We’re back. Waiting for James Bond’s “No Time To Die” like Godot, we return like children ready to recommence the cinema year, incredulous at what’s happening, but with our explorer’s compass indicating that North is still North as we stand steadfastly at the helm of S.S. Confidence, even if the plans and scheduled premieres fall like flies.
“To Begin Again” (Volver a empezar), the title of Garci’s Oscar-winning movie and the same one they’ve borrowed for the recently released Spanish translation of “Herself“, is an expression that takes on great significance at this juncture in the new year. Indeed, after the mitigated merriment of year’s end, everything begins a new cycle. The world of cinema is no exception, although this is not just any old year, just as the outgoing year wasn’t. Invariably perplexed by the enduring uncertainty, we set about organizing our recently gifted or purchased year planners, while there’s non-stop chatter about vaccines, we’re already starting to make forecasts and gossip about awards and to ask ourselves who’ll win the game that has been in play since this coronavirus began that we’re sick to the back teeth of. The scourge that has turned theatre and programming schedules on their heads and speeds the advance of online content and streaming platforms, home cinema that is, the one with the blanket, sofa and hot chocolate this winter. But be that as it may, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed; the titles loyal fans eagerly await. No matter where they come from, there are few feelings comparable to the excitement at finally being ushered down the aisle towards your seat as you to go see a movie you’ve been wanting to relish for ages, to confirm whether they live up to all the hype, or why they got that award.
Two good examples have come our way in recent days in between the tons of fruit cake and gallons of eggnog. The first, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom“, a film inspired by a legendary singer who in the roaring twenties, broke through and broke new ground, a fiercely resolute woman incarnated by the all-powerful Viola Davis who shines like never before here, and then some, even though the focus is on one of her co-stars. The standard-setting awards, together with the most revered of all experts are saying that the Oscar will be awarded posthumously to Chadwick Boseman, who left this world prematurely a few months ago, at only forty-three, victim of the damn cancer. Any misgivings we may have had vanish, any doubts those of us who thought it would be a sin to throw away the award disappear just by watching the film. The brilliant moments the musician he embodies enjoys in the performance, the entire storyline takes place in a Chicago recording studio, an ambitious horn player and band member who yearns to break away and face his own demons. The film hits you and it hits you hard, largely because of Boseman, who brings an honesty and authenticity to his performance combined with a strength he bestows on everything he says and the events that happen in this rollercoaster of emotions. The performance blends in seamlessly between Anthony Hopkins in “The Father” and Gary Oldman’s “Mank” regardless of how great both performances are, for one very simple reason. It’s heart-stoppingly brilliant.
And that brings me to our second choice for the very same reason. “Pieces of a Woman“, the movie that elevates Vanessa Kirby and, if Frances McDormand raises the barrier, could also earn her the Oscar, hot on the heels of the Volpi Cup her performance earned her in Venice, much to the delight of the many devotees who’ve been following her career since she played Princess Margaret in the popular series “The Crown“. The movie opens with a devastating sequence as our protagonist goes into labour. Without her regular midwife, she’s left with a last-minute replacement and an overwhelmed husband, played by an unrecognizable and bearded Shia LaBeouf. After thirty minutes of labour, the audience will have to swallow and digest a tragic outcome even before everything else comes along, including a dramatic speech about pain, frustration, and guilt among other pearls from this necklace of motherhood we’re shown. Then there’s the scene of the argument with her mother, played by Ellen Burstyn, and an emotional statement delivered to the grief-stricken midwife in the final trial sequence, either of which are endorsement enough for the much coveted statuette.
Cinema will always surprise, and we’re back once again this year with the fever running high. We’re back passionately discussing cinema and debating about whether we like what we see, such as the provocative “New Order” by Michel Franco. And, as another theatre closure is announced, or we stroll past that venue, which was once a place where our dreams slept, we’re banking on “Another Round” and the immense Mads Mikkelsen capable of raising the dead, in this case a man reminiscing about his times as a dancer. Let the show go on as we await new versions of “Dune“, with Javier Bardem or “Ghostbusters”. There’s no time for nostalgia, there’s no time to lose, you have to learn to surf the waves. We will once again run with Tom Cruise on his impossible missions, we’ll perform skirt-raising dances with the magic of Steven Spielberg’s take on “West Side Story”. We’ll blend the best cocktails with fast-paced action, the best musicals, dramas and comedies like “The Mole Agent” that will steal your heart. Down with laziness! The world might disappear if that meteorite Nostradamus predicted ever hits, but we’ll always have the movies to enjoy. And in the midst of such tumultuous times, Cannes turns 75. Many pages remain unwritten. Let’s not lose hope or joy. This has only just begun.