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Direct from Cannes comes Catalan provocateur Albert Serra’s most dazzling work yet: a Polynesian fever dream full of dark intrigue, ghost submarines and creeping menace.
On the island of Tahiti, raffish high commissioner De Roller (Benoît Magimel, The Piano Teacher) moves through shady nightclubs and the entitled establishment, hatching plans to build a casino even as he’s enveloped by a growing paranoia. As he begins to have visions of phantom submarines against the horizon, De Roller fears the return of the nuclear testing that ravaged the region.
A sensation at this year’s Cannes, where it both electrified and divided critics, the latest slow-burn masterwork from Serra (The Death of Louis XIV, MIFF 2016; The Story of My Death, MIFF 2014) stares deep into the heart of man’s evil, unfolding on screen like a beautifully rapturous nightmare. De Roller’s crumbling reality is a fugue state haunted by shadowy club barons (the unsettling Sergi López, Pan’s Labyrinth) and tender romances (rae-rae actor Pahoa Mahagafanau, revelatory as a dance choreographer) – a world that Serra transforms into his most evocative, most unshakeable work to date.
Serra’s bizarre epic is a cheese-dream of French imperial tristesse, political paranoia and an apocalyptic despair. It is a nightmare that moves as slowly and confidently as a somnambulist.
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