La Presse at the 77th Cannes Film Festival | Cronenberg to caricature

(Cannes) Canadian David Cronenberg, a regular at the Croisette, is back in competition with The Shrouds (The shrouds), an autobiographical film starring Vincent Cassel and Diane Kruger.

It’s the story of Karsh (Cassel), a 50-year-old businessman, inconsolable since the death of his wife four years earlier. He invented a controversial system that allows his bereaved clients to follow the progress of the decomposition of their loved one’s remains in real time, using an 8K camera, a screen on a funerary stele and an electronic shroud.

Karsh wishes to export his revolutionary concept and is joining forces with Chinese investors to manufacture the shrouds, a cross between the cocoon of a caterpillar and a samurai costume. One night, several graves, including that of his wife, are vandalized. He will want to find out who is responsible. Icelandic environmental activists, who oppose the arrival of this concept of cemetery in their country high tech ? Adversaries from the business world? Russian or Chinese spies?


Vicent Cassel in a scene from The Shrouds

Cronenberg, 81, imagined this scenario after the death of his wife, editor and filmmaker Carolyn Zeifman, in 2017. He was more specifically interested in the questions that can enter the minds of the bereaved and which sometimes resemble conspiracy theories: has the medical profession done enough? Has one drug been favored over another, due to pressure from the pharmaceutical industry?

In the role of Karsh, Vincent Cassel looks – no doubt deliberately – like David Cronenberg, with his crew-cut gray hair. He looks more and more like his father, Jean-Pierre. Diane Kruger plays both Karsh’s wife, who died of cancer that ate away at his bones – and who remembers him in incessant nightmares -, his twin sister, a dog groomer adept at conspiracy theories , as well as an assistant created by artificial intelligence named Hunny.

When Karsh’s ex-brother-in-law, a computer whiz with a fertile imagination (Guy Pearce), enters the scene, the plot of this cold and enigmatic, typically Cronenbergian technological thriller becomes more complex. And not for the better.

David Cronenberg’s metaphysical thoughts on the evolution of humanity and technology may be interesting – The Shrouds is a logical continuation of Crimes of the Future his new film is particularly verbose and loud when it addresses questions of spirituality, mourning and what “veils” reality (like a shroud).

These rantings do not flow naturally from the mouth of Vincent Cassel, presented here as an immigrant from Eastern Europe. His playing is forced, and his delivery in English, far from natural. This lack of fluidity, while the dialogues are dense, points to poor casting, despite all of Cassel’s talent.

As if the concept of “grave peepers” wasn’t morbid and sordid enough in itself, Cronenberg throws in some darkly tacked-on sex scenes for good measure. The Shrouds in the caricature of his work: a basis of Videodromea hint of Dead Ringerstwo spoonfuls of Crash… With, as a result, a final scene which leaves one doubtful. Damage.

Body horror feminist

THE landmark film body horror of this Cannes competition is not signed David Cronenberg, but Coralie Fargeat, a 48-year-old French filmmaker, revealed in 2017 thanks to revengemovie gore feminist which ends in a bloodbath. Let’s say it straight away, for sensitive souls who wish to abstain, The Substance is at revenge what a swimming pool is to a paddling pool…

There is no candidate for the Palme d’Or who has provoked more reactions so far, across the entire spectrum of emotions. Sunday evening at the screening at the Théâtre Debussy (1000 seats), there was a lot of laughter, a lot of grimaces, a few hasty departures and thunderous applause at the end credits.

With its multiple references to the cinema of the 1970s and 1980s, giallo has The Elephant ManPassing by Carrie And The Shining, The Substance is an enjoyable, subversive and transgressive horror and science fiction thriller that David Cronenberg of Scanners, The Fly And Videodrome.


Demi Moore in The Substance

Thanks to futuristic technology, Elizabeth Sparkle (Demi Moore) is promised a revolutionary youth treatment. A macho producer (Dennis Quaid) has just made this Oscar-winning actress, recycled for decades in morning fitness television, understand that she has passed her “use-by” date in her fifties.

No surgical intervention can hide her age, so she turns to Substance, a revolutionary formula available on the black market, which allows, through cell division, to generate another version of oneself, “younger, more beautiful, more perfect”, provided that you share your time with your alter ego, one week at a time.

Elizabeth doubles as Sue (Margaret Qualley, also from the cast of the competing film by Yórgos Lánthimos), an extremely toned young woman. “You are only one,” the mysterious creators of Substance remind Elizabeth. But what happens if his double doesn’t follow the rules?


Margaret Qualley in The Substance

The Substance, which keeps you in suspense with a frenzied pace, is much more than a bloody film which sometimes makes you look away from the screen (there are many injections of liquids and purulent bodies). It is a reflection on aging and youth, vanity and the need for love, all-consuming ambition and the part of oneself that one does not love. It is a denunciation of the beauty dictates imposed by patriarchal societies and internalized by many women. It is a feminist pamphlet, anything but didactic, against the injunction for women to be beautiful.

Demi Moore finds it her most interesting role in a long time. A self-referential role which certainly required a lot of humility and a good dose of courage from her (she is filmed in every aspect, then made ugly).

“I wouldn’t say that we made a film against men, but against idiots! “, Demi Moore said at a press conference on Monday.

Coralie Fargeat’s staging is certainly not lacking in style, but seemed less m’as-tu-vu than that of revenge. As in her previous feature film, the filmmaker films young women by hypersexualizing their bodies, in order to denounce the objectification to which they are subject in society. This is a post-feminist process which can of course be misinterpreted.

“I hope the film is not seen as exploitation,” says Coralie Fargeat. My intention was to emphasize the fact that our female body defines how we are perceived in society. The violence is extreme. »

The Substance includes some of the most violent scenes I have ever seen in the cinema, even though I am not a fan of horror films. It also becomes more and more incredible and bloody over its 2 hours 20 minutes, until a completely delirious finale. Some will love it, others will hate it. I predict a place for him on the list.

The hosting costs for this report were paid by the Cannes Film Festival, which had no say over it.

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