Archive for the ‘CANNES 2021’ Category

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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)

 

 

Parallel Mothers (2021)

Dir.: Pedro Almodóvar; Cast: Penélope Cruz; Milena Smit, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Israel Elejalde; Spain 2021, 123 min.

This so-called women-centric drama from writer director Pedro Almodóvar promises more than it delivers –  many of the Spanish director’s features it peters out into a soppy soap-opera, overstaying its welcome like an overdue baby after a self-indulgent running time of over two hours.

Janis (Cruz) a fortyish fashion photographer meets teenage run-away Ana (Smit) in the maternity ward, both giving birth at the same day. They are going it alone: Janis’ love-interest Arturo (Elejalde) wants to say with his wife who is undergoing chemotherapy, and Ana has been blackmailed by two men into having intercourse. The baby mix-up is telegraphed, and Ana loses ‘her’ child to cot death. Meanwhile Janis has confirmed her suspicion regarding the baby’s identities, having done maternity tests on the sly. Janis then gets Ana involved as a babysitter: she jumps at the opportunity to escape her overbearing actor mother Teresa (Sánchez-Gijón) and emotionally distant father – and is only too ready to accept Janis as a replacement mother. But will Janis spill he beans? And will Arturo, a forensic archaeologist, leave his wife after her recovery?

In the lush interiors Penélope Cruz takes centre stage, dominating the cast, particularly Smit, who is the sacrificial lamb. Almodóvar even finds time for a political lecture with Arturo leading an excavation of a mass grave of victims of the Spanish Falange of the Spanish Civil War, among them members of Janis’ family. DoP JoséLuis Alcaine conjures up decorus images on the widescreen but fails on the close-ups which somehow come across as wooden and artificial.

Parallel Mothers is on par in the context of Almodóvar’s prolific output a minor work – a showcase of everything he is good at – but falls between entertainment and serious satire, leaving the audience disappointed on all accounts. AS

Nationwide from 28 January 2022

Memoria (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. MT

Onoda (2021)

Dir.: Arthur Harari; Cast: Yuya Endo, Kanji Tsuda, Yuya Matsuura, Testsuya Chiba, Issei Taniguchi, Taiga Nakano, Shinsuke Kato | Action drama, 2021, 165 min.

French director/co-writer Arthur Harari collaborates with Vincent Poymiro and Bernhard Cendron in chronicling 29 years in the life of the titular Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda (1922-2014), who for nearly thirty years hid in the jungle of the Philippine island of Lubang, fighting a war which ended in September 1945.

Towards the end of WWII, young Hiroo Onoda (Endo) is chosen to be a Kamikaze pilot. But Hiroo – in contrast to many of his peer group – does not want to die, and he refuses to fly, citing vertigo for his decision. This brings him to the attention of Major Taniguchi (Ogata), who runs a school for secret war activities: Hiroo is told never to commit suicide, or surrender to the fast advancing American troops.

On the Philippine island of Lubang, Onoda is witness to the overwhelming power of the American army. But true to the promise he has given to Taniguchi, he refuses to concede defeat, and gathers a motley crew of three other soldiers embarking on a guerrilla war against the island’s population: “The four of us can kill hundreds”. One of the resisters, Akatsu, deserts in 1949 but Onoda battles on in his own private war still believing the islanders are in alliance with the Americans.

History this may be, but Onoda would be very much at home today: refusing to believe that the war has ended, despite all signs to the contrary. Everything signalling the truth is hailed as ‘Fake News’; even Hiroo’s father speaking with a loudhailer to make his son accept reality. For Hiroo, it is not the voice of his father, but an actor paid by the Americans. And on New Year’s Day in 1950, Onoda and Kozuka await a rescue party after they have “decoded” leaflets and other written material left for them by the population.

Harari tells the story from the POV of Hiroo: we live in his head, hear his inner dialogue, and apart from the overwhelming running time of nearly three hours, there is much to appreciate: Kanji Tsuda as the older Onoda is outstanding amidst an impressive cast. And there is always humour and irony: when Hiroo and Kozuka make a map of the island, they use names from their pre-war life experiences. And, strangely, there is sometimes a sort of beauty in the wild phantasies of a man who cannot give up his dream of becoming a hero, the guilt of his refusal to sacrifice himself as a pilot driving himself on. AS

ON RELEASE AT SELECTED ARTHOUSE CINEMAS

 

The Velvet Queen (2021)

Dir: Marie Amiguet, Vincent Munier | France, Doc, 89′

If you’re thinking this is going to be another children’s Christmas animation – think again. The Velvet Queen – or its more informative French title La panthere des neiges – sees two explorer/photographers heading to the snowy wastelands of Tibet in search of the elusive Snow Leopard.

