Saturday 20 May 2023

Cannes 2023 - Eureka by Lisandro Alonso

Over the course of twenty years, the Argentinian Lisandro Alonso has carved up his own unique niche quite unlike anyone else and distinct from his Argentinian director counterparts, only loosely associated with the New Argentine Cinema movement. His trademark slow cinema has earned him a place in the hearts of arthouse connoisseurs and he has remained faithful to his artistic style and themes. 

Nearly ten years after Jauja, he is back in Cannes with Eureka. The film's short first act will take his own fans by surprise, featuring more dialogues than all his past films put together and a faster pace and more action than anything he has ever done. A western in black & white that has all the codes of the genre, be it the delivery style, the generic western landscape the storyline and the shot, it is quite a surprising opening that gives us precious clues about what is going to happen next, as enjoyable as it is, featuring Viggo Mortensen (already seen in Jauja) and the unlikely presence of Chiara Mastroianni.

Just as we settle in the story are we pulled back into reality (and colours!) as what we were watching turned out to be an old film seen in a TV screen although its connection soon apparent later on. This contemporary second act has a slower pace but not quite what we are accustomed to, set in a present-day Indian reservation, as we follow local police officer Alaina (Alaina Clifford) as she goes on a night-shift with the routine (for her) incidents lead by poverty and various social issues. We also encounter her niece Sadie (who seems to fight to carve herself a space and better her community's situation and Alaina comes across a lost French actress (yet again the unlikely presence of Chiara Mastroianni!) scouting the area to get a feel for it.

Then Sadie acts as a connection with the third act, as through her through her grandfather and their family roots we travel through space and time, an increasingly dreamlike, chapter with the pace stretched to the limits of slow cinema and comprehension, a hypnotic, transcendental experience which eschews any kind of arthouse artifice for a more serene and elliptical tone.

With Eureka Lisandro Alonso offers us an exploration of place and the people who live in them of time as a human construct within the porous confines of fiction and reality. It is about transience both from a physical and temporal point of view. The way the memories and experiences of the people who lived in a particular place in the past are replaced by a different narrative in fiction and then the contrast with what their lives are now in that same place… Also the exploration of time as a subjective quantity, from the narrative conventions of mainstream cinema and its lack of dead time to the purposely prolonged depiction of a real life human emotional reaction unfolding in real time... Challenging but ultimately incredibly rewarding, Eureka is an extraordinary experience and Lisandro Alonso's best film among an already remarkable body of work.

Review by Laurent de Alberti

Star rating: 

Official Selection, Cannes Premiere.

Eureka. Directed by Lisandro Alonso. Starring Alaina Clifford, Chiara Mastroianni, Viggo Mortensen...

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