed by two newcomers (Ordonez Gonzalez and Membreno), and is matched by Huezo’s assured direction and luminous camerawork by Dariela Ludlow. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD | Cannes Film Festival 2021

 

 

Compartment Number 6 (2021)

Dir: Juho Kuosmanen | Cast: Yuriy Borisov, Seidi Haarla, Dinara Drukarova, Vladimir Lysenko | Finland, Drama 107′

Compartment Number 6 sees two unlikely strangers thrown together in a train journey from Moscow to the Arctic Circle port of Murmansk.

Inspired by Rosa Liksom’s award-winning novel this two-hander needs charismatic support from his cast to keep us entertained for nearly two hours. And it certainly gets it, in the shape of Russian actor Yuriy Borisov and Finland’s Seidi Haarla, who won Best Actress for her role at Cannes 2021. A feisty chemistry soon develops between the world-weary Laura, and the maverick miner Ljoha as the film flies from the confines of the original page with a Lesbian twist bringing this upbeat and playfully imaginative road movie right up to date.

Finnish director John Kuosmanen was last in Cannes to win the top prize at Un Certain Regard with his black and white debut feature, boxing drama The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, This is a more contained drama – we don’t get much in the way of scenery as the train chugs its way north, instead the camera is close up and personal as the two become acquainted in the cramped compartment number 6. Vadim’s coarse behaviour and disgusting eating habits sees Laura retreating into the dinner carriage or onto the platform on the train’s frequent stops. And it’s here that we get a flavour of a Russia still reeling from Sovietism where Finnish archeologist Laura has been studying Russian at Moscow University. She now wants to spread her wings and explore the rock formations (petroglyphs) around the Barents Sea, on a break from her lover Irina (Dinara Drukarova). Their affair is finally severed during a telephone chat during a train stop in St Petersburg station.

The journey is eventful with various newcomers breaking the tedium of the shared compartment: a woman with bawling kids is not so welcome, and a guitar playing drifter is not want he seems. Down in the dumps Laura then warms to Ljoha’s invitation to spend the night in his foster mother’s house, at an overnight stop, enabling her to see a different side to the rough and ready vodka drinker with surprising effect.

Ljoha is also going to Murmansk for work reasons and cannot fathom why Laura would want to go there for pleasure during the Russian winter – it’s still early March. And when the train finally grinds into the station the two part company, at least for a while.

The film really takes off in the final part when the unsophisticated couple embark on another journey – this time into unknown and perilous territory. Once again Kuosmanen offers up a rumbustious feelgood film, not quite as visually alluring as his first feature, with the same touching joie de vivre and an atmospheric score of 1980s hits: rousing French tune “Voyage Voyage” by Desireless, topping the bill. MT

NOW ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

Cannes Selection…now complete

There are always a few last minute additions to the official film line-up at Cannes Film Festival, and today Thierry Fremaux completed the Official Selection for the 74th ‘all live edition’ running from 5 -18 July 2021with FROM AFRICA WITH LOVE. Nicolas Bedos, Jean Dujardin and Pierre Niney star in the Final Screening of the 74th Festival de Cannes!

By renaming the closing film as the “Final Screening”, the Festival de Cannes aims to rekindle the tradition of the last screening, drawing inspiration from huge evening galas gone by like the screening of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (in the old Palais in 1982) or Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise (in the new Palais in 1991).

This year, the 74th Festival will round off with the premier of the latest chapter in the adventures of Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, code name OSS 117, played by Jean Dujardin who will appear onscreen alongside Fatou N’Diaye, Pierre Niney, Natacha Lindinger and the late Wladimir Yordanoff.

Gaspar Noe is back with a docu-drama Vortex, starring Dario Argento, and focusing on the final days of an elderly couple. Press queued all evening at the Marriott Hotel for his previous film Climax in 2018, but this – by its very nature – promises to be a more sober affaire, although with Argento at the helm one never knows.

Once again the films are distinctly Gallic in flavour with three music-themed outings joining the party: TraLaLa is a musical comedy from Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu, and Supremes looks at the French band NTM, directed by Audrey Estrougo. Of the Special screenings New Worlds, The Cradle of a Civilisation is Andrew Muscato’s musical documentary, set in Athens, Greece. It captures the final performance of Bill Murray and Jan Vogler’s European “New Worlds” tour.

Mi iubta Mon amour is the directorial debut of actor-turned-filmmaker Noemie Merlant whose smouldering performance in Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire was one of the highlights of Cannes 2019.

For his latest film Where is Anne Frank? the Oscar-nominated Israeli animator Ari Folman has gained special access to the diaries of the tragic young Jewish girl who went into hiding in wartime Holland. Seen through the eyes of her imaginary friend Kitty, to whom Anne dedicated her diary, she wakes up in contemporary Amsterdam and tries to find Anne in modern day Europe. The film plays out of competition.

Mes Freres Et Moi by Yohan Manca completes the line-up at the Un Certain Regard sidebar.

Jodie Foster will receive an honorary Palme d’Or. Spike Lee will preside over the Jury, and the world premiere of Annette with Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard will open proceedings.

OUT OF COMPETITION

Where is Anne Frank ? by Ari Folman (Israel)

Animated film

CANNES PREMIERE

Vortex by Gaspar Noé (Argentina – Italy)

starring Dario Argento, Françoise Lebrun and Alex Lutz

UN CERTAIN REGARD

Mes frères et moi by Yohan Manca (France)

starring Sofian Khammes, Dali Benssalah, Judith Chemla, Maël Rouin Berrandou

First feature

MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS

Tralala by Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu (France)

starring Mathieu Amalric, Mélanie Thierry, Bertrand Belin, Maïwenn, Josiane Balasko, Denis Lavant

Suprêmes by Audrey Estrougo (France)

starring Théo Christine, Sandor Funtek

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Bill Murray’s party: New Worlds, the cradle of a civilization by Andrew Muscato (Greece-USA)

starring Bill Murray and the musicians from New Worlds: Jan Vogler, Mira Wang and Vanessa Perez

Mi iubita, Mon amour by Noémie Merlant (France)

starring Gimi-Nicolae Covaci and Noémie Merlant

First feature

Les Héroïques by Maxime Roy (France)

starring François Creton, Richard Bohringer, Ariane Ascaride, Clotilde Courau, Patrick D’Assumçao

First feature

Are you lonesome tonight ? by Wen Shipei (China)

starring Sylvia Chang, Eddie Peng

First feature

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | 6 – 18 JULY 2021

 

Directors’ Fortnight | Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (2021)

Cannes Film Festival is only weeks away and the Directors’ Fortnight selection has just been announced screening from 7 to 17 July 202. It’s surprising how many new filmmakers feature in this year’s slate with Britain’s Clio Barnard and Joanna Hogg joining the party with her sequel to her personal feature Souvenir (2019). 

Other noteworthy directors are Romania’s Radu Muntean (One Floor Below), Italy’s Alice Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro), who joins fellow directors Pietro Marcello (Martin Eden) and Francesco Munzi (Anime Neri) in a documentary portrait of Italy’s up and coming generation. Also to look forward to is the latest from Portuguese auteur Miguel Gomes (Arabian Nights).

