An Egyptian film with Israeli actors, an American film about Jews and the crazy film that stirred the Riviera
The film that attacks Egypt through Israeli actors, the film that criticizes American Jewry without Jewish actors, and the film that raised the ceiling at its screening and is expected to register as one of the biggest of the year.
Summary of the first weekend at the Cannes Film Festival
Avner Shavit, Cannes
Sunday, 22 May 2022, 00:20
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From the movie "Boy From Heaven" (Cannes Film Festival)
On Wednesday, the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival kicks off, which is also its first edition to be held since the Corona.
The event will only close on Saturday, so there is still a long way to go, but its first part can already be summed up.
I will not bore you with the list of all the films we have watched, but here are the highlights that were shown here at a world premiere, and there is no doubt that we will hear a lot more about them in the coming months, at least in the bubble of the film world.
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The sadness triangle
Five years after winning the Palme d'Or with "The Square", Swedish director Ruben Ostland has returned to the Riviera with a different geometric shape - a film called "Triangle of Sadness", which currently stands out as a favorite to win the Palme d'Or.
His first screening for the media was one of the most amazing I have ever witnessed in my life.
The crowd just raised the ceiling time and time again with roars of laughter.
The film begins with a scene that looks like it was torn from "Seinfeld", in which a male and female model have an argument over the question of who should pay the bill.
His second act already looks like the "white lotus" with a hangover, and takes place in a cruise ship where the workers are the enraged slaves of the oligarchic tourists, until the cruise gets out of hand and leads to two memorable passages.
One includes a vomiting marathon and another a ping-pong of capitalist and Marxist quotes.
The third section is already a combination of "Lost", "Beelzebub" and "Twilight Zone".
The film has many qualities.
Not for nothing did the result so excite the audience, not for nothing did it hold me full attention for 140 minutes, and it's not easy in the midst of an intense festival and days of Mercury retreat.
The "triangle of sadness" also joins the "parasites" and the "joker" in that it best describes the cruel balance of power between those who have and those who do not, and then what happens when that balance goes wrong.
These two won the main prize at the festival where they were screened (the first in Cannes, the second in Venice), so why should it not happen this time as well?
The "white lotus" with seasickness.
From the "Triangle of Sadness" (Photo: Cannes Film Festival)
The "Triangle of Sadness" goes a few steps further than its two predecessors, adding a few more layers to them, including a reversal of gender forces.
The film begins with a scene where men are wanted and continues with scenes in which a woman sexually exploits a man younger than her - and we are usually used to seeing the opposite.
Whether he wins the Golden Palm or not, there is no doubt that "Triangle of Sadness" will register as one of the great films of 2022, and yet he has two problems with it.
One: in his statements there is something schematic and didactic, and ultimately also predictable.
Second: The "Triangle of Sadness" does not have a drop of empathy for the characters.
It even has sadism in it, and it's hard to applaud the film for the plight of the poor when it seems to despise them as soon as it hates the rich.
James Gary's autobiographical film, tells the story of a boy growing up in Queens in the 1980s, in a liberal Jewish family who is convinced that Reagan's rise to power will lead to a nuclear war, and eventually her path also intersects with that of the Trump family.
We have seen many films over the years and especially in recent years about American Jewry, and Gary's drama stands as the ultimate Jewish-American film, touching on every issue and every relevant stereotype: anti-Semitism, intergenerational trauma, immigration, assimilation, social leadership, Jewish grandmother, Jewish mother, The Jewish-American princess and also the progressive values that this community tends to identify with, at least in theory.
And there are also lots of bagels, of course.
As usual in films like this, the characters are mostly played by non-Jewish actors: Anthony Hopkins as a grandfather, Jeremy Strong and Van Hathaway as parents.
Everyone is wonderful, but the show is stolen by the anonymous little boy Banks Rafta in the lead role.
This is the best film of Gray, an American director who is valued more in France than in his homeland, and has therefore also become a regular guest on the red carpet at Cannes, including "Tonight is Ours" and "Two Loves," in which he collaborated with Moni and Michael Moshonov.
Armageddon Time is full of energy, full of content and full of emotion.
Together with his regular partner, photographer Darius Kundji, the filmmaker creates a sequence of beautiful scenes inside and out.
Judgment Day, but not for Jews.
From "Armageddon Time" (Photo: Cannes Film Festival)
It's a personal and intimate film that has nostalgia and longing in it, but Gray adds a sting and irony to it as well.
Along the way, he describes how the Jewish-American family waves progressive flags, but whenever it stands a realistic test, does not hesitate to throw under the bus people whose skin color is different, or whose social status is inferior to its own.
Together with "Seven Baby" and "Licorice Pizza" he completes a glorious trilogy of contemporary films about American Jewry.
The previous two were distributed with us, hopefully this gem too.
Boy From Heaven
A film by a director living in Sweden, which takes place in Egypt, was filmed in Turkey and stars three Israeli-Palestinian actors, Tawfiq Barhoum, Kerem Khoury and Muhammad Bakri.
The film was directed by Tariq Saleh, who was born in Sweden to an Egyptian family, began his professional career in Scandinavia and most recently directed the Hollywood thriller "Dangerous Contract," starring Chris Payne.
"Boy From Heaven" stars Barhum, who has appeared in "Dancing Arabs" and "Wounded Land" made in Israel, among others.
He embodies a young Egyptian who was sent as a mole to al-Azhar, the legendary, prestigious and independent Sunni university, which the government tries and fails to penetrate.
The protagonist finds himself trapped in pliers between the government, the religious establishment and the Muslim Brotherhood, realizes that the power struggles between them could lead to a civil war, and discovers how fundamentally corrupt Egypt is.
Basically, this is a routine spy thriller, with all the conventions and plot holes typical of the genre (why would the bad guys just throw someone off the roof instead of giving a speech for half an hour until someone comes to the rescue).
The difference is in the context, and Saleh is educated to use the clichés of the genre to paint a fascinating portrait of contemporary Egypt, and also manages to add philosophical and theological depth to the film.
It is interesting to note that one of the clerics first quotes the Jewish thinker Carl Marx, another illustration that our closeness to Egypt is spiritual and not just geographical.
Tawfiq Barhoum in "Boy From Heaven" (Photo: Cannes Film Festival)
The night of the 12th
It's not a pretentious film, it's not a film in question, and it's screened in Cannes as part of the official selection but out of competition, so it also has no chance of winning anything - but for me it's the best film I've seen so far at the festival.
Behind the film are French director Dominique Mol and his regular partner, screenwriter Jill Marshan.
Their first films, "Harry the True Friend" and "Lemming" were distributed in Israel in the days when there was a much larger market for such films.
Their latest film, the great "Only the Animals", was screened with us at yes.
As usual with them, "The Night of the 12th" is a thriller, which deals with a policeman who investigates the brutal murder of a young woman, and develops an obsession with what becomes an unsolved case.
Bastian Boyne plays the researcher, whose expressionless face has a hard time hiding the storm that is raging inside him.
His show does not have a single fake character, and so does the entire film.
Mol and Mershan manage to captivate and sweep, and engage deeply,
Without any pretensions, just perfect.
From "The Night of the 12th" (Photo: Cannes Film Festival)
This year's festival is of course taking place against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.
In a precedent-setting move, its executives banned the presence of representatives from Russia as long as they have an affiliation with the government - businessmen, directors and even journalists.
The only prominent Russian director on the Riviera is Kirill Srebrnikov, who competes in the official competition with "Tchaikovsky's Wife" and his presence was made possible because he opposes a definite regime, which at the time was under house arrest and now lives in exile in Germany.
He regularly speaks out against his government's policies - including at the press conference in Cannes.
Srebrnikov's presence attracted interest mainly because of the circumstances, but his film deserves regardless of the political context.
"Tchaikovsky's Wife," as its name implies, tells the story of Antonina Milyokova, who the composer married only to hide his being gay, then miserable her throughout her life until her tragic death.
It's a heavy and ornate film, theatrical and operatic and in short pretentious - a word that is repeated in our reviews from the festival, because that's how it is in Cannes.
However, he is not without interest.
Through the period story, Srebrnikov deals with issues that, unfortunately, are relevant even today.
For example, the way society sanctifies Tchaikovsky-type geniuses, and thanks to their art gives them a strip to behave in a sickening way towards those around them.
The film intentionally does not use Tchaikovsky's music, but if you watch it, you will no longer be able to listen to it and enjoy it again as before.
Periodic and topical.
From "Tchaikovsky's Wife" (Photo: Cannes Film Festival)
At 84, Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski has more creative energy than most directors on the Riviera.
In free translation, his new film is called "Ai-ah", and as befits its name it follows the hardships of a donkey, and describes how human evil is reflected through his kind-hearted eyes.
The film is of course reminiscent of Robert Berson's Balthazar, who also placed a donkey at the center of the plot, but did so in an ascetic style.
Here, the style is ambitious and experimental, and the Polish director plays with the colors and the shooting angles with enthusiasm and curiosity, as if he had touched the camera for the first time in his life.
The veteran master's enthusiasm is almost contagious, but his radicalism has something tiring and a scent of excess reflection.
The film is at its best in its simplest moments, because one close-up on the donkey's face is enough to break our hearts.
But even in these moments, a not-so-simple question arises: the film declares that the welfare of the animals is before its eyes, and it is clear that its purpose is to draw our attention to their suffering.
But apparently, he did not ask the donkey (and the other animals that star here) if he was interested in acting in a film production, and being a partner in mentally and physically challenging scenes.
Is there not a dimension of exploitation and abuse in this?
In the end, "Eo" is part of the problem, not the solution.
Part of the problem or part of the solution.
From "EO" (Photo: Jerusalem Festival)
Three Thousand Years of Longing
Seven years after stirring up the Riviera with "Mad Max: Road to Rage," George Miller returned to the festival with his new film.
This time it's a fantasy starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Alba, about a researcher who releases a bottle of gin that has the power to ask her three questions - in short, it's a kind of "Aladdin" for art-loving adults.
The film promises to be a budget rich in budget, imagination and romance.
In practice, it is mostly based on scenes in which Swinton and Alba stand and talk in a hotel room.
It does not take supernatural forces to guess that "Three Thousand Years of Longing" will not recreate the success of "Mad Max: Road to Rage."
Cannes Film Festival
From Khoury vineyard