Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cannes Film Festival

You Cannes Do It

      My man De Niro's in charge. That's enough to get me in front of my computer, typing on a Saturday night, instead of standard weekend dance fever. If that's not an intimation of my love for movies, I don't know what is.  
      Held in the South of France every year, the Cannes Film Festival is one of the most respected festivals in the world. It opened this past May 11th and runs until May 22nd. There's a total of 20 films in the 'main competition' category, but many 'out-of-competition' films will also generate substantial buzz.
      Cannes is a cineaste's wet dream. It is my dream. An opportunity to witness a great cinematic work of art before the rest of the world is a privilege, one that shall not be treated with casual indifference. To be one of the lucky few in Palais des Festivals et des Congrès is, in my film-centric estimation, equivalent to winning a lottery ticket. And unlike Will Hunting, if I'm ever given the chance to partake in the prestigious festival, I won't be "too much of a pussy to cash it in."  For now, I can only fantasize about that possibility. In an effort to temper my fantasy, I've assembled a list of Ten Films Debuting At Cannes That I Will Not Hesitate to Watch. 

FilmMattic's Ten Must See Films From Cannes

1). The Tree of Life 

      The single biggest reason I wish I was in Cannes right now. Terrence Malick, an extraordinary filmmaker, is the mastermind behind this mysterious film. Malick makes J.J. Abrams (a contemporary filmmaker I admire) look like Don King. Plot details have emerged, but I'm dubious. All I'm willing to accept, until its limited U.S. release on May 27th, is that Brad Pitt and Sean Penn headline the tantalizing picture. I'm expecting a visceral reaction equivalent to seeing this place ...

Cape Town, South Africa otherwise known as  "Heaven On Earth."

2). Le Gamin au vélo/The Kid With A Bike

      The Belgian filmmaking duo, Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne (more commonly known as the Dardenne Brothers), are poised to make Cannes history. They're seeking their third Palme d'Or. For those unfamiliar with their prior work, I encourage you to watch Rosetta and L'Enfant. Their approach to cinema sort of reminds me of Gus Van Sant, but they navigate a much more ambitious human scope. Antithetical to the Dardenne brothers' usual oeuvre, there's actual music in this film. I can't wait to see how it fits into their naturalistic design.

3). Midnight in Paris

      For no other reason than Woody Allen; he is one of the most celebrated American filmmakers working today. His screenwriting exploits are the stuff of legend (14 Academy Award nominations as a writer). And his ability to delve into the inherent beauty of romantic comedy is both refreshing and remarkable. I'm hoping his latest film revitalizes for me, what is at this juncture, a morbid interest in the painfully stale, highly derivative rom-com genre.

4). Restless

      Since I already mentioned Gus Van Sant, I may as well place him in the Top 4. He won a Palme d'Or back in 2003 for Elephant, and he's looking to cement his claim to greatness—not that he needs to. This film has the potential to be both powerful and deeply moving. It's a story of love and loss. The early trailer I witnessed some time ago struck me as emotionally robust and exceptionally sincere. My sister will probably dig it more than I do, but there seems to be a lot to love here.

5).  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
      I loved The Curse of the Black Pearl, but was severely disappointed by the last two entries. I'm hoping for a return to glory for Jack Sparrow. The film's premise—Sparrow's search for "the fountain of youth"—has always appealed to me as a kid. It's one of those legendary historical tales that stimulated my intense interest in exploration and discovery. It speaks to my love for Indiana Jones. At the very least, I get two hours with Penelope Cruz.

6). Hara Kiri: Death of Samurai

      Takashi Miike is a prolific force in filmmaking. His newest film, the first 3-D movie to make it into Cannes, is a re-imagined tale (based on Masaki Kobayashi's Harakiri) of honor and revenge. Beyond the awesome premise and directorial talent, an Academy Award-winning producing team—the one that gave us last year's epic action thrill-ride 13 Assassins—is behind the film. That's more than enough high-style flourish to justify my ticket purchase.

7). Melancholia

      The controversial but enormously talented Lars Von Trier is responsible for this morose title. His intrepid style, an unfettered, restrictive examination of explicit, often daring subject matter (has anyone seen The Idiots?), has profoundly influenced the filmmaking world. My interest in this film is more of a curiosity: the LVT shock factor. This story of sisterly angst and an apocalyptic reality has all the ingredients for shock and awe. I want to see how far, if at all, Von Trier pushes the envelope.

8). La Conquete/The Conquest

      I'm not that interested in French President Nicolas Sarkozy's rise to power, but I am extremely interested in stories that examine one's rise to power. They are classic, tragedian tales of opposing dualities: strength and weakness, good and evil, acquisition and loss, richness and rareness, love and hate...heck I could go on. The only question is: does Xavier Durringer marry these polar entities effectively? The buzz and the trailer color me confident.

9). Sleeping Beauty

      I'm no feminist, but I love to see gender balance and fair representation of marginalized groups, particularly in that all-too important directorial chair. The Hurt Locker was a stupendous film. And Kathyrn Bigelow's gender identity had no bearing on my immense appreciation of it. Australian filmmaker Julia Leigh is one of four female directors in the main competition at Cannes, an unusually high number. But I think it's a splendid development. And Sleeping Beauty has the potential to draw widespread acclaim. Even if the film doesn't deliver, I'm still hoping Emily Browning redeems her grossly underwhelming performance in Sucker Punch.

