Female filmmakers were a strong presence this year at Cannes but their films were even stronger
The 76th iteration of the Cannes Film Festival culminated with Anatomy of a Fall (Anatomie d’une chute) by Justine Triet winning the Palme d’Or from an exceptional field of 21 features in competition. The French thriller, which focusses on a writer (Sandra Hüller) who must prove her innocence in her husband’s death was one of the most positively discussed films at the festival. Amidst films by Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders, Aki Karismaki and Ken Loach, it was clear that excellent films audiences want to see are made by many kinds of people and some of them are not men.
THE STEALTH POWER OF FEMALE FILMMAKERS
Triet’s win highlights this year’s record of seven female directors in competition. Yet the work of female filmmakers was evident across the festival as a whole. Shown in the Critics’ Week sidebar, notable titles include Amanda Neil Eu’s Tiger Stripes, Paloma Sermon-Daï’s It’s Raining in the House (Il pleut dans la maison) and Iris Kaltenbäck’s The Rapture (Le Ravissement). All had human narratives beautifully accessible to a larger audience. Most notable was critical winner and audience pleaser Lillah Hallah’s Power Alley (Levante). A seamless beauty of political, familial, scholastic and personal insight, Power Alley may depict a “queer” community of friends but they are people no different from anyone else in their hopes and dreams. Hallah’s deft use of music, colour, light, motion and time make Power Alley an accomplished feature full of fun and hope even with its serious theme of abortion.
THE RANGE OF FILMS WITH ‘BUZZ’ WAS WIDE
Winner of the festival’s Grand Prix and also a critical star is The Zone of Interest by British director Jonathan Glazer. Called ‘formal’ for lack of any other description, The Zone of Interest might appear at first like Wes Anderson designing a house next to Auschwitz. Using sound instead of imagery to describe atrocities repeatedly happening over a concentration camp wall makes the horror of the holocaust persistent and present to the audience. Mysterious, puzzling, alarming and unsettling, it has been said that this radical film may be the one true work of art at this year’s festival.
Screened in Un Certain Regard was the critical winner The Settlers (Los Colonos) by Felipe Gálvez Haberle. This period western focuses on brutal colonization in Latin America. Set in Tierra del Fuego 1901, it tells of the brutality to native peoples wrought by three henchmen sent to fence off property granted to a Spanish landowner. A further study into man’s inhumanity to man, The Settlers is a much-needed look at this important yet underexposed area of Latin American history.
Directors’ Fortnight, a parallel screening section begun in 1969, is a place where one looks for explosive genius. After all, Mean Streets by Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It are among its past discoveries. This year’s notables include Camera d’Or winner Thien An Pham’s Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Bên Trong Vò Kén Vàng) and In Flames by Zarrar Kahn as well as Joanna Arnow’s challenging comedy The Feeling That The Time for Doing Something Has Passed, an offbeat sex comedy which puzzled some audience members. American attendees were laughing loudly in appreciation.
From the wry school satire Club Zero by Jessica Hausner to the adorable 16mm adventure Riddle of Fire, the titles screened across the whole of this year’s festival were extraordinary in scope, topic, and voice. Arguably the most famous film festival in the world, this year’s selection of well over 150 titles is an exciting instance of excellence. The Cannes Film Festival’s 2023 programme was, more than previous years, brimming with wonder and delight, showcasing the important and inspiring cinema the world has to offer, be it on the big screen or the small.
Edited by Robert Horton
© FIPRESCI 2023