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CANNES 2022 Special Screenings

Review: Marcel!

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- CANNES 2022: The first film directed by Jasmine Trinca takes a personal approach to a strained mother-daughter relationship, offering a nod to silent film

Review: Marcel!
Alba Rohrwacher and Maayane Conti in Marcel!

In 2020, Italian talent Jasmine Trinca (one of the most popular actresses of her generation, honoured in Cannes for her performance in Lucky [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Sergio Castellitto
film profile
]
) made her debut behind the cameras by way of a short film presented in Venice’s Orizzonti line-up, which wordlessly portrayed a mother and daughter walking amongst the ruins of a sun-scorched and deserted Rome, looking for one another and fleeing one another, pulling a large suitcase along behind them and continuously swapping roles (Being My Mom). Now these two characters, played by the very same actresses (Alba Rohrwacher and Maayane Conti) are reunited in Marcel! [+see also:
trailer
interview: Jasmine Trinca
film profile
]
, Trinca’s feature film debut which was presented within the Special Screenings section of the 75th Cannes Film Festival.

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The actress-director (also gracing the Croisette as an international jury member this year) is hereby expanding the universe of her short film, drawing on a mix of personal memories and fantasy in order to paint the portrait of a troubled mother-daughter relationship as glimpsed through the eyes of a little girl who wants to be seen and loved by this eccentric, distracted and elusive mum who leaves the fridge empty and appears only to have eyes for her dog Marcel.

Indeed, the dog is the only character in the film with its own name and the centre of attention for the mother, a totally retro street artist (“a Buster Keaton dressed up like a panther, funny yet sensual”, as the director describes her) whose piece de resistance is a performance in which she and Marcel play leading roles and which culminates in a passionate kiss between the two of them. All under the sorrowful eye of her daughter, a slim and taciturn little girl who plays the saxophone (though her mother won’t let her perform alongside her) and whose father has departed this earth (her grandma, Giovanna Ralli, never misses an opportunity to sing the praises of her “artistic, continually happy and irresistible” son who’s no longer with them but who looks down at her from an aeroplane, apparently), a little girl who’s desperate for her mother’s attention and starts to see the beloved little dog as a rival.

One day, Marcel has an accident; the mother is inconsolable and spirals into depression. Her daughter takes care of her, fetches the groceries and feeds her. But there’s an important street artist festival which they need to prepare for, so they hit the road, and the second part of the film turns into a fairy-tale-esque road movie, between country fairs, fairgrounds, Albano and Romina doubles, and a rural stay at her snobby cousin’s house (played by Valentina Cervi), who’s surrounded by her wild boar hunting friends (including Giuseppe Cederna), where the street performer played by Rohrwacher – resembling an alien in this context  – enters into anything but friendly conversations about art, hunting and life after death. “She thinks she’s the reincarnation of Pina Bausch and Marcel Marceau rolled into one”, mocks her disdainful cousin, who doesn’t think twice about sending her guests outside to sleep in the barn.

Written in league with Francesca Manieri, Marcel! reveals a cinematographic approach that’s both highly personal and poetic, an homage to creativity (“It’s to art that we owe our lives”, the film stresses at various points) which offers a nod to silent film and Charlie Chaplin, and whose best, sincerest and most poignant moments can be found in the moments of intimacy – a sweet yet difficult intimacy – shared by the two protagonists. It’s an opportunity for Alba Rohrwacher to let her acting talent run riot, in circus-style on this occasion, and for little Maayane Conti – with her big ET eyes, who Trinca seems to want as her very own Antoine Doinel – to show off her magnetic expressiveness.

Marcel! is produced by Cinemaundici and Totem Atelier alongside RAI Cinema, in collaboration with Phon Films and Vision Distribution. International sales are entrusted to French firm Totem Films.

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(Translated from Italian)

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