Left: Manoel de Oliveira, The Strange Case of Angelica, 2010, still from a color film in 35 mm, 95 minutes. Right: Mathieu Amalric, Tournée, 2010, still from a color film in 35 mm, 111 minutes.

“COULD I HAVE BEEN to that place of absolute love I’ve heard about?” wonders Isaac (Ricardo Trêpa), a photographer who’s become enchanted by a dead young bride he’s been asked to take pictures of, in Manoel de Oliveira’s The Strange Case of Angelica, which opened Un Certain Regard. The Portuguese director, 101 years old, was born just fourteen years after cinema itself was created; using a cane to navigate the steps to the Salle Debussy stage, where he was greeted with a standing ovation, de Oliveira displayed the energy of someone a mere two-thirds his age.

Isaac’s question is one of the loftier expressed about matters of the heart; in several films viewed over the past twenty-four hours, the pleasures—and perils—of the flesh dominate. Radu Muntean’s Tuesday, After Christmas, another UCR entry, opens with its married protagonist and his mistress in the middle of a naked romp. Putting the XXX in extramarital, Im Sang-soo’s Competition title The Housemaid (a remake of Kim Ki-young’s 1960 film) tracks the disastrous outcome once the wife of a titan of industry discovers he has impregnated the domestic servant of the title. And the bosomy burlesque stars (many playing themselves) performing along the coast of France in actor-director Mathieu Amalric’s Tournée, also unspooling in Competition, excite male and female spectators alike, including one avid, matronly cashier in La Rochelle.

The protagonist of de Oliveira’s film, who falls in love with a ghost, also touches on another theme in the festival: absence, particularly that of Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who was asked to be a juror at Cannes but remains imprisoned in Tehran for his political views. Denied the right to join the festival in person, Panahi made a surprise appearance on-screen, in a three-minute short that preceded The Strange Case of Angelica, filmed sometime during his detention. Wry even under the worst circumstances, Panahi can’t help but note the absurdity of a security guard telling him, “I love The Circle,” his prize-winning 2000 film.

Melissa Anderson