Anatomy Of A Fall | Directed by Justine Triet, written by Triet and Arthur Harari
Sandra and Samuel (Sandra Hüller and Samuel Theis) have a difficult marriage — both are creative people but Sandra is a lot more successful as a novelist. We meet them on a fateful morning. Their son, who is blind (Milo Machado Graner), takes their beautiful dog for a walk, only to discover his father’s body in the snow when he returns. Samuel had fallen, or been pushed, from an upper window in their house. I don’t know a lot about French justice, but given the information provided I was surprised there was enough evidence to arrest Sandra for murder and see the case go to court — it all seems entirely circumstantial. (It occurs to me the only other film I’ve seen recently that treads on similar ground is Saint Omer.)
What follows is a deliberate, solid procedural and courtroom drama built around a performance clinic by Hüller as we puzzle out her psychology. What the film neglects to offer is a plausible motivation for Sandra to kill — when it’s finally mooted it feels too little too late. The film leans into ambiguity, providing plenty of opportunity for post-film conversation, but upending any satisfying genre expectations.
La Chimera | Directed by Alice Rohrwacher | Written by Rohrwacher, Carmela Covino, and Marco Pettenello
A meandering 1980s-set romantic drama, it details a deeply troubled tomb raider with a special gift for locating buried treasure, Arthur (Josh O’Connor, mostly speaking Italian), who lives in squalor while searching for… something. His obsession isn’t entirely clear, but we get a lot of time with him and his colleagues looking for Etruscan artifacts while he also visits the mother, Flora (Isabella Rosselini), of his dead girlfriend and gets friendly with her student, Italia (Carol Duarte), who’s concealing two daughters, hidden in Flora’s sprawling, dilapidated mansion.
There’s grit here, and an evocative sense of period and place, slathered in a felliniesque chaos. Some might find this folk-telling narrative and its ensemble work charming, but the characters are too often irritating or opaque, while quirky stylistic tropes — from breaking the fourth wall to bringing in Benny Hill-style editing — grows increasingly tiresome over two and a half hours.
Fallen Leaves | Written and Directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Since the early 1980s Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki has been carving out a unique cinematic voice in a series of deadpan, humanist comedies. This winner of the Cannes Jury Prize represents more of the same, which is wonderful.
Ansa (Alma Pöysti) and Holappa (Jussi Vatanen) are two stubborn denizens of Helsinki. Ansa works hard and will take any job that pays, but she won’t be disrespected. Holappa is equally committed to work, but his struggles with alcohol tend to undercut his successes. All this while the radio constantly reports the atrocities in Ukraine. The anxiety and bleak reality of their lives makes for a lonely existence, but when the cross paths in a karaoke bar they’re immediately attracted to each other. Circumstance keeps them apart even after a terrific date to Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die.
I love the aesthetic simplicity of the film, the flat line-deliveries, and the filmmaker’s clear passion for old-fashioned melodramas that inform the story. I need more of Aki Kaurismäki in my life.