The last days of the Cannes Film Festival have confirmed the high level of its competition. The final day shone with a name of its own, that of the British actor Josh O'Connor, who in La Chimera, new prodigy of the Italian Alice Rohrwacher, plays a young archaeologist who raided tombs in Italy in the eighties. La Chimera speaks of the sacred and the profane crossing both worlds with fascinating images, as dreamlike as earthly. O'Connor gives life to a tragic antihero, a battered treasure hunter, a sad madman marked by melancholy and the afterlife. The emotional density and sweetness transmitted by this actor, whose work in Tierra de Dios already placed him among the best, guides a film that delves into the gloomy picaresque of a country stripped of its soul in the name of greed. Rohrwacher looks again at the ruins of Italy through marginal characters, with that communal, acratic and feminine air of his powerful imaginary. At least, his leading actor deserves to be in the palmares on Saturday.
The first pools with the luck fully cast begin to fly over La Croisette, although the lottery of the jury chaired by the Swedish Ruben Östlund is unpredictable. FallenLeaves, by Finland's Aki Kaurismäki, should win the Palme d'Or. This genius of contemporary cinema has only one Grand Jury Prize, achieved in 2002 for The Man Without a Past. But it is not about rewarding his career but about recognizing a perfect film, in form and substance. Kaurismäki, who apparently is not a saint of Östlund's devotion, has already lost the Palm d'Dog, that nice and this year nothing anecdotal parallel award that highlights the best canine performance of the contest and that has fallen to Snoop, the border collie of Anatomy of a fall, the judicial film by Justine Triet that is in its own right among the favorites.
'Fallen Leaves' Trailer
Jussi Vatanen and Alma Pöysti in 'Fallen Leaves'.
In the last scheduled proposal, The Old Oak, by the British Ken Loach, there is also a crucial dog in the development of events. The two-time Palme d'Or winner proves again at 86 that his anti-cynical cinema still makes sense. It's a simple story: An impoverished mining town in the north of England is being visited by a bus of Syrian refugees. The owner of an old pub, orphaned by an old mining unionist, decides to help his new neighbors despite the rejection of the locals. Perhaps everything that happens is predictable, but claiming solidarity as the only hope from the screen is something that should never be exhausted. Loach is only interested in that message and that loyalty to his ideals is admirable.
Another veteran who competed in this final stretch has been, at 77 years old, the German Wim Wenders, who in a special session has also presented his 3D documentary about Anselm Kiefer. The truth is that nobody expected much from the director of Paris, Texas (Palme d'Or in 1984), but Perfect Days is a film that in its minimalism is taking shape thanks largely to its leading actor, the Japanese Kōji Yakusho. The story of a mysterious cleaner of public bathrooms (fascinating that Japanese underworld) who reads Faulkner and has a collection of cassettes from the seventies and eighties ends up being a beautiful ode to the pleasures of life in the analog and face-to-face world.
Those pleasures of life that are equally important in The Pot Au Feu, by Tran Anh Hung, with Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel in the skin of two lovers of cooking. The way of filming the elaboration of each menu, all of great sophistication, make this film a pleasant pleasure. Quite the opposite of Club Zero, by the Austrian Jessica Hausner, a fable about eating disorders in adolescence and the dangers of the new myths of mindfulness in the playground of a ridiculous posh boarding school.
A still from 'The Old Oak', by Ken Loach.
Wenders coincided in the programming on the same day as the French Catherine Breillat, who in Last Summer proposes an interesting remake of the fierce Danish film Queen of Hearts. The story of a mature woman married to an upper-middle-class man who has a destructive affair with his teenage stepson connects with another favorite film for the record, May December, by Todd Haynes, whose dark melodrama about the exploration of an actress (Natalie Portman) of the true story of a couple who met when he was 12 years old and she thirty-something should put the actress Julianne Moore on Saturday night's list of winners. Only the German Sandra Hüller (Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest) is at the same height.
The documentary Youth (Spring), by Wang Bing, or About Dry Grasses, by the Turkish Nuri Bilge Ceylan, have also stood out these days and could have some space in the awards. Like the historical lesson on the anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church that Rapito provides, from another veteran in form, Marco Bellocchio, which is almost in the formal antipodes of the film that sounds most strongly for the Palme d'Or, Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest, based on the novel by Martin Amis and presented in Cannes a few hours before the death of the British writer. It could be a consensus film thanks to the conceptual power of its first part, which describes the family routine of Auschwitz commandant Rudolph Höss between baths, flowers and children's games while the unbearable background noise of the gas chambers and crematoria of the Nazi death camp becomes a terrifying out of camp.
The soundtrack of Mica Levi accentuates that powerful effect but Glazer's film is a cold machine that does not bring anything so new (the barbarism of that out of field was already explored more strongly by The Son of Saul) and it is also not a round film. The message of its closure is ambiguous and unable to detach itself from the coldness that surrounds the whole. That coldness is apt to portray the Höss family but is impotent and ill-thought-out when the camera decides to cross the gates of Auschwitz as if it were still in a cold video installation art.
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