Cannes Film Festival 2022 - a week in review
Two years ago I applied for credentials to the Cannes Film Festival and received an invitation, only for the festival to be canceled due to COVID-19. The following year, in 2021, the festival was delayed but held with limited participation due to covid restrictions. It wasn’t until this year, 2022, when I was finally able to fly out to Cannes and join the 40,000 other film lovers and professionals in a vibrant, deeply sensational and inspiring week.
Each year (aside from the past two due to the pandemic) I attend Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. There’s already a lot to love about a quaint town transformed into a magical haven for film enthusiasts. But Cannes, set in a small town in the Cote d’Azur of France, featured an unmatched diversity of filmmakers and films from all around the world - Iran, South Korea, Italy, Belgium, Romania, Turkey, France… just to name a few.
An entire International Film Village dedicated to the films and studios within different countries sprung up and is accessible with the 3-day in Cannes badge. Throughout, fervent energy permeates the festival grounds, as film-goers young and old consume some of the most anticipated international films of 2022 (as felt during the resounding standing ovations before and after each screening).
The display is extravagant, a long red carpet that ascends the steps of the Grand Theatre Lumiere each night, a scene no different than that of the Oscars, with coveted celebrities such as Anne Hathaway and Tom Cruise donned in glamorous evening gowns and tuxedos pose for the thousands of thirsty cameras.
I don’t have much affinity for celebrities, but I couldn’t help but beam at the sighting of Tang Wei, a Chinese actress whose work in Lust, Caution (Ang Lee) and Long Day’s Journey into Night (Bi Gan) remains some of my favorites to this day. She walked up the red carpet during the premiere of Decision to Leave, with co-star Park Hae-il and director Park Chan-wook, whose 2016 thriller The Handmaiden left me shaken with complete awe.
All goes to say there’s no other film festival experience quite like Cannes.
Don’t worry, I won’t spoil any of these films.
Haeojil Gyeolsim - Park Chan-Wook (B+)
In other words: Decision to Leave, is an intense romantic thriller woven into a detective story, and probably one of the only ones where the cases themselves are not the main plot. Deeply riveting dialogue with a storyline that transcends language barriers, Decision to Leave puts a lot of romantic dramas to shame without the use of sex. Not my favorite of Tang Wei’s performances (nor Park Chan-Wook’s films), but highly impressed by her ability to act the entire film in (mostly) Korean.
Forever Young - Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (B+)
A playful coming-of-age story of young actors at a prestigious French acting program. Didn’t leave me longing for more, and to be entirely honest, the storyline itself is a tad cliche. What bumped this to a B+ for me was Nadia Tereszkiawicz’s brilliant performance both as an actress of and within the film. Every small movement and glance is met with careful and intentionally crafted charm. Bravo to her.
R.M.N. - Cristian Mangiu (B+)
The name of this film beats me, and I must say the film was a little too long for the weight of its plot. Nonetheless, I can truly appreciate Mangiu’s expert directing and his infamous slow burn. In terms of exploring xenophobia, probably the most well-executed film I’ve encountered thus far, nuanced at every level, in a very complex environment with a protagonist that is neither here nor there. Can see why this is competition-worthy at Cannes.
Crimes of the Future - David Cronenberg (B)
This is not for everyone. Cronenberg’s past films haven’t exactly appealed to me given their grotesque nature, but I thought to give this a try since last year’s Titane (Julia Ducournau) had me simply speechless — not in a good way, though indeed left a deep impression and occupied mental space rent-free for several weeks. Crimes of the Future lived to par with the body horror expected from a Cronenberg film, this time with a level of unexpected finesse and artistry that resembles so well its auteur. This film is more a work of art than it is a story. Just not for me.
Triangle of Sadness - Ruben Ostlund (A-)
I was worried when I saw that the film was 2.5 hours long. The last time I sat through a film like that was Driving My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi) and I embarrassingly watched it in 4 sequences because of its 3-hour length. However, every second of Triangle of Sadness was worth it. Deeply engaging yet not overdone, with the right elements of humor and irony, as expected from a director who won the Palme d’Or in 2017 for The Square. The film is divided into three sections, each so distinctly different yet ties together surprisingly well.
