Sunday, May 28, 2017
2017 Cannes Film Festival Marathon Post-Mortem
Another end to a great festival and certainly one of the most interesting as it began with some controversy over the role of Netflix. It has to do with the fact that two of the films playing in competition for the Palme d’Or such as Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories are being released exclusively through Netflix but won’t be playing in theaters in France which has caused a stir. This led to a debate between the jury’s president Pedro Almodovar and one of the jurors in Will Smith over this issue as Almodovar believes that films should be seen in the theaters as I definitely agree with him as I’m not fond of this exclusivity. I can understand Smith’s point of view of being able to see a film in your living room but the fact that not everyone in the world has nor are willing to subscribe to Netflix or any kind of streaming platform seem to be left out. There’s a lot out there that has raised some very interesting discussions about streaming platforms and how to get films available to the public as it’s something that will continue.
As for the festival itself, there were a lot of damn good films that managed to create some buzz and intrigue as I’m interested in seeing Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories but I would like to see them in the theaters as I’m still a traditionalist. I’m glad there were some good films that played in competition for the Palme d’Or such as Wonderstruck by Todd Haynes, Francois Ozon’s L’Amant Double, and Michael Hanake’s Happy End got some good reception though Hanake’s film did also get some mixed reviews which is actually interesting. There were also some films that played out of competition or at the Un Certain Regarde section that were also interesting such as Sean Baker’s The Florida Project and Taylor Sheridan’s Wind Rider which won Sheridan its Best Director prize while John Cameron Mitchell’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties definitely raised some interest.
Then there’s some of the big films that were competing that created some buzz though I was kind of disappointed that Robin Campillo’s 120 Beats Per Minute didn’t win the Palme d’Or but was able to walk away with some prizes such as the Queer Palm, the 2nd place Grand Jury prize, and the FIPRESCI prize. Winning the Palme d’Or this year is The Square by Ruben Ostlund of Force Majeure as that is a surprise as I’m intrigued to see that film. I’m happy that films such as Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless received honors as Loveless receives the third place Jury Prize while Coppola would become the second woman to win the festival’s Best Director prize.
In the acting front, Joaquin Phoenix wins best actor for You Were Never Really Here while Ramsay and Lanthimos shared the Best Screenplay prize for their films. Diane Kruger was a surprise in receiving the festival’s Best Actress prize for Fatih Akin’s In the Fade as it’s deserving since she is a great actress while Nicole Kidman received the festival’s 70th Anniversary prize which is very deserving as she’s definitely been the ball of the festival. The coverage for the festival has been amazing as I would like to thank the AV Club, IndieWire, and The Film Experience for their work in covering the festival. I also thank social media as I was able to follow along amidst some of the chaos relating to politics and other events which includes the tragedy in Manchester where the festival was able to hold a minute of silence for those that had fallen.
Now that the festival is over, so has been this year’s marathon which has been a lot of fun this year. I ended up adding one more film to the marathon for the competition which did push aside my Blind Spot choice as I’m watching it at this moment. I had hoped to scale it down like I said I was going to do last year as it’s near impossible to watch 14 films in 11 days though I managed to do it in just 10. I’m kind of tired at the moment but I had some fun as this year’s selection was certainly a joy to watch. Now it’s time to give out the fictional version of the prizes for this marathon.
The fictional Palme d’Or of the marathon goes to…. The Handmaiden
Chan-wook Park’s 2016 film is definitely everything a film should be and more. It’s unsettling, it’s intriguing, it’s odd, it’s intense, it’s erotic, and it is fucking balls to the wall and more. Taking Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith and setting into Japan-occupied Korea during the early years of the 20th Century, Park’s film is an exploration of identity, ambition, and longing as it features not just phenomenal performances from Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, and Ha Jung-woo. It’s got some of the finest technical work presented on film as Park’s collaborators manage to raise the bar of what could be done in such lavish period productions and make it feel very dangerous as well as intoxicating.
The 2nd place Grand Jury prize goes to…. Our Little Sister
Sometimes, films don’t need to be big and grand in order to tell a story which is why Hirokazu Koreeda could be described as this generation’s Yasujiro Ozu. The simple story of three sisters in their 20s who take in their newly-discovered teenage half-sister shows that even a story with just the simplest plot can be very extraordinary. Set in the seaside city of Kamamura, Koreeda just goes for something that that is very engaging and universal in its stories about sisters. It has a lot of things people would expect in terms of what life is like as it also creates a lot of questions of these women and their late father. Even as some of them go through growing pains and other issues but all do it together in a film that didn’t need to be overly-dramatized or laced with heavy-handed sentimentality.
