Films to Match the Weather at Cannes
Séamas McSwiney is our guest film correspondent with decades of experience in film journalism, and work published in some top international publications. Here he looks at three difficult but brilliant films that have perfectly matched this year's dark, wet Cannes film festival:
"After a somewhat stuttering start, over the weekend, the Cannes Competition delivered three hard-hitting quality films from three directors who have also shone darkly in the past. Their individual subject matter springs from the banal and the quotidian, but is cruel and sometimes difficult to watch. There is hardly a joke made or a smile raised during their combined running time of over six hours.
Dupa Dealuri (Beyond the Hills)- Christian Mungiu
The first came on Saturday from Christian Mungiu, the young Romanian director who won gold here in 2007 with 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days. That was a compellingly fraught film about an abortion in communist era Romania. His new film is called Dupa Dealuri (Beyond the Hills).
It is set in contemporary Romania and is about an excommunication. Like 4 months... it again features two lead actresses who are friends confronted with difficult choices compounded by the interference of others. Equally, just as in 4 months..., Mungiu takes an unpleasant situation and adds the good intentions of others only to see things drift into catastrophe, and create a compelling tragedy.
Jagten (The Hunt)- Thomas Vintenberg
On Sunday, Danish director, Thomas Vintenberg returned to Cannes with Jagten (The Hunt). After many misses it is a true return to the startling form he found with Festen in 1997, when he won the Jury Prize. Festen was a family drama about incest that takes place at a wedding and this is a community conflict and a suburban area about paedophilia that takes place in a school.
Mads Mikkelsen plays kindergarten teacher, Lucas, who is going through a difficult divorce when he is falsely accused of child abuse. We see clearly how the misunderstanding occurred and what led the little 5-year old girl made the claim. We feel for their innocence. What makes the film compelling is the anger induced by the escalating responses of Lucas' colleagues and friends. From being a well-liked and very easy-going friend he becomes a pariah in their eyes and the social violence of his ostracism is shocking to behold.
Amour (Love)- Michael Hanneke
A celebrated maxim says there are only two things that are unavoidable in life: taxes and death. Since the economic crisis we now know that taxes are relatively avoidable especially among the very rich. But death still is not. It is an absolute. Everyone dies. However, no matter how inevitable or commonplace death is, be it our own or that of loved ones, we can never be properly prepared for it. Michael Hanneke's new film is called Amour (Love). Though he is Austrian, many of Haneke's films nowadays are in French.
This one tells of a loving couple in their eighties, Anne and George, played magnificently by Emmanuelle Riva and Lean-Louis Trintignant. Both are former music teachers who live a cultured life in Paris, still going to concerts and living at a leisurely pace that befits their age. Anne has a first stroke and is partially paralysed, but capable enough to return home from the hospital. She makes George promise that she will not be sent to a home. We follow them through the phases, the inevitable stages that follow as Anne's condition, both mental and physical, deteriorate. Everything that was dear to them progressively loses meaning and value, even music and their own close complicity. Amour is an upsetting film that is none the less masterful for its execution.
These three are the favourites of the competition half way through the competition programme, though none could be accused of putting a skip in anyone's existential step for the questions they ask. But despite their undeniable "feel-bad" factor, all are testament to cinema as art. Perhaps also in tune with the darkest, wettest weather Cannes has seen in many a year."
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