A soulful love letter to nature The Velvet Queen focuses on ambience rather than facts in exploring an unexplored part of the world where animals still reign supreme in the echoing silence of the Tibetan plateau, one of the last sanctuaries of the wild where the rare and endangered leopard still roams despite poaching and environmental dangers.

Vincent Munier and Sylvain Tesson are clearly at one with each other pondering engagingly on the plight of the animals that venture past their long distance lenses in respectful coexistence, all camouflaged by magnificent furry winter coats that make them almost invisible to the naked eye against the sparse landscape known as ‘the roof of the World’.

Even when the feline eminence does make an appearance, towards the end of the film, a sinuous fluffy tail curling gingerly round a rocky outcrop, it cuts an unobtrusive figure prowling stealthily towards the body of a dead yak, then catching sight of the camera and warily withdrawing again into the hinterland. Bushy coated bears, mountain goats and a perky little bird with a black head and rust coloured body all wander by but are never identified, such is the impressionist style of this arthouse eco-doc: Oh David Attenborough where are you when we need a few names to faces? We do meet a local family with three young kids who are fiercely keen to learn and teach Tibetan to the French filmmakers who gladly join them later in their yurt for some welcome sustenance.

Director Marie Amiguet is best known for her documentary debut La Vallee des loups (2016) which goes on the trail of wolves in the French Alps, and she is also joined behind the camera by first time filmmaker Munier in this subtle but luminous look at a world fast disappearing. The film originally premiered in Cannes’ eco-conscious Cinema for the Climate strand and is now on general release at selected arthouse cinemas. MT

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM FRIDAY

 

 

 

A Hero (2021)

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-in-law (Alireza Jahandideh) to discuss ways of refinancing his life and paying back the money he owes a former brother-in-law, Bahram (Mohsen Tanabandeh), who won’t let him get away with a penny, determined to make 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 now digs his feet in over the money. And so Rahim’s naive act of honesty sets him back even further, the envious family picking holes in the 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 up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Farhadi deftly weaves 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 that shows how a little fame can boost your profile but too much soon garners envy and resentment from friends and family. More imaginative cinematography and set design would have taken this to another level. MT

IN CURZON CINEMAS NATIONWIDE FROM 7 JANUARY 2022

Vortex (2021)

Dir; Gaspar Noe | 142′

Gaspar Noe’s latest is a tougher, spikier and less affecting version of Michael Haneke’s Oscar-winning Amour (2012) that pictured the final months of a couple in their eighties.

Vortex opens with a man and woman enjoying an evening aperitif on the balcony of their book-filled penthouse. It’s a contented, easy-going domestic vignette with improvised dialogue, but dark clouds soon gather as a split screen then follows their day to day existence, after waking up in the next morning.

Dementia is the focus and Françoise Lebrun will succumb to the illness in a fairly nuanced performance – there are no confrontations or outbursts of aggression – simply a slow downward spiral into mental disintegration. Dario Argento plays the more troubled character, a heavy smoker suffering from heart failure and desperate to complete a book about dreams in cinema – he is fractious and destabilised by his wife’s increasingly erratic behaviour and worried for her safety: “you can’t just go swanning about the place, Paris is full of really dangerous people”. Although his wicked sense of humour comes out in the scenes with their mentally unstable son (Alex Lutz) who gently tries to coax his parents into the idea of a care home – we’ve all been there before, and it doesn’t get better.

The father will protest, the son will desperately try to find another solution – but we all know the writing is on the wall. The tone here is more about resentment and desperate resignation than Amour’s tempered sadness that celebrated the glowing embers a long life full of tenderness and devotion between a couple. Vortex presents a starker more predictable scenario, and very much a Dylan Thomas style ‘rage against the dying of the light’ for Argento’s husband. There are none of the thrills and spills normally associated with the Argentinian maverick’s work. Certainly this is Noe’s most grown-up film to date. An sobering engagement with reality, maybe acknowledging his own mortality. MT

VORTEX COMES TO UK CINEMAS IN MAY 2022.

Petrov’s Flu (2021)

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

Petrov’s Flu unites Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov with Semyon Serzin, the star of his 2018 drama Leto. His standout thought-provoking religious drama The Student (2016) screened at Un Certain Regard. It won that year’s Francois Chalais Award.

