Lorcan Finnegan’s science-fiction thriller “Vivarium” with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, Jérémy Clapin’s fantasy-filled animated feature “I Lost My Body,” and Hlynur Pálmason’s Icelandic drama “A White, White Day” are among the 11 films set to compete at Critics’ Week, the section dedicated to first and second films that runs parallel with the Cannes Film Festival.
“Vivarium,” described by Critics’ Week’s artistic director Charles Tesson as reminiscent of “The Twilight Zone” and “The Truman Show,” follows a young couple (Eisenberg and Poots) who have just moved into a new housing development and find themselves in a maze of identical homes and a surreal world.
“A White, White Day” marks Pálmason’s follow up to his 2017 feature debut, “Winter Brothers,” which won three prizes at Locarno, followed by a healthy festival run. “A White, White Day” stars Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson (“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”) as an off-duty police officer who is grieving the recent death of his wife in a car accident and begins to suspect another local man of having had an affair with her.
Written by Clapin and Guillaume Laurant, the high-profile screenwriter of “Amélie” and “A Very Long Engagement,” the Paris-set “I Lost My Body” follows Naoufel, a young man in love with Gabrielle. In another part of town, a severed hand escapes from a dissection lab, determined to find its body again. During a dangerous expedition across the city, it remembers its life together with Naoufel, and the two reconnect in an unexpected way. Clapin previously attended Critics’ Week with his short “Skhizein.”
Tesson said “I Lost My Body” weaved some realism with a poetic dimension and an uncanniness reminiscent of Guy de Maupassant’s literature.
In recent years, Critics’ Week has had a strong track record of French movies, notably with Julia Ducournau’s “Raw,” Camille Vidal-Naquet’s “Sauvage,” Alex Lutz’s “Guy” and Jean-Bernard Martin’s “Shéhérazade,” which won three Cesar Awards this year.
The competition lineup is completed by Algerian director Amin Sidi-Boumédiène’s “Abou Leila,” an ambitious buddy film set during the civil war in Algeria during the 1990’s; Costa Rican helmer Sofía Quirós Ubeda’s “Land of Ashes,” Guatemalan director César Díaz’s “Our Mothers,” and Moroccan helmer Alaa Eddine Aljem’s “The Unknown Saint,” a tale mixing burlesque comedy and Western.
Tesson pointed that while the selection doesn’t include any American films, it showcases a bounty of movies hailing from countries which don’t boast a well-developed film industry, notably Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Critics’ Week will kick off with Colmobian director Franco Lolli’s (“Gente de Bien”) “Litigante” and will close with Chinese first-time director Xiaogang Gu’s “Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains,” which follows the life of a family through seasons and was conceived as the first opus of a trilogy.
Special screenings will include actor-turned-director Hafsia Herzi’s “You Deserve a Love” and Aude Léa Rapin’s “Heroes Don’t Die,” which stars Adèle Haenel and Jonathan Couzinié.
Herzi has starred in several films directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, notably “The Secret of the Grain” and “Mektoub, My Love: Canto Uno.” For “You Deserve a Love,” Herzi worked with some of Kechiche’s key crew but opted a more polished aesthetic which Tesson described as “post neo-Nouvelle Vague.”
As previously announced, the jury will be presided over by Colombian director Ciro Gerra (“Birds of Passage”), and will comprise actress Amira Casar (“Call Me by Your Name”); Paris-based Danish producer Marianne Slot (“The House That Jack Built,” “Woman at War”); Congolese critic Djia Mambu; and Italian director Jonas Carpignano.
Among 1,050 feature films viewed by the selection committee, only 26% were directed by women, but the selection includes a record 11 films directed by women out of 26 movies in total, said Tesson, who signed the gender-parity pledge last year.