Due to limited remote access on some of this year’s most exclusive titles, the 2023 Cannes Film Festival has all but eluded us. Though I did not personally review any selections this year, I would like to highlight the work of Allison and our other writers as they devoted themselves to covering a small bundle of Cannes titles. Our new intern, Isabella Foley, is on the ground for Josh At The Movies for the very first time! After the jump, check out our full coverage from the fest.
ALL TO PLAY FOR
Full review at the link.
(Written by Allison Brown) While I am generally a Wes Anderson fan, unfortunately Asteroid City didn’t work for me. The cinematography is stunning and inspired as always, but it feels as if Anderson focuses on style over substance. Meta is the name of the game in Asteroid City, where the title is the name of the film, the play taking place within the film, and the locale in which the play is set. The title card existing as a literal pan to the sign in the desert is genius. Typography is clearly important to Anderson, and there is an overload of text on screen, which at times passes by too quickly to catch it all. This aspect with many jokes sprinkled into the background lends itself to future rewatches. Shadow play with netting under an awning that creates a hatched texture is a feast for the eyes. Casting is impeccable; not only given the A list roster of talent, but particularly in the pairing of Jason Schwartzman and Jake Ryan as father and son. The two could be related in real life they look so much alike. Tilda Swinton as Dr. Hickenlooper is an enigma; it perhaps the most normal role I have ever seen her play. Split screens are of course a notorious tool for this director, but here he creatively weaves symmetry in architecture and the setting to break up the action on screen. Real life for the theatre actors and the play itself are divided cleanly with a black and white break from the rich, teal-tinged earthy color palette. Bryan Cranston is fantastic as a self-aware narrator seemingly alluding to The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling; he tries his damnedest to lead us through whatever semblance of a story is scripted. Unfortunately, the narrative is sorely lacking, built of several comedic sidebars and shticks that fail to fit together cohesively. One repeated phrase at the end is completely baffling. On visuals and performances alone, Asteroid City is a striking work of art, but sadly that isn’t enough.
(Written by Intern, Isabella Foley) Faouzi Bensaïdi’s tale of two Moroccan debt collectors possesses the charm and wit of silent films with its lack of dialogue and extensive physical comedy. The film follows middle-aged duo Mehdi (Fehd Benchemsi) and Hamid (Abdelhadi Talbi), who find themselves making surprising discoveries about themselves and the people of the desert. The two quirky men often land in the path of danger and clumsily escape in their small death trap of a car. Cinematographer Florian Berutti beautifully portrays the men’s journey through captivating wide shots of the sandy landscape and the architecture’s remarkable color schemes. Aside from complex visual compositions and a strong exposition, the harmony seen in many Cannes films is missing here. While the humor develops into a more profound message, the piece misleads the audience with an abrupt shift in tone toward the conclusion. The pace changes drastically, and the ending feels drawn out. Bensaïdi’s vision attempts to balance amusement with grief, and the ultimate execution misses a beat.
The (Ex)perience of Love (LE SYNDROME DES AMOURS PASSÉES)
(Written by Intern, Wyatt Frantz) Somewhat unconventional in style, yet full of hilarious antics and meaning, The (Ex)perience of Love is full of surprises. It quickly morphed into my favorite rom-com in recent memory. The story involves a couple diagnosed with ridiculous but aptly-named Past Love Syndrome, Sandra (Lucie Debay) and Rémy (Lazare Gousseau). This prevents them from having children until they sleep with all of their exes again. Proving challenging indeed, Sandra has a laundry list of twenty partners to cycle through, while Rémy only has to deal with three. As Sandra and Rémy reconnect with their past lovers, we naturally come to know their backstories and (anti)sociable personalities. Things grow tense between the two, especially when Rémy begins to experiment with women outside of his smaller circle of exes, and Sandra questions his infidelity. What sounds like a silly premise meant solely to entertain goes above and beyond creative expectations of the genre. An expressionist, yet accessible style of filmmaking gives The (Ex)perience of Love its own unique flavor; heart lies in every corner. Many different aspects of the production, from glamorous lights to characteristic costumes, synergize with an entertaining screenplay that also manages to feel in touch with the reality of relationships. I know I will be watching closely for a wide release to continue spreading the love.
