The Film Club #9 | Cannes Film Festival Edition

Friday, May 25, 2018
Quick update! I am so grateful to have worked at the Cannes Film Festival for an internship this year. I was also able to see some films up for competition when tickets were available. Here are some mini-reviews of the films I saw there:

*spoilers ahead*

Yomeddine (Arabic)

This was the first movie I saw while at Cannes. I didn't know what to expect as I was overall just more concerned that it had been nearly 4 days at the festival and I still hadn't seen any of the going Glastonbury and not seeing any bands, y'know?

Yomeddine was the perfect start to my movie escapade. It tells the story of Beshay, a man who is cured of leprosy yet suffers through the scars of the illness. He hasn't left the leper colony in the Egyptian desert which he has been in since his childhood and one day decides to leave everything behind and embark on a journey to find his family who abandoned him. He is joined by an orphaned apprentice and best friend who upon this journey form an even closer bond as a result of the challenges they are faced with. As mentioned in a review on The Guardian (who does not rate the film quite so highly), I would agree that the film was somewhat sugarcoated and would have benefited from exploring Beshay's marital relationship rather than a fictional buddy-friendship. However, overall the film explored the struggles Beshay has and does still encounter surrounding affirming his humanity that remains despite the scarring leprosy has left behind. The director Abu Bakr Shawky makes an impressive feature film debut which was nominated for the Cannes Palme d'OrGrand PrixJury Prize, AND the Best Director Award.


Under The Silver Lake (US English)

I've had the time to digest this film and I still. don't. have. a. clue. what it was about. I really don't. I'll put it out there in the open because sometimes even someone with a degree (does it mean anything these days!) can't analyze a film. Maybe if I watched it again and paused every minute to analyze I would be able to get my head around it. Sometimes you just can't see what the filmmaker has intended for you to see beyond his symbolism and metaphors.

Sam, played by dreamy Andrew Garfield (and probably the highlight for me) lives in an apartment block in sunny LA. He spends his days snooping on his topless neighbor (à la Rear Window, Hitchcock) with binoculars whilst trying to gain an extra few days to get money for his rent. One night, he meets a mysterious and beautiful woman who's swimming in his building's pool one night. The next morning she has vanished and because Sam has absolutely nothing better to do, he decides to embark on a quest across the city to find out the secret behind her disappearance which takes all kinds of twists and turns. Yes, it all sounds good and well as a synopsis but the story itself has a strange infatuation with dogs, comic books, puzzles, decoding secrets from cereal box packets and god knows what else I saw. I attended the premiere of this (ooherr) where a successful film can receive anything from 10 to maybe even 20 minutes of a standing ovation and applause. 

A large chunk of the audience had already left either because they were as stumped about the film as I was or because it was about midnight and they couldn't be bothered clapping for 15 minutes. I left pretty sharpish for both reasons. Andrew Garfield himself did not attend the premiere, bizarre considering he was the lead role of the film, so again either he had another very important engagement or he, after filming, decided he no longer wanted to be associated with this 'film'. Who knows what is under the silver lake. Who knows why Andrew Garfield didn't attend. Who knows why a majority of the audience left without applause. Who knows. The mystery continues.

I can definitely see this movie appealing to some people but sadly it did not to me.


Three Faces (Iranian)

The first scene of Three Faces was enough to capture my attention, as it opens with a video phone message of a young provincial girl's plead for help who claims she is about to hang herself. In the video, she explains how she is oppressed by her family to not pursue her studies at the Tehran drama conservatory. This video is then sent to well-known actress Behnaz Jafari (playing herself). Jafari thus decides to abandon the current shoot she is working on, and alongside Jafar Panahi (director, also playing himself) embark on a journey to find this girl, who they don't believe has actually killed herself...because otherwise, how else would she have sent the video? They both travel by car to the rural north where they have interesting encounters with the locals of the girl's mountain village. It was a unique perspective to shoot a film, where we are constantly looking from the POV of the director throughout. Whilst it was purposely quite a slow-paced film, I found this to be the thing I disliked as the movie at times moved so slowly, for example, scenes of walking or of views etc, and my patience wanted things to happen a bit quicker! I wasn't expecting anything action-packed but I just got ants in my pants (lol) waiting for things to happen!

It received an impressive standing ovation and applause which I stuck around for just to experience it and it's worth being part of at Cannes as it's quite unique. I think this time, in particular, it received more of an applause because the director is actually banned from leaving his home country, Iran, and wasn't there to present the film in Cannes.


