Cannes 2024 (1)

Opening and first competition films of the festival

The wind and rain did nothing to dampen the good mood on the opening night of the Cannes Festival. The "Ceremonie d'Ouverture", cleverly hosted by actress Camille Cottin, went off with the usual Cannes glamour. A masterful production from which Berlin could learn a thing or two. In addition to the jury's presentation, the Palme d'Honneur for Meryl Streep was the emotional highlight of the evening. The outstanding 74-year-old actress recalled her last visit to Cannes 35 years ago. "Back then I had three children and thought I was too old for Hollywood and my career was over." Fortunately, things turned out differently and Meryl Streep managed to hold her own in the film business as an older woman.

After Ukraine's President Zelensky was screened live at the opening two years ago, festival director Thierry Frémaux wanted politics to take place on the big screen instead of on the stage or in the street this year. In addition to Ukraine, the Gaza War has been added as a sensitive source of conflict since 7 October 2023. France is also currently experiencing a fierce #MeToo debate, prominently represented by actress Judith Godrèche, who has accused several directors of sexual assault. From the reactions of other victims she has made the short film "Moi aussi", which was shown at the opening of the "Un certain regard" series.

The official opening film "Le deuxième acte" by Quentin Dupieux (Out of Competition) turned out to be a quirky comedy that lives largely from its cinematic stars. Léa Seydoux, Louis Garrel, Raphael Quenard and Vincent Lindon appear as actors in an absurd film and repeatedly fall out of their roles. The dialogue is wonderfully vicious (at least in the original French) and so politically incorrect that the British trade magazine SCREEN was stunned by such "transphobic, homophobic and #MeToo" dialogue. It almost seemed as if Quentin Dupieux, who wrote, directed, shot and edited the entire film single-handedly, wanted to take the current #MeToo debate to an ironic extreme. He also pokes fun at AI-controlled filming and an Avatar director who subtracts unsuccessful scenes from the actors' pay. Quentin Dupieux has long been a cult director and celebrity in France. It's time to discover him internationally.

"Diamant brut" (Rough Diamond), the first feature film of graphic artist and photographer Agathe Riedinger, was definitely a great discovery. Being invited to the Cannes competition with her debut was more than the French director had dared to hope for.

19-year-old Liane (the impressive and award-worthy Malou Khebizi) lives with her single mother and little sister in poor conditions in the hinterland of Fréjus and dreams of a career as an influencer. In disillusioning images, the film shows the less glamorous downside of the Cote d'Azur, a precarious way of life between a cramped flat, a concrete riverbed and a dusty motocross track. Dino (Idir Azougli), who is in love with Liane, shows her an empty unfinished building as the future location of their shared dreams.

Liane makes a living from petty theft, stealing perfume, earpods and clothes that she then resells. In a shop, she picks the glittering stones off a dress and sticks them to her high heels. Her big dream is to take part in a reality TV show called "Miracle Island", and she is eventually invited to an audition.
After a breast enlargement, she looks like a porn actress, but she is basically insecure and has never had a boyfriend. As a viewer, you constantly fear that something will happen to her and that she will fall into the hands of the wrong men because of her sexy appearance.

We encounter similarly precarious conditions in "Bird" by Andrea Arnold. It is this milieu of oppressed women and toxic men that the English director returns to time and again. Dark-skinned 12-year-old Bailey (Nkyia Adams) lives with her white father and older stepbrother in a messy flat somewhere in the south of England. There is a lot of drinking and shouting. The film begins with her father (Brian Keoghan), who is tattooed on his entire body, telling her one day that he is going to marry his girlfriend, which is met with little enthusiasm by Bailey.
At her mother's house, she runs into her two younger sisters, her little brother and her mother's new boyfriend, who lashes out and becomes violent at every occasion.

After all, there is the title character Bird, played by Franz Rogowski, who is searching for his parents, with whom he lost contact years ago. He has apparently spent the time since then in Germany, as his German accent suggests. The character of Bird is a strange mixture of guardian angel and birdman, with a fluttering skirt over his trousers. The fact that he even grows wings for a few moments emphasises his avian nature. Further underlined by the fact that he is constantly standing on roofs and walls. What seems authentic and spontaneous in "Diamant Brut" appears constructed and symbolically overloaded in "Bird". Who knows, perhaps this Birdman only exists in Bailey's imagination.

The Swedish director Magnus von Horn also tells a dramatic women's story in "The Girl With the Needle". The film is set in Copenhagen during and after the First World War. Karoline (Victoria Carmen Sonne), who works as a seamstress in a textile factory, becomes pregnant after having an affair with the director. The hoped-for marriage collapses due to the resistance of her tyrannical mother-in-law. She meets a mysterious older woman (Trine Dyrholm) who provides babies to "good families" for money. At least that's what she claims. Karoline too entrusts her newborn child to her and eventually becomes her assistant. The film, shot in black and white and loosely based on the true case of a child murderess, has the feel of a dark fairy tale and the suspense of a horror thriller. The frightening atmosphere is emphasised by the authentic locations, historical factory buildings that Magnus von Horn found in Lødz, where he studied at the film school.
The first few days of the festival in Cannes saw a promising start with a number of impressive female protagonists.