By Mónica Delgado
It’s been over a week since the Golden Palm was awarded to Hirokazu Kore-eda Shoplifters, an event which closed a festival that kept its classics leitmotivs in a low key: miserabilism, cruelty or the overrating of a cinema with messages and big issues had its few peaks. Even if this year the program was better in quality compared to other edition, the jury, presided by Cate Blanchett, was discreet when awarding common themes, like the award given to the unambitious Kore-eda film, a plain family drama without any major stylistic attributes. Point aside was the jury prize to Capharnaüm by Libanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki, a fact which confirm that despite the good films that made this a noble edition, there remains a liking for the kind of films that look to edify consciences through stories of misery, war and refugees.
Women and contradictions
The events which marked the spirit of Cannes happened mostly out of field. From the presence of the small Syrian actor from Capharnaüm who slept in the middle of a press conference (a fact that didn’t seem to startle the director), to the lecture of the manifesto for gender equality in the film industry, written by 82 filmmakers, actresses and producers. In one side, it seemed that the #MeToo movement had changed the face of Cannes, with a jury president like Cate Blanchett, with anti-harassment measures (a phone line dedicated to receive denounces), less number of parties, etc. However, only three films made by women were in the main competition, a contrast with the eight filmmakers in Un Certain Regard, where 18 films competed. Thus, even if in the social environment of the festival some measurements were taking place to give some security to the invitees and workers, the criteria of selection for the programs still kept a considerable breach given the majority of films made by men.
In the other side, there was only one great film in the Official Competition directed by a woman, in the middle of a context which demands more participation and inclusion of women filmmakers in these processes. The presence of a film filmed in a splendid way in 16mm, Lazzaro Felice by Italian Alice Rohrwacher, made some justice before a group of works dealing with porn-misery and hatred for its characters, which have to go through excessive hardships to consider themselves worthy of representation. I’m not only referring to the shameful Capharnaüm, which made me laugh in response to its miserabilistic nonsense, but to some “affected films” like the regrettable Sorry Angel or the poor Girls of the Sun, or the ones made to be liked by juries that had previously awarded some “self-help” films before other tours de force that had changed the way we see cinematographic language.
This was an edition of assertions of women by women, however, the level of films made by women in the competition left a lot to be desired, especially because of this necessity to appeal to common places and mushiness, favoring a fake feminism, or more precisely, a “red-carpet feminism”.
I don’t consider the critics’ and audience favorite, Lazzaro Felice an exceptional film. It is a notably visual film, but there’s a background theme of alienation that doesn’t work for me. It’s a work about the sublimation of the return to oppression by a group of ex-workers from a village, La Inviolata, that lived away from the world’s laws (work laws, specially) and that miss being under the order of a adventuress countess. Rohrwacher transduces, through jumps in time and the gaze of an undaunted character, the defects of XXI century capitalism for the failures of the feudal aristocracy of yesteryear as a possibility of a better order, a fact I found somehow reactionary despite the intention of social critique the filmmaker develops.
The best works: from Godard to Gaspar Noé
The highest point in Cannes has been in everything which meant an anomaly, from the projection of Le Livre D’Image, a film essay of interruption and jumps by Jean-Luc Godard, which took a new award (Special Golden Palm), to the eight hours of testimonies of Dead Souls, the fascinating and demolishing film by Wang Bing, about the reeducation camps. Just the inclusion of these works made the festival better, from the Official Selection to the special sessions.
With his presence via FaceTime, Jean-Luc Godard gave some quotes that will remain in film history, from a distance and in a press conference, achieving one of the most fabulous and strange interventions of this edition of Cannes. Godard not only answered the questions about the details of his new films, but also gave new coordinates for its interpretation, maybe too elaborated (as it’s his style) for the media’s headlines.
Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night was, by far, the best film of Un Certain Regard. Its value lies in its bet for the sensory detail that the Chinese filmmaker assumes as the staging of dreams. Bi Gan is running away from realism and literality to explore an imaginary between the dreams and nightmares of a man who searches for a woman lost in time. The use of 3D for a long sequence shot appeal to the depth of field and the possibility that the spectator rummages in the perspective, in an incursion to the physical materiality of dreams.
Lee Chang Dong’s Burning is a film between two genres, with touches of romantic comedy (boy meets girl) that descends to a thriller, through a love triangle where economic and social breaches become this perfect excuse for jealousy, games of appearances and crucial decisions. There’s no doubt that Cannes would be very lonely without this heavyweights of Asian cinema.
On the other hand, Gaspar Noé premiered one of the best films of his Career, Climax. The lysergic experience here is multiplied through a steady cam which follows a group of boys overdosing on acids in the middle of an end-of-term party. Is a film which exists thanks to the rhythm that the filmmaker imposes next to a potent soundtrack, full of sounds from Italian disco and experimental post-punk. Climax is work about bodies in hysteria, catharsis, surrendered to the surprise incursion of drugs, which they resist. A presence of a French flag, and the attack of a character of German ascendance draw a new geopolitical apocalypse in the mind of the French-Argentinian filmmaker.
Now, a list of the best works I saw in this cinephiliac journey of eleven days, one of the best editions of recent years. Hope is back.
TOP TEN (with linked reviews)
Le livre d’image by Jean-Luc Godard
Long day’s journey into night by Bi Gan
Dead Soulsby Wang Bing
Burning by Lee Chang-dong
Three facesby Jafar Panahi
The wild pear tree by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Donbass by Sergei Loznitsa
The loadby Ognjen Glavonic
Knife + Heart by Yann Gonzalez
Climax by Gaspar Noé