Shoplifters (Japanese)

I was lucky to be given a ticket for the very last day of Cannes where they were showing several screenings of the Palme d'Or winner, Shoplifters - Japanese film written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. It tells the tale of a somewhat dysfunctional family of five living under the same roof in a cramped house amongst a cluttered neighbourhood outside Tokyo. One day, following an excursion out shoplifting at their local grocery store, Osamu (the father) and son, Shota come across one of their neighbours, a 4-year-old girl who is standing out cold and alone on her balcony with the noise of bickering parents coming from the home behind her. Osamu & Shota both decide to willingly take in this young girl, named Yuri and give her a hot meal. The family is in no financial position to take on another person into their already poverty-stricken home where they live off of shoplifting and the grandmother's pension to get by. However, when the mother notices burn marks on the girl's arms and discover these as signs of abuse, she decides to adopt her into the family. Everyone gets along despite the confined environment they all live in however a news report (two months later!) reporting the disappearance of Yuri, things start to get more complicated, and more secrets to unfold about the relations between others in the household.

I really enjoyed this moving story and how regardless of poverty and limited space, at the core was a caring family who wanted to look after people, even though their means weren't entirely 'legal', hm. It's received an impressive 93/100 on IMDb from critics and of course, went on to win the most prestigious award of the festival as voted by the jury panel. From others that saw Burning, Dogman, BlacKkKlansmann, etc, said that these films were more deserving of winning than Shoplifters, however, I think overall the film ticks all the boxes. This article explains better why it was the winning prize.


Asako I & II (Japanese)

For those who didn't have the chance to see some films throughout the week, the festival jam-packed the final day before the closing ceremony with all the films in competition - including Asako 1 & 2 which I managed to nab a seat in the screening for! It is just the one film - though it's titled with '1&2" in it - the one and two describing the two different men Asako encounters in this film (I assume). She meets Baku, in the middle of Osaka like something straight out of a fairy tale - they catch each other's eyes, she walks towards Baku and they kiss as if time stands still between them. Unfortunately, Baku has a bad habit of disappearing every now and then, for example, he says he's going out to buy some bread then doesn't come back for a day, and this time 6 months later he goes out and never comes back again. Asako accepts that she may never meet him again but instead meets someone who is practically identical to him later on in life. She is still haunted by the first love she had but as this new man, Ryoshei persists, she realises she loves him too. However, later on, she discovers Baku has become a famous model and realizes she wants to go back to him. I did enjoy this film for about the first half but then just got annoyed with Asako and how she couldn't make her goddamn mind up, but then again, I can't talk as I'm useless with making decisions at times.

Unpopular opinion, but I'm not sure this movie was entirely deserving of being up for as prestigious an award as a Cannes nomination. Another thing I couldn't help but think was, but what if this film was in English, set in America, for example? Would it have the same effect? I think certain movies can get away with certain things because of the beauty of language. Japanese sounds extremely beautiful even though I have no idea what they're saying (luckily I do, thanks to subtitles) which detracts from plots that are sort of lacking and in this case, cheesy and melodramatic. Asako is ambiguous in her decisions and doesn't seem to have a clue what she wants which made it quite amusing and funny to watch. If the intention was for her to come off as someone ditzy and contrary then that was well portrayed.


The Big Blue/Le Grand Bleu (French)

A little add - on! As this film was not in competition, at least not this year, but actually 30 years ago, Le Grand Bleu by Luc Besson screened at the Cannes Film Festival which received multiple boo-ing's but despite its lack of success at the competition, it went on to become a cult phenomenon of its generation. Whilst at Cannes they had a series of films showing at the 'cinéma de la plage' aka - cinema on da beach. One evening I went along and stuck my feet in the sand and plonked myself at the front row on a deck chair and got dived deep into the big blue (ahahaha get it? ok let me explain). The film is basically all about diving and dolphins and water. In actual fact, the handprint of Luc Besson outside the Palais has a small doodle of a dolphin which now sums up his odd obsession with the sea animal.

The film features gorgeous underwater photography and spectacular location shooting in the French Antibes, the Greek islands, Peru and Sicily. But it is the emotional intensity of the film experience and mystical themes of the story that have made it a cult phenomenon to this day. The film is the story of the rivalry between Enzo (Jean Reno) and Jacques, two childhood friends who are world-renowned free divers which shows the beautiful and perilous journey into oneself and the unknown. Jacques is so obsessed with diving and water that it interferes with his relationships and life and when he sleeps he thinks he's still in the water...

I enjoyed watching this movie on the beach especially as the film is set in similar locations so it really set the right atmosphere for the film, and the soundtrack literally vibrated the sand beneath me. It's not my favourite by Luc Besson at all and I'm not obsessed with water or looking at views in films so I won't be diving in to watching it again (hah...ha)


Voila for now! I'm so grateful I got to attend some premieres (at the age of 23!!) and see some up-and-coming exclusive films - it was a film-lovers dream come true. I can't wait to see the other films that were up for nominations, especially Burning, Dogman and BlacKkKlansmann.