Thick grey clouds paint the coastal horizon, and rain keeps
falling. Massive yachts bob up and down in the choppy water while scattering
festival attendees take cover under umbrella canopies. Usually a sun-dipped
wide shot of blue skies and vibrant colors, Cannes in 2013 has instead been
dominated by a blurry and blustery Tarr-esque vision of enraged weather. Throw
in an endless supply of cinema, and naturally, it’s hard not to have images on
the mind. Here are a few of my favorite
snapshots from films screening early in the festival, with added analysis.
Heli (dir. Amat Escalante): A tale of Mexican manhood
broken, singed, and reborn through violence. In the middle of act two, the
titular character, now embroiled in a terrifying drug deal gone bad, stands
stoically poised for battle against a massive black military truck mounted with
a machine gun. The vehicle’s hood practically touches Heli’s chin, as if war
machine and man were debating between dance, embrace, or death.
The Past (dir. Asghar Farhadi): Nobody does emotional
collision better than Farhadi. Script, performance, and mise-en-scene work in
perfect harmony despite one too many narrative wrinkles. Glass boundaries
sprout up during moments where communication is essential. The opening sequence
finds Marie (Berenice Bejo) trying to get the attention of her estranged
husband, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) as he departs the airport security check.
Separated by a thick windowpane, the two speak even though they cannot hear each
other, momentarily pausing before joining together on the other side.
Like Father, Like Son (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda): Tender,
patient, and sincere, traits best represented in a single shot of a two hands
(father and son) playing the piano together. This lovely melodrama about
parental wisdom and arrogance proves that time shared will always be thicker
The Bling Ring (dir. Sofia Coppola): Celebrities are no
longer physically necessary. All we need to get high on glam is to touch and
possess their stuff. The best thing about Coppola’s ultimately tiresome pop
culture social study is one amazing shot of the young burglars spryly romping
across the frame atop a dark hill flanked by the Los Angeles skyline in the
background. This is where the vapid wild things are and forever will be.
Jimmy P (dir. Arnaud Desplechin): Middling and flaccid, with
very few aesthetic flourishes. But there is a drop-dead gorgeous dreamy
pastoral of Benicio del Toro’s Jimmy P standing in a bed of tall flowers looking
up at the blinding sun. For a moment, this mostly talky tale of friendships,
traumas, and goodbyes expresses itself in a beautifully visual way.
The Selfish Giant (dir. Clio Barnard): British miserablism,
the pre-teen years. If you’ve seen Loach’s Sweet Sixteen, Ramsay’s Ratcatcher,
or any Shane Meadows joint, this thing feels stale and reductive by comparison.
None of the aesthetic flair Barnard showed in her great debut, The Arbor, is on
display, replaced by a dour monochromatic haze. Still, the final act provides a
harrowing image of two hands holding, one white and fresh with life and the
other one charred to a crisp black.
More images to come…
Glenn Heath Jr. is a film critic for Slant Magazine, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, The L Magazine, and
The House Next Door. Glenn is also a full-time Lecturer of Film Studies
at Platt College and National University in San Diego, CA.