Monday, May 23, 2016

2016 Cannes Film Festival Marathon Post-Mortem

Well this was certainly an exciting festival this year as a lot of crazy shit happened. Yet, this is among the reasons why I love Cannes as this year was no exception. Especially as a lot of films came out and stirred up some crazy shit. Personal Shopper, It's Only the End of the World, and The Neon Demon certainly created a lot of trouble with boos and polarizing reactions yet those are the films that are very interesting because of the notoriety. I would like to thank the people at The Film Experience for their coverage as well as the A/V Club, Variety, and Indiewire for their work in capturing a lot of what had happened. I'm disappointed however at the fact that there wasn't any word about Alejandro Jodorowsky's new film Endless Poetry which played at the Director's Fortnight as there haven't been any reviews on the film out.

It is disappointing that some of the films that played in competition like Loving by Jeff Nichols and Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann didn't walk away with any big prizes despite the rave reviews it got while Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon, Chan-wook Park's The Handmaiden, Pedro Almodovar's Julieta, Paul Verhoeven's Elle, the Dardenne Brothers' The Unknown Girl, and Jim Jarmuch's Paterson (as well as Stooges' documentary Gimme Danger) received some good notices. I was also happy to see that Sean Penn got the ass-kicking of a lifetime for his new film The Last Face not only receiving the festival's worst reviews but also a bad screening as anyone saw the photo calls, the press conferences, and red carpet ceremony for that film know that Penn and one of the film's stars in Charlize Theron are being cold to one another. I guess this is what happens when someone's activist ideals are put into a very bland film and gets bitten in the ass for it. So Sean, go back to Hollywood in your expensive mansion and shut the fuck up. No one wants to hear about your bullshit liberal politics and ideas about what to do while your sitting in that expensive house of yours with whatever lame starlet who is probably grossed out in having sex with your old, wrinkly ass.

Now to those who won as the real surprise was who won the Palme d'Or as Ken Loach is once again in that small list of filmmakers who have won the Palme d'Or twice as his film I, Daniel Blake was the surprise winner as it's once again rumored to be his last film. Despite the lukewarm reviews it had received, Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World did walk away with the Grand Jury Prize as it is a big fuck you to its critics as well as another achievement for the Canadian wunderkind. Andrea Arnold's American Honey wins the Jury Prize while Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman walked away with 2 prizes for its screenplay and Best Actor to Sahab Hosseini making Farhadi a real premier filmmaker. Jaclyn Jose was a surprise winner for Best Actress for her work in Ma Roas while a tie was made for the Best Director Prize to Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper and Cristian Mungiu for Graduation.

Now that the festival is over until the next year. It is time for the marathon itself as it was quite fun as I saw a lot of great films though the scheduling of it in the course of 11 days was tough as I think I might have to scale down things a bit for next year's marathon. It's only because there's other things in my life that is happening as it's hard to watch 12 films in the span of 11 days. I was going to include one of my Blind Spots for the marathon but I ended up seeing it for the last day of the festival. Now it is time to give out some fictional prizes and rankings:

The Palme d'Or goes to.... Love and Anarchy

For years, I have heard of Lina Wertmuller but her films rarely play on TV as this film was made its premiere on TCM back in October as I recorded it and saved it for the marathon. It's a film I had no idea what I was getting myself into but it is really unlike anything I had ever seen. It does bear elements of Federico Fellini in terms of its visuals but it is more grounded and also very violent at times. Yet, it is a film that plays into the idea of a world that is in control by those who want things their way where a farmer tries to take up the cause of a friend only to contend with the idea of love despite his duty for a better future. Giancarlo Giannini's performance is astonishing as he really displays that anguish into a man coping with possible failure but also death as Wertmuller really does a lot to explore many of the political aspects in the film including sexual politics where it's the women that are really in charge in this brothel that Giannini's character stays at. It's a film that many should see in the hopes that will create some renewed interest in the works of Lina Wertmuller.

The 2nd Place Grand Jury Prize goes to... The Dance of Reality

Alejandro Jodorowsky's comeback film is something really special as it is also a real surprise considering Jodorowsky's reputation as this surrealist filmmaker who doesn't play by the rules. Yet, what makes this film exceed so many expectations is that it is very personal as it relates to Jodorowsky's own life as a child in a small Chilean coastal town. With his son Brontis playing his own grandfather, it is a film that has a lot happening but also display that mixture of innocence, surrealism, drama, and humor. Yet, never loses sight of its exploration of the life of a family as it is a film that is very touching but also manages to be something of its own.

