A Selection to Die for

By Pickle  May 18, 2022
A Selection to Die for, Pickle Media

From the latest works of recognised masters to new films from budding directors, the official Cannes 2022 selection has the diversity, depth, and daring for everyone to exult over or cringe from. The quality of the lineup that festival director Thierry Fremaux has put together is expected to be the event’s most talked-about topic. By SaibalChatterjee

The 68 titles that constitute the Official Selection of the 75th Cannes Film Festival add up to one of the strongest lineups that the event has cobbled up in recent years. Picking ten, or even 20, of the films that one must definitely to watch over the 11days of the festival – often called the Olympic Games of world cinema – isn’t the easiest of chores. We are giving it a shot nonetheless.

The Cannes Film Festival, by far the world’s most important celebration of cinema, is, as is well known, approaching a landmark. The edition that is set to unspool on the French Riviera is the festival’s 75th. It isn’t, however, the number of editions that have been toted up that cineastes are focused on. The quality of the lineup that festival director Thierry Fremaux has put together is beyond any ifs and buts. It promises to be the biggest talking point during the event.

The Cannes 2022 official selection isn’t devoid of diversity, depth or derring-do. From the latest works of established masters to new films from emerging directors, the 75th Cannes Film Festival has a bill of fare that has something for everybody to exult over or recoil from.

Nothing can rival the thrill of discovering gems from directors who are starting out in their careers or stumbling upon films from corners of the world that have minuscule movie industries. This year’s official selection – eight of the titles in Un Certain Regard (which means ‘A Certain Gaze’) are from first-time directors.

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At the other end of the spectrum, competing for the Palme d’or (Golden Palm) are four previous winners, including a sibling duo who has claimed the festival’s top prize twice. Belgium’s Dardenne brothers (Jean-Pierre and Luc), Japan’s HirokazuKoreeda, Sweden’s Ruben Ostlund and Romania’s CristianMungiu will have another shot at the coveted award alongside many other wellregarded directors.

The Dardenne Brothers – who won the Palme d’Or for Rosetta (1999) and L’Enfant (2005) – are back with another social-realist drama, Tori and Lokita, which tells the story of a young boy and an adolescent girl who have travelled from Africa to Belgium and have their friendship tested by the difficult circumstances that they are thrust into.

Both Ostlund (winner of the Palme d’Or in 2017 for The Square) and Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 4 Days, which won the prize in 2007) have new films that expressly turn the spotlight on the state of humanity and world politics, something that many of the stories that will unfold on the screens in Cannes this year are likely to do.

Among these trenchant commentaries on the world that we live in are two other films from Scandinavia –Swedish-Egyptian director Tarik Saleh’s political thriller Boy from Heaven and Danish-Iranian filmmaker Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider. Both Saleh and Abbasi are Competition first-timers. The latter’s sophomore venture Border won the Un Certain regard Prize in Cannes in 2018.

Boy from Heaven, set in Egypt, is about a fisherman’s son studying at a prestigious Cairo religious university who witnesses a tussle a power after the death of the grand imam on the first day after summer holidays.The film is a contemplationnot only on what Egypt is turning, but also the direction the world as a whole is moving towards.

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Holy Spider is a serial killer hunt drama involving a religious fanatic out to eliminate street prostitutes in a holy Iranian city. After murdering several women, his desperation peaks as he begins to feel that his divine mission isn’t receiving the public enthusiasm that it merits. Holy Spider is a police procedural that journeys into the darkness at the heart of contemporary human existence.

In Sweden’s second Palme d’or contender, Triangle of Sadness, a dark comedy, Ostlund serves up a probe into what humans have become and how precarious socio-economic hierarchies are. A luxury cruise ship under the command of a staunch Marxist captain sinks. A celebrity couple are stranded on a desert island with a group of billionaires and a cleaning lady. Equations are disrupted as the cleaning lady moves up the pecking order because she is the only one among the marooned who can cook.

Mungiu’s R.M.N. raises questions about people who are under severe strain from rising intolerance. A man returns to his small village for Christmas and finds himself in the midst of a community overrun by strong anti-immigrant sentiments.

Kore-eda, the 2018 Palme d’Or winner for Shoplifters, continues to explore the theme of broken families and parenting dilemmas in Broker, a film about “baby boxes” in which people can anonymously leave unwanted babies. The film spotlights a mother who leaves her baby in a box and returns several years later to reclaim it.

