CANNES.- After the presentation of the first titles that participate in the official section of this year, many are beginning to wonder here if the organizers reserve the best of the program for the final round, because what has been seen so far is still far from meeting the minimum expectations of what is always expected of the competition for the Palme d’Or, the most valuable award the world’s film festival calendar has to offer.
If Cannes works every year to this point as a precise thermometer of the current state of cinematographic creation, mixing novelties, discoveries and long-awaited returns from prestigious names, The reality of the first section of the festival (expressed from what the official competition offers, its maximum showcase) is frankly disappointing.
This mediocre panorama raises for these hours even more the actions of the great directors who will join today and in the following days in the race for the Palme d’Or. It is expected that with the arrival of Canadian David Cronenberg (Future Crimes), Korean Park Chan-wook (Decision to leave), the Belgians Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Tori and Lokita), the Frenchwoman Claire Denis (The stars at noon) and the Japanese Hirokazu Kore-eda (broker) there is a change in the current trend.
The official competition is so weak that it has so far remained in visible retreat compared to the events that have attracted much more attention since the start of Cannes 2022, from the radiant step of Tom Cruise to the present Top Gun: Maverick (a Hollywood tank with more artistic value than several pretentious “quality” films that seek consecration here) to the strong impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the festival and on the present and the future of the film industry in Europe, in particular on the mood of creators and producers. No one wants to ignore a debate that adds new controversies and derivations day after day.
The succession of disappointments was visible from the first day with the first two titles exhibited in official competition. The Eight Mountains, which Belgian directors Felix Van Groenigen and Charlotte Vandermeersch (husband and wife in real life) shot in Italy based on an award-winning novel by Paolo Cognetti, has all the trappings of “quality cinema”, including an exotic sequence tour in Nepal. The story, told from childhood to adulthood, of two friends who live in a small town in Valle d’Aosta and find meaning in existence in this mountainous geography is long, pleasant to watch and even sometimes deeply moving, but it feeds its narration with all the conventional condiments that cannot be missing in a literary adaptation of such claims.
Tchaikovsky’s wife by the Russian Kirill Serebrennikov, is even more pompous and empty in its aspirations. The torturous and hallucinated ordeal that the woman goes through, determined to maintain the fantasy of this marriage of convenience armed to hide the homosexual tendencies of the famous composer, sometimes becomes a constant and difficult nightmare for the spectator to bear, exposed in her staging. . through shots of ornate surrealism (which reveal an increasingly unhinged state of mind) and a haunting, haunting soundtrack.
With armageddon time, James Gray follows the trend that seems to have prompted several well-known mature directors (Alfonso Cuarón, Kenneth Branagh, Pedro Almodóvar, Paolo Sorrentino) to tell their autobiographical memories through film. Far from his best films (some are real masterpieces like Treachery, owners of the night Yes Lovers), Gray turns to memory to recount his life as a 10-year-old child in a progressive middle-class Jewish family in early 1970s New York and the revelation of the talent of its dazzling protagonist (the boy Banks Repeta). in this story of growth and learning, the film ends up subordinating everything, including the family portrait (Jeremy Strong and Anne Hathaway are there), to a very basic ideological approach of one in which Gray has all the bills paid for the difficulties of his growth and his maturity in Trumpism (the father of the former president is one of the key characters in the story).
This Manichean posture of Gray, who seems to want to show everyone his anger and his guilt, leaves the best of the film in the background: the painting of a boy who grows up dreaming of art within a family that cannot avoid falling into prejudice and disqualification. We are already talking about armageddon time as a potential star of the next awards season, above all of the praise that a large part of the international press has distributed to the actors, who, with the exception of the youngest, always fall into exaggeration. The protagonist of the biggest misunderstanding is Anthony Hopkinswho plays on autopilot, as if he were just passing through, the good-natured British grandfather of the protagonist.
We must thank the octogenarian Jerzy Skolimovski, owner of an illustrious career, the energy and visual creativity he brings to some (a few) great moments of Hey, his latest movie. There, the Polish director shows his fear for the present and the future of Europe through the eyes of a donkey which, through a whole life told in the film, goes through some moments of hardship, punishment and suffering as the main character, and some joy (at the beginning, when he lives happily in a Polish circus with a beloved trainer). The film, conceived as a tribute to Robert Bresson, who in his masterful Al Azar Baltasar, goes completely wrong at the end with an incomprehensible reversal of the situation with Isabelle Huppert.
Things have improved, fortunately, with the arrival of NMR, the new film by the great Romanian director Cristian Mungiu (palme d’or in 2007 for 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 daysand the award for best director in 2016 for Graduation). On his return this year to official competition, Mungiu settles in a small town in Transylvania, characterized by the ethnic plurality of its inhabitants, to show in all its complexity another example of the drama that Europe is experiencing with its xenophobic tendencies. Mungiu mixes with intelligence and increasing tension a sum of prejudices and traditions which is not long in exploding, in particular during an extended and masterful plan in fixed camera of a popular assembly which exposes all the possible glances on the subject.
It was ultimately left in the hands of another returning Palme d’Or winner, Sweden’s Ruben Östlund, in the competition’s most provocative and outrageous moment so far with his new film, in which he intends to close a trilogy (begun by Force Majeure: the betrayal of instinct and continued with The placewinner here in 2017) on the absurd behavior of human beings, especially in the male case. triangle of sadness It is a satire that begins with an explicit statement in favor of equality and ends with a whole sample of situations that violate this maxim, as if almost militantly assuming the principle of class struggle from the comfortable place first-world artistic progress. in the 21st century.
With a supposedly superior and warning gaze towards the rest of the human race, Östlund punishes those responsible (especially a group of super-millionaires who take part in a disastrous pleasure trip on a luxury yacht) with a monumental display of scenes eschatologies that cause more discontent than curiosity, while Woody Harrelson, as the dipsomaniac captain and Marxist of the cruise ship, wastes his screen time reading aloud texts by the author of the communist manifesto. The film is literally a shipwreck which for now, exceptionally, leads the other Cannes competition: who gets the most applause after the gala performances. Östlund leads, with a mark of seven consecutive minutes.
Maybe David Cronenberg, with his expectations Future Crimescan make in the next few hours a little artistic sense of provocation and discomfort. Funny, the Canadian director predicted a few days ago that his film will undoubtedly expel the most sensitive spectators from the cinema, especially in the first 10 minutes. He even spoke of a panic attack. With Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart, Future Crimes It is planned as a return to the classic world of Cronenbergian horror linked to experimentation on the human body, its flaws and possible deformities.
Better to wait for Cronenberg and at the same time forget Östlund, who arrived in Cannes also determined to provoke, but in his case with an atypical political manifesto based on vomit and various eschatologies, after having explored the idea in a somewhat childish way at the beginning of the fashion industry and fashion (especially in his masculine aspect) like a commodity. Too little for what is expected of the biggest and most important film festival on the planet. Will the story change by the end?