CANNES, France – “Can we start now?
I suspect that just as the 2021 Cannes Film Festival programming committee heard Leos Carax’s debut song “Annette” – a fourth wall breaking opening with infectious energy reaching gonzo heights as the movie never reaches again – its fate as an opening – The Night Movie has been set. “So can we start? Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard sing. “Can we now begin? »The whole responds in a thorny way, announcing the intention, rather than asking for permission, for the film, the festival (which has canceled its 2020 edition) and life as it is known to regulars at Cannes, to begin with. . Reader, it has started.
Written by Carax and art-pop duo Sparks, “Annette” is a quirk that has met with widespread acceptance, but no one has been left out by this first issue. After Cannes’ exhausted conclusion on Saturday, its exciting debut seems like a very long time ago, but there couldn’t have been a more hopeful, unifying moment than this hymn of impatience, played against this backdrop. The only possible dissenters could have been the team presenting “The French Dispatch” by Wes Anderson, which had been widely tipped for the coveted niche but ended up being presented later in the week, with an unusually cool reception (despite the considerable joy I felt there). Presumably, this will teach Anderson to include a “let’s get this show on the road!” Or a “Let’s go, everyone!” Song at the start of all future films.
“Can we now begin? Was far from the only earworm to weave its way into the collective subconscious of the participants during these last hot, restless and happy days. Since all festivals are kaleidoscopes of moods, genres and tempos, Cannes 2021, after so much silence, was at least in part a musical.
I raced down the Croisette humming Vanessa Paradis’ Be My Baby for days after hearing her use, with such a jagged and incongruous effect, in Nadav Lapid’s brilliant and exhilarating “Ahed’s Knee”. I walked out of Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir Part II” – unequivocally the best film of the festival not actually in the festival, it’s part of the separate Directors ‘Fortnight – to Eurythmics’ “There Must Be An Angel” strains , which is used to such a transcendent effect. I irritated my roommates with shower renditions of Desireless’s 80s Megahit Euro “Voyage Voyage”, after being completely charmed by the romance of strangers on a Juho Kuosmanen train, “Compartment No. 6”. It has only been replaced, much to my chagrin and no doubt that of those within earshot, by the heroically empty “Bye Bye Bye” of ‘N Sync, a recurring theme of the formidable “Red Rocket” of Sean Baker.
Having no love for comedic operetta, I spared everyone my version of the Gilbert and Sullivan singing that occurs in Justin Kurzel’s extremely tense and disturbing mass shooting true story, “Nitram.” . I also didn’t try to emulate the budding Moroccan rap stars from Nabil Ayouch’s hip-hop musical “Casablanca Beats”, much to the rap genre’s relief.
But Cannes was not all song and dance; he also did a nice body horror line. And a body of press kept constantly on top of the precepts of biology due to all the drool in little tubes and all the brain-tickling nasal swabs that we endured on our mandatory coronavirus tests every 48 hours, was ideally prepared to respond to that earthier, more macabre, more bawdy element. We obviously did it with Kirill Serebrennikov’s much admired and feverishly deranged “Petrov’s Flu”, a wildly imaginative head-trip that plays like a post-Soviet “Ulysses” rendered in images so livid with viral contagion that watching him, c is wish you had more than one. no more masks.
On a less disconcerting and much more salacious note, Paul Verhoeven’s flashy and filthy nonsploitation drama “Benedetta”, in which Virginie Efira plays the 17th century Italian nun who was the subject of the only trial of the Roman Catholic Church for lesbianism, duly presents certain mortifications of the flesh, among many more scenes of his gratification.
But aside from the unforgettable obscene use that Benedetta’s lover finds for a small, dildo-sized statue of the Virgin Mary, the moment in this movie that struck me the most was a relatively reserved line. “Your worst enemy is your body,” Benedetta says when she arrives at the convent as a child and has to exchange her fine silks for a rough sack shirt. “It’s better not to feel too comfortable in it.” This horrific warning reminded me of Tatiana Huezo’s sublime “Prayers for the Stolen”, in which mothers in a cartel-controlled Mexican village make their teenage daughters look boyish, through short haircuts and oversized clothing, in an effort to protect them from the ever-present specter of kidnapping and rape.
But the nun’s words also spoke of a basic skill that many of us in Cannes suddenly had to relearn: that of being outside, in a body, in the world amid all its perils. I have heard of four separate incidents in which bodies, unaccustomed to the physical demands of a festival after almost 18 months of walking only between the couch and the refrigerator, betrayed their owners. A toe broke, a kneecap lost its docking, an arch of the foot fell, and an ankle sprained – the latter that I know because the ankle was mine. The day before the festival started, happily pacing my nose into my phone, not noticing a crack in Cannes’ notoriously uneven sidewalk, I fell as flat as Sean Penn’s “Flag Day” a few days later.
So, while many of us battled our own body horrors, “Benedetta” – the type of movie in which a random character will pull a big breast out of her blouse and contemptuously squirt milk in Charlotte Rampling’s eye – also introduced the horror birth subgenre. The most surprising example from Cannes was a documentary: “Cow” by Andrea Arnold, which, with strict formal rigor, focuses on Luma, a beautiful Holstein Frisian kept permanently pregnant, and therefore lactating, on a British dairy farm. . But as a theme, that vein of horror also ran through Valdimar Johannsson’s chic and witty Icelandic fable “Lamb,” in which a silent couple on a secluded farm raises the surprisingly cute hybrid offspring of a sheep and of a malicious mythical entity. And the sub-genre has finally found its apotheosis – although it is the motor oil that is expressed here through the breast, not the milk – in the incredibly daring and hyperstyle of “Titanium” of Julia Ducournau, who won the Palme. Gold, by far the most impressive daring choice. for this first prize in recent memory.
Sometimes Cannes was a fast car that we could stick our heads out and scream with joy like the irrepressible little boy from “Hit the Road”, the delicious debut film that features director Panah Panahi, son of revered Iranian author Jafar Panahi. Sometimes it was a road movie of a different order, like Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s beautifully watched drama of a sweetly memorable connection, “Drive My Car,” a movie that takes three hours, and not a minute too long, to unravel. a relationship built on confidences with hesitation. exchanged during a daily journey.
In short, in the days of the European Championship final, especially among English and Italian participants, Cannes became a sports documentary.
But above all, like the radiant and beloved “The Worst Person in the World” by Joachim Trier, Cannes 2021 was, for me, a beautiful flawed romance. There is a moment in the film where Julie (deserving Cannes best actress winner Renate Reinsve), determined not to cheat on her boyfriend but deeply attracted to a stranger she just met at a party, plays to “everything but” with him. They tell their deepest secrets. They watch each other piss. And in the garden at dawn, they share a cigarette, one blowing smoke into the other’s mouths in slow motion, giving the festival its sexiest scene as well as a longing sigh for a time when such an act would not have been tinged with transgression. , while none of the participants would have thought of the words “airborne transmission”.
Cannes in the time of corona is also Cannes before corona and Cannes after corona, because it is about cinema, which remains the medium that I love for its ability to propel me into recreated pasts and to throw me into imagined futures. And sometimes, to wrap myself in the precise moment, let me breathe an image like smoke and feel it breathe back.
It was, for so long, an event that no one even really dared to believe would happen, and now it’s over. For 12 days, we put our lives on hold and found, to our surprise, that despite twisted ankles, in-person conversations that did not feature mute buttons, and a level of moment-to-moment uncertainty which may simply become a continuing feature of life, something of the old rhythm remains, something of the old pleasure waiting to be rediscovered.
Can we now begin? I think – I hope – that we can.