A Chiara – Jonas Carpignano 98′

A Night of Knowing Nothing Payal Kapadia (debut) 90′

Ali & Ava – Clio Barnard 93′

Clara Sola – Nathalie Álvarez Mesen (debut) 108′

De bas étage (A Brighter Tomorrow) – Yassine Qnia (debut) 86′

Diários de Otsoga (The Tsugua Diaries) – Miguel Gomes, Maureen Fazendeiro 108′

El empleado y el patron (The Employer and the Employee) de Manuel Nieto Zas 108′

Entre les Vagues (The Braves) d’Anaïs Volpé | 99’1h39

Europa de Haider Rashid – 1h15

Futura de Pietro Marcello, Francesco Munzi, Alice Rohrwacher 105′

Întregalde – Radu Muntean – 1h44

Jadde khaki (Hit the Road) – Panah Panahi (Debut) 93′

Les Magnétiques (Magnetic Beats) de Vincent Maël Cardona (debut) 98′

Luaneshat e kodrës (The Hill where Lionesses Roar) de Luàna Bajrami
(debut) 82′

Medusa d’Anita Rocha da Silveira 127′ 2h07

Mon légionnaire (Our Men) de Rachel Lang 106′ Closing Film

Murina d’Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović (debut) 92′

Neptune Frost de Saul Williams, Anisia Uzeyman 105′

Ouistreham (Between Two Worlds) – Emmanuel Carrère 107′ Opening
1h47 – Film d’ouverture

Re Granchio (The Tale of King Crab) d’Alessio Rigo de Righi, Matteo Zoppis 90′

Retour à Reims (Fragments) – (Returning to Reims (Fragments) – Jean-Gabriel Périot 83′

The Souvenir Part II de Joanna Hogg – 106′
1h46

Yong an zhen gu shi ji (Ripples of Life) de Shujun Wei – 120′

The Sea Ahead d’Ely Dagher (debut) – 116′

SÉANCE SPECIALE
The Souvenir de Joanna Hogg – 120′

QUINZAINE DES REALISATEURS | 7 -17 JULY 2021

 

Petrov’s Flu (2021) | Cannes 2021

Dir: Kiril Serebrennikov | Cast: Semyon Serzin, Chulpan Khamatova, Yulia Boris and Yuri Kolokolnikov | USSR, Drama

Petrov’s Flu, the new film by Kirill Serebrennikov marks the third time in a row for the Russian director at the Cannes Film Festival, uniting him once again with Semyon Serzin, the star of his 2018 drama Leto. His standout thought-provoking religious drama The Student (2016) screened at Un Certain Regard and won that year’s Francois Chalais Award.

Based on the novel “The Petrovs In and Around the Flu” by Alexey Salnikov, PETROV’S FLU is a deadpan, hallucinatory romp through post-Soviet Russia. With the city in the throes of a flu epidemic, the Petrov family struggles through yet another day in a country where the past is never past, the present is a booze-fueled, icy fever dream of violence and tenderness, and where – beneath layers of the ordinary – things turn out to be quite extraordinary.

Set somewhere between reality and imagination, PETROV’S FLU is a visually arresting experience: rough, funny, violent and psychedelic, and yet tender and poetic. A tale that is going to stick in the viewer’s mind for a long time after the credits roll. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | COMPETITION

 

Cannes Film Festival | Programme 2021 announced

Thierry Fremaux looked proud and relaxed to confirm that the 74th Cannes Film Festival programme will go ahead from 6 – 17 July, two months later than its normal May edition.

Only one journalist looked on at the Paris Press conference as Thierry announced this year’s programme during a cosy chat with Festival president Pierre Lescure. The two Frenchmen laughed and bantered voluably – it seems that all is well on the Cote d’Azur, so far. It remains to be seen whether the British press corps and distributors will be able to make it due to government restrictions.

The twenty four films selected from almost 20,000 will include festival regulars Hong Sang-soo, Arnaud Desplechin, Mathieu Amalric, Asghar Farhadi and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Sean Penn will also be there with Flag Day  – his previous feature The Last Face screened to mass walkouts back in 2016.

Appropriately, female directors are there in force, and Spike Lee will finally get a chance to head up the main jury after last year’s fiasco was cancelled due to the pandemic.

French director Leos Carax is also back with the festival opener Annette – also in competition – his last Cannes feature was the astonishing Denis Lavant starring Holy Motors (2013, now a firm cult classic. And Finnish director Juho Kuosmenan whose breakout Un Certain Regard winner The Happiest Day in the Life of Olii Maki enters the main competition with Compartment Number 6. Justin Kurzel is also back with Nitram after his stunning version of Macbeth, in comp five years ago.

Britain will also feature with Andrea Arnold’s latest Cow, and Mothering Sunday, based on a novel by Graham Swift (who also wrote Last Orders and Waterland), forming part of the new Cannes Premiere strand, dedicated to first features.

From the US, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, will also finally get a premiere, after missing its chance last year. And Todd Haynes will be there with a new documentary The Velvet Underground. 

The Un Certain Regard sidebar, the home for edgier competition fare features Kagonada’s latest After Yang, Alexei German Jr’s follow up to Dovlatov, Delo (House Arrest) and Tatiana Huezo’s Noche de Fuego.

Competition

Annette – Leos Carax (also opening night film)
Benedetta – Paul Verhoeven
Bergman Island – Mia Hansen-Love
Drive My Car – Ryusuke Hamaguchi
A feleségem története (The Story of My Wife) – Ildikó Enyedi
Flag Day – Sean Penn
La Fracture – Catherine Corsini
The French Dispatch – Wes Anderson
Ha’berech (Ahed’s Knee) – Nadav Lapid
Haut et Fort (Casablanca Beats) – Nabil Ayouch
Un héros (A Hero) – Asghar Farhadi
Hytti Nro 6 (Compartment No.6) – Juho Kuosmanen
Les Intranquilles (The Restless) – Joachim Lafosse
Julie (The Worst Person in the World) – Joachim Trier
Lingui – Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Memoria – Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Nitram – Justin Kurzel
Les Olympiades (Paris 13th District) – Jacques Audiard
Par un demi clair matin – Bruno Dumont
Petrov’s Flu – Kirill Serebrennikov
Red Rocket – Sean Baker
Titane by Julia Ducournau
Tout s’est bien passé – François Ozon
Tre piani by Nanni Moretti

Un Certain Regard

After Yang – Kogonada
Blue Bayou – Justin Chon
Bonne Mère – Hafsia Herzi
Commitment Hasan – Hasan Semih Kaplanoglu
Delo (House Arrest) – Alexey German Jr.
Freda – Gessica Geneus
The Innocents – Eskil Vogt
Lamb – Valdimar Jóhansson
Moneyboys – C.b Yi
Noche de fuego – Tatiana Huezo
Un monde – Laura Wandel

Cannes Premiere

Cette musique ne joue pour personne (Love Songs for Tough Guys) – Samuel Benchetrit
Cow – Andrea Arnold
Evolution – Kornél Mundruczo
In Front of Your Face – Hong Sang-Soo
Mothering Sunday – Eva Husson
Serre-moi fort (Hold Me Tight) – Mathieu Amalric
Tromperie (Deception) – Arnaud Desplechin
Val – Ting Poo and Leo Scott

