What a Cannes Film Festival. It has been an unruly jungle. Unruly and luxuriant. The movies have climbed over each and every other in excellence, every single new a single transcending the last as it reaches towards that gilded guerdon, that light-giving cynosure of legendary tree-forms, the Palme d’Or.
Am I overdoing it? Not truly. Considering that mid-festival, this 69th medley on the Med has got much better and much better. A very good Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper, gave way to a much better Jim Jarmusch, Paterson. A dazzling Pedro Almodóvar, Julieta, yielded ground — in well-known éclat — to an out-of-nowhere Brazilian film, Aquarius, whose screening ended with an ovation soon after beginning with a demo.
The director and actors, possessing scaled the Palais methods, held out paper indicators every single blazing a slogan. “Coup d’état in Brazil”, “Brazil is no longer a democracy” . . . Flashbulbs blazed. Festival chief Thierry Frémaux bustled unhappily, his keep-politics-off-the-red-carpet policy clearly in peril. The stunt was repeated inside the auditorium. Far more unhappy Frémaux. Meanwhile the audience loved it — controversy! — even if some didn’t fairly know who the polemicists had been supporting or attacking. Anti-Rousseff? Pro-Rousseff?
No a single soon cared. Brazil is a paid-up political disaster zone appropriate now, what ever side you are on, and Aquarius, written and directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho — not a household name, till now — pays mischievous homage to the cancerous growth of social despair and demoralisation.
It’s all about corruption, decay (moral and material) and the final excellent people standing. Veteran star Sônia Braga plays the proud widow refusing to sell her house, the final apartment in an ocean-view block becoming gobbled up for demolition. Her household begs her to decamp. The developers make threats. Noisy parties, verging on orgies, are staged above her ceiling. Then — last act — there’s a lulu (no Brazilian leadership puns intended) of a spend-off, a single of these curtain moments that get audiences
rising to their feet in exulting glee.
It’s very a festival for Latin cinema. Q: Who is the most talented living film-maker by no means to have won the Palme d’Or? A: Pedro Almodóvar. The Spaniard started his profession as a post-Franco prodigy of libertine baroque — camp, cheeky and hyperbolic (Females on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) — and has given that morphed into the most subtly achieved, voluptuously nuanced stylist in Europe, possibly the planet.
Alice Munro’s quick stories, like Almodóvar’s films, limn an daily world of enigmatic motivations, buried passions and transforming epiphanies. Julieta threads three Munro tales collectively close to-invisibly. You can not see the joins in the narrative about a lady (played at various ages by three diverse actresses) hankering for the daughter who has cut off all communication. Julieta’s journey across years is sketched in chapters at as soon as bold, vivid and wonderfully subtle. A fateful train trip a adore affair a family members residence rocked by a sea that is each cradle and grave that doted-on daughter whose sudden apartness comes like a silent bomb.
Individual moments are incandescent, mysterious or headlong with portent. On the red kitchen wall behind a quarrel scene, the huge white clock hands resemble crossed swords. A enjoy scene on a moving train is reflected in a night window so that the coupling’s blurred, febrile grace rhymes visually with the image, still fresh in our minds’ eyes, of a stag bounding magically however ominously via the train-side snow. Almost everything connects every little thing casts a spell. Close to the end the director cranes the camera above a lake-and-mountain landscape, at when to hold its majestic, indifferent beauty and to withhold a dénouement which — he is surely right to feel — have to be left, for its full energy, to be intuited and imagined by us.
Individual Shopper is not in Almodóvar’s league, but it’s way above the league of the idiots — a dozen or so — who booed it. Possibly they were Twilight haters. Star Kristen Stewart has a part exploiting her nervy, sleepless eyes and murmurous lilt of voice. This is a ghost story: sort of. Her character is beguiled towards fulfilment or fatality by an unknown texter, probably her dead brother. Is he — let’s hazard a delirium of decoding — her “personal shopper”, a proxy agent of her desires and dreams, just as her own job, or one of them, is to be retail handmaiden to a celebrity French diva?
Perhaps the booers couldn’t stand being teased. This Assayas is the one who first blooded Stewart as his muse in Clouds of Sils Maria . In his new period as a picture-maker he peers tauntingly, at occasions bewitchingly, into the crack in between this world and the subsequent.
The ideal films of Jim Jarmusch look to doze their way into your soul. He’s a Zen charmer. Just when you think his stories are asleep — like Paterson’s slow-pulse tale of a poetry-writing bus driver (Adam Driver) whose verses are for no a single but him, his wife and his earthly sense of soul and self — you realise they’ve crept inside you and curled up for life.
Somehow he makes prosaic Paterson, New Jersey, seem a location for poetry and revelation. (It was property to Allen Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams.) Somehow also he makes a dog, a mastiff named Marvin, the most memorable deus ex machina in Cannes. He’s currently favourite for the 2016 Palm Dog, annual gong for screen canines.
There have, alas, been other kinds of dog at Cannes. Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden is all style and no substance, throwing its chiaroscuro and camera arabesques at a clunky Koreanisation of Sarah Waters’s gothic thriller Fingersmith. Loving, from Jeff Nichols (Mud, Midnight Special ), is a pie-eyed plodder primarily based on a accurate story: that of the Virginia couple whose mixed marriage challenged miscegenation laws in the Kennedy 1960s.
Much better news on the fringe. The funny and enchanting Swiss model-animation film Ma Vie de Courgette, a debut function from Claude Barras, is about the angst and antics of an orphanage boy. It was a hit in the Directors’ Fortnight, which also showed the very first ever film from an Afghan lady director, Wolf and Sheep. Depicting life in and about a remote mountain village, it rates nine for ethnographic appeal, five for dramatic interest. But hooray for the reality of a 20-year-old woman — her age when she started the project — throwing off patriarchal constraints to make a feature film and bring it to Cannes.
With two days left, the Cannes competition powers on. Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World, stage-derived yet defiantly cinematic, focuses an expressionistic gaze on a torrid family reunion, starrily played by Nathalie Baye, Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel and Gaspard Ulliel. Based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce it is like a Gallic Extended Day’s Journey Into Evening.
Cristian Mungiu’s Baccalauréat is the third of this Romanian’s quietly coruscating moral tales to bow at Cannes. The final was Beyond the Hills — passions and a Passion in a convent — and before that the Palme d’Or-winning Four Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days. Now it’s the troubling, powerful tale of a tiny-town family venturing into petty corruption when anything must be done, some dodgy favours must be referred to as in, when an eve-of-exam daughter is disadvantaged, to put it mildly, by an attempted rape the day just before.
We reside in a globe where assaults on freedom are multiform and multitudinous where those on individuals are as pernicious as these on groups or nations and exactly where — thank providence for the Cannes Film Festival — the searchlights of art and cinema can shine an insistent, indefatigable light on liberty’s abuses and liberty’s value.
Ends May 22, festival-cannes.fr
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