My thoughts on the films I saw at Cannes 2023, during the 3 Days in Cannes program.
Mia Wasikowska stars as a health teacher who indoctrinates a group of teenagers into joining a bizarre conscious eating cult. An uncomfortable satire on mindful eating, and the dangers and prevalence of eating disorders. The tone of the film was a little unclear, but darkly humorous in its depiction of diet culture. I wasn't convinced by the teenage acting, but I was definitely intrigued throughout and didn't know how it was going to end. Unsure of the overall message, but an interesting watch.
Turkish drama about a teacher who takes an inappropriate interest in his female pupil. This was an uneasy watch, as the protagonist is very unlikable and cruel towards the young girl and others around him. It wasn't obvious where the film was going, and whether the teacher/pupil storyline was going to develop. But it suddenly took a different direction and focused more on his relationship with a woman his own age (Merve Dizdar, who won best actress). The acting was excellent and very natural, and I found the first half quite tense. At 3 hours 17 minutes it definitely dragged, and certain scenes seemed unnecessarily long and wordy. Maybe one to see again/think about.
An enjoyable drama starring Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman. Moore plays a woman who had a scandalous affair with an underage teenage boy, whom Portman's character will be playing in a Hollywood movie. This was definitely the most mainstream of the Cannes films I have seen, and I was hooked throughout. I only noticed Moore's character's lisp about halfway through the film, and I'm not sure whether it was deliberately exaggerated as the film progressed, but it seemed an odd choice. Well acted by the two female leads and the male lead. An entertaining melodrama.
French historical drama set in the 1800s, starring Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel. It is a love story between two people, as Binoche's character puts it, in their "autumn years". But ultimately, it is a love letter to cooking. I have never seen a film that has made me so hungry, and it is a joy to simply watch the most incredibly mouth-watering food being lovingly prepared. All of the characters are so lovable, and it is hard to believe that the Three Colours trilogy in which Binoche starred was 30 years ago - she was incredible. It is funny and charming, as well as beautiful to look at (it won the award for best directing). This was one of my favourites of the festival.
Dir. Marco Bellocchio
Italian historical drama, based on the true story of a young Jewish boy who was taken from his family by the Pope. A shocking and infuriating story about the abuse of power and cruelty by the Catholic church. The young protagonist is incredible as Edgardo Mortara, and the distress at being cruelly separated from his parents is upsetting to watch. I found the Pope's character a little overly theatrical (he reminded me of a Disney villain). It was definitely a gripping watch, leaving you rooting the entire time for the boy to be rescued and reunited with his family. It is dark and frustrating to see the potentially damaging power of religion on impressionable young children, as Edgardo fluctuates between love and hate for the Pope and Catholicism.
Dir. Wim Wenders
Gentle Japanese film about a man who cleans toilets for a living. The sweet middle-aged protagonist (played by Koji Yakuso, who won best actor) finds joy in the small things of his mundane existence. He lovingly photographs the trees around him, quietly smiling at the beauty of nature. It is one of those films where on the surface not a lot happens, yet it is deeply powerful and moving. The great soundtrack is largely comprised of cassette tapes that Yakusho's character plays in the car, including The Rolling Stones and Lou Reed (whose song gives the film its title). The most powerful moment is the final shot, as he drives to Nina Simone's 'Feeling Good'. The camera remains on his face, which fluctuates between joy and a painful sadness - a sentiment he conveys powerfully throughout the film in which he hardly speaks. A meditative and inspiring message about appreciating the beauty of life and the world around us. I think this was my favourite film that I saw at the festival.
Dir. Erwan Le Duc
Quirky French tragicomedy about a single dad and his 17-year-old daughter Rosa. Rosa's mother left soon after she was born, and a frantic opening montage charts her parents' whirlwind romance. The film follows the father-daughter relationship, as well as their respective love interests. We see them individually deal with the absence of Rosa's mother, and Rosa supports her dad, who she believes is either having "late teenage angst or an early mid-life crisis". Despite its potential as a powerful coming-of-age story, I didn't feel very emotionally invested in the characters.
Dir. Ken Loach
I had the privilege of seeing the Cannes press conference with Ken Loach and the cast of this film. As ever, Loach addresses another important social issue in a powerful and upsetting way, this time about Syrian refugees. When asked about the real-world impact of his films, Loach said that the medium of film is "one voice in a chorus". However, his early film 'Cathy Come Home' actually did change homelessness laws. The story follows TJ Ballantyne, who owns the film's titular pub in which he and a young Syrian woman attempt to create a community food initiative. Kindness and unity are the key messages here, and ones that are perhaps sadly too good to be true. But the hope that the film inspires is something to be cherished.
Sweet Pixar animation about anthropomorphized elements. Fire and water fall in love and inevitably struggle to be together. There were a few laugh-out-loud moments, but it didn't hold a candle (pun intended) to the beloved Pixar predecessors. It was light family-friendly entertainment for the closing night of the festival, and sweet to see the cast and director speak at the end.