Cannes 2021: Ahed’s Knee, Nadav Lapid’s fascinating cry of rage [critique]

The director of the brilliant Synonyms does not miss his debut in the Cannes competition. Great autobiographical and political cinema that leaves you KO standing.

This Wednesday, July 7, 2021 will remain a special date in the career of the Israeli Nadav Lapid. That of his entry into the Cannes competition with his fourth feature, ten years after his first film and a lot of prizes gleaned around the world, including the Golden Bear for the impressive Synonyms. And the timing seems ideal as Ahed’s Knee constitutes the culmination of the first part of his work: an autobiographical and very political cinema where he happily settles accounts with his country. Never had he looked so angry and desperate. And his staging had never seemed so free and controlled at the same time.

The hero of his new film has no name but an initial Y, a committed filmmaker, he is in the middle of the casting of his new film entitled … Ahed’s Knee, centered on this 16-year-old Palestinian girl (Ahed Tamini) sentenced to eight years in prison for slapping an Israeli soldier and whom an Israeli deputy felt she should have been shot at, at least in the knee for her or permanently placed under house arrest. But, at the same time, Y has accepted an invitation to come and present his previous feature film in a small village located in the south of Israel, in the Areva desert where he is welcomed by the organizer of the event. An official of the Ministry of Culture all acquired to his cause and to whose charm he does not seem insensitive until she asks him to fill out a questionnaire so that he ticks the subjects he will tackle by doing well understand that it will be necessary to stay in the nails. The famous drop of water that will overflow an already well-filled vase for a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown in mourning for his mother (and co-writer) who has just passed away and is up against his country that ” he considers constantly trampling the most elementary rules of freedom

So this film will be a cry of rage. In substance as well as in form. Like this mind-blowing tirade (performed masterfully by the very impressive Avshallom Pollak) on the “nationalist and racist Jewish state which stupefies its citizens by keeping them in the dark and where each generation breeds an even worse generation”. And a way of bringing the film to life by mixing the styles of staging like a barman shakes a shaker to create the most full-bodied of cocktails, passing without dead time from the close-up to the faces as close as possible to the wide-shot, from the purely cinematographic tracking shot. to a scene filmed on the Iphone, from the camera in agitated movements to more relaxed shots, Lapid accompanies by his imagery the interior bubbling and the sudden uncontrollable explosiveness of Y, pushing the sliders fully up to the insupportable

Because Ahed’s Knee is not a pleasant film, like its central character, as touchy as he is antipathetic. Lapid does not give himself any gifts here because you don’t have to be a great clerk to guess that Y is him and no one else. Like Y, Lapid recently lost his mother. Like Y again, he was presenting his film Synonyms under similar circumstances. As always, he has a passion for Vanessa Paradis – whom he dreamed of marrying when he was 13 years old as he confided on the steps – which allows one of the exciting musical scenes that punctuate the story to the sound of Be my baby Lenny Kravitz period. And it is precisely because he does not give himself a gift that his film is never complacent, neither with the public, nor with his country, nor with himself. It is painful, rough, exhausting, uncomfortable, confusing. It doesn’t give off easily and yet knocks you down like a hurricane sweeps away everything in its path regardless of when. The gesture of cinema is strong because never constrained by such or such producer who would have suggested to him to reduce here and there the wings of indignation. Like Y, Lapid takes hits and responds to them, making the viewer the regular victim of some collateral damage. Cinema experienced as a combat sport, to be discovered in theaters on September 16

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