The 3rd Place Jury Prize goes to... Salaam Bombay!

Mira Nair is a master filmmaker and her feature-film debut shot on 52 locations and 52 days is really one of a kind. The story of a boy trying to raise money to return home as he struggles to do all sorts of things in the chaotic city of Mumbai. It is a film that is really an experience as it captures a world in India that is really unlike anything. It's not just the look of it but it's also the atmosphere where it even has smell that is indescribable. Nair's approach to cinema verite doesn't just have this sense of realism in the film but it also manages to say a lot in a world that is quite cruel. Still, the film also display a story that has some semblance of hope no matter how hard things are as it is a crowning achievement from Nair.

The Best Director Prize goes to... Andrey Zvyagintsev for Leviathan

Andrey Zvyagintsev's work in Leviathan is nothing short of brilliant in not just creating a modern-day re-telling of the Book of Job. It is also for the fact that it is told in a very accessible way that audiences can relate to while providing some commentary about the current state of the Russian government and its growing corruption that also involves its church. It has these amazing visuals that could be set anywhere in the world but it remains grounded in a country where the everyman who is just trying to do something good gets pushed aside for someone else's bullshit and then have his life unravel in the worst ways. Zvyagintsev's direction is key to the film for not just creating that sense of drama but also in those eerie final moments that play into what was lost and also about Russia as a whole.

The Best Actor Prize goes to.... Mads Mikkelsen for The Hunt

For anyone that has heard of Mads Mikkelsen knows that he can play dark characters but that's just a handful of roles he's played as everyone who had seen other things he's done including his collaboration with Nicolas Winding Refn know the man is more than capable than playing a villain. In this role as a kind kindergarten teacher whose life is ruined by a lie, Mikkelsen doesn't really go for anything that is showy nor powerful in ideas of what other actors would typically do. Instead, it's a performance that is full of sensitivity and care where Mikkelsen provides some sympathy into his role as he tries to let the truth be unveiled. Even as he is eventually pushed to the edge where he does lash out but does it in such a cool way as it showcases why Mikkelsen is one of cinema's great actors.

The Best Actress Prize goes to... Yoon Jeong-hee for Poetry

A performance where someone deals with a disease is often the kind of performances that screams awards-bait unless someone finds a way to stray from that sense of vanity. Yoon Jeong-hee is an example someone not playing for the awards but rather create a performance that is realistic but also enchanting. Especially as she creates a character who is filled with curiosity over the idea of poetry and taking her time to create one as well as deal with implication of a young girl's suicide that her grandson might be involved in. Jeong-hee maintains a restraint but also a liveliness to her role such as the brief moment where she is singing karaoke as it's really a performance many should check out.

Best Screenplay Prize goes to... Paul Laverty for Jimmy's Hall

Paul Laverty has been Ken Loach's best kept secret for 20 years as he would provide Loach with stories that many in film wouldn't tell. In this simple story about Jimmy Gralton's return to Ireland during the Great Depression where he re-opens a community hall as he tries to do things peacefully. The script doesn't just play into a lot of Ireland's troubled past as it relates to British loyalists and landowners but also in how common people try to survive during the Depression as well as foresee what is happening in Europe. It's a film that says a lot to Gralton's attempt to revive the hope of common people that would also led to his deportation from the country he was born in.

Technical Jury Prize goes to... Hiroshi Segawa for Woman in the Dunes

Hiroshi Segawa's black-and-white cinematography is among the many wonders that is shown in Hiroshi Teshigahara's film about a man living in the sand dunes with a woman in a mysterious village. The photography captures every bit of detail in not just the lighting but in the sand. The usage of the close-ups and the imagery that is captured in these dunes are just some of the most beautiful images ever presented on film. Segawa also creates some startling images that adds a lot to the film's eroticism where it isn't about showing nudity but rather the feel of sensuality at its most natural as his work needs to be recognized.

The Special Jury Prize goes to... Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribiero Salgado for The Salt of the Earth

The work that Wim Wenders and Julian Ribiero Salgado did in providing the latter's father in the fame photographer Sebastiao Salgado is amazing. More importantly, it is also capturing the depth of Salgado's photography and the things/people he profiles. It also shows what the world could be again as it relates to the Salgado family farm which had become ravaged by drought and neglect only to be resurrected with trees and forests being rebuild. The work of Wenders and Salgado is incredible for giving an artist his due as well as providing the idea of hope in a complicated and modernist world.

