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Cannes loves to shock

We have just seen one outrageous movie at the Cannes film festival, now into its fourth day. Hagar Ben Asher’s Israeli drama, Slut, is in many ways a hardcore sex movie, writes Gautaman Bhaskaran.

hollywood Updated: May 14, 2011 13:39 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran

Cannes loves to shock. We have just seen one outrageous movie at the Cannes film festival, now into its fourth day here.

Hagar Ben Asher’s Israeli drama,


, (featured in Critics’ Week) is in many ways a hardcore sex movie. What is even more scandalising is that Asher is perhaps the first woman director of a legitimate feature performing the sexually explicit scenes herself. Which leave nothing to imagination, and they are certainly not simulated. They are for real.

An attractive village woman, Tamar (Asher), who strangely resembles Julia Roberts, is obsessed with sex. She sells eggs at her farm during the day, and services men at night, and when veterinarian Shai (Ishai Golan) returns to her neighbourhood, he becomes part of her happy harem.

But Shai is not like other men. He offers warmth and love, and is even willing to play father to Tamar’s two daughters, probably born out of

Gautaman Bhaskaran
Gautaman Bhaskaran

wedlock. However, Tamar appears oblivious to his kind gestures, and their big scenes are erotic and absolutely seductive.


Italian master director Nanni Moretti’s

We Have A Pope

, playing in the festival’s Competition, began by veering towards big controversy, but even before arriving at mid-point, he seems to have lost his courage. Perhaps understandable, for the film deals with the dilemma of the Vatican when it finds that its newly elected Pope wants to abdicate from his responsibilities as the head of all Catholics even before he ceremonially appears before the hundreds of men and women gathered at St Peter’s Square.

Michel Piccoli is wonderfully understated as the new Pope, and like this character, paralysed by fear and inadequate confidence, Moretti seems to suffer from these traits as well. Clearly, a lack of commitment is discernable in the movie, and when the curtain drops, I was left with a sense of deep dissatisfaction – like a meal that appeared tempting in its first course, but which fails to give that feeling of satiating fullness.

Moretti’s long-awaited film on the Vatican, is witty in parts, but the humour begins to wears us out when one scene after another does not quiet lead up to any tangible conclusion. A good example of this is the one about the bored group of Cardinals --which after electing Melville (Piccoli) as the Pope is left waiting for him to make up his mind about accepting the high office -- is encouraged by therapist Brezzi (essayed by Moretti himself) to play a game of volleyball. There are other scenes that are similarly left hanging.

In the meantime, the Pope on the pretext of getting some fresh air away from the closed confines of the conclave escapes into Rome. Does this remind you of an English princess in “The Roman Holiday”? Much like her, Melville returns to the Vatican in what looks like Moretti’s compromise formula to keep the all-powerful church pleased.

A still from the film Slut

Moretti portrays a harassed therapist called in by the Vatican to try and analyse why the Pope has developed cold feet. But before a couple of sessions are through – with Brezzi under strict instructions not to ask uncomfortable personal questions – the therapist finds that his patient has escaped, and Brezzi is forced to cool his heels in the highly antiseptic confines of the chapel, cut off from his family and the outside world, with not even a mobile telephone at his disposal.

Like Woody Allen, Moretti often plays versions of himself in his movies, and although his trademark temper and the tendency to control do generate a lot of fun on the screen, the Italian helmer also inclines to rely on monologue rather than dialogue to push ahead his work. “We Have A Pope” thus turns out to be not quite the sensitive moral comedy it could have been. It is not even controversial, though the first scenes mislead us into believing that Moretti was all set to shake the Vatican.