Seventeen years after he saw his debut feature Madame Satã premiere in the Un Certain Regard program, Karim Aïnouz returned to the Cannes sidebar this year with The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão—and won the section’s top award. Billed as a “tropical melodrama” and based on the popular 2015 novel by Martha Batalha, the film tells the story of two inseparable sisters, Eurídice (Carol Duarte) and Guida (Júlia Stockler), growing up in a conservative household in Rio de Janeiro in the mid-1950s. At twenty, Guida is two years older and eager to break out, while the quieter Eurídice practices piano and dreams of attending a conservatory in Vienna.
When Guida elopes to Athens with a handsome Greek sailor, she’s ostracized from the family, and the sisters write secret letters to each other, never knowing whether or not they’ll actually get delivered. “Anyone already familiar with Aïnouz’s work will know to expect a florid sensory experience,” writes Guy Lodge for Variety, “but even by the Brazilian’s standards, this heartbroken tale of two sisters separated for decades by familial shame and deceit is a waking dream, saturated in sound, music, and color to match its depth of feeling. From the first, jungle-set shot, the redoubtable DP Hélène Louvart gives the film the daubed, traffic-light palette of a ripe mango; were it possible, you’d expect it to have an aroma to match.”