By Glenn Heath Jr. | Press Play May 29, 2013 at 8:25PM
Crazy weather, lost luggage, a Final Destination-like near death experience, rampant larceny; Cannes 2013 was certainly a wild ride. Looking back over the last two weeks I can’t help but think this year’s festival will go down as one of strangest ever. And I mean that in the best possible sense. Here are a few more images to consider now that the lights have dimmed on the Croisette.
Bastards (dir. Claire Denis): In the elliptical and haunting opening sequence of this devil of an abstract noir, a sharply dressed man paces back and forth in his dark office before jumping out the window. Blankets of rain descend from the heavens, completely filling the frame and turning an entire building face is turned into an urban waterfall. This monumentally moody and disjointed beginning gives Bastards its horrifying identity. Denis eliminates typical exposition in favor of cryptic, hypnotizing imagery that works to create an all-encompassing tonal dread. Even when the weather subsides, Denis continues her extreme representation of a suffocating locale: blinding white skies are contrasted with deep black background spaces.
Behind the Candelabra (dir. Steven Soderbergh): The gleam of wealthy and posh surfaces hides an ocean of sadness underneath. Soderbergh has always been a master of the shot-reverse-shot, but here he favors brilliant two-shots of Damon and Douglas surrounded by the inner workings of Liberace’s master estate. One of the most wonderful surprises comes when the film cuts from the couple’s first real dinner date to a medium shot of their first Jacuzzi dip. The frankness of the transition is beautiful and adept at bringing out each character’s needs at this specific moment, be it a need to be heard or a desire to listen.
Only Lovers Left Alive (dir. Jim Jarmusch): If pop culture hollowness sucks the life out all that is good and noble, then it’s wonderfully ironic that the vampires in Jarmusch’s breezy and strange love story despise everything mainstream. Played by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, this sulking duo wraps about creative injustice and the failures of historiography to remember the true artists, ultimately personifying the film’s themes of artistic compromise and contradiction. One image of a starry sky blurring into a spinning record explores the idea that art is as organic and expansive as anything witnessed in the heavens. Inevitably, the film itself becomes a last ditch effort by artists of all stripes and afflictions to section off a private space to appreciate the work itself, devoid of the nonsensical context and buzz.
Nebraska (dir. Alexander Payne): Basically any shot with Bruce Dern’s character looking off into the black-and-white distance, lost in a thought or perhaps a waking dream. These moments convey the disconnect between his perspective and that of his family, who keep bringing him back to reality despite his devout need to redeem a clearinghouse certificate promising a million dollars. While the film itself walks a fine line between condescension and sentimentality. Dern’s performance is often heartbreaking in its distance from the actual narrative (he won the award for Best Actor at this year’s festival).
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.