Archive for the ‘Cannes film festival’ Category

Eureka (2023)

Dir: Lisandro Alonso | Cast: Chiara Mastroianni, Viggo Mortensen, Rafi Pitts, Viilbjork Malling Agger | Fantasy drama, Argentina147′

Viggo Mortensen and Chiara Mastroianni star in this striking  that sees a man in search of his daughter journeying into the unknown.

Everyone loves a good story but storytelling is not like it used to be in the Golden Era of Hollywood and or European arthouse traditions. That said, Argentinian auteur Lisandro Alonso always manages to intoxicate us with his mesmerising fantasy drama such as Jauja that seem to hark back to a strange and exotic past celebrating the weird and wonderful. Eureka opens as a striking classically styled western.

More an art-installation than a straightforward narrative film Eureka is an off-beat, slow-burning addition to his oeuvre that starts off in gleaming back and white. Mortensen fetches up in a silent backwater in the Old West – no hint of Sergio Leone – but his gunslinging skills are a match for Clint Eastwood when told by a local innkeeper to ‘f*** off’.

Shifting to the present, in full colour, the focus is then a Native American police officer who is working through a gruelling casebook of local petty criminal offences. This sequence morphs in turn to a surreal scenario as the officer drinks a potion that transforms into a bird that flies back to the Brazilian jungle where another bizarre occurrence unfolds. Alonso quails aware from form or narrative in a seductive sensory concoction that beguiles and mesmerises, possibly getting its name from the place where gold was first discovered. A transformative experience on the big screen. Give it a go. @MeredithTaylor

IN UK CINEMAS FROM 16 FEBRUARY 2024

Bonnard: Pierre et Marthe (2023)

Dir: Martin Provost | Cast: Cécile de France, Vincent Macaigne, Stacy Martin, Anouk Grinberg, André Marcon France. 2023. 122 mins.

Seduction follows a chance meeting in the street between impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard and Marthe Boursin (aka de Meligny) who becomes his model, muse and lover in 1893 Paris.

The coup de coeur and subsequent romantic relationship is sumptuously depicted in this lyrical latest outing from Breton writer/director Martin Provost and stars Vincent Macaigne and Cecile de France as the central couple whose turbulent mutual devotion endured until their deaths in the 1940s as Bonnard’s career flourished and Marthe became a noted artist of the day.

Captivated by her beauty Bonnard immediately puts brush to canvas painting the stunned Marthe in the nude. These avant-garde canvasses would go on to cause much chuntering in the salons. But Bonnard flatly refused to make Marthe a mother thinking it too bourgeois for his artistic lifestyle. Instead he encouraged her to paint.

The couple set up home in a rambling country villa on the banks of the Seine where Marthe swims everyday until her doctor prescribes hot baths for her asthma. Close friends Monet (Andre Marcon) and Vuillard (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet) visit frequently. There’s a great deal of nude frolicking, the agile camera chasing after the passionate characters who live a life of artistic abandon in the sumptuous rural setting where summer never seems to cease in Guillaume Schiffman’s gorgeous camerawork. An incessant violin score is occasionally overbearing.

Despite her poor health, not helped by Bonnard’s infidelity with various women (played gamely by Stacy Martin as the unstable Renee Monchaty) and Anouk Grinberg as Misia Sert, his hard-edged and condescending patron), Marthe emerges the stronger more fleshed-out chactacter of the two, her fébrile intensity contrasting with Bonnard’s phlegmatic reticence to be drawn into any kind of debate that takes him away from his easel. By his own admission he apparently lacked the courage of his convictions: a creative with feet of clay.

As you might expect from the subject matter the film often ramps up the melodrama but Provost manages the tonal shifts with style in one of the most enjoyable films of his career so far. A dab hand at portraying maverick women, his 2008 film about an edgy artist Seraphine was lauded at the Césars, and Violette (2013) takes on the complex character of Simone de Beauvoir (Sandrine Kiberlain) seen through the eyes of her close friend and mentee Violette Leduc (Emmanuelle Devon).

Provost somehow avoids the trap of making this biopic preachy: de France and Macaigne play a credible couple whose deep love for each other feels real despite his philandering during which he maintains a low profile while everyone affected is in complete disarray. Captivating and compulsive this is a two-hour biopic worth watching. @MeredithTaylor

NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

Along Came Love (2022)

Director: Katell Quillévéré | Cast: Anaïs Demoustier, Vincent Lacoste, Hélios Karyo, Morgan Bailey, Josse Capet, Paul Beaurepaire, Margot Ringard Oldra | France, Drama 125′

Katell Quillévére, best known for her heart-rending 2013 drama Heal the Living, really knows how to bring beauty and intense emotion to the screen without shying away from difficult themes. The opening titles of her latest film Along Came Love (Le Temps d’aimer) show archive footage of the public humiliation of French women or ‘collabos’ who engaged with German soldiers during the Second World War. Rather like the ‘tarring and feathering’ carried out by the IRA on women suspected of involvement with British forces during the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland these reflect  the unspeakable face of misogyny. What follows, by contrast, is a poignant and ravishingly depicted love story starring Anaïs Demoustier and Vincent Lacoste and set in Brittany in 1947. Despite its unevenness in chronicling four decades of their life, Along Came Love will win your heart.

Demoustier is Madeleine, a collabo whose young son Daniel (Hélios Karyo) is the result of a brief affair with a German soldier. Disgraced and desperate to escape the past she is working as a waitress in a seaside restaurant where she meets François (Vincent Lacoste) a wealthy intellectual, bashful in his beret and dapper navy suit. Madeleine is decked out in Breton national costume with a starched white headdress that certainly adds to her allure. Love is in the air and Francois orders two glasses of champagne, one he offers to her.

The director and her co-writer Gilles Taurand don’t quite manage to keep us convinced of their fraught story during the film’s two hour running time. There are certainly bursts of intensity to the fractious wartime marriage but also times where melodrama takes over and leaves us confused: intellectually and sexually, the two appear to misfire – Francois is an old school academic, Madeleine a somewhat lightweight character given to a flirtatiousness that seems inconsistent with the couple’s supposed romantic bliss which sends them down the aisle and then to his spacious apartment in Paris.

Life in the capital is often turbulent and this conflict plays out during the time the couple have fled Paris and are living in Châteauroux during the 1950s, where they run a bar frequented by American GI’s from a nearby military base. Here they meet and become involved in a ‘menage a trois’ with a Black soldier named Jimmy (Morgan Bailey) who fires up their sexual fantasies with his lusty corpulence. But the affair between them feels gauche and unconvincing. In contrast Madeleine’s relationship with her son (played as a young man by Paul Beaurepaire) seems much more authentic. All in all, Demoustier and Lacoste manage to carry the film through these awkward moments and into the 1960s and 1970s where her stylish rigouts accurately reflect the times as the story builds to its devastating conclusion.

During his studies François had apparently had an illicit affair with a male student who comes back to haunt him in a dramatic turns of events involving arson and the authorities. Nobody wants to be in trouble with the French police but soon the inevitable occurs and Francois is taken away.

All this feels less authentic than Madeleine’s more reasonable backstory, based, apparently, on the life of Quillévéré’s own grandmother. With its echoes of Douglas Sirk’s 1958 outing A Time to Love and a Time to Die this arthouse melodrama from the Ivorian director is certainly a welcome addition but not one of her best. @MeredithTaylor

Perfect Days (2023)

Dir: Wim Wenders | Cast: Koji Yakusho, Tokio Emoto, Arisa Nakano, Yumi Aso | Drama 123′

Wim Wenders’ latest cinematic sortie celebrates the simple pleasures in life seen through the day to day existence of a lavatory attendant in Tokyo, where these facilities are a genuine art form kept immaculately clean by this elegant janitor.

Perfect Days has the same gentle rhythms and sympathetic quirkiness as Paris Texas but this time the main character is at peace with his modest lifestyle. Late middle age finds Hirayama satisfied with the status quo and able to embrace change when it makes a welcome appearance, and not disappointed when it goes away again. Recognise this person in yourself? Then Perfect Days is your film.

Koji Yakusho is a joy to behold and his captivating presence (as Hirayama) radiates throughout the film drawing us into a delightful fable where life just bobs along contentedly in a state of grace often called ‘flow’. Hirayama finds his happiness in music, books, food and photography.

Wim Wenders has long been fascinated by cities: and Tokyo has frequently come under his radar: his stylish1980s documentary Notebook On Cities And Clothes also ponders creative potential. And here the focus of his protagonist’s days is the lavatory: form and function. And Tokyo’s water closets are the most inventively designed, and arguably the most pristine known to mankind, largely thanks to Hirayama and the locals whose sense of awareness and civilisation is second to none, public ablutions-wise.

More a philosophical meditation than a drama Perfect Days is nonetheless mesmerising. It brings the veteran German director’s technique and lightness of touch together with a vital ingredient that makes him one of film’s geniuses. Effortless and minimalism, this is a magical concoction, a meaning-of-life feature that gets to the very heart of human existence with its sheer simplicity. It could also bore the pants off mainstream audiences with its ‘nothing-really-happens’ banality.

A typical day for Hirayama sees him waking at dawn in his spartan apartment where he shaves and sips tea before slipping into his ‘Tokyo Toilets’ overalls for the drive to work. Despite a menial job he cuts a dapper figure in his blue cotton jumpsuit and seems cheerful in his endeavour: to keep the capital’s lavatories spotless. A goofy young colleague Takashi (Tokio Emoto) frets and moans about his love life and lack of money, but that ship has long sailed for Hirayama, these issues no longer concern him.

Music is his companion and we enjoy a score of iconic ’60s tunes, most significantly Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Days’, which gives the film its title, along with Van Morrison and The Rolling Stones. Lunch and dinner are enjoyed with his regular bartenders, and here Wenders conjures up a culinary essence of contemporary Tokyo. Hirayama also enjoys photography; trees are of particular interest, and he takes cuttings from root stock potting the perfect little shoots, complete with soil, with the help of a paper container kept conveniently in his wallet. After a wash in the communal baths he beds down on his futon where he reads to the light of Tokyo’s neon illuminations. His dream-life is delicately etched in black and white montages evoking the Japanese concept of ‘komorebi’ and created by the director’s wife Donata Wenders.

Alone but not lonely and totally at ease with himself, Hirayama barely utters a word throughout but engages volubly when the need arises, as with Mama (Sayuri Ishikawa), a middle-aged woman who runs a noodle bar he often visits. His niece Niko (Arisa Nakano) makes a brief appearance, providing a welcome female presence in Hirayama’s life and fleshing out a backstory that speaks volumes. He looks on with a philosophical, knowing shrug of the shoulders when her mother arrives.

Tokyo is very much a character here beautifully captured by Franz Lustig’s perfect camerawork. The final sequence of Hirayama’s facial expressions as he drives through the night provides a charismatic valediction to a memorable but slender snapshot of a satisfying life. @MeredithTaylor

NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE

Anselm (2023)

Dir.: Wim Wenders; Documentary with Anslem Kiefer, Daniel Kiefer, Anton Wenders; Germany 2023, 93 min.

To call Wim Wenders’ portrait of German artist Anselm Kiefer a documentary would be selling the work of both artists short. Anselm is a potted history of post war Germany, rooted in the society where both men were born, in 1945. Neither of them escaped unhurt even though Kiefer, a more confrontational character than Wenders, took the brunt of criticism.

But “Das Rauschen der Zeit” is first and foremost a chronicle of a country still not ready to face its racist past. Their output is shrouded in enigma and ambivalence. There is always confusion and reverie: Wenders’ American set films and Kiefer’s French based creations are flights of imagination. But the shadow of the Third Reich looms large, and cannot be negotiated with art or gestures.

Anselm Kiefer, represented as a young man by Daniel Kiefer and as a school boy by Anton Wenders, gained prominence in 1971 as Joseph Beuys’ master student in Dusseldorf. This was followed by a scandal in Venice, at the Biennale in 1980, when Kiefer was accused of being a neo-Nazi, with him insisting he just wanted to refer to the victims of the Holocaust, wearing his father’s Wehrmacht’s Uniform and greeting the public with the Nazi salute. In 2022 Kiefer would make a triumphant return to the city.

But by now his work output was colossal – both in yield and form: He created topographic landscapes in an old brick factory in Germany, and landscapes in the South of France. And he continues to this day with mega installations in his new studio in Croissy near Paris. There are architectural constructions, numerous pavilions, underground crypts and a gigantic, roofed amphitheatre. Everything is larger than life, and Kiefer is still at it, in a big way, always moving forward to the next project. Flame throwers are his favourite “weapons” of art, giant lift constructions lead him to the top of the world. Literally.

Then we return to the beginning with Paul Celan (1920 – 1970), holocaust survivor, poet and translator, who drowned himself in the Seine. The author Ingeborg Bachmann (1926-1976) a member of the circle of artists striving for a new beginning, not another cover-up. She died in an “accidental” fire in her own bed. But they were outnumbered by the ex-Nazi supporters who went into “inner exile” while still supporting the regime, like the philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), who never apologised or even tried to explain. There is a moving snapshot of Celan trying to meet Heidegger – but like Richard Strauss, leader of the NSDAP “ReichsmusikKammer” (Musicians had to be Aryans to take part), Heidegger could not even be bothered to say sorry, keeping his international reputation intact.

There is brilliance on both sides of the camera, thanks to DoP Franz Lustig, and it is a credit to both artists to return to the failed new beginning, because the huge majority of Germans preferred to feel sorry for themselves and were busy with collective denial. Wenders and Kiefer are still attempting to evade the past. But try as they may, it still outruns them. @AndreSimonoveisz

IN CINEMAS FROM 8 DECEMBER 2023

Lost in the Night (2023)

Dir: Amat Escalante | Cast: Juan Daniel Garcia, Ester Expósito, Barbara Mori, Fernando Bonilla, Hero Medina, Vicky Araico | Thriller 120′

The rich and the poor have a Mexican standoff in this Neo western – and no prizes for guessing who wins the day. Amat Escalante first arrived on the scene with his shocking feature debut Heli. Lost in the Night is a muddled murder mystery that looks spectacular but leaves us in the dark for most its running time. A pervasive sense of uneasiness gradually gains momentum in the final stages but some questions are left unanswered in a quietly savage tale of revenge that simmers in Adrian Durazo’s widescreen landscapes of the craggy Guanajuato setting.

Juan Daniel Garcia is Emiliano, the hero of the piece. This morose Mexican macho is motivated by a keen sense of justice. He is a serious man with a mission: to shed light on the fate of his pioneering mother (Araico) who disappeared after campaigning against the sale of the local mine to foreign investors and the contingent job losses. And he soon tracks down his suspect, an effete conceptual artist called Rigoberto (Bonilla), who hangs out in this stark backwater, postering around a curious concrete lakeside villa with his steely wife Carmen (Barbara Mori) and her influencer daughter Mónica (Ester Expósito), whose speciality is fake suicide videos. The local police, headed by Jero Medina, are not fit for purpose so Emiliano makes his own investigations by offering to work undercover as the family caretaker.

Emiliano represents solid values, Rigoberto all that is spurious in this world: his most famous work conceptualises dead Mexican bodies. But Escalante’s narrative often gets bogged down in these modernising themes derailing the story from its central focus and stretching the film rather too thinly over its two hour running time. Emiliano’s female equivalent Jasmin (Mafer Osio) is a traditional Mexican ‘madonna’ who offers him tenderness but never really gets a look in. Monica throws herself at him, turned on by his strong silent earnestness. At one point he dives in and rescues her from the lake after one of her more petulant displays of narcissism. So an interesting addition to the Escalante archive but not one of his most memorable. MT

NOW IN UK Cinemas

https://youtu.be/S38sRUvJjYs

 

May December (2023)

Dir: Todd Haynes | Cast: Julianne Moore, Natalie Portman, Chris Tenzis, Charles Melton | US Drama 117′

May December could well be one of the masterworks about the way paedophilia impacts on relationships and family life. It is the confident latest film from Todd Haynes who began as a key figure of the 1990’s New Queer Canadian Cinema with films such as Poison, The Karen Carpenter Story, Safe and Velvet Goldmine. Working with a talented cast and crew, actor Julianne Moore and producer Christine Vachon showcase the power of a mature director in full command of his filmmaking craft.

