Cannes Festival: Almodovar and Sciamma on creation and love
VECDİ SAYAR - CANNES
The Cannes Film Festival, which opened with films tackling direct or indirect political content, has turned its focus to more personal films during its waning days.
The two most favored films at festival deal with the topics of creation and love: “Pain and Glory” directed by Spanish helmet Pedro Almodovar and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” by French director Celine Sciamma.
Almodovar, a repeat contender of Cannes competitions, has never won the festival’s highest award, the Golden Palm, although he has received Best Director and Best Screenplay awards. This year, the coveted Palm may be within his reach.
“Pain and Glory” appears to be autobiographical. In the film, Almodovar tells the story of the career of a film director, as well as details about his romantic life. The pain of the director is both physical and emotional. The story is told through the eyes of the aging and ill director, who struggles to keep his creative instinct alive.
An actor discovers a text, which reveals facts about the director’s past and asks his permission to stage it at a Madrid theater. After the performance, an Argentinian guy congratulates the actor and asks the address of the author of the text. He is, in fact, the character portrayed in the text, who had been the lover of the famous director years ago. They meet and confess the desire that they had kept buried in their hearts.
The film has a complex structure, consisting of many flashbacks. There, we encounter his mother raising him in difficult conditions and his first sexual awakening as he watches a muscled worker.
Almodovar’s film, carrying his confessions and intimate desires, is very well crafted and acted. His favorite couple of actors, Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, are once more on the screen. It could be considered a kind of a homage to himself.
[HH] ‘A lady on fire’
After a film director, we encounter the creative agony and love life of a painter. This time, the main character, the artist, is a woman. And, the relationship that carries her to pain is again a homosexual one.
The story takes place in the late 18th century in Brittany. An emancipated woman painter is asked to paint the wedding portrait of a lady, who left the monastery she was living in after the death of her sister. The painter’s job is quite difficult, as the lady is reluctant to pose for the portrait.
At one point, the painter sees the woman in the distance standing by a fire, and suddenly, her skirt catches on fire, which leads to a strong after-image in the eyes of the painter. In time, the two women get to know each other better and start a love affair.
The title of the film, “The Portrait of A Lady On Fire,” can be regarded as a pun, referring also to the burning desire of both women. The film is well crafted with strong imagery, sound design and powerful acting (Noemie Merlant and Adele Haenel play the main parts).
Both films are among the titles which raise the profile of this year’s selection. But, I wish to emphasize other titles -more political ones- such as “A Hidden Life” by Terence Malick. The American independent filmmaker tells a very personal story about religious resistance and sacrifice (a real one).
Other notable films were Ken Loach’s “Sorry We Missed You,” which comments on the slavery of self-employment; “Les Miserables” by the young French director of African origin, Ladj Ly, which shows the rebellion of young immigrants and their confrontation with the police; “Young Ahmed” of Dardenne brothers, which underlines the seduction of young Muslim children by Islamist radicals living in Western society; and the French pic directed by an American director, Ira Sachs, “Frankie,” a sad film about confrontation with death.
There are other movies to come until the closing evening on May 25. Let’s see who will be the winner.