TALES FROM CANNES 2017 – PART 6: THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER AND HAPPY END

Day 6 (Monday May 22nd 2017)

Successful heart surgeon Stephen (Colin Farrell) is engaged in a bizarre relationship with sixteen-year-old Martin (Barry Keoghan) in Yorgos Lanthimos’s outstanding The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Those who discovered Lanthimos by way of his comparatively accessible The Lobster may find their sensibilities challenged by a film that pushes his style to logical extremes of inky-black humour and horror. It would be a mistake to pigeonhole the film as a simple skewering of bourgeois values, as it’s more elusive than that, richer, stranger and perhaps ultimately unknowable.

Similar to his earlier work, Lanthimos presents a universe that obeys its own internal fever-dream logic and his characters once again deliver dialogue in an artificially flattened manner that is deliberately unnatural.

The narrative hinges on happenings that could be interpreted as supernatural or at the very least occult or uncanny. A fug of choking dread hangs over proceedings like a toxic miasma, suffocating in its escalating intensity, bolstered by a terrifyingly abrasive score. This is dark meat indeed, to be savoured by brave palettes.

The paths of three cross-generational characters overlap and interconnect in Karim Moussaoui’s Until The Birds Return, an ambitious film that attempts to gauge the mood of contemporary Algerian society from multiple perspectives: a property developer who witnesses a crime, a young woman being driven to her wedding by a man with whom she has history, and a neurologist who is possibly guilty of wartime wrongdoing.

The presence of the wonderful Rossy de Palma attracted me to Madame, which also stars Toni Collette and Harvey Keitel. The latter pair play an American couple hosting a lavish dinner in their Parisian home, when their maidd (de Palma) is suddenly pressed into service as a guest to make up the numbers. Dramatic, comedic and romantic hijinks ensue.

It seems churlish to nitpick about a film as accomplished as Michael Haneke’s Happy End, but nevertheless that’s exactly what I’m about to do. But let me be absolutely clear from the outset, it’s an excellent film that demands serious attention, my quibble (and it is but a quibble), is one of over-familiarity with the director’s approach.

Stylistically all of the Haneke elements are in place: cut-glass precision, scenes shot to resemble static surveillance footage, significant action taking place in the margins of long shots. Themes and scenarios from earlier work are also recycled: bourgeois complacency, inter-racial prejudice and guilt, the internet and surveillance culture, transgressive sex, Isabelle Huppert. But none of this impedes its quality, and it’s a film you need to see.

Don’t rule Haneke out for a record-breaking third Palme d’Or.

Check back soon for more updates from Cannes 2017.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Part 4
Part 5

 


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