Cannes Film Festival Report 4

Moira Jean Sullivan © Photo Moira Jean Sullivan

The Cannes Film Festival ran from July 6 – 17. On of the sections is the Cannes Classic series. Friendship's Death (UK 1987) directed by Peter Wollen and produced by the BFI was restored and screened in a 4K print. It stars Tilda Swinton as an alien named "Friendship" who was on hand to introduce the film and sad she hadn't seen it on a big screen since 1986 and "can't wait". Everytime she has seen it since then , Swinton conveyed that it feels "so modern and so fresh" even though there are "anachronisms in it like finding a sushi bar in Gaza but in terms of its political clarity is right on the moment". She said it was her second film made six months after making Derek Jarman's Caravaggio (1986).

Producer Rebecca O'Brien (shown above with Tilda Swinton) explained that it was incredibly fun to make this science fiction cult film with Swinton and Bill Paterson, the actors in the film, and that it took two weeks. Wollen called it a "BFI B film" and would place certain objects in the "mise en scène" - composition of the frame - to play with film theorists.

Swinton's character "Friendship" comes to earth and is invited to MIT but first lands in Amman Jordan where the PLO is fighting Jordanians during Black September in 1970. Covering the event is British Journalist Sullivan (Bill Paterson) who speaks with "Friendship" about philosophy, warfare and technology. Swinton was 26 at the time the film was made and is delightful as an extraterrestial that finds herself in the midst of a war with ramifications that seem far more interesting than traveling to MIT. She is able to engage with Sullivan who is actually supposed to be in Jordan. Their conversations are provocative and entertaining. Friendship is fascinated by artefacts she discovers in the hotel room where they have their conversations such as the vacuum cleaner.

I spoke with Tilda Swinton after the screening who agreed what an inspiration Peter Wollen was to filmmakers like Kathyrn Bigelow and Lizzie Borden who were both living in New York at the time that Wollen was active on the cinema scene. Bigelow and Borden made films that have the experimental wit and political engagement of Friendship's Death. Lizzie Borden's Born in Flames evokes the spirit of 70’s feminism and is set in the future after the socialist revolution in the USA. Bigelow made At Dark (1987) about a cowboy in the midwest that meets nomadic vampires. (Friendship's Death is available on Amazon Prime Video.) Next Week more from the Cannes Film Festival.

© 2021 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 08/04/21
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