Blesok no. 48, May-June,2006
Art Completely Devoted to Political Engagement
On 59th Film Festival of Cannes 17-28 May, 2006
The fifty-ninth Film Festival of Cannes brought a lot of politics and history, many engaged films that fiercely turn to fascist regimes, torture, wars and historical injustices. This was the spirit of the complete festival, which tool place from 17 to 28 May, and in ended in the same way, when one of the most artistic juries so far (Kar Wai Wong, Ziyi Zhang, Monica Bellucci, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Patrice Leconte, Lucrecia Martel and Elia Suleiman) awarded first of all, the engaged films and films with a cause, which obviously turned into jury’s cause. Still, and maybe because of this, the Festival of Cannes managed to make some kind of a review of the recent film production in the world and show what preoccupies the younger film generation. It is definitely the reality, everything that happens around them, regardless whether it is related or not to the historical field, in a documentary way, which presupposes documentary to artistic approach. In other words, the film as always, showed that it is a reflection of the events around it, that is, to the extent that everything is politicized, forced and manipulative, it reflects to film and art in general.
Golden Palm went to Ken Loach and “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”, a movie that is very engaged in showing the brutality of the British war, British imperialism (alluding to its existence and now), and the Irish war for independence. The Grand Prix went to the French movie “Flandres” of Bruno Dumont, an upsetting and cruel story of war that has no sides and one’s own misfit, and the group award for male role went to Magreb countries actors, who play in the movie “Indigènes” of Rashid Bouchareb, which speaks of the Arab soldiers who fought for France, and were forgotten by history. All of these movies were made like documentaries, very authentic and strong, and the movie is in the service of the truth spoken or sought, in the function of the goal – to speak against; against politics, against injustice, against the regimes in which people are forgotten. This was the case with the Argentinean movie “Crónica de una fuga” of Adrián Caetano, which speaks of the prisoners in Buenos Aires in 1977, who will manage to escape and who will be the first ones that will testify against the fascist regime in the 80-es. This was the case with the movie of the Mexican Guillermo del Toro’s “El Laberinto del Fauno”, which speaks of the Spanish phalanx in the time of Franco, but also introduces fantasy via the world in which the young girl escapes, making an unusual parallel with monsters and fairies. In a word, movies that strongly imposed dark topics, but also movies made with an obvious tendentiousness and engagement. These are also movies that are completely in the service of the political engagement, works that were supposed to play their role and cause certain reactions.
Therefore, there is a certain irony to the decisions of the jury, because these are movies that lead the game, but it is not the movie game. The way in which these movies are made is first of all, manipulative and with a certain purpose to speak of the past, that is, the present. Engagement is good when it is real and when it comes naturally, but not when it is set, and in Cannes there was not difference made.
The parallel, which was imposed by this year’s festival, on purpose or not, is interesting: the parallel between the history and present, whose protagonists are equally scared as those who are part of these films: equally lost, lonely and insecure. A parallel in which the reality was recognisable, which was the aim of the films, but which was also transferred outside, especially in conditions when real art was lacking. Not that Cannes lacked its glamour, it tried to be glamorous, keep its attractions, appeal, but this year it was not the case. There was a visibly smaller presence of stars, having in mind the documentary approach to work on films; the excitement and expectations were smaller, but also art, unfortunately. This year, there were less film makers who know how to play with their artistic vision in the selection, such as the president of the jury Kar Wai Wong or the Korean Kim Ki-duk, who had new films, and have their topics in line with this vision rather than the market. It was interesting that the program “Cannes Classics” this year was a tribute to Italian neo-realists, Fellini, Visconti and Rossellini, which showed what it looks like when real artists are involved, what it looks like when they put their attitude and criticism to issues in the function of their own art. That is why there is an open question: can we blame the time in which we live for the selection of this year, or is it the skill of the selected authors. Because it is a fact that there were strong movies, with unusual visions, inventive and different, but without the stressed artistic approach, without a single stressed specific or film play. Works that will not leave you indifferent indeed, but because of their topics, and not because of their art.
