After nearly four straight days of rain, sunshine has finally graced the Croissette. It’s glorious. Wardrobes have gotten significantly skimpier and smiles have broadened greatly, and everyone at Cannes seems to be settling in. The great irony about this festival is that just when one gets used to the insane schedule, it’s time to depart home. Anyway, here are some more cinematic images I’ve been thinking about from films inside and out of the competition.
Shield of Straw (dir. Takashi Miike): A much needed reprieve from the usually heavy-handed fare at Cannes, the newest Miike (at least until he releases another one next week) is genre cinema on fire. Two security agents are tasked with protecting a serial child murderer after the wealthy yakuza grandfather of one of the victims puts a public bounty on the killer’s head. Everyone they come in contact with (nurses, civilians, mechanics) could be an assassin, including the police officers themselves. The hunt is on almost immediately, beginning with a brilliantly mad action scene involving a massive parade of cop cars and a nitrogen truck bomb careening down the freeway. But it’s the sequence right before that contains my favorite image in the film. As the opening credits play, a sharply dressed shooter takes aim at an off-screen target and fires, producing a thick plume of blue-tinged smoke that engulfs his body before slowly evaporating. It’s a perfect visual analog for the film’s fleeting veil of protection, so integral to the film’s themes of honor and sacrifice.
Borgman (dir. Alex van Wamerdan): Five minutes of pure cinema open this unsettlingly bleak dark comedy about a drifter/demon who causes havoc within a wealthy Dutch family on the verge of collapse. Sans dialogue, a gunslinger, a knife-wielder, and a shotgun-toting priest ramp up for a morning hunt, sharpening weapons and loading clips. The trio then moves forward into a dense forest, stalking a contingent of devils living underground in primitive dwellings just below the surface. As the titular Borgman realizes his life is in danger, the sharp blade of a lengthy staff strikes through the ground and nearly impales his skull. Too bad the rest of this ambitious yet strangely cyclical film succumbs to deadpan suffering and obscured religious connotations.
Tip Top (dir. Serge Bozon): Utterly insane. This indescribable anti-procedural from the great young French director of La France, about two I.A. detectives attempting to solve a series of murders involving Algerian drug informants, is the oddest film of Cannes 2013. The great Isabelle Huppert plays Esther, a blunt force female hammer of a woman who openly reveals her sadomasochistic tendencies, which involve very rough sex. Her obsession produces a moment so strange that it’s sure to be the one I remember most. After participating in a brutal beat-down session with her husband, Esther goes back to work the next day sporting some serious morning after scars. A particularly nasty one on the bridge of her nose opens up, producing a trickle of blood that smoothly drips down to the tip of her outstretched tongue. Not only does this shocking image express the film’s evocative and challenging sense of humor, it becomes a symbol for unresolved rage that cannot help but ooze from the body in the strangest of ways.
Glenn Heath Jr. is a film critic for Slant Magazine, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, The L Magazine, and The House Next Door. Glenn is also a full-time Lecturer of Film Studies at Platt College and National University in San Diego, CA.