The film is not an easy watch for those who find difficult subjects uncomfortable in an entertainment context although there is a duty for fearless artists to interrogate challenging subject matter. May December certainly does this and provides a deeply moving and affecting study of the secrets, lies and deceptions that exist even within close relationships.

The title is a play on the seasons of the year reflecting the romantic relationship between two people of different ages, and linking spring – that comes with youth – through to the eventual winter of old age. This connection with the seasons echoes Alexander Singer’s criminally undervalued 1961 film A Cold Wind in August about the relationship between an ageing stripper and a much younger man; as well as Catherine Breillet’s latest feature Last Summer (2023) that sees a married woman toy with her young stepson without serious emotional intentions.

There is a difference here. Once Haynes lifts the lid off the various themes nothing will be the same again for his wide range of players and characters. The plot is straightforward and based in reality, echoing the true 1990s story of 36-year-old Mary Kay Letourneau who left her husband and family after being convicted and jailed due to her relationship with a 13-year-old boy. On release from prison, she married the young man and formed a new family and a cosy, respectable and conventional middle-class life.

At this point in the narrative Haynes introduces melodrama. The mother (Moore) commissions an indie film that will tell her story and, hopefully, reveal honest truths about what had happened years previously. The film begins with a visit from Elizabeth (Natalie Portman) the actor chosen to play Julianne Moore’s dysfunctional character Gracie, in an attempt to understand everyone involved in this extended family life. The coming together of the first family and the children from the second marriage, during a graduation ceremony weekend, is beautifully handled with sly humour while revealing a feature of complex resonances.

The film offers a powerhouse challenge for Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman as the women involved, and recalls the work of George Cukor,  another gay filmmaker at ease working with female actors and handling themes involving women. Julianne Moore has the more grounded role as the mother/wife, enabling her to invest her character with more backstory involving childhood abuse trauma that in later life could have manifested in an arrested state of childhood as the source of her original transgressive relationship with the 13-year-old boy. Haynes heightens this with her, now adult, younger husband who is beginning to realise he has missed out on a full experience of life, and revealing that May/December relationships can bring problems later on involving missed and lost opportunities.

Natalie Portman may have the more difficult but also revealing role as Elizabeth. She has a less defined past suggestive of being mildly lonely and only moderately successful. This is all left open but heightens the contrast between both characters: Elizabeth appears to be shadowing Gracie with a form of imitation that reveals how a mix of identity issues and role-playing can be very dangerous. One sequence is particularly revealing and offers a  masterclass in skilful technique and razor-edge emotional precision: The two women face each other, seemingly stripped bare of their respective personas.

Another aspect of the film’s power involves Haynes’ well-documented understanding of the 1950s Hollywood cinema of Douglas Sirk. The visual style is mostly melancholy with muted greys and browns and none of Sirk’s expressionistic colour lighting, although there is a similar sense of framing and space involving settings and characters. Also relevant here are Sirk’s themes involving theatrical illusion, patriarchal values and forbidden love – which threaten familiar and social conventions – in a ‘let’s pretend we are all nice’ middle-class setting bringing to mind All that Heaven Allows (1955).

There are many other intriguing and poignant scenes that are best left for viewers to experience. If you are wondering why the beautiful score by Marcelo Zarvos includes sonorous chords of music in a French style, this is because the music incorporates Michel Legrand’s score for Joseph Losey’s film The Go Between. The reference may be intentional as May December is another insight into the myriad ways a child’s life can provide complex links into adult lives. @PeterHerbert

NOVEMBER 17 in cinemas and on SKY CINEMA DEC 8

PETER HERBERT is Curator Manager at THE ARTS PROJECT

The Old Oak (2023)

Dir: Ken Loach | Wri: Paul Laverty | Cast: Dave Turner, Ebla Mari, Claire Rodgerson, Trevor Fox, Chris McGlade, Jordan Louis, Chrissie Robinson | UK Drama 117′

A far cry from his early hits Kes and Poor Cow, The Old Oak is another disingenuous sob story from Ken Loach and his pal Paul Laverty who joins him, on script duties, in eschewing a traditional narrative and rolling out the cliched pros and cons when a group of Syrian refugees are plonked into a village in County Durham. 

Naturally the locals aren’t best pleased when the busload arrives in the former mining town. Ressources are already stretched as it is and things can only get worse (which is presumably why most of the disgruntled locals voted Brexit).

That all said, Brits and Syrians gradually settle down into a modus vivendi as they get to know one another and realise everyone’s the same at the end of the day and just wants a simple life.

But what plays out is far from simplistic, and Laverty makes pleasing use of the vernacular with some seasoned old chestnuts peppered with expletives aplenty in telling the tale. And to be fair on old Ken, his latest is far and away a better film than his 2016 agitprop I, Daniel Blake. much loved and lorded by our friends abroad. This at least feels real and genuine with well-formed characters, and there’s a lovely scene set in Durham Cathedral. 

Robbie Ryan’s careful camerawork, a few laugh-out-loud gags and some naturalistic performances from a cast of newcomers – especially the two leads: Dave Turner and Ebla Mari, make The Old Oak unexpectedly moving and amusing despite the mawkish, over- protracted ending. Not a patch on Kes or Poor Cow though. MT

NOW ON RELEASE IN UK and FRANCE

Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)

Dir: Martin Scorsese | Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemmons, John Lithgow | US Drama 200’

Martin Scorsese’s 26th film is a love story, a crime thriller and an epic of cultural significance. Because it’s essentially about immigrants –  the white man taking over the natives in their own country evoked by film’s lyrical title – Killers of the Flower Moon is also bound to be universal and newsworthy in its appeal. But Scorsese also makes his first Western smoulderingly beautiful with each frame a glowing masterpiece capturing the ravishing splendour of the Oklahoma countryside during the prohibition years of the 1920s when most of the western world was caught up in the first world war.

Best female actor in a motion picture – drama – 81st Golden Globes @Benny Askinas

Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro are masterful as the two villains of the piece with Jesse Plemmons offering integrity as the calm and straightforward man of the Law. DiCaprio acts his socks off but newcomer Lily Gladstone steals the show as the Native American woman he falls for and marries, mostly for love but also because his uncle (De Niro) is keen to ensure her fortune passes into the family, a common practice that spread through the region like wildfire, attracting all kinds of negative elements to this peaceful community and giving the film its spiritual element so loved by Scorsese: the serpent in the  Garden of Eden 

Three and a half hours steal by engrossingly as Scorsese and his co-writer Roth craft a treacherous tale of subplots and intrigue fleshing out each character to build a rich cinematic tapestry of the times but, in contrast to his New York fare, the violence here is nuanced and restrained but the film really needs to be seen on the big screen. If this true epic doesn’t win an Oscar I’ll eat my Stetson. MT

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – LILY GLADSTONE | 81st GOLDEN GLOBES 2024

 

Une Nuit | Strangers by Night (2023)

Dir: Alex Lutz | Cast: Alex Lutz, Karine Viard | France, Drama 90′

Alex Lutz may have had Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise in mind with this chatty drama capturing a brief romantic interlude between two complete strangers who literally bump into each other on a crowded Paris metro.

Conceived by Lutz and his co-star Karine Viard and their co-writer Hadrien Bichet Une Nuit premiered at this year’s Un Certain Regard sidebar and certainly provides food for thought and a few laughs too despite the rather slim storyline that stretches the imagination, to say the least.

The film kicks off with a fierce argument in the underground after one of them complains about the other’s perceived bad manners. Next minute they’re getting on like a house on fire with a steamy session in one of those photo booths that still (thankfully) exists in France.

Karine Viard once again dusts down her comedy talents as the flirty Nathalie, a woman of the world comfortable in her skin and happy to experiment. Lutz plays a slightly younger but still frisky Aymeric. Both have teenage kids and are happily married so this this is clearly just going to be a flash in the pan. The romantic banter is probably best appreciated by a French-speaking audience but the two actors share an easy onscreen chemistry making this an amusing, often touching, little interlude. Paris gets a bit of a look in too as the setting for this cheeky, very French affair. MT

NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE and BELGIUM

 

 

Just the Two of Us (2023)

Dir: Valerie Donzelli | Cast: Virginie Efira, Melville Poupaud | France, drama 110′

When a woman reconnects with a guy she once knew sparks fly and a romance catches fire in this intense thriller from French director Valerie Donzelli

Starring Virginie Efira and Melville Poupaud this Cannes 2023 premiere is based on Eric Reinhardt’s award-winning novel Amour et les Forets and written for the screen by Donzelli and Audrey Diwan. The love affair between teacher Blanche (Efira) and urbane banker Gregoire (Poupaud) moves swiftly from sexual attraction to pregnancy and marriage. But we sense from the outset that something is wrong and alarm bells soon ring loudly when Gregoire introduces his new girlfriend as his ‘wife’ to complete strangers. Soon the couple are celebrating a move from Blanche’s family home in Normandy to a spacious 1960s style house in the eastern city of Metz. Later Blanche will discover that Gregoire engineered the move to separate his new wife from her twin sister (also played by Efira, wearing a wig) and her mother in an attempt to isolate her so he can dominate the relationship.

And once the champagne glasses are put away Gregoire’s controlling personality comes to the fore reducing Blanche, a confident and outgoing woman, to a near nervous wreck. So not a new idea but a tense and at times uncomfortable film made all the more so by stunning performances from two actors at the top of their game.

A clever narrative device has Blanche relating the unfolding events to her lawyer, played by Dominique Reymond in a commanding turn, and this gives the film an authentic grounding making it feel all the more chilling as a day to day reality for many women today subjected to domestic violence from their psychologically disturbed partners whose pattern of behaviour is always charming and persuasive at the outset known as ‘love-bombing’ in popular parlance. Blanche also makes the tragic mistake of seeking a release in an online dating site rather than confronting Gregoire and forcing him to seek professional help. MT

NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

The King of Algiers (2023)

Dir: Elias Belkeddar | Cast: Reda Kateb, Benoit Magimel, Meriem Amiar, R’Mimez, Chahine Beriah, Mourad Khan

Benoit Magimel and Reda Kateb star in this artful crime caper as a couple of French gangsters on the run in Algiers.

Omar la Fraise (Kateb) has just received a 20 year prison sentence, and his only way of escape is retreating to Algeria where he hopes to lie low with his partner in crime Roger (Magimel in his louche comedy guise honed in Pacifiction and his third appearance at this year’s Cannes Film Festival).

The close friends take up residence in a palatial villa on the coast, and Omar – in the pretence of turning over a new leaf, takes a job in a pastry factory where he meets and falls for the feisty Samia (Amiar), providing the film with its most confident plot point: the classic case of a good woman falling for a felon and redeeming him through the power of her love. Omar and Roger’s crime story is less convincing – although the two make an amusing double act as hardened crims, although the extreme violence involved in their activities feels out of context in the otherwise light-hearted nature of this airy crowd-pleaser.

Often waxing lyrical Elias Belkeddar’s feature directorial debut plays out like an affectionate tribute to the town of Algiers, and we get a really soulful sense of the country through magnificent aerial views of the capital city and its surroundings (provided by Darius Khondji’s nephew Andre Chemetof), the camaraderie of the people and their strong attachment to music with a lively score by composer Sofiane Saidi. MT

PREMIERED AT CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE.

Rosalie (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Stephanie Di Giusto | Cast: Nadia Tereszkiewicz, Benoit Magiel, Benjamin Bioloay | France, Drama 115′

Hair – or the lack or loss of it – is an emotive subject for both sexes. And particularly for women. Classical styled but highly original this unusual arthouse drama draws inspiration from a true story that scandalised Brittany in the 1870s.

French director Stephanie Di Giusto’s sophomore feature explores the life of a woman who is forced to reinvent herself when she arrives in a small village in Brittany, to be married. Nadia Tereszkiewicz is a force to be reckoned with in the title role of Rosalie. Her desperate desire to be loved and initial lack of confidence is due to a terrible secret. On her wedding night her new husband Abel (Benoit Magimel) throws her out of the house feeling cheated and appalled and unable to accept the rampant body hair that Rosalie has had since her birth.

But Rosalie refuses to be defined by a natural phenomenon. Challenged by her isolation in this small community she soon realises that a change of attitude is needed in order to secure her future and  the success of her marriage to Abel, a bar owner struggling in debt. This change of perspective sees her gently blossoming with a growing acceptance of herself and a proud defiance that ripples out into all her relationships with surprising and often conflicting consequences.

Sumptuously captured in its ravishing rural locations this is an unsettling and thought-provoking film that questions traditional views of eroticism, sexuality and gender roles, touching on prejudice and also the male and female gaze. This understated look at the positive affects of perseverance, determination and self-belief is a triumph. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | UN CERTAIN REGARD

 

Lost in the Night (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Amat Escalante | Cast: Juan Daniel Garcia, Ester Expósito, Barbara Mori, Fernando Bonilla, Hero Medina, Vicky Araico | Thriller 120′

The rich and the poor have a Mexican standoff in this Neo western – and no prizes for guessing who triumphs. Amat Escalante first came to Cannes with his shocking feature debut Heli. Lost in the Night is a muddled murder mystery that looks spectacular but leaves us in the dark for most its running time. A pervasive sense of uneasiness gradually gains momentum in the final stages but some questions are left unanswered in a quietly savage tale of revenge that simmers in Adrian Durazo’s widescreen landscapes of the craggy Guanajuato setting.

Juan Daniel Garcia is Emiliano, the hero of the piece. This morose Mexican macho is motivated by a keen sense of justice. He is a serious man with a mission – to shed light on the fate of his pioneering mother (Araico) who disappeared after campaigning against the sale of the local mine to foreign investors and the contingent job losses. And he soon tracks down his suspect, an effete conceptual artist called Rigoberto (Bonilla), who hangs out in this stark backwater, postering around a curious concrete lakeside villa with his steely wife Carmen (Barbara Mori), and her influencer daughter Mónica (Ester Expósito), whose speciality is fake suicide videos. The local police, headed by Jero Medina, are not fit for purpose so Emiliano makes his own investigations by offering to work as the family caretaker.

Emiliano represents solid values, Rigoberto all that is spurious in this world: his most famous work conceptualises dead Mexican bodies. But Escalante’s narrative often gets bogged down in these modernising themes derailing the story from its central focus and stretching the film rather too thinly over its two hour running time. Emiliano’s female equivalent Jasmin (Mafer Osio) is a traditional Mexican ‘madonna’ who offers him tenderness but never really gets a look in. Monica throws herself at him, turned on by his strong silent earnestness. At one point he dives in and rescues her from the lake after one of her more petulant displays of narcissism. So an interesting addition to the Escalante archive but not one of his most memorable. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | PREMIER 2023

The Woman from Constantinople (1969) Cannes Classics

The late 1960s was certainly a time for female filmmakers in Hungary, amongst them Líva Gyarmathy and Martá Mészaros. Judit Elek (1937-) made a name for herself with short films and then went on to direct her first of sixteen features, an atmospheric curio entitled, Sziget a szárazföldön, The Lady from Constantinople.

Elemér Ragályi was behind the camera providing the drama with its distinctive visual allure that adds considerable value to Iván Mándy’s slim but texturally rich plot centring on the titular lady (Manyi Kiss) who arrives at Budapest station in the opening scenes, and then proceeds to heckle her way through a lecture about Istanbul. Back in her apartment she stares vacantly at the wall outside and eventually decides to move out. And this provides the story with its central focus as wanders around collecting her possessions together to a piano score by Tihamér Vujicsics’

A low point in Elek’s career involved her ordering the gratuitous burning alive of 16 sheep during the making of her 1989/90 feature Tutajosok. This act of brutality saw her condemned by a group of scientists from Poland “No director knowing her own worth would debase herself for using so primitive and cruel methods”. (Source: Wikipedia). Nevertheless the film went on to win the Grand Prix at Creteil International Women’s Film Festival and the Montreal World Film Festival: Prize of the Ecumenical Jury in 1989.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CANNES CLASSICS 2023

The Other Laurens (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Claude Schmitz | Cast: Marc Barbe, Louise Leroy, Kate Moran, Olivier Rabourdin, Tibo Vandenborre, Edwin Gaffney | France/Belgium 117′

This stylish neon-drenched detective thriller premiering in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight sidebar channels France’s ‘cinema du look’ phase of the 1980s, and stars Olivier Rabourdin as Gabriel Laurens a scuzzy Belgium-based private detective who finds himself caught up in a surreal drug-trafficking investigation when his niece, Jade (Leroy), asks him to investigate her father’s death in the South of France.

