Greetings from the French Riviera! We are past the midway mark at Cannes, and the last few days of the market. It's been mostly good weather, and we've seen a lot of films, both good and not so good. The festival is slowly beginning to incorporate more fantastic cinema both in the main competition and the adjunct festivals of the Director's Fortnight and Critic's Week. Two highlights for me have been Park Chan-wook's latest THE HANDMAIDEN, and RAW, a first feature from French director Julia Ducournau.
THE HANDMAIDEN was my most anticipated film of the main festival, and it did not disappoint. The story of a conman, his partner-in-crime and the young heiress they seek to separate from her fortune is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. Based on the UK novel Fingersmith, Park has transported the story to Japanese-occupied Korea, and this costume drama holds nothing back in either its incredible production design or its exploration of the lengths people will go to get what they want. More than a little camp, with a convoluted plot and great performances, fans of Park will thoroughly enjoy this lesbian thriller through its twists of dark humour, and its hints at the difficult history of early 20th century Korea. You might not see the shocking ending coming, but it is a glorious ride.
My favourite right now is RAW, a horror/social realist study of one girl's sexual awakening and realization of a dark family secret. Justine, a strict vegetarian, is forced to eat meat as part of a university hazing ritual, and suddenly she has cravings for animals you won't find on the family farm. In the film, Catherine Breillat meets David Cronenberg as body horror is explored through the female perspective, and its social realist aesthetic is combined with gore and violence that will leave its audience shielding their eyes. This is part of a great new wave of European films that explore issues of youth, sex, and the development of identity through horror aesthetics, and straddles both the European art-house cinema and genre film arenas.
As usual, there have been plenty of meetings and parties. The good weather has held the last few days, and there was a mixer for Fantastic cinema industry types yesterday, where we exchanged ideas and information on all the great new films we'll be bringing to you this year.
Just a few days left, and we're putting together a great line-up for FrightFest 2016!