The movie “Babel” of Alejandro González Iñárritu (best director award) was striking in its structure and story; its idea is related to the Tower of Babylon and the inability of communication and understanding among the people. “Babel” is a movie that is spread around the world, starting from the USA, to the American-Mexican border, via Morocco to Tokyo, taking the misunderstanding as the starting point, and playing with the prejudices on the other. What is interesting and most provoking of these movies is our subduing to prejudices because of which we can not clearly see it, much less understand. “Volver” of cult film maker Almodóvar, which can be said to have won the best script award by irony, has a story of the dirty laundry of every family, but in a lack of ideas, he takes so much from previous films, that the movie is boring despite the great acting of male cast that had a group Palm award. This film is simply incomparable to his previous one “Talk to Her”, which was striking in its originality compared to everything that Almodóvar had created before.
An unusual year, very strange for Cannes, but it also had several new and interesting names. Such were the Andrea Arnold from Great Britain (who had a previous Oscar award for short film, which is the most important thing to be selected for Cannes), who came with a thriller/drama, a story that is maybe not new in anything, but it made in a very interesting way. “Red Road” is a story about a woman and her revenge, which will develop quite by accident, while she works and monitors the city through her camera. Made as a thriller, this movie develops in an interesting and dangerous game, a controversial drama of a woman who starts to follow the man who is responsible for the tragedy of her life, fighting to take the loss, and she will fully experience the love game for the first time. This unusual movie, whose story will go in a quite unexpected direction, imposes many questions: simple, human, strong; on weakness, pleasure and key question: how to move on.
Finnish Aki Kaurismäki, who was quite high on the critics’ lists all the time did not win an award, but it is a fact that his “Laitakaupungin valot” brought a freshness, introduced a different view of things, brought in humour, kinky, but exceptional. Many people compared this movie to his previous one “Man without a Past”, but despite the stylistic stamp, it was still different and more inventive. His story of the individual and loneliness, loser in whom Kaurismäki actually reflects the complete loss and disorientation of the society is exceptionally depicted with a minimalist principle, where there is a strong, fierce criticism of the system behind the static and seeming calmness.
Outside the main program there were several interesting, real, but different stories that were worth noticing. This was the case of the Hungarian film “A Virus” of Ágnes Kocsis, which in a minimalist design speaks of the desperate fight of a young girl to come out of her own closed world, and ends with her “defeat”. This happens by repeating the fate that she wants to escape all the time, the fate of her mother. There is also the Polish movie “Z odzysku” of Slawomir Fabicki, with a strong story, but not very impressive language. The young 19-year old man will go through a hell in his own researching of limits, to lose everything in the end, trying to follow the shorter road or the line of lesser resistance. The documentary approach is placed at the same level by the story of Tahani Rached on the young girls on the streets of Cairo entitled “These Girls”, a story that is striking in its naivety and positiveness, told by the young girls, while the complete dirty story in whose vicious circle they have entered without hope to get out is sensed in the background.
In Cannes there were also some apocalyptic stories that dealt with the future, such as the futuristic “Southland Tales” in the main program, then the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” with Al Gore, and even the new animation of Richard Linklater (also participating in the main program with “Fast Food Nation”) with “A Scanner Darkly”, but movies that were either political pamphlets or so uninventive that they looked like experiments, whose screenings were deserted by most of the audience in the hall. There was lot of focus on sex, such as “Shortbus” of John Cameron Mitchell, which tried to remind on the controversial “Children” or the omnibus “Rejected” made of seven short films of well known world artists on body and sexuality, among whom there were Matthew Barnitz and Marina Abramović (“Balkan Erotic Epic”). But, the fact is that this year’s Cannes was average, with works and authors that were tendentious or not, but still did not impose themselves with anything in particular. Maybe the excitement was mostly in the conclusion that what preoccupies the young authors nowadays is definitely, mixed with reality, with the depressing reality, to which they do not close their eyes, but what they manage to do with it is something completely different. For the time being, the search continues, both ours and theirs, in order to find a way to keep art and find the really modern language and authors in it. Wim Wenders spoke a lot on this topic with many well known film makers in his film “Chambre 666”; they all spoke that art can never really die; it is always hidden in some writing that is yet to be written. Its strength comes later, and being special is not a rule, it is a feeling that will be recognized and released and it always finds its way.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska