74th Cannes Film Festival Roundup: Part 2

by C.J. Prince

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday July 21, 2021

A scene from the "Moneyboys" trailer.
A scene from the "Moneyboys" trailer.  (Source:IMDb)

With the Cannes Film Festival made up of multiple sections and at least three parallel programs, it's inevitable to look at the event on a macro level and start finding common trends among titles. In the prior roundup, several films dealt with characters coming of age and finding their identity in adolescence. Another trend emerged from the features I watched: people stuck in a sort of purgatory, craving some sort of stability but never feeling fulfilled in their lives or with their decisions.

I started in the parallel section called ACID, which is lesser known but tends to have some hidden gems in its lineup like Nicolas Peduzzi's "Ghost Song." Peduzzi is French but he sets his eye on Houston, Texas, where he documents the lives of two people in the lead up to Hurricane Harvey. There's homeless addict Will, who comes from a rich family but finds himself wallowing in his traumatic past, and aspiring rapper OMB Bloodbath, who's trying to make a better life for herself through her music.

Like filmmaker Roberto Minervini (another European documenting the lives of Americans in the South), Peduzzi hones in on the specificity of his subjects, blending documentary and fiction in the aims of finding something deeper about the social, political, and economical factors that define people's lives. The impending hurricane acts as a symbol for the razor's edge Will, Bloodbath, and the other subjects find themselves on, with the possibility of a grim ending looming over them at all times. Peduzzi also conjures up a strong mood through his aesthetics, utilizing varying genres of music, superimpositions, and imagery of the oncoming storm to convey the surreal moments that help make up the shapeless, adrift feelings that come to make up these people's lives.

Two highlights in the Director's Fortnight parallel program were Diego Marcon's short "The Parents' Room" and Payal Kapadia's documentary "A Night of Knowing Nothing," although by their very nature it's difficult to talk about either in much detail. Marcon's short film unsettles with a musical number about a father killing his family before offing himself, with all characters wearing prosthetics that make them look like rejects from Harmony Korine's "Trash Humpers." It's a dark comedy of sorts, shot on 35mm film in Academy ratio with plenty of dead air bookending the song that doesn't make the film sit right. Any risks of gimmickry in the presentation can be dismissed by its short length, and there's no denying it makes a strong impression.

Kapadia's film came with a request to be cautious in how the film should be reviewed, since its acknowledgment of contemporary political issues in India could lead to the film being misrepresented. Kapadia introduces her work as a sort of found footage story, where she discovers a box of letters at her university from a student named L to her lover, who can't be with her due to their different social statuses. The story eventually expands to touch on greater issues that have come to dominate the last several years among university students in India, with Kapadia using an unconventional approach blending forms and styles in a way that makes it unclassifiable. The results can be mixed but "A Night of Knowing Nothing" has a staying power in how Kapadia melds dreams, reality, fiction, memory and more into something trying to convey the overwhelming malaise that's come over younger generations over the past several years.

Over in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, C.B. Yi's "Moneyboys" tries dealing with the internal conflict of Fei (Kai Ko), a young Chinese hustler selling his body in the city to provide for his family back in his home village. The line of work allows him to live in a stylish apartment but with danger around every corner, whether it's the stigma around homosexuality, violent clients, police trying to throw him in jail, or his family finding out about his profession. Fellow hustlers come and go in his life, either as friends or lovers, but Fei can't overcome his alienation and sadness as he tries to create a strong foundation to build a better life for himself.

Yi and director of photography Jean-Louis Vialard give "Moneyboys" plenty of strong visuals and sleek, neon colors to make it easy on the eyes even if it doesn't add up to much. Yi's compositions tend to feel overwrought and call more attention to their construction thanks to a tired storyline that turns into a soapy love triangle. Kai Ko spends most of the time sulking in nice clothes, as he's saddled with an underdeveloped character that makes its 2-hour runtime take its sweet time to wrap things up. With little to offer on a narrative or thematic front and a sleek but distancing style, "Moneyboys" offers little insight and generates even less interest.

A scene from "Anais in Love."  (Source: Semaine De La Critique)

On a lighter note, the Critics Week presented "Anais in Love", a French comedy by first-time feature filmmaker Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet. Its title character, played by Anais Demoustier, is a 30-year-old who seems to only live with her life on the verge of falling apart. She has a thesis she's barely working on, can't afford rent, dumped her boyfriend, is pregnant but handling it, dealing with her mother's cancer coming back, and starting an affair with a married man (Denis Podalydes). And if that weren't enough, she soon becomes enamored with the man's wife (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), following her around and trying to seduce her.

Some of "Anais in Love'' borders on becoming too broad or quirky in its story, but Bourgeois-Tacquet lets her film take Anais as she is, embracing the manic nature of her life without ever taking a stance on her behavior (the way it deals with Anais getting an abortion is so casual and flippant it's easy to forget about it entirely). It also gives the film a strong momentum, with Anais hopping from person to person and travelling between Paris and the idyllic French countryside as she charms her way out of one corner after another. The film also provides a great showcase for Anais Demoustier, who brings an effortless charm and allure to her performance that somehow builds a strong character who's made up of contradictions. Characters repeatedly point out Anais' ability to always get what she wants, and Demoustier makes it easy to believe it.