Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell
Bên Trong Vỏ Kén VàngDirected by Thien An Pham
Cast: Le Phong Vu, Nguyen Thi Truc Quynh, Nguyen Thinh
Camera d’Or, 2023 Cannes Film Festival
Pham Thien An’s (Stay Awake, Be Ready, SDAFF ’19) debut feature opens on a noisy street corner in Saigon, where three friends debate the pragmatics of spirituality and enlightenment. Moments later, a motorcycle crash takes place just beyond the frame, and one of the three friends is revealed to be the brother-in-law of the victim. Following the tragedy, he returns home to the countryside with his now-orphaned nephew Đào, on a grand, picturesque journey to find Đào’s long-absent father.
With its meditative gaze and controlled formalism, the film has been compared to the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Bi Gan, and other masters of slow cinema. As with the crash that begins the film, Pham builds anticipation through what is left off-screen, finding in the tension between presence and absence, narrative and non-narrative, and life and death, spiritual questions about the unknowable. As much a journey of selfhood as it is mystery of a missing relative, INSIDE THE YELLOW COCOON SHELL finds human intimacy and connection in the Vietnamese countryside and the people met along the way.
– Justin Nguyen