The festival competition might have started on a subdued note but it has ramped up to the highest levels with strong new films from masters like Aki Kaurismaki, Lars Von Trier and Pedro Almodovar. If critics found Broken Embraces somewhat of a disappointment, his latest movie The Skin I Live In was a veritable return to form. It’s a delicious entertainment which is neither thriller or horror movie or comedy or love story but a Almodovarian blend of all of them.
Antonio Banderas has never been better – he always rises to the occasion with Almodovar – as the sinister, brilliant surgeon who is working on creating a new form of skin and uses a beautiful woman (Elena Anaya) imprisoned in his house as his testing guinea pig. And old favourite Marisa Paredes is on hand as the Judith Anderson of the piece, the housekeeper Marilia.
Designed with the director’s characteristic perfectionism, skipping between time periods with his traditional merry abandon, laced with dark humour and coated with a lush score by his musical partner Alberto Iglesias, the film is vintage Pedro and elicited warm applause at its world premiere screening this morning.
Almodovar, like the other directors mentioned above, always possesses such an assured vision that his films consume an auditorium as large and demanding as the Salle Lumiere. The packed house of 2,400 people was thoroughly absorbed by the exquisitely composed images on screen and complex, tightly wound plotting. It’s exciting to witness the unveiling of a new film by directors like him.
Takashi Miike’s Hara Kiri: Death Of A Samurai is the first 3D film in Cannes competition and Miike uses the format with restraint; indeed its his tableaux of autumnal trees or falling snow that are more striking in the third dimension than the action sequences.
In fact, Hara Kiri is not an action film at all but an intense revenge drama set in 17th Century China and revolving around the notion of hara kiri bluffs when desperate folk request samurai lords if they can commit hara kiri on their property in the hope that the lords will dissuade them, hire them or give them cash.
It’s a deliberate, slow-paced work which is more visually arresting than dramatically riveting but there is an elegance to it you wouldn’t expect from Miike. It’s also a pleasure to hear a new music score from Ryuichi Sakamoto, who was brought together with Miike by the film’s producer Jeremy Thomas.
Critics are getting tired. In fact in Hara Kiri, one French critic was woken from his snoring slumber only to shout out “Je suis fatigue.” With only two more days of screenings to go, the remaining films have an even harder job of impressing the weary.