CANNES, FRANCE—You don’t need to be a legend,” sings a choir of waifs in Kornél Mundruczó’s Johanna, a trippy opera riff on Joan of Arc screening in “Un Certain Regard,” which, along with the Directors’ Fortnight, is one of the many secondary programs at Cannes. Unspooling at modest venues along the Croisette, the films here may not be legendary (yet, anyway) but are still full of small surprises.
In his debut feature, Nordeste, Juan Solanas smartly avoids easy moralizing in this tale of Western privilege versus third-world misery. Boosted by Carole Bouquet’s memorable performance as a Parisian pharmaceutical rep who travels to Argentina to adopt a baby, Nordeste exposes the Frenchwoman’s solipsistic quest without ever vilifying her.
François Ozon’s Le Temps Qui Reste (Time to Leave), the second in the director’s planned trilogy about mourning (following his 2000 masterpiece Under the Sand), counts down the last days of another narcissistic Parisian: Romain (Melvil Poupaud), a beautiful, monstrous fashion photographer diagnosed with terminal cancer. Although Le Temps often succumbs to disease-movie-of-the-week treacle, Ozon spices up the trajectory with some moments of le petit mort: Romain’s rageful breakup sex with his boyfriend; a penultimate-act threesome. The finest moment is one of perverse tendresse between Romain and his beloved grandmother (Jeanne Moreau, the one grande dame not included in 8 Women), who enjoy a naked bedtime cuddle.
A brother and sister spoon in the nude—and then some—in Albertina Carri’s audaciously erotic Geminis, which screened in the Directors’ Fortnight. The film’s bored gorgeous bourgeois teenagers advance from soaking in the Jacuzzi to raw fucking while their proper mamá busies herself with their older brother’s wedding. Geminis, like fellow Argentinean Lucrecia Martel’s La Ciénaga, corrosively dissects rank middle-class torpor. But Carri unapologetically lets us bask in the beauty of the writhing incestuous duo, making the sibling shenanigans in The Dreamers look like an episode of Party of Five.