Film critics are thinking about the next Palme d’Or when the Cannes Film Marathon ends

The Cannes Festival showed the last of its competition entries on Friday, ending its first full-scale edition since the pandemic. On the eve of the announcement of the Palme d’Or, 24 spoke with critics from Japan, and Bangladesh about watching the world’s premier film festival and their favorite films from this year’s diamond anniversary edition.

Out on the media terrace at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, film critic Ado Spiniello sips a glass of rose and sucks in some daylight between two screenings.

For film critics, it Cannes Film Festival can be an endurance test, going through three, four, five or more movies a day and then writing something clever about them. While some take notes during movies and scribble in the dark, others are nauseous about the distraction.

“Every day I write one or two reviews, right after the movies or the day after, but I never take notes,” says Spiniello, who has averaged three screenings a day this year. “Of course I forget some scenes, but the overall feeling stays in me and that’s what I want to convey.”

The Italian critic Aldo Spiniello on the media terrace at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes.

Feared by filmmakers, the festival’s notoriously annoying critics are part of the Cannes film experience. It is not uncommon for some people to make movies or shout their disapproval. The shared moments in front of the big screen can shape a film’s reception as well as critics’ reviews.

“For me, it’s about writing about films about presenting an experience of watching,” says Spiniello. “Context is crucial.”

A veteran of this and other film festivals, Spiniello works for the film website Sentieri Selvaggi, named after the Italian title of John Ford’s western “The Searchers” from 1956, which also runs its own film school in Rome.

Cannes is practically home to the large contingent of Italian critics who show up every year. The national hero Garibaldi was born just a few miles down the coast, in Nice (then known as Nice), and the border with Italy is a half hour drive away. The chatter of Italian critics is ubiquitous in the long queues for press screenings. Italians also dominate the frantic photo sessions, persuading the stars with feverish gestures and shouts of “Girati! Girati!” (Turn around!) And “Guardami!” (Look at me!), According to ’s red carpet photographer.

Cannes Film Festival

With its intoxicating mix of sun, sea, flashy clothes and beach kids blasting techno music, Cannes would be the perfect set for a broken scene in a film by Italy’s Paolo Sorrentino, a frequent guest on the city’s most glittery showcase. But Spiniello tends to skip the partying in the evening to make sure he can keep up the rhythm.

“It’s a bit of a circus here,” he says, referring to celebrities fainting on Cannes’ famous red carpet and along the Croisette Boulevard by the sea. A habit of other film festivals as well, such as Venice and , Spiniello says that Cannes remains a world apart, “like a temple with its codes and rules”.

Still the best?

While Spiniello prefers the metropolitan feel of the Berlin Film Festival, Cannes’ palm-fringed coastline and winding alleys never cease to charm Bangladeshi critic Rafi Hossain, editor of The Daily Star and a regular traveler to Europe’s top film gatherings.

“It’s always good to be in Cannes. I travel to many festivals, but Cannes is the best,” says the festival veteran, who sits at a long banquet table for the traditional aioli lunch hosted by the mayor of Cannes. “I always tell people it’s like heaven, like a postcard. The natural beauty is truly outstanding.”

Cannes is still the main film festival for Rafi Hossain from Bangladesh.

After screening its the very first Bangladeshi film last year, Cannes included a Pakistani feature for the first time this year. Saim Sadiq’s “Joyland”, a daring portrait of a transgender dancer, won the “Queer Palm” award last Friday, for the festival’s best LGBT, queer or feminist theme film.

Cannes also made its first ever guest of honor in the film market that runs in parallel with the festival, which confirms what Hossain sees as a growing focus on South Asia.

“There were no Bangladeshi films this year but we were delighted to see represented for the first time,” he said. “The festival gets a lot of attention at home and I think we have the largest (media) delegation so far from Bangladesh.”

Like other journalists, however, Hossain has had a hell of a time dealing with the festival’s new online ticket portal, which survived last year’s scaled-down edition but has proved woefully inadequate now that the event is back in full force.

Travel has been another this year, with canceled flights, train crashes and Covid restrictions still in place in parts of the world.

“It’s always great to be here in Cannes, but flying home is likely to be a nightmare,” said Yuma Matsukawa, a Japanese film critic who does not enjoy the prospect of being quarantined when she returns.

Japanese film critic Yuma Matsukawa (right), accompanied by photographer Kauko Wakayama.

In terms of film, Matsukawa describes his 17th Cannes Film Festival as a bit of a bad year, with few gems, especially in the main competition. Her favorite film was “My Imaginary Country” by Patricio Guzman, the Chilean veteran of the Pinochet regime, whose latest documentary focuses on a new generation of activists fighting for social justice in his home country.

Award-winning political films

When it comes to the Palme d’Or, Matsukawa’s top choice is Ruben Östlund’s “Triangle of Sadness”, a satire on the super-rich by the Swedish director who won Cannes’ biggest prize in 2017, followed by “Tori and Lokita”, a study of ’s immigration system by the Jean-Pierre brothers and Luc Dardennes who twice won the Palme d’Or. The latter film is also ranked among Hossain’s favorites, along with Tarik Saleh’s “Boy from Heaven”, a thriller set in Cairo’s historic Al-Azhar Mosque, which explores oblique links between religion and politics.

Overall, the festival’s increasing focus on politically engaged works is welcome news, says Matsukawa and praises the organizers for giving plenty of room for war in Ukrainewhose president opened the festival last week with an appeal that the film should stand up to the world’s dictators.

“The festival is in step with current issues, it is very focused on what is happening in the world,” she explains. “As the (Ukrainian) president put it, film must be on the side of freedom. Cannes has made it clear where it stands.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at the Cannes Film Festival.

Matsukawa points to Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda as an example of how film – and Cannes’ imprimatur – can shape the political agenda, noting that his Win in the Palme d’Or 2018 for the socially minded “Shoplifters” gave him “a platform from which he could criticize the Japanese government”.

This year’s Cannes jury is expected to reward similar ticket prices. Early in the festival, jury chief Vincent Lindon, the French actor known for his politically charged roles, stated that he prefers “films that tell something about the world in which they are made”.

“With Lindon in the presidency, there’s a good chance the jury wants to reward a political film, like [Cristian] Mungius’ “RMN”, says Spiniello, refers to the Romanian author whose latest drama explores issues of national identity in rural Transylvania.

Spiniello’s favorites include James Grays’ period drama “Armageddon Time”, David Cronenberg’s latest body horror film “Crimes of the Future” and Mario Martone’s Neapolitan drama “Nostalgia”, all of which rank high in the traditional the grid of critics compiled by Screen Daily.

When the competition ends on Friday, ’s Park Chan-wook leads the grid with its elegant noir romance “Decision to Leave”. But when has the Cannes jury ever listened to the critics?

Originally published on France24

Film critics are thinking about the next Palme d'Or when the Cannes Film Marathon ends


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