The Cannes Film Festival 2013 has barely started and we already got our first bona fide critical favorite on our hands: 's French The Past apparently is on par quality-wise with the director's last film, the Iranian family drama A Separation. The latter won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, as well as the Golden Bear at the Berlinale Film Festival and was released in the U.S. to near universal critical acclaim (99% on Rotten Tomatoes). In short: it was well liked!
While it's probably too early to say, The Past doesn't look shabby in comparison - although there seems to a bit more reservation from the critics this time. The most enthusiastic responses to the divorce drama came via Twitter.
THE PAST: Palme prospect like folo 2 A SEPARATION, Farhadi's Oscar gem, no less potent observing how small misdeeds accrue pain. #Cannes2013— Peter Howell (@peterhowellfilm) May 17, 2013
I’ve rarely felt as riveted & absorbed by the complexities & recriminations of a family’s domestic history as I was by“The Past.”Socko.— Hollywood Elsewhere (@wellshwood) May 17, 2013
Farhadi's The Past will be tough to beat for the Palme.Exceptional. #cannes2013— Sasha Stone (@AwardsDaily) May 17, 2013
Proper reviews for the drama were slightly more subdued. But only slightly.
IndieWire's The Playlist calls the film 'very very good' instead of great, citing the third act as being a little too keen on trying to tie up every thread instead of leaving some questions unanswered.
Screen Daily's Lee Marshall strikes a similar note calling The Past 'a brilliant piece of cinematic craftsmanship' but having some reservations because he feels the story too 'designed for dramatic effect.'
an intricate and often brilliant drama, with restrained and intelligent performances; there is an elegantly patterned mosaic of detail, unexpected plot turns, suspenseful twists and revelations.
Universally lauded, without any reservation whatsoever, were the performances by The Artist-star and her co-stars. Justin Chag, writing for Variety:
In a performance of bristling intelligence and verbal acuity that may surprise audiences who know only her silent turn from The Artist, [Berenice] Bejo embodies a particular brand of hotheaded, hopelessly romantic Gallic femininity without tilting into cliche. [Ali] Mosaffa is remarkable as a well-intentioned outsider with a melancholy streak, hinting at a history of depression that factors into the story at various points. [Tahar] Rahim emerges later in the proceedings but becomes a prominent and sympathetic figure, in perfect keeping with Farhadi’s highly democratic methods.
And with praise like this, the 'O' word is never too far off:
But the answer to that question is ever farther away than the related one, answerable below...