As the starry festival comes to a close, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the WFF, Meira Blaustein, updates i-D online with the weekend happenings, films that excited her and varying weather conditions!
As the sky began to cloud above us here at Cannes on Friday morning, rain came down and umbrellas went up, but business and activities continued to heat up as more and more film sales were announced, more and more international press and industry descended and more and more parties took place throughout the Cannes area, at villas, on yachts and at the pavilions.
Covering Cannes as a member of the press one gets to go mostly to the press screenings rather than the public screenings, which means there are no filmmakers in attendance and start time is always perfectly punctual. Yet at some of the more affective screenings, applause could be heard at varying lengths, though no one was there to thank the press for that. At times there was also applause at the end of the Cannes trailer in front of the screenings. The trailer, particularly classy and minimalistic, with only blue stairs draped in red carpet rising up at you through the ocean and then above it and into a starry sky, ending with the rising of the golden Cannes logo, was the perfect start for a film here. As someone who runs her own film festival back in the US and who has attended many film festivals with many of their own trailers, each including the logos of the festival’s sponsors in the end, each telling a story, sometimes humorous, other times imaginative, this trailer struck me as particularly special, offering yet another reason to love and respect Cannes.
Among the films I have seen that stayed with me are Quebecian film Laurence Anyway, Austrian film Paradise Love and Danish film The Hunt. All are controversial, passionate and cinematically striking though each in a very different way.
Laurence Anyway is the story of a writer, Laurence, who at the age of 35 dared to decide that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body and that it was time to make a drastic change. Problem was, he was in the midst of a passionate long-term relationship with Fred, an equally passionate woman. Their relationship would be tested during a period of ten years, as Laurence’s life ebbed in and out of deeply humiliating and depressing situations. Determined to continue his journey of sexual identity change Laurence fought for his love and his career with alternating levels of failure and success. Fred at the same time wove in and out of his life with equal levels of passion, despair and love. The film, while long, carries with it emotions and situations that at times reach high levels of fantasy that reminded me of Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and at other times dipped into levels of despair reminiscent of Black Orpheus. It’s a film for those who can travel heaven and hell.
Paradise Love is the story of a middle aged single mother who goes on a holiday in Kenya, where sex fantasies take centre stage to extreme levels. Set in the midst of strikingly beautiful scenery on the beaches of Kenya, African men, one after the other, offer themselves as sexual slaves to this lonely woman with varying levels of success. Frontal nudity, Rubenesque nudity, sex for money and sex for loneliness become the main stays of the film as one beautiful Kenyan man after another tries his luck.
The Hunt (Jagten) is from Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, who co-created the Dogme movement along with Lars Von Trier and has made a number of films in the last decade, including The Celebration and Dear Wendy. With The Hunt, Vinterberg turns his lens onto the life of Lucas, a sweet and charming recently divorced man whose life, because of one innocent lie made by a little girl, quickly spirals downwards, spinning out of control and pulling him down into the abyss where an unwarranted witch hunt spreads like wild fire. Sitting through the film and watching the destruction of Lucas’s life unfold before me I couldn’t help feeling the frustration of injustice taking over me. Losing so much, Lucas fights a lonely fight against a town that once was his community and his family and now has become his number one enemy, ready to burn him on the stake, so to speak. Shot beautifully against the backdrop of gentle snow, deep woods, ancient architecture and Christmas lights, The Hunt sweeps you into its journey of love, distrust, loss of innocence, mass hysteria and the struggle to regain one’s dignity and life.
The last couple of days here at Cannes have been rainy without a stop. While some events certainly have been dampened, the lines to the films have not subsided even a bit (they just became more difficult to get through and stand at…). Inside the hundreds of theaters here (some tiny with up to 40 seats, others huge with over 2,000 seats) movies have been playing to sold-out audiences. And just outside the theaters, on the yachts, in restaurants and at offices behind the balconies that adorn the croisette, business deals have been taking place day in and day out. Projects are being pitched, movies are being bought and sold, deals are being made. The art and business of the international film industry is at its peak here. And on the streets people are talking about the films they have seen.
There are so many other films to talk about but I think I’ll do that once I’m back in the US. Now it’s time to pack, email my last few goodbyes to old and new friends here at Cannes and then head out to the airport.
Until next time, au revoir mes amis et a’ tout a’ l’heure.
Text: Meira Blaustein