Cannes: Opening Narratives

The 71st Cannes Film Festival got off and running this week. The opening film, Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows, brought a little stardust to the red carpet in the shape of real-life Spanish couple, Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz. Cruz plays a married woman who returns to Spain for a family wedding, but after a night of celebrations, her teenage daughter is kidnapped – an event that sparks further revelations and recriminations.

One stand-out film is Wildlife, which marks the first feature by actor Paul Dano, who adapted the book by Richard Ford. The film already played Sundance but opens Critic’s Week here in impressive fashion. Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan play a couple living in 1960s Montana, whose marriage starts to fall apart after he’s fired from his job tending the local golf course. Seen through the eyes of their teenage son Joe (Australian rising star Ed Oxenbould), Dano acutely details the pain of watching such a separation.

Meanwhile, over at Director’s Fortnight, there was a real treat for audiences: a screening of Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, programmed to mark the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the Quinzaine. Scorsese’s Little Italy classic first played here forty-five years ago, back when the director was an unknown. After the screening, Scorsese reminisced about his career on stage in what was pure cinematic heaven for those in attendance.

Rounding off the Thursday was Christophe Honoré’s competition title Sorry Angel, a 1993-set drama that feels like a companion piece to last year’s Cannes Grand Jury-winner, 120 BPM. Pierre Deladonchamps plays Jacques, an HIV-positive playwright living in Paris who is gradually coming to terms with the end of his life. Among those in his orbit are his neighbor and friend Mathieu (Denis Podalydès) and Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), a young student lover.

It’s a literate, passionate work, flush with cinematic references (Leos Carax, Rainer Werner Fassbinder), poetry (Arthur Rimbaud) and music (from Prefab Sprout to MAARS’ Pump Up The Volume), but what really stands out are the central performances, particularly Deladonchamps, who carries a somber world weariness about him. It’s a film about the pain and pleasure of life and all the complications that come with it.

The 71st Cannes Film Festival runs until 19 May. Find out more here.

James Mottram

1. From Wildlife, dir. Paul Dano