Palme d’Or: the big Bong forward

In an edition saturated with authors familiar with the joys of Cannes competition and multi-awarded who no longer know where to store their fins on the shelves of international prestige, the prize list returned on Saturday evening at the end of a 72e Cannes Film Festival will have been able to tame the shattering effect of the wave of imposing films bearing signatures which are no less so, to compose the landscape of a cinema with renewed energies, filmed in the present, as fiercely as intelligently political – to the reverse of the catalog of beautiful lost causes built on the same stage last year. Palme d’Or winner South Korean Bong Joon-ho, 49, is admittedly not exactly a rookie, and Parasite is not necessarily his greatest film, considering his predecessors Memories of Murder, The Host Where Snowpiercer. But this one had never yet won anything in the most prestigious festivals, and this year presented in competition a kind of brilliant series B, far from the obviousness of award-winning films. The film also marks a return to a form of realism long deserted, and to its country, South Korea, after two large international productions (including Okja, Netflix production surrounded by controversies during its visit to Cannes in 2017). Mirroring two families that are socially opposed, one of which gradually infiltrates the other’s home, Parasite compiles his thematic obsessions and virtuoso tricks without necessarily taking his satire beyond what we already knew of a very great filmmaker, who we can only be delighted to see so distinguished.

On the second step of the prize list, the grand prize arises Atlantic, the first feature film by Franco-Senegalese Mati Diop, 36, a film of ghosts and mad love, which captures – on a fantastic slope between Jacques Tourneur, Claire Denis and Apichatpong Weerasethakul – the Dakar youth, the one who leaves and the one which remains, as the dead more alive than the powers which enslave them. A choice of the jury chaired by the Mexican Alejandro González Iñárritu, who validates the infusion of new blood attempted with more success than ever by Thierry Frémaux in his selection, in the same way as those given to other first-time entrants to the competition ( Céline Sciamma, Ladj Ly, Jessica Hausner) where, and this is far from being a detail in the Cannes context, three of the only four directors in the running for the palm will have caught something on the official list.

To readthe portrait of Mati Diop.

Mati Diop in Cannes, photo Cyril Zannettacci

Banderas rather than Almodóvar

However, this concern for refurbishment does not prevent the Dardenne brothers from continuing to collect all possible prices piece by piece, sometimes in several copies. The Belgians are going to have a little more trouble moving around at home amidst their golden knickknacks, their portrait of a young Muslim teenager on the one-way slope of radicalization, Young Ahmed, earning them their first prize for directing, after a prize for the screenplay, a grand prize and two palms – soon to be the full collection, no doubt. The prize for male interpretation given to Antonio Banderas may seem intensely deserved, as the actor precipitates all the existential and intimate material of his osmosis with a great filmmaker in the magnificent Pain and Glory, but this is also a new snub for Pedro Almodóvar, acclaimed as rarely during the presentation of the film, deeply autobiographical, and to whom the most prestigious trophies persist in refusing. Despite the forty-year friendship between the filmmaker and the actor, somewhere in Madrid, all the dishes had to pass on the patio.

While we would have seen the brilliant Virginie Efira triumph as the title character of Sibyl, in the depressive comedy masterpiece of Justine Triet (remained empty-handed – scandal!), the actress consecrated this year is the Briton Emily Beecham, for her worried presence and her flashing freckles in the very clinical SF fable of Jessica Hausner , Little Joe, where the actress plays a scientist who develops a plant gradually taking possession of the brains of those around her. And this award, we would have seen it also go to Noémie Merlant, a sparkling revelation of the Portrait of the girl on fire by Céline Sciamma, for the first time in competition, who finally received the screenplay prize – story of the brief passion of a painter (Merlant) and her model (Adèle Haenel) on a Breton rock in the 18th centurye century.

In the name of a tie, the jury prize launches a bridge between Seine-Saint-Denis and Brazilian Nordeste. By distinguishing on the one hand the first film by Ladj Ly, wretched, shot in Montfermeil (which the filmmaker summed up on stage by this observation, “The only link that there is between residents of the neighborhoods and the police is poverty”). On the other hand the Bacurau by Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho (already director ofAquarius and the Sounds of Recife), violent dystopia, under the strong influence of John Carpenter, recounting the self-defense of a village in sertão against the attack of a commando of killers. After the Un certain regard prize awarded the day before to another Brazilian, Karim Aïnouz, the filmmakers dedicated their speech to “Brazilian workers in science, education and culture”, at a time when cultural circles are undergoing an assault unprecedented in the democratic history of the country by the regime of Jair Bolsonaro.

