Un Certain Regard: Diversity But Not Always Quality

in 65th Cannes Film Festival

by Laura Laufer

Usually, Un Certain Regard offers the opportunity to discover films coming from different parts of the world and conceived with different styles or belonging to different genres. Going to see films in Un Certain Regard always causes hope and enthusiasm but we have to admit that this year, many hopes were betrayed.

Some movies should not have even been presented in a section where we expect to discover young talents with audacious films in form as well as content. For example, Miss Lovely by Ashim Ahluwalia, the only Indian film of this selection. This film is as ugly as the commercial films that it claims to denounce. In totally different genres White Elephant (Elefante Blanco) by Pablo Trapero and Antiviral by Brando Cronenberg are also failures.

The first one is miserabilist and of the naturalist kind we see in bad telefilms. The second one is pretentious and laborious. If Antiviral had been made like a good B movie, it would have been merrier than this disaster re-sucked from a bloody story of vampires, who claims to denounce the "Society of Spectacle". Both films are too long as well as most of the films we saw in Un Certain Regard.

Here, I do not want to write too long a list of bad films, so I'll stick with the ones I found most interesting.

Children of Sarajevo (Djeca) by Aida Bejic, Student by Darezhan Omirbayev, Laurence Anyways by Xavier Dolan, After Lucia (Después de Lucia) by Michel Franco, Gimme the Loot by Adam Leon, the Elia Suleiman and the Gaspar Noé film in 7 Days in Havana and Beasts of the Southern Wild by Benh Zeitlin.

In Children of Sarajevo the past haunting Rahima and her teenage brother Nedim is more suggested than clearly defined and we have to guess what happened to those children of Sarajevo we see in the opening and closing of the film. The story invites us to follow the main character Rahima, a young woman working in the kitchen of a restaurant. She tries to protect her young brother from delinquency. The actress Marija Pikic plays Rahima in a very accurate and subtle way. The film shows the courage of this character, standing up in front of corrupted politicians and criminals.

Children of Sarajevo describes a violent post-war society where each sound, each street scene send back to us the wounds of war. The film offers a rich soundtrack. His visual style is very nervous with rhythm and intensity provide through the hand-held camera.

Student, the new film by Omirbayev, the director from Kazakhstan, is inspired by Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. Its visual style, the tempo of the film and the low-key actor's direction shows the influence of Bresson. Through a lot of details Student builds a rich relationship between the state of the world and the evolution of his main character as well as the development of the action.

The film offers a very coherent vision in its structure and its presence in Un Certain Regard seems totally justified.

Laurence Anyways, by Xavier Dolan, offers very intense and interesting moments. First we have to salute the amazing performance of both main actors. Melvil Poupaud is very subtle and Suzanne Clément very powerful in the way they play. Both actors are really great.

The film tells a love story between a man, who wants to become a woman, and his girlfriend. We feel there that a very sincere desire of making cinema exists in this film, and this burning desire conducts Xavier Dolan experiment with different styles. This baroque temptation takes us to see colourful clothes dancing in the wind, as in a Demy's film or invites us to penetrate inside an incredibly Felliniesque house along with effeminate characters. Although intense moments exist, the baroque style of Laurence Anyways becomes a trap in a film much too long, with very redundant music.

After Lucia by Michel Franco proves again the vitality of Mexican films. Here, there is a strong subject and good deal of energy in the game of excellent young actors. The main problem resides in a script where some logical connections are missing and the ending of the film seems rather mechanical in its resolution.

Gimme the Loot is a good film conducted with wit, a lot of grace and a good deal of life. Gimme the Loot is also a comedy, rare genre in this year's selection of Un Certain Regard. This film gave us the opportunity to take a good breath and offered us the great pleasure to walk in the Bronx or through New York City with that happy couple of young and tonic grafters. Gimme the Loot is a first feature film and we must wish success for this film. About comedy, I must speak about the short excellent film, Diary of a Beginner by Elia Suleiman. I laughed a lot in this Diary of a Beginner, a succulent, burlesque film. This movie and the Ritual by Gaspar Noé, are the two best films in the collective film, 7 Days in Havana.

Beasts of the Southern Wild by Benh Zeitlin, gives a lot of emotion. This philosophical fable shows the adventure of a little girl, Hushpuppy, of six years old in her initiation to life. Hushpuppy (played by the wonderful Quvenzhané Wallis) lives among the poorest of the poor, the marginalized in the depths of the bayou of Louisiana. Her conscience will be forged after passing through many hardships. The story of this tutorial, told in this first feature film, has a surprising consistency of vision, and the quality of the direction and depth of philosophy are pleasing.

© FIPRESCI 2012

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