Based on the novel “The Petrovs In and Around the Flu” by Alexey Salnikov this film version 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 captivating: rough, funny, violent and psychedelic, and yet at the same time tender and poetic. It’s not quite a good as The Student .but its ideas and striking visual aesthetic make it well worth watching. MT

ON RELEASE FROM FRIDAY 11 February 2022

Drive My Car (2021) BAFTAs 2022

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, and as a tentative relationship develops between the two lonely hearts, 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 in 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 companions are from different generations Hamaguchi’s textured script and layered characterisations show them both to be highly intuitive and emotionally intelligent.

The film’s ample running time allows for an indepth understanding of what it is to be lonely while also being complete from an 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.  MT

OSCAR BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE | BEST FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE | BAFTAS 2022

 

Jane by Charlotte (2021) DocLisboa 2021

Dir/Wri: Charlotte Gainsbourg | Doc, 86′

In his rather tricksy biopic singer, photographer, actor and now director Charlotte Gainsbourg (1971-) attempts to unveils her legendary mother Jane Birkin (1946-), model, actor and enigmatic star of that kinky song “Je t’aime, moi non plus” by her rakish father Serge.

Keen to retain her mystique, Birkin smirks winsomely behind a tousled mop of hair, murmuring breathy soundbites to retain her allure, her daughter tentatively teasing out episodes past and present to avoid embarassing or disrupting the fragile facade that created her mother’s original elusiveness. The two speak French, Birkin sometimes breaking into ‘Franglais’. Meanwhile we desperately clutch at straws hoping for a meaty backstory, something more tangible to feed on; not so much of that flirty love affair between Birkin and Gainsbourg but of the essence of Birkin herself, and how she came to be celebrity muse to maverick star Serge Gainsbourg.

Many of her fellow female celebrities of the sixties: Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, Marianne Faithful, and the like, have retained that place in history, seared to our collective consciousness as legendary icons. But was their legendary status justified; did it have ballast – or where they just lucky to be around to capture the essence of a time when this cloud of creative counterculture known as the ‘swinging sixties’ burst onto the scene?.

The legendary Agnes Varda had a go at revealing Birkin in her upbeat film essay Jane B. by Agnès V. but managed to keep her friend under wraps. Will Charlotte do the same, or will her piece a ‘peek behind the scenes’ that manages to find something more intriguing. Sadly no.

Loose and louche, this turns out to be rather sketchy, to say the least. Mother and daughter potter around in the garden of Birkin’s picturesque seaside home accompanied by various small kids, the veteran star, now 74, attempting to be edgy by admitting to hacking off her hair in a flattering mirror, catching sight of the finished result in a less attractive reflection, and is horrified. But the stunt gave her singing career another lease of life when she performed onstage at the Paris Bataclan, proving she did have a real voice. Previously she had lip-synced to a playback tape.

From her various interviews over the years, and searching on Wikipedia, we know that Birkin was married to prolific film composer John Barry and had Kate who later committed suicide in 2013. She then gave birth to Charlotte with Gainsbourg and  Lou Doillon with Jacques Doillon. The Hermes ‘Birkin’ bag was named after her and she wrote the “Munkey Diaries”, but what new gems are uncovered here? Not a lot in an arcane outing that feels like an intensely personal vanity project with its family footage and hushed mother/daughter chats, but nothing else. There are no archive clips or film excerpts to enrich the film for the entertainment and enlightenment of audiences young and older. Just a rather ‘off the cuff’ sortie that plays out as a series of snapshots of the two spending time together. They are clearly close, touchingly so, but also respective of one another’s talents and Charlotte never pushes the boundaries into real intimacy.

The most fascinating scene sees Jane and Charlotte swinging by Serge’s flat in the rue de Verneuil (Paris) which has remained untouched with his white shoes – even Gitane cigarettes and old cans of food (many having exploded!) – there for all to see. But that’s as interesting as it gets for the outsider. Another missed opportunity. MT

AT DOCLISBOA 2021 | CANNES 2021 PREMIERE.

 

 

The Gravedigger’s Wife (2021)

Dir.: Khadar Ayderus Ahmed; Cast: Omar Abdi, Yasmin Warsame, Kadar Abdout Aziz Ibrahim.Somalia/Finland/Qatar/Germany/France 2021, 82 min.

The Gravedigger’s Wife was the first Somali film ever to be nominated for the Oscars in the Foreign Features category. It takes place in Djibouti City, the capital of the smallest country on the African continent, where employment – or the lack of it – is a major issue for nearly a million who live in and around the capital.

