Cannes 75: Holy Spider, Ali Abbasi

The film critic of the Guardian, Peter Bradshaw, is merciless. Two out of five stars for Les Amandiers, by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, in competition at Cannes for the Palme d’Or. He describes it as “a boring, never-ending story about a group of self-centered acting students.” We read the review in the stalls, waiting for the afternoon screening to begin at the Lumiére. We leave biased but we go out relieved. We disagree. Les Amandiersnamed after the Parisian drama school of Patrice Chéreau, it is a good movie.

A note: the actors are self-centered. You know. Otherwise they would not be actors. Find us a non-self-centered actor. Bradshaw’s critique falters. If anything, it is proof of a certain authenticity. Vittorio Gassman never stopped talking about the egocentricity of the actors and of himself: “Inside every true actor, there is the need to feel at the center of the world for a few hours“. But also: «a perfectly healthy actor is a paradox». So, we are not surprised at the emotional twists and turns and late adolescent hustle and bustle of this group of aspiring actors in 1980s Paris. They were selected by the director, icon of France, Patrice Chéreau, played by Louis Garrel, to stage Platonova play written by Chekhov when he was only seventeen.

Cannes 75: Les Amandiers, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
Les Amandiers
© 2022 – Ad Vitam Production – Agat Films et Cie

– Bibi Film TV – Arte France Cinéma

The protagonist Stella (Nadia Tereszkiewicz), alter ego of the director who attended the school, begins a relationship with the talented but tormented Etienne. As he shouts “Stella,” another of the company laughs at him. He got too involved in the part. He thinks he’s Marlon Brando. Les Amandiers it is not so much a discourse on the theater, as much portrait of a generation and an era. It’s the Eighties, there aren’t any social networks yet and MeToo, heroin and AIDS are ruining the party that began in 1968. Peace & love, but not too much, otherwise you die.
Patrice Chéreau tries it out with a student, but he refuses lightly, since his girlfriend is outside waiting for him; A student sexually takes advantage of a heroin-addicted teacher, with whom she is infatuated. The audience in both cases is having fun.

Of course, watching the film we can’t help but think about the cult Hunger by Alan Parker, but that’s okay. Les Amandiers doesn’t have much chance of winning the Palme d’Or. La Palma of the 74th edition was won by a Frenchwoman. As a double, that would be too much.


The Iranian director, who emigrated to Northern Europe, Ali Abbasi bring the thriller Holy Spider. The story is true. In Iran, in the early 2000s, a serial killer of prostitutes roamed the holy city, Mashhad. Seventeen victims, all strangled with the veil. Some scenes are violent, harsh. “This film is not a bouquet of flowers, it is a slap in the face,” Abbasi himself said in an interview.

Cannes 75: Holy Spider, Ali Abbasi
Holy Spider

As soon as the fictional character of the young rebellious journalist enters the scene, who, locked in the hotel room, puts on nail polish and smokes one Marlboro after another, we think to Iranian activist Masih Alijenad and its memoir The Wind in My Hair, in which he talked about his life as a journalist in Tehran. Irritated, hindered, blackmailed, all because a woman who didn’t know how to stay in her place. And so does the reporter from Holy Spiderplayed by the magnificent Franco-Iranian Zahra Amir Ebrahimi. So much so that he begins an investigation by himself, trying to assert himself, as he can. Also because the local authorities do not seem to be in too much of a hurry to catch the serial killer who claims to act in the name of God and to clear the streets of “corrupt women”, with the approval of a large part of the population. The construction is classic, like an American thriller. The atypicality is linked to the place and context. “For me, in my work, it is important to tell the truth. But I’m not an activist, ”Abbasi affirms again. However, we do not think it will be a welcome film in Tehran cinemas.

A note: Fifteen years ago Tsar Amir Ebrahimi was a star in Iran. Then a private sex tape came out on the internet. If for the American Kim Kardashian it was the beginning of success, for her it was the end. Contracts canceled, films withdrawn and banned from appearing in cinemas and TV. In 2008 she emigrated as a refugee to France. From there, small roles. In 2019 she created her own film and documentary production company, Alambic Production. He could win the Prix d’interprétation féminine. Perhaps.

#films #Cannes #Selfcentered #actors #stubborn #journalists

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