Fri­day Life Film & Mu­sic

★★★ Solo: A Star Wars story ★★★★ Cit­i­zen Lane ★★★★★ Je­une Femme ★★★ Film worker

The Irish Times - - Front Page - Don­ald Clarke

As far as the out­side world was con­cerned, Star Wars got Cannes 2018 back to the noisy promi­nence it so craves. Fire­works burst over the Croisette on Tues­day night. Stars of the in­de­struc­tible fran­chise el­bowed each other on the red car­pet. Hol­ly­wood bling was back.

That’s not quite how it seems when you’re here. Ev­ery film in the main com­pe­ti­tion gets the same sort of red car­pet bash that was put the way of Solo: A Star Wars Story (well, mi­nus the fire­works). The Chinese stars of Lee Chang-dong’s in­sid­i­ous, tricky Burn­ing were also mag­ni­fied on gi­ant screens as they pro­gressed along the red car­pet. Vin­cent Lin­don, star of Stéphane Brizé’s tough so­cial re­al­ist drama At War, was greeted with mu­sic that blared as loudly as the Star Wars theme.

For all the sense that Cannes is edg­ing away from main­stream flash, the de­bates about which au­teur has let us down, which Young Turk is on the way up and who is go­ing to win the Palme d’Or seem as fu­ri­ous as ever. In­deed, the odd­ness of the 2018 pro­gramme has made those fights more ro­bust than ever. No old mas­ter looks to have the prize by rights.

Even if Lars von Trier’s The House that Jack Built had re­ceived bet­ter re­views, it could not, as an out-of-com­pe­ti­tion se­lec­tion, have taken the Palme d’Or. It is be­lieved that some board mem­bers wanted it in the race, but oth­ers felt it was just too provoca­tive. They were prob­a­bly right to tend to­wards dis­cre­tion rather than worse classes of val­our. Though packed with many of Von Trier’s blackly funny comic out­rages, the se­rial killer drama feels al­most like a mer­ci­less troll of #MeToo and re­lated move­ments. The most shock­ing mo­ment saw Matt Dil­lon, as a lit­er­ally mo­not­o­nous ob­ses­sive, mark­ing a dot­ted line around Ri­ley Keough’s breast and then sev­er­ing it bru­tally. The se­quence that saw him gun down a young boy in front of his in­creas­ingly numb mother was equally ap­palling. The is­sue was whether Von Trier’s un­ques­tion­able de­sire to in­ves­ti­gate misog­yny could jus­tify the ap­par­ent rel­ish in his graphic im­agery. Few were brave enough to ar­gue that case.

Drab blather

Though less graphic, David Robert Mitchell’s mon­u­men­tally ter­ri­ble Un­der the Silver Lake couldn’t re­ally make that ar­gu­ment to ra­tio­nalise the cam­era’s leer­ing shots of bot­toms and its de­pic­tion of the fe­male char­ac­ters as pros­ti­tutes and corpses. Mitchell’s fol­low-up to his bril­liant hor­ror It Fol­lows is a sprawl­ing neo-noir set around the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles and casts Andrew Garfield as a drifter who, while in­ves­ti­gat­ing the dis­ap­pear­ance of his neigh­bour, gets drawn into a world of con­spir­a­cies, para­noia and drab blather about pop cul­ture. Imag­ine some­thing con­ceived by a dim teenager who’d half-lis­tened to a talk­ing book of Thomas Pyn­chon while play­ing too much Su­per Mario and you’re nearly there. Ri­ley Keough gets it in the neck again (what did she do to de­serve this?). At one stage, Garfield’s hand gets stuck to a Spi­der-Man comic with bub­blegum. Get it? Oh, go away.

In the olden days of last year, Mitchell and his cast would have been forced to travel the red car­pet al­ready aware that the film was a crit­i­cal bomb. The new scheme of play­ing press screen­ings si­mul­ta­ne­ously meant they were spared.

Hap­pily for the man­age­ment, few other com­pe­ti­tion ti­tles will have prof­ited from sim­i­lar de­layed ap­point­ments with the gal­lows. The race for the Palme d’Or is taken up with mostly well-re­ceived ti­tles. Lee’s Burn­ing takes Burn­ing Barns, a 16-page story by Haruki Mu­rakami, and ex­pands it (maybe a tad too much) into a sprawl­ing tale of sup­pres­sion and jeal­ousy in con­tem­po­rary Korea. The picture settles in the brain and fes­ters – even if, in a key plot nub, it asks us to be­lieve in the fi­delity of house­hold cats. Not buy­ing it, Lee.