Just when Laurens thought the coast was clear to enjoy his semi-retirement he finds himself embroiled in the complex financial problems of his estranged drug-dealing twin brother Francois (also played by Rabourdin), and a dodgy series of lowlife characters ducking and diving between Perpignan and the border with Spain.

There’s a touch of Luc Besson’s Leon to his relationship with his niece and this gives the film some of its more nuanced and soulful sequences particularly their coastal limousine drive and nighttime cocktails where Laurens explains the tragic fall-out with his brother.

Naturally the Americans have to get involved, finding it impossible to stay their side of the Atlantic, and this introduces Laurens to his twin brother’s ex Shelby (Moran) and her hunky French henchman (Barbe and Vandenborre), and Scott (Gaffney) who feels entirely out of place in the narrative with his chipper nonsense and tales of derring-do in Afghanistan.

Amongst other sub-plots Scott also rubs up against Marc Barbe’s gang-leader who swears revenge for their cultural contretemps providing a racial touchstone. Full of anecdotes and dry humour (question: what’s the Spanish for ‘paparazzi’, answer: ‘paparazzo?). With an evocative score and clever twist to the tale The Other Laurens is a smart and good-looking thriller that refreshes the genre. MT

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

Vincent Must Die (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Stéphan Castang | Cast: Karim Leklou, Vimala Pons, Francois Chattot, Karoline Rose Sun | France/Belgium, Fantasy Thriller 115′

A darkly hilarious and good-looking take on ‘The Office’, showcases Karim Leklou’s brilliant comedy talents as an ordinary man who somehow becomes the butt of random violence.

Brilliantly written by Mathieu Naert the film imagines Vincent (Leklou) in a variety of ghastly scenarios that accurately reflect life today. At work Vincent he is bludgeoned by an office intern who hits him in the eye with a computer. On a date he is then menaced by a tramp, and finally, riding home on his pushbike, he becomes the target of road rage. Even his neighbour’s kid attacks him on the stairwell. Clearly something must be done. Vincent is going downhill mentally and physically, until he buys himself an American bulldog called Vulcan. But he that lives by the sword can die by it too. When love comes along in the shape of Margaux (Vimala Pons) things get even more complicated.

Satirising our increasingly brutal and dangerous world this noirish tongue-in-cheek thriller imagines – with humour – a world where the psychological affects of generalised anger and violence have an everyday impact of society as whole making us fearful, defensive and even aggressive until we gradually become closed off to society as a whole. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | CRITICS WEEK 2023

Agra (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir.: Kanu Behl; Cast: Mohit Agarwall, Vipha Chibber, Rahal Roy, Ruhansi Sharma, Anschal Coswami, Pryanka Bose. India/France 2023, 118 min.

Kanu Behl certainly walks on the wild side in Cannes, very much like his countryman Anurag Kashyap with Kennedy. Set in the titular Indian city, Agra is a take on “Crime and Punishment”, where male hero Guru is full of toxic masculinity in an overcrowded, decrepit India, caught between tradition and modern technology, giving few positive identity models for the male youth of today. Agra proves that meaningful sex is the  panacea of the modern world. And unlike drugs it comes free.

Guru (Agarwall), 25, but still lives at home – he even sleeps in his mother’s bedroom. The cramped conditions force his father (Roy) to live on the upper floor with his mistress. Not surprisingly, Guru is confused, imagining a torrid sexual relationship with the nubile Mala (Sharma). He wants to marry her and move into the house, using the spare terrace as his new home. Unfortunately, Mal only exists in his dreams, and his family is unable to convince him of the truth.

In this state of sexual frustration and high anxiety Guru goes out of control. After killing his pet squirrel he is sent away from home and becomes obsessed with ‘phone sex, trying in vain to set up dates with women on the internet, his desire for a relationship taking over his life until dream and reality merge and threaten to swallow him up in surreal images captured on a dizzying handheld camera through the labyrinthine streets of the city. .

Then along comes internet cafe owner Priti (Bose), a forty year-old woman with a limp, who proves to be an ideal sexual playmate. Both are plagued by their family in a complex narrative that sees Behl eventually running out of steam, even though Guru finally becomes his own person, saying good-bye to Mala. Guru has no moral compass for his life’s trajectory, although he eventually finds an emotional touchstone in Priti.  In modern India, it seems as if many are more or less homeless or on the verge of being evicted – jobs are few and far between, and civil servants still have the upper-hand like under British rule. Agra has little pity with society – and if it would not have been for the schmaltzy ending, this could have been a real great feature.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

 

Inshallah a Boy (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir.: Amjad Al Rasheed, Cast: Mouna Hawa, Haitam Omari, Yumma Marwan, Salwa Nakkara, Mohammed A Jizawi, Eslam Al-Awadi, Seelena Saltanian; Jordan/France/Saudi Arabia/ Qatar 2023, 112 min.

This debut drama from Amjad Al Rasheed is also the first ever Jordanian feature film to be presented at Cannes, via Marrakech Film Festival‘s Atlas Workshop 2022. 

Inshallah a Boy certainly deserves this honour in showcasing the outrageously misogynist laws that hold sway in many Arab countries: if a widow has no male heir, her deceased husband’s family is by law entitled to half her possessions. Al Rasheed’s tightly-written script makes what could have been a dry and worthy story absolutely gripping throughout its running time. Al Rasheed co-wrote the screenplay with Delphine Agut and Rula Nasser, based on his own original story.

Nawal (Hawa) wakes up one morning to discover her husband has died in his sleep. With her young daughter Nora (Sultanian) Nawal is soon facing the greed of her brother-in-law Rifqi (Omari), who demands 1000 Jordanian Dinar for a pick-up truck he sold to Nawal’s husband, plus a fifty percent share of the family flat, originally bought with her parents’ money.

But there could be a way out of this injustice. And it will come via Lauren (Marwan) the daughter of her Nawal’s boss Mrs Souad (Sakkara), who employs her as part of a team of carers looking after her mother Colette (who is dying of Alzheimer’s). Nawal was the family’s sole breadwinner, her husband having lost his job – without telling her – four months prior to his death. If Nawal can prove she is ‘pregnant’, Rifqi cannot lay his hands on her property, or her daughter, for whom he claims custody, telling the court that Nawal is unable look after the girl. If Lauren can provide Nawal with a forged positive pregnancy test in return for helping her track down an abortionist to get rid of the child (conceived with the husband she no longer loves or lives with) then Nawal can keep her worldly goods. 

A complex narrative then, but Al Rasheed handles it with aplomb. There’s another twist to the tale that could complicate matters: Nawal’s colleague Hassan (Al-Awadi) has developed a crush on the widow, but this could work in her favour. Then disaster strikes when Lauren’s husband finds about his wife’s pregnancy and puts his foot down to an abortion. The two women’s inventiveness is then put to the test as they both fight the law and Jordan’s male-dominated patriarchy finally to find peace and contentment.

There is never a dull moment in this frenetic drama, DoP Kaname Onoyama using a lively hand-held camera to follow Nawal who seems to be perpetually on the move in the busy streets of Amman, even trying to learn to drive her dead husband’s truck. The ensemble acting is convincing, with Omari the standout as the scheming villain supported by Nawal’s double-dealing brother, the two no better than rats from the capital’s sewer.

JORDAN’s ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | Critics’ Week 2023

Power Alley | Levante (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Lillah Halla | Brazil, Portugal, Spain | Sports Drama 92′

There’s plenty of energy and a queer vision behind this female-centric volleyball drama. Even the shower scenes fizz with a fast-moving tomboyish vibe and a thumping score from Brazilian band ‘Badsista’.

Playing in the Cannes Critics’ Week line-up, Brazilian director Lillah Halla’s colourful debut feature follows a teenage volleyball player who discovers she is pregnant in the run-up to an important championship match in a country where abortion is illegal.

The tone then turns more downbeat as 17 year old Sofia (Ayomi Domenica Dias) reflects on her options, not knowing who to turn to given the country’s termination ban. Blocked in her attempts to seek an illegal termination Sofia realises her career is now in question and she fears the worst when Gloria and Dr Elias confirm the pregnancy is well on the way.

There is a positive way forward for Sofia but it will involve telling her widowed father Joao (Rômulo Braga) who is equally invested in her future and proud of her achievements. He flies into a rage when he finds out the news, and is naturally opposed to Sofia’s wish to terminate. As the pregnancy develops the colour-scape becomes more vivid, shot through with a surreal neon aesthetic reflecting Sofia’s wildest fears.

Halla’s narrative never opts for the predictable instead there’s a complex set of circumstances in the mix as her central character’s dramatic arc develops with Sofia experiencing a sudden and unexpected transformation.

The story gradually unfolds to reflect that well-worn maxim: “life is what happens when you are making other plans”. Punchy and well-put-together Power Alley gets its message across in a drama that is both educational, tense and watchable. Lillah Hilla is certainly a talent in the making. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | COMPETING for Cannes’ Queer Palm Competition | CRITICS’ WEEK COMPETITION 2023

 

 

 

 

 

Creatura (2023) Directors’ Fortnight 2023

Dir: Elena Martin | Main Cast: Mila Borras, Alex Brendemuhl, Marc Cartanya, Cristina Colom | Drama, 118′

A woman’s adolescent sexual awakening and its impact on the rest of her life is the focus of this artful and innovative psychological study from Catalan director Elena Martin. It could be anyone’s story but still somehow feels intimate yet relatable with its universal appeal.

Mila’s story unfolds at five, fifteen and thirty five where the film opens with Mila Borras having found contentment- or so it seems – with Gerard, sensitively played by Marc Cartanya. The two of them are moving to her parents’ house in the country but this fresh start fails to ignite their failing sex life, and Mila’s mental state is suffering as a result.

Reflecting back on the past Mila can find no real cause for the blockage or her failure to respond sexually to Gerard anymore. Often a rash appears which sends Mila down-spiralling into a state of near hysteria although Gerard remains positive and supportive and they work through the situation.

In their nuanced narrative Elena Martin and her co-writer Clara Roquet explore false memory, buried trauma, societal misogyny and even over-thinking in this brave and beautifully captured drama that makes evocative use of its Summery settings in an around Girona, Barcelona and Sitges.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT

 

 

Légua (2023) Directors’ Fortnight Cannes 2023

Dir: Filipa Reis, Joao Miller Guerra | Cast: Carla Maciel (Ana), Fátima Soares (Emília), Vitória Nogueira da Silva (Mónica), Sara Machado (Sofia), Paulo Calatré (Victor), Manuel Mozos (Guilherme) | Drama, Portugal

An award for most enchanting opening scenes in this year’s Quinzaine selection much surely go to DoP Vasco Viana. Legua unfolds in deepest Portugal where a country estate – seemingly abandoned by its owners – is now home to three generations of God-fearing women who live an almost feudal existence in this quiet backwater miles from Lisbon and Porto.

Emilia is the ‘old-school’ elderly retainer who still takes her job seriously, despite her declining health, taking care of the modest property belonging to her boss Senhora Manuela who lives in Lisbon (and who we never meet). The fastidious old lady is also a taskmaster for middle-aged Ana, whose labourer husband has gone to work in France, but who also abides by Emilia’s exacting standards. She respects the old lady and never forgets the dept of gratitude she owes her for helping raise her own daughter Monica, who is now studying engineering. The young girl is very much of the ‘me-generation’, mocking the old-fashioned ways and traditions, preferring to listen to trance music with her Sofia, and focus on her future.

With its languorous pacing and graceful attention to detail Légua both celebrates and mourns the passing of an old order, now almost left behind to its antecessors. But is the future as promising as Monica believes?. Emilia and Ana are the guardians of this heritage and still relish their daily duties and the sense of order which is fast disappearing, and which lends comfort and stability to both ‘servant’ and ‘master’.

Emilia’s values are rooted in the last century and she believes traditions should be upheld and respected to the finest detail. Ana shares her views and carries forward the diurnal duties involved in running a home. There’s a gentle sensuous rhythm to this husbandry, and Reis and Guerra capture this pride in a job well done with sumptuous gracefulness, in a film that is almost silent apart from the soft sounds of birds and, at one point, a Christian Passion hymn harmonised by Bach.

Ana is an also a decent cook and a capable gardener. She believes her duty lies with her boss and with her Emilia (whose health is now rapidly going downhill) rather than with her husband, who she loves passionately, but who has been forced to seek work in France. Their daughter Monica is very much a city girl, who has no truck with the past. Monica fizzes with teenage energy as she talks about planning a rave in the nearby countryside: “although no one would come!”. It’s  lively performance from Vitória Nogueira da Silva, but Monica has as hard-edged selfishness to her personality. Typical of youth, she has no time for the past, only the future.

The strength and appeal of the narrative is this convincing portrayal of all three generations: their respective notions are cleverly melded and given equal respect within a film that is never judgemental of youth, or age – for that matter – but gently observes the feelings and authentic rituals of each of the women, while also reflecting and luxuriating on the surrounding landscape, both flora and fauna, which is also gradually disappearing with the passage of time. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2023

 

Blackbird Blackbird BlackBerry (2023) Directors’ Fortnight 2023

Dir: Elene Naveriani | Drama: Georgia, Germany, Switzerland 110’

Elene Naveriani is an unique filmmaker with a distinctive visual style. Her third feature, the enigmatically titled Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry, is a simple but thematically rich love story that continues in the same vein as her impressive second feature Wet Sand (2021) and luxuriates in the same artful framing and vibrant allure captured by DoP Agnesh Pakozdi.

Once again the plot centres on a close-knit community in rural Tbilisi, where the striking central character Etero, 48, nearly loses her life slipping off the side of a ravine while picking blackberries in the opening scene. Etero, who runs the village store, stands her ground when it comes to dealing with the bitchy village sisterhood, unlike the others she is happily unhitched and content with her sole status, a feminist without being aware of the fact. Appreciated but always mocked by the other women, she a warm and likeable person with considerable agency. Content to spent her life alone until she experiences the transformative affects of an impromptu sexual encounter which will change the course of her life forever in the film’s uplifting reveal.

Based on Tamta Melashvili’s feminist novel of the same name. Naveriani relentlessly portrays the more delicate nuances of rural life, and challenges Georgia’s heteronormative patriarchal structure in a narrative that stridently puts her position forward through Etero’s austere but appealing personality. She is prepared to welcome life’s vagaries, while also believing in her ability to forge a life alone even when she meets the somewhat sheepish Murman (Temiko Chinchinadze), who is seemingly unavailable. Eka Chavleisihvili gives a memorable tour de force as the modest, quietly philosophical force of nature; an inspiring woman who somehow attracts positivity through her staunch acceptance of life, preparing for the worst but always open to serendipity. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2023

The Buriti Flower (2023) Ensemble Prize 2023

Dir.: Joao Salviza, Renee Nader Messora; Cast: Francisco Hyjno Kraho, Luzia Cruvakwyj Kraho, Debora Sodre.

The Kraho are an indigenous tribe of hunters gatherers who have continuously fought and died to retain their lands along the Balsas River in northeastern Brazil, since 1940. Renee Nader Messora and Joao Salaviza introduced us to these people back in 2018 with their Un Certain Regard jury prize winner The Dead and the Others/

Five years later they are back in the Un Certain Regard sidebar to elaborate on their experience living amongst the tribe, this time spending 15 months living with them and shooting on 16mm. The Buriti Flower much connects to a global narrative of survival for small communities all over the world struggling to maintain their ancestral rights and preserve their freedom in the face of the developed world that continues to expand into their ancestral territory.

The government of former President Bolsonaro called the area “unproductive” and helped European settlers to “reclaim” it by force. The history of the Kraho people is a history of massacres, with the government of the day more or less complicit. The “National Indian Foundation” (FUNAI) was founded in 1969, after its predecessor had to be abandoned because it supported the aggressive settlers in taken the land from the Kraho and other Indian minorities.

Jotat Kraho a young girl (who like most of the actors play themselves) has hallucinations about an upcoming disaster. Her sleep is disturbed and she flies through the air in her dreams. Her uncle  asks the titular Buriti palm for advice. He and other Kraho people are on the way to Brasilia for a congress of Indian minorities wanting to bring their grievances to the central administration.

