Cannes 74: Day 2
A mild day in Cannes- after the cinematic exuberance of Annette, the festival promptly slackened its intensity with a selection of mediocre films, conventional narratives and a lack of risk. The Directors’ Fortnight opened with Between Two Worlds, a predictable, grim, modern French take on Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels, starring Juliette Binoche as a “rich” writer pretending to merge among the “poor” taking the humblest jobs. The more the film tries to commiserate with the unprivileged, the more it fails in its purpose.
Familiar themes for Bong Joon Ho who, in the meantime, delighted attendees with a light-hearted talk. When asked if he would tackle social classes in his films again, he simply replied
that he never tries to deal with a message, but the “social divide” topic fitted as an appropriate backdrop in some of his previous works, as a narrative device. He also revealed that his favourite scene in his (impeccable) filmography is the ending of Mother. Fans will have to wait till 2025/26 for his upcoming animation film project, based on a French math book. Fear not, you can soon watch the Adam McKay TV adaptation of Parasite, set in the United States and starring Tilda Swinton, which the Korean filmmaker is producing and supervising - making sure that McKay doesn’t relapse as the auteur behind Step Brothers.
10000 Nights in the Jungle opened the Un Certain Regard selection, a biopic on Hiroo Onoda, who kept fighting War World II till 1974, forgotten on a tiny Pilipino island. The film is a solid piece which gets better as the story unfolds, despite being way too long. But after all, if the soldier endured for 30 years, we can survive 2:40 hours watching him.
The centrepiece of the Official Selection was Francois Ozon’s Everything Went Fine. Alas, I can’t say the same for the film. The plot is riddled with too many convolutions: euthanasia, family feuds, and even a sprinkle of homosexuality to overcomplicate it all, resulting in a dish with mismatched flavours. The problem is that even the characters seem not to care very much- when Sophie Marceau’s father has a stroke, she goes to the hospital with public transport, and when her husband is asked to help out one evening, cancelling his Buñuel retrospective, he is visibly pissed- and understandably so. So if they are not that committed, why would we be? The cringe flashbacks certainly didn’t help.
And then there’s Jane par Charlotte; a documentary made on Jane Birkin by Charlotte Gainsbourg. A daughter talking with her mother, sure, I just wish she didn’t film it. A Cannes aficionado, Gainsbourg’s film belongs in that category of movies that have no real reason to exist. Not because they’re terrible, but because they are inevitably uninteresting unless you are Jane or Charlotte. The most insufferable moments were the attempts to blend the not particularly brilliant conversations with random arthouse touches, like 8mm footage and unmotivated plastic avant-garde montages, striving to conform to the festival aesthetic for no particular reason. I could finally empathise with the characters in Ozon’s film contemplating euthanasia.
The highlight of day 2 was the messianic masterclass given by living legend Frederick Wiseman. When asked about his next project, the 91-year-old man who reinvented documentaries joked that it is going to be a fiction film- but who knows, he might actually surprise us again. He confirmed the rumour that Kubrick rented his personal copy of Basic Training for over a year and didn’t want to return it, before making Full Metal Jacket. But Wiseman feels honoured to have been the inspiration to “a real film director”, as he says. His inspirations come from reading rather than cinema, but he professed his love for the Marx Brothers, Max Ophüls and Robert Altman, directors who specialised in ensemble works, like his films. Humbly, he admitted that he never stops learning about his craft, and reiterated the notion that 50 hours of footage are needed for a great 5 minute sequence, as all the magic happens in the editing room. His everlasting curiosity serves as fuel for his energy and patience. Integrity and honesty are his motto, and if somebody had the guts to finally destroy the ridiculous convention that we are all filmmakers today, it was him. We can film anything with the HD cameras in our pockets, but it doesn’t mean we should, unless it’s worth documenting.