Some mornings in Cannes can begin on a very visceral note. As it did on Saturday with Robin Campillo’s Palme d’Or contender 120 Battements Par Minute ( 120 Beats Per Minute ). This slice of gay life and AIDS/HIV activism in the Mitterand era casts an eye on the ingenious protest culture of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) against government indifference and rapaciousness of the pharmaceutical companies.
The campaigns play out almost like war. At one level the film is about this public facet of the AIDS/HIV rights movement At another level it peeps into the personal relationship dynamics, looks at same sex love with all its intimacy and intensity.
Long love-making scenes is where the docu-fiction aspect comes together rather inventively, with talk of HIV and use of condoms punctuating as well as underlining the individual passion. Max, Nathan, Marco, Thibault, Sophie, Helena — you feel one with the cheerleaders of the movement, especially the pugnacious and irreverent Sean. A bit overdrawn, 120 Beats ends on a very poignant note nonetheless, showing how one can choose to be political even after one’s own lifetime.
And then there are some days that turn out serendipitously starry. Thursday night, for instance.
Missing the last seat by a second for the afternoon show of Mathieu Amalric’s Barbara I was forced to go for its screening later in the evening; only to find actor Uma Thurman, rustling past my second row aisle seat to take the stage. The city of stars, Cannes can, at times, shine just for you.
Amalric’s film itself is about a film in the making on the much loved French singer Barbara. The piecing together of the eccentric singer’s life, the long takes, the songs of joy and those that seem to be “beating back tears” — all come together to make the real and reel indistinguishable. And then with one fine stroke towards the end, Amalric also breaks the illusion of performance and performance within the performance. As meta as it can get.
It’s again the evocation of cinema within Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck — silent cinema to be precise — that lends a wonderful touch of whimsy to a familiar American trope of time travel. Ben runs away after his mother’s death from his Minnesota home in 1977 in search of his long lost father. Years ago, in 1927, it was Rose who had run away from her New Jersey home to meet her silent movie idol Lillian Mayhew, the silence in Rose’s own deaf and mute life reverberating in the films she sees and adores. The years — 1977 and 1927 — meld and merge and both children become carriers of histories in their own unintended way. The coming together of the parallel tracks at the end does get predictably far-fetched and fairytale like but the film itself left the critics and cine-philes utterly charmed.
From the world of bittersweet illusions in Wonderstruck to the ugly reality of an illegal immigrant’s life in Jupiter’s Moon , festival film viewing is all about sudden jump cuts. Kornel Mundruczo’s Jupiter’s Moon lends a touch of magic realism to a refugee story. Aryan, a Syrian refugee in Hungary, can levitate even while moving around on the ground battling corruption and bureaucracy. Flying then seems like a mighty apt metaphor for illegal immigrants whose numbers remain largely in the air, they never quite get counted in any country.
The Cannes Film Festival released a statement on the Okja screening: A technical incident disrupted the beginning of the screening of Bong Joon-ho’s film, Okja , which was shown this [Friday] morning at a press screening at the Lumière Auditorium.
The session was interrupted for a few minutes but was then able to carry on as normal. This incident was entirely the responsibility of the Festival’s technical service, which offers its apologies to the director, his teams, the producers and the audience at the showing.