CANNES, France – “Can we start now?”
I suspect that the very moment the 2021 Cannes Film Festival programming committee heard the first song of Leos Carax’s “Annette” – an infectiously energetic overture, breaking the fourth wall that reaches bizarre heights the film never reaches. plus – his destiny as an opening – The night movie has been set. “So can we start?” Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard sing. “Can we start now?” the ensemble responds abruptly, announcing the intention, rather than asking for permission, for the film, the festival (which has canceled its 2020 edition) and life as Cannes regulars know it, to begin. Reader, it has begun.
Written by Carax and the art-pop duo Sparks, “Annette” is an oddity that met with a wildly divided reception, but no one was indifferent to that first issue. After the exhausted conclusion of Cannes on Saturday, its exciting beginning seems a long way off, but there could not have been a more hopeful, more unifying moment than that hymn of impatience, played in that context. The only possible dissidents may have been the team that presented Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” which had been widely suggested for the coveted spot but ended up premiering later in the week, with an unusually warm welcome. cold (despite the significant joy I took in it). Presumably this will teach Anderson to include a “Let’s get this show on the road!” or a “Here we are, everyone!” song at the beginning of all future movies.
“Can we start now?” it was far from the only worm to creep into the collective subconscious of the participants during these hot, tormented and happy days. Given that all festivals are kaleidoscopes of moods, genres and times, Cannes 2021, after so much silence, was at least partly a musical.
I played the Croisette humming “Be My Baby” by Vanessa Paradis for days after hearing it used, with such a jagged and incongruous effect, in Nadav Lapid’s brilliant, criticizing “Ahed’s Knee”. I jumped out of Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir Part II” – unequivocally the best film of the festival not actually in the festival, being part of the separate Quinzaine des Réalisateurs – to the tune of “There Must Be An Angel” by the Eurythmics. which is used for that transcendent effect. I angered my roommates with shower interpretations of Desireless’s 1980s European megahit “Voyage Voyage”, after being completely captivated by Juho Kuosmanen’s romance of strangers on a train, “Compartment No. 6” . It has only been replaced, to my chagrin and no doubt that of those within earshot, by ‘N Sync’s heroically vacuous “Bye Bye Bye”, a recurring theme in Sean Baker’s terrifying, deceptively dissolved “Red Rocket”.
Having no love for comic operetta, I spared everyone my version of Gilbert and Sullivan singalong that occurs in Justin Kurzel’s extremely tense and disturbing true story, “Nitram”. Nor have I tried to emulate the budding Moroccan rap stars of Nabil Ayouch’s ramshackle and not quite gritty hip-hop musical “Casablanca Beats,” much to the relief of the rap genre.
But Cannes wasn’t just singing and dancing; he also made a good joke in body horror. And a body of the press kept constantly abreast of the dictates of biology due to all the drooling in tubes and all the tickling nasal swabs we endured during our mandatory 48-hour coronavirus tests, was ideally prepared to answer that more. earthy, more macabre, more obscene element. We did this of course with Kirill Serebrennikov’s widely admired and feverishly deranged “Petrov’s Flu,” a wildly imaginative head trip that sounds like a post-Soviet “Ulysses” rendered in images so livid from viral contagion that looking at it is wanting to have several more masks.
On a less disconcerting, much more salacious note, Paul Verhoeven’s playfully trashy and filthy drama of religious exploitation “Benedetta”, in which Virginie Efira plays the seventeenth-century Italian nun who was the subject of the only trial of the Roman Catholic Church for lesbianism, he duly presents some mortifications of the flesh, among many more scenes of his gratification.
But aside from the unforgettable lewd use that Benedetta’s lover finds for a small statue of the Virgin Mary the size of a dildo, the moment in this film that struck me the most was a relatively demure line. “Your worst enemy is your body,” Benedetta is told when she arrives at the convent as a child and has to exchange her precious silks for a rough sack shirt. “It’s best not to feel too at home in it.” That horrifying admonition reminded me of Tatiana Huezo’s sublime “Prayers for Theft,” in which mothers in a cartel-controlled Mexican village make their teenage daughters look masculine, through short haircuts and oversized dresses, in an attempt. to keep them safe from the omnipresent specter of kidnapping and rape.
But the nun’s words also spoke of a fundamental skill that many of us in Cannes suddenly had to relearn: that of being outside, in a body, in the world among all its dangers. I have heard of four separate episodes in which the bodies, unaccustomed to the physical demands of the festival after nearly 18 months of trekking alone between sofa and refrigerator, have betrayed their owners. A toe broke, a kneecap lost its mooring, a bow fell and an ankle sprained, the latter I know because the ankle was mine. The day before the festival started, walking cheerfully with my nose into the phone, not noticing a crack in Cannes’ notoriously bumpy sidewalk, I fell flat like Sean Penn’s “Flag Day” a few days later.
So while many of us were struggling with our own body horrors, “Blessed” – the kind of movie where a casual character pulls a heavy breast from her bodice and scornfully sprays milk in Charlotte Rampling’s eye – has also introduced the subgenus of horror birth. The most surprising example of Cannes was a documentary: “Cow” by Andrea Arnold, which with rigorous formal rigor focuses on Luma, a beautiful Holstein Friesian kept permanently pregnant, and therefore nursing, in a British dairy. But as a theme, this streak of horror also ran through Valdimar Johannsson’s elegant and witty Icelandic fable “Lamb,” in which a taciturn couple on a remote farm raises the surprisingly cute hybrid offspring of a sheep and a malevolent mythical entity. And the subgenre has finally found its apotheosis – even if here it is the motor oil that is expressed by the breast, not the milk – in the incredible boldness and hyperstile “Titane” of Julia Ducournau, who won the Palme d’Or, by far the most impressively bold choice for that grand prize in recent memory.
Sometimes Cannes was a fast-moving car from which we could poke our heads and scream in euphoria like the unstoppable kid in “Hit the Road,” the delightful debut introduced by director Panah Panahi, son of revered Iranian author Jafar Panahi. Sometimes it was a road movie of a different order, like Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s exquisitely observed drama of a delicately epochal connection, “Drive My Car,” a film that takes three hours and not a minute too long to tease a relationship built on hesitant confidences exchanged during a commute.
In short, in the period of the European Championship final, especially among the English and Italian participants, Cannes became a sports documentary.
But above all, like Joachim Trier’s radiant and beloved “The Worst Person in the World”, Cannes 2021 was, for me, an adorable and flawed love story. There is a moment in the film when Julie (who deserves Best Actress at Cannes Renate Reinsve), having decided not to cheat on her boyfriend but deeply attracted to a stranger she just met at a party, plays ” everything except “with him. They tell their deepest secrets. They watch themselves pee. And in the garden at dawn they share a cigarette, one blowing smoke into each other’s mouth in slow motion, giving the festival its sexiest scene and a sigh of nostalgia for a time when such an act would not be. tinged with transgression, when none of the participants would have thought of the words “aerial transmission”.
Cannes at the time of the crown is also Cannes before the crown and Cannes after the crown, because it speaks of cinema, which is still the medium I love for its ability to project myself into a recreated past and to project myself into an imagined future. And sometimes, to envelop me in the exact moment, letting me breathe an image like smoke and making me feel that it breathes.
This was an event for so long that no one even dared to believe it was going to happen, and now it’s over. For 12 days, we disrupted our lives and found, to our surprise, that despite crooked ankles, in-person conversations that didn’t feature dumb buttons, and a moment-to-moment level of uncertainty that could simply become a continuing feature of life, something of the ancient rhythm remains, something of the ancient pleasure is waiting to be rediscovered.
Can we start now? I think – I hope – we could.
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