Ah, to be back again in Cannes – the Everest of film festivals – as mentioned so often before. It’s a thrill each year that I’ve been coming – since 1996 – and it never ceases to excite the voyeur in each of us attending.
For it has it all – the most exciting films; an ideal season and venue; a constant stream of the world’s top stars; the nightly bling-bling red-carpet ceremony (where even the photographers have to wear tuxedos); incredible media coverage from the more than 4000 accredited journalists; parties galore – which are often a hassle to get into; hundreds of national pavilions touting their films in the International Village between the Croisette and the Mediterranean; and the gigantic Film Market which is the financial lifeblood of the whole event, lasting this year from May 8-19.
The first big excitement this year was the choice of the film EVERYBODY KNOWS for opening the Festival.
It was from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi who had won the 2012 Foreign Oscar, BAFTA and Cesar awards, and a Berlin Golden Bear for his film “A Separation”, and a second Foreign Oscar for “The Saleman” in 2016. He arrived with his Hispanic cast including the dream couple Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, and Argentina’s brilliant Ricardo Darin (“Wild Tales”, “Truman”), who all seemed in awe of his having shot the film in Spanish, a language with which he was not entirely familiar. Their packed Press Conference felt like a love fest between them, as apparently Farhadi had moved to Spain in the past year to acclimatize himself to the people, language and their culture, and they had all become close friends.
Farhadi’s allusions to King Lear and his own films as frequent studies of parent/child relations revealed his deep intellectual ties to various literary giants as Shakespeare and Arthur Miller, to whom he gave homage in his last film, “The Saleman”. He spoke of ‘time’ as one of his most important themes, and of two types of people – those who feel the passage of time makes their lives less, and those who feel it adds to their experiences. He said each of our actions in ‘time’ has its reactions and its responsibilities. He also mentioned how moved and impressed he was about the harmony between work and family that Cruz and Bardem have managed to balance in their marriage.
Unfortunately neither his immense talent nor his warmth and intelligence, and those of his cast at the press conference, were enough to make up for the mediocrity of his latest film. Great pity, but maybe the moral of the story is – stick to your own country and environment, for all of his previous films have been exceptional works. His usual brilliant writing feels too complicated and forced here, the editing is too abrupt and jumbled, and this tale of a kidnapping and paternal responsibility seems hysterical and commercial compared to his usual deep character studies in such works as “Beautiful City”, “About Elly”, or his masterpiece, “A Separation”, all filmed in Iran. Go back home, Mr. Farhadi. We need more excellent films from you.
The best film I’ve seen at the festival till now has been LETO (Summer) ***1/2 by Kirill Serebrennikov, a Russian entry in the Competition lineup.
This tale of the rock scene in 1980s Leningrad filmed in innovative black and white is as cool and yet nostalgic as you can get – with a mixture of free love, great rock and poetic lyrics in an almost psychedelic musical that feels as fresh as Hollywood’s “Lalaland” felt a few years ago. I was charmed and transported.
Kenya’s Certain Regard entry, RAFIKI (Friend) *** by Wanuri Kahiu, was both a courageous and delicate look at a young lesbian love that was treated with discretion. The vibrant characters and colors of the city added to its gentle charm.
The Director’s Fortnight opening film from Colombia, PAJAROS DE VERANO (Birds of Passage) ** told of the early years of the drug trade in that country and its violent consequences on the simple people in certain tribes.
Wherever there is drug trafficking and huge sums of money, blood is spilled freely.
Cannes to be continued next week…
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.