7 films not to miss from the Cannes Film Festival: NPR
Jessica Ford / Focus Characteristics
Having been fortunate enough to attend the Cannes Film Festival every year since 2006, skipping this year’s event was not easy. Cannes is the most important event of its kind: an exciting and infuriating 10-day marathon of red carpet glamor and backstage bargaining, as well as a showcase for some of the best new films from around the world.
Since the 2020 festival was canceled due to the pandemic, part of me was extra tempted to take the plunge this year and brave the crowds descending on this sleepy town on the French Riviera. But ultimately, like many of my wary friends and fellow moviegoers, I chose to stay behind.
Fortunately, over the past two weeks, I’ve been able to see quite a few Cannes films here in Los Angeles – about half the number I usually do. It was a typical mix of good, bad and sometimes good, but it was also wonderful to see so many daring and ambitious films on the big screen – like experiencing my own mini-festival.
Some of these films will be hitting US theaters soon, like Still water, the latest drama directed by Tom McCarthy, best known for the Oscar-winning film Projector. It stars Matt Damon as Bill Baker, an oil worker from Oklahoma who visits his daughter in Marseille, France, where she is in jail for the murder of his girlfriend.
The story, in which Baker tries to prove his daughter’s innocence, was loosely based on the infamous Amanda Knox murder trial, but it’s anything but dramatization. Sometimes it feels like several movies are crammed into one: a crime thriller, a culture clash comedy, and even a romance. But despite some incredible detours, Still water grabs your attention and enjoys the moving performances of Damon and a fierce Abigail Breslin as her daughter. It opens July 30 in theaters.
Opening the following week, August 6, is Annette, a pleasantly wacky musical by idiosyncratic French director Leos Carax, with a script and songs by brothers Ron and Russell Mael, better known as the art-pop group Sparks. Annette premiered on the festival’s opening night, and it begins with a delicious musical number aptly titled “So, May We Start? This must have been a tonic for the Cannes public, as it seemed to channel the spirit of hope of the festival itself.
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Two of the voices of AnnetteThe opening number belongs to the leaders, Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. He plays a stand-up comedian; she plays an opera singer. They fall in love and then fall out of favor in a way reminiscent of countless tragic showbiz romances such as A star is born. Annette is an intensely sad film, with a performance by Driver that’s deeper and darker than anything he’s ever done. It’s also one of the many films at Cannes this year that focus on the inner lives of artists, both fictional and non-fictional.
One of the best of them is The velvet metro, richly immersive documentary by Todd Haynes about the legendary rock band and its roots in the avant-garde New York scene of the 60s. The beautifully animated drama is also drawn from real life, although it is not of a documentary. Where is Anne Frank, by Israeli director Ari Folman. He finds a clever, if at times overly didactic, way of telling Frank’s story, linking his experience in hiding to the plight of refugees in Europe today.
Another artist’s story is Drive my car, an exquisite slow burn of a film by Japanese director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. It follows a grieving director who finds powerful solace in his many hours behind the wheel. This film, developed from a short story by Haruki Murakami, has a romantic richness that appeals to you; it lasts almost three hours and wins every minute.
The charming romantic fable is rather short and similarly involving Bergman Island, by French writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve. It stars Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth as a director couple who visit the small Swedish island where master director Ingmar Bergman once made his home. What starts off as a playful riff on Bergman’s cinematic legacy gradually turns into a devious, heartwarming story about a woman finding her way as an artist.
This description could also apply to what is possibly the best Cannes film I’ve seen so far, which is all the more remarkable considering that this is a sequel. It’s called The Remembrance Part II, and it continues the story told in Memory, Joanna Hogg’s 2019 drama about her early years as a film student in 1980s London.
Once again, Honor Swinton Byrne gives a superb performance as the alter ego of Hogg, who is reeling from a personal tragedy and is trying to figure out how to turn that painful experience into art. But unlike most sequels that the movie industry produces on a regular basis, this follow-up is more than just an unimaginative retread. It’s not yet clear when The Remembrance Part II will arrive in US theaters, but like so many films screened at Cannes each year, it’s worth the wait.