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Cannes 2019: Bridging Cultures and Redefining Trends in Cinema

Director Bong Joon-Ho with Kang-Ho Song, winner of the Palme d'Or award for his film "Parasite" poses at the photocall for Palme D'Or Winner - 72 Cannes Film Festival
Director Bong Joon-Ho with Kang-Ho Song, winner of the Palme d'Or award for his film "Parasite" poses at the photocall for Palme D'Or Winner - 72 Cannes Film Festival
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May, 2019, Cannes. The vibrant pulse of the Cannes Film Festival this year was undeniably enriched by the prominent presence of Asian talents. As the red carpet unfurled, it was adorned with an array of film stars and models, whose oriental eyes reflect a mosaic of cultures and narratives. The pinnacle of the trend being the Palme d'Or winner, «Parasite»‎, a cinematic masterpiece by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho. 

By Kristina Moskalenko

Indeed, the festival, renowned for fostering a taste for regional cinema, has got down to business and, taking advantage of the burgeoning Asia’s fascination with European luxury, is creating a new wave of fashion (or joining the trend) for Asian art in Europe. After all Asian investors are trending too.

Wan Qian and Gwei Lun Mei depart the screening of "The Wild Goose Lake (Nan Fang Che Zhan De Ju Hui/ Le Lac Aux Oies Sauvages)" during the 72 annual Cannes Film Festival
Wan Qian and Gwei Lun Mei depart the screening of “The Wild Goose Lake” during the 72 annual Cannes Film Festival
Zhang Ziyi attending Closing Ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival, 2019
Zhang Ziyi attending Closing Ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival, 2019

Interesting detail: Before the unveiling of the coveted Palme d’Or, jury chairman Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu repeated three times that the winner is chosen by secret (!) voting. He also reminded that the festival, «unlike many other places on the planet», is a pure democracy. As if hinting that there can be no quotas or economically biased decisions in choosing a winner. With the cloak of secrecy shrouding the voting process, the stage was set for a celebration of pure cinematic brilliance.

In a momentous triumph, the prestigious accolade was bestowed upon South Korean director Bong Joon-ho for his cinematic masterpiece «Parasite»‎. The film, a poignant portrayal of two families straddling the chasm of wealth and poverty, captivated audiences with its nuanced exploration of survival amidst societal disparities.

What sets «Parasite» apart is its portrayal of survival as an engaging spectacle, where amidst the unfolding drama, characters exhibit remarkable resourcefulness. To make some extra money from their rich employers, they are willing to resort to unconventional measures, such as utilizing vague ideas about the modern art as a means to address mental illness. Consequently, viewers find themselves grappling with a nuanced dilemma, as the director refrains from moralizing or delineating clear heroes and villains. Instead, he invites empathy and comprehension for both worlds, revealing their intricate interdependence and shared humanity.

With its stunning cinematography and timely themes, «Parasite» stands as a pioneering force in the realm of Korean cinema, poised to reshape the global cinematic landscape. As echoes of 15-minute applause reverberated through the hallowed halls of the Auditorium Louis Lumière, it became evident that the next stop is not only cinematic excellence, but also — trend. For the Asian cinema.

In a similar vein, another noteworthy South Korean film, «Train to Busan» by Yeon Sang-ho (premiered at Cannes in 2016), offers an eclectic mix of apocalyptic narrative, heartfelt emotion, humour, and unexpected twists. It beckons those eager to explore the rich tapestry of South Korean cinema.

In a nod to this cultural fusion of the Festival, Chinese model Sui He illuminated social media platforms draped in the vibrant hues of Italian couture from Versace, radiating in resplendent yellow. Such moments not only inject fresh vibrancy into the Festival’s traditions but also serve as symbolic nods to the evolving global landscape.

And here is another change — treatment of women in cinema.

The treatment of women presents another fascinating dynamic. In the wake of the #MeToo upheavals, the Festival has made concerted efforts to integrate women into its juries and generally to note female achievement in the industry. Notably, it has embraced a more relaxed attire, allowing women to walk the red carpet without bras and in flat shoes — a convergence of the free-spirited fashion of the French Riviera with the pragmatic style of urban metropolises.

However, despite these strides, traces of latent sexism still persist.

ennifer Flavin, Sylvester Stallone and Sistine Rose Stallone attend the closing ceremony screening of "The Specials" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival
Jennifer Flavin, Sylvester Stallone and Sistine Rose Stallone attend the closing ceremony screening of “The Specials” during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival

A poignant illustration occurred during the closing ceremony, as Sylvester Stallone, exuding the steely resolve synonymous with his surname, took the stage. He eloquently extolled the director’s craft, likening it to that of a wizard orchestrating a myriad of talents to bring a vision to life. Yet, notably absent was acknowledgment of the directorial prowess of women.

Subsequently, when Stallone announced the recipient of the Grand Prix, the honor fell upon «Atlantics», a film helmed by Senegalese director Mati Diop. As Diop, a delicate brunette, ascended the stage, her speech was punctuated by moments of uncertainty. Despite expressing gratitude and acknowledging her team, Stallone’s conspicuous intervention, grasping her hand firmly and curtailing her words, spoke volumes.

Mati Diop, the director of supernatural romantic drama "Atlantics"
Mati Diop, the director of supernatural romantic drama “Atlantics”

This prompts reflection: while commendable progress is evident in a woman receiving the Grand Prix, particularly when the rhetoric leading up to the award typically favored men, one cannot help but ponder why, as a proficient and accomplished woman, she didn’t deliver an actual speech, rather than relying on  moments’ emotions. After all, her achievements — from assembling a dedicated team to securing funding and navigating the rigours of film production — are a testament to her prowess. Embracing the award with the grace of a seasoned red carpet denizen, each step should carry the weight of an Oscar.

But while trends and fashions come in waves, there are also things that don’t change!

These are directors, screenwriters, producers and professional events. This foot of the festival is dressed in a tough work boot, not a Louboutin (regardless of gender), and it is under its heel that the most important meetings and transactions take place.

For example, aboard the Coutts bank yacht, one might chance upon the esteemed British director John Irvin, accompanied not by models but by his trusty cane. Here, one has the opportunity to engage in contemplative dialogues that traverse the spectrum of human experience: from fostering camaraderie among alumni of the London Film School to recounting his odysseys through post-Soviet Russia, his reverence for the artistry of black-and-white cinema, and his collaborations with luminaries such as Patrick Swayze, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Michael Caine, and Jeremy Irons. Additionally, one could delve into his endeavors, including his involvement in a cinematic portrayal of Nelson Mandela’s life. While this milieu may not captivate bloggers in search of sensationalism, for journalists who are devoted to unraveling and appreciating the intricacies of human narratives, it serves as an invaluable trove of insight.

Incidentally, the international press corps comprises 5000 accredited journalists. However, not all gain entry through the conventional channels. If accreditation proves elusive, alternative avenues are available, including on-site procurement for a sum just exceeding 400 euros. In such cases, scrutiny regarding one’s dedication to journalism and the film industry remains minimal. It is imperative for the festival to ensure its continued profitability. After all, just like all business, the film business is just business.