Big emotions are the norm in Cannes. There’s a lot of heavy stuff to watch, of course, and the festival’s twin fevers of relentless Azure glitter and mundane stress are nerve-wracking. jet of momthe voluminous pain of Portrait of a lady on firethe melancholic optimism of The worst person in the world. It is a film festival where we will empty and fill again, a shedding and a redemption.
I didn’t cry at Cannes this year until almost the very end. I caught a late showing of after Sunan alternative travelogue about an 11-year-old girl and her father vacationing in Turkey some 20 years ago – revised by a director’s version, Charlotte Wells, like an adult. The film is small in its framing, and yet it pushes the viewer to a rather deep reflection. It captures such a universally recognizable feeling of being a child observing the world and, just as adolescence looms on the horizon, beginning to see through the canvas separating childhood and everything that follows. There’s a gloomy air to the film, but also a sunny kindness. His melancholy teems with thoughts of our own family, our own little adventures, our own irrecoverable pasts.
I liked this one pretty well, on my own lightly packed Mediterranean trip. Mia Hansen – Loveit is A nice morning, playing much earlier in the festival, had almost the same effect, but she’s not as interested in the highly emotional. His charming film about mortality is a calm and insightful reflection, meant to comfort and enlighten, of course, but not to overwhelm us with sentiment.
I wanted Cannes to upset me more than it did. The Eight Mountainsof Charlotte Vandermeersch and Felix van Groeningen, certainly made a noble effort in telling the sad story of two childhood friends as they wander into adulthood. The film, which is largely set in the Italian Alps, is amazingly shot, especially dizzying to watch from the second row of the Lumière Theater (where I’ve spent a lot of time over the past 12 days). There are times when the feeling of the film matches this eye-catching style, like Luca Marinelli and Alexander Borghi Sensitively play two aimless bearded men who grow closer and farther apart during their teens, 20s and 30s. But then the third act comes along and brings tragedy with it, heavy enough to crush the delicate thing that Vandermeersch and van Groeningen spent so much time building.
A similar wrecking ball almost demolishes Lucas Dhontit is close, a last-minute Cannes hit that seems to have won over most critics but left me cold and annoyed. The first 30 minutes of the film are a marvel. We are drawn into the intense friendship shared by two teenagers living in rural Belgium, then watch in all too relatable horror as their bond begins to strain under the suspicious gaze of the heteronormative and toxically masculine outside world. It is a lyrical film, rich in specificity. But then Dhont turns on the misery machine and close becomes a rote chronicle of sad things, with every plot entirely predictable because we’ve seen them before in a million other grief dramas.
close was perhaps the biggest disappointment of the festival, a film that had been whispered in the days leading up to its premiere as the stunner of the lineup. He is rather grossly manipulative and superficial, desperately cajoling his audience into feeling something. Dhont is certainly a talented visual filmmaker – and he works wonders with the two young leads, especially Eden Dambrine– but writing in close is too motivated, too eager to assert itself as important.
Another major disappointment was Claire Dennisit is The stars at noon, a romantic thriller set in Nicaragua that fails to seduce or excite. It’s painfully written and played, with Margaret Qualley frolicking like a petulant kid and Joe Alwyn mumbling himself into nothing. The film’s racial politics are iffy in the most generous interpretation, which may sort of be the point – but the portrayal comes way too close to approval in The stars at noon, which rasps and mutters for 135 agonizing minutes. At least Denis seems to have directed the most controversial film in the main competition, a rare accolade. The stars at noon received passionate praise and mystified pans, with little in between. This is perhaps the hallmark of a successful Cannes film.
After this disaster, I put a lot of pressure on Hirokazu Kore-edait is Broker to get me out of my disillusioned funk. He did just that, offering a warm embrace of comfort. The film is about adoption, babies, and family in a way familiar to Kore-eda fans. Shoplifters. A few hours after watching Broker, however, I thought more about the politics of the film and my estimation of it became a bit more complicated. I couldn’t help but think there was a vague anti-abortion bent to the film’s arguments. Was it just some of the characters talking, and not Kore-eda himself? I’ll have to give the movie another watch to figure that out. For now, I’m a cautious fan, in love with Kore-eda’s nimble blend of accessible storytelling and authorial flourishing.