But before they set off, we are told in detail the massacres of the 1950s, when the two most wealthiest ranchers of the area hired cow-boys and their guns, to liquidate the Kraho population so that their land would fall to the massacre’s perpetrators. One young Kraho woman woke up early on that fateful day, so she could warn others, before hiding. The village eldest Balbino – who we see in a black-and-white film shot before the massacre, tried to argue with the aggressors, only to be shot in the back when walking to his house. Up to this day, the “Gatehouse” to the village is always covered twenty- four fours because the threat of another invasion is always virulent.

Buriti ends on a hopeful note with the birth of the baby: “One more, but we need Two for the Leopard”. This is a melancholic and languid feature rather like the waters that dominate the landscape. There is a ghostly atmosphere that lends a surreal air to the proceedings, pregnant with possibility. DOP Nader-Messora lets her imagination roam freely, and the result is a kaleidoscope of water fairies and dream like creatures of all kinds This is set against the barbaric background of history. Unique and emotionally gripping.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2023

Kennedy (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir.: Anurag Kashyap; Cast: Rahul Bhat, Sunny Leone, KK Gautlam, Megha Burman, Benedict Garrett; India 2023, 142 min.

Best known for his epic Gangs of Wasseypur, Anurag Kashyap is back with his latest, a neo-giallo thriller that unites him with Rahul Bhat who starred in his kidnapping drama Ugly in 2013,

Kennedy is more or less a killing spree that follows an insomniac ex-cop still operating in a corrupt underworld. The film has been mostly shot during the night on Mumbai streets, over a period of 30 days and sees the titular character morphing into another person while still doing the dirty work for the corrupt Police commissioner in Mumbai.

Kennedy (Bhat) moves around without a fixed address, making it difficult for his old superiors to control him. One of his favourite places is a luxury hotel in the city, where he meets the equally enigmatic Charlie (Leone), whose alliances are not very clear – like with most characters. One exception, a senior clerk in the government, pays for his anti-corruption with his life – and so does his whole family.

There is a McGuffin, with Kashyap trying to confuse the issues even further; intertitles announce a countdown to the big night where all will be revealed. But the killing goes on, often to classical Viennese music (courtesy of the Prague Philharmonic choir) and this gives the scenes – with bodies flung all over the place – a distinct surreal feeling, elevating it from mainstream thrillers.

Kennedy seems to soften as the film wears on, making contact with his daughter on the net. But whether this spells redemption for his nefarious ways is never quite made clear – or if we are in for a Kennedy ‘Mark Two’. The bloody mayhem is commented on by a London News reporter (Garrett), who keeps the audience on board with the action – a very much needed intermediary.

Kashyap is a fan of neo-noir author Patrick Manchette and the late French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville, both influences leading to a ambivalent hero status for Kennedy, who seems to be happy to kill, only regretting his actions moments later. Obviously this is down to a split personality, allowing him to be effective as a killer, and very withdrawn when left to his own devices. There is a false bravado about him, particularly when dealing with women like Charlie.

DoP Sylvester Fonseca must take credit for the success of this revenge thriller, set in artificial, claustrophobic interiors – often hotel rooms – trapping the victims like animals. Fonseca and Kashyap also remain on target for most kills in one sequence, their relentless pace leaving us breathless. These repeated nightmares merge into each other, leaving very little room for reflection. But Kennedy still manages to tell a story – however warped and ambiguous.
The eye-candy, if you can call it that – is just right for a Midnight screening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where Kashyap’s feature is the only Indian film in the programme.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | MIDNIGHT SCREENING 2023

Rien a Perdre (2023) Cannes Film Festival

Virginie Efira, Arieh Worthalter, Félix Lefèbvre, Alexis Tonetti, Mathieu Demy, India Hair | Drama Belgium France 110’

A mother’s spirited struggle with the French legal system lies at the heart of Rien a Perdre, a fast-moving feature debut for Delphine Deloget best known for her TV fare and award-winning documentary No London Today that bagged a prize at the major Swiss festival Visions du Reel fifteen year ago.

Virginie Efira once again gives a feisty performance as the intractable Sylvie, a single mother with an explosive personality, trying to hold together her family of two tearaway boys – and a chicken – after the father of her youngest has cleared off. Teenage Jean-Jacques (Lefebvre) is a gifted trumpet player, but when his younger brother Sofiane (Tonetti), the more troubled and least fleshed out of the two, gets badly burned on the chip fryer, it becomes clear that Sylvie cannot cope.

Sylvie puts on a brave front but faces some difficult choices and her mental state has clearly suffered as a result. Her bother Alain (Demy) tries to help by offering Sofiane a home but is deemed too close to the problem. And her lover (Worthalter), is .

Sooner or later the authorities catch up with the family but Sylvie comes to blows with a pleasant social worker who proposes a move to a foster home for the boys. This turbulent intervention and the family’s slowly emerging backstory provides the driving force for the remainder of this naturalistic and often moving feature which offers Efira another chance to display her talent for playing strong-willed women. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 25 May 2023

The (Ex)perience of Love (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir.: Ann Sirot, Raphael Balboni; Cast: Lucie Debay, Lazare Gousseau, Florence Loiret Caille, Nora Hamzawi, Florence Janas, Tarek Halaby, Ninon Borsei; France/Belgium 2023, 89 min.

Playful and often hilariously funny The (Ex)perience of Love is an emotional rollercoaster in the same vein as Jan Bucquoy’s 1994 drama The Sex Life of the Belgians.

Presented at this year’s Semaine de la Critique at Cannes it the sophomore feature of Belgian writer/director Ann Sirot and her French filmmaker partner Raphael Balboni, who recently bagged the top prize at Belgium’s “Marguerites” Awards for their debut Madly in Life. 

Sandra (Debay) a fitness instructor, and her partner Remy (Gousseau), editor of a high-brow art magazine in Brussels, are trying to have a baby. Nothing seems to work until their Danish gynaecologist comes up with a diagnosis and a possible cure: Apparently, Sandra and Remy are suffering from a “past loves syndrome”, and need to circle back and sleep with all their ex parters to clear the ‘blockage’. 

Both have complex emotional backstories in tune with modern times: Sandra has had more lovers than Remi whose ex Julie (Hamzawi), who would later become his sister by marriage. Quite understandably, Julie’s husband Manu is very much against “lending” his wife to Remy, who is also something of a snob. Remi’s first love Nora has given up on relationships and now lives, sexually active, with two female friends in a shared flat.

So the completion between Remi and Sandra begins, both enjoying their   “backlog’ of ex-lovers. Remy meets Marion (Caillle), who is open to all forms of sexual experimentation. Justine (Borsei), Sandra’s sister and a mother of two, tries to help her sibling, who now feels emotionally side-lined by Remy, who is  rather enjoying his status as a ‘single man’. On his way to sexual liberation, he uses Sandra as a sort of guide, trying to sleep with a woman during an orgy in a swimming pool where everyone is wearing an animal head. But no experiment is without its surprises as both Remi and Sandra soon discover.

The (Ex)perience of Love is a study in male sexuality, with Remy regressing to teenage-hood, all too ready to sleep with new women, ‘forgetting’ Sandra and the child they so much wanted. Although the ending is a little too cosy and constructed, the directors confirm that sex without emotional commitment is empty. And that men like Remy are emotionally much less mature than Sandra had hoped for. Hilarious at times, The (EX)perience paints a rather sober picture of gender politics. MT

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 

Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (2023) Camera d’Or winner 2023

Dir: Thien An Pham | Le Phong Vu, Nguyen Thi Truc Quynh, Nguyễn Thinh, Vu Ngọc Manh |  Drama 177′

Thien An Pham makes his feature debut with this languid mystical odyssey reflecting the history of Vietnam. It sees a Saigon songster embark on a spiritual journey into his past in search of a brother who vanished long ago.

Thien (Vu) is living a carefree existence in the capital when tragedy changes his life forever. The reason for this dramatic change is the death of his sister in a freak motor cycle accident. Thien must take his sister’s body back to the rural village where they grew up in, and find his brother, a committed Christian who his since left town.

Back in the rural village, Thien meets the craftsman Truing Quynh) a proud ex-soldier, who admirably refuses to take money for the shroud he has created for Thien’s sister. He fought on the side of the South Vietnamese army and lost many friends since they were heavily outnumbered. But he is stoical and full of forgiveness, even though the side they were fighting for was responsible for their defeat.

Thien also comes across Sister Thao (Quynh), a young woman who almost became his bride back in the day. Thien is aggressive towards her at first, his male ego playing up, but soon realises the mistake he made in letting her go. For the first time, he understands her decision to choose a life of chastity, poverty and obedience and wishes he could believe in God, something which still eludes him. Later he meets a friend of his brother, and he follows her to his work place deep in the jungle. Here, his faith will be tested once again.

DoP Dinh Duy Hung creates a mesmerising sense of place with breath-taking images in the jungle and the waterways that play with light and shadows and changes to reflect Thien’s emotional transformation. Thien’s struggle to be able to believe in God after all the years of a superficial life is an arduous one, but he tries to be honest, even when seemingly losing the battle.

An old motorcycle, which belonged to his father, is his trademark, transporting him through the countryside, often getting stuck in the mud and mirroring the peaks and troughs of his own mental journey. His endurance grows with time, but his brother, who seems to be at the heart of the enigma, remains elusive.

This is certainly an epic, a subtle, sinuous piece of filmmaking and Thien An Pham is certainly in love with his long travelling shots. Leaving some of these “darling Images” on the editing floor would certainly have made for a more concise, less languorous look at his country’s past. But there is no mistake, this is a filmmaker with talent. AS

André Bazin Prize by Cahiers du cinéma goes to Pham Thiên Ân for Inside The Yellow Cocoon ShellCANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2023

It’s Raining in the House (2023) Cannes Film Festival

Dir: Paloma Sermon-Dai | Purdey Lambert, Makenzy Lombet, Louise Manteau, Donovan Nizet | Belgium, France Drama 82′

An artful and entrancing coming of age story that unfolds one sultry summer in lakeside Belgium where teenagers Makenzy and her younger brother Purdey are discovering love and life in their working class neighbourhood after their mother leaves home.

Paloma Sermon-Dai’s tender debut drama is another personal project for the Belgian filmmaker whose award-winning documentary Petit Samedi chronicled her brother’s struggle with substance abuse.

There is a distinct cinema verite feel to It’s Raining, the director drawing from her documentary experience, and once again casting her own relatives, real-life sister Makenzy, almost 18, and fifteen year-old half-brother Purdey, in a naturalistic feature inspired by her 2017 short film Makenzy.

Needs must when the devil drives, and the siblings have to fend for themselves in a story that is slim on plot but triumphs with impressive camerawork from Frederic Noirhomme (Playground) who instills the piece with a sense of soft-peddling, bucolic charm. The kids’ naturalistic often amusing banter avoids a melodramatic approach to their trials and tribulations, capturing instead the banality and frustration of their humdrum everyday existence, often with flinty humour.

But while Purdey is more mature and realistic in outlook, trying to get a job and talking to the social services after she splits with her controlling Moroccan boyfriend, her brother loafs around with his friends and steals from the local store to make ends meet. Purdey’s petty crimes gradually turn more hard-edged when he meets some kids from Brussels, providing the film with a sombre change of tone in contrast to the carefree vibe of the opening scenes. Time for Purdey to make some serious decisions about her future. Sometimes the strongest bonds emerge out of hardship. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE |

The Nature of Love | Simple Comme Sylvain (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Monia Chokri | Cast: Magalie Lepine, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Francis William Rheaume, Monia Chokri | Comedy Drama Canada 110′

Girl meets boy from the other side of this tracks in this Quebec-set drama that explores how love can break down even the toughest barriers of class and intellect, until the cracks start to show.

Canadian actor and filmmaker Monia Chokri returns to Un Certain Regard with her third feature having won the Jury prize of the Cannes sidebar in 2019. The Nature of Love very much brings to mind Brigitte Rouan’s 1997 feature After Sex: A forty year old woman, in a loveless and sexless relationship, embarks on a risky affair in a social environment unknown to her. It’s a well-worn formula but told with style and appeal.

Sophia (Lepine-Blondeau) and Xavier (Reaume) are middle-class intellectuals living together in Quebec. Held together by a shared history and a tight circle of friends they have drifted into that ‘friendship’ zone that so often sounds the death knoll on passion. But when Sophia meets Sylvain (Cardinal), a builder working on her new summer house, the chemistry is electrifying.

Sylvain is all brute strength and masculine charm, and Xavier seems content to let things slide. But soon Sylvain’s blue-collar background is at odds with Sophia’s soigne milieu. And rather than accepting his gaucheness amongst her own set, Sophia persists in correcting her new lover’s limited vocabulary (“he has to learn to be precise to give his opinion greater value”). And that flies in the face of Sylvain’s male ego. After the usual recriminations the lovers split, and Chokri then explores the aftermath digging deeper into their cultural differences in a scene of utter confusion.

Chokri plays Sophia’s close friend Francoise, her role is to support this new beginning, while Sophia’s mother is the voice of reason, knowing her daughter all too well. Xavier’s father is the Alzheimer’s sufferer, reminding us to live life to the full: the Grim Reaper is always waiting in the wings.

Not as intricate and poetic as Mia Hansen-Love’s One Beautiful Morning, The Nature of Love is still a passionate portrait of a woman on fire. Shot with simmering compassion by DoP Andre Turpin, Chokri keeps up a relentless pace in this no-holds-barred dark comedy.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2023

 

 

 

The Anatomy of a Fall (2023) Golden Globes 2024 | Best Motion Picture – Non-English Language

Dir: Justine Triet, Wri; Justine Tried, Arthur Harari | Cast: Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado Graner, Samuel Theis | Drama 151’

French director Justine Triet enters the premier league of French film directors with this absorbing and fiercely intelligent psychological drama that sees a writer implicated in the death of her husband.

Certainly deserving its top prize at this year’s Cannes competition Anatomy of a Fall stars Sandra Huller, her second role of the festival, in a gripping courtroom drama that begins with a mysterious death and the gradually dissection of a marriage that in the early scenes appears to have everything going for it, and with an appealing little boy (Machado Garner) to show for it. But who knows what goes on behind the scenes?. And in this case the setting is a remote and picturesque chalet in the French Alps where, as the film opens,  successful German novelist Sandra (Huller) is being interviewed by a young PhD student from nearly Grenoble. The relaxed atmosphere sees the two women enjoying wine and gossipy banter, but loud music from the upper floor soon brings this genial meeting to close. Sandra’s husband is composing and playing back his syncopated vibes on a loop. And when Samuel is found dead, having fallen – or jumped – from a window, it gradually dawns that all is not well in this snowy paradise.

Over two hours then slip by in an engrossing battle of wits where the action swings from the magnificent Alpine hideaway to the sober confines of the court where Sandra, defended by her barrister and close friend Vincent (Swann Arlaud), will have to prove her innocence against the vicious cross examination of the prosecution (Antoine Reinartz). And here fact, reality, and fiction come under the spotlight, including Sandra’s dirty laundry which she is forced to reveal in public: her temper, her bisexuality, but also her keen intellect: and once again we realise that the Law is not about discovering the truth but winning the battle of perception.: As Vincent puts it succinctly to Sandra who insists: “I didn’t kill him”. “That’s not the point” – “You need to deal with how you come across to others”. As courtrooms dramas go this is one of the best. MT

Winner Best Motion Picture – Non-English Language | Best Screenplay – Motion Picture – 81st Golden Globes 2024 | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | WINNER PALME D’OR

Only the River Flows (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Wei Shujun | Yilong Zhu, Chloe Maayan, Tianlai Hou, Tong Lin Kai | China Drama 102′

Beijing born filmmaker Wei Shujun returns to Cannes three years after his award-winning Striding into the Wind (2020).

You could be forgiven for thinking Only The River Flows was actually made during the 1990s such is the vintage look of the celluloid and its grainy quality, shot by Chengma Zhiyuan (Fires on the Plain). Premiering in this year’s Un Certain Regard sidebar the thriller is set thirty years ago in rural China where a chief of police Ma The (Yilong Zhu) is investigating a series of murders that lead to an early arrest. The victims are a kindly widow, a poet and a rather sweet little boy. But the detective starts to question the decision due the increasingly unusual behaviour of the locals in this riverside backwater.

