Cronenberg makes a comeback in Cannes

For the 75th edition, the Cannes Film Festival entered into a partnership with streaming site Tiktok as an ‘official partner’ in the hopes of attracting young generations as well. That promptly led to a riot with director Rithy Panh. He was recruited to hand out an award in a tiktok video competition, but resigned from his position due to interference on the part of the company.

The collaboration with Tiktok had already been something sought after. Cannes remains a festival of cherished traditions. Among festival visitors is also one of those traditions: grumbling about the quality of the films. Everything used to be so much better. At the last edition, that was something more than a ritual. Cannes can look back on a decent, but certainly not a legendary edition.

This probably has a lot to do with the corona crisis, which has plunged the film industry into great uncertainty in recent years. Expensive, ambitious and large-scale film projects were therefore less likely to receive the green light. Playing it more safe seems to have been the motto of filmmakers, producers and lenders alike. The films are smaller, safer and more conservative.

Nervousness

The fact that Cannes could even take place in a flawless ‘physical’ edition is a signal that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Prior to each screening, the urgent advice was to keep mouth caps on in the hall. That advice was widely ignored. This led to nervousness, especially among festival-goers from North America, where the Covid figures are rising.

Another conclusion that comes to mind in Cannes: pay attention to North Africa and the Middle East. A remarkably large number of films have been set in that region, whether or not they were made by directors who have since established themselves in countries in Western Europe. Such directors did not shy away from sensitive topics. Boy from Heaven by Tarik Saleh – from Egypt, living in Sweden – is about corruption and abuse of power in the famous Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Church and state clash violently in one of the most important institutions of Islamic scholarship when a new Grand Imam is to be elected.

Holy Spider by Swedish-Iranian filmmaker Ali Abbasi is a fact-based film about a religiously delusional serial killer who murders prostitutes in the holy city of Mashad. After the killer is caught, he becomes a folk hero for some. Abbasi shows quite a few explicit, plastic details in his film; too much for some festival goers. But Holy Spider is an original, exciting and original film.

Boy from Heaven and Holy Spider are constructed according to the laws of the thriller. If this edition of Cannes showed anything, it is the completed emancipation of the genre film. For a long time genre films were neglected at film festivals next to all the prestigious author films. That is hardly the case anymore. Original and especially personal genre films were in the spotlight. Author film and genre film have grown closer together.

That has always been the case for David Cronenberg, who came to Cannes after eight years without a new film with Crimes of the Future† Evolution is running wild in Cronenberg’s bizarre vision of the future. The human body is creating new, unknown organs at breakneck speed. Artist Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) has turned his changing body into his profession. In erotic performances (‘Surgery is the new sex’), he has new organs removed by trauma surgeon Caprice (Léa Seydoux). Cronenberg uses that fantastic premise to reflect on his own work as an artist in an intriguing film.

Insomnia

One of the best-made films to be seen at Cannes is a straightforward genre film. In Decision to Leave South Korean master stylist Park Chan-wook omits the extremities of his earlier films. His new film is part police movie, part romantic drama. Hae-jun is a homicide detective who suffers from insomnia and is obsessed with his job. He falls for widow Seo-rae, who may have killed her husband. After a confusing start, the film finds a pleasant and melancholy rhythm. With one perfectly thought-out shot after another, this was the most visually impressive film in Cannes.

Classic, socially engaged author films were also featured at the festival. Migration, populism and xenophobia remain important themes. The acclaimed brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne do in Tori et Lokitaabout the sad fate of two asylum seekers from Nigeria, although nothing new, but the film is certainly not the worst the brothers have delivered in recent years.

RMN by the Romanian director Cristian Mungiu shows an explosion of xenophobia in a village in Transylvania, when two workers from Sri Lanka come to work in a bread factory. The fact that the inhabitants of Transylvania often themselves belong to the Hungarian minority in Romania does not stand in the way of their aversion to other minorities.

Japanese master filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda went to South Korea for his new movie broker, which is about a group of rather dim-witted criminals who are guilty of trafficking abandoned babies; a humanistic, wise and warm film.

That’s the kind of socially engaged author films in which Cannes has traditionally excelled; the Dardennes as well as Mungiu and Kore-eda have already won the Golden Palm in previous editions. The flourishing of genre films in Cannes, which can of course be just as personal and committed, is more surprising.

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