Drag Me to Hell (left); Enter the Void (top right); Thirst (bottom right)
By Robert Koehler
Lost amid the general, conventional sense of the Cannes competition lineup (see here) as a colloquium of auteurs–from Haneke to Campion, Audiard to Tsai, To to Resnais–is the fact that, for better or worse, the Palais will be the site of a bloodbath this year. There will be a whole lot of killers stalking around the lineup that Thierry Fremaux and Gilles Jacob have constructed. In his good rundown of all the sections announced today, complete with reference links, IFC Daily‘s David Hudson inadvertently provides a reading list of murder and mayhem.
Consider the following: The Devil (theoretically) gets vicious with Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg (Lars von Trier’s Antichrist); Nathaniel Brown gets nearly mortally wounded (Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void); a violent Corsican gang rules a prison (Audiard’s A Prophet); young Nazis prepare for power (Haneke’s The White Ribbon); Johnny Hallyday’s daughter’s family is massacred, and Hallyday comes for revenge (To’s Vengeance); Mussolini hanky-panky (Marco Bellocchio’s Vincere); victims’ body parts are chopped off and mutilated (Brilliante Mendoza’s Kinatay); a medical experiment turns a priest into a vampire (Park Chan-wook’s Thirst); Rinko Kikuchi works nights in a fish market and days as a contract killer (Isabel Coixet’s Map of the Sounds of Tokyo); and a motley crew is rounded up by Brad Pitt to collect Nazi scalps (Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds).
Then, in Un Certain Regard, we have a mom searching for a killer who framed her son (Bong Joon-ho’s Mother); a father’s suicide and its effect on his family (Mia Hansen-Love’s Le pere de mes enfants); and Ivan the Terrible (Pavel Lounguine’s Tzar). Meanwhile, in the Midnight series, there’s Alison Lohman hexed by an old woman who wants to send her to Hades for denying her a home mortgage extension (Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, previewed in SXSW). In fact, Thierry and Gilles have a clear interest in the Devil, since he’s involved not only with the Raimi, but plays a prominent position in Antichrist (which makes sense, I suppose) and is played by Mr.Tom Waits in Terry Gilliam’s out-of-competition The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
And while we’re tallying up the corpses, there’s the endless roster of French film stars to contend with, sometimes in movies made by non-French directors. Tsai, for example, has a bunch of them in Visage (Fanny Ardant, Nathalie Baye, Mathieu Almaric, Jeanne Moreau, Jean-Pierre Leaud), while Von Trier has Charlotte Gainbourg going evidently crazy in the woods, Johnnie To enlists both Hallyday and Sylvie Testud, Tarantino has Julie Dreyfus and Melanie Laurent in Inglourious Basterds, Michael Lonsdale is in Alejandro Amenabar’s version of ancient Egypt in Agora (out of competition) and Heitor Dhalia recruits Vincent Cassel in Adrift (UCR). Almaric and his regular Desplechin co-star Emmanuelle Devos will be all over the Palais, Almaric in the Tsai and the Resnais, Devos in the Resnais and Xavier Giannoli’s In the Beginning.
More interesting–and maybe the most interesting development of all– is how UCR has decided to let Raya Martin in the door with his latest, Independencia. Perhaps the most radical of the young Filipino filmmakers, Martin made last year’s Now Showing the avant film in the Quinzaine, which may suggest that UCR is either warming up to unconventional cinema or that Raya has done something unpredictable (again). He also appears as half of the director team (with Adolfo Alix, Jr., another striking voice in the Filipino movement) of Manila, in the amorphously-titled “Special Screeenings” section. Manila appears to remake and honor great independent Filipino filmmakers of the ’70s and ’80s (Lino Brocka, the far less championed Ishmael Bernal), much as Khavn has been doing lately in some of his work, most prominently Manila in the Fangs of Darkness.
Finally, I will declare Cannes’ official 2009 poster their best ever, since it’s comprised of Monica Vitti glancing out a Sicilian villa window in my favorite film, Antonioni’s L’avventura. The image comes from a scene roughly midway through, after Monica and her new lover Gabriele Ferzetti have decided to take a break at a friend’s villa during their eventually futile search for the vanished Lea Massari. In my various researches and studies of L’avventura, the film that fundamentally shifted cinema towards real modernity, the image itself is one I’ve never seen printed as a still in books or literature, so it’s use here by Cannes provides the nearly 50-year-old film (violently booed and rejected by the gala Palais audience, who had to be constrained from ripping chairs out of the floor during the screening) with a new visual stamp and flavor. It also exemplifies Antonioni as film’s most sublime visual artist, expressing inner states of mind and emotion outward, onto the objects, nature and bodies he films, the outward physical realm as a magnifier of an inner reality. And all of it can be seen in this single image.