It’s not uncommon for a Cannes film to send critics to exit before the credits roll – but that doesn’t usually happen during the competition’s first press screening.
On Wednesday evening, however, about 45 minutes after Amat Escalanteis an elegantly crafted, relentlessly grim Mexican drama “Heli”, there was a mini exodus to the back exit.
The reason? A realistic looking (and sounding) snap of a dog’s neck by the hands of a vicious paramilitary officer.
About 15 minutes later, another crowd of journalists snorted and puffed from the screening room, this time at the horrific sight of a hostage’s genitals being set on fire.
Because of me.
Amat Escalantes “Heli”
“Heli”, about the effects of drugs and violence on the already bleak life of a family, is one of those artfully designed, intrepid works (common at Cannes and other international film festivals) that nonetheless ask what the point of all the nausea is could be. In other words, what is left to a viewer after winding through entire sequences and shielding their eyes?
“Heli” is difficult to dismiss, but maybe even more difficult to defend.
Much easier to please was the competition entry that aired on Thursday morning: François Ozonis tender, clever, funny and well shot “Jeune et jolie” (“Young and pretty”), a portrait of an adolescent prostitute that is by far the director’s best work since “Swimming Pool” (2003).
Geraldine Pailhas, left, and Marine Vacth in François Ozon’s “Jeune et jolie” (“Young and Beautiful”)
Revolves around Isabelle, a gorgeous 17 year old Parisian (played by Marine Vacth), who leads a double life as a high school student and high-class call girl, the film observes the young woman’s sexual awakening, the time with customers and the consequences of her actions with subtle irony, real depth of feeling and not a touch of judgment .
Wisely, ozone never provides an explicit psychological explanation of how or why Isabelle, who comes from a wealthy family headed by a loving mother (the grandiose Geraldine Pailhas), slips into prostitution. Indeed, one of the film’s most disturbing and provocative ideas is that such a transgression might actually be easy for a young woman so consistently an object of desire. Ozone introduces Isabelle through the prism of the male gaze (her younger brother watches her in the initial shot while she is lying on the beach), and he often frames her face against a dark or deep background to highlight her unique beauty.
In fact, the filmmaker (pictured left) suggests that Isabelle’s physical appearance and awareness of its impact on people make her intolerant of ordinary adolescent life; when we see them visibly bored and estranged from their classmates (with the exception of a loyal friend), we feel their urge to experience something beyond the ordinary.
Ozon uses a “double” motif to develop the idea that sex and prostitution are a form of escapism or the transcendence of banality for Isabelle. When Isabelle loses her virginity to a handsome German on vacation, Isabelle turns her head just to see a fully clothed version of herself watching from a distance (a classic “ozonic” moment) and during several of her encounters with clients mirrors show their reflection. Isabelle may use her sexuality to get out of her everyday skin, to become a different version of herself.
Anyone who thinks the leading lady (right) is going to be another pouting Gallic bombshell will be surprised. Vacth delivers an exquisitely modulated, expressive performance that embodies the film’s compassionate vision of a young woman navigating treacherous waters.
And after a bit of mediocrity and the solid but overrated “In the House”, Ozon also proves that it is able to exceed expectations. If at first glance it looks like a clinical, thoroughly French study of sexuality and desire, Jeune et jolie ventures into pleasantly risky terrain when considering the impact of Isabelle’s decisions on her surroundings. It is thanks to the director that the film never drifts into the moral, its secrets deepening as it draws towards its haunting end.
Coppola’s light look at a dark story
You can find more misbehaving teenagers in Sofia Coppola‘S “The bling ring”who opened the page category “Un Certain Regard” with a good dose of oomph and a lot of dark humor.
“The bling ring” by Sofia Coppola
Inspired by the true story of a group of wealthy LA teenagers who broke into celebrity homes in 2008 (Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan were two of the select few) who got away with $ 3 million in clothes, jewelry and accessories, the film finds the Writer-director works in a lighter register than usual.
Foregoing the sluggish rhythms and visual lyricism of her earlier work, Coppola has created a fast-paced caper about a boring youth obsessed with wealth and fame (citing the attractive performers is a very fine one Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, and Emma Watson of “Harry Potter” fame, right, a delicious version of the Valley Girl cadences).
Yet the director’s personal touch is there, not only in the story of beautiful, privileged young people – one of her favorite subjects – but also in the anthropological attention she pays to her expressions, mannerisms and poses. “The Bling Ring” is filled with snappy dialogues (it’s by far the most talkative of Coppola’s films) and wonderfully choreographed sequences of nightclub bacchanals, shopping trips and of course the break-ins. Coppola uses slow mo and a soundtrack full of pop and hip hop hits (Sleigh bells, Kanye West, Frank Ocean) to give the film a kinetic force, even if it doesn’t cut very deeply or go very far.
“The Bling Ring” is a much less searching, moving work than we are used to from Coppola. It doesn’t wrap you in or make you feel with its characters’ moods (closest to it comes from Broussard’s meek, insecure gay teenager who has a fleeting but strong moment of emotion when cops arrive at his bedroom door).
But it’s okay for a director as uniquely talented as Coppola to mix it up and do something less ambitious. In contrast to her painfully underestimated competition entry “Marie Antoinette” from 2006, “The Bling Ring” received approving applause at the press screening – and almost no one left before the end credits ran.