Written and directed by Shujun Wei, the feature certainly pays homage to the noir detective stories of  the 1950s but what makes it more interesting is its portrayal of China before the economic boom at a time where most ordinary people were still quietly getting on with their humdrum lives in relative obscurity. And Ma The is a case in point. Under the cosh of his superiors, he is forced to suffering in silence and endure grim headquarters in a disused cinema. Home life is not much better, infact he lives in a rather squallid hovel with his wife Bai Jie (Chloe Maayan) who has recently become pregnant with a child who may have a borderline genetic disorder.

Based on a book by Hua Yu, it pictures the police as rather cartoonish characters who would rather be doing anything (such a playing pingpong) rather than tracking down criminals, and there’s dark humour at play here in the script co-written with Chuniei Kang.

The chief suspect is laughingly known as ‘the madman’ but the investigation also throws up some rather squallid little goings on which add texture and context to the thrust of the narrative – the hunt for the serial killer – in this rather scuzzy little corner of China. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2023

 

 

 

The Mother of All Lies (2023) Directing Prize Winner UCR 2023

Dir.: Asmae El Moudir; Drama-Documentary with Asmae El Moudir; Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt 2023, 96 min.

La Femis graduate and director Asmae El Moudir, follows her first film The Postcard with this feature debut set against the troubled past of her homeland, Morocco.

Aesthetically the film follows a daring concept: On the one hand El Moudir questions her forebears’ history, using puppets and a handmade replica of the Casablanca neighbourhood where she grew up, at the same bringing herself into the feature, openly questioning her parents’ version of events.

The story centres on a single photo. El Moudir wants to know why she only has one photograph from her childhood, and why the girl in the picture isn’t even her. Her dictatorial grandmother burnt the rest of the memorabilia. The snap is shot in a Kindergarten setting and it soon turns out the girl in the photo is her sister Fatima, one of the victims of the massacre ordered by King Hassan II in Casablanca in June 1981, when the poor rose up against the cost of living crisis: bread and sugar prices increased by a staggering 77%.

On that fateful day in June 1981, the grandmother had closed the house but she was the only person who could have seen the assailant, who killed her granddaughter. Confronted by the surviving sister, the grandmother used bullying tactics to keep her, and the rest of the household, quiet. Not by accident, the photo of Hassan II is the only other image which survived to tell the tale.

The death toll was officially put at sixty six people but observers believed over six hundred were killed by police and military. After many years of the Sahara War, the Kingdom had run out of money and the price rises were supposed to cover for the seemingly endless military adventure. El Moudir questions her mother, father and grandmother’s account about their home and their country. Slowly, she unravels the layers of deception that have shaped her life.

As it turns out, Fatima was not the only victim in the house. The filmmaker’s father was a promising goalkeeper with the local team. One morning, the army and police used the pitch to bury the victims of the massacre, ending the father’s dream career. He joined his brothers who were jailed for decades, in mourning a lost past. One of the brothers recalls his time in prison: many where forced into claustrophobic cells where they were suffocated.

El Moudir painstakingly puts together the repressed history, with the grandmother defiant to the last. The use of puppets and miniatures actually makes the grand deception even more real, and quite alarming. There are echoes of the Chamber of Horrors in Madame Tussaud’s wax work museum. DoP Hatem Nachi cleverly merges the two artistic levels seamlessly. The film is particularly convincing in showing how the tyrannical grandmother uses her status as the matriarch to repress any form of resistance from her docile and traumatised family. The Mother of all Lies is innovative and startling. An impressive start to a promising filmmaking career. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | UN CERTAIN REGARD

The Homecoming (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Catherine Corsini Cast: Suzy Bemba, Esther Gohourou, Aïssatou Diallo Sagna, Lomane de Deitrich, Cédric Appietto, Denis Podalyds, Virginie Ledoyen | France, Drama

Catherine Corsini is arguably most successful in her intimate character dramas. Summertime particularly comes to mind. Her eleventh feature premiering at Cannes Film Festival captures the intensity of a summer holiday, with two terrific central performances from newcomers and onscreen sisters Suzy Bemba (Jessica) and Esther Gohourou (Farah). The French island of Corsica provides a stunning playground for them to get together after a long time apart, and experience first love before going on to real life.

The French are big on holidays: barely a month goes by without some kind of long weekend or school break, and Corsica is becoming increasingly popular with its secluded beaches and craggy coves. To bring us up to speed with family set-up Corsini starts her film with a preamble showing a mother Khédidja (Aïssatou Diallo Sagna) fleeing Corsica with her two little girls, their father having died in enigmatic circumstances. Flip forward fifteen years and the three of them are heading back there where Khédidja will be serving as nanny to a wealthy family from Paris. Here Corsini and her co-writer Naïla Guiguet skilfully manage the various narrative strands involving the trauma of their characters’ collective past, occasionally veering into melodrama but always with feeling.

Jessica is the smarter of the girls and soon develops a close bond with Gaia (Lomane de Deitrich), the daughter of the Parisian couple (Denis Podalydès and Virginie Ledoyen). Meanwhile the tomboyish Farah starts to dabble with drugs and meets Corsican bandit (Harold Orsoni) providing the film with some spikier moments. Bemba and Gohourou make for alluring couple exuding both charm and humour, somehow making their mark in an environment that is distinctly unfriendly to outsiders, and there’s a racial element at play here. Clearly they don’t fit in, and Farah is not the most likeable of teenagers.

But mostly this is an extended family story about sins of the past and redemption. All the characters experience a transformation as the dynamic gradually shifts with satisfying outcomes. Corsica is very much a character, its breathtaking scenery stealing the show as it did in I Comete: A Corsican Summer and Let the Corpses Tan.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

 

Monster (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Kore-eda Hirokazu | Cast: Sakura Andô, Eita Nagayama, Soya Kurasawa, Hinata Hiiragi, Mitsuki Takahata | Japan Drama 126′

This study of classroom bullying, and childhood trauma is not one of Kore-eda’s best films, and never reaches the emotional heights of Our Little Sister or Like Father, Life Son. But after a choppy first hour Monster  eventually comes together as a stirring drama about the benefits of friendship and imagination. The film also deals with the controversy of parent versus teacher in an educational environment where increasingly staff are having to take responsibly for often false accusations in order to keep the peace and avoid PTA reprisals.

Minato (Kuokawa) lives with his widowed mother Saori (Ando) in the Japanese coastal city of Suwa. The climate here is extreme and frequent downpours and typhoons provides the story with its often stormy atmosphere that mirrors the emotional state of this troubled but tightly-knit couple who we first meet watching a blazing fire from the balcony of their family flat.

Minato has a new teacher called Mr. Hori (Eita Nagayama), and their controversial relationship gives the story a sinister undertow when the boy starts behaving strangely. Clearly something it going on but Kore-eda keeps us guessing in a series of rather other sequences. It soon emerges than the boy has been injured by Mr Hori after an incident at school. Saori wants answers but they are not forthcoming, the staff and Mrs Fushimi (Tanaka), the reserved head mistress, merely bow and express their deep regret in Japanese style.

The focus then turns to Minato’s relationship with another student, Yori (Hinata Hiragi) whose father, a single parent, appears to be off the rails. From then on, sharing their past traumas the boys form an indelible bond as the story gradually turns into a affectionate buddy movie where the two of them scamper around in the summery fields and explore an abandoned train which becomes their hideout and a place to escape to and enjoy a sense of adventure and fantasy.

Complimented by a soothig score from late Ryuichi Sakamoto Monster often feels like a film in two halves, the second being the most satisfying and enjoyable and exuding Kore-eda signature tenderness and his skill for working with children. The seasoned director elicits some really stunning naturalistic performances from the entire cast. Yoko Tanaka is probably the most impressive as the stylishly elegant Mrs Fushimi, the epitome of discretion but always with a twinkle in her eye.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

The Taste of Things | La Passion de Dodin Bouffant (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir Anh Hung Tran | cast: Juliette Binoche, Benoit Magimel, Pierre Gagnaire | Drama | France, 135′

One time lovers Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel re-unite for a sumptuous feast of the senses that sees gastronomy as a conduit for a long lasting celebration. The French Vietnamese filmmaker first came to Cannes twenty years ago with his ravishing feature debut Scent of Green Papaya that won the Camera d’Or.

The Taste of Things, his seventh feature, adapted from Marcel Rouff’s 1924 novel The Life And Passion of Dodin-Bouffant is set in France in the late 19th century, the film follows the life of Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel) as a renownd chef living with his personal cook and lover Eugénie (Oscar®-winner Juliette Binoche). Eugénie and Dodin share a long history of gastronomy and love. While emotions remain contained, the culinary discoveries are, on the other hand, breathtakingly exquisite. The only sadness for Dodin is that Eugénie refuses to marry him. So, the food lover decides to do something he has never done before: cook for her.

 We first meet Eugenie (Binoche) in her kitchen garden on a blissful summer’s morning chosing a fresh lettuce for a mouth-watering meal of gastronomic proportions. Dodin (Magimel) and his guests will savour at their leisure later on at luncheon. Every dish is a work of art created from a basis of fresh local ingredients in season. But the film also symbolises a wider appreciation of the simple pleasures in life we often take for granted such as the intense anticipation of a delicious dinner or the satisfying sensuality of long-lasting desire.

Eugenie luxuriates in the quiet pleasure of cooking and enjoying time spent with Dodin over the twenty years of their time together. Their epicurean partnership has gradually led to the bedroom where occasionally the two indulge in the realm of the senses that extends beyond the purely culinary. But Dodin wants to formalise the arrangement with marriage. And is also concerned for Eugenie’s well-being and her failing health. Slowly he takes over in the kitchen preparing the food as an act of affection and appreciation he feels for her in their relationship of mutual respect and dedication. And the act of successful courtship like the preparation of a delicious dish requires patience and meticulous timing, a heavy-handed approach may ruin the chemistry, but he must keep the pot simmering in this delicate dance of love that is typically French. @MeredithTaylor

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION 2023

Banel & Adama (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Wir/Dir: Ramata-Toulaye Sy | Cast: Mamadou Diallo, Moussa Sow, Binta Racine Sy | Drama 87′

Senegal’s dry sunny climate and spare sandy landscapes make a spectacular setting for this simple but never simplistic love story from first time feature director Ramata-Toulaye Sy. It sees a young couple conflicted by the modern world and the spirituality of African folklore.

Vibrant images and spectacular framing picture the newlyweds Banel and Adama at peace in their small village. But dark clouds soon gather over their idyll when Adama becomes increasingly absent from the picture dealing with his commitments as a farmer in a worrying drought. Banel spends her days aimlessly walking around repeatedly talking about her plans to leave the village and emerging as a rather spiteful and vacuous character, killing small birds and reptiles with a sling through boredom and bitterness.

A little boy named Malik is always on her trail, monitoring her movements. Adama calls him a “scribe angel,” who is trying to read her mind. But Banel becomes abusive towards him and she realises the futility of her life without a clear purpose. Is the director trying to make a point about a women’s role in tribal society. While the men tend their cattle the women have their own part to play. They must run the home and bear children. If so Banel is neither a trailblazer nor a role model, but a frustrated character and her life is without foundation in these shifting sands.

Ramata-Toulaye Sy has an outstanding gift for visual storytelling and a real eye for framing. Banel and Adama is a cinematic and atmospherically powerful film full of striking imagery, brooding discontent and baleful glances, including the extraordinary sand storm sequence that brings this enigmatic feature to a close. There are some intriguing ideas and concepts at play, but whether the story – about tradition and the modern world – can captivate an audience for the film’s entire running time, without character development and a satisfying plot resolution, is questionable. So script development is certainly where this talented filmmaker needs to focus her attention. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

 

Last Summer (2023) Cannes Film Festival

Wri/Dir: Catherine Breillat | Cast: Lea Drucker, Olivier Rabourdin, Clotilde Courau, Samuel Kircher | France Drama 104′

This French remake of May el-Touky’s far edgier awarding-winning original Queen of Hearts is so laboured, long-winded and last-century.  

Léa Drucker gives a steely performance as Anne a smug but successful juvenile rights lawyer who likes to live on the wild side and risks it all to have a casual affair with her mixed-up, ugly duckling stepson Theo (Kircher) because she can. In this sleek makeover where the focus is the upmarket Parisian suburban settings, Anne plays token mother to her adopted Japanese daughters, but most of the time she is flaunting her voluptuous figure in couture dresses, and stilettos, and is rarely without a glass of wine to get through her days of being a legal champion and massaging the ego of her rich and raddled industrialist husband Pierre (Rabourdin) who she can also alienate in a second with her razor-sharp rhetoric. 

But this sweet tale sour when Theo throws his toys out of the pram, confessing the liaison to  Pierre on a ‘man-to-man’ break. Anne strikes back with a vituperative counterclaim bringing her husband back onside and threatening Theo with her legal prowess. Breillat shocked audiences twenty years ago with her avantgarde approach to sex from the women’s point of view, most notably in Romance – but this material is so passe and lacks the bite of her early work, playing out like an bland erotic comedy with some skilful camerawork thrown in. It is also overlong.

El-Touky co-wrote the script but her original film Queen of Hearts – an apt title embodying the control freakery behind Anne’s character – also dived deeper into the psychological aspects of the story of an abusive narcissist with a heart of stone. Breillat’s film focusses on the intimate sexual relationship which provides awkward and ultimately tedious viewing, and is particularly unconvincing in its motivations as Theo is no adonis and lacks charisma. And who really wants to sit through endless close-up sweaty sequences of people having sex?  MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

 

 

About Dry Grasses (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan | Cast: Merve Dizdar, Deniz Celiloğlu, Musab Ekici | Turkey, Drama 197′

The past and the present once again collide in this discursive latest drama from Nuri Bilge Ceylan. It sees an art teacher languishing in a remote Anatolian backwater yearning for a transfer to the bright lights of Istanbul.

Samet (Deniz Celiloglu) has always been proud of his easy manner and genial way with his students although recently this bonhomie has failed to materialise due to his stalling career. He shares a comfortable house with a younger colleague Kenan (Musab Ekici) who joins him by the fireside after trudging across the snowbound wasteland in the film’s opening sequence. The two seem unaware of the latent competitiveness in their relationship,

But summer soon arrives bringing with it a vast expanse of dry grasses. Ceylan’s elegant framing once again provides a contemplative setting for this reflective story about school staff having to shoulder responsibility for accusations from pupils. And Samet soon comes under scrutiny when a pupil accuses him of abuse.

Samet has a soft spot for his prize pupil 14 year old Sevim (Ece Bagci) and the two often engage in inappropriate banter. But when Sevim betrays their clandestine friendship by filing a complaint about his behaviour to the authorities Samet backs off immediately, wondering whether his more attractive colleague Kenan is fact partly to blame for the complain. Kenan then becoming the focus in the inquiry. All this has a negative impact on Samet’s ego accentuating his competitive streak with Kenan. By way of getting his own back he decides to sabotage Kenan’s budding romance with his female colleague Nuray (Merle Dizdar) who works in a bigger school in a nearby town.

Although the Turkish auteur reworks his customary themes in one of his most resonant works so far, his films are always intriguing, memorable, and wonderful to look at. This time around a cheeky fourth wall adds an element of surprise to the Ceylan’s signature style. And although Dry Grasses never reaches a resounding conclusion, we leave the cinema feeling satisfied and enriched by the experience. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | Best Actress Award Merve Dizdar

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Anselm (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir.: Wim Wenders; Documentary with Anslem Kiefer, Daniel Kiefer, Anton Wenders; Germany 2023, 93 min.

To call Wim Wenders’ portrait of German artist Anselm Kiefer a documentary would be selling the work of both artists short. ANSELM is a potted history of post war Germany, rooted in the society where both men were born, in 1945. Neither of them escaped unhurt, even though Kiefer, a more confrontational character than Wenders, took the brunt of criticism. But “Das Rauschen der Zeit” is first and foremost a chronicle of a country still not ready to face its racist past. Their output is shrouded in enigma and ambivalence. There is always confusion and reverie: Wenders’ American set films and Kiefer’s French based creations are flights of imagination. But the shadow of the Third Reich looms large, and cannot be negotiated with art or gestures.

