Summary of the best (and worst) that has been seen in the official section of Cannes at the height of its equator

The Cannes festival has reached its halfway point with a lot of rain and such a crowd that one only feels safe in the cinema seat. In the official competition section, that of the films that opt ​​for what really matters here, the Palme d’Or, 11 of the 21 selected have already been screened. Among them, some of those that will mark the next cinematographic course.

Whether or not it is in the list of winners next Saturday, May December, the new melodrama from American Todd Haynes, has already earned its status as one of the movies of the year for its intelligent, complex and disturbing look at a dysfunctional domestic world. Julianne Moore plays a housewife who at the age of 36 had a affaire with a 12-year-old boy, with whom she is now married and has a family, and Natalie Portman is the actress who has set out to interpret her life. Haynes proposes a brilliant game of mirrors interpreted by a huge Moore. Portman manages, and it is not little, to be at the level of her partner. Tense, funny and deeply sad, May December it confirms Haynes’ talent for melodrama and great female characters.

Natalie Portman’s character takes notes on how Julianne Moore’s character does makeup in ‘May December’.

Before the death of Martin Amis this Saturday, the area of ​​interest, by Jonathan Glazer, based on the British author’s novel of the same name, had already generated enthusiasm. The disappearance of the writer has redoubled the focus on a film that works like a cold and terrifying clock in its portrayal of the domestic routine of the family of Commander Rudolf Höss in Auschwitz. It is a brilliant conceptual film, with a distressing and terrifying use of off-screen that has everything to dazzle the jury chaired by the Swedish Ruben Östlund. The only problem of the area of ​​interest is that it closes with a very questionable epilogue in the Auschwitz museum, where we see some cleaning women work in the already closed building. Everything is so cold and calculated that her reflection on the banality of evil ends up being banal in itself. A perfect and neat exercise in style to talk about a factory that kills human beings.

the area of ​​interest has a link with another of the most notable films in the contest, anatomy of a fall, by the French Justine Triet, one of the seven female filmmakers in the competition. Both share an actress: the German Sandra Hüller. the director of Sybil’s reflection rather amazingly dissects a marital relationship through the trial of the wife after a fatal fall by her husband. Their son and the family dog ​​will be the other two pieces of an affective puzzle woven with enormous originality through documents, mobile phone audio, layers of formats and, above all, affective alleys in which Hüller plays an uncomfortable role: the distance and lack of empathy that the spectator establishes with her from the outset. The final stretch of the film is the best that has been seen these days.

The family of the commander of Auschwitz, in a field day in 'The zone of interest'.
The family of the commander of Auschwitz, in a field day in ‘The zone of interest’.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan, great Turkish filmmaker and Palme d’Or winner in 2014 for winter sleepintroduced About Dry Grasseswhich, together with the new and immersive documentary by the Chinese Wang Bing, Youth (Spring) it was presented as the longest film in the contest. Ceylan points to one of her obsessions, Dostoyevsky, through a male character that is impossible to catch in a few words. We will only say that he is a manipulator, selfish and narcissistic who only fears himself, a school teacher whose demons populate a film of force majeure in whose very long after-dinners he is happy to sit.

The most famous faces came with the stomach Black Flieswith a Sean Penn who is still very lost, and firebrand, by Karim Aïnoen, in which Alicia Vikander and an almost unrecognizable Jude Law play Katherine Parr and Henry VIII respectively. The film works well in its historical re-enactment of the life of Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife. The oppressive and mortuary atmosphere and the religious and political intrigues make up an intimate fresco in which a Jude Law with many extra kilos gives himself up as a repulsive dying king.

A still from the film ‘Banel and Adama’

Far from the palatial opulence, in a small African town, the Franco-Senegalese Banel and Adama, Ramata-Toulaye Sy’s debut feature, is a beautiful and telluric fable about love and drought on earth. In its simplicity, Banel and Adama achieves much more than the very unsuccessful four daughters, by Kauther Ben Hania, which proposes a hybrid narrative of documentary fiction about two young Tunisian women captured by the Islamic State. The real characters, the other two sisters and the mother of the extremists, face the family ghosts through the actresses who are going to play them in the film itself. A meta-narrative that in its first hour borders on the unbearable and that, although it goes back to the end, only impotence remains before a film incapable of carrying out its own proposal.

The French woman also deals with family members and conflicts of blood and identity the returnby Catherine Corsini, which was screened on the first day without arousing much interest, together with Monsterby Hirokazu Kore-eda, which this time focuses on a teen drama about dysfunctional families, bullying and a beautiful friendship between two boys that the Japanese filmmaker has structured along Rashomon, through the same story from three points of view. The film features the latest soundtrack composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Still from the movie 'Black Flies'.
Still from the movie ‘Black Flies’.

Beyond the official and parallel sections, in recent days it has been exciting to attend the tribute that the festival has dedicated to Liv Ullman, who presented a documentary about her career and who recalled a very crazy anecdote of her running after Greta Garbo in Central Park until she realized that the great diva of Swedish cinema did not want to meet her even in painting. Or the phrase that Ingmar told her when he met her: “You and I are going to be painfully united for life.”

The last tribute of this mammoth festival has been to Jean-Luc Godard, with Jim Jarmusch and Costa-Gavras among the audience. First the conventional documentary was screened Godard by Godard and to top it off his latest project, Drôles de guerresa short film produced by Yves Saint Laurent that, through its collages of words and images and his thread of voice, has left some of his cryptic and beautiful pearls: “It is difficult to find the cat in a dark room, especially if there is not even a cat.”

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Summary of the best (and worst) that has been seen in the official section of Cannes at the height of its equator