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Cannes Ends With a Feel Good Consensus

UMA DA CUNHA | 19 MAY, 2018

“Great cinema makers are close to anarchists” says Godard

The 2018 Festival de Cannes has little in terms of the public glare and paparazzi frenzy that surrounds star glamour and big studio names. With that, Cannes this year appears more contained, better coordinated, as its films have been thoughtful and probing on the issues and concerns of today.

If there is a theme this year, it appears to be two-fold.

On a general level, many films have focused on the unmitigated horrors faced by the refugees; the plight of the displaced and the marginalized around the world. On a personal level, some films dwell on how endangered we are as humans, with family-life threatened by deceit on all sides, and on a larger level, on how the human race itself is an endangered species, emotionally and physically, because of the fraught, divided and uncertain world we face today.

Many a time, a festival as key and important as Cannes triggers divided opinions and heated debate. This year hearteningly, while waiting in queues or chatting in festival corridors, films are being analysed in more balanced, reflective terms. There is an all-round consensus on the films being tipped for the coveted Palme d’Or (Golden Palme) and other awards. This could be because the films themselves are better grounded and on many levels have more content for personal engagement.

The most vaunted in main feature competition line-up of 21 films are Pawel Pawlikowski’s ‘Cold War’, Jia Zhang-Ke’s ‘Ash Is Purest White’, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘Shoplifters’, Nadine Labaki’s ‘Capernaum’, Lee Chang-Dong’s ‘Burning’ and Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘The Image Book’. In the out of competition selection, Lars von Trier’s ‘The House That Jack Built’ had people recoiling from its bizarre violence and theme.

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s Spanish-language psychological thriller ‘Everybody Knows’, starring Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Ricardo Darín, on family life disintegrating when truth prevails, made for an effective opening film. On stage, the director made a plea for fellow director Jaffar Panahi being freed from his State arrest. Despite the so-called handcuffing, Panahi continues to make films every year. His latest ‘Three Faces’, on three women of different ages facing their individual struggles in orthodox Iran, was not as well appreciated as his previous films.

At 20, Polish director Paweł Pawlikowski made England his home and this is the only connection that the UK has in this year’s Cannes. He follows his earlier Oscar-winning film ‘Ida’ with ‘Cold War’, in which a young man battles his male jealousy, pulsating to the jazz highs of that time, over a period of 15 years and across continents.

Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke, known for keeping off the beaten track brings his latest work, ‘Ash Is Purest White’. The film is an epic that depicts the socio-political climate of China from 2001 to today, with its gangster classes as a backdrop to the vaulting ambition and borrowed life-styles that Asian society is prone to.

From Japan, ‘Shoplifters’ directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, presents a robust story on the resilience of people living in extreme poverty and how they combine their petty criminality with a heartfelt generosity. The film follows a father and his son, who after one of their shop-lifting sessions, decide to shelter a small girl they find freezing on the streets The man’s irate wife finally agrees to take care of her after learning of the hardships she faces. But an unforeseen incident reveals hidden secrets, testing the bonds that unite them.

On quite a reverse note, the power-packed film ‘Capernaum’ by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki is a scathing study of the self-destruction that plagues the poor and underprivileged. A story of child endangerment that fills the viewer with anger and shame, Labaki pulls no punches as she details the plight of children in Beirut’s slums, and the bizarre, nameless spaces occupied by people with no identity cards, date of birth or nationality. The film is on a 12-year-old gritty, perceptive young boy who goes through unmitigated hell. He finally sues his parents for having given him a life. The boy tells the world not to bear children if they cannot afford them, a film that needs to be seen again and again, especially in India.

Jean-Luc Godard, the famed figurehead of 1960s French New Wave cinema, conducted one of the more unusual press conferences seen at the Cannes film festival by answering questions via FaceTime. The 87-year-old French-Swiss director best known for films such as Pierrot le Fou (the 2018 Cannes poster pays tribute to this 1965 film), is famously media shy. However, this time he engaged with journalists on his latest video essay ‘The Image Book’.

The film has had rave reviews from loyal fans. Fifty years ago in the month of May, Godard helped to shut down the Cannes Film Festival in an act of solidarity with student demonstrators across France. “Great cinema makers are close to anarchists,” is what he is quoted as saying. ‘The Image Book’ splices together archival footage in an entirely impressionistic manner. Real images of war and death nudge cinematic moments with faces of Henry Fonda, Laurence Olivier and Joan Crawford. One section pays homage to the Lumière brother’s first filmed sequence.

With such rich fare on display, the final awards are awaited. For once, no bets are being placed on ‘personal favourites’.

 

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