26 May 2017.
Neptune reports from Cannes
The Cannes Film Festival is a universe unto itself. When you are here in mid-May and accredited (an absolute necessity for entering the massive “bunker” – whether press or industry), you are in a hermetic bubble pertaining to the film world. Nothing exists outside this obsession with all things cinema, whether it be the art, finances or bling of this make-believe universe. This year is its 70th birthday – une veritable grande dame! And its main jury is headed by Pedro Almodovar, a true lover of cinema, along with a delightful, crowd-friendly Will Smith as one of his jurors.
More than ever cinema is the mirror of our world, and all the turbulence and hypocrisies of the world are apparent on the myriad screens of Cannes. Along with the heightened security measures and latest terrorist attack, this year’s cru has been a bleak, often troubling lineup, with just a few rays of joy or lightness allowed in occasionally. Woody Allen is missing this year – is that why it feels somewhat morose? At least the weather has been sunny and warm, and Cannes is beautiful.
In between the films, press conferences, film market deals and screenings (the financial lifeline of the festival), the three-times daily red carpet ceremony which attracts a multitude of celebrity fans, and the unending parties, there is hardly time to breathe.
But in the middle of all the bustle there is that special jewel that Salma Hayek (“Desperado” and “Frida”) and her billionaire husband François-Henri Pinault started some ten years ago – the Kering Foundation’s WOMEN IN MOTION talks, concentrating on advancing women’s issues in the film industry and around the world. The talks are held in sumptuous surroundings on a top floor of The Majestic Hotel, and included such stars as Robin Wright, Diane Kruger and Salma herself. This year their annual award went to Isabelle Huppert; last year’s awardee was Susan Sarandon.
The lovely, passionate Salma was there one morning with the great director Costa Gavras (“Z”, “Missing”) and the talented Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania who has a courageous, brilliant film about a true rape story, “Beauty and the Dogs”, in the Certain Regard section.
Salma said the synergy of their group has raised awareness of violence against women, both emotional and physical. Costa Gavras suggested the rich Kering Foundation could financially support women to make films. Salma responded that they already supported them through the Sundance festival, and they pinpoint other issues through worldwide education. She lauded Gavras who has used all-women technicians on his recent films.
For her talk, the German-born DIANE KRUGER (“Troy”, “Inglorious Basterds”), mainly raised in France and the US, said she started modelling and acting in France. She said she approached both Quentin Tarantino and Fatih Akin for roles in their films because of her admiration for their work, and because she was convinced that the roles were made for her. Her main message was that a woman should go after what she wants, and said her role model was always the sublime Romy Schneider. And her greatest accomplishment ? “To still be around, in this difficult business!”
Some of the memorable films in the Competition:
NELYUBOV (Loveless) (****)
The present state of Russia’s society is brilliantly exposed in Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Nelyubov, a grim but powerfully constructed tale of a destructive couple who have no use for their poor 12-year old son, who ends up disappearing one day.
Their handling of the search is a unflinching study of today’s state of modern, arid relationships. In the main competition of 19 films, this one is ripe for an important award, for the director is well known for his excellent work, as with his last film “Leviathan”, which won best scenario in Cannes 2014.
THE SQUARE (***)
Following just behind in social commentary and audacity is the Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s THE SQUARE (***), a harsh reflection on the hypocrisy and idiocy of the art milieu, the guilt of northern Europe vs. immigrants, and the sad state of instant, impersonal sex.
It takes place in and around a contemporary museum in Stockholm, with its director as the central dupe of this nerve-wracking tale which takes the audience deeper and deeper into bizarre occurrences. Almost as brilliant as his last film “Force Majeure”, this one goes further under one’s skin, to turn the spectator into a voyeur as in some northern gladiator games, especially in a gala evening with a poor muscleman turned into an Elephant Man-like spectacle. Here is a tragic allegory that some found amusing.
LE REDOUTABLE (***1/2)
This was a breath of fresh air among all the heavy realism. Here was a both amusing and biting homage to one of the Nouvelle Vague’s founders, Jean-Luc Godard. Directed by Michel Hazanavicius of the multi award-winning “The Artist’, it starred Louis Garrel as Godard, who was really more a political figure than a great filmmaker. For me, Godard is a bit of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, after his one innovative film “A bout de souffle”… (Here come the attacks?!)
REDOUTABLE zeroes in on his love affair and marriage to Anne Wiazemsky, and the events surrounding the 1968 riots in France. Garrel, the usually sultry-eyed, tousled-haired hero has been transformed into the slightly balding, eccentric young Godard and he is quite perfect, copying his mannerisms, comportment and slight lisp. Here is a bit of cinematic history and intellectual satire, wonderfully filmed. An insider’s delight.
No prognosis for the awards, for festival juries are notoriously unpredictable and often crown the darker, more twisted tales rather than any crowd-pleasers. Sort of an intellectual perversity, or we know more than you common folk…
My personal favorites till now (Thursday) have been the Russian NELYUBOV, the Korean OKJA, the Japanese RADIANCE or the French REDOUTABLE, plus the Chilean THE SUMMIT and the Tunisian BEAUTY AND THE DOGS from the Certain Regard section. But we all see films with our own personal baggage and moods, don’t we?
More news and films in CANNES II, next Friday.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.