Víctor Erice's big night in Cannes finally arrived. His Cerrar los ojos marked the Basque filmmaker's return to feature films 30 years after El sol del membrillo, awarded with the jury prize in a competition that in 1983 already screened the masterful El sur. But Erice did not go to the Croisette in the end, for "personal reasons", as he argued. The official silence on his presence already took center stage on Monday, when he did not appear at the photocall with the actors José Coronado, Ana Torrent, Manolo Solo, María León and Helena Miquel.
Be that as it may, Cerrar los ojos amazed the audience attending the Debussy theater for its authentic offering of a cinema that existed and will not return. A cinema in which Miguel Garay (Manolo Solo) takes refuge as the director of a film in the nineties that could not be finished due to the mysterious disappearance of the actor and friend protagonist, played by a splendid Coronado. Twenty-two years after the events, a program of events of the style ¿Quién sabe dónde? he investigates the case again and Garay gets involved in the process, and looks back to a story written by Michel Gaztambide that pours into memory and the passage of time, in addition to failure, oblivion, friendship or love in which Erice weaves a large work cooked on a slow fire, with prodigious photography, silences and looks that say it all.
The film also marks the director's reunion with Ana Torrent 50 years after El espíritu de la colmena, the film in which the actress debuted on the big screen at the age of six. "I still have memories of that shoot, when Víctor met me at school, the conversations with him... I remember it as if I had entered a magical world", recalls Torrent in a conversation with La Vanguardia, very moved by the warm reception of Cerrar los ojos, which he saw here for the first time. "I need a few days to get over all this, because it's been really exciting."
The actress and Erice have kept in touch all this time. "He told me that he had a script, that he wanted to make a film and that he wanted me. I couldn't believe it. And here began the excitement that has been all this. The act of love and generosity towards me and towards the cinema. Because there is a lot of reflection towards his cinema and identity", says Torrent, for whom the film has many details of Erice's life itself, "from the character embodied by Manolo Solo to the clear references to El ambrujo de Shanghai, for which he wrote the script, but did not get to shoot it".
The actress defines Erice "as a very precise director who looks for a lot of naturalness and leaves nothing to chance. Shooting with him again has been nice and easy." Of her Ana comments that "she is a woman who feels abandoned by a father who appears and disappears". And in it, as in the whole story, the gaze is there. Awaiting an answer.
Solo was also shocked by the standing ovation on Monday night. "It hooked me as a spectator, and took me on the journey that Víctor wants to propose", says the actor, who, in addition, was already very applauded in the scene in which he sings his version of My rifle, my pony and me Río Bravo. Solo, who has the full weight of the function, was shocked that Erice had not brought up rehearsals or talked about the character. "The slogan he gave me at the beginning was to abandon myself to the mystery. He is a man with a very strong character, and I have mine too. But in the end I'm very happy with what we achieved." And he defines his role, for which he wears white and wrinkled hair, as "a man with a backpack of wounds and scars who makes a journey to reunite with his past and who travels through many places physically and emotionally".
The protagonists of Fallen leaves, the film for which Aki Kaurismäki aspires to the Palme d'Or, travel through a Helsinki of 2024 that seems to be anchored in the past, with the war in Ukraine still occupying the main news radio "The war made me feel that this cursed world needed love stories", explains the Finnish filmmaker, who has poured himself into an atypical love story between two lonely souls that accumulates many moments of humor and is also a homage to the seventh art with gestures towards Chaplin, Godard or Jarmusch's zombies from Losmuertos no mueren, the opening film of Cannes in 2019. You see, in this festival cinema is breathed everywhere.