Anselm Kiefer, represented as a young man by Daniel Kiefer, and as a school boy by Anton Wenders, gained  prominence in 1971 as Joseph Beuys’ master student in Dusseldorf. This was followed by a scandal in Venice, at the Biennale in 1980, when Kiefer was accused of being a neo-Nazi, with him insisting he just wanted to refer to the victims of the Holocaust, wearing his father’s Wehrmacht’s Uniform and greeting the public with the Nazi salute. In 2022 Kiefer would make a triumphant return to the city.

But by now his work output was colossal – both in yield and form: He created topographic landscapes in an old brick factory in Germany, and landscapes in the South of France. And continues to this day with mega installations in his new studio in Croissy near Paris. There are architectural constructions, numerous pavilions, underground crypts and a gigantic, roofed amphitheatre. Everything is larger than life, and Kiefer is still at it, in a big way, always moving forward to the next project. Flame throwers are his favourite “weapons” of art, giant lift constructions lead him to the top of the world. Literally.

Then we return to the beginning with Paul Celan (1920 – 1970), holocaust survivor, poet and translator, who drowned himself in the Seine. The author Ingeborg Bachmann (1926-1976) a member of the circle of artists striving for a new beginning, not another cover-up. She died in an “accidental” fire in her own bed. But they were outnumbered by the ex-Nazi supporters who went into “inner exile” while still supporting the regime, like the philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), who never apologised or even tried to explain. There is a moving snapshot of Celan trying to meet Heidegger – but like Richard Strauss, leader of the NSDAP “ReichsmusikKammer” (Musicians had to be Aryans to take part), Heidegger could not even be bothered to say sorry, keeping his international reputation intact.

There is brilliance on both sides of the camera, thanks to DoP Franz Lustig, and it is a credit to both artists to return to the failed new beginning, because the huge majority of Germans preferred to feel sorry for themselves and were busy with collective denial. Wenders and Kiefer are still attempting to evade the past. But try as they may, it still outruns them. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | SPECIAL SCREENING

The New Boy (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Warwick Thornton | Cast: Kate Blanchett, Mezi Atwood, Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair | Drama, Australia

Kate Blanchett delivers another tour de force as a nun in a remote outpost for orphaned boys in Australia’s outback.

This drama about a boy disrupting the delicate status quo in a remote Benedictine monastery run by a renegade nun has a definite ring of Matthew Lewis’ Gothic novel The Monk about it.

But this is Australia in the 1940s rather than 18th century Spain. And the themes of innocence and spiritual corruption are here replaced by those of Colonisation and the survival of indigenous communities, namely the Aboriginals. And there’s no sex. But there is some magic realism – as we saw in Dominik Moll’s The Monk – by rubbing his fingers together the boy conjures up the healing force of a sparkling light.

Warwick Thornton’s narrative still follows a well-worn formula: the mercurial stranger comes to town and works his magic – good and bad – on a questioning community. The new boy in question is 9 year-old Aswan Reid, an Aboriginal who, early on, saves another orphan from a fatal snake bite. He sleeps under the bed, gobbles down his porridge, and get extra rations from Blanchett’s indulgent ‘Mother Superior’ Sister Eileen, who is mourning the recent loss of her partner Dom Peter. And while the nun slowly hits the bottle, questioning her own faith, as the boy gradually navigates this new world without losing the vital ropes to his past.

The other boys remain sceptical about their new housemate who tries to steal the jam belonging to the kindly caretaker George (Wayne Blair) from under the nose of buxom cook Sister Mum (Barbara Mailman). But the boy is thankfully diverted from these cheesy episodes by the arrival of a life-size crucifix from Europe, sent to avoid destruction during the war. And this provides a source of endless fascination for the boy as he experiments by piercing his own hands to see if they bleed, as the crucifix does, miraculously. Eventually, Sister Eileen wonders if baptism could be the answer to the boy’s antics.

Naturally Blanchett is the star turn here but Reid certainly pushes above his weight in an impressive performance for a untrained newcomer in this welcome addition to the aboriginal sub-genre from indigenous director Warwick Thornton. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

 

 

 

Firebrand (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Karim Ainouz | Cast: Alicia Vikander, Jude Law, Eddie Marsan, Sam Riley, Ruby Bentall, Erin Doherty | Drama

Jude Law is grotesque as Henry VIII on last his last legs – quite literally – in this imagined drama chronicling his marriage to Catherine Parr, the only wife who survived him, played with elegant conviction by Alicia Vikander.

Brazilian/Algerian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz last came to Cannes with a ravishingly beautiful 1950s outing The Invisible Life of Eurydice Gusmao. His latest, adapted for the screen by ‘Killing Eve’ writers Jessica and Henrietta Ashworth from a novel by Elizabeth Freemantle, is another story about the plight of women living constricted lives, this time in turbulent Tudor times.

Catherine Parr was the first woman to publish in the English language but the focus here is not so much her literary skill as her feminine guile seen through her struggle to survive this putrid, coercive and quixotic tyrant who forces himself on her at every opportunity in the desperate need to provide a male child. His gruesome grunts and larded buttocks bear testament to Catherine’s gruelling ordeal. She is far the most interesting character here but is rather left on the sidelines with the flatulent bully Henry taking centre stage.

Firebrand is a dark disturbing drama that unfolds within the claustrophobic confines of the royal quarters only occasionally making it into the fresh air of its glorious Spring settings. Intrigue, conspiracy and sculduggery are par (!) for the course: and familiar touchstones to those terrible times of misogyny and paranoia, the threat of beheading hanging over every woman, and man in the court.

Catherine Parr was the most fortunate of Henry’s alliances, and was even appointed regent while the king was in France. But she was also suspected of harbouring radical religious views in her objection to the church’s use of Latin: and this plot line sees her befriending the outspoken Protestant heretic Anne Askew (Erin Doherty) causing a rift with Simon Russell Beale’s Stephen Gardiner, a Catholic bishop and Catherine’s implacable opponent. So nothing really new to write home about here but certainly a film worth considering. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | COMPETITION

Jeanne du Barry (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir/Wri: Maiwenn | Cast: Maiwenn, Johnny Depp, Melvil Poupaud, Pierre Richard, Pascal Gregory, Benjamin Lavernhe, Marianne Basler | France, Drama 117′

French actor and filmmaker Maiwenn clearly had Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece Barry Lyndon in mind when she came up with idea of making a film about the six-year love affair between the widower King Louis XV (1710-74) and his mistress Jeanne du Barry, who would dance him to his grave. Seven years in the making, the film is based on a script by the director and her co-writers Teddy Lussi-Modeste and Nicolas Livecchi who create an overlong potboiler that aspires to be more momentous than it actually is, and with little dramatic heft to carry us through the narrative torpor.

In real life Jeanne Becu, Comtesse du Barry, was a cultured patron and aesthete who counted Voltaire amongst her coterie. But Maiwenn skips over historical fact imagining her heroine, who she also plays, as a woman who started life as an orphan and used her looks and low cunning to scamper up the social ladder to the Royal throne, entrancing the King who had only recently lost his Polish Queen Marie Leszczynska and his previous mistress Madame de Pompadour.

Elegantly shot in flickering candlelight by Laurent Dailland who also captures the magnificent landscapes surrounding Versailles, the film marks Maiwenn’s 35 mm debut and aims for the same delicate atmosphere as Barry Lyndon but achieves none of the depth or finesse of Kubrick’s epic, some set ideas seemingly copied directly from the original.

Slim of plot but busting with bodice-heaving interludes Jeanne du Barry is a raunchy romp that harks back to an era where it was unthinkable for a commoner to become chatelaine of the magnificent palace of Versailles where she would slip into the King’s bed, via a marriage with Melvil Poupaud’s Comte du Barry, and craftily negotiate malign influences in the corridors of power.

Sadly we see no real evidence of du Barry’s clever strategies, or her artistic prowess, Maiwenn instead playing her as a simpering coquettish ‘cat that got the cream’ in a series of face-offs with the King’s cartoonish offspring and his valet, a suave Benjamin Lavernhe.

Maiwenn makes for a rather salacious, hard-edged heroine, unpopular with her female counterparts but capable of turning on the charm with her male entourage. Depp is masterful in his limited screen appearance gracing the set with his usual charismatic allure but even he can’t save this CANNES FILM FESTIVAL turkey. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

 

Asteroid City (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Wes Anderson. Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Stephen Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori, Jake Ryan, Jeff Goldblum | US Comedy drama

Wes Anderson has a dedicated following but even diehard fans were put off by his 2021 film The French Dispatch, with its over-talky, complicated structure. In contrast Asteroid City is so exuberant, nostalgic and lovely to look at the sheer dynamism is sure to endear it to even Anderson sceptics although some complained, at the Cannes press screening, it lacked an ‘involving storyline’. This is a movie that is constantly on the move with Anderson’s regular A-list cast and candy-coloured eye-popping visuals that just make you gawp in amazement for two hours in a film about a play within a TV show .

Once again the narrative unfolds through multiple framing devices with Bryan Cranston introducing the show in a black and white opening scene where we meet Conrad Earp. (Norton) He is the playwright of the 1950s story we are about to watch which then bursts on the screen in a dazzling blast of technicolour transporting us to the mythical desert location of Asteroid City famous for its massive meteor crater and observatory for stargazers eager to see the Milky Way. It’s also a military testing ground for atomic weapons, pioneered by the serene scientist Tilda Swinton. There is a textbook style alien (Jeff Goldblum) whose appearance causes Jeffrey Wright’s army commander to launch an investigation. But Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe get left on the sidelines in nondescript cameos.

But the film’s focus is Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman), a melancholy, pipe-smoking photographer and recent widower who arrives with his children, and his wife’s ashes, in a retro shooting-break that promptly blows a gasket. Butch mechanic Matt Dillon scratches his head unable to mend the vehicle so Augie asks his father in law Stanley (Tom Hanks) for help, meanwhile falling in love Scarlett Johansson’s luminescent but lonely Hollywood star Midge, in scenes that plays out like a psychedelic version of Psycho. The nostalgia comes from the music – Rupert Friend is the crooning cowboy – the colours and the upbeat gaiety that recalls a time when America was great and led the way in all things cutting edge, including scientific breakthroughs and space travel, but still had decency and family values at its heart. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

The Zone of Interest (2023) Grand Prix – Cannes Film Festival 2023

Wri/Dir: Jonathan Glazer | Cast: Sandra Huller, Christian Friedel, Ralph Herforth, Max Beck | UK 107′

Another daring and distinctive outing from the English auteur/commercials director, and his first non-English film, centres on a Nazi family living in an immaculate villa boasting an idyllic flower-filled garden.

On the other side of the wall smoke rises from the ovens of Auschwitz concentration camp. As birdsong fills the air the camera focuses on the crimson petals of a delicate dahlia while screams of torture ring out in Mica Levi’s chilling score. Beauty and horror shared in one chilling frame.

Music leads us into Glazer’s brave and bracingly original fourth feature, a valuable addition to the Holocaust sub-genre. Inspired by the 2014 novel from Martin Amis it takes an another, unique, look at the genocide this time focusing on a dissociative family in total denial of their neighbours. While they briskly build a life with a growing family, thousands are losing theirs in the most inhumane way possible beyond the wall.

In many ways a holocaust of sorts is still going on all over the world today. The film explores an ongoing debate about the extent we are all prepared to go to to protect and further our own lives and interests at the expense of others. The Zone of Interest asks: Who is beyond our wall, and who would we sacrifice to preserve our way of life?

Filmed in Poland and immaculately lensed by Lukasz Zal (Cold War), geometric framing and pin-sharp images offer a clinical, realist take on daily life for butch camp commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and his priggish wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) who spends her days complacently primping her garden: the perfect hausfrau with a heart of stone. Meanwhile Rudolf struts into his tidy living room to discuss with his sturmbannfuhrers the best way to incinerate 700,000 Hungarians.

A decade in the making and based on comprehensive research The Zone of Interest delves into the lives of Rudolf Hess (1901-47) and his wife who were just ordinary people who loved and took care of their family, but that’s where their empathy finished. Hess was no anomaly; somewhere along the line he and his fellow Nazis all became serial killers. The Zone of Interest is not just about the banality of evil, it takes the concept further to question our own individual capacity for violent words and deeds and points towards the possibility of each one of us being these people. And in this way the film connects subconsciously to us, the audience.

An early scene captures an intimate testament of loss and callous gain: Hedwig twirls around in a beautifully fashioned sable coat, just one of the personal items stolen from an Auschwitz victim. In the pocket a rose red lipstick is dabbed on tentatively and then relegated to her dressing table. As Hedwig and her staff gather round the breakfast table silk lingerie possibly still warm from the bodies of its victims is then divided casually amongst the women as their gossip about food and shopping.

Gradually more sinister elements surface in this Eden which play on our imagination in the same vein at The White Ribbon. A this is very much and interactive experience with its unsettling score that leads us into doom evoked by the blood-curdling overture. They are a family going through the motions in their lush riverside setting but clearly all is not well in Paradise. 

Cinema is full of stylish films about the Holocaust: most recently Son of Saul and The Conference. This one, focussing on the ’Interessengebiet’ (or area around the Auschwitz camp), is far from ‘gemutlich’ but provides chilling food for thought and a tribute to Martin Amis, whose novel sparked Glazer’s interest, and whose death was announced on 19th May 2023, just after the film’s Cannes Film Festival premiere. MT

NOW ON RELEASE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 2023 |

Club Zero (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Wri/Dir: Jessica Hausner | Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Sam Hoare, Camilla Rutherford, Elsa Zylberstein | UK

Jessica Hausner is back in Cannes with a psychological drama that unfolds in an elite school where a teacher forms a sinister bond with a group of students.

A dereliction of parental duty is behind the faddish behaviour of so many kids today. Or so Jessica Hausner would have us believe in her primary-coloured feature that also highlights eating disorders through the online ‘pro-ana movement’, climate change and self control.

Mia Wasikowska heads the eclectic cast of singularly unlikeable characters as Miss Novak a nutritionist specialising in ‘zero eating’ in a modernist school billed as one of the best in Austria. The parents are rich and mostly neglectful of their kids who channel this latent disappointment and lack of real guidance by voicing a series of contemporary convictions which sound entirely laudable in the opening scenes: their love of sport, their need to impact less on to the environment. No one actually mentions a desire to be slim. Gradually Miss Novak indoctrinates her students into a cult of disfunctional eating, promoting the miraculous health and environmental benefits.

Hausner and her regular screenwriting partner Geraldine Bajard certainly make some really valid points but the cold-edged, non-naturalisitc interiors and characters are so universally unlikeable, performed by a cast of inexperienced newcomers, we do not care a jot for any of them as they fade into pasty-faced insignificance, and this, along with an irritating percussive soundscape and the relentlessly unforgiving depiction of Gen Z, makes for an arduous watch.

The exception here is school principal Sidse Babett Knudsen who lights up every scene with her amusing charisma, as Ms Dorset. Fellow auteur Ulrich Seidl is behind the production team but the film has none of his dry wit or deadpan appeal. Instead we are forced to endure one scene involving one teenage girl (Ksenia Devriendt) who eats her own vomit, echoing the ‘yuk’ factor of last year’s Palme d’Or winner Triangle of Sadness. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

 

Fallen Leaves (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023 | Jury Prize

Dir/Wri: Aki Kaurismaki | Cast: Alma Pöysti, Jussi Vatanen, Janne Hyytiäinen, Nuppu Koivu | Finland Drama 81

A spare but satisfying love story emboldened by Kaurismaki’s usual deadpan humour and blatant disregard for visual appeal. Fallen Leaves sees two lonely blue-collar workers form a tentative bond when they first set eyes on each other in a run down industrial backwater to the north of Helsinki.

Morose panel beater Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), a heavy drinker, lives in a squalid trailer with his fellow factory workers. When Friday night comes around he joins a colleague for karaoke where he meets Ansa (Alma Pöysti) but neither seems particularly impressed with each other. Or so it would seem. After taking her number, he promptly loses it and so begins an obstacle-ridden path to romance. 

Aki Kaurismaki won the Gold Bear for his Syrian refugee story The Other Side of Hope in 2017. Six years later he tracks back on similar themes in this ironically entitled ‘fourth’ episode of the Proletariat Trilogy, that started over two decades ago with The Match Factory Girl. Unlike Ken Loach’s recent agitprops Fallen Leaves avoids collective whingeing instead opting for playful humour to tell a tightly-scripted tale of gentlefolk, inured to their humble existence, and content with their situation in life – but love is always the balm they seek to get them through the day.