Guled (Abdi) and his wife Nasra (Warsame) are true romantics: they eloped as teenagers, Nasra’s family wanting her to marry an older, wealthy man. Even now, they only have eyes for each other, their teenage son Mahad (Aziz Ibrahim) has the freedom to roam the streets with his mates, but his truanting only comes to light after he has missed months of school.

Guled competes with his friends for the ‘bounty’: they are all lined up at the gate of the local hospital, ready to chase the arriving ambulances. Guled and Nasra never had much money, he left his herd of goats to his brother in their home village, after he and Nasra were expelled for disobeying the wishes of the elders.

The couple light-heartedly “borrows” a goat, presenting it as a wedding gift at a wedding they gate-crash. But their playful attitude has to stop, when Nasra develops a kidney infection requiring surgery at a specialist hospital in Ethiopia at the cost of $500 000

When Nasra’s condition worsens, the doctor has good and bad news: On a positive note the surgery can be managed locally by a visiting anaesthetist, but the price tag remains the same. So Mahad and his friends take on all kind of jobs to contribute to the staggering costs, Guled swallowing his pride, as he sets off for his home village to reclaim his goat herd.

You could call Khadar Ayderus Ahmed’s first film a road movie, as most of the action plays out in the streets of suburban Djibouti and the long desert road between the city and his home village. But the most intimate scenes are set in the modest family home where hope fades with day that passes, Nasra’s presence a pale comparison with her former strength in the local community, she now stays at home, her pain all too visible.

DoP Arttn Peltomaa contrasts the sun-dappled colours of the desert surroundings with sombre earthy colours of the intimate domestic interiors where the family fears for the worst.

In his passionate feature debut Ahmed adopts a less is more approach to the narrative, but the way he deals with conflicting emotions augurs well for the future.  AS

NOW ON RELEASE FROM 21 OCTOBER 2022

Marx Can Wait (2021)

Dir: Marco Bellocchio | Italy, Doc, 96′ | With Marco, Piergiorgio, Alberto, Francesco, Letizia, Maria Luisa Bellocchio, Pia Bareggi |

Veteran Italian director Marco Bellocchio’s latest nonfiction film (his last was in 2002) has nothing to do with Carl Marx, nor is it an auto-biography, but a love letter to his twin brother Camillo who committed suicide in 1968 and whose life – and death – marked the director’s filmmaking.

Although there are noteworthy clips and excerpts from Bellocchio’s filmography, those hoping for an immersive look back at his film career – and this year marks an Honorary Palme d’Or Tribute to his lifetime achievement – will be disappointed. Instead Bellocchio puts his siblings at the focus of the narrative giving them an opportunity to share and ruminate on their brother’s death at the tender age of 29, exploring how the tragedy could have been avoided.

Now considerably advanced in years, the four remaining brothers and sisters are left with poignant memories and regrets, some sixty years after a loss that has clearly affected them deeply in ways that are now physically and emotionally difficult to express (one has a serious speech impediment but still manages to contribute with emotional clarity).

Much time (almost too much time) is spent in the ringing of hands, the reflecting on the past and how the remaining siblings could been more supportive. Suicide feels like a punishment for those left behind, an admonishment, a stinging valedictory that will forever haunt friends and loved ones, shaking them to the core of their being. Camillo’s recently deceased widow is represented by his sister-in-law, and her sister, who adds valuable outside context to the family’s grieving.

Bellocchio opts for a straightforward chronicle narrative where he remains the calm and lucid interlocutor, the camera frequently panning away from the tortured confessions to the domestic interiors, archive clips adding relief to the constant emoting. This remains an intensely personal film, deeply resonant for those directly affected by the issues. But processing grief is always a personal affair, and to his credit, Bellocchio retains distance from his project, on this occasion allowing the others to do the mourning for him. MT

CANNES PREMIERE | NOW SCREENING AT LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2021

The Worst Person in the World (2021)

Dir: Joachim Trier | Wris Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier | Norway, Romantic comedy 121′

Renate Reinsve won the Best Actress award at Cannes for being ‘the worst person in the world’ in Joachim Trier’s latest film. But her only crime is indecision in this morally complex character drama about freedom of choice for beautiful young things in the 21st century.

Julie is 30. A perfect age to be alive in Oslo where she lives with her boyfriend Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie, who also stars in Bergman’s Island), a successful cartoonist who adds a thoughtful stability to Julie’s spirited self-focus. The choppily edited early scenes see Julie reinventing herself in various career choices: medicine then psychoanalysis, then photography. Her mother is supportive then exasperated in an upbeat narrative that regularly spins off in various directions but never loses its central focus in a script co-written by Eskil Vogt.

