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Cannes 2023 reviews – Asteroid City; The Zone of Interest; Godard by Godard; The Passion of Dodin Bouffant; Rapito; Sleep; and Indian Nehemich

Cannes 2023 reviews – Asteroid City; The Zone of Interest; Godard by Godard; The Passion of Dodin Bouffant; Rapito; Sleep; and Indian Nehemich

With ‘Asteroid City’ by Wes Anderson in cinemas now, we publish our reviews of all the non-South Asian films we saw this year…

Asteroid City – Nice pictures, shame about the story…

Motel Manager (Steve Carell) – Courtesy of Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features

Director Wes Anderson
Time: One hour and 44 mins

THIS rolled into Cannes with its usual hullabaloo – and has a star-studded cast to match.
Almost everyone in this film is a name: Scarlet Johansson, Steve Carrell, Margot Robbie, Tom Hanks, Adrien Brody, Bryan Cranston, Rupert Friend and so it goes on…
Director Anderson is a talent, quirky and original and has much to offer – but this seems frivolous, undercooked and in the end, is just a bit dull. Some feel ever so differently but Anderson seems spent to us.
There are good moments and the alien landing is interesting and something that is worth exploring.
Set in the 1950s and in a camp in the desert – and attracting tourists, and a writer composing a play, it is also about an alien being that once landed there or something like that. It’s nice to look at but it seems wholly lacking in anything of real substance. Style over content, we feel. Screened in Competition. Imaginative but superficial.
ACV rating: ** (all out of five)

The Zone of Interest – A deep artistic response to the horrors

The Zone of Interest (Courtesy of A24)

Jonathan Glazer
One hour and 35 minutes

IF YOU SEE ONLY one serious film this year and are not too put off by the grim subject matter at one level, please go and watch this.
Sparing, cold, distant – director Jonathan Glazer brings an almost objective, neutral eye to the horrors of Auschwitz.
Of course, had he really done that, there would be a huge and quite correct… outrage.
What Glazer focuses on is the family of the camp commandant – all the while, in their idyllic rural setting, they are literally, coolly marching innocent unwitting folks to the gas chamber and there is no sight or mention of that anywhere, almost.
In fact, the only reference is the pile of shoes – a familiar image to signify the horror.
Loosely adapted from the late great British novelist Martin Amis’ novel of the same title, this is a film that will stay with you long after the credits have finished rolling. Well, it should and must. It just missed the Palme to Justine Triet’s ‘Anatomy of a Fall’, picking up the Grand Prix consolation prize.
ACV rating – this is not entertainment but education – see it and remember (*****)

Godard by Godard – The world will miss the genius of…

Director Jean-Luc Godard (1963) from Godard by Godard (©Agat Films & Cie)

Frederic Bonnaud
1 hour documentary

CANNES’ own relationship with one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century is a little complicated. He actually supported the Cannes boycott in 1968 – and at this screening, the audience cheered when it showed him berating the festival organisers then, for wanting to talk about camera angles (or similar) when people were out on the streets of Paris and other French cities protesting. That year, the festival, as in 2020, was cancelled.
Jean-Luc Godard was among a band of spirited and creative directors who gave us French New Wave in the 1960s and proved highly influential in the making of global cinema.
This documentary constructed from archival film is a lovely watch: nostalgic, humorous (Godard shows himself to be highly amusing) and interesting to anyone who enjoys and admires the director’s films from ‘Bande A Part’ (‘Breathless’) to ‘Le Mepris’ (‘Contempt’ – and a personal fave) to the most recent Cannes showing, ‘The Image Book’ (2018).
At the end, there was also a screening of his last work: it’s a montage of images – ‘Film trailer for the film that will never exist: Funny Wars’ and has a voiceover and is subtitled – though the white text on white background made it very difficult to follow.
Godard passed away at the age of 91 on September 13 2022 through assisted suicide.
Many well-known directors present at the festival – such as Gaspar Noe – were in the audience and there was a not a spare seat in the the 1,000 plus seat Debussy – his favourite theatre in Cannes, apparently. Memorable.
Acv rating: ****