Full of irony and innuendo, Fallen Leaves works through familiar territory: immigration, zero hours contracts, social isolation and the healing powers of love in a light-hearted drama where music plays an important part, weaving in tunes from the Finnish songbook and offering a welcome antidote to the hardcore fare in this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Cheers and standing ovations prove this to be one of the most popular features of this years 76th edition. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023

Tiger Stripes (2022)

Dir.: Amanda Nell Eu; Cast: Zafreen Zairiza, Deena Ezrai, Piqa, Shaheisy Sam, Jun Lojong; Malaysia/Taiwan/Singapore/France/Germany/The Netherlands/Indonesia/Qatar 2023, 95 min.

Amanda Nell Eu goes far beyond the bounds of horror with her astonishing debut feature celebrating its world premiere at this year’s Cannes Critics’ Week. She is the first woman filmmaker from Malaysia to make it into the completion. Shooting was originally planned for 2018 but had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

Set a strictly religious Muslim School for Girls in rural Malaysia, this is a story of liberation via magic. Tiger Stripes unfolds in the playful, slightly ironic style of Jacques Rivette’s early films such as La Bande a Quatre. Her aim here is not scare the audience but make them fully appreciate her heroine’s struggle for liberation.

Zaffan (Zairizal) is twelve years old and puberty is a taboo subject in her strict Muslim household. Any discussion about bodily changes is strictly out of bounds: “you are dirty now” is all she tells her daughter.  Zaffans’ friends are even more aggressive, led by the goody-two-shoe Farah (Ezrai), who isolates Zaffan from her former friends and “shops” her to the school authorities. After the class teacher had a nervous breakdown after dealing with Zaffan, who is now considered an evil spirit, an exorcist tries to liberate the girl from the demon (whilst plying his goods on his mobile) but he is also left defeated – but will Zaffan really be free after escaping to the jungle in her new identity?

Told tongue-in-cheek, Tiger Stripes shows the collusion between a modern technology driven world and traditional Muslim dogma, depriving the girl of freedom and identity: they may have their mobiles, but their status as second class citizen will prevail. Instead of being proud of their bodies, they are told be ashamed to be the ‘Deuxieme Sex’. There is only one way out: magic realism.

DoP Jimmy Gimferrer creates an atmosphere of permanent threat: particularly at night, like on a school outing in the woods, when strange noises keep the girls awake. The creatures of the night, which might help to liberate Zaffan in the end, are not so much present, but are everywhere. Two worlds collide. And Zaffan’s parents and the school authorities are very much afraid of the magic world: they have never left the world of their childhood, and religion is just a way of convenience.

A roller-coaster of a film, Tiger Stripes makes his point: Girls just want to dance and have fun. With a firework of ideas, EU burns down the real walls of imprisonment with a magical firework. Brilliant. AS

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE 2023

A Brighter Tomorrow (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Nanni Moretti | Drama Italy/France, 95′

Since winning the Palme d’Or over two decades ago with The Son’s Room  Nanni Moretti, now nearly seventy, has been turning out self-reflective dramas about life for the Italian left-wing middle classes, and this circuitous comedy is another predictable sortie into that Roman territory and not without his signature moments of dry humour.

Like many directors of his era, Moretti keeps making the same film over and over again and this is the least involving to date. But then life tends to repeat itself so this is not such a bad thing, although you start to wonder why he is still in the main competition with so many talented filmmakers languishing in the sidebars. His last visit to Cannes with Three Stories, in 2021, was another middling drama in his repertoire where the women are usually peacemakers, the men the troublemakers, apart from Moretti himself who always good as the self-questioning man of integrity. Naturally – he’s the director.

A Brighter Future is essentially another of his films within a film, Moretti is Giovanni a neurotic novelist struggling to finish his own feature. As usual the politics are left-wing and the pace plods along placidly about the Italian Communist party objecting to the Soviets during the Hungarian invasion of 1956.

Margherita Buy – always a luminous prescence – plays his wife Paola, the film’s producer. But the is marriage going downhill and she has decided to leave him. Meanwhile Matthieu Amalric makes another febrile appearance as the film’s producer desperately trying to rustle up finance. To beef up the production Giovanni he has cast a group of Koreans who provide the funniest scene during a script meeting where their interpreter gets a ticking off for translating an intimate aside he has with Paola.

There are references to his ‘friends’: architect Renzo Piano and Martin Scorsese in a debate about violence in film. Scorsese has surely more experience and greater validity in commenting where this is concerned. The story gradually grinds to a rather pessimistic conclusion in chewing over and digesting the decadence of politics. So this is not one of his best outings but maybe a brighter future will bring a better Moretti film with it. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | COMPETITION 2023

 

La Chimera (2023) Cannes Film Festival 2023

Dir: Alice Rohrwacher | Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Josh O’Connor, Isabella Rossellini Italy, Drama 130′

Alice Rohrwacher’s latest drama is set in the 1980s in world of the ‘tombaroli’ or tomb robbers and tells the story of an English archaeologist (Josh O’Connor) caught up in this illegal trafficking of ancient finds.

A magical poetic tenderness is the ephemeral quality in Rohrwacher’s unique style of filmmaking and her dreamlike fourth feature has the same lyrical lightness of touch that haunted Corpo Celeste, The Wonders and Happy as Lazarus in some ways completing the final trio. Unfolding in her home of Tuscany the tale once again connects the past with the present through a delicate thread linking Italy’s ancient history that is still so much part of everyday life where relics are as common as bus stops. La Chimera is a film that you gradually surface into as if waking out of the depths of a dream.

Italy’s Etruscan heritage was still being discovered at the end of the last century and a motley band of wayfarers chance upon this priceless buried treasure hoping it will provide for the rest of their lives. Arthur (O’Connor) leads the quest – but is also haunted by another, more heartfelt search, an illusory longing for Benjamina, a girl he loved and lost long ago. Her mother – a delightful Isabella Rossellini who brings so much resonant to the story with her personal history – is still living in the past in a decadent grandeur of the old station of Riparbella, with her family and housekeeper Italia (Duarte).

Sporting a crumpled cream linen suit – the sartorial masculine emblem of 1980s Italy – Arthur spends most of the film in a state of gruff melancholy after being hailed by the others as the quintessential Italian-speaking Englishman whose innate style and sense of conviction will lead them to the holy grail with his knack of locating sites with a flimsy forked branch. But like life itself, their odyssey is filled with dreams and illusions. Better to travel in hope than to arrive. MT

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | COMPETITION 2023

Strange Way of Life (2023) Cannes Film Festival

Pedro Almodóvar’s short, a gay Western, STRANGE WAY OF LIFE starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal, will receive its World Premiere out of competition at the festival, followed by a theatrical release in the UK later this year.

STRANGE WAY OF LIFE is Almodóvar’s second work in the English language, his first being THE HUMAN VOICE starring Tilda Swinton which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2020. The film is produced by El Deseo and presented by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello, with all characters costumed by the company.

A man rides a horse across the desert that separates him from Bitter Creek. He comes to visit Sheriff Jake. Twenty-five years earlier, both the sheriff and Silva, the rancher who rides out to meet him, worked together as hired gunmen. Silva visits him with the excuse of reuniting with his friend from his youth, and they do indeed celebrate their meeting, but the next morning Sheriff Jake tells him that the reason for his trip is not to go down the memory lane of their old friendship….
The strange way of life referred in the title alludes to the famous fado by Amalia Rodrigues, whose lyrics suggest that there is no stranger existence than the one that is lived by turning your back on your own desires.

Although he has never won the coveted Palme d’Or Writer/Director Pedro Almodóvar is one of Spain’s most celebrated filmmakers with numerous accolades to his name including an Academy Award®, four BAFTAs, numerous Goyas and over 100 further wins and nominations. His credits include WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER, VOLVER, PAIN AND GLORY and PARALLEL MOTHERS.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023 | 17-27 May 2023

Indiana Jones & the Dial of Destiny | Cannes 2023

Indiana Jones returns to the Festival de Cannes for the world premiere of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, directed by James Mangold, starring Harrison Ford as the legendary hero. 15 years after the presentation in 2008 of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull directed by Steven Spielberg, the final installment of the Lucasfilm saga will be screened on Thursday, May 18 in Cannes and will be released in theaters on June 28 in France and June 30 in the United States. On this occasion, the Festival will also pay a special tribute to Harrison Ford for his career.

It is to the memorable music of John Williams, that James Mangold and Harrison Ford will climb the steps of the Palais des Festivals on May 18 alongside Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Ethann Isidore and Mads Mikkelsen. An event that will mark the highly anticipated comeback of the famous adventurer in the Official Selection.

“In 1995, I was honored to come to Cannes with my first film Heavy, as part of Director’s Fortnite. Twenty-eight years later, I am proud to return with a slightly larger spectacle. My legendary collaborators and I are very excited to share a brand new and final Indiana Jones adventure with you!”, declared director James Mangold.

Straight out of the imagination of George Lucas, well before the great epic Star Wars, it was in 1981 that Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first part of the saga, was revealed to the world. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the adventures of Indiana Jones conquered the hearts of millions of fans who followed him for four decades.

The embodiment of a heroic America, Harrison Ford has played some of the most iconic roles of the last 50 years including Han Solo for George Lucas in Star Wars IV, V, and VI, and Rick Deckard in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) and Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 (2017).

In 2023, James Mangold directs him to play again the adventurer with the hat and the whip. The American director and screenwriter is back in Cannes, 28 years after the presentation of his first film Heavy. He then directed, among others, Copland in 1997, the biopic on Johnny Cash, Walk the Line in 2005 with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, which earned the Oscar for Best Actress, but also 3:10 to Yuma in 2007 and Ford v Ferrari in 2019.

The Festival de Cannes would like to thank The Walt Disney Company and LucasFilm for their trust and is looking forward to hosting the screening of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny which promises another great cinematic adventure around the world.

The film is produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Simon Emanuel, with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas serving as executive producers.
John Williams, who has scored each Indy adventure since the original Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, has once again composed the score.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is set to be released in cinemas on June 28, 2023 in France and on June 30, 2023 in the US.

 

La Montagne (2022)

Dir: Thomas Salvador | Cast: Thomas Salvador, Louise Bourgoin, Martine Chevallier, Laurent Poitrenaux | France, 113′

Not since Julian Polsler’s visionary Austrian drama Der Wand (2012) has there been such an imaginative eco-thriller, set this time in the French Alps. La Montagne successfully blends mountaineering and sci-fi into a lowkey love story that explores the mysterious kinetic qualities of the Alps.

Expect to see some really spectacular special effects along with superior widescreen panoramas of the mountains in the early Spring thaw. But also a sense of danger that slowly builds when the introspective main character Pierre – played by the director himself – is seen walking across a glacier in crampons and later enduring ferocious winds in his small bivouac pitched on the ascent to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi near Chamonix Mont Blanc.

Salvador, who won the SACD award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival for this enigmatic sophomore feature, adopts a docudrama style with some impressive Alpine set pieces, and adds authenticity to this intimate story with some serious technical detail during Pierre’s meeting with his climbing pal Marc (Poitrenaux) that sees them take on a complex bit of rock climbing and offers impressive views of the peaks as well as emotionally charged moments when Pierre slips on the ice. 

In a mountainside restaurant Pierre then strikes up a conversation with Lea (Bourgoin) on the pretence of asking her to pop a card in the post. This leads to a meeting with his family at the base of Chamonix where he argues with his brother who is not happy about Pierre’s laissez-faire attitude to keeping in contact with the rest of them.

Pierre crosses paths with Lea again and a romantic frisson develops when she offers a handy tip on how to tie non-slip laces on his boots. Smoke from a distant landslide then grabs Pierre’s attention as the tone changes gear with a more sinister undertow as Pierre goes to investigate and discovers a mysterious light glowing out of the rock-face, the luminosity intensifying as night gradually falls on the hostile terrain.

On closer examination Pierre discovers what appears to be a sparkling globular mass that travels around the rock-face like the glowing embers of volcano magma. But before Pierre can investigate further his attempts are thwarted by an unexpected turn of events in this intriguing mountain adventure that splices the surreal with a serendipitous story of modern love. MT

NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE

Broker (2022)

Dir.: Hirokazu Kore-eda; Cast: Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won, Bae Doona, Joo-young, Lee Ji-eun, Park Ji-young, Im seung-soo; South Korea 2022, 129′.

Surrogacy is given an upbeat comedy treatment in this touching crowd pleaser from Japanese humanist Hirokazu Kore-eda, his first to take place in Korea.

Broker is very much in the same vein as his Cannes winner Shoplifters, proving once again his talent for turning melodrama into social realism, even though the film is rather too fluffy in its near formalistic conclusion. It all starts in film noir mode: the rain is pelting down on the South Korean city of Busan where distraught mother Moon So-young (Ji-eun) has just given birth to a child she cannot afford to keep. There is a baby hatch in a nearby religious charity building, and she puts baby Woo-sung (Ji-yong) in front of the hatch and disappears into the night. Following hot on her heels are two baby trafficking detectives – Soo-Jin (Dona) and Lee (Joo-young).

The day after, So-young has a change of heart – even though she had put a note into the baby-basket promising that she would return she confronts a pair of kidnappers Ha Sang hyon (Kang-ho) and Dong soo (Dong Gang-dong-won) who are actually stealing her baby for a money-making scam. When So-young threatens the two men with the police, they admit their crime, but offer So-young a part in the “sale” of her baby: it’s always better to have the biological mother present. The detectives are puzzled when So-young gets into the spirit of things, refusing to lower her asking price, even though the adopting couple lower their offer claiming “the baby isn’t as cute as in the photos”.

Broker occasionally risks turning into a farce, but Kore-eda cleverly avoids it. The same going for the role playing changes with the two detectives seemingly are the only ones, who want the baby to be sold, just to solve their case. DoP Hong Kyung-pyo shows off his love of small details, and Song Kang-Ho, who won “Best Actor” in Cannes, perfectly pitches his melancholic take on proceedings. Broker is certainly not Kore-eda’s best, but it may be his warmest, most humanistic and passionate statement, moving the audience without spilling into sentimentality. AS

ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM FRIDAY 2023

 

In his first Korean-set film unfurls itself into another touching, wryly funny tale of surrogate families. It’s not quite on a par with his Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters – what is? – but it’s a crowd-pleaser and a gentle joy, with a standout performance from Parasite’s Song Kang-ho.

Broker opens with a young woman, So-young (K-pop star Ji-eun Lee), leaving her new-born son at one of Busan’s so-called baby boxes. They’re a real-life mechanism to enable struggling parents to ensure unwanted children find their way into care. But they come with social judgment – ‘You threw your baby away’, So-young will be told on more than one occasion – and in Broker’s world, at least, they’re ripe for exploitation. Sure enough, two adoption brokers, Sang-hyun (Parasite’s Song Kang-ho) and Dong-soo (Gang Dong-won), steal the baby and begin touting him around on their network of wealthy wannabe parents, using their laundrette as a front for their criminal enterprise.

It’s an unlikely scenario – even before So-young, wanted for murder and being trailed by two cops, forms an unlikely alliance with the two baby traffickers – but Koreeda’s warmth and wit make it easy to let it slide. He wants to take you on a journey with a burgeoning family of misfits that’s soon swelled by another young orphan. The quartet, and the young moppet, travel around in a battered van full of dry cleaning from one lot of potential parents to another. It reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine in its easy charm, and there are similar dynamics are at play here: touching bonds slowly forming, life lessons being learnt and some big laughs.

The thieves-with-a-heart-of-gold trope is reinvigorated by Song Kang-ho’s Basset Hound charms
The hackneyed thieves-with-a-heart-of-gold trope is reinvigorated by the sharpness of the writing and Song’s Basset Hound charms. While Broker occasionally gets close to cloying, especially in its neat ending and jaunty score, Koreeda keeps it the right side of cutesy. It’s best enjoyed as a modern-day fairy tale – only, one where the abandoned baby sparks nothing but enchantment.

 

Tori and Lokita (2022)

Dir.: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne; Cast: Pablo Schils, Joely Mbundu, Alban Ukaj, TijmenGovaerts, Charlotte Bruyne, Nadege Quedrago,Marc Zinga; Belgium/France 2022, 88 min.  