JEANNE DU BARRY
(Written by Intern, Isabella Foley) Screenwriter/director and star Maïwenn delivers the performance of a lifetime in Jeanne Du Barry. The talented French filmmaker develops a complicated narrative in which she co-stars with Johnny Depp as King Louis XV in this magnificently-executed feature, with stunning colors and royalty-worthy cinematography. Audiences are pulled into the world of Jeanne, and her disruption of the kingdom. This narrative of a woman who shifts historical traditions while unapologetically remodeling the look of a royal court member is cultivated through magnificent approaches to representing 1700s history. Maïwenn exposes the truth behind the corruption of King Louis’ rule, and the experience of females during this period forced to face cruel, judgmental treatment from men. The Palace of Versailles is beautifully illustrated through cinematographer Laurent Dailland’s thought-provoking compositions. Other memorable roles include the witty La Borde (Benjamin Lavernhe) and deceiving Count du Barry (Melvil Poupaud). Lavernhe and Poupad’s supporting roles elevate Jeanne’s story, epitomizing the pure and manipulative hearts of men. The costume design is unmatched; it reflects the contrast between powerful feminine and masculine energy. Jeanne Du Barry reimagines the “based on a true story” genre, and gives audiences a fresh take on feminism in the 18th century.
(Written by Intern, Isabella Foley) Marguerite’s Theorem is truly a story that speaks for itself. The film follows genius mathematician Marguerite, as she discovers the harsh reality of failure in her professional career. Ella Rumpf, who stars as this protagonist, presents a dazzling performance on screen. When confronted with a mistake in her thesis, Marguerite’s entire world is thrown for a loop. Director Anna Novion brings a fresh approach to a tale of a woman in a male-dominated field. The young student quickly learns that obstacles are the seeds for growth, and Rumpf beautifully portrays the journey of finding one’s life purpose. Through her emotional struggles, Marguerite expands her horizons beyond the bubble of numbers she trapped herself in, and realizes there is much more to be explored in society. Marguerite receives constant support from her mother (Clotilde Courau), roommate Noa (Sonia Bonny), and fellow classmate Lucas (Julien Frison), who all help her to shed her previously isolated persona. Audiences can see Marguerite’s cold, rigid exterior break down before their eyes, and her character development unfolds naturally throughout. Despite a slow pace, the cinematic decisions and musical score move the plot forward in an imaginative fashion. Viewers can feel the frustration of the mathematician in her struggle to let her guard down. Marguerite’s Theorem showcases the journey of finding strength in one’s natural gifts, while attempting to maintain valuable relationships with those close to them.
THE NATURE OF LOVE
(Written by Intern, Isabella Foley) In a story of love, lust, and finding oneself, Director Monia Chokri perfectly illustrates a picture of dissatisfaction. Sophia (Magalie Lépine Blondeau) has endured a ten-year relationship with Xavier (Francis-William Rhéaume), who no longer gives her butterflies. The two intellectuals become stuck in an endless cycle of visits with friends, family dinners, and frustrating comfortability, which pushes Sophia to the edge. Her sexual and romantic desires are not being met, and she craves something more. She fulfills this desire with handyman Sylvain. The film glorifies cheating, while displaying the harmful effects of prioritizing a significant other over oneself. The stark juxtaposition between wealthy, educated individuals, and those raised as underprivileged, manual laborers adds to the couple’s problematic connection. Blondeau’s remarkable performance establishes true empathy for her character through her bold personality and sophisticated acting abilities. Countless roadblocks affect Sophia’s ability to achieve happiness, and the actress magnificently portrays the universal feeling of loneliness throughout. Chokri’s raw depiction of a midlife crisis brings a fresh style to the screen that is equally shocking and relatable for viewers of all ages.
Full review at the link.
THE ZONE OF INTEREST
(Written by Intern, Isabella Foley) Notable director Jonathan Glazer (Under The Skin, Birth, Sexy Beast) unleashes another chilling tale with this year’s The Zone of Interest. The harrowing story follows Auschwitz Nazi commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and his family as they establish a luxurious and elegant life directly outside the concentration camp. The humanization of the Höss family is unsettling, and will make one extremely uncomfortable as they watch the horrors unfold. The film is striking in its contrast between the free, unrestricted lives of Nazis and the frightening, inhumane conditions of Jewish people in the camp, without one single camera shot inside Auschwitz. Dark sound design and an eerie score put the audience in the mindset of those living through this period themselves. Cinematographer Lukasz Zal adds to the emotional strain with brilliantly composed visuals of the Höss house and neighborhood. Rudolf’s wife, Hedwig Höss (Sandra Hüller), is at the center of the action in an exploration of her role as a German wife, mother, and daughter during World War II. Dreamy sequences of Hedwig and her children playing in a backyard juxtaposed against the dark smoke of camp chimneys in the background reveal the ignorance and passiveness of those raised under Hitler’s rule. One cannot help squirming and shuddering at each line of dialogue. Glazer approaches the Holocaust in a way it has never been done before on screen that will leave a lasting impact on all who witness it.
For more info about 2023’s Cannes Film Festival, please visit the official website.