Holocaust drama stuns Cannes, Allen premieres latest

A Hungarian film that takes viewers into the hellish heart of the Holocaust has left Cannes Film Festival audiences reeling.

“Son of Saul,” the first feature from director Laszlo Nemes, has become an early favorite to win the Palme d’Or and has been praised for reimagining the way the Holocaust is depicted onscreen.

The Hollywood Reporter called the film “remarkable — and remarkably intense,” while Variety judged it “terrifyingly accomplished.” The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw said it was “devastating and terrifying” and praised its “gaunt, fierce kind of courage.”

It’s rare for a director’s first film to be chosen for Cannes’ main competition, rarer still for it to be met with such an enthusiastic response. Cinematographer Matyas Erdely said Friday the challenge for the filmmakers was “how to show things that are not possible to show.”

“The genius idea of Lazlo’s was that we just won’t show things that cannot be shown,” he told reporters. “Basically our approach was to exclude everything that is not fundamental to our story.”

Also on Friday, Woody Allen returned to Cannes to show his latest film, “Irrational Man,” and also address what he called the meaninglessness of life.

The Rhode Island drama, about a despairing academic, stars Joaquin Phoenix as a philosophy professor who befriends a young student played by Emma Stone, and contemplates a Dostoyevsky-inspired murder plot.

It’s Allen’s 11th film at Cannes but the 79-year-old writer-director’s films have always played out of competition, as he has long disdained prizes in art.

“Irrational Man” received a mixed reaction Friday from the critics at Cannes. For Allen film fans, however, the movie had many of his traditional hallmarks. Although set in a new locale for the director, “Irrational Man” contains familiar struggles with finding meaning in life, a romance with a younger woman and a general lightness of tone even amid the possibility of murder.

Allen told reporters that he and his protagonist both have similar feelings about the usefulness of philosophy. “There’s no positive answer to the grim reality of life, no matter how much the philosophers talk to you or the priests or the psychologists,” said Allen.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman