Jerzy Skolimowski’s Adventures of a Mule – The Hollywood Reporter

Does the cinema have room for two films that trick the artist in its repertoire?

That is the question one inevitably asks before seeing the latest play by Polish dancer Jerzy Skolimowski, EOchronicles some of the adventures in the life of a mule who is both stubborn and mule-like, but also wise and free, traveling across Poland and Italy as it passes through various hands and Try to find some peace.


Key point

Golden Palm Award.

Place: Cannes Film Festival (Competition)
Cast: Sandra Dryzmalska, Isabelle Huppert, Lorenzo Zurzulo, Mateusz Koscieukiewicz
Manager: Jerzy Skolimowski
Writer: Jerzy Skolimowski, Ewa Paiskowska

1 hour 26 minutes

1966 by Robert Bresson Au hasard Balthazar Another great donkey movie, of course, but it’s also a completely different monster. While Bresson used his animal as a vehicle to observe different shades of human weakness and cruelty in the French provinces, Skolimowski used a more direct experimental approach. , fills its movie with breathtaking visuals and terrifying soundscapes all in one minimalist story.

However, although some stories are told in batches, EO, clocks in at a brief 86 minutes, which can be an enjoyable experience. This is in large part due to the stunning, immersive photography of Mychal Dymek (with additional footage by Pawel Edelman and Michal Englert), whose camera takes to the sky via drone to capture the landscape. a changing European scene or close-up and personal with our iconic hero (or heroine?), using what is best described as a subjective “donkey-cam”. If there are some movies that play better on the big screen in a dark theater with the sound turned up, this is one of them.

Skolimowski has a long and varied filmography (Easy win, Shout, Deep ending, Moonlight and many others) is always tested, but probably never as much as this time. Working with co-writer and producer Ewa Paiskowska, he eschews a conventional plot in favor of something that straddles fiction and non-fiction, nature documentary and avant-garde mood work. If there is any message behind EOit’s animals – especially donkeys – that are still treated so brutally, on the contrary they are what makes our world so beautiful.

EO, who is portrayed by six separate donkeys (in the profile they are Hola, Tako, Marietta, Ettore, Rocco and Mela), was first seen working in a Polish circus, performing with with lovely young Kasandra (Sandra Dryzmalska). The girl is both a caretaker and best friend, but she and the mule are soon separated when animal rights activists protesting the circus and EO are moved to a nearby horse farm.

In that opening, Skolimowski seems to have emphasized the extent to which humans can never fully know what is best for animals, even if they think so. It is a motif throughout the film as EO is passed from hand to hand, while always longing to be reunited with Kasandra. (This seems like a direct reference to the Bresson movie, where Balthazar’s life is never better than when he was cared for by young Marie at first.)

A donkey’s existence has some highs, such as when it is moved to a foster zoo and becomes the object of affection from a class of students with intellectual disabilities, and a lot of lows, like when it was abandoned on the farm to be supported by all. horses are groomed (one of them makes fashion models) or are almost hunted in the woods at night.

Both moods are combined in what is perhaps the longest film’s description, as EO appears at a Polish regional soccer game and ends playing one-handed in the victory of the local team. They then take him to a bar to celebrate, only to be attacked by thugs from the other team who not only beat up all the fans and players, but also EO.

All of this would be mundane, even silly, if it weren’t for the extremely clear direction of Skolimowski, which makes even the tiniest of events – such as crossings. Italy by truck – also looks epic. Dymek’s camera soars into the air, circling to match the rhythm of a large wind turbine, or embracing the earth, in a shot that follows a four-legged robot as if it were a living being, too. The image is covered with red and blue filters, switching from hot to cold and from day to night, with a sequence that turns the forest into an outdoor disco using laser-guided rifles.

It’s all very easy ahead, even if EO’s life is rarely easy and doesn’t end easily. Without giving the final result, let’s just say it explores what classic savage animals still suffer, in a scene reminiscent of similar ones in Bong Joon-ho Okja or by Andrea Arnold Cowsboth have participated in Cannes.

Before that ending happened, another regular Cannes spectator appeared in the form of Isabelle Huppert, who made a brief cameo in a scene that looked like it was cut out of another movie – several kind of Franco-Italian family movie involving a mansion, a countess and a priest – and thrown in here for its sake. It’s not really much, but it shows Skolimowski’s willingness to try anything in this latest endeavor – the work of an 84-year-old filmmaker as independent as the animal he wants to set free.

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