Aksel’s career is going from strength to strength and he wants to start a family. But Julie is conflicted and even more so after the two spend a fraught weekend with his family where other smug couples make her feel uncomfortable with her lack of decision. What follows is series of episodes where Julie toys with her career choices and the men in her life, Aksel becoming more and more disenchanted with her constant forays into pastures new.

Divided into twelve chapters, a prologue and epilogue, the film fizzes with light-hearted fun never making Julie out to be callous – she is sensitive and likeable – but feels a genuine uncertainty about her emotional status in a society that seems to funnel us into a lemming like direction of commitment. There is melancholy too, especially in the final chapter where Julie is made aware of the impact of her choices, or lack of them. Sometimes splashy but always entertaining this is a watchable chronicle of modern millennial life. MT

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

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

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

After Yang (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

Dir: Kogonada | Famtasy sci-fi drama | 107’

Kogonada’s serenely seductive cinematic style was always going to be a winner for a Sci-fi meets Artificial intelligence thriller, especially when it stars Colin Farrell in the leading role.

He is the touchstone for the old-fashioned metrosexual male whose angsty performance keeps this feature real when far into the future  robots can be hired to complete your nuclear family – if all else fails.

A sassy dance routine sets an upbeat tempo for a hypnotic drama where Kafkaesque scenarios still exist. If a robot breaks down the computer usually says ‘no’ to any simple repair job, that’s if you can get through to the call centre. Such is the case with ‘Second Siblings’ the company that provided Jake (Farell) and his partner Kyra (Turner-Smith) with an older Chinese brother in the shape of Yang for their strong-willed Chinese daughter Mika (Tjandrawidjaja).

Yang seems like a ‘normal’ teenager until he de-programmes and threatens to decompose just as we’ve met this happy multicultural family unit who live in a modernist bungalow in leafy LA. While Kyra is an ambivalent workaholic mother, Jake is left with the tech issues and that’s where the consumer nightmare starts, but the tone is ultra mellow and Jake’s mood can best be described as uncomfortably bemused.

South Korean-born Kogonada transports us to a dreamlike place in the future where technology has taken over but feelings still prevail for humans, their robo-sapiens sidekicks are just not “programmed that way”. But when Jake gets deeper into repairing Yang’s complex core he discovers a memory bank that is thrilling and out of this world.

Jake tracks down a blonde teenager who seemed to feature in Yang’s past, Ada (Haley Lu Ricardson) reveals how Yang was keen to explore his Chinese identity. Meanwhile Mika is suffering from the loss of her sibling particularly missing his sensitivity and understanding of her adoption likening it to the ancient Chinese practice of tree grafting,   playing out in an idyllic scene in an apple orchard.

Kogonada directs with alluring sensitivity in a feature that engenders a warm feeling of calm through its delicately vibrant aesthetic and quietly convincing performances. After Yang  contemplates a future that’s still far from perfect despite surreal technical advances. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2021

 

 

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

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)

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 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 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

COMING TO CINEMAS ON 19 August 2022

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

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

 

La Civil (2021) Cannes – Un Certain Regard 2021

Dir: Teodora Ana Mihai | Cast: Arcelia Ramirez, Alvaro Guerrero, Jorge A Jimenez, Ayelen Muzo | Belgium. Drama 140′

La Civil is only the third Belgian Flemish feature of recent years to be included in the prestigious official Un Certain Regard sidebar at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Another startling episode in the history of Latin America was the inspiration for this feature debut from Belgian-Romanian director, Teodora Ana Mihai. This time we’re in Mexico channelling the tragic real life experience of Miriam Rodríguez through the character of a young mother Cielo who is desperately looking for her daughter abducted by members of a drug cartel. Once again, the authorities are not much use so Cielo (a feisty Arcelia Ramirez ) takes things into her own hands gradually turning from ordinary housewife into avenging activist, all for the love of her daughter.

Visually striking and packed with gritty authenticity thanks to a script from Texan born Mexican author Habacuc Antonio de Rosario the film comes alive in relating the ongoing horror of families blown apart by drug cartels, not unlike the British equivalent in the recent County Lines. At its heart La Civil is about unconditional parental love, a mother refusing to back down in the face of a venal enemy, prepared to do anything to save her child, rather like this year’s other Mexican survival drama Amparo playing in the Semaine de la Critique section.

Here the camera sees things from the victim’s point of view with strong atmospheric echoes of the US TV crime series Narcos. MT

UN CERTAIN REGARD CANNES | JULY 12TH PREMIERE

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

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