With Tori and Lokita Belgium writers, directors and producers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have found their way back to the brilliance of Rosetta and L’Enfant – both Palme d’Or winners – with their angriest feature yet. Winning the 75th Anniversary award in Cannes 2022 was also recognition of their continued commitment to shining a light on those at the outer margins of society in films that were neither sentimental soap operas nor Ken Loach-style agitprops: Tori and Lokita is a tragedy, a drama and a poetic love story of a different kind.

Back in the Dardennes’ old stamping ground of Liège and the industrial suburb of Seraing we first meet eleven year old Tori (Schils) and his sixteen-year old sister Lokita (Mbundu) during a committee hearing to establish her status as bona-fide emigrant. It later emerges the two are not related but met on the boat to Italy, Tori having been forced to leave Cameroon purportedly as the child of a sorcerer. So the two of them cooked up a story to increase their chances of getting refugee status for Lokita. But the authorities only grant Tori leave to remain, and Lokita is threatened with deportation.

The two are meanwhile under extreme pressure not only to provide financial assistance for the education of Lokita’s brothers back home in Cameroon, but also to take into account the restaurant Chef Betim (Ukaj) and the people smugglers Firmin (Zinga) and Justine (Quedrago) who got them into Belgium – at a steep price. Betim uses them in his drug trading activities, and when it becomes clear that Lorita will not get a resident visa, Betim promises to get her papers if she tends a hash plant for three months. Lokita agrees, even though Betim is sexually abusing her. Tori hatches a plan which will seem like a victory for the two of them, but turns into a tragedy of epic proportions.

DoP Benoit Dervaux’ handheld camera catches the full range of emotions etched across the faces of these two desperate people struggling to be accepted. Much the same as every visa system, the Belgium one is arbitrary, and laced with an undercurrent of xenophobia. Lokita is fiercely protective of Tori: she is his mother, sister, and companion: always encouraging him to go to school so that he can realise his ambitions. Lokita herself wants to become a home help, if granted refuge status. Somehow, the Italian song Tori picked up in Italy becomes ‘their song’, a theme tune Tori sings to cheer Lokita forward, through thick and thin. Their loving interdependency is the beating heart of this tender tragedy.

Tori and Lokita is a stark reminder for parents all over the world who may be ignorant of the dangers of people trafficking. The Dardenne brothers keep their distance, never judging the youngsters, always trying to see things from their perspective in a humane and passionate story of our times. AS

Released exclusively in cinemas on 2 December 2022 | Picturehouse Entertainment

   

More than Ever (2022)

Dir: Emily Atef | Cast: Vicky Krieps, Gaspard Ulliel, Bjørn Floberg | France, Drama 123′

Taking control is a powerful part of dealing with terminal illness. And choice is at the heart of this romantic drama from French filmmaker Emily Atef. The film follows Helene (Krieps) a bright young woman madly in love with her husband, Mathieu (Ulliel), and overwhelmed by feelings of loss and isolation at the thought of dying, just as her friends are looking forward to the future.

Anxious not to be defined by her incurable condition Helene is naturally depressed, not least at contemplating the end while those around her are beginning their married lives and looking forward to having children – one is already pregnant, the usual pictures of the growing baby are passed round the dinner table, where Helene becomes a figure of pity, people not knowing quite what to say as she struggles on alone.

Naturally Mathieu is keen to find a cure for her illness, but Helene feels shut out by his own desperate need to keep her alive, against the odds. And forcing her to be positive when a new treatment offers hope. Even her mother imposes her own feelings of self-pity, breaking down in tears rather than giving Helene strength and the time to talk and express herself.

Atef clearly understands the situation. There is nothing more normal than wanting to get away from the wave of pity and silence that descends on us when we face challenging situations, such as life-limiting illness, or the curse of infertility. And Helene also realises that her lover will go on to have a full life and a family with somebody else.

Feeling lost and isolated she seeks solace on the internet and gets to know a terminally ill man (Bjørn Floberg) living in the pristine paradise of the Norway’s fjords, and feels comfort and solidarity from reading his daily blog. Off she goes to meet him, without Mathieu, who wants her to stay in France in case a suitable lung donor becomes available. The peace and solitude, and the spartan surroundings of a boathouse adjoining the man’s property provides distance and a chance to rediscover herself and take control of her illness. Atef does not look for easy exits or a sentimental treatment for her dying heroine. And Helene is not always a sympathetic character, but she is vulnerable, and we feel for her – it’s a monumental performance from Krieps, and from Ulliel, who ironically would die suddenly in an accident, months after filming wrapped.

The stunning cinematic setting of the Norwegian countryside in early Spring offers a bracing backcloth to a tragedy that could happen to any of us facing certain death or contemplating the final days of a loved one. And More than Ever offers an upbeat message of hope, not just unmitigated doom. MT

NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE and in the UK from early 2023.

 

 

 

1976 (2022)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The main thrust of the story is the developing relationship between Elias and Carmen. Keeping her distance at first and seeing Elias as just another charge to take care of for father Sanchez, the memory of her thwarted career and the negligence and nagging by her husband (who sees her as a ‘trophy’ to show her off to family and friends) changes the dynamic between them.

The tipping point for Carmen is another dig by Miguel, due to her wearing a dress showing off her figure: Carmen cuts the dress into pieces, but also ends all emotional ties to her status. She asks Elias, jokingly, if she will be remembered after the downfall of the Pinochet regime, and he claims a hospital will be named after her. But Elias is also aware of the danger for Carmen: “Tell them you never saw me, that you did not know my name. They will believe you”.

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

NOW ON BFI PLAYER RENTALS | BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CANNES PREMIERES 2022

Everybody Loves Jeanne (2022)

Dir/Wri: Celine Devaux | Cast: Blanche Gardin, Laurent Lafitte, Maxence Tual, Nuno Lopez, Marthe Keller | France, Drama 95′

Jeanne founded an ecological startup to save the world from plastic. Now on the verge of bankruptcy she has some tough decisions to make about her future in this cross between a screwball comedy and a reflective romantic drama.

First time director and illustrator Celine Devaux opts for a jokey narrative device featuring animated inserts of a female version of ‘Mr Blobby’ voicing Jeanne’s worst fears, hopes and melancholy musings. These illustrations actually interrupt the narrative flow making you wish the director would just get on with a story powerful enough to carry a drama that gets more and more enjoyable as it finds its groove, although the message it finally delivers is a bit of a cop out feminist-wise. Not sure whether this was what Devaux originally intended. 

Fortunately Jeanne happens to have inherited her mother’s place in Lisbon where she grew up with her brother Simon (Tual). So off she heads to the sun to clear her debts with the sale.  On the way she meets old school friend Jean (Lafitte on top form as a pain in the arse) and spends the flight wondering whether she fancies, or finds him deeply irritating. This dilemma is soon resolved when Jean is met by his wife and little daughter, and also turns out to be loaded – in a withering twist on Jeanne’s own financial failure. She, by contrast, is met by her ex Victor (Lopez) who is also now a father, and married into the bargain, although she re-kindles secret desires to bed him. And it’s these amusing insights that make the film entertaining and Jeanne so appealing as a character who everyone can relate to: a woman who is not afraid to be disliked but also wants to be perceived as doing something worthwhile, while suffering the secret need to be loved – a tough call but one that Blanche Gardin pulls off successfully in this impressive feature debut.

In Lisbon she sees her mother everywhere in the flat – a hoarder who nagged about her never calling. So clearing out the flat is the last thing on her mind. Gradually slumping into a low level depression she escapes into the sandy beaches and mellow sunsets of the Portuguese capital until the unexpected arrives in a soft-pedalling finale. MT

NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CAMERA D’OR 2022

 

Marcel! (2022) Cannes Film Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

Stars at Noon (2022)

Dir: Claire Denis | France Drama, 138’

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

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

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

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

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

IN CINEMAS from 4 June 2023 | CANNES FILMS FESTIVAL | Grand Prix ex aequo

 

Eo (2022) Cannes Film Festival | Joint Jury Prize

Dir: Jerzy Skolimowski | Drama, Poland 97’

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

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

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

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

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

 

Showing Up (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION

Close (2022)

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

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

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE  | joint Grand Prix winner 2022

 

Pacifiction (2022) Cesar for Best Actor and Cinematography 2023

Dir: Albert Serra | Cast: Benoit Magical, Sergi Lopez, Alexandre Melo, Montse Triola, Michael Vautor, Pahoa Mahagafanau | Catalan, Thriller, 138′

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

The prowling voyeurs of Liberte are back again looming out of this palm-fringed neon twilight zone of cocktail bars and nightclubs, only this time it’s the 21st century, and the political landscape is uncomfortably familiar. Serra’s regular actor Marc Susini is a light-footed admiral of the submarine, and Sergi Lopez (Harry he’s here to Help) plays sleazy nightclub owner Morton. Montse Triola plays the token female, a published writer returning home. And there are go-go girls and boys a plenty and the sexually ambivalent De Roller seems enamoured with their trans lead dancer Shannah (Mahagafanau). But we gradually relax into this mellow milieu inhabiting the intoxicating torpor of the tropical tale and its weird protagonists.

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

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

PACIFICTION in UK cinemas on 21 April 2023 | premiered at Cannes Film Festival 2022 and has since won 13 awards on the festival circuit | 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crimes of the Future (2022) Cannes Film Festival

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | In Competition | ON RELEASE FROM 6 SEPTEMBER 2022

Nostalgia (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL |  IN COMPETITION 2022

 

 

 

Godland (2022) Un Certain Regard

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

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD

Decision to Leave (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Decision to Leave is striking to look at, and the romantic interplay between detective and suspect offers its strongest moments, Park using his signature subtle wit to explore the sensuous dynamic between the two: the cool and procedural cop who falls victim to love and the geisha girl with a mysterious past. The second half becomes more erratic and loses its grip. It feels like the director finally gave up on his carefully constructed story that implodes in an enigmatic denouement and a captivating last scene on a deserted beach.

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | BEST DIRECTOR

 

 

 

 

Little Nicholas (2022) Cannes Film Festival 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022 | Special Screenings 2022

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | IN COMPETITION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Fig Trees (2022)

Dir.: Erige Sehri; Cast: Ameni Fdhili Fide Fdhili, Fetan Fdhili, Samar SIFI, Abdelba Mrabti, Firas Amri, Leila Ouhebi, Ghaith Mendassi; Tunisia, Switzerland, Qatar, France 2021, 92 min.

A first foray into drama for French Tunisian filmmaker Erige Sehri, whose journalistic experience served her well in her documentary debut Railway Men.

With its cast of mainly non-pros Under the Fig Trees is a pleasant discursive comedy of manners that plays out in the countryside location of a fig orchard where fruit pickers of all ages expound their personal animosities and gender conflicts in the languorous heat of a summer afternoon, the fig serving as a sexual metaphor for turbulent times ahead as an entire family struggles to interpret the past, present and future of Tunisia.

The director’s background in documentary filmmaking is always prevalent. During filming her focus is on personal dynamics and body language and she spends time with the female protagonists who are trying to find a way out of the past, symbolised by their parents (and the older co-workers), into a future that will offer them the chance to opt for a profession instead of just marriage. Their attitude towards love, as seen in their instagram pictures, is still very romantic, but they know they will have to work hard for a freedom their mothers, and the Leilas of this world, never had.

Ghaith is paying Leila (Leila Ouhebi) extra money for acting as his ‘eyes and ears’. It is no accident that Leila is one of the few older women who encourage the teenagers to behave and pray – something which falls on deaf ears. Ghaith, who is always asking his staff to follow his orders, is very lax in performing his own duties; but in the end, he is the man who pays at the end of the week, and this power gives him a free hand in doling out favours or pay cuts. Melek and her sister Fide are constantly at loggerheads, Melek is in love with Abdoul (Mrabti), who has been living in Monastir for the last years, where he and Melik were an item. But Abdoul has a much more serious matter to deal with: his uncle, who owns the orchard where they work. He has sent the bailiff to his family home, to collect money. And the main focus is their confrontation. More intriguing is the relationship between Sana (A. Fdhili) and her love for co-worker Firas (Ameni) who plays the field, metaphorically, with Sana trying in vain to come to terms with his emotional neglect.

DoP Frida Marzouk’s handheld camerawork is fluid and appealing with poetic images of the fruit-picking and surrounding countryside. Playing out as a series of contemplative episodes without any real dramatic arc Under the Fig Trees is interesting but ultimately less meaningful than it could have been in raising awareness of Tunisian society and its place in the world. AS

NOW AT VIENNALE 2022 | DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2022

 

Burning Days (2022) Un Certain Regard

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD

 

Holy Spider (2022) Cannes Film Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

R.M.N. (2022)

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

A young Romanian boy has a nasty experience in the woods on his way to school one morning echoing the seething sense of social unrest in the Romanian village where he lives with his family.

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

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

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

NOW IN UK CINEMAS | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL premiere 2022

The Mountain (2022) Directors’ Fortnight 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

Triangle of Sadness (2022) Winner Palme D’Or

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | PALME D’OR WINNER 2022

The Night of the 12th (2022)

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

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

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

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

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

NOW ON BFI SUBSCRIPTION | VOTED BEST FILM BEST DIRECTOR, BEST FILM, BEST NEWCOMER, BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, BEST SOUND+ BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | CESAR AWARDS |

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stranger (2022) Un Certain Regard 2022

Dir: Thomas M Wright | Australia, Thriller

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

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

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

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

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

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

 

Corsage (2022) Winner Best Film BFI LFF

Dir: Marie Kreutzer | Drama, Austria 115′

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

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

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

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

MARIE KREUTZER WINS BEST FILM AWARD BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL AUSTRIA’s OFFICIAL ENTRY IN THE ACADEMY AWARDS 2023 |  CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2022

 

 

 

Tchaikovsky’s Wife (2022)

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

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

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

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

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

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

What starts as hopeful story of triumph over expectation, after the couple’s marriage of convenience, soon descends into a tragedy of melodramatic proportions when Miliukova’s promise of family wealth comes to nothing: Tchaikovsky is unable to countenance a relationship with anyone but his own genius, and a few acolytes who pander to his talent.

The final scenes play out as a tragedy Miliukova having become a caricature of herself with the loss of her three children but determined not to relinquish the unique status of being the wife of a man who would eventually become one of the world’s most legendary composers. MT

AT THE ICA LONDON on 22 December 20

Armageddon Time (2022) Cannes Film Festival

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

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

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

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

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

IN COMPETITION | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

1976 (2022) Directors’ Fortnight 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | CANNES PREMIERES 2022

Rodeo (2022) Un Certain Regard

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

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

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

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

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

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

UN CERTAIN REGARD | CANNES 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | SPECIAL SCREENING

The Woodcutter Story (2022) Critics’ Week

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

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

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

61st SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

 

Return to Seoul (2022) Un Certain Regard

Wri/Dir: Davy Chou | Drama, 115′

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2022

The Water (2022) Directors’ Fortnight 2022

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

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

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

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

SCREENING DURING DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT 2022

Domingo and the Mist (2022) Un Certain Regard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES | UN CERTAIN REGARD 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEMAINE DE LA CRITIQUE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2022

 

 

Cannes – Un Certain Regard 2022

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

 

LES PIRES Lise AKOKA, Romane GUERET 1st film

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

KURAK GÜNLER (BURNING DAYS) Emin ALPER

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

METRONOM Alexandru BELC 1st film

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

SICK OF MYSELF Kristoffer BORGLI

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

ALL THE PEOPLE I’LL NEVER BE Davy CHOU

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

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

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

PLAN 75 HAYAKAWA Chie 1st film

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

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

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

CORSAGE Marie KREUTZER (main image)

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

BACHENNYA METELYKA (BUTTERFLY VISION) Maksim NAKONECHNYI 1st film

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

 

VANSKABTE LAND / VOLAÐA LAND (GODLAND) Hlynur PÁLMASON

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

RODEO Lola QUIVORON 1st film

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

JOYLAND Saim SADIQ 1st film

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

THE SILENT TWINS Agnieszka SMOCZYNSKA

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

THE STRANGER Thomas M WRIGHT

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

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

 

 

Cannes Classics – 2022 restorations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documentaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CANNES CLASSICS  | 17-28 May 2022

Cannes Film Festival 2022 – Programme additions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PALME D’OR COMPETITION

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

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

OUT OF COMPETITION  :

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

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL | 17 – 29 May 2022 

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

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

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

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

SCREENING IN CANNES CLASSICS | 2022

 

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