Out of Competition

Aline – Valérie Lemercier
Bac Nord – Cédric Jimenez
De son vivant – Emmanuelle Bercot
Emergency Declaration – Han Jae-Rim
Stillwater – Tom McCarthy
The Velvet Underground – Todd Haynes

Special screenings

Cahiers noirs (Black Notebooks) – Shlomi Elkabetz H6 – Yé Yé
JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass – Oliver Stone
Jane par Charlotte – Charlotte Gainsbourg
O marinheiro das montanhas (Mariner of the Mountains) – Karim Ainouz

Midnight screenings

Oranges sanguines (Bloody Oranges) – Jean-Christophe Meurisse

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 6 – 17 JULY 2021

Le Maman et le Putain | The Mother and the Whore (1973) Cannes Classics

Dir; Jean Eustache | Cast: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Bernadette Lefont, Francoise LeBrun | France, Drama, 215’

Three Parisians drink, smoke, copulate and talk, and talk, copulate, smoke and drink for three and a half hours. Much of the talk (in very basic language) is also about copulation, but, being an art movie from that brief, long ago idyll between the introduction of the Pill and before AIDS, no one actually seems to derive much pleasure from all this joyless rutting. For anyone whose first language is not French, keeping up with the subtitles is a daunting challenge throughout.

Jean-Pierre Léaud plays his usual self-centred, garrulous perpetual adolescent, and Bernadette Lafont disappointingly gets a fraction of the screen time of the other two corners of this particular triangle. Shot by Pierre Lhomme in what is presumably deliberately some of the ugliest black & white photography I’ve ever seen, it would be tempting to say that only in a movie could a prick like Alexandre find himself at the centre of a harem comprising two such formidable and willing females. But that, alas, is one aspect of the film that rings only too true. @RichardChatten

SCREENING IN CANNES CLASSICS | 2022

 

Spring Blossom (2020) Curzon

Dir/Wri | Cast: Suzanne Lindon, Arnaud Valois, Frédéric Pierrot, Florence Viala | France, Drama 78′

A delicate sensuous coming of age story from Suzanne Lindon who stars as the film’s subversive heroine who is also rather a dark horse.

In her directing and acting debut Lindon has clearly inherited her parents’ talents – she’s the 20-year-old daughter of Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain, but wrote the film when she was only 15. They clearly said: “write about what you know” and this is exactly what’s she’s done, Spring Blossom has a freshness of touch that perfectly compliments its subtle narrative.

Spring Blossom is slim but evocatively recherché – avoiding gauche thrills or flirty silliness it feels its way intuitively forward. There’s a palpable sensuality to the heady taste of first love that slowly simmers and smoulders between the stylish but vulnerable high-school girl and her older crush Raphaël (Arnaud Valois), an actor performing in the local theatre and experiencing the ennui of performance fatigue. In a sun-dappled Southern France the amorous feelings gradually well up in her teenage heart but Suzanne remains dignified and secretive around her parents, sharing the odd complicit tete a tete with her younger sister.

There’s a sense that Suzanne will grow up to be subversively sensual like Jacqueline Bisset or Charlotte Rampling, still retaining that edgy sexiness that sets women like her apart from the crowd. And in a way Lindon’s slight narrative plays to the film’s advantage, hinting at the mysteries of female sexuality as Suzanne’s febrile imagination considers the art of seduction.

There’s something provocative but eminently natural about this suggestive love affair that seems grown-up and plausible, each character possessing calm dignity and an alluring sense of self. Seen from the young woman’s perspective, there’s nothing smutty about the concept of a teenager with an ‘older’ man, although you’d hardly notice the age different, Raphaël not coming across as a lothario,  but a ‘bon chic bon genre’ type of guy. The pairing has very much the clean-cut top drawer allure of Joanna Hogg’s recent The Souvenir, but the brittle cruelty of Tom Burke’s Anglo Saxon public school boy turned roguish love rat contrasts with the rather lowkey laidback loucheness of Valois’Raphaël. This is very much a French love story with a hint of Louis Garel’s early films about it all. MT

ON CURZON ONLINE FROM 23 APRIL 2021

 

Slalom (2020) Curzon VOD

Dir: Charlène Favier | Writers: Charlène Favier, Marie Talon | Cast: Noée Abita, Jérémie Renier, Marie Denarnaud, Muriel Combeau, Maïra Schmitt, Axel Auriant | France, Drama

Noée Abita made a name for herself in Lea Mysius’ poignant drama Ava (2017) about a girl gradually losing her sight. In Slalom she stars alongside Jérémie Renier in a love story set in the snowy French Alps.

This coming of age sports drama is an impressive debut for writer-director Charlène Favier who made the Cannes 2020 official selection. Abita plays 15-year-old ski professional-in- training Lyz who falls for her sexually voracious power-tripping coach Max (Renier), already in a relationship with another team member (Marie Denarnaud), in a drama that echoes real life cases in the world of tennis and swimming in France and the US.

Favier and her co-writer Talon show how kids of that age are emotionally vulnerable and subject to hero-worshipping in a world where their collaborative and professional relationship is particularly vital, especially when they have little support from their parents. In this case her mother (Muriel Combeau) makes a new boyfriend a priority, rather than the stability and wellbeing of her daughter who she abandons to rush off on a romantic break over Christmas. Lyz is understanding heartbroken. But not for long.

Deftly interweaving the heart-pumping slalom competitions that will shape her into an Olympic hopeful, and the intense love story at its core, this snowbound affair is as hot as they come – especially when its focus is first love – set in the spectacular mountain scenery of the French Alps where Yann Maritaud creates a real sense of drama on the sparking icebound slopes and frosty moonlit nights-capes not to mention those intimate close-ups.

Lyz experiences a whirlwind of emotions from anxiety surrounding her sporting prowess, to confusion in lust-ridden days of wondering whether Max will be there for her in bed – and on the slopes. Of course, we can all see Max’s own adrenalin- fuelled turmoil as he barks orders, and commands his star pupil’s respect, while being confused by his own feelings.

Abita is terrific as she gradually develops stamina, independence and self-belief – physically, as well as mentally – straining every core of her body to reach peak performance, Her gamine insecurity gathers storm as she develops a fierce sense of pride and integrity. If there was ever a drama perfect for teenage girls – (or adult girls who’ve already been there) this is it!.MT

ON CURZON VOD from 12 February 2021

 

 

 

 

Falling (2020) ***

Dir/Wri: Viggo Mortensen | Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Lance Henriksen, Laura Linney, Sverrir Gudnason, | US Drama, 112′

In his first foray into filmmaking Viggo Mortensen writes and also stars in this insightful, semi-autobiographical story of family dysfunction. It sees an irascible old farmer (a feisty Lance Henrikson) gradually losing his grip to dementia as his bewildered gay son grapples for largely unwanted control of the family.

The subject of dementia is so increasingly widespread nowadays it almost needs a genre of its own. And as such this could have been more humorous in the style of Bruce Dern’s Nebraska, or even poetic and whimsical like Miroslav Mandic’s recent arthouse gem Sanremo, but that’s not the point. Falling is a well-made if sombre family drama exploring the fallout of this dread disease, and a decent debut for this seasoned actor. MT

NOW ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE

Downstream to Kinshasa (2020)

Dir.: Dieudo Hamadi; Documentary; Democratic Republic of Congo Belgium France, 90 min.

