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Critic’s Notebook: Looking For Connections

This year, the Cannes Film Festival kicked off with a restoration of Jean Eustache’s 1973 ménage à trois scandal “The Mother and the Whore” and concluded with a screening of controversial Palme d’Or winner “Triangle of Sadness,” creating an odd kind of symmetry for the event’s 75th anniversary edition. Made half a century apart, Eustache and Östlund’s rhyming triangles were hardly the only parallels to be found at Cannes — though anyone who’s ever binge-watched movies at a major festival knows the feeling of such connections, often just a fluke of the order in which you see movies whose images and ideas inevitably resonate with one another.

Masked in screening rooms full of COVID-defiant strangers, I somehow managed to screen all 21 films in competition this year (plus two dozen more in other sections), and such similarities were myriad, while the masterpieces were scarce.

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It might well have been the scene of the festival, were it not for the perverse programmer who scheduled art-house punk Quentin Dupieux’s “Fumer Fait Tousser” right after, an absurdist smoking-themed comedy which features its own epic barf gag — and just like that, Östlund’s out-there set-piece seems to have met its match (not really, though the novelty certainly feels diminished). Another example might be donkeys, which factor into both “Triangle” and Jerzy Skolimowski’s “EO.” The latter is a pro-animal, human-skeptical fable. Imagine a modern riff on Robert Bresson’s “Au Hasard Balthazar” crossed with Countess Ségur’s more anthropomorphic “Memoirs of a Donkey.” “EO” follows such a beast as it wanders across Europe, interacting with people who abuse it, or the earth, or both.

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