IFI Director Ross Keane reports back from a whirlwind trip to Cannes.
Sunday allowed for several films to be packed in back-to-back, despite the full-blown storm that hit the South of France. This wasn’t the kind of weather I was expecting!
Isabelle Huppert - Red step - Amour © AFP
The day began with the hotly-anticipated Amour by Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, Hidden) which didn’t disappoint. This beautifully performed film is hard-hitting, intelligent and everything that one might expect from Haneke. Georges and Anne (a pitch-perfect Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) are in their 80s, highly cultured and enjoying their golden years in Paris. Commencing with a trip to a concert (and then presenting almost every other scene within the confines of the couple’s apartment), we only get a brief glimpse into their relationship before events take a life-changing turn. In a truly devastating scene, as the couple enjoy a leisurely breakfast, Anne suddenly starts into space and is unresponsive. As a suitably concerned Georges prepares to get help, Anne suddenly ‘awakens’ with no memory of what has just occurred. As she dismisses Georges’ concerns and tries to convince him that no medical help is required, the most deeply affecting scene of the film unfolds as Anne attempts to pour a cup of tea with trembling hands.
We learn that Anne has had a stroke and the film then follows their lives as both characters cope with Anne’s debilitating and deteriorating health. On her first return from hospital and paralysed down one side, Anne makes Georges a promise that she will never have be admitted to hospital again. As he tries to move her from her wheelchair to her favourite armchair, their slow movement, with her arm wrapped around his neck, is almost like a lovers’ dance. The ‘amour’ of the title doesn’t focus on the passion of a new romance but the delicate, tender and deep-rooted love that has developed over a long life spent together. It’s a deeply moving film with stand-out performances from the two leads. The supporting cast (which includes Isabelle Huppert) is minimal as this film fully focuses its attention on its two superb main actors. It is expected to be released in October.
Michael Haneke - Press conference - Amour © AFP
Brandon Cronenberg (son of David whose film Cosmopolis is showing in competition later in the week and opens at the IFI in June) played as part of Un Certain Regard. Employing a style similar in many ways to his father, this film has also divided audiences. Set in a dystopian future, Antiviral examines a world obsessed with celebrity. Here ultimate fans buy diseases which have afflicted their icons. Move over celebrity-endorsed perfumes and make way for real illnesses. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works for one such clinic selling live viruses harvested from sick celebrities. He injects himself with the virus of the world’s most famous woman (we never discover what she’s famous for but that may well be the point), and things go from bad to worse when she suddenly dies from her mystery illness. Syd is left wondering how much time he has left, whilst attracting the unwanted interest from his own (and competing) clinic(s) who want to get their hands on his own blood. Where the film falls flat is that the message is so obvious. Yes, we all know we live in a celebrity-obsessed world but by the midway point we’re being beaten over the head with it and fail to be overly concerned with Syd’s plight and Kafkaesque transformation. And there comes a limit to how many injections and blood spewing one should have to endure in any film!
Sarah Gadon - Photocall - Antiviral © AFP
Director Alice Winocour’s period piece Augustine examines the story of Professor Charcot’s (Vincent Lindon) study of hysteria – and particularly ‘ovarian hysteria’ – at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in the late 1890s. Opening with servant Augustine (Soko, who also provides much of the music for the film) waiting on a formal function, she is suddenly overcome by a violent fit, prompted by an attraction to a male guest, which results in her admission to the psychiatric hospital. Here she attracts the attention of the professor who wants to focus on the most interesting cases to present to the Academy. Things become more complicated as the professor becomes attracted to the voluptuous Augustine, much to the chagrin of his wife, Chiara Mastroianni. More effective than David Cronenberg’s recent A Dangerous Method which also examined sexual psychology, Augustine provides an interesting take on the treatment and methods of the time, while also telling a damn good yarn!