Cannes 2018

Jaime Rosales’s Petra

With the premiere of Petra at this year’s Directors’ Fortnight, Spanish director Jaime Rosales, whose austere work has been compared to that of Bresson and Ozu, has now seen five of his six features screen in Cannes in one program or another. Petra centers on the titular artist (Bárbara Lennie) who suspects that the renowned sculptor she’s studying under, Jaume (Joan Botey), is her father, and critical reaction so far is mixed in the trade publications but much stronger elsewhere.

Screen’s Wendy Ide notes that Rosales “employs a non-linear chapter structure which, for the first hour at least, adds an intriguing knotty texture to the film. Ultimately, however, it’s a formal experiment which falters in the second half, rendering several key sequences redundant and robbing the picture of an emphatic ending.” In Variety, Jay Weissberg agrees that the “disappointment is inescapable given the excitement of the first part.”

But in the Notebook, Lawrence Garcia is with Petra from beginning to end, noting that it “bends both Greek tragedy and soap opera conventions into a superb formalist comedy” that “covers lost parentage, sexual intrigue, suicide, coercion, and murder, among other sordid twists and turns.”

Dispatching to Filmmaker, Blake Williams concentrates on the sheer mastery of the filmmaking. “Shots of interiors and otherwise, languorously shot by Hélène Louvart (working with Rosales for the first time), float spectrally, drunkenly, hovering into rooms of narrative action with averted eyes, often passing over humans to glance instead at the Dionysian pastorals . . . It’s as immediately welcoming and seductive a mise en scène as I’ve encountered in some time.”

More from Jonathan Holland in the Hollywood Reporter, Michael Leader for Sight & Sound, and Alfonso Rivera at Cineuropa, where he also interviews Rosales. And Petra is one of the films Nicolas Rapold and Manu Yáñez Murillo discuss on a recent episode of the Film Comment Podcast (33’05”).

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