Sunday, May 20, 2018

2018 Cannes Marathon Post-Mortem

Well, this year’s Cannes Film Festival certainly became crazy as well as exciting. Starting off with a lot of uncertainty over Netflix pulling their films from the festival to some last-minute additions. It was definitely an exciting festival as it started off well but also managed to make some major moments such as a speech led by filmmaker Agnes Varda and Cannes jury president Cate Blanchett where 82 women stood together in protest for equal rights in the hopes that women will get a fair share in the world of film. It’s a major moment that will hopefully get more women filmmakers to have their films seen to the masses and maybe get the chance to have some of these women win big prizes at Cannes in the near future.

The festival itself got off to a good start with Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows which was well-received in its screening to kick start the competition while several films that played in competition for the Palme d’Or managed to standout such as Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum, Jia Zhangke’s Ash is Purest White, Lee Chang-dong’s Burning, and Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War have gotten my attention. At the same time, films outside of competition such as Gaspar Noe’s Climax which played at the Director’s Forthnight became a surprise major hit with many citing the film as one of Noe’s most accessible as it would win him the Art Cinema Award. The fact that the often polarizing Noe is getting lots of acclaim as well as having the film to be distributed by A24 in the U.S. is exciting.

Then there’s film that have received mixed notices such as David Robert Mitchell’s Under the Silver Lake which isn’t surprising as many found the film to be odd as it does have some of its champions while Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote also got mixed reviews though many felt it was a victory for Gilliam who finally got the film out after struggling to do so for nearly 20 years. Then there’s the long-awaited return of Lars von Trier who didn’t do any press conference nor said anything. Instead, he let his new film The House That Jack Built do the talking and boy did it have something to say. Cannes is known for having wild reactions in screenings and it’s not Cannes if there’s no walkouts or any kind of dramatic reactions to a film. What von Trier did was bring that and more as he has managed to rile up everyone who walked out of his new film and everyone else who hated it are essentially eating at the palm of his hand.

This isn’t anything new that von Trier is doing yet the reaction has become so intense that it’s really just laughable in how upset people are towards a film about a serial killer. What von Trier is doing is proving himself to be the ultimate troll. Kanye West’s recent outbursts and egomaniacal tirades is child’s play compared to what von Trier did at Cannes. He essentially got everyone angry which is just making him smile as the term “enfant terrible” should be stricken to describe him. In fact, he should be known as Cinema’s Satan for all of the good reasons. Then we have the films that won as Capernaum won the festival’s third-place jury prize while Alice Rohrwacher and Jafar Panahi both shared the best screenplay prize for their respective films in Happy as Lazzaro and 3 Faces. In the acting front, Samal Yeslyamova won the best actress prize for his role in Sergey Dvortsevoy’s Ayka while Marcello Fonte won the best actor prize for Matteo Garrone’s Dogman as that film would also win the Palm dog award for its canine ensemble.

Spike Lee made a major return to the Cannes Film Festival and made a big impact with his newest film BlackKklansman that is about an African-American detective who manages to infiltrate himself into the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s as it has managed to get great notices as well as controversy. The film would receive the second place Grand Jury prize as it is considered a major victory for Lee as he has made a film that will surely anger the alt-right in the U.S. as well as its dictator. Finally, there’s Hirokazu Koreeda’s The Shoplifters about a family of shoplifters which was a big hit as it would the Palme d’Or which is a major achievement for Koreeda who has always been a favorite at Cannes as he has proven himself to be one of cinema’s great voices.

Now that the festival is over as is this year’s marathon, it is time to announce the awards for the marathon. Choosing 12 films this year was more reasonable this year though it has been hard to find the time to watch these films and finish them as I have other things to do though watching twelve films in 10 days instead of eleven was still a near impossible task. Yet, it’s always fun to do this marathon though it is slightly underwhelming in comparison to last year’s. Here are the fictional winners of this marathon.

The fictional Palme d’Or goes to… I, Daniel Blake

The 2016 winner of the Palme d’Or is truly a film that is a reflection of these times as it struck me in a very powerful way. It was a film that told a very simple story about a 59-year old carpenter who is unable to work due to a recent heart attack as he is trying to get his benefits. Instead, he deals with the complications of the modern world as he has no clue about computers nor has any idea in trying to get all of the things the welfare center asks him to do. He would also befriend a young woman who has just moved to Newcastle as she is struggling to find work and provide her for her two children as he tries to help her out. It is truly an astonishing film from Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty as they manage to make a film that has universal appeal as well as realism about the many downsides of the 21st Century.

The 2nd place Grand Jury Prize goes to… The Salesman

If there’s one filmmaker who has a place as one of the premier filmmakers of the 21st Century, it is Asghar Farhadi as his 2016 film is definitely a crowning achievement in film. Not only is this film an engrossing look into the world of marriage that is being tested by an incident but it would also mirror elements of humility that this couple tries to capture in their interpretation of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. It is a majestic film with top-notch performances from its lead actors in Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti as well as a script that is truly rich.

