Fourth day into the festival and I’m already debilitated. I know, I know – we, the folks in Cannes, all have to do is queue up, sit down, watch film and write about them. Also put into consideration the 6.30am start for a screening-packed day that last well into 10pm. That’s 14+ hours of trying to stay awake. And the fact that I’ve given up on caffeine makes it even worse, since all the press are supplied by fuckloads of free espressos (courtesy of Nespresso) in the Palais. To drink or not to drink coffee – there’s an inner conflict worthy of proper deliberation. Basically the comeuppance of the whole is situation is that I began drifting around the Palais in between screenings, looking for a corner where I can have a quick siesta.
Hey, Cannes organisers, if you’re listening, please provide sofas in your nooks and crannies where exhausted press members can get a power-nap. A fabulous idea for next year’s festival, don’t you think? There will be a queue, without a doubt.
The day started with Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent, the second biopic of the iconic fashion couturier to emerge in the last twelve months but made much, much better due to Gaspard Ulliel, changing the whole YSL game. Ulliel is a fine actor and he makes a terrific Laurent, and his two man lovers Jérémie Renier and Louis Garrell both give solid supporting performances. Bonello’s approach is terribly elegant yet a very sober one, genuinely trying to demistify the man behind the luxe couture as a troubled, existentialist creative genius. Despite the sex, drugs and a very naked Ulliel at one point, there’s some admirable restraint, making this film unshowy and unsentimental. My only complaint points to the women in the film, who are used as nothing more than cardboard sticks, including Lea Seydoux, to buttress the male players.
Next up, the Sundance hot-favourite that suddenly got lukewarm in Cannes’ side-strand Un Certain Regard, Ned Benson’s debutante The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby or The One That Got Botched Up By Harvey Scissorhands, pruning two parts Him and Her into the awkwardly subtitled Them, which sounds like a horror film. It’s perhaps the indiest relationship drama I’ve seen so far this year, with enough potential to be excellent. With James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain at the forefront of this project, providing beautiful chemistry together, it’s supposed to give off fireworks but the result is nothing more than a conventional spark. Which is somewhat disappointing since there is so much meat in the material and the cast is proper awards-magnet, and Benson’s storytelling choices are admirable, keeping as much details from the audience and revealing them one by one throughout the film like a puzzle, but when it all comes together, it’s not as wholly convincing as it’s intended to be. French powerhouse Isabelle Huppert appears as Chastain’s mother, and there isn’t a single scene where she isn’t guzzling wine. How very French.
Finally, I caught a Competition film from Italy, Le Meraviglie (The Wonders) by Alice Rohrwacher. It’s a quaint little film about a family of beekeepers, a dying occupation as you know. Low-key and naturalistic, this gentle coming-of-age-cum-family drama may seem aimless at first, giving way to a slightly opaque ending, but it never descends into rote sentimentality and cliché that beset many other coming-of-age movies. It’s lovely, but it won’t win Palme d’Or.
Why? Because there are still David Cronenberg, Bennett Miller, Naomi Kawase, Xavier Dolan, the Dardenne Brothers and Jean-Luc Godard still to premiere their potential masterstrokes, that’s why.