The third place Jury Prize goes to…. Harakiri
Masaki Kobayashi is often overlooked when it comes to the great Japanese filmmakers as he’s often not in the conversation with the likes of Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, and Kenji Mizoguchi. Yet, he should be in that list of men who defined Japanese cinema as his film about the subject of seppuku isn’t just one of his best but also one of his darkest films of his career. Especially as it features an intense performance from Tatsuya Nakadai in this idea of what the samurai has to deal with at a time when they have no master to serve nor have the means to make a living. Even as the film with its eerie cinematography and Toru Takemitsu’s eerie score as it would play into this climax that is just monstrous and visceral.
The Best Director Prize goes to…. Denis Villeneuve for Sicario
Denis Villeneuve has definitely been a big name lately as his 2015 film about the drug war is definitely one of his finest. Especially as it play into the darkest aspects of the drug war told from the perspective of an idealistic FBI agent who is there along for the ride. Villeneuve’s direction has these gorgeous visuals, aided by cinematographer Roger Deakin, in the way it play into this chaotic conflict between the American drug task force and these Mexican drug runners where it is very violent and gripping.
The Best Screenplay Prize goes to…. Vittorio de Sica and Cesare Zavattini for Umberto D.
Vittorio de Sica’s neorealist film about a man dealing with alienation of postwar Italy in its economic boom and being forced out of his apartment is definitely a heartbreaking story. Based on Cesare Zavattini’s own story which definitely had a lot of the things de Sica was looking for. It is a film that explore some of the drawbacks of this postwar economic miracle that some were left out on as it features a heartbreaking performance from Carlo Battisti as well as the dog Napoleone as the titular character’s companion Flike. It is a very human story that says a lot about the ways of the world and how a generation shouldn’t ignore the work the previous generation did as it is one of de Sica’s crowning achievements.
The Best Actor Prize goes to…. Tatsuya Nakadai for Harakiri
Tatsuya Nakadai is one of the premier actors in world cinema as he’s often never talked about when it comes to great actors. Not just in his collaboration with Akira Kurosawa for films such as Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Kagemusha, Ran, and several others but also with Masaki Kobayashi where he really became a star. His performance in one of 11 collaborations with Kobayashi is his most intense in terms of what his character has to go through as well as the humility he displays that later turns into rage and one-upmanship.
The Best Actress Prize goes to…. Emily Blunt for Sicario
Emily Blunt is a big name considering the fact that she is a star in the world of Hollywood but there is a lot more to her for those who have seen her work outside of Hollywood. There were performances in the marathon that were great but Blunt’s performance as this idealistic FBI agent who reluctantly joins a task force sticks out due to the fact that it has her doing something very different. There’s a humility to her performance but also a sense of grit without the need to act tough.
Technical Jury Prize goes to…. Toru Takemitsu for Harakiri
The score that Toru Takemitsu creates for Kobayashi’s film is definitely unusual as much of the scores in the film are either electronic or orchestral-based with very few standing out. Takemitsu’s score has this air of terror in the way it approaches suspense through music as it uses its string instruments in a very imperfect and discordant way that isn’t heard of very often in film scores. Especially in its usage of traditional Japanese percussions as it help adds this unsettling atmosphere in some of the action and drama.
The Special Jury Prize goes to…. Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho, and Suzu Hirose for Our Little Sister
Ensemble casts often help make a film what it is yet it is these four women playing the role of sisters in Hirokazu Koreeda’s film that really add something special to it. Notably as they have this natural chemistry that is insatiable as it makes it feel like you’re watching real sisters instead of actresses. It helps add to the ravishing quality of the film as well as bring all sorts of emotions into the film as the actresses are just incredible.
And now for the ranking of the 11 other films from this marathon:
Denis Villeneuve’s 2015 film about the drug war is certainly one of the most chilling and intense films that explore this world of corruption and greed. Featuring great performances from Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio del Toro, the film is a look of what some will do in the war on drugs but also what the other side is willing to do to help drug lords and such. Armed with great photography from Roger Deakins and a chilling score by Johan Johannson, the film is definitely a suspense-thriller that doesn’t play by the rules nor is it willing to offer any easy answers to big questions.