Nostalgia - Mario Martone (C)
It agonizes me to admit, but this was the only film at Cannes where I wanted to walk out in the middle but stayed in respect for the director. Maybe I had too high expectations of Martone? Maybe it’s because I sat in the first row of the balcony section and the rails just so cover the subtitles enough that I have to crank my neck in order to understand? Regardless, no part of this film evoked any positive emotion in me. It felt lackluster and contrived, with an ending that may have saved the film entirely but instead left me with ‘WTF’.
Kurak Gunler - Emin Alper (A-)
I accidentally went into this film when I mixed up the Grand Lumière with the Debussy Theatre (I was hoping to see Ali Abassi’s Holy Spider). I’m glad I did because I was pleasantly surprised by how the film captivated me. Set in a rural Turkish town, Kurak Gunler leveraged a novel angle to discuss the political corruption, instability, conservatism, and urban egoism that slyly edges into your purview and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Leila’s Brothers - Saeed Roustaee (A)
It’s been several years since I’ve seen a film that can so effortlessly string together multiple complex characters in a high-stress environment with free-flowing and natural dialogue (well played once again, Tarane Alidousti) for 3 full hours. The last time I was riveted by a film like this was Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation in 2011. Roustaee leaves you at the end longing for more, for a resolution — something to ease the wrenching feeling inside. My only complaint is that its style too similarly resembles Farhadi’s, which can come off as uninventive. Nonetheless, its surgical study of empathy and class struggles is to be lauded.
Selection of Films
Each year, a select number of acclaimed films are selected to be premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. There are also more such as the Short Films, Cannes Premiere, Midnight Screenings, Cannes Classics, and Special screenings that I won’t get into detail about.
This is the center of the festival, where selected films compete for the prestigious Palme d’Or, awarded by the competition jury and is synonymous with Best Picture. All premiere screenings are coupled with the lavish red carpet walk where the director and actors greet the audience.
Holy Spider by Ali Abbasi
Forever Young by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
Crime of the Future by David Cronenberg
Tori and Lokita by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Stars at Noon by Claire Denis
Brother and Sister by Arnaud Desplechin
Close by Lukas Dhont
Armageddon Time by James Gray
Broker by Kore-eda Hirokazu
Nostalgia by Mario Martone
R.M.N by Cristian Mangiu
Triangle of Sadness by Ruben Ostlund
Haeojil Gyeolsim by Park Chan-Wook
Showing Up by Kelly Reichardt
Leila’s Brothers by Saeed Roustaee
Boy from Heaven by Tarik Saleh
Tchaikovski’s Wife by Kirill Serebrennikov
Pacification by Albert Serra
Mother and Son by Leonor Serraille
EO by Jerzy Skolimowski
Le Otto Montagne by Charlotte Vandermeersch and Felex Van Groeningen
Out of Competition
Other highly regarded films, but not quite qualified for the competition, are screened as Out-of-competition (they also enjoy the publicity and lavishness of the red carpet). These films range from Hollywood Blockbusters, as indicated this year with Top Gun: Maverick, to the latest work of highly regarded directors such as Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby).
Final Cut by Michel Hazanavicius
Top Gun: Maverick by Joseph Kosinski
Elvis by Baz Luhrmann
Masquerade by Nicolas Bedos
Novembre by Cedric Jimenez
Thousand Years of Longing by George Miller
L’innocent by Louis Garrel
Un Certain Regard
“In some perspective,” as it translates — these films are regarded for their novelty, experimental approach, and unique techniques, usually from newer directors worldwide.
Some highlights (there are a total of 20):
Les Pires by Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret
Return to Seoul by Davy Chou
Kurak Gunler by Emin Alper
Joyland by Saim Sadiq
Corsage by Marie Kreutzer
It goes without saying that if you are a film enthusiast, I highly recommend you apply to attend the Cannes Film Festival. If you’re not in the industry, you can get in through the 3-Day in Cannes credentials (the one I got), or the Cannes Cinephiles.
It requires an essay, submission of your own work or portfolio, and for the Cinephiles - a letter of recommendation. It’s work but well worth the experience, and a must for artsy film lovers. You can look up the information for this here.
A wild array of emotions throughout this week, not to mention 4D experiences at the finale (I caught a mild case of food poisoning). Rest assured this will not be my last time.