At Cannes, cinema that talks politics

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At Cannes, cinema that talks politics

Legendary still photographer Georges Pierre’s image of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina’s passionate kiss from Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou (1965) is plastered all over Cannes. Nothing unusual considering it is the inspiration for the official poster of Festival De Cannes 2018. While the Indian hacks debate whether such a poster would have been “allowed” to mushroom for any of the festivals back at home, it marks a full circle of sorts for the mecca of cinema, as well as the cheerleader of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard.

In Cannes 2017 Michel Hazanavicius’ Le Redoutable, a cheeky take on Mr. Godard was one of the Palme D’Or contenders. This year besides the poster, the 87-year-old auteur is also competing for the Palme d’Or (which he hasn’t yet won) with his new film, Le Livre de image (The Image Book).

Cannes poster

The poster also marks 50 years of Mr. Godard’s participation in the 1968 civil unrest in the country, the year when he, along with directors Louis Malle and Francois Truffaut, had coaxed the Cannes Film festival to be brought to a halt as a mark of solidarity with the students’ protest in Paris. “Godard is not meant to be understood. He just demands to be seen,” said a colleague in one of the many discussions between films at the Palais de Festivals et des Congres de Cannes. True indeed. A little over mid-way into the festival and The Image Book remains one of the most abstruse, inscrutable and baffling films so far. Yet, despite failing in comprehending it with great depth and detail, one does manage to log in to Mr. Godard’s broader feeling of anger and disdain — at the world and the omnipresence of violence in it.

The synopsis of the film itself does little to explain Mr. Godard’s artistic ambition. Instead it states rather tantalisingly: “Under western eyes. The lost paradises. War is here.” What you do sense is Godard’s razor sharp politics, a continuing preoccupation with Palestine and Vietnam, add to that Arab crises and the oil politics. From poverty to terrorism and environmental issues —nothing escapes his keen eye and mind.

A melange

It’s as much about filmmaking as it is about politics. A melange of images, news and film clips randomly held together with an unrelated soundtrack, comprising of voiceovers and music and sudden jumps and cuts go into making a film that isn’t quite a film as we know it. It’s more like installation art. Godard attempts to break down and deconstruct both the political theme as well as the making of a film. No wonder then it was entirely fitting to have a press conference that involved talking to an image — the disembodied face of the legend — over facetime on phone than have him for real in the room. May be that’s how Mr. Godard deliberately intended it to be.

A take on race relations

Ebony and ivory come together in perfect harmony in Spike Lee’s BlacKKKlansman? It’s complicated. A rookie black cop and his white Jew colleague join hands to infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan to expose its violent racist agenda.

In the process we get a most wildly entertaining look at racial relations, a film that is insanely funny yet deliberately provocative and steadily serious on the issue of race relations. Set in the 1970s Colorado Springs, it takes one through a section of the nation of “holy White Protestant values” fearing the homeland turning into a “mongrel nation”. If that were not enough there are also fears of an “international Jew conspiracy”.

Mr. Lee is deliberately politically incorrect and satirical in scoring his political points and caricaturises the people and situations to deadly effect.

He doesn’t spare anything, including the early Hollywood — the inherent racism in a film like The Birth of a Nation — and brings it all right up to Charlotsville with Donald Trump talking of the “very fine people” in the far right protests. Simplistic and hard to believe but cocky and cocksure, Mr. Lee’s is the cinema of sanity that plays out with an insane energy on screen.

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