Twenty years ago a violent civil war raged in the Congo and was fought out between Rwandan and Ugandan forces, who supported the two Democratic Republic’s factions. Over four thousand Congolese lost their lives in Kisangani alone in a war that ignited in June 2000 and became to be known as the Six-Day war.

Acting as his own DoP, experienced documentarian Hamadi zeros in on the domestic detail and the wider issues arising from class structure which leaves a particularly brutal legacy in this post-colonial world. This is a place where life-changing injuries still haunt the victims: double amputees like Mama Kawale and Mama Bahingi, and quadriplegic Mama Kashinde have managed to make their days bearable by playing wheelchair basketball. The atmosphere is intense, and every shot at the basket counts: this is no feeling of competition except with themselves, and their individual scores bolster self-confidence.

Hamadi is familiar with the territory having grown up during the massacre. The victims of Kisangani’s war were thrown naked into mass graves, as one of the survivors recalls: “we are walking on corpses”. The survivors have clamoured for nearly twenty years for compensation from the Central government – in vain. Their plight and pain is never diminished, in fact it gets worse, and club together to select a delegation to travel downstream on the Congo river to the capital Kinsasha, where they will demand justice from government officials and their MP.

Intercut with the documentary are scenes from the Agit-Prop theatre of the survivors, which uses music and short scenes to bring home their message. Two simple boats are hitched together, and the delegation team buys food for the journey from vendors on little boats. Arriving in Kinshasa, the positive carnival atmosphere of the journey changes into disappointment when delegation is banned from accessing the government building. Their local MP is not there to engage with their concerns because of the approaching election. So they are put their time to good use raising awareness of their plight with brightly coloured banners – spelling mistakes corrected – before installing themselves in peaceful protest only to be drenched by torrential rain. It’s a pitiful sight, and we feel for them. Eventually they will have something to cheer about when the unsupportive president of the Republic, Joseph Kabila, is replaced by Felix Tshisekedi in the 2018 December elections. But Kabila leaves a legacy, allowing him to select the incumbent Prime Minster. In an elliptical ending, we return to the lively streets of Kisangani, with the delegation walking proudly with their heads high.

Downstream could be called a Road-Movie but that seems too trite a description for this pilgrimage of humanitarian relief and Hamadi reflects this in his poetic and lyrical visual treatment. Eschewing a sentimental approach as all times, Hamadi never victimises the survivors, but triumphs in their fighting spirit kept alive by their exuberant theatre work and their courageous journey to the capital. AS

DOWNSTREAM TO KINSHASA (EN ROUTE POUR LE MILLIARD) won the Golden Dove at the 63rd edition of the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film DOK Leipzig, as well as the Prize of the Interreligious Jury | 
ON RELEASE ON MAJOR PLATFORMS

Striding into the Wind (2020) *** Cannes Selection 2020

Dir.: Wei Shujun; Cast: Zheng Yingchen, Zhou You, Lin Kai, Wang Xiaomu; China 2020, 134 min.

Wei Shujun won a Special Award for his short film On the Border at Cannes 2018 and was back in the competition selection again this year with this eye-catching but flawed drama which overstays its welcome at over two hours.

Based on Wei Shujun’s own experiences, Striding Into the Wind is a footloose road movie that offers a snapshot of modern China through the life of two film school layabouts. Essentially a series of episodes that take place in and around  Beijing where restless sound technician Zuo Kun (Zhou) is taking time out from his final year studies behind the wheel of a beaten-up Jeep. Kun can’t seem to commit to anything – let alone a driving test – and we see him flouncing off in a fit of rage when things go wrong. The Jeep eventually becomes a liability: he is stopped for driving under the influence and ends up in prison, where his warden Dad is able to get him an early release.

Kun’s portly comrade in arms, Tong (Kai) is a junk food addict who rolls out of bed just in time for the college start at noon. The women is Kun’s life are more practical: his long suffering girl A Zhi (Yingchen) lends him cash, and his mother, a university lecturer, supplies exam papers which sell for good money on campus. A film shoot provides the opportunity for the pair to break loose and  decamp to Inner Mongolia where they attempt to lock down their film project and Kun makes a play for the Mongolian star actress.

What saves this from being an empty rant in celebration of juvenile delinquency is the imaginative visuals bringing to mind early 1980s features by Hsiao-Hsien Hou. Shujun’s sycophantic treatment of his two main characters adds to the overindulgent feel of a film where so much talent has been wasted on immature postering. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2020 | COMPETITION LINEUP | BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2020

    

Summer of 85 (2020) ****

Dir|Wri: Francois Ozon. France, Romcom, 100′

This upbeat breezy retro teenage love story is set in seaside Normandy over six weeks in the summer of Summer Of 85. As usual Ozon doesn’t take things too seriously but the romance feels real and the lively score of ’80s hits and memories of holidays in Normandy make this a sunny treat for everyone.

Aiden Chamber’s paperback original ‘Dance on My Grave’ took place in Southend-on-Sea but Ozon choses the Normandy coastal town of Le Tréport for his version of the tale with its strong emotional undercurrent stemming for the elation and them pain of first love showing how the central character discovers writing as a therapy for his broken heart.

Summer of 85 is more tragic than comic but Francois Ozon has a clever way spicing his dramas with subtle and subversive humour always leaving it open to individual interpretation. And there are random moments that may raise a smile, or may not. The balance is always delicately poised.

Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) is a cherubic blond 16 year-old, who hints in the opening scenes that see him in police custody, that the film will end in tears but we are not told why. And this is the enigma that hooks us into the plot driven forward by his literature teacher Mr Lefèvre (a moustachioed Melvil Poupaud)  disguise) who tries to persuade Alexis to write about his experience even if he can’t talk about it.

Gradually the story spills out in flashback narrated by Alexis who takes us back to the start of summer when he decided to take his friend’s boat for an afternoon’s sailing. Storm clouds soon gather and he is thrown into the water only to be rescued by another sailer in the shape of David Gorman,  (Benjamin Voisin) a dark-haired 18-year-old adonis who certainly knows the ropes.

Soon the two are back at David’s where a voluptuous Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi plays a welcoming Jewish mum Mrs Gorman who also runs a business specialising in sailing tackle. Admiring Alex’s own tackle she runs him a hot bath. Realising her son needs a close friend, but does realising yet just how close, the boy’s budding relationship blossoms, and he is offered a role in the business. But there’s good fun to be had — riding David’s  motorbike and sailing – not to mention between the sheets in this hedonistic affair that positively froths with youthful exuberance especially when a Kate (Philippine Velge) a frisky young au pair from England joins the party. Meanwhile Alex’s mother (Isabelle Nanty) and father are a more down to earth couple anchoring him in the reality of their working class set-up.

Summer in Normandy in always going to be a winner visually, whether down on the beach or in the verdant hinterland the setting is strikingly beautiful and DoP Hichame Alaouie conveys a retro feel with his Super-16 camerawork. And one of the best things about Summer of 85 is its rousing soundtrack of ’80s hits from The Cure’s ’In Between Days’ to Rod Stewart’s ’Sailing’. As David, Benjamin Voisin’s striking charisma carries the film: his confident intensity and effervescent charm set him out to be a star in the making. MT.

