Cannes 2022: Stars at Noon, Leila’s Brothers, Pacifiction | Parties and Awards
Initially, it’s even hard to figure out exactly what Qualley’s character, Trish, does for a living, and Qualley’s airy but powerful performance makes it even harder, in a good way, to read her. Trish tells people she’s a member of the press, but it’s more complicated. A former freelance writer, she is trapped in Central America; Short of money, she turns to prostitution. Her date with Alwyn’s character in a hotel – her skin is so white, she remarks in bed, it’s like having sex with a cloud – turns into something like a romance as she helps him avoid being followed. Looks like a Costa Rican cop is after him. Meanwhile, the shadow of possible American interference in local affairs looms.
But of course, this is a Denis movie, and the plot is secondary to the atmosphere (evoked in part by one of his Tindersticks scores) and texture. Here, that texture includes plenty of sweat-beaded skin as the two stars strip out of their clothes and Covid masks, not in that order. You can kind of imagine an 80s Hollywood erotic thriller version of this story, but it’s safe to say that it wouldn’t have featured a sex scene with menstrual blood. This part looks like pure Denis.
There’s no doubt that the director, who has had more than her share of slights at Cannes and hasn’t been in competition since 1988’s ‘Chocolate’, has tweaked the script enough to make it interesting. (The screenplay is credited to her, Léa Mysius and Andrew Litvack.) Whether she would subvert it enough to make it a profound film, let alone a great film by the “Beau Travail” director’s standards, is less certain. But even in a new genre and on a new continent, Denis’ quirky and personal style is undeniable.
Asghar Farhadi, the director of “A Separation” and “A Hero”, is part of the Cannes jury this year, but his presence was still felt in the competition. “Leila’s Brothers”, an Iranian feature from filmmaker Saeed Roustaee, if anything plays like an oversized Farhadi image. So heavy on dialogue that it makes Farhadi’s screenplays sound like symphonic poems by Murnau, it devotes most of its two hours and 45 minutes to exposing the financial and social motivations of Iranian family members.