The Cannes Film Festival competition presented Ramata-Toulaye Si’s Banele E Adama and Toodd Haynes’ May December.
Festival de Cannes 2023 : the competition today features a young director, Ramata-Toulaye Si, who makes her debut on the Croisette with her first feature film Banele E Adama. Todd Haynes, an institution of American independent cinema, has already been honoured with the Official Selection and the competition with Velvet Goldmine (Best Artistic Contribution Award, 1998), Carol in 2015, (Best Actress Award, Rooney Mara) or The Wonder Museum in 2017. He returns to the Croisette this year with May December, inspired from a true story.
Banele E Adama, the weight of tradition
The young Franco-Senegalese director and screenwriter Ramata-Toulaye Sy enters the Cannes competition with a sentimental drama about a couple’s love in the face of social conventions. Banel E Adama is her first feature film, which illustrates the weight of northern Senegalese traditions in the face of the budding love between two young people. To bring more realism to the story, the director wanted to use non-professional actors from the region. Banel (Khady Mane) and Adama (Mamadou Diallo) have never left their village. They are in love but their passion clashes with the ancestral traditions of the community. The balance is upset when Adama refuses to take on his responsibilities as future chief, causing discord within the village council.
May December by Toodd Haynes
Gracie (Julianne Moore) and Joe (Charles Melton) have been married for 24 years. They live in a comfortable house near the beach in Savannah, Georgia. Gracie bakes cakes that she sells to the neighborhood, Joe is a passionate monarch butterfly breeder, and their children are about to enter university. But why are they receiving packages containing excrement? That Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a famous actress who’s going to play Gracie in a film, discovers on their doorstep. The couple’s story was splashed all over tabloids two decades ago when Gracie “seduced” Joe, then a 12-year-old student. The tabloid press went wild and the country became enthralled with their sulphurous forbidden romance, which landed Gracie in prison where she gave birth.
Autopsy of a relationship
American director Todd Haynes examines the relationship between a woman and a man 23 years his junior through the intermediary of Elisabeth, who comes to dissect the couple’s feelings at the time for the purposes of a film in which she will play Gracie. As she asks questions in her search for “something real”, frustrations, flaws and lack of love are revealed, as Gracie and Joe feel that the genuine love between them justifies their relationship and seek to turn the page. But American puritanical society is hard on the naivety of sincere people…
Exploring lives in depth
May December is the tenth feature film by American director Todd Haynes, whose previous films include Far From Heaven (2002), Carol (2015), Dark Waters (2019) and The Velvet Underground (2021). Todd Haynes has regularly written great female roles – in 2015, Carol won actress Rooney Mara (alongside Cate Blanchett) the Best Actress award at Cannes – and he seeks to deeply explore the lives of a Hollywood star and a tabloid star, with Joe as the link between the two women and the times. But May December, a sumptuous melodrama, is lacking drama and stamina in spite of the hot topic and the emotion is slow to flow (not like the thunderous music…) Some may be bored.
The Red Carpet of May December
Click on pictures to enlarge – ©YesICannes.com – All rights reserved