IN CINEMAS | CURZON HOME CINEMA from 23 OCTOBER

 

Cannes Classics | Festival de Cannes 2020

In the Mood for love by Wong Kar-wai twenty years after, À Bout de souffle and L’Avventuraturn 60, great filmmakers (Wim Wenders, Federico Fellini, Bertrand Blier, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Glauber Rocha, Lino Brocka), Tilda Swinton’s first major role in a science fiction film, Muhammad Ali meets William Klein, rediscoveries from the Festival de Cannes ‘60, ‘68, ‘73 and ’81, the first color fiction of Chinese cinema, an unknown masterpiece from Sri Lanka, a Serbian comedy, the new wave of Russian cinema, from yesterday’s cinema to today’s world with the first film by Melvin Van Peebles and a stricking documentary on women from Brittany, a landmark film about Charlie Chaplin, an exceptional portrait of actor John Belushi, Bruce Lee revisited and a celebration to great Italian actress Alida Valli, here is Cannes Classics 2020.

In the Mood for Love (2000, 1h38, Hong Kong) by Wong Kar-wai

The 4k restoration of the film made from the original negative was lead by Criterion and L’Immagine Ritrovata under the supervision of Wong Kar-wai. In the Mood for Love, by Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai, made its lead actor Tony Leung win the Male Interpretation Prize.

French theatrical distribution: The Jokers Films, date of release: December 2, 2020.

Actress Tilda Switon in her first big screen role to pay tribute to film director and film theorist Peter Wollen. It will be the rediscovery of a rare work.

Friendship’s Death (1987, 1h12, United Kingdom) by Peter Wollen

Presented by the British Film Institute (BFI). The 4K remastering by the BFI National Archive was from the original Standard 16mm colour negative. The soundtrack was digitised directly from the original 35mm final mix magnetic master track. The remastering was undertaken in collaboration with the film’s producer, Rebecca O’Brien and cinematographer, Witold Stok.

The Story of a Three-Day Pass (La Permission) (1967, 1h27, France) by Melvin Van Peebles

Presented by IndieCollect and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The restoration of The Story of a Three-Day Pass (La Permission) was funded by a grant from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The original film elements were found by the IndieCollect team during its inventory of Melvin Van Peebles’ New York apartment and storage facility. To create the restoration, the IndieCollect team used a 5K Kinetta Archival Scanner to digitally capture the 35mm Interpositive of the American version and combined it with elements scanned from the French version. Color grading and restoration were completed in-house by Oskar Miarka, and the titles were recreated by Cameron Haffner. Sandra Schulberg translated the French dialogue and new English subtitles were created.

Lyulskiy dozhd (July Rain / Pluie de juillet) (1966, 1h48, Russia) by Marlen Khutsiev

Presented by Mosfilm Cinema Concern. Source material: negative. 4K digital restoration. Restored by: Mosfilm Cinema Concern. Producer of restoration: Karen Shakhnazarov. Year of restoration: 2020.

Quand les femmes ont pris la colère (1977, 1h15, France) by Soizick Chappedelaine and René Vautier

Presented by Ciaofilm. The film was scanned in 4K and restored in 2K from the original 16mm negative. Image works carried out by ECLAIR Classics and by L.E.DIAPASON for the sound under the supervision of Moïra Chappedelaine-Vautier with the support of the CNC, the Cinémathèque de Bretagne and the Région Bretagne.

French theatrical distribution in 2021. DVD / Blu-ray release by Les Mutins de Pangée and in VOD on Cinémutins in 2021.

Préparez vos mouchoirs (Get Out Your Handkerchiefs) (1977, 1h50, France) by Bertrand Blier

Presented by TF1 Studio and Orange Studio / CAPAC. 4K Restoration from the picture negative and the French magnetic soud track, supervised by Bertrand Blier. Digital works carried out by Eclair laboratory in 2019.

Hester Street (1973, 1h30, USA) by Joan Micklin Silver

Presented by Cohen Film Collection. The primary source element for the restoration of Hester Street was the original 35mm camera negative. Brief sections of duplicate negative, in particular the opening title sequence with burned in titles, were cut into the original negative in order to produce the original release prints. 4K scanning and restoration work was carried out by DuArt Media Services in New York.

Ko to tamo peva ? (Who’s Singing Over There? / Qui chante là-bas ?) (1980, 1h26, Serbia) by Slobodan Šijan

Presented by Malavida Films. Restoration from the picture and sound negative. Scanning: Arriscan. Supervision: Slobodan Šijan with Milorad Glusica. Sound restored by Aleksandar Stojsin.

French theatrical distribution: Malavida Films, date of release :  October 21, 2020.

Prae dum (Black Silk) (1961, 1h58, Thailand) by R.D. Pestonji

Presented by Film Archive Thailand (Public Organization). 4K Scan and 4K Restoration from the original 35mm negative (preserved by Film Archive Thailand). Restoration made and financed by Film Archive Thailand and Thai Ministry of Culture. Mastered in 4K for Digital Projection.

Zhu Fu (New Year Sacrifice) (1956, 1h40, China) by Hu Sang

Presented by Shanghai International Film Festival and China Film Archive. 4K Scan and 4K Digital Restoration from the original 35mm image negative and sound negative (preserved by China Film Archive). Restoration made by China Film Archive. Co-financed by Shanghai International Film Festival and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Mastered in 4K for Digital Projection.

Feldobott kő (Upthrown Stone / La Pierre lancée) (1968, 1h25, Hungary) by Sándor Sára

Presented by National Film Institute – Film Archive – Hongrie.

The 4K digital restoration was carried out as part of ‘The long-term restoration program of Hungarian film heritage” of the National Film Institute – Film Archive. The restoration was made using the original image and sound negatives by the National Film Institute – Filmlab. The Digital grading was supervised by Sándor Sára. Collaborating partner: Hungarian Society of Cinematographers.

Neige (1981, 1h30, France) by Juliet Berto and Jean-Henri Roger

Presented by JHR Films. First 4k digital restoration submitted by JHR Films with the support of the CNC et de l’image animée. The restoration was carried out at L’Image Retrouvée laboratory in Bologna and in Paris.

French theatrical distribution: JHR Films, date of release: spring 2021.

Bambaru Avith (The Wasps Are Here) (1978, 2h, Sri Lanka) by Dharmasena Pathiraja

Presented by Asian Film Archive. 4K film and sound restoration was carried out by L’Immagine Ritrovata using the sole-surviving 35mm film positive. The raw and restored 4K scans, a new 35mm picture and sound negatives, and a new positive print of the restored version of the film have been produced and are preserved by the Asian Film Archive.

Bayanko: Kapit sa patalim (Bayan Ko) (1984, 1h48, Philippines / France) by Lino Brocka

Presented by Le Chat qui fume. First 4k digital restoration submitted by Le Chat qui fume. Scanning made at VDM laboratory and restoration carried out by Le Chat qui fume in Paris.

French theatrical distribution and Blu-ray / UHD release: Le Chat qui fume, date of release: February 2021.

