This year’s Cannes Film Festival features plenty of familiar faces directing the competition’s films. Previous Palme d’Or winners Jane Campion, Lars von Trier, Michael Haneke, Ken Loach, and Quentin Tarantino all have films competing for prizes this year, demonstrating what a high caliber affair the festival continues to be. Of the many fascinating entries this year, the supernatural-themed films excite me the most, and surprisingly, there are quite a few to consider.
Gaspar Noé’s latest film, Enter the Void, focuses on a brother and sister, who move to Tokyo and work as a drug-dealer and stripper, respectively, to survive in a new country. When the brother dies in a drug-bust, his soul refuses to leave the world in order to fulfill a promise to his sister that he never leave her. According to the synopsis on the Cannes Festival website, the brother’s ghost “wanders through the city, his visions growing evermore distorted, evermore nightmarish. Past, present and future merge in a hallucinatory maelstrom.”
To be honest, I’ve yet to see any of Noé’s previous films, which most famously include I Stand Alone and Irreversible. These previous works seemed too racist and misogynistic for my taste, though I’ve never completely discounted them. Enter the Void, however, sounds relatively more socially conscious than his previous work, and I am particularly interested in how the brother-sister relationship is portrayed. On top of that, the stills available on the web look terrific. I’m hoping the film lives up to the fascinating concept and neon aesthetic.
Another supernatural entry comes courtesy of South Korean director Chan-Wook Park, the director who helmed Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Old Boy, and Lady Vengeance. Of his films, I’ve only seen the latter two of the vengeance trilogy along with his short film in the Three…Extremes anthology, and I’ve found that while his work is stylistically compelling, the stories fail to engage me on a gut level. It was only after a second viewing of Lady Vengeance that I really appreciated the emotion behind the complex narrative and realized that Park’s attempts to deconstruct the revenge genre ultimately enhance it.
I hope that this latest Park film, called Thirst, attempts something similar with the vampire genre. The film features a priest who becomes a vampire after traveling to Africa, dying upon contracting a virus, and receiving a blood transfusion that revives him. The trailer suggests that the film explores biblical themes of sin and resurrection, and vampirism seems to be equated most specifically with adultery.
After three popular films that primarily explored vengeance, I am interested to see Park’s take on these different themes through what sounds like a promising (though possibly problematic) storyline.
However, Lars von Trier’s entry called Antichrist intrigues me the most. Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe, the two play a couple who retreat to a cabin in the woods called Eden (again with the biblical reference) after the death of their only child. Upon arriving, strange phenomena occur apparently involving animals and other natural elements.
Given his previous work on The Kingdom series, von Trier seems to be an ideal director for the horror genre. I’m also intrigued by the choice of Charlotte Gainsbourg as the wife. I found her performance in I’m Not There haunting in its intensity, and the trailer for Antichrist hints at a similar undercurrent of melancholy in her character. Von Trier has been praised in the past for his direction of Emily Watson, Bjork, and Nicole Kidman, and while I question the paternalistic implications of framing the director/actress relationship as such, I am eager to see what the collaboration looks like given von Trier’s track record.
Overall, I’m thrilled to see that so many horror films have made it Cannes this year! This short list does not even take into consideration the latest Tarantino film or a film by Johnnie To called Vengeance about a professional killer avenging the death of his daughter’s family. Could the hard times of economic recession be inspiring this rash of violent movies by the best and brightest directors? I eagerly await their US releases to find out!