I’ve landed in Cannes at an odd time, the end of Day 1. So I’ve missed the opening film, Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die. I’ll try to catch it today, or else, it will hopefully play again on the last day, which is devoted to repeat screenings. That’s how I caught BlacKkKlansman and Shoplifters last year. Meanwhile, I’m looking through all the emails from PRs, trying to decide if, say, the brunch organised by Monaco Better World Forum, to raise global awareness about oceans, is worth stopping by — just to see how organisations use the platform of a huge film festival to further important, non-film issues. I am also flipping through the festival brochure, speed-reading the synopses, trying to get a grip on what else to watch.
The big-name films are a no-brainer. The films by not-yet-big names — but in the big categories — are also easy to pin down as must-sees. But you need a backup list, too. What if an interview presents itself and you miss one of the films you’ve circled on the brochure (there’s no entering the theatre after the film begins) and find an odd window till the next brochure-circled movie? That’s why you need to have an eye on films like The Climb, a comedy-drama from Kyle Marvin and Michael Covino. It’s based on a short that premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival: Kyle and Mike are best friends who share a close bond — until Mike sleeps with Kyle’s fiancée. The synopsis hits two of my sweet spots, complicated male friendships and thorny relationship dramas.
Blaise Harrison’s Particles sounds interesting, too. It’s something about high-school students and strange phenomena in the environment, courtesy a Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, which is trying to recreate the conditions that led to the Big Bang. With some other films, the synopsis isn’t descriptive enough, and you’re left scratching your chin. Take Larissa Sadilova’s Once in Trubchevsk: “No matter how hard you try to hide infidelities, the truth will come out sooner or later. A decision then arises: to start a new life together from square one, or to confess and hope for forgiveness.” It’s so generic, it could mean anything. It’s what they say about sending a manuscript to a literary agent. If the summary doesn’t grab you right away… Lorcan Finnegan’s sci-fi thriller, Vivarium, is another of these. An interesting cast (Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots), but does “a young couple follow a mysterious estate agent and get trapped in a strange housing development” do anything for you?
If sci-fi/supernatural themes are what you’re after, Stéphane Batut’s Burning Ghost sounds much more interesting. (“Juste wanders the streets looking for people only he can see. He collects their last memory before helping them into the afterlife. One day Agathe, a young woman, recognizes him. She belongs to his previous life. She is alive and he is a ghost. How will they manage to love each other and seize this second chance?”) As does Patrick Mario-Bernard & Pierre Trividic’s Blind Spot, which is about a man with the power to turn invisible. He thinks it’s a shameful secret, but when he isn’t able to control this power, things get out of hand and… Or what about Heroes Don’t Die, by Aude Léa Rapin, about a man who believes he is the reincarnation of a Serbian soldier who died on the very day he was born!
Nina Wu, by Myanmar-born Taiwanese film director Midi Z, is about a small-time actress who gets a big break in a spy thriller. That’s not the most exciting part. This is: “The part is challenging, not least because it calls for full nudity and explicit sex scenes…” Oh, come on! Sometimes, one has to be shallow like that. (And hope that the film is really good, so you don’t sound like you went just for the full nudity and explicit sex scenes.) Lillian, by the hardworking Andreas Horvath (responsible for the direction, screenplay, cinematography and music), is about an immigrant stranded in New York City. She decides to walk back to her home in Russia. “The chronicle of a slow disappearance.” That sounds interestingly bizarre.
As does J-P Valkeapää’s Dogs Don’t Wear Pants. The title alone makes it worth a shot. Plus, it’s about a widower who meets a dominatrix. I mean, why not! I don’t know if I’ll have the time for a compendium of three virtual reality installations, but Go Where You Look!, by Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang, is worth bookmarking. Finally, two curiosities. Midge Costin’s Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound, which captures the history, impact and creative process of sound design for what is too-often slotted as a “visual” medium. (It features interviews with the likes of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch and Christopher Nolan.) And Luca Guadagnino’s The Staggering Girl, which stars Julianne Moore and runs a mere 37 minutes. The synopsis is a bummer. (“…the movie narrates the strength of a blood relationship between two women who have come to a day of reckoning with themselves, through a diachronic and introspective overview…”) But with those names, it may be worth the risk.