The 3rd place Jury Prize goes to… The Tree of Wooden Clogs

The 1978 winner of the Palme d’Or by Ernammo Olmi is really unlike anything film though it’s most obvious comparison could be in Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900. Unlike Bertolucci’s five-hour epic that leaned towards socialist ideas and political overtones, Olmi’s three-hour epic story is more about the lives of four peasant family farmers in the final years of the 19th Century in Northern Italy as they deal with their lives not fully aware of the changes emerging into the outside world. It is not an easy film to watch due to its slow pacing and lack of conventional plot but it does capture a lifestyle that was simple and effective before the emergence of 20th Century ideals that would change everything for the worse.

The Best Director Prize goes to… Yorgos Lanthimos for The Lobster

Yorgos Lanthimos’ absurdist take on dystopia is truly the work of an original filmmaker as it play into the idea of humanity needing to connect or else they turn into animals. Lanthimos’ approach to absurdity as well as this conflict of needing to be together or to be lonely play into the lives of a recently-divorced man as well as a woman who is short-sighted. It is funny and also full of intensity as well as play into the silliness of what dystopia could be. Even as it also shows the sense of inhumanity in how people need to connect by their own choice rather than what society wants.

The Best Screenplay Prize goes to… Jim Jarmusch for Paterson

Jim Jarmusch has always been an outsider that often make films about individuals who don’t fit in with conventional society. His 2016 film is no exception other than the fact that the titular character is just an ordinary bus driver who writes poetry for his own reasons rather than just express it to everyone. Told in the span of a week, Jarmusch crafts this story that is emphasized on repetition and routine as well as the little things that would bring importance to a day. It is proof that Jarmusch is an effective storyteller who knows that less is more.

The Best Actor Prize goes to… Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic

Viggo Mortensen is truly one of the best actors working today as he refuses to be pigeonholed into any kind of role preferring to be adventurous. His performance in Matt Ross’ film as an eccentric recluse who had cut himself away from society to raise his children in the forest showcases Mortensen’s energy and compassion. Even as he isn’t afraid to be flawed while showcasing a man that is trying to raise his children in a way that doesn’t have the complications of modern society but couldn’t shield them from the other realities that the world has to offer. It is a performance that play into many attributes that Mortensen is known for as well as showing that he is also a very funny actor.

The Best Actress Prize goes to… Kristen Stewart for Personal Shopper

Kristen Stewart has always been an amazing actress but not many people know that as they still think of her for work in those Twilight films. Her collaboration with Olivier Assayas has proven that she has a lot more to offer in the way as their second collaboration to date in this film is proof of that. Playing the role of a woman living in Paris where she is trying to communicate with her recently-deceased twin brother while working as a personal shopper to a celebrity. It’s a performance that is restrained where Stewart chooses not to do much to play into this woman dealing with grief as well as confusion into what she has encountered.

The Technical Jury Prize goes to… Hayedeh Safiyari for The Salesman

Hayedeh Safiyari’s work as an editor has definitely been a key reason for why Asghar Farhadi’s films have been so engaging. In the fourth of five collaborations with Farhadi, the Iranian-born editor has been a crucial figure in the films as she is also instrumental in capturing many of the film’s dramatic moments as well as to find key elements in the story. Even as she would infuse elements of style to keep things interesting but also know when not to cut such as the film’s opening sequence as her work as an editor is something that needs to get more notices as her work with Farhadi is already potent enough to put her and Farhadi into that list of great editor/director collaborations.

The Special Jury Prize goes to… Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren for A Special Day

Probably one of the greatest acting duos in history, Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren are truly unlike any acting duo as they always make their collaborations special. In their performance for Ettore Scola’s film set on the day Adolf Hitler visits Rome where nearly all of Italy goes to see him and Benito Mussolini. The film follows these two different people who don’t know each other yet live across from each other in the same building as they meet by accident where they get to know each other in the course of a day. The chemistry between Mastroianni and Loren is exquisite as it is a major reason for the film’s success.

And now for the ranking of the rest of the films for this marathon:

4. The Lobster

Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2015 film is truly an original take on dystopian society set in a futuristic world where humanity is in need to connect or they end up becoming animals as punishment for not finding a mate. It’s an odd yet entrancing film featuring an incredible ensemble cast and offbeat humor that isn’t afraid to be discomforting nor be confrontational.

5. Paterson

Jim Jarmusch has once again maintained his status as American independent cinema’s voice of the outsider as he decides to make another different kind of film as it’s focused on an ordinary bus driver from Paterson, New Jersey who writes poetry for his own personal reasons. It’s a simple film that explores the week in the life of this bus driver who has a wife that wants to make cupcakes and sing country music as well as a bulldog who likes to take long walks to the local bar where the titular character frequents to.