The Passion of Dodin Bouffant (‘The Pot-Au-Feu’) – Romantic gastronomy

Dodin (Benoit Magimel) and Eugenie (Juliette Binoche) – Courtesy of Canal+

Trần Anh Hùng
2 hours and 14 mins

JULIETTE BINOCHE is splendid as Eugenie and this is a beautiful film if you adore French cuisine and enjoy seeing cooking and gastronomy being given the big screen treatment.
Set in 1885 in a big house in the country, it’s clear that Eugenie and Dodin Bouffant (Benoit Magimel) enjoy a close working relationship.
They create dishes ‘extraordinaire’ and Dodin delights his male companions with the food they prepare and you can see how the foundations of French gastronomy and professional cooking/chef training probably originated.
In many ways, this also a very romantic film because the couple are not as such at the beginning – they are friends and colleagues essentially and then over time, their relationship grows and deepens and seemingly at Eugenie’s desired timing. It also feels like an ode to French culture – and is made by a director with a South East Asian heritage. If you love food and film – and are partial to Binoche regardless, see this.
ACV rating: ***

Rapito (Kidnapped) – Shocking religious conversion

Rapito/Kidnapped – (Courtesy of IBC Movie)

Marco Bellocchio
2 hours and 5 mins

IF YOU LIKE intense 19th century European drama, this is for you.
Well-acted and shot with precision and force, Marco Bellocchio’s film is about a Jewish boy who is secretly baptised and then literally kidnapped by the Pope and brought to Rome to study and train as a priest.
His tight-knit and large family led by his parents are shocked and sickened by the intervention and determine to get him back, knowing that active resistance is neither practical nor desirable (in clinching his long-term status with them).
It is loosed basely on a novel and a real tale – the boy in the film has a remarkable story and it is an absorbing and intelligent film that covers a period of Italian history that was in considerable flux – and shows that such a country did not quite exist in the form that it does today. It screened in Competition.
ACV rating: ***

Sleep – Wacky Korean comedy horror hits sweet spot


Jason Yu
1 hour and 35 mins

WE SAW THIS rather on a whim or a window of opportunity and were suitably impressed.
A black comedy – this professional couple Hyun-su (Lee Sun-kyun) and Soo-jin (Yu-mi) reside in an apartment in a non-descript South Korean town.
The husband (Hyun-su) is an actor and his wife is expecting their first baby quite early into the film.
And yes, it is about sleep – what happens when the husband becomes someone else when sleepwalking. It’s a bigger problem than it might look – now, mix this with Korean folklore around the departed, and ghosts and you have a very watchable film that rather turns the tables in the last third quite unpredictably. If you like challenging and surprising films and don’t take it too seriously, it’s a good watch and Yu is a talent who is likely to return to Cannes. This film was in the Critics’ Week section (see our interview with Indian jury member Meenaskshi Shedde) and it turns out that Yu is a protege of Bong Joon-ho, the Cannes and Oscar winner for ‘Parasite’ .
ACV rating: ****

Nehemich – Deep in Maharastra, women are banished during natural cycle

Yudhajit Basu
23 minutes

THIS featured in the La Cinef selection at Cannes – which is reserved for entries from national film schools and this entry from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune is well worth watching if you get the opportunity. It uncovers a little-known practice in rural Maharastra, where women who menustrate must be banished to a hut. This story takes place during lockdown and set against that background, this has added tension. Two young women bond and mixing local folklore and an element of longing – adds further layers to this sparsely dialogued film. Dark, atmospheric and held together by strong lead performances by Sakshi Dighe and Bhakti Markarand Athawale – all the people involved are worth keeping tabs on as they make their way in filmmaking.

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture