Sunday 18 July 2021
No matter what was going to happen with the awards, the 2021 edition of the Cannes Film Festival, as unusual as it was, was a resounding success, a celebration of cinema that was much needed and considering some of the most outlandish predictions by some nay-sayers, the proof that it is still possible to hold a film festival of that scale in these covid days. Yet some great editions have sometimes left us with a sour taste when the awards did not quite match what had come behind... We should not have worried!
Friday 16 July 2021
It was never going to be a regular year. After the successive delays then cancellation of last year's edition (a vastly reduced, four days version did take place in October however) and a first delay from May to July this year, there were fears that it was not going to happen again. Despite the successful vaccination campaign and the reduction in cases and mortality, there were some who questioned whether it was safe to hold an event with thousands of visitors from around the world congregating in confined spaces. Yet the naysayers were proven wrong, the Cannes Film Festival was back in triumphant form and it turned out to be a sterling success and a celebration of cinema that was sorely needed.
Tuesday 13 July 2021
Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen made a big impact in Cannes in 2016 with his charming The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, winning the Un Certain Regard top prize back then. He is back in the official selection and in competition with the adaptation of the novel of the same name by Rosa Liksom.
In Compartment No. 6, a Finnish student, Laura (Seida Haarla) who lives in Moscow in the '90s is in a seemingly happy relationship with the older Irina (Dirana Drukavora), a teacher, when she decides to board the Trans-Siberian set to Murmansk to see the renowned petroglyphs. On board she shares a compartment with Vadim (Yuriy Borisov), a young, coarse Russian man.
Monday 12 July 2021
"On ne peut plus rien dire" (you just can't say anything anymore) is a sentence often pronounced by right-wing politicians and media in France these days and one several of the characters of Oranges Sanguines seem to agree with. In its hilarious opening scene set during a regional dance competition, its judges seem to tiptoe around what is socially acceptable when it comes to fair chances in society and how modern sensibilities and various disadvantages must be taken into consideration, the conversation turning much more heated than it strictly required with the masks easily slipping and frustration giving place to anger.
Sean Penn's previous film, The Last Guard, earned a place in the history of the Cannes for all the wrong reasons, receiving some of the worse reviews in the history of the festival after a memorable press screening filled with uncharitable laughters and gasps. While snark and outlandish reactions might have come across as unprofessional, it truly is a ghastly film, vain, hollow and one that probably did not belong to the competition. Surely you would expect the director to ask for some honest feedback before having his new film screen in competition, surely he would not have as bad a film? Surely...?
Sunday 11 July 2021
The premise of La Civil is familiar, perhaps overtly familiar: when her teenage daughter is kidnapped by a drug cartel in Northern Mexico, Cielo (Arciela Ramirez) decides to take matter into her own hands as the authorities are unable or willing to help, soon turning into a vigilante as violence around her escalates. At the very least we are spared the usual yellow tinge that American films feel obliged to add when filming a similar story. Indeed first time director Teodora Ana Mihai impresses right from the start with a visual style that works wonders with shades of black and a very particular way of filming night scenes.
Who could have predicted that a romantic comedy (a genre that is rarely present in Cannes and even less frequently in competition would sweep the Croisette in such a way? Yet this is precisely what has happened with The Worst Person in the World, a bittersweet Norwegian rom-com with a tinge of drama by Joachim Trier.
It is almost as if the genre has been cannibalised by a certain iteration of it, usually set in New York under the snow and as pleasant as these films can be, there is more to it all than these. In The Worst Person in the World, we follow the life of Julie (Renate Reinsve, extraordinary, more on her later), a young woman in her late '20s in Oslo over the course of a few years as she navigates her love life but not only, ever other facets of her life too.
Saturday 10 July 2021
Benedetta was arguably one of the most anticipated film on the Croisette this year. The idea of Paul Verhoeven tackling the subgenre of nunsploitation soon after his most successful critical and commercial hit in a while, Elle, was exciting enough and after its delayed production and release, first due to the director's health issues then the small matter of the pandemic, it was finally shown on competition.
In Benedetta, a novice 17th century nun, Benedetta (Virginie Efira) puts her convent in turmoil when she is struck by some religious visions then exhibits the signs of stigmata while turning her romantic attention to a younger sister, Bartolomea (Daphné Patakia).
Friday 9 July 2021
Israeli director Ari Folman made a big impact on the Croisette with his animated documentary Waltz With Bashir in 2008, which many predicted a palme d'or win yet it left empty-handed. Its follow-up, The Congress (2013) was a flawed but fascinating part live action, part animated sci-fi folly and now he is back in Cannes, out of completion, with Where Is Anne Frank.
The prolific and one enfant terrible of French cinema François Ozon has had an uneven career to say the least, to be expected perhaps with that kind of output. Yet at times it is hard not to feel that he has not completely fulfilled the promises of his early career and you never quite know what to expect which each new film.
In Everything Went Fine, Emmanuèle (Sophie Marceau) has to look after her father André (André Dussollier) after he suffers a stroke that left him near paralysed and in poor shape. As he asks her for the impossible, to help him end his life, she has to confront her conflicting feelings about him and her family in the midst of her busy life.