Cannes, France: With fewer parties, lots of masks, and stars having to regularly fill tubes with spit for Covid tests, the 74th edition of the Cannes film festival has been less glamorous than normal.
But with a backlog of great movies, and the film world delighted to be back on the French Cote d’Azur after it was canceled last year, it proved a vintage year.
Here are some of the highlights from the world’s leading movie get-together:
For Cannes to ban “la bise” — the French double-kiss on the cheeks — sounded like a crime against humanity, and sure enough, the organizers simply couldn’t help themselves as the gods and goddesses of cinema approached down the red carpet.
Jessica Chastain and Carla Bruni were among those receiving a very public peck on opening night, and there was further furor over social media pictures of unmasked cinema-goers, triggering a reinforcement of the Covid rules.
The regular tests and vaccine passes appear — fingers crossed — to have prevented the festival from becoming a super-spreader event.
Some foreign visitors though were grossed out by the spit tests needed every 48 hours — or struggled to supply what was required.
“‘That’s not enough spit, Monsieur,’ the test lady told me sternly,” recalled The Guardian’s film critic Peter Bradshaw.
Stars are born
Everyone fell a little bit in love with Renate Reinsve, the 33-year-old Norwegian star of the joyous and blub-inducing “Worst Person in the World” about a young woman figuring her way through love and life.
Unknown before Cannes, the cavalcade of rave reviews left Reinsve overwhelmed: “The other day I woke up and I puked. And today I woke up and I cried,” she told AFP.
Another breakout was Vicky Krieps from Luxembourg. Already known from “Phantom Thread” a few years back, she confirmed her star status on the Croisette with two more impressive performances. She also has a string of big-budget films coming soon.
Lesbian movies are definitely having a moment, though in very different ways.
Paul Verhoeven, the Dutch director behind “Robocop” and “Basic Instinct”, brought his usual level of subtlety to lesbian nun drama “Benedetta”, which will no doubt be best remembered for the pleasure Virginie Efira and Daphne Patakia get from a Virgin Mary statue.
That is nothing compared to the madness witnessed in serial killer romp “Titane”, though the lead character’s interest in women is perhaps trumped by the fact she manages to get pregnant by a vintage Cadillac.
Same-sex relationships also feature — in somewhat more ordinary ways — in two well-received competition entries: Finland’s “Compartment No.6” and the beautiful character study “Paris, 13th District” from France’s Jacques Audiard.
Sean Penn played alongside his real-life daughter Dylan in “Flag Day” about a useless deadbeat father, one of many that cropped up in this year’s Cannes selection.
In “Stillwater”, Matt Damon’s Trump-country oil rig worker has good intentions but makes terrible decisions as he tries to help his daughter who is locked up for murder in Marseille.
“The Worst Person in the World” had a terrible father, while the father in “Titane” faces a particularly brutal comeuppance for his bad behavior.
Music on film
The music business was well-represented this year, starting with the opening film “Annette”, which starred Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard in possibly the weirdest musical ever, penned by legendary LA pop duo Sparks.
Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Freddie Gibbs provided another unexpected entry with his movie debut “Down with the King” about a rapper who gets drawn into skinning pigs and herding cattle in rural America.
US director Todd Haynes won plaudits for “The Velvet Underground”, a documentary about the 1960s rock legends.
And for lighter relief, there was fluffy Celine Dion biopic “Aline: The Voice of Love”. Critics were divided over whether this unpretentious account of the Canadian megastar was a “sincere and moving homage” or “so pointless as a film that you can only see it as an extravagant piece of conceptual art”.