To read the portrait of Ladj Ly

Ladj Ly, in Cannes on Wednesday.

Ladj Ly, in Cannes. Photo Cyril Zannettacci

Bastard price for Suleiman

In an edition full of revelations (such as the superb Abu Leila of the Algerian Amin Sidi-Boumédiène and Stay in the Fuchun Mountains by Gu Xiaogang), the golden camera, awarded to the best first film, distinguishes the very academic Nuestras Madres, of the Guatemalan César Díaz, passed through the Fémis. The story of a young employee of a government service for the inventory of victims and missing of the civil war and the dictatorship, whose meticulous work of excavation and identification of skeletons serves as a pretext to find his guerrilla of father. We can guess that this choice owes a lot to the coincidence between the fascinating subject of a film which is less so and the concerns of the director of the jury of the Golden Camera, the Cambodian Rithy Panh, director of numerous films on the memory of the genocide of the Khmer Rouge. The honor roll is completed by It Must Be Heaven, special mention, bastard prize for a film that is difficult to classify, including in terms of good political conscience, since it deals, with a lot of humor, the difficulty of being perceived as anything other than as a Palestinian when one is a filmmaker from Nazareth.

“Marxist, very marxist!” : the adjective launched by Jesse Eisenberg, crossed in the toilets of the Debussy room, to praise our portrait painter Clem “Rosa Luxemburg” Mercier a few hours after their meeting, could apply not only to the selection of the year but also to this final podium. All the cinema is about the class struggle, but part of this prize list too: between Parasite by Bong Joon-ho, an obvious allegory in the basement of the bloody dysfunctions of the social hierarchy, Atlantic of Mati Diop and his Dakar workers deprived of salary who unite from beyond against their boss, or Bacurau of Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, who will have seriously yellowed the Brazilian sertão by making the whole of his community in the Nordeste pass to the armed resistance – or even to the limit Young Ahmed des comrades Dardenne – the award-winning films will have tackled the various figures of the war waged by capital against humanity and all its characters.

Great cunnilingus scene

Nothing therefore for the Americans (Jarmusch, Malick, Sachs, Tarantino who will console himself with a well-deserved palm dog), nothing for the very beautiful films of Arnaud Desplechin (Roubaix, a light), Corneliu Porumboiu (the Whistlers), Marco bellocchio (the traitor) and therefore Justine Triet (Sibyl) – there was no place for everyone, and certainly not for Abdellatif Kechiche. Despite inevitable disappointments, and a churn disastrous during some screenings, the edition that will have crowned Bong Joon-ho and his Parasite was in all the selections (Official, Directors ‘Fortnight, Critics’ Week, Acid) of a richness to the height of its immense promises.

Find All reviews of films in competition

But the real big parasitic film of the festival, in every sense of the word, was Mektoub My Love: Intermezzo. While Abdellatif Kechiche will have offered the Festival his most incandescent night, three and a half hours of pure present, torrent of images which, from 10 p.m. to 1:28 a.m. on the night of Thursday to Friday, will have changed the face of the competition, of a radicalism requiring everyone to position themselves, violently for or against, with tweets and criticisms without any measure, this film will have remained prizeless. Perhaps the memory of the controversial palm at The Life of Adele Was it too lively, surely that the gesture of reinventing cinematographic forms, too new and insane, will have confused, frightened (or even made certain members of the jury sink into semi-dementia, who we were told that they could no longer contain? nervous hilarity on the third pass of the Do you want Abba), and placed the film very surely out of any category relating to any hierarchy of objects or a “palm” – no other price was imaginable. But we should not minimize the repulsive power of the tail of polemics that the film seemed moreover very consciously to call around the “male gauze”, polemics relayed by all the Anglo-Saxon press or almost, all the more regrettable than ever. Abdellatif Kechiche will not have made a film placing himself so much on the side of his heroines and their desires, explicitly responding to the reproaches that had been addressed to him for the first part of Mektoub… Thank you by the way, Abdellatif, for this wonderful cunnilingus scene. That a critic of the French press felt that it did not “useless” obviously says the opposite, and now that you’ve done it, could everyone move on? A woman who gets off, it should be possible to get over it.

See our slideshow, Cannes portrait Croisette, by Cyril Zannettacci

Virginie Efira, actress in

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Palme d’Or: the big Bong forward