Witch Hunted

Festival de Cannes

Omen (2023)

This has been quite a year for Baloji in the West. First one of his songs was used on the soundtrack of “Magic Mike’s Last Dance;” and now his first film has won a special New Voice prize in the Un Certain Regard track at the Cannes Film Festival, to reward his vision and encourage him to continue with his career. This film is also the first in the history of Cannes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a point the head of the festival, Thierry Fremaux, made pains to highlight. When Baloji introduced the film he was visibly shaking with nerves, but he needn’t have. This is a movie that manages to both be on the inside and the outside of a place – a difficult trick but one that’s achieved with flair. “Omen” is a very strong debut, and the jury was right to send such an encouraging message.

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Live at the Apollo

Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features

Asteroid City (2023)

It's the way in which he uses physical things and precise language that makes him so easy to parody, but that is also his appeal. Wes Anderson is the only director currently working with such a clear visual style that it can be endlessly parodied without any further explanation. This is his gift but as “Asteroid City” makes clear, also his curse. Mr. Anderson is a sensitive, thoughtful director of grief and disappointment, but his messages of the need of kindness and the importance of true human connection are often lost under his aesthetic. That aesthetic overshadows how actors are fighting to work for him even in the smallest of parts; his gentle sense of humor is overlooked; and his willingness to explore even the tiniest detail within a frame makes his movies treasures which can be continually revisited without sound. On the other hand, deep in the credits of his newest offering, there’s mention of a yodelling consultant. So he’s on the verge of becoming a parody of himself.

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Festival de Cannes

The Animal Kingdom (2023)

It's difficult to think of a more horrifying subject. Two years before the start of the film, something happened which meant certain people began turning into animals. As in, their bodies morphed into that of a creature; and their minds stopped being human minds and became animal ones. All the while this is happening these poor people are fully aware that it is happening but utterly powerless to stop it. And it's introduced by a father Francis (Romain Duris) and son Emile (an exceptional Paul Kircher) bickering in a car stuck in traffic, until Emile has had it and goes for a walk. Francis (whose name is a very good metaphor) chases him until one of the windows in a nearby ambulance shatters. They crouch down as the doors burst open and a paramedic is thrown out, before a man bursts out - a man with compress bandages around his face and one of his arms now a wing. The noises he makes aren't fully human and father and son stare in surprise as the winged man screams before running off over the roofs of the cars, paramedics giving chase. But they have seen all this before, of course. One of the first people to turn was Lana, Francis’s wife and Emile’s mother.

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Sparring Partners

Iglesias Más/Sony Pictures Classics

Strange Way of Life (2023)

They don't even kiss; not their current counterparts, anyway. Silva (Pedro Pascal) and Jake (Ethan Hawke) were young cowboys together, and together in every sense of the word. Now Jake is a sheriff and Silva a rancher; and their meeting for the first time in 25 years is due to the awkward fact that Silva's son, Joe (George Steane), has killed Jake's sister-in-law. Has Silva decided to leverage the past in order to save his son? Or is there something else going on?

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