On the 17th of May, Ismael’s Ghosts, French director Arnaud Desplechin’s eleventh feature film was presented as the opening movie of the 70th Cannes Film Festival. Discover our review of this auteur film which rests on a brilliant cast and a beautiful photography but also on a rather confused scenario.
We have been waiting for it for a whole year: on Wednesday, May 17th, the 70th Cannes International Film Festival finally began and Ismael’s Ghosts, the latest feature film directed by Arnaud Desplechin had the honour of being the opening movie of this anniversary edition. This auteur film – which clearly seems to be a classic of the genre – tells the story of Ismael Vuillard (played by the great Mathieu Amalric), a filmmaker whose wife Carlotta (Marion Cotillard) mysteriously disappeared twenty years ago. Yet, now that he started a love story with an astrophysicist called Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg), Carlotta comes back.
This new movie features many of the themes and codes that made Arnaud Desplechin’s success and notably the names of some of the characters. The film, as a whole, seems slow, as if time stretched while the director plunges the spectators in a mysterious and yet not oppressive atmosphere. So, he creates a form of suspense and we cannot wait to discover what happened to Carlotta while she was away. The actors brilliantly highlight this impression by speaking in a very theatrical way and punctuating their queues with deep and expressive pauses. The filmmaker manages thus to deliver his own vision of love mingling passion, doubt and pain without caricaturing it.
In the meantime, the director tackles another subject that is very important to him, questioning his own role and his own work through the character of Ismael. Indeed, throughout the story, the character also makes a movie about the life of his brother Ivan Dédalus (played by Louis Garrel who is very convincing), a sort of spy who works for the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So, while watching Ismael directing his shooting and progressively sinking into a kind of creative madness, we cannot help thinking about Arnaud Desplechin himself. Moreover, Ismael does not describe himself as a movie director but as a man who “makes films”; which corresponds to the artisanal vision of cinema that Arnaud Desplechin defends.
Nevertheless, this mise en abyme unfortunately confuses the scenario because the plotline of the fictional movie intertwines with the story of the three main characters without any real editing separation. So, as spectators, we quickly get lost. Nonetheless, this also contributes to the dizziness and the questions that the movie provokes. In fact, we keep the film Ismael’s Ghosts in our minds and think about it for a long time, even after we left the theatre and this, according to many cinema experts, proves that it is a good movie.
Ismael’s Ghosts (original title: Les Fantômes d’Ismaël), Arnaud Desplechin, France, 2017, 1h54, released in France on the 17th of May 2017.