‘‘ Though packed with many of Lars von Trier’s blackly funny comic out­rages, ‘The House that Jack Built’ feels al­most like a mer­ci­less troll of #MeToo and re­lated move­ments

Good cat

It was a par­tic­u­larly strong year for Asian cin­ema in the of­fi­cial se­lec­tion and Ryusuke Ha­m­aguchi, a Ja­panese di­rec­tor who has yet to reach 40, made his mark with a fas­ci­nat­ing, gen­tle, de­cep­tively light-hearted ro­mance con­cern­ing a girl who falls for one man and then his Dop­pel­gänger. The picture al­lowed real emo­tional pur­chase as it in­vited the viewer to make sense of a de­lib­er­ately un­likely plot. The prominent cat be­haved more like a real cat here. Well done, Ryusuke.

The mas­ter Hirokazu Kore-eda, a fre­quent vis­i­tor to Cannes, was also el­e­vat­ing the rep­u­ta­tion of Asian cin­ema with the fine Sho­plifters. Con­cern­ing a trou­bled fam­ily who take in a young, abused girl and de­cide to train her in the ways of shoplift­ing, the picture is, per­haps, the most (among many) touch­ing study of Ja­panese fam­ily life that this film-maker has made in a busy two decades. There is a very real chance that Kore-eda could take home the Palme d’Or. He’s due. The film is among his best. It will play well in all ter­ri­to­ries.

It seems less likely that the jury will go for Spike Lee’s BlacKkKk­lans­man – the film is per­haps too main­stream – but this is a blis­ter­ing, noisy, messy re­turn to form for the di­rec­tor who scored an early suc­cess here with Do The Right Thing in 1989. Fea­tur­ing a break­through turn by John David Wash­ing­ton (son of Den­zel) as a black cop who ran in­tel­li­gence on the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s, the picture man­ages the tricky feat of be­ing as an­gry as it is funny. Spike ex­hib­ited more anger than hu­mour at the press con­fer­ence. “That moth­erf***er did not de­nounce the moth­erf***ing Klan, the alt-right, and those Nazi moth­erf***ers,” he said of the cur­rent pres­i­dent.

No spe­cial treat­ment?

Calm could be found in Wim Wen­ders’s ha­gio­graphic study of Pope Fran­cis. Play­ing out of com­pe­ti­tion, Pope Fran­cis: A Man of His Word al­lowed the Holy Fa­ther to im­press with his cau­tious rad­i­cal­ism, but failed to prop­erly in­ter­ro­gate him on cler­i­cal abuse and al­lowed abor­tion to be ig­nored al­to­gether. De­vo­tional tools are like that.

Back at the race for the Palme d’Or, chat­ter con­tin­ued as to whether we might fi­nally see a sec­ond win­ner of the most dis­tin­guished prize awarded by any film fes­ti­val. In this year of all years, that would be a cause for cel­e­bra­tion. Cate Blanchett, the jury pres­i­dent, has made it very clear that there will be no spe­cial treat­ment, but that may not be nec­es­sary.

Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy as Laz­zaro has proved among the best re­viewed films of the fes­ti­val to date. The magic re­al­ist tale of a young man who sur­vives ex­ploita­tion and an ap­par­ently fa­tal fall to bring quiet joy to an in­dus­trial waste­land looks to be in pole po­si­tion. At time of writ­ing there are, how­ever, pictures by Na­dine Labaki, Mat­teo Gar­rone and for­mer win­ner Nuri Bilge Cey­lan still to come. As the fin­ish­ing line looms, the feel­ing re­mains that this year’s Cannes – though of a high stan­dard – is in some­thing of a hold­ing-pat­tern mode. The re­la­tion­ship with Net­flix is still not re­solved. No­body seems sure of Hol­ly­wood’s at­ti­tude to the event. Yet, the bat­tle for crit­i­cal hearts and minds on the Croisette is of much the same na­ture as it al­ways was. When the awards are an­nounced on Satur­day night, some­body will, for a year, be­come boss of that rar­efied world.

PHO­TO­GRAPHS: IAN LANGSDON/EPA, EMMA MCIN­TYRE/GETTY

Clockwise from ■ main, Ron Howard, Emilia Clarke, Alden Ehren­re­ich, Don­ald Glover and Chew­bacca ar­rive for the screen­ing of Solo: A Star Wars Story; jury pres­i­dent Cate Blanchett; and Lars von Trier, Bruno Ganz and Sofie Grabol.

Spike Lee ex­hib­ited more anger than hu­mour at the press con­fer­ence

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