The Mostra at the edge of the mother

The 79th edition of the film festival, which delivers its prize list this Saturday, examines family traumas and the torments of motherhood.

And sail the gondolas of the “Regata Storica” ​​of Venice, organized each year at the same time as the Mostra, and which seem, to the reddened eyes of the festival-goer, like the mirage of a parallel life continuing there, of the other side of the lagoon. As the festival comes to an end, films are expected to carry something like the foam of the world, and not simply the scents of other works, giving the unpleasant impression of applying recipes without really believing in them. In this category, we can cite the Syndicalist of Jean-Paul Salome (Orrizonti section), with Isabelle Huppert, mollassonne rehash of the abrasive She by VerhoevenWhere Don’t Worry Darling by Olivia Wilde (out of competition), who builds a Truman Show fifties to deliver a feminist fable whose idea (every man, deep down, always dreams of his little housewife in the style of the Glorious Thirties) is neutralized by the opportunist seduction of the whole company.

The use of vintage imagery, whose oppressive power is criticized while celebrating, in fact, plastic perfection, is the sign of an impasse in questions of representation, so present this year in the films of the selection (L’Immensita by Emanuele Crialese, Monica by Andrea Pallaoro), but which will not succeed if they are not linked to a reflection on the form of the works. A route opened on an extreme slope by Anhell69 by the Colombian Theo Montoya, discovery of the Settimana della Critica, a diary of combat and mourning in Medellín, cursed city for queer youth evolving in the limbo of globalized capitalism. Dreams of hormones, fame, exile and death everywhere, filmed by Montoya as a close friend, a directing partner.

Beautiful twilight light

Mourning, precisely, has infiltrated the heart of the competition to show haunting films, whose themes (loss of a child, renunciation of having one, mourning for the mother) have cast a beautiful twilight light on the Lido, in total contrast to the abnormally summery weather. In other people’s childrenfifth feature film by Rebecca Zlotowski, Virginie Efira finds her best role, that of a serene woman, for whom everything is fine until a presence (her granddaughter-in-law) makes her realize an absence (she is not a mother). On several occasions, it is question, in the staging as in the dialogues, of this belonging to an ultramajority community, that of the parents. This is the “daron” side of the film (Julien Clerc and Moustaki are listened to, we go on a weekend in the Camargue and we love our man when he watches football), which has the honesty not to run after the modernity of the subject, but rather to dig into the subjectivity of its heroine in her forties until the outbreak of a shared doubt.

Presented the same day, the very successful love-lifeof a prolific and quite uneven Japanese filmmaker, Koji Fukadatakes the opposite view of the chronicle of Other people’s childrens and affirms, without ostentation, the renewed possibility of melodrama. It all starts with a very talented and very cute little boy who has just won a competition of an online game style go, and whose parents throw a party. When the worst happens and the film shifts towards the exploration of a process of family mourning, it weaves a whole linguistic network – sign language, communication by luminous reflections – which links the grieving adults together and reconfigures the alliances in favor of an unresolved past. This geometry of the feelings makes us glimpse, between the furrows dug by the tears, a depth of the staging which, more than it impresses, moves. In The Eternal Daughter by the English Joanna Hogg (small sensation of Cannes 2021 with The Souvenir Part II), it is Tilda Swinton who takes charge of the disturbing mirror geometry of the two characters she embodies: a mother and her daughter who have come to a hotel in Wales for a strange retirement. Ticking all the horror genre movie boxes (eerie mansion, thick mist, sleazy servants), The Eternal Daughter in fact mischievously fi to focus on the pain of a middle-aged orphan, caught in the snare of boundless filial love.

“We rave about the world”

Everything that has just been mentioned is present, but in an unparalleled, ultra-radical and anti-spectacular way, in Saint Omer, Alice Diop’s first fiction (We in 2020), presented in competition. Taking as a starting point the Fabienne Kabou affair – a mother abandons her fifteen-month-old daughter to drown on a beach in Pas-de-Calais – the filmmaker organizes the confrontation of her heroine, a young writer who has come to attend the trial, with the story that the accused delivers and which confronts her with her own family history. Contrary to a classic trial film, betting on emotion, dread, identification, Saint Omer insists, for the duration of very long static shots, on the words of the accused mother (her language, very sustained, was a source of astonishment not devoid of racism for many commentators of the time), with a harsh stubbornness, probing as closely as possible for the words of a possible truth. Truth not so much of the facts as of the affects provoked by their emergence, in an assembly composed essentially of women (the judge, embodied by the wonderful Valérie Drévillethe lawyer, the assessors).

In this reconstruction on the bone, with no trace of staging, it would be tempting to see the documentary maker’s gaze, direct, punctilious, wary of any formal embellishment. However, by placing himself under the auspices of Duras (his limited text on Christine Vuillemin, the mother of little Grégory), by constructing a complex set of identifications – the heroine does not find herself in the criminal mother so much as in the sacrificed little girl –, by invoking the figure of the Pasolinian Medeathe film defends the healing power of our collective recourse to fiction, but also its possible proximity to madness. “We are not delirious about dad-mom, we are delirious about the world”, said Deleuze. Alice Diop’s film managed to bring the world into the closed room of her trial, to make it look like an overfull head that had to be emptied to breathe better.

The Mostra at the edge of the mother