Cannes 2024 (5)

Melancholische Rückblicke
Oh, Canada (Paul Schrader)

Oh, Canada (Paul Schrader; © Oh Canada LLC - ARP)

Cannes loves the great names of international auteur cinema and is happy to invite them to the competition. Paul Schrader made a splash in 1976 as the screenwriter of the cult film "Taxi Driver", for which Martin Scorsese won the Palme d'Or. Schrader has long since become a renowned director in his own right, and his films have received a great deal of recognition in recent years. "Oh, Canada" is the title of his new film, which he presented at the Croisette. Richard Gere plays a documentary filmmaker suffering from cancer who becomes the subject of a film documentary. Michael Imperioli ("The Sopranos") interviews the legendary director as a last occasion before his death.

To the horror of his wife (Uma Thurman), the sick man in a wheelchair takes the opportunity to make a radical life confession and mercilessly debunks the myths of his career. In flashbacks, we see how he left his pregnant wife and young son and quit a job as a college lecturer before he took it up. Even the story of his heroic escape from the Vietnam draft turns out to be a lie in retrospect. In reality, he had been classed unfit for the draft.

In flashbacks, there is a fluid transition between the young Leonard Fife (Jacob Elordi) and the old Richard Gere. The film elegantly translates the 'stream of consciousness' of memory into disturbing images. Richard Gere's strong presence is reminiscent of his early collaboration with Paul Schrader in "American Gigolo" from 1980. Both films are studies in loneliness, with a melancholic, at times aggressive tone prevailing in "Oh, Canada".


The Chinese film "Caught by the Tides" (Feng Liu Yi Dai) is characterised by a completely different kind of melancholy. Director and co-writer Jia Zhang-ke combines documentary and fictional elements in a very personal way to portray the rapid changes that China has undergone in recent decades. The passage of time together with the economic and cultural upheavals to that Chinese society underwent determine his film career from its beginnings to the present day. The film begins with footage from the northern Chinese industrial city of Datong, which Jia Zhang-ke shot in 2001. Bicycles dominate the cityscape, simply dressed workers with peasant faces singing and smoking. One feels transported to another century.

The film subsequently follows the dancer Qiao Qiao (Zhao Tao), who is in a relationship with Brother Bin, a bar owner. Bin leaves the city and promises to catch up with her when he has earned enough money. Qiao Qiao follows him and encounters him on the Yangtze, where the gigantic Three Gorges Dam is being built. Bin gets involved in property deals with shady politicians while entire towns on the banks of the river are destroyed to make way for the huge reservoir. An event that Jia Zhangke has repeatedly addressed in his films. Frustrated, Qiao Qiao separates from her lover and returns to Datong to a completely changed city. At the supermarket, she is greeted by a robot with quotes from Rousseau and Mark Twain, but it fails to recognise her face.


In slow, unhurried shots, Jia Zhangke documents the price that people pay for the rapid changes. They are caught up in the wheels of a merciless modernisation. In the end, it is the women who are better able to fend for themselves than the men.

Jia Zhang-ke, the most prominent representative of the so-called 6th generation of Chinese filmmakers, is known for his radical realism. His films document modern China, spanning a wide range of subjects in order to portray the upheavals in society. His wife, the dancer and actress Zhao Tao, who was named one of the "25 greatest actors of the 21st century" by the New York Times, for more than 20 years has played a leading role in his films, including "Caught by the Tides".

In 2013, Jia Zhang-ke was honoured with the award for best screenplay in Cannes for "A Touch of Sin" (Tian zhu ding). Another award could well be possible this year.