6. Captain Fantastic

Matt Ross’ sophomore feature film as writer/director is definitely a career achievement for the famed character actor who is definitely making a mark as a filmmaker. In this story of a family driving from the forests of Washington to New Mexico to attend the funeral of their mother is unlike a lot of road movies. Notably as it involves a man and his seven children who live on the outside of society dealing with their new surroundings and the temptations that the modern world can bring.

7. Personal Shopper

Olivier Assayas’ 2016 suspense drama isn’t a conventional film as it’s more about a young woman coping with her loss and her attempt to seek answers about the idea of an afterlife. Featuring Kristen Stewart in a top-tier performance, it’s a minimalist film of sorts that is filled with gorgeous images as well as this sense of longing and mystique into the idea of death.

8. After the Storm

Hirokazu Koreeda is definitely a filmmaker who is keeping Japanese art-house cinema alive and well as his 2016 drama is just an understated and rapturous film about a man dealing with his own faults and shortcomings as he would later find himself at his mother’s apartment with his ex-wife and their son during a typhoon. It’s a simple character study of sorts as it plays into a man trying to reconnect with his family and deal with the failures he had in his life.

9. A Special Day

Ettore Scola’s 1977 drama is truly one of the most enriching films of the 1970s as it is set on a historical day in Fascist Italy during the late 1930s as it relates to Adolf Hitler’s visit to Rome. With many Italians attending the parade, Scola’s focus on two people staying behind who don’t know each other is a fascinating story about repression, longing, and the understanding of a world that is cruel and unjust.

10. Respire

Melanie Laurent’s sophomore feature film is proof of how multi-talented the French actress is as she chooses to be behind the camera in this coming-of-age story about a friendship that becomes toxic and abusive. Featuring great performances from Josephine Japy and Lou de Laage, it’s a film that play into two teenage girls who start off as friends only for complications to emerge that would eventually turn dark.

11. The Go-Between

The 1971 winner of the Palme d’Or by Joseph Losey is a ravishing yet haunting film that is about the loss of innocence as it plays into a 12-year old boy spending the summer at a posh countryside home in the early 1900s as he finds himself being a messenger between two lovers from different social classes. Featuring Julie Christie and Alan Bates as these two lovers, it is a mesmerizing film that shows the effects of a young boy who finds himself in the middle unaware of what he’s doing.

12. Union Pacific

The very first Palme d’Or winner that was awarded in 2002 by a professional jury of film critics and historians is an unusual choice considering that this film was going up against more revered films like The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and the 1939 film version of The Four Feathers as these were films that was supposed to be played at the very first Cannes Film Festival in 1939 but World War II had just begun. Still, Cecil B. DeMille’s western is a fascinating and adventurous film that centers on the transcontinental railroad that would help shape American history as it also play into those trying to profit from this event as it’s a worthwhile film.

Well, that is it for the marathon as I want to thank Indiewire, Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, AV Club, and the writers at The Film Experience for their coverage. I hope to do it again next year and maybe make it more diverse next time around though I want to do another Palme d’Or winners edition of the marathon soon as I’m thinking about having that happen in 2022 for the 75th edition of the festival. Until then, au revoir.

© thevoid99 2018


Chris said...

Great round-up! I'm also looking forward to Burning, Climax and THTJ Built. As you noted, Lars von Trier got the attention despite not in competition. Everybody Knows (46%) and Under the Silver Lake (58%) seem divisive on Rotten Tomatoes. I'm happy Gilliam finally screened Quixote, it's about time! BlackKklansman sounds like a return to form for Spike Lee.

Based on what I've read, two other well-received films from Cannes are: Long Day’s Journey into Night (Bi Gan)(an innovative 3D experience). Border (Ali Abbasi) a Swedish troll love story that subverts genre conventions penned by the writer of “Let the Right One In”.

Thrilled you loved I, Daniel Blake. Loach's powerful film hit me emotionally too, and hopefully can promote change. For me, one of the best films of the 2010s. Adding A Special Day to my watchlist

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-I've added a bunch of films into my watchlist as I found this year's festival to be exciting and full of diversity. I think there will be a film by a woman that will win the Palme d'Or but it has to be the right movie. I, Daniel Balke was just stunning as it just proves that Ken Loach is full of surprises. If it is his last film, what a way to go.

Brittani Burnham said...

I like your prizes! Especially the acting ones, one of these days Kristen Stewart will actually get some Oscar glory.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-I totally believe that. I hope she gets an Oscar one of these days.

Anonymous said...

Lots of interesting stuff to come, but I like your retrospect better because I can actually have opinions about those!

thevoid99 said..., you're welcome. I hope you see these films and find out what is the good stuff.

Dell said...

Yeah, that Von Trier reaction is ridiculous. And I am pumped to see Blackkklansman.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-I knew people were going to get pissed off at von Trier but this is exactly what he wants. He's a master at pissing people off and I love him for that whether you like his films or not. BlackKklansman is the film I really want to see. I'm just baffled in the idea of Eric Forman playing David Duke. This is where Red need to put a foot in his ass for being a dumbass. Where is our Red Forman?