A European festival held under the shadow of the hostilities in Ukraine cannot but contribute its mite to the unfolding discourseon war and its repercussions. The Cannes 2022 Competition lineup includes Tchaikovsky’s Wife, a film by dissident Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov, while Ukrainian filmmaker MaksimNakonechnyi’s Butterfly Vision is one of the 20 films that constitute the Un Certain Regard sidebar.

A Selection to Die for, Pickle Media

Serebrennikovcould not to travel to Cannes for the premiere of his previous two films – Leto and Petrov’s Flu. He was serving a suspended prison sentence (on what his supporters believe were trumped-up embezzlement charges) and was under a three-year travel ban. Serebrennikovis now in Germany, having been allowed to travel to Hamburg to direct a play based on an Anton Chekhov short story. So he is expected to hop across to Cannes to present Tchaikovsky’s Wife in person.

Serebrennikov’s new film is a 19th century drama that delves into the legendary Russian composer’s tempestuous relationship with his wife. Classical in terms of formal rigour but very contemporary
in mood and spirit – that is what one can expect Tchaikovsky’s Wife to be.

While two world cinema octogenarians, Poland’s Jerzy Skolimowski (Eo) and Italy’s Marco Bellocchio (EsternoNotte),are in the Cannes 2022programme, the 79-year-old Canadian David Cronenberg, a
maverick who has never shied away from provoking the audience with his “body horror” movies, returns to the Croisette with Crimes of the Future. Skolimowski and Corenberg are in Competion, Bellocchio is in Cannes Premiere.

Bellocchio’s EsternoNotte (Exterior Night), which is scheduled to be released in the cinemas as a two-part film and then as a series that will play over two nights on television, is a dramatization of the events leading to the kidnapping and killing of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades in the 1970s.

Another series that will have a part of it showcased in Cannes Premiere is Olivier Assayas’ Irma Vep. It is adapted from the director’s 1996 film of the same name that played in Un certain regard. Starring Alicia Vikander, Irma Vep is the story of an American actress who, after a break-up, goes to France to work on a remake of a vampire film. She begins to lose hold of herself during the shoot as similarities between the character and herself assume unsettling proportions.

A Selection to Die for, Pickle Media

Although it shares the title of the 1970 Cronenberg film, Crimes of the Future is not a remake. If nothing else, the film starring Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux and Kristen Stewart is expected to set the cat among the pigeons.

Skolimowski’sEo, a modern interpretation of Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, tells the story of a donkey that begins in a circus in Poland and ends in a slaughterhouse in Italy. The Berlin Golden Bear-winning director (for Le depart, 1967) ruminates on humanity (or its absence) through the prism of mankind’s treatment of animals.

Discussions around gender parity in the official selection havebeen a constant in Cannes for several years now. Fremaux has consistently insisted that his choice of films isn’t swayed by quotas. Last year, although the percentage of female filmmakers in the line-up wasn’t exceptional, all the major prizes at the festival were won by women directors.

The 20-film Un certain regard section has nine films directed by women, which translates into nearly 50:50 gender parity. Eight of these films are by first-time directors. The sidebar will, therefore, definitely be worth keeping an eye on if you are looking for surprises and discoveries.

This year, only five of the 21 Competition titles have been directed by women but chances are that at least two of them – 76-year-old French auteur Claire Denis (Stars at Noon) and American filmmaker Kelly Reichardt (Showing Up) – will be in with a chance of being among the awards.

A Selection to Die for, Pickle Media

We also expect Park Chan-wook (Decision to Leave), Arnaud Desplechin (Brother and Sister), James Gray (Armageddon Time), Albert Serra (Bora Bora)and Mario Martone (Nostalgia) to be on the radar of the jury when the nine members chaired by French actor Vincent Lindon begin their final deliberations.

Other major works to watch out for in Cannes are the Opening Night film Coupez! (English title: Final Cut) by Michel Hazanivicius, Austrian director Maria Kreutzer feminist period drama Corsage, the Tom Cruise starrer Top Gun: Maverick and Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic, Elvis.

Last but not the least, ShaunakSen’s All That Breathes, which won the World Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, gets a Special Screening in Cannes this year. The film centres on two brothers who, amid Delhi’s worsening air pollution and growing social unrest, devote themselves to rescuing black kites.

In the Special Screenings section, All that Breathes is in the company of documentaries by Ethan Coen (Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind), Patricio Guzman(My Imaginary Country) and Sergei Loznitsa (The Natural History of Destruction), who has been disowned by the filmmaking fraternity in Ukraine because he has declared his opposition to Russian filmmakers being boycotted because of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his country.

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