Then there’s Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest,” an outright masterpiece and a welcome return from a filmmaker that takes far too long between projects. It may have taken the second prize, but my gut says it’s the work from this year’s selection that will have the greatest reach and longest-lasting legacy. It will be impossible for most audiences to experience the film in the way I managed to–I knew nothing about its subject matter, making its subsequent revelations that much more unsettling and powerful. Hüller is magnificent as the head of a hellacious household, as is Christian Friedel in a retching, wretched role for the ages, a chilling, bureaucratic cog helping churn the mechanism of murder.
Towards the end of the festival, I got to attend the Quentin Tarantino event as part of the Quinzaine Director’s Fortnight Section. The loquacious filmmaker spoke at length about his affection for the festival (he won Palme here with “Pulp Fiction”), but his showing up on this sidebar was a long-awaited event. He brought a beat-to-hell 35mm print of John Flynn’s 1977 revenge thriller “Rolling Thunder” to wow the crowd with its faded color, missing frames, scratched imagery, and incoherent audio mix. Technical presentation aside, the film itself is a bit of a mess, but the experience of seeing it in that setting was quite exceptional. While QT’s arguments for the film’s “beautiful fascism” fell flat, it was a nice injection of grindhouse mayhem into a festival too often literate with self-serious nonsense.
This wasn’t the only murder and mayhem story I caught. The iconic Japanese director Takeshi Kitano arrived with “Kubi,” which surely holds a record for the most people beheaded in a single film. The storyline is convoluted to the point of parody, with major characters continuing to be introduced right until the final act with supremely unhelpful title cards, as if there’s any way to make sense of the mayhem without an Excel sheet and a degree in ancient Shogun and Samurai short machinations at the ready. It’s a mess, to be sure, but as always, there are moments of poetic brilliance and sly comedy that help define Kitano’s unique voice.