And now the ranking for the 9 remaining films of the marathon:

4. Leviathan

Andrey Zvyagintsev's modern re-telling of the Book of Job is an entrancing study of loss and the ills of humanity in a world that is increasingly corrupt. Featuring a great cast as well as some very insightful commentary on the current state of the Russian government and its affiliation with the church. Even as it is a story where a man is just trying to save his home from being destroyed by its greedy mayor.

5. The Hunt

Thomas Vinterberg's story of a man's life destroyed by a lie is definitely a major return-to-form from one of the founders of the Dogme 95 movement of the late 90s. Featuring a career-defining performance from Mads Mikkelsen, it's a film that explores a small town's hysterical reaction over a man possibly sexually-abusing a young girl when it wasn't really true. Especially when the young girl had no real clue of what she did which only made things more interesting as she is the daughter of Mikkelsen's best friend.

6. The Salt of the Earth

The documentary profile of Sebastiao Salgado helmed by his son Juliano Ribiero and longtime friend Wim Wenders definitely stray from many of the conventions of what a documentary is. It's not just about a man's body of work and the subjects he shoots through his camera. It's also in the fact that he was able to rebuild his family farm for a forest sanctuary that led to the resurrection of an entire forest that was later given to the government as an example of what the world can be again.

7. Woman in the Dunes

Hiroshi Teshigahara's film about a man who is lured into the sand dunes of a mysterious village and to live with a woman in the dunes is one of the strangest yet evocative films of the 1960s. It's a surrealistic film that doesn't have much of a plot as it's more about images and situations. It is a film that is really a landmark in the world of Japanese cinema as it led by its gorgeous visuals and Toru Takemitsu's haunting score.

8. Lost River

Ryan Gosling's debut film is definitely a strange one but it's a film that is just too entrancing to ignore. Set in a fictional small town near Detroit, it is a film that explores a family trying to survive where a mother would work in this macabre club while her teenage son tries to evade the presence of a deranged crime boss. While it's a film that owes a lot to the works of David Lynch, Nicolas Winding Refn, and Terrence Malick, Gosling manages to create something that is his own and showcase someone who does have something to say outside of his work as an actor.

9. Jimmy's Hall

Ken Loach's story of Jimmy Gralton's return to Ireland in 1932 during the Great Depression is a unique study of a place in time where Ireland finds itself in conflict over the ideals of the old world order and the new world order. Featuring a great cast led by Barry Walton as Jimmy Gralton as well as a great script and views about what was happening in the country. The film is a unique study of a man's attempt to find a place for the people despite his Socialist views as well as trying to get those in the world of the Catholic church to face their own crimes where they are unprepared for the emergence of a much darker world that is coming out of the Great Depression.

10. Poetry

Lee Chang-dong's drama about a woman suffering from Alzheimer's and dealing with the chaos of a young girl's suicide is a haunting yet mesmerizing tale that is told with such sensitivity thanks in part to the radiant performance of Yoon Jeong-hee. A film that could've gone into sentimental or melodramatic territory, Chang-dong aims for something that is very simple and filled with natural imagery as well as maintain a tone that is understated making him one of South Korea's premier filmmakers.

11. Young Torless

The debut film from Volker Schlondorff is a unique study about life in an Austrian boarding school during the early 20th Century. In this adaptation of Robert Musil's autobiographical novel, the film is a unique study of conformity as well as abuse and power in the hands of schoolboys where one of them is forced to watch another be punished severely. Even as it indicates into a world that not many can belong to as it sort of serves as a reflection to the way modern society acts towards those who don't fit in with the rest of the world.

12. Friendly Persuasion

While William Wyler's Civil War family drama is a fantastic film that features great performances from Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire. The fact that it won the Palme d'Or at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival over more regarded classics like Nights of Cabiria by Federico Fellini, Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped, and The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman is baffling. It's a fine film but it's not the great film some will claim it to be.

Well, that is it for the Cannes marathon. It was a lot of fun as it will happen again next year. Until then, au revoir.

© thevoid99 2016


Anonymous said...

Love these!

Salaam Bombay is such a tremendous film (as I'm sure you saw it make my 1988 BP ballot) so I'm so happy to see love for it here.

And critics can suck it, Dolan is here to stay!

thevoid99 said...

My mother also saw Salaam Bombay! on the day I watched it and she fell in love with it as well.

BTW, did you see Mads Mikkelsen's reaction to Dolan's speech?

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