So far so good at this year's Cannes Film Festival, despite a few slight disappointments
The 64th Cannes Film Festival started on a more than charming note with Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. From the very first images of this romantic comedy starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, the tone is set, as Allen precedes his signature white-text-on-black-background opening credits with superb shots of Paris by day, Paris by night, sunny Paris and rainy Paris. An enamoured tourist’s point of view that is hard to resist.
"I didn’t go to Paris until 1965," recalled the filmmaker during the press conference. "The Paris that I knew was the one from American movies. Like I did with Manhattan, I wanted to show Paris through my eyes, to present it subjectively, not realistically."
One of the best-received competition titles so far, Polisse depicts life in the child protection unit of a police department. "I was looking for child actors, I did an open casting call," says writer-director Maïwenn. "I met with them, talked with them to see if they were comfortable with the subject. What motivated them was the fact that these were true stories. I was struck by the kids’ sense of solidarity." Calling to mind Bertrand Tavernier’s L.627 and starring Joey Starr, Karin Viard and Marina Foïs, all of whom are impressively natural, the film benefits from alert handheld camerawork and nervous editing, which perfectly convey the tense atmosphere of a police station. Powerful.
Winner of the Palme d’Or ten years ago for The Son’s Room, Nanni Moretti surprises with We Have a Pope, in which the venerable Michel Piccoli masterfully interprets a pope cracking under pressure. We assumed that the director of the anti-Berlusconi polemic Il caimano would deliver a ferocious attack against the Catholic Church, instead of a tender, amusing, delicate look at what happens in the back rooms of the Vatican. "People thought I would denounce the Vatican, but I didn’t want to do a story about the pedophile priests and the financial scandals," says Moretti. "Last year, in the papers, we could read about all these things that we already know; the Church seems to have lost any credibility."
In The Kid With the Bike, the refreshing Cécile de France portrays a hairdresser who takes under her wing a 12-year-old boy (Thomas Doret in a moving performance) who’s been rejected by his father (convincing Jérémie Renier). With its motifs borrowed from Hop-o’-My-Thumb, Little Red Riding Hood and Pinocchio, the latest from Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne disconcerts with its uncharacteristically luminous cinematography and discreet optimism. "I’d say we did work in a simpler way, with less complicated characters," admits Luc Dardenne. "Thanks to Thomas, who always had a smile on his face, we were less anxious and more serene."
Added to the competition at the last minute, Michel Hazavanicius’s silent, black-and-white The Artist depicts the downfall of an actor (Jean Dujardin doing his best Douglas Fairbanks) after the advent of sound in 1927 and the conquest of Hollywood by a starlet (Bérénice Bejo in Clara Bow mode). A neat, if uneven exercise in style. "I wanted to start over there, in 1927, where the great filmmakers had stopped," said the director.
Folks waited a whole year for Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life to finally arrive on the Croisette, and it was greeted with warm applause, as well as some booing. "With a structure this complex, this film couldn’t have taken the normal gestation period," said Brad Pitt during the press conference, which Malick didn’t attend.
The Tree of Life features Sean Penn as a man looking back on his youth, spent in a small Texas town in the 1950s with his two brothers, their loving mother (Jessica Chastain, the film’s revelation) and their strict father (Pitt, solid as always). Through this impressionistic family chronicle, Malick simultaneously depicts the origins of the world – Big Bang and dinosaurs included! A stunning visual spectacle, The Tree of Life clearly bears the mark of its brilliant and meticulous creator (the voiceover narration, the incantatory dialogue, the lyrical images, the communion with nature), but during the last stretch, we come dangerously close to losing interest in this mystical and metaphysical fable. The 2001 of 2011?
(Translated by Kevin Laforest)
Cannes Film Festival
Until May 22