La Poupée (1962, 1h34, France) by Jacques Baratier

Presented by the CNC. Sound and image digital work of restoration executed by the CNC and carried out by Hiventy. Follow-up by the CNC and supervised by Diane Baratier. Digital restoration made from 4K scans of the original negative. A 35mm print from the digital restoration was released. French distribution: Tamasa Distribution.

Sanatorium pod klepsydra (The Hourglass Sanatory / La Clepsydre) (1973, 2h04, Poland) by Wojciech J. Has 

Presented by Polish Film Classics. 4k Scan and 2K restoration carried out by DI Factory and the reKino team by keeping the guidelines of DOP Witold Sobociński (this restoration is dedicated to him) who could eventually achieve the image he wished to obtain in 1973. Artistic supervision: cinematographer Piotr Sobociński Jr. Right-owners: WFDiF.

French Blu-ray release: Malavida Films, date of release: May 2021.

L’Amérique insolite (America as Seen by a Frenchman) (1959, 1h30, France) by François Reichenbach

Presented by Les Films du jeudi. Restoration carried out at Hiventy: 4K scan – 2K restoration from the original negatives.

Deveti krug (The Ninth Circle / Neuvième cercle) (1960, 1h37, Croatia) by France Štiglic

Digital restoration in 2K presented by Croatian Cinematheque – Croatian State Archives with the support of Croatian Audiovisual Centre. Restoration performed by Ater and Klik Film studios in Zagreb, Croatia.

Muhammad Ali the Greatest (1974, 2h03, France) by William Klein

Presented by Films Paris New York and ARTE. First digital 2K restoration from the original 16mm negative scanned in 4K carried out with the support of the CNC. Image works were carried out by ECLAIR Classics and by L.E.DIAPASON for the sound.

SCREENING AT CANNES and at the FESTIVAL LUMIERE LYON

The Oak Room (2020)

Dir.: Cody Calahan; Cast: RJ Mitte, Peter Outerbridge, Ari Millen, Martin Roach, Nicolas Campbell; Canada 2020, 95 min.

Breaking Bad’s R J Mitte plays a mysterious drifter who fetches up in this suspense-ridden snowbound psychodrama based on Peter Genoway’s stage play and directed by Cody Calahan.

The Oak Room brings to mind Bill Paxton’s breakout hit Frailty (2013), but goes a step further, blurring the lines between thriller and horror with a slew of sinuous twists and turns that bring violence to small-town Canada in a slow-burn game of mistaken identity, childhood trauma and transference.

It would be a shame to spoil the ending, so let’s stick to the bare bones of the story. Steve (Mitte) turns up at his local during a snowstorm to settle a score with bartender Paul (Outerbridge), a friend of his father Gordon (Campbell), who has recently died. Paul is angry Steve didn’t attend the funeral or contribute to the costs. Paul has Gordon’s ashes, and claims Steve forced his father Gordon into an early grave, selling his business to finance Steve’s further education. Clearly a waste of time, judging by appearances. Steve casts his mind back to the past, revealing childhood trauma surrounding an incident where Steve was forced by his father to kill to a piglet. The past has turned Steve into a troubled and violent man who goes on to wreak havoc on the other characters. These are stormy waters and the red herrings soon pile up, seemingly leading nowhere. But by the end we are so deeply entrenching in the complex web of deceit, transference and projection that mayhem prevails.

The film’s narrative structure is the key to its runaway success. Mitte is mesmerising as the drifter  hellbent on changing his destiny. But are his grievances real or brought on by false memory, Steven emerging an unreliable narrator par excellence, and we are forced into decoding the enigmas as the film plays out. The Oak Room is sort of ‘sleeper’ – lying low, drawing us into its spiral of sinister snowy doom. Motives rather than murders make the most impact in this paranoid tour-de-force. AS

NOW ON DIGITAL DOWNLOAD ON ALL MAJOR PLATFORM

CANNES MARKET 2020    

   

 

Gagarine (2020)

Dir.: Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh; Cast: Alseni Bathily, Lyna Khoudri, Jamil McCraven, Farida Rahouadj, Finnegan Oldfield; France 2020, 97 min.

The world’s first Space traveller Yuri Gagarin gives his name to this impressive debut from Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh. Cité Gagarine, a housing estate in the Parisian suburb of Ivry-sur-Seine, had a less illustrious time of things than its namesake, and has now been almost totally demolished along with other buildings of the HLM (habitation à Loyer Modéré), once home to many thousands.

This long version of the directors’ 2015 short starts with a newsreel showing Mr Gagarin (1934-1968), when he visited the site in 1963, enjoying a rapturous welcome from the tenants. Fast forward to 2019, and our new hero teenager Youri (effervescent newcomer Bathily) has not quite come to terms with losing his longterm home. His parents have long left the nest: his mother is now living with a new partner and baby. So his only close tie is with friend of the family Fari (Rahouadj) who will soon leave for pastures new in the South of France. That leaves Youri’s friend and sidekick Houssam (McCraven) and of course Diana (Khoudri), a teenager from a nearby Roma settlement, who shares Youri’s passion for Space travel.

When engineers from the council declare the block of flats unfit for habitation, Youri is determined to save his home, constructing an elaborate space shuttle within its walls. A solar eclipse is the ‘last hurrah’ before the old block is to be detonated. After a valedictory night of passion, Diana goes on her way, Youri agreeing to take care of the dog, renaming it Laika. Everything is now set for the great detonation, and the former residents assemble outside for the final time. Suddenly, a coordinated light show flashes from their former home. Diana and Houssam realise Youri must still be hiding inside in some outlandish act of denial.   

This French film is a revitalising tonic after so much drab British sink estate realism: Yes, bad things happen, but there is always love, and dreams. Even the drug dealer (Oldfield) is not the “bad guy” sent by central casting, but a rather disturbed young man with suicidal tendencies.

Youri’s escapist new ‘home’ is a marvel of imagination and gives DoP Victor Seguin the basis for imaginative ‘space travel’ in Youri’s parallel world. And there’s astringent humour here too: Diana having to help her acrophobic lover up the ladder to the command unit. Ever the optimist, Youri sums it all up with his starry-eyed observation “we are neighbours with the moon”.

Gagarine gives us hope at the end of the rainbow that stretches beyond our day-to-day tunnel of trauma, to infinity and beyond. Youri shows we all have the power to re-create another universe, however parlous our life may be. Far from idealising poverty, Gagarine is proof that escapism offers redemption – we just need to explore our own imagination for salvation in these unworldly times.

NOW IM CINEMAS NATIONWIDE | CANNES COMPETITION SELECTION |  2020     

Magic Mountains (2020) **** Cannes Market 2020

Dir: Urzula Antoniak | Thriller, Holland/Poland 82′

Poland’s Urzula Antoniak follows her enigmatic displacement drama Beyond Words with another spare and haunting psychological thriller that relies on magnificent mountain settings, evocative lighting and intense atmosphere to explore the complex aftermath of love and longing for a couple whose relationship lies in tatters.

Dutch actors Thomas Ryckewaert and Hannah Hoekstra play Lex and Hannah, still on speaking terms despite their recent break-up, instigated by Hannah for reasons unknown. In order to lay his own emotional demons to rest, Lex makes the unusual request of asking Hannah to join him in a final climbing holiday, led by Voytek (the Polish actor Marcin Dorocinski (Anthropoid, 2016) whose unsettling presence lends a sinister vibe to this doomed emotional exploration fraught with vertiginous moments of its own.