5. Umberto D.
Vittorio de Sica’s neo-realist film about an old man dealing with the neglect and indifference of the post-war economic boom that many of Italy’s younger residents are reaping with as it’s an exploration of a man driven to the edge. Despite the fact that the titular character does get a few moments of sympathy including a young and pregnant maid, it is really about his journey into trying to keep his home and maintain some dignity with his dog Flike as it is a film that really goes for big emotions but without anything that is heavy-handed.
6. Fantastic Planet
Rene Laloux’s surreal adaptation of Stefan Wul’s novel is definitely one of the weirdest films of the entry as well as one of the few animation films to play at the festival. It plays into the idea of humans being treated as pets for gigantic blue aliens until one of them gains the intelligence of the aliens and uses it against them. It’s a very fascinating film that anyone who loves animation should see.
7. Ballad of a Soldier
From Grigori Chukhari comes one of the most tender and humanistic portraits of war told by a young soldier who is given a two-day leave to see his mother as he goes on a journey through the Soviet Union on life during wartime. Featuring sensational performances from Vladimir Ivashov and Zhanna Prokhorenko as the young woman who joins Ivashov’s character on the journey. It’s a film that can’t be described as an anti-war film though it doesn’t fit in with any kind of genre as it is really something special with a powerful ending.
8. The Nice Guys
Definitely the most entertaining film of the marathon, Shane Black’s neo-noir suspense-comedy set in the late 1970s in Los Angeles is really fucking bonkers. Featuring fantastic performances from Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as a mismatched duo trying to find a missing young woman. It is a film that bears a lot of Black’s hallmarks in terms of its over-the-top violence and witty dialogue as well as characters that are engaging which include Angourie Rice as Gosling’s daughter.
9. The Passionate Friends
David Lean’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel about affairs and longing is definitely one of his finest and often overlooked films in comparison to the epics he would make later in his career. Yet, this film is really fascinating as it play into Ann Todd’s own reflection of her affair with Trevor Howard while being married to Claude Rains. Then everything becomes complicated when Todd’s character sees Howard’s character for the very first time in years as she wonders if she still has feelings for him as it leads to trouble as it is filled with some of Lean’s most gorgeous visuals.
10. The Holy Girl
Lucrecia Martel is a filmmaker more people should know about as her second feature-length film is a fascinating study of faith and a woman coming of age through her sexuality. It’s a very unconventional film in terms of what is expected in these films as it’s got a lot happening as it is set almost entirely in a hotel. Martel’s filmmaking is key to what makes it interesting as she doesn’t really go for anything conventional in terms of expressing sexuality and drama while leaving things very open right towards the end.
11. Tale of Tales
Matteo Garrone’s surrealistic take on classic fairytales written by Giambattista Basile is definitely one of the oddest films I’ve seen as it owe a lot to the works of Federico Fellini. Yet, its ensemble cast that include Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly, and Shirley Henderson does make it a very fascinating and entertaining film. Even as it does so many different things for the different stories where you couldn’t help but either be in awe or repulsed.
12. Coming Home
Zhang Yimou’s 2014 drama is definitely a return of sorts of something more intimate after a period of lavish films where it features a phenomenal performance from Yimou regular Gong Li as a woman who loses her memory in an incident as she tried to reunite with her husband. Set during the final years of the Cultural Revolution and three years after its end, the film is just this simple yet tender drama that explores what a man will do to be with his wife despite the fact that she has no idea who he is while thinking he will return to her.
13. Dream of Light
Victor Erice is a filmmaker who really needs to make more films as his third and most recent feature-length film is certainly the most challenging film of the marathon. Notably as it’s a very unconventional documentary on painter Antonio Lopez Garcia and his attempt to paint a quince sun tree. It shows Garcia’s meticulous approach to his painting as well as what he does to try and capture something in the most realistic manner as it is a daunting film that requires a lot of patience but it is very rewarding in the end.
14. The Crucified Lovers
From Kenji Mizoguchi is a film that explores not just some of the fallacies of 17th Century Japan in its morality but also what a man does when he accuses his wife of adultery with his apprentice. It is a compelling film that doesn’t show a man’s greed and selfishness that would ultimately be his undoing but also the trouble he causes for his wife and apprentice where they would eventually fall in love despite the high morality that was happening in Japanese society during that time.
Well, that is all for this year’s marathon. I’m not sure what I will do with next year as I want to do another focusing, once again, on the Palme d’Or winners. I’m thinking about making the marathon into a blog-a-thon with other bloggers so that we can all see some of these great films and figure out whether or not they deserved the Palme d’Or. Until then, au revoir.
© thevoid99 2017