There were no women directors represented in this year's "Competition" at Cannes, a point that was acknowledged with misgiving by some of the attendees of the festival.
For this reason, I went to see Catherine Corsini's film Three Worlds in the "Certain Regard" category.
The story of a young car salesman who accidentally kills a poor Moldavian worker with his car -- and then drives off in panic -- the film is highly engaging. One gets quickly invested in this man's plight, as his hit-and-run accident threatens to not only destroy his inner being (with guilt) but his upcoming marriage to the rich boss' daughter.
The film, however, is full of flaws, that compound as the story develops. Some of the plot is stretched (the scene where the guilty salesman goes to the hospital to the dying man's bedside and says, "Please live!' Please live!" is particularly groan-worthy), and, most importantly, the central character, this young man, becomes unsympathetic midway. He is so weak. He not only ran from the accident, but he ends up lying, cheating and stealing in order to make up for his crime. Get some character, I thought.
Despite its flaws, I enjoyed the film. The high drama moves fast, and I did want to know what happened next.
Besides it offered a relief from all the macho violent films in competition, such as Lawless and Killing Them Softly. Here a death matters. The fact that a man died is not something forgotten from one shot to the next. Ethical choices are at the core of every scene. I only wish all the women characters in the film were not so kind-hearted, so willing to forgive the salesman's faults. We are such push-overs, I thought. Even the angry wife -- played passionately Arta Dobroshi --ends up giving the salesman a gentle look. "What's your name?" she says tenderly.
I met with the French director Catherine Corsini in the lounge of the Cannes Palace.
"Yes, it's true this notion of morality may be feminine in my film, but there are also male cineastes, like James Gray, who pose these kinds of questions."
As for the weakness of the man, she had a compassionate view:
He was very trapped in his milieu, in the office where he works. He is always in the mirror of someone else. He does not show who he really is. He changes, according to whom he is. He is weak because he does not want disappoint his mother, his father in law. He needs courage to say no to mother, garage, to leave his fiancée.
But perhaps, the director noted, she had made him a bit too weak in the film. She would have to think about that.
I turned to Arta Dobroshi. It is always a pleasure to meet up with Arta, the Kosovar actress who starred in the Dardenne Brothers' prize-winning Lorna's Silence.
Here she plays the Moldavian woman destroyed by her husband's accidental death.
"I wanted to present this woman with dignity," said Arta brightly, as she sat poised at a quiet table, wearing a summery white top and long blue skirt.
She admitted that she found a certain inconsistency in her character when she turns from being angry at the young man, to that gracious line: "What's your name?"
"But I thought hard about it, and tried to make it make sense for her. When I do a character, I do it 100 percent." Arta's eyes beamed with intelligence and empathy: her trademark. "Whatever you do, you must do it 100 percent, with no doubts."
She mentioned that she was now acting in a new film, directed by her British boyfriend, Daniel Mulloy, in which she plays a homeless woman.
Here she gave it her all too. To prepare for the part, she dressed like a homeless person.
"What was amazing," she said, eyes widened, "was that people actually thought I WAS a homeless person in the street. They treated me so badly, like I was dirt. Like I was nothing. But then suddenly I would be recognized and they would say, with embarrassment, 'Oh it's Arta!'"
She confessed that she was shocked by what she learned about human beings from this experience.
Corsini's film is a pleasure to watch if only for Arta's sincerely 100 percent role, full of ethical outrage: especially when she yells at a team of doctors that if they want her husband's organs, they will have to pay for each one.
And one hopes for another film from Corsini, in which the screenplay is trouble-shot.