Ten favorites from the 2021 Cannes Film Festival

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It would be handy if all the films shown at the 74th Cannes Film Festival July 6-17 could nestle in a tidy box titled “The New Post-COVID Cinema,” but the generalization won’t hold up. On the one hand, many of the feature films shown here (The French dispatch, Benedetta) were completed before the start of the pandemic and sat on the ice with distributors for a year. Others (including many short films, such as those by The year of the eternal storm) were slaughtered under quarantine conditions, and include its realities. But the festival as a whole, having been postponed to 2020, took place under the strong sign of rebirth, and not as a praise of wasted time. The film’s opening remarks by ubiquitous festival president Thierry Frémaux rarely touched on the struggles or uncertainties of the past year, and he hasn’t speculated much publicly about what the future of cinema might look like. . His speeches, in a mixture of French and English, were celebrations of the present. The festival’s goal, he told Variety in May, would be “to host a big Cannes – without assuming the pandemic is over.” The pandemic is far from over, but in the meantime, here are ten of the films that made it a big Cannes.

Annette
Rock opera is not dead. Ron and Russel Mael of Sparks mark Leos Carax’s last extravagant show. A bizarre celebrity couple – the almost standing comic Henry McHenry, played by Adam Driver, and Marion Cotillard as the great opera diva Ann – grapple with this age-old parenting challenge: raising a demon child while you are incredibly famous and that you need to sing along to. The pretty patches of the Driver range played better Marriage story (2019), but Carax is courting the same caliber of extremely physical total performance that the director achieved with Denis Lavant in Sacred Motors (2012).

Benedetta
It is astonishing that Paul Verhoeven, the only person to lead at the same time Starship Troopers (1997) and write a scholarly monograph on the historical Jesus, may succeed in being a holy eros theologian and blatant nun fetishist in the same film. It would be impossible to say which of the two impulses predominates in this 16th century tale by novice Benedetta Carlini (Virginie Efira), her visions and her miracles inside a convent in the time of the plague, and the transmission of her sacred desires on the flesh of his fellows. novice Bartolomea (Daphne Patakia). Charlotte Rampling, acting in French, gives a strong turn as the skeptical abbess.

Drive my car

Drive my car
Snubbed for the Palme d’Or, in my opinion, director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s adaptation of the new Haruki Murakami of the same name is an almost perfect movie if you’re like me and can’t get enough of movies that hurt and hurt. isolated people get to know each other in a moving Saab. These people are Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), an actor and director who was chosen to direct a multilingual production of Chekhov. Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima, and Misaki (Toko Miura), his quiet driver. At two hours and 59 minutes, there’s an endurance factor, but it’s as patient and sultry as the movies can get.

The French dispatch
If you don’t care about the Wes Anderson case, this one won’t convince you. The foreign correspondence office of a bucolic American newspaper recites the contents of its farewell issue. But what if I told you that a large part of the planes are symmetrical? You know what’s in store for you, and either it’s going to flatten you with joy, like it did for me, or it won’t. I will say that looking at the entirety of the huge credits – conservatively, a thousand names – I was forced to think that the hundreds of disposable gags I had just seen involved an amount of frozen human labor comparable to that pyramids. You have to respect that.

In front of your face
Prolific South Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s intimate portrait of an aging film actress, Sangok (Lee Hye-young) follows her secret source of pain, which speaks very slowly as she relearns the rhythm of life urban after its passage in America. It ends with a fantastic extended restaurant scene between Lee and Kwon Hae-hyo as Jaewon, a director from her past. The grainy texture of the video lends a certain casualness to the film, which almost feels like a play. Essentially, a series of mundane conversations that don’t culminate in large numbers, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a humble but winning exit from Hong.

Marx can wait
No film I saw during the 11 days in Cannes touched me as much as this documentary by famous Italian director Marco Bellocchio. The subject of the film is Bellocchio’s twin brother Camillo, who never fully put himself under him in life and committed suicide at age 29. Extracts from Bellocchio’s great film Fists in pocket (1965) and other films by him show the depth of his artistic engagement with the mystery of uneven achievement in families over a period of decades. The film is presented in the manner of a secular confession so as not to intervene further in the disappearance of Brother Camillo. But what could we do? A severe late work of a master.

Titanium

Titanium
This year’s Palme d’Or winner was director Julia Ducournau’s hardcore thriller about burlesque dancer Alexia, played by Agathe Rousselle, and the metal plaque in her head that has inhuman designs on owning the rest of his body. Fans of Raw (2016) will find something to squirm here, but this selection in French for Cannes was inscribed as a definitive plan on the aesthetic level; all the French people I’ve spoken to have said a version of the same thing: “I don’t watch this kind of film. By “that genre”, think of movies where the protagonist has sex with a car and engine oil lactate. Buckle up, this one rocks.

Val
Actor Val Kilmer opens his huge personal video archives to documentary filmmakers Ting Poo and Leo Scott to help them sort through the captivating highs and lows of his career. Kilmer’s camera was filming on the set of Top Gun (1986), during rehearsals of his transformation into Jim Morrison in The doors (1991), and during the disastrous filming of Dr Moreau’s Island (1996), when the tall and somewhat responsible Marlon Brando needed a push on the hammock. Cancer took Kilmer’s voice; he speaks with difficulty through a breathing tube, delegating the telling of his life story to his son.

The worst person in the world (Verdens Verste Menneske)
Renate Reinsve won the award for Best Performance by an Actress for this role, and rightly so. Joachim Trier’s episodic portrayal of Julie in 12 non-Norwegian “chapters” is an instant classic of her thirties and making a lot of really bad life decisions, one of the crucial genres. The relationship with vulgar cartoonist Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie) reaches a crescendo far more overwhelming than the rest of the film’s light and sometimes sweet touch prepares you. Reinsve is masterful like Julie, highlighting all facets of the art of being a total mess.

The year of the eternal storm
Commissioned in response to the pandemic for this Neon / Animal Kingdom co-production, this anthology showcase features the work of an international choir of directors including Jafar Panahi from Iran, American investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul . Plays range from humorous asides in unworthy lockdown conditions to eye-opening experiences. Panahi’s iPhone records his paranoid mother’s dislikes for a giant iguana called Igi who lives in the apartment where Panahi is under house arrest. Working from the tropics in Thailand, Weerasethakul places a series of fluorescent light bars on a bed and films the insects up close as they gather in their thousands, audio of Thai protest meetings barely noticeable in the background. Neon donates the film’s proceeds to COVID relief efforts. v


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