Cannes Dairy Day 6: A slice of life

Midway through a festival, analysis of the films begins. Links and echoes get picked up. At Cannes 2013, the running theme seems to be coming of age -- but updated by the malaises of today: the lure of crime. A little discordantly, the festival presents several bio-pics. 

A still from Young and Beautiful
A still from 'Young and Beautiful'

Adolescent angst runs through many key films. The haunting Young and Beautiful, by Franz Ozone, spreads over the seasonal chapters of a bourgeois teenager’s development. Newcomer Marine Vacth is bewitching in a wonderfully internalised performance. She gets drawn into prostitution in a matter of fact way; she asserts who she is.

From The Past
'From The Past'

Amar Escalante’s Heli focuses on an innocent yet confident 12-year-old school girl who falls in love with a 17-year-old trainee cadet, and inadvertently causes his terrifying death.

Asghar Farhadi (director of the acclaimed Separation), now presents The Past. Ahmad returns to Paris after four years in Tehran at his French wife Marie's request to finalise their divorce.

Ahmad discovers Marie's relationship with her teenage daughter Lucie, deeply troubled by her mother’s lover and his wife who is in a coma.

Inevitably, many films posit today’s truth: Crime does pay. From China A Touch of Sin links four stories: an angry miner revolts against the corruption of his village leaders; a migrant worker at home for the New Year discovers the infinite power of a firearm; a pretty receptionist at a sauna is pushed to the limit when a rich client assaults her; a young factory worker goes from job to job trying to improve his lot. The film mirrors contemporary China, an economic giant being eroded by violence.

From Denmark-France comes Only God Forgives. Julian, an American fugitive from justice, runs a boxing club in Bangkok as a front for his drug business. His mother, head of a vast criminal organisation, arrives from the US to collect the body of her favourite son, Billy. He has been killed after savagely murdering a young prostitute. Mother demands the head of the murderers from Julian.

From Japan, Shield of Straw has multi-billionaire Ninagawa offering a million yen reward for the man who raped and killed his seven-year-old granddaughter. Kiyomaru surrenders at the Fukuoka Police Station. Four officers are sent to bring him to Tokyo. The journey becomes a demonic chase, with potential killers at every turn. The film drew a barrage of boos as it reached its bloody end. 

The biopic is also a draw. Renowned football player Pele from Brazil arrived in Cannes to promote the new film depicting the stunning arc of his life: from humble origins to the legend that he became. Grace from Monaco is the projected Nicole Kidman starrer directed by Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose) and penned by Arash Amel. Set in 1962, it looks at the part Grace Kelly played in the political conflict between French president Charles de Gaulle and Monaco of which she is Princess. The same year, Alfred Hitchcock attempted to tempt Kelly back to Hollywood. Stephen Frear’s Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight is featured in Cannes’ official section. It looks at Muhammad Ali's historic Supreme Court battle when he was drafted into the US Army to fight the Vietnam War. He was at the height of his boxing career. His principled claim as a conscientious objector on religious grounds led to a lengthy legal battle that rattled the US judicial system.

Alejandro Jodorowsky's La Danza de la Realidad -- a woozy reimagining of the director’s boyhood in Chile Weekend of a Champion: In 1971, motor racing fan Roman Polanski spent a weekend with world champion driver Jackie Stewart as he attempted to win the Monaco Grand Prix. Polanski was given intimate access to Stewart’s world for three days, both on the track and off. Forty years on, Polanski and Stewart meet once again. In this documentary, they discuss the sport from several mesmerising perspectives.

In competition, there is Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra -- a lavish, painstakingly researched cinematic presentation on the eccentric American entertainer, Liberace. It is a sincere but somewhat stolid attempt to place him in the context of subsequent peers: Elvis Presley, Elton John, Madonna and Lady Gaga. Liberace was the virtuoso pianist and outrageous entertainer, flamboyant whatever he did. He was ridiculously excessive in the way he conducted his life, on stage and off.

The film concentrates more on his secret life as a predatory and exploitative homosexual. It deals with his five-year long relationship with the young and handsome Scott Throson, whose life he took over in its entirety, making him undergo plastic surgery so that the young man could look more like him.

Michael Douglas plays Liberace with abandoned flair but, somehow, is too measured and predictable to be really interesting. Matt Damon is the young lover who worships the cold and self-obsessed Liberace.

On May 20, France honoured Anurag Kashyap as the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters for his efforts in promoting Indian cinema globally. 

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