Cannes Film Festival 2021 Critics’ Notebook 1: Section openings Onoda, Ghost Song, Between Two Worlds, Cow

Onoda

Cannes declared itself open for business earlier this week, the first major international film festival in 2021 to do so in an all-physical edition (with the exception of the partially digital market). The irony did not escape some participants that Thierry Fremaux and co. has chosen to launch its first Un Certain Regard selection in over two years (main opening film of the festival, Leos Carax Annette, was reviewed by Vadim Rizov earlier this week here) with an epic about a man who continued to fight a war for almost three decades after it ended. Invisible enemies, wasted time and endless isolation: pandemic phraseology familiar to all of us, of course. The alternate meaning – persistent film festivals present themselves as expensive, elitist, and, at the moment, quite dangerous – is also about Like any other. (Lest we forget the wisdom offered by the previous Cannes opening night film, The dead don’t die; so far, no lies detected.)

that of Arthur Harari Onoda dramatizes the true story of Hiroo Onoda’s mission to Lubang Island in the Philippines, where the Japanese lieutenant kept watch (with a shrinking coterie of surviving soldiers) from 1944 to 1974, ignoring and refusing to ‘accept the end of World War II in defeat shortly after the start of his tenure. Forbidden by his superiors to die at his own hand, Onoda remains loyal to his nation, delegitimizing any evidence brought in his way that would inform him that the battle is over, his mission non-existent. Harari structures the film to begin somewhat cryptically in 1974 before returning to the beginning of Onoda’s situation and progressing chronologically but elliptically. Absurdism turns into madness into sadness as Onoda’s hardened nationalist commitment produces tremendous emotion through its simple juxtaposition to the natural setting he has resisted for so many years.


Onoda lasts 167 minutes, and if that seems excessive, it’s because it is and needs it. The duration has come with the territory, and the expectation accumulates an almost Bazinian degree of realism – the expectation and the immersion of Onoda being ours as well. The film’s reverence for Onoda wouldn’t work as it does without its exceptional formal balance, with the materiality of the world and images functioning as a scaffolding for the film’s psychological and temporal axes. Harari cited influences such as Kon Ichikawa, Monte Hellman, Kinji Fukasaku, and Kenji Mizoguchi, and even with my relatively limited exposure to each of these filmographies, I can say that these touchstones are quite relevant; the film honors the canon of cinema in the same way that Onoda honors his superiors. Going your own way would suggest the agency, so it’s safe to say that the film benefits from its startling pastiche. In this regard, the modest budget Onoda (roughly $ 5.5 million) is flawless, though, like 40-year-old Harari (whose only previous credit is that of 2016 Black Diamond, a revenge thriller in French about the theft of diamonds) admits that his strategy achieves something like aesthetic anonymity – impressive, ascetic and suitably devotional.

Elsewhere, the rambling and often daring ACID section unfolded its (unofficial) opening Ghost song, who also sees a French filmmaker, Nicolas Peduzzi, whose filming in Texas Southern Belle won the Grand Prix of the French competition at FIDMarseille in 2017 – training his camera on a culture from which it did not come. Here, Peduzzi finds himself once again in Lone Star State, particularly in Houston’s Third Ward community, where he dwells on a small handful of topics, including OMB Bloodbath. This area (also known as “Tre”) is one of Houston’s most diverse black regions and a hub for the choppy, screwed-up hip hop scene that George Floyd once belonged to. (Bloodbath is actually a former Floyd mentee who met and then befriended Peduzzi after she shot him a gun at a gas station.) Ghost songThe scope of is both intimate and ominous, following the subjects’ lives, desires and fears as Hurricane Harvey looms – its impending devastation is lyrically portrayed in the present tense via rerun news broadcasts, ominous shots of curly lightning sprayed beyond city limits and sublime NASA space video. There are allusions to the work of Roberto Minervini and Harmony Korine (in particular Rubber [1997]) throughout – the hybrid documentary and re-enactment tactics of the first, the expressive and complex compassion of the second for a stigmatized community that always seems to be on the verge of disintegration – but Peduzzi’s vibrational sensitivity feels distinct and deserves to be followed.

The Directors’ Fortnight opened with the second feature film by novelist Emmanuel Carrère, Between two worlds, the long-awaited sequel to his underrated Hitchcock debut, The moustache (2005). While the previous film was adapted from his own novel, Between two worlds is vaguely inspired by the novel by Florence Aubenas of 2010 The night cleanser, which could have suited Ken Loach better. In some ways, the appeal of the material to Carrère is obvious. Juliette Binoche’s portrayal of a novelist posing as a working-class housekeeper in order to gain primary experience for a book she’s writing on the plight of working-class housekeepers echoes perfectly. to the personality crisis initiated by Vincent Lindon’s unrecognized shaved mustache – flaws in self-perception are caused by changes in the perception of others. Yet this adaptation of Aubenas’ text keeps psychological abstraction in a minor tone and instead emphasizes an empathetic social agenda that is sadly treated far too simplistically – predetermined and never deserved sympathies, its dull and superficial images.

These qualities also afflict Andrea Arnold. Cow, his first feature documentary and the first film to screen in the festival’s new non-competitive sidebar, perhaps just a year away, Cannes Premiere. I’m not a fan of Arnold’s storytelling, and was optimistic that I would find something here that could open to me. Alas, the film is categorically ugly, using realistic pocket-sized erratic strategies in which the camera crushed the subject of the film (Luma is his name) for ready-made privacy. The soundtrack of mellow alternative pop songs, rendered in a way that they seem diegetically broadcast over the farm radio speakers even though it is quite obvious that they are Arnold’s jams, is infuriating. , in particular the use of a cover of “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver that his singer can meditate on “Qui t’aimera?” Who will fight? as Luma gets her breasts pumped for the umpteenth time. The long overdue ending is absolutely a hostile gesture towards the public and a reminder for all of us to trust our own judgment.


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