Cannes 2023: “The Dead Leaves”, the desperate hope of Aki Kaurismäki

May 23, 2023 by No Comments

Dead leaves ***

by Aki Kaurismaki

Finnish film, 1 h 20

In theaters September 20

Club Zero**,

by Jessica Hausner

Austrian film, 1h50

With its Dead leaves, Aki Kaurismäki picked up applause in spades. If they are required at the end of an official screening of the Cannes Film Festival, they are much rarer during sessions reserved for the press. And yet, the critics clapped their hands on Monday, May 22. Undoubtedly happy to see a film that makes… happy!

Halfway through a hitherto rather average edition, with no film unanimously accepted, the tongue-in-cheek tone of the master of melancholy, Grand Prix at Cannes in 2002 for The man without a past, cheered up festival-goers with his romantic tragicomedy about two invisible people in society. So invisible that we will never know the names of the antiheroes of this story which brings together two solitudes.

Two Invisibles of Society

She works in a supermarket in Helsinki where she sorts outdated products. A mess that disgusts her, as the information on the war in Ukraine broadcast by her old radio disgusts her. He ruins his health working in a foundry where, during his break, he treats himself to a cigarette under a sign prohibiting smoking. Tired of life, which definitely doesn’t have much to offer him, he starts drinking.

But one evening, their paths cross, in a karaoke bar, where a rock hit, a Finnish song and… a Schubert serenade follow one another! Moved, she gives him her phone number, which he immediately loses. Without knowing his name… Will they find each other and love each other? It’s the meager suspense offered by Dead leaveswhose whole interest is based on the deceptively cold atmosphere, the restrained interpretation and the tasty dialogues.

Fourth part of Kaurismäki’s working class tetralogy

Conceived as the fourth part of his worker tetralogy (shadows in paradisein 1986, Arielin 1988, The Match Girlin 1990), where he staged the first men on chores confronted with their vain dreams of social ascent, this last film does not renew Kaurismäki’s method or discourse.

In bars lit up like Hopper’s paintings, anonymous people console themselves with alcohol and humor, absurd without ever being grating. At the release of a zombie film, two spectators compare it to classics by Godard and Bresson!

Nostalgic for a certain cinema, Aki Kaurismäki warms up his discomfort in the sun of the 7th art, multiplying the nods to his masters. Starting with Chaplin, for whom humor was the politeness of despair.

The chilling tale of Jessica Hausner

The Austrian Jessica Hausner, selected for the second time in official competition, for her part instilled unease among festival-goers with her Club Zero. A chilling tale that confronts us with the anxieties of a generation terrified by the future and ready to take refuge in any belief to escape it.

Here she takes food as her object. Nothing surprising, so much the eating disorders are the great symptoms of the malaise of our time. Also, when a teacher, Miss Novak (Mia Wasikowska), is recruited by a prestigious and very chic private high school to give nutrition lessons, a handful of students will be immediately seduced by her strange theories before joining, under its grip, to a mysterious secret club.

As in his previous film, Little Joe, the director has the art of creating disembodied atmospheres that do not allow to locate either the place or the time of the story. Like a recent French film, Exit time, by Sébastien Marnier, it portrays children, often neglected by their parents, and literally ready to disappear rather than face reality. In both films, the reference to white ribbon by Michael Hanneke, or in this case to the legendary Pied Piper of Hamelin, is obvious. But its extreme formalism is its main limitation.


Cannes, day 8

Two highly anticipated films are on the competition program on Tuesday March 23:

Asteroid City, by Wes Anderson, and its host of stars arrive on the Croisette for a spectacular stair climb. Accustomed to the festival, the director stages a scientific competition for young astronomers in 1955, in a desert town where strange events will occur.

Pick up, by Marco Bellocchio. The Italian director, who wowed the festival in 2019 with The traitor, returns with a film set in the middle of the 19th century. It tells the story of a Jewish family’s fight to recover their child, kidnapped by the Pope’s soldiers on the grounds that he was baptized in secret by his nanny and must receive a Catholic education.


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