ANAs you read this, I’ll be packing my tuxedo, linen shirts, and several packets of ibuprofen for the Cannes film festival, which starts Tuesday – back where it belongs on the calendar, in the spring blush of May. In the July edition of last year delayed by the pandemic, a wild card victory in the Palme d’Or for julia docournauCar frenzy and genderqueer carnality titan seemed like an appropriate response to the wet conditions.
For viewers at home, Mubi’s Cannes takeover season offers some highlights from festivals past, from little-seen finds like Mauritanian director Med Hondo’s powerful 1967 portrayal of immigrants. oh sun to more recent hits like Laurent Cantet’s impassioned school debate Class. Three of Mubi’s selections are from last year’s festivals, yet to be released in the UK: Philip Roth’s airless adaptation of Arnaud Desplechin Cheated was a disappointment, but Nadav Lapid’s jury prize winner Ahmed’s knee it is thought-provoking material, a searing and indignant attack on what he perceives to be the cultural complacency of contemporary Israel. A softer must-see is Mountain SailorBrazilian director Karim Aïnouz’s melancholy and lyrical documentary about his own mixed heritage and sense of not belonging, tracing his first trip to his father’s homeland of Algeria in his mid-50s.
Meanwhile, I am preparing myself by revisiting the work of david chronenbergthe Canadian master of the wicked and perverted, 79, who will return to Cannes with crimes of the future, his first film in eight years. More significant still is her return to body horror, the genre that gave her a name but hasn’t fully embraced since 1999. existZ.
I started with the obvious precedent for crimes of the future: Cronenberg’s hour-long lo-fi feature from 1970 with the exact same name (Arrow Player), though we’ve been told not to expect a remake. Often in parentheses with the equally brief and rudimentary film of him. Stereo (Amazon Prime), laid the groundwork for several of the filmmaker’s great works, concerned as he is with irresponsible medical fetishism, masculinity in crisis, and the human body turning evil on itself.
The 1970s would see him extend those fixations to clearer, sharper horror narratives. Shaking chills (Apple TV) conflates parasite terrors and sexual assault into one horrific pandemic, while Rabid (BFI Player) and the brood (Amazon) both reconfigure the female body as a weapon; in the second, the uterus is literally exteriorized, reproducing manifestations of rage.
videodrome (Google Play) spent the director’s biggest budget to date on a delightfully crude allegory about the media’s technological control of the human mindset; The fly (Disney+, rather inappropriately) finally gave Cronenberg a hit, though his relatively straightforward update of an old mad scientist story didn’t skimp on the invasive grotesque.
dead ringers (BFI Player), my favorite Cronenberg, did more cool stuff, returning to themes of toxic masculinity and female exploitation with a surgical touch and an icy-accurate double-twist from Jeremy Irons. It downplayed the stomach-churning spectacle, but it was the director’s most disturbing film until the highly controversial Shock (Arrow Player), with its dazzling visuals and darkly tangled questions about the limits of human desire and arousal, appeared. In adapting JG Ballard, Cronenberg found a more literary parallel to his more dangerous fixations than those of William Burroughs: his adaptation of the writer’s work. naked lunch (Arrow Player) looks sensational, but feels, unusually for Cronenberg, all in his own head.
From the crazy but less durable pyrotechnics of video games from existZ (Amazon), Cronenberg has been flirting with greater genre respectability, from slim suburban noir A history of violence (Google Play) to the mind games in corset of his biopic of Freud-Jung a dangerous method (Curzon). There’s merit in all of these experiments, but ultimately, good taste isn’t Cronenberg’s sweet spot: gagging.
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Channing Tatum’s return to starring roles has been one of the most welcome film developments of the year. Not only does it rest on his hunk-with-a-heart charisma, but he makes a believable directorial debut in this bittersweet comedy about a former Army Ranger and a military working dog who heal their post-traumatic stress disorder together. It’s healthily cheesy in some ways, but with an interesting ambiguous political undertone.
Pedro Almodóvar and Penélope Cruz reaffirm their status as one of modern cinema’s great director-actor unions with this mature and intoxicating melodrama, which somehow deftly blends plot points culled from thousands of telenovelas with a thoughtful and moving reflection on the loss and legacy of the civil war. Cruz’s richly emotional, Oscar-nominated performance ties it all together.
a few weeks ago I highlighted an excellent box dedicated to the recently deceased French master Bertrand Tavernier. Not included was this smoky, elegiac jazzman character study from 1986, starring the great American saxophonist Dexter Gordon in a poignant, self-referential turn, and set to a brilliant score by Herbie Hancock. Now, though, it’s getting the elegant Criterion Collection treatment.