Cannes Film Festival 2019

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“A Record for All of History of What Our Lives Were Like, and What We Went Through”: Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts on For Sama

Nabbing this year’s top doc prize at Cannes (as well as at SXSW), For Sama is a harrowing, on-the-ground look at the disintegration of a society through one young woman’s eyes. That woman, Waad Al-Kateab, also happens to be the film’s co-director (along with Emmy Award-winning, BAFTA-nominated filmmaker Edward Watts). Incredibly, and courageously, as her beloved city of Aleppo came under attack by Syrian forces, Al-Kateab decided to pick up a camera and create a heartfelt record — or rather “love letter” — to her unborn daughter Sama. What she captured was not just the clear-eyed reality of losing friends […]

Cannes 2019 Dispatch 6: Parasite, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo

A great prize list aside—better than any since at least 2011—I can’t fall in line with a majority of this year’s press corps in declaring this a banner year for Cannes; ironic, given that, on paper, this indeed was going to be a banner year for Cannes: Malick! Bonello! Hausner! Tarantino! Dumont! Diop! Lav! Bong! There was something for everyone, and most of it seemed to go down quite smoothly, even as distinctions between the good, bad, and ugly was as indiscernible as ever. On the two critics’ grids I participated in, for example, virtually every film across every section […]

Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite Wins Cannes Palme d’Or; Mati Diop’s Atlantics Picks Up Grand Prix

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s dark social satire/thriller Parasite won the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or. It’s the first time a Korean director has won the award, and jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu said the jury was unanimous. First-time French-Senegalese feature filmmaker Mati Diop — the actress known for roles in Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum and American indies like L for Leisure and Fort Buchanan had previously directed shorts and a medium-length documentary — won the festival’s second prize, the Grand Prix, for her Atlantics. It’s a magic-realistic-tinged tale of women left behind in Senegal […]

Cannes 2019 Dispatch 5: Fire Will Come, Tommaso

We all know that Cannes appraises itself as the supreme purveyor of a given year’s most handsome industrially-produced arthouse motion pictures (that is, those that happen to have completed their post-production by late April of said year)—a launchpad for quote-unquote major achievements by the world’s most recognizable and uncompromising narrative filmmakers. Its unwillingness to accommodate the more outre or difficult projects from directors who fit that description hasn’t been too contentious thanks, mostly, to the Directors’ Fortnight’s relatively eclectic and much less constricted programming philosophy—carried over from one artistic director to the next for more than half a century now, […]

Cannes 2019 Dispatch 4: Lux Æterna, Jeanne, Young Ahmed

Gaspar Noé may never mature in the ways his detractors wish (rather, many of them long for the day that he disappears completely), and yet his work, especially from his erotic 3D film, Love (2015), to the present, continues to surprise me. Creator of his own distinct cinematic idiom—one almost always described as both formally and thematically extreme—Noé returns to Cannes only a year after his Directors’ Fortnight success story, Climax, with a medium-length, stroboscopic, essayistic polyptych titled Lux Æterna. Even as Lux opens with a gently flickering title card that quotes Fyodor Dostoevsky on epilepsy—a state he said offers […]

Cannes 2019 Dispatch 3: Little Joe, Liberté

Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner made her English language debut with the UK-set project, Little Joe, taking up science fiction for the first time in her career after previously exploring horror and the period drama in Hotel (2004) and Amour fou (2014), respectively. In the film, Alice (Emily Beecham) works at a corporate biotechnology lab with a team of scientists who aim to develop new breeds of flowers that can, with their oxytocin-rich pollen, elevate people’s happiness, friendliness, and sex life—an evocative and typically rich concept for Hausner that still manages to be supplemental to her exquisitely detailed and precise mise […]

Cannes 2019 Dispatch 2: Bacurau, Zombi Child

I didn’t attend Cannes in 2009, but what I’ve come to understand to be that year’s Official Selection highlight—namely, Alain Resnais’s delirious late masterpiece Wild Grass—is precisely the kind of movie I always long to experience, here or anywhere: a vision always blossoming, driving deeper into a world entirely of its own creation, ever-willing to swerve off-road to see where the unpaved path might lead. The scarcity of such work in cinema no doubt runs down to the roots of the industry, attributable as much to the fortress of protocols one must fulfill to get any given project off the […]

Cannes 2019 Dispatch 1: The Dead Don’t Die, Deerskin

Cannes opened its 72nd edition last night with Jim Jarmusch’s self-reflexive and divisive zomedy The Dead Don’t Die, a movie that reunites the American filmmaker with the horror genre he flirted with in 2013’s Only Lovers Left Alive, and serves to further clarify his late digital style. Though reportedly not the festival’s first choice for the slot, it’s easy to see why Cannes was content to offer it this year’s first red carpet; Jarmusch stacked his cast with A-listers—Bill Murray,  Adam Driver, Danny Glover, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Selena Gomez, and I really could just keep on going—while the title […]