Cannes Dispatch – Decision to Leave / Tori and Lokita – Awardsdaily

Korean director Park Chan Wook is one of those people who just can’t make a bad movie. The man has so much intelligence, style and a unique sense of humor that he can’t tell an uninteresting story even if he tries. Seven years after foraying into period erotica with THE HANDMAIDEN, he returns to Cannes competition with the mystery/romance DECISION TO LEAGUE and it’s unsurprisingly a delight.

A businessman is found dead at the foot of a cliff after an apparent suicide. There is a note, there is no sign of foul play, and yet something about the case still bothers Detective Jang (Park Hae Il), especially the dead man’s Chinese wife Song (Tang Wei). The two become closer as the investigation progresses. He finds out that she found a second home in Korea. She finds out about her insomnia and all the unsolved cases she spends her nights thinking about. Feelings develop between the married man and the recent widow, feelings that would send them their separate ways only to be reunited after a second death.

It took me a while to get into this movie because, as you can see from the short synopsis, the tone is all over the place. There is suspense, drama and, particularly in the first half, a lot of comedy as well. Using garish cartoon cuts and camera movements, Park paints Jang as a closeted romantic, a police officer who becomes personally involved in his cases to the point of sleep deprivation. Seeing these broadly humorous jokes, you’re probably wondering where they’re going with this. But as the film takes on unmistakable colors of mystery and melancholy, you realize that it’s all part of Park’s master plan. It’s targeting something very complicated, but if you can get into that wavelength, it feels really wonderful.

This script is all kinds of silly/sad/complex/original. At its center is the great fictional creation that is Song, a modern-day femme fatale with an impenetrable smile and an ocean of secrets. She’s a fascinating puzzle, and as the movie delivers each new missing piece, you’ll come to admire her, fear her, feel sorry for her, and ultimately love her. After playing a spy who falls perfectly in love with her charge in LUST, CAUTION, Tang Wei surprises again with a performance of ulterior motives. With a bit of IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE’s Maggie Cheung and LOST IN TRANSLATION’s Scarlett Johansson, this performance is beautifully layered and could very well be a contender for best actress.

Yet for me, it is still Park’s writing and directing that defines the DECISION TO LEAVE. Constantly mutating and constantly surprising, this movie is a wild ride and probably the strangest love story you’ll see all year.

Meanwhile, speaking of people who don’t make bad movies, two-time Palme d’Or winners the Dardenne brothers are back with TORI AND LOKITA, a hard-hitting social drama that’s extremely in its wheelhouse and, you guessed it, very well done.

Preteen Tori and teen Lokita form a pretty winning brother-sister duo when they sing at Betim’s restaurant. Except Tori and Lokita aren’t really related, they’ve been smuggled out of Africa to land in Belgium, and Betim is tasked with Lokita getting her papers from her so she can start working and pay the smugglers. Such is the desperate situation of the two main characters, who only have each other in a world of malice. The Dardennes do what they do best and imagine what could happen to such vulnerable and voiceless people as they struggle to stay afloat and it’s not pretty. With typical Dardenness clarity and efficiency, the script depicts what goes on in the dark underbelly of first-world European societies, where illegal immigrants risk their lives for the mere right to stay. It’s shocking how completely realistic the scenarios are and painful when we reach the inevitable conclusion.

While the Dardennes continue to do similar things in a very similar way, it’s also true that they do it incredibly and frustratingly well. As always, his latest film is marked by economical storytelling, where plot and characters are presented in the simplest and most essential terms. In 88 minutes you live through a human tragedy that does not feel staged at any time. Of course, this is also to the credit of its two lead actors, who lead the film with seductively authentic performances. I am particularly struck by Pablo Schils, who plays the young Tori. Watching him complete long, logistically complicated scenes involving numerous physical tasks while telling eight different lies without missing a beat gives you an idea of ​​how vigilant and resourceful kids in his situation have to be to survive. Distressing.

Right now I don’t see the Dardennes winning their third Palm but, for all its narrative and technical simplicity, TORI AND LOKITA is a moving, revealing and sobering piece of work.

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