Quite why Hannah decides to continue on this challenging odyssey is anyone’s guess. But mesmerised by Voytek’s mysterious allure and Lex’s ambivalent motivations, she presses on increasingly disturbed by her strange companions and the dizzying surroundings. Magic Mountains is a simple but effective metaphor for our troubling times. Antoniak’s enigmatic storyline and Lennert Hillege’s atmospheric visuals provide the needling tension fuelling this complex mood piece that takes us to the unknown reaches of the human mind with a  devastating finale. MT

Cannes 2020 | The Official Selection | 73rd Festival de Cannes 2020

Cannes Festival grandees announced the fifty six competition titles that should have screened during this year’s 73rd Celebration from 12 – 23 May 2020, had it not been for the Covid 19 Crisis: these films will be released in cinemas and other festivals during the remainder of 2020/21. 

There are some much anticipated films in this list – although the usual strand of Un Certain Regard comes as part of the main programme this along with the newcomers, comedies and documentaries. There are no Italian films because naturally they are now saving themselves for a showing at Venice in September.

Summer Of 85, François Ozon (France), 1h40′

Ozon is true to his provocative style in this Normandy-set story of love and passion between two young boys at the height of the 1980s. Scored by hits from Bananarama and The Cure, the film releases on 15 July 2020.

DNA, Maïwenn (Algeria, France), 1h30′

This follow up to Mon Roi, sees the director reliving her own Algerian heritage, Fanny Ardant playing her mother, Marine Vacth her sister and Louis Garrel as her best friend in a film fraught with memories and melodrama.

Love Affairs, Emmanuel Mouret (France), 2h

Passionate stories of love and tenderness seen through the eyes of an eclectic cast including Vincent Macaigne, Emilie Dequenne and Camelia Jordana

Rouge, Farid Bentoumi (France), 1h26′

Bentoumi’s sophomore feature looks at the human aftermath of an ecological scandal in Algeria.

Gagarine – Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh (France), 1h35′

In this promising debut drama a teenager shares his name with the well-known cosmonaut who was the first human to travel to outer space.

Spring Blossom, Suzanne Lindon (France), 1h13′

Arnaud Vallois (Beats per Minute) stars in this rites of passage drama that allows the director to reminisce on her teenage hood suffused with delicate memories of films, music and plays on the era.

Vaurien, Peter Dourountzis (France), 1h,35′

The human face of a serial killer is captured in this impressive debut drama that stars Ophelie Bau (Mektoub My Love).

My Best Part, Nicolas Maury (France), 1h48′

Nathalie Baye is back in a central role in this tortured debut that sees her self-mocking son desperate not to lose the love of his life.

A Good Man, Marie-Castille Mention Schaar (France),

Making her debut in the Official selection Mention Schaar tells a love story with insight, humans and universal appeal, and one that will set tongues wagging.

Teddy, Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma (France), 1h48′

A werewolf movie styled by the Boukherma Brothers’ “Grolandish’ atmosphere experienced in the first film Willy and featuring ‘man of the moment’ Vincent Macaigne

Slalom, Charlène Favier (France),

Jeremie Renier stars in this vertiginous thriller about things that go downhill between a trainer and his protegee.

Médecin De Nuit, Elie Wajeman (France), 1h40′

Once again Vincent Macaigne takes centre stage as ‘patron saint of the broken’ dashing round Paris on a mission to heal in Elie Wajeman’s third feature.

Josep, Aurel (France) | Josep, Animation, 1h20′

Jump-cut animation, alternating stills and animated images make this first film from cartoonist Aurel stand out from the crowd. It tells the lesser known story: that of the Retirada, an era when refugees of the 1939 Spanish War made an Exodus to France.

Ibrahim, Samuel Guesmi (France),

The ever popular theme of father/son relationships is the crux of this debut drama that will resonate with at least half of the audience.

9 Jours À Raqqa, Xavier De Lauzanne (France) | Documentary

We all know how the Kurds have suffered, and continue to suffer in Syria where they form the largest ethnic minority. This is a film about the feminist point view, seen from the gaze of Leila Mustapha, the Kurdish mayor the Former Islamic State capital.

Cévennes, Caroline Vignal (France), 1h35′

Caroline Vignal is back for the first time in 20 years since her feature Girlfriends  (2020) in a film described as an anti-love affair comedy based on the theme “the important thing is to travel, not to arrive”.

Les Deux Alfred, Bruno Podalydès (France),

Technology gets the better of two brothers in this moving yet upbeat comedy that stars Sandrine Kiberlain.

The Big Hit, Emmanuel Courcol (France)

Drama staged in prison is nothing new. But this film sees Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot staged in way that’s entertaining for all.

The Speech, Laurent Tirard (France)

A tender comedy about love and lost love based on the novel by French writer Fabrice Caro.

L’origine Du Monde, Laurent Lafitte (France)

Origine du Monde is a 1966 painting by Gustave Courbet. Laurent Lafitte’s debut as a director takes it as his inspiration for a daringly dark comedy.

Home Front, Lucas Belvaux (Belgium)

The past comes back to haunt the veterans of the Algerian war in this drama set in a small close-knit village that stars Gerard Depardieu, Catherine Frot and Jean-Pierre Darroussin.

El Olvido Que Seremos, Fernando Trueba (Spain)

Trueba combines colour and black and white to rep present and past, in this historical epic of childhood’s paradise lost, shot in Colombia and based on a sonnet by Jose Luis Borges.

Ammonite, Francis Lee (UK), 2h (below)

Fossilised coldness and human love and tenderness coalesce in this historical drama based on the life of palaeontologist Mary Anning, from God’s Own Country director Francis Lee.

Mangrove, Steve McQueen (UK), 2h04′

In the first of his Cannes Film competition hopefuls, McQueen returns to the subject of racial tension in the UK with this story of Notting Hill’s Caribbean locals and their fight for respect in the face of putative Police harassment.

Lovers Rock, Steve McQueen (UK), 1h08′

His second film is a more stylish trance-like drama that explores the Swinging Sixties through music.

Limbo, Ben Sharrock (UK), 1h53′

There are echoes of Ulrich Seidl and Roy Andersson to Ben Sharrock’s bittersweet second film that looks at the refugee problem on one island in Scotland.

Another Round, Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark), 1h55′

Danish Dogme filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg explores midlife identity crisis through a series of thoughtfully crafted broken characters in this tense and unsettling film. Regulars Marie Bonnevie, Thomas Bo Larsen, and Mads Mikkelsen join the star-studded cast.

Flee, Jonas Poher Rasmussen (Denmark) | Animation,

The other Danish film in this year’s selection is an animation that follows an Afghan family through Russia to Europe.

Sweat, Magnus von Horn (Sweden),1h40′

The Swedish director follows The Here After (Directors’ Fortnight, 2015) with a timely saga that addresses the taboo subject of loneliness through the portrait of a social influencer and fitness coach.

Pleasure, Ninja Thyberg (Sweden),1h45′

Swedish filmmaker Ninja Thyberg expands her Cannes Canal+ award-winning short into a full blown female portrait of becoming a porn star in the world of men.

Enfant Terrible, Oskar Roehler (Germany), 2h14′

Reiner Werner Fassbinder had a short but prolific career as a filmmaker during the 1980s. Oskar Roehler takes a deep dive into the director’s quixotic personality in a film that explores the crazy world of this highly creative genius.

In the Dusk, Sharunas Bartas (Lithuania), 2h05′

Bartas uncovers a valuable story from his native Lithuania that mines the dramatic potential of the First World War, putting the focus on small countries crushed by larger ones –  in this case the USSR – to create a timely portrait of oppression that threatens and fascinates at at the same time.

February, Kamen Kalev (Bulgaria), 2h05′

A journey from childhood to adulthood is explored in this ethereal and elliptical drama from the award-winning Bulgarian director.

Heaven: To The Land of Happiness, Im Sang-soo (Korea), 1h40′

This social satire on the South Korean modern day commercialism is given a dollop of slapstick and stars Cannes veteran Min-Sir Choi.

Peninsula, Yeon Sang-ho (Korea), 1h54h

A fast-paced genre piece from the director of Train to Busan offers thrills and spills in a sci-fi outing to make John Carpenter proud.

True Mothers, Naomi Kawase (Japan), 2h20′

Marmite filmmaker Naomi Kawase brings another offering to Cannes in this sensuous humanistic tale of adoption and motherhood set in her native Japan.

The Real Thing, Koji Fukada (Japan),

Fukada follows Harmonium with this epic odyssey fraught with emotion in the style of the K-list contemporaries Kore-eda, Kurasawa and Kawase.

Aya And The Witch, Goro Miyazaki (Japan) | Animation

Goro Miyazaki follows in the footsteps of his father with this digital animation  that quails away from manga and into the realms of the great Studio Ghibli. Ostensibly a childhood tale with its idiosyncratic adult undertones and disturbing often surreal characters, this is a very much anticipated film.

Souad, Ayten Amin (Egypt)

A wonderfully exquisite coming-of-age story that fluidly follows the hopes of dreams of young Egyptians born of tradition, but looking forward to the modern world in sumptuous Alexandria where so much potential is waiting to flower in the realm of Egyptian filmmaking.

Passion Simple, Danielle Arbid (Lebanon)

Based on the best-seller by Annie Ernaux, Passion tracks the doomed relationship between a powerful Russian diplomat and a woman whose raisin d’être is gradually corroded behind her rose-tinted view of their love. Laetitia Dosch (Jeune Femme) stars

Here We Are, Nir Bergman (Isreal)

A love affair between a father and his autistic son carries us into a different world haunted by melodrama, poignant lows and illuminating highs. Always surprising and ultimately moving.

The Death Of Cinema And My Father Too, Daniel Rosenberg (Isreal)

The final days of a parent are intensely personal and sensitively sketched out in this acutely poignant Israeli study of the end of life.

Broken Keys, Jimmy Keyrouz (Lebanon)

A pianist tries to escape his persecuted Middle-Eastern town where radical Islam holds sway. The emotional power of music speaks for itself here in a drama that seeks to denounce religious dogma in favour of humanity.

Beginning, Déa Kulumbegashvili (Georgia)

After her short film Invisible Spaces was nominated for the Palme d’Or in 2014, Kulumbegashvili offers up a study of oppression that contrasts tradition with the changing face of Georgia.

Should The Wind Fall, Nora Martirosyan (Armenia), 1h40′

From Armenia comes this impressive debut that mesmerises both visually and in its pervasive atmosphere of tension. Gregoire Colin plays an engineer in charge of the airport opening in Nagorno Karabakh, the self-proclaimed Caucasian Republic.

Striding Into The Wind, Wei Shujun (China), 2h36′

Another complete surprise arrives from China – but this is a good one and very welcome in its refreshing inventiveness.

The Billion Road, Dieudo Hamadi (Democratic Republic of Congo) | Documentary

A bright but streetwise documentary that sees a group of men fighting for their rights in the modern day Rep of Congo.

Casa De Antiguidades, João Paulo Miranda Maria (Brazil), 1h27′

The light and magnificent beauty of Brazil is magically captured in this extraordinary film that shows through a lyrical story of loneliness and disenfranchisement how countries and places own us, rather than the other way round.

Septet: The Story Of Hong Kong, Ann Hui, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Ringo Lam, Patrick Tam, Johnnie To, Hark Tsui, John Woo, Woo-Ping Yuen (Hong Kong),

A film that speaks for itself through a variety of local filmmakers.

The French Dispatch, Wes Anderson (USA) (below)

An international cast of stars get together in this unpredictable drama that assembles a series of vignettes telling the history of cinema.

Last Words, Jonathan Nossiter (USA)

Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling, Nick Nolte and Alba Rohrwacher are the barnstorming stars in Jonathan Nossiter’s latest, an imagined drama about the relevance of film and survival. A film that had a particular resonance in these days of pandemic and crisis.

John And The Hole, Pascual Sisto (USA)

A coming of age thriller from Ignacio Inarittu’s regular scripter Nicolas Giacobone, the action plays out in the titular hole.

Falling, Viggo Mortensen (USA)

Viggo Mortensen is the star of his directorial debut that sees a traditional dad moving in with his gay son. Laura Linney and David Cronenberg also star.

Soul, Pete Docter, Kemp Powers (USA) | Animation

A musician who loses his passion for music must reinvigorate his craft through the helpful soul of a child.

The Truffle Hunters, Gregory Kershaw, Michael Dweck (USA) | Documentary

The white truffle of Piemonte is prized by chefs and connoisseurs all over the world. And this documentary charts the history of its fascination and the secret that holds its persistent hunters in thrall.

Nadia, Butterfly, Pascal Plante (Canada)

From Canada comes a drama that tackles the thorny subject of Olympic has beens. What happens when top swimmers are forced finally to throw in the towel? Katerine Savard plays a former bronze medal winner in this valedictory exploration of physical prowess from Quebec director Pascal Plante. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 12 – 23 MAY 2020 

Cannes 2020 | Festival update

The 73rd Cannes Film Festival is not the only celebration to be postponed by the 2020 pandemic that has derailed the film calendar sending some editions online.

This is the first time Cannes has been cancelled since the Second World War, although it was also curtailed in May 1968 due to the student uprising. To think that 75 years ago we were celebrating the end of hostilities across the World, it now seems inconceivable that a human tragedy of such enormity could once again intervene.

In an interview with the trade magazine Screen Daily, festival president Thierry Fremaux spoke of plans to announce an Official Selection of films that would have taken part this year. That will hopefully come at the beginning of June 2020. All these films are scheduled to be released theatrically sometime between now and 2021, and have remained faithful to Cannes, rather than moving on to Venice or San Sebastian .

The Film Market will still go ahead with sales companies showing their Cannes 2020 slated films to buyers and professionals in a virtual line-up. But as for the Main Competition, rumours continue to circulate about possible collaboration with future festivals such as Venice, Toronto, San Sebastian and Zurich.

As for the real live festival this year’s President of the Jury, Spike Lee, intends to make back to head up next year’s 74th Edition.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2020 | 12 -23 MAY 2020

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