RUSH TO SEE…
The Florida Project
The Florida Project is one of the biggest crowdpleasers of the festival ― and the year. Sean Baker’s film captures marginalised American in the same vivid colour as Andrea Arnold’s American Honey did, however, The Florida Project is destined to find a wider audience than Arnold’s film. It is told accessibly through the eyes of a group of six-year-olds on their summer break, and Baker’s filmmaking reflects their precociousness. It is an empathetic, funny film about the invisible homeless living in a dingy motel just outside of Disneyworld. Willem Defoe will capture hearts as the motel’s stern but caring manager Bobby.
Joachim Trier’s Thelma has been called a riff on Carrie, but it deserves an identity of its own. Eili Harboe is brilliant as the title character, a deeply religious new college student who discovers terrifying supernatural powers when she begins to fall in love with a classmate (Kaya Wilkins). Thelma is polished and directed with subtle flair; the images Trier creates may be subdued but they are often haunting in a way that burrows deep into your subconscious. The film also works on a metaphorical level. Clues to unlocking it are scattered everywhere, like pieces of a frustrating but compulsive puzzle. It’s far from a removed intellectual exercise though. The emotions Thelma wishes to suppress burst out of her in the form of seizures ― causing her embarrassment as her body betrays who she really is and how she really feels. Harboe is heartbreaking as a young woman losing her sense of security in her own body, and Thelma is an emotional experience due to her and her natural chemistry with Wilkins.
You Were Never Really Here
You Were Never Really Here is an impossible film to take in all at once. Lynne Ramsay’s most brutish film and most experimental film is this 95 minute cinematic throbbing headache. It traps you within the mind of a PTSD-stricken hitman Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) as he attempts to rescue a young girl who has been kidnapped by sex traffickers. Ramsay’s film is an assault on the senses that will be too abrasive and violently stylised for some. It’s a film that leaves you physically battered and unable to move. Since, I have found myself thinking back on specific moments that only Ramsay could have dreamed up ― of which there are many. Jonny Greenwood’s blaring score sounds like a hangover, externalising the fractured, dejected grogginess of Joe’s mind. It can be unpleasant to be trapped in his head for so long, but it is always electrifying.
TRY TO SEE…
The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales
What we show children at a young age is formative, and so it is vital that it conveys the right messages. French animation The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales is worrying in that respect, as it has a nearly all male voice casts with female parts reserved only for mother hens and baby animals whose genders are indiscernible. Otherwise, it is a nice film ― a palate cleanser, let’s say. The animation is simplistic and tactile, and visual gags are executed with humour. A shame about the other stuff.
89-year-old French New Wave pioneer Agnès Varda is losing her eyesight, and she may not have another film left in her. That’s ok though: Faces Places is a perfect farewell, if that’s what this is. Co-directing with visual artist JR, the two travelled around France documenting their meetings with strangers in the towns they passed through. Their project had the intention of taking small lives and blowing them up big ― literally photographing the townspeople and pasting their faces on the sides of buildings. Faces Places is a lovely ode to community, friendship and the bittersweet nature of aging.
Pioneering primatologist Jane Goodall is given sweeping cinematic treatment in this Brett Morgen documentary. Using gorgeous, newly uncovered footage of her work with chimpanzees in the 60s, Morgen weaves a montage of images that add up to something monumentally more cinematic than a typical talking heads doc. With the help of Philip Glass’ phenomenal score, Jane often transcends. It’s a shame that the film loses its impact over its runtime. In a smaller package it could have been truly astounding.
Let the Sun Shine In
Claire Denis’ latest was not made for only a single viewing. Juliette Binoche plays Isabelle, a woman looking for true love who spends the whole film not quite finding it. Denis’ take on a rom-com is a lot more intellectual than the works of Richard Curtis; in the place of melodramatic declarations of love are flirtatious debates washed down with a glass of fine wine. Before you know it, Let the Sunshine In is over, ending where a third act would typically begin. I suspect that, on rewatch knowing the brief and simple structure of the film, it will flourish. As it is, it’s already growing on me.
Chloé Zhao’s The Rider was loved at Cannes and at every festival it’s visited since. I was surprised to be underwhelmed by the film. Zhao’s direction is often beautiful, but its grounded looseness is a poor match for the more obviously “written” dialogue. Tonally, The Rider struggles to settle. It can’t decide what kind of film it is, and that out of place feeling breaks the immersion of the story.
Sicilian Ghost Story
At the end of Sicilian Ghost Story, a title card informs you that it was based on a true story. For a second, I felt bad for deciding to damn the film as pointless while I was watching it ― but the question still remains: why? Impressively fluid filmmaking and sharp sound design doesn’t make up for the fact that Sicilian Ghost Story dredges up a horrific tragedy without purpose. Depicting a young boy’s kidnapping by the mafia, directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza contrast his torture with the everyday life of the girl he had a crush on ― which goes on as normal. However, whatever point they were trying to make never comes together. The whole thing feels like a hollow technical exercise, and a meaningless depiction of cruelty.
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