10). Footnote

      Some can claim inherent bias with this pick. My final selection goes to Joseph Cedar's father-son tale Footnote. Many consider his third film Beaufort (2007) to be the greatest Israeli film of the decade. Other than being an exceptional force behind the camera, Cedar is also an NYU grad, like yours truly (aha...alumni bias?). His latest film centers on academic rivalry and family dysfunction. It sounds like a delightful dramedy. It screened Friday night and is already generating considerable Palme award buzz. You go Cedar...making us NYU'ers proud!

      Feel free to castigate my picks or declare your excitement. As always, I appreciate the feedback :)


  1. Great list, Matty! I'm not sure how many of them I'll see anytime soon - as my tastes grow ever more eclectic with each passing day, but then again, the right review from you... Happily, I can feel your excitement for these movies and it makes me feel excited for you - I hope they all scratch the movie itch just right each and every time you sit down in front of one of them. And when you write about them, you know I'll be a-readin' shortly thereafter! Can't wait! Cheers!

  2. Interesting stuff. Restless struck me as Harold and Maude, only lets make Maude younger. Sacrilege.

  3. i think i will make that a goal. to go to cannes someday (sneaking into a movie will be a different goal)
    thx for the reviews!

  4. This is amazing list and I am definitely on board for all of them. They are unique, thought-provoking and sure to deliver an astounding viewing experience. I love Malick and Van Sant. Both have truly ingenious, ambitious styles. I'm not familiar with Lars Von Trier, but now I will be. Melancholia looks stunning.

    Oh, how I wish I were at Cannes. I don't think I'd get any sleep whatsoever.

  5. I think this year's Cannes will be a bit boring, but I'm looking forward to MELANCHOLIA.
    Serbia's Emir Kusturica is the president of one of the juries this year, and as you remember he is one of the very few directors who won Palm D'Or two times!

  6. PS Matty, where's the banner? I can't see it anywhere?

  7. @ Craig

    Thank you very much!

    I'm with you on the "changing" tastes phenomenon. It's one of the reasons I impart greater allegiance to certain directors as opposed to "genres." With directors, you can better gauge what to expect.

    I'm glad to have you as a reader! You always have an interesting outlook and some great anecdotal tidbits.

    @ mooderino


    Interesting observation. We'll see if it has some of the same kind of dark humor and existentialist design of Harold and Maude. It does look weird.

  8. @ Tara

    It's an awesome goal to share and you're welcome!

    I've successfully snuck into a few movies before. But that was during my much more mischievous teen days. Good luck, lol!

    @ Melissa

    Yes, it is indeed a diverse, highly promising list of films from some extremely talented directors. Malick is a genius. Tree of Life should be superb. And Van Sant is a daring filmmaker. I admire his approach. Everyone here knows I love Good Will Hunting!

    If you want to familiarize yourself with Lars Von Trier, I encourage you to watch Dogville. It's an incredible and imaginative drama. You'll definitely discern the power of it.

    Haha, I'd probably be hard-pressed to sleep too. I'd consume every waking moment of the surroundings.

    @ Dezmond

    Yes, I understand your allegiance to Serbia! Glad to see they're represented on the jury. But I wholly disagree with your assessment of a "boring" Cannes. There are some exceptional filmmakers in this competition.

    About the banner...apparently when blogger experienced that recent meltdown, everything that was posted or added on that day went down in flames. I just re-added your banner!

  9. Wow! That's a fantastic post!

    The Tree of Life is undoubtedly a Must-see with capital M! I'm also excited for Melancholia and Cinderella.

    Hey, I won 2 VIP tickets for the special screening of POTC: On Stranger's Tide on Tuesday. How cool is that?! :)

  10. I'm mostly excited for some Asian movies that promoted in Cannes this year including Miike's "Harakiri", "Wuxia", "Sorcerer and White Snake" and "Flying Sword of Dragon Gate" :)

  11. @ Nebular

    Thanks George! I enjoyed your post as well.

    Just re-watched Badlands. I'm even more pumped for Tree of Life. Malick is a genuis.

    Winning! Awesome score on the tickets. I'm envious. I need to score me some VIP tickets :)

    @ Jaccstev

    Absolutely! There's some great ones. "Sorcerer and White Snake" and "Harakir" (as discussed above) are my two most most anticipated.

  12. Dude, can I just say how impressed I am with how awesome your blog is? You put so much work into this thing. I saw Thor recently and my first thought after the movie, no lie, was: I have to go read what Matt had to say!

  13. I feel the same way about Pirates. First was great and fun, the sequels were confusing and the plots were bad. This new one looks like it brings back the fun, and the premise looks good.

  14. @ Paul

    Aww, thanks buddy. That means a lot! It's always encouraging to know that my blogging is not a waste of time.

    Haha, I'm flattered. I'm proud to be one of your go-to movie guy reviewers! Hopefully, my review satisfied your curiosity.

    Your blog is outstanding. It's a good portal for aspiring writers.

    @ Adam

    Nice! I've skimmed over some early reviews for Stranger Tides and it looks to be a lackluster effort below our expectations. I'll still judge it for myself, but it's never good when the early buzz is negative.

    I'm very hopeful with the premise and some of the overhauls. I'm going to view it with an unbiased eye.

  15. I wish I was there too, there are way too many films premiering at Cannes this year that I want to see.

  16. First time follower, but this is a great post! Besides being pumped for Tree of Life, I think my next pick would be "Drive" since it's from the guy who directed "Valhalla Rising" and "Bronson" which both are great movies in my opinion. Look forward to reading your other posts. Keep up the good work!

  17. @ Bonjour

    One day, we'll both get there! Glad you share my enthusiasm. And welcome aboard!

    @ Andy

    Awesome! Happy to welcome you.

    I'm not too familiar with Drive, but I'm going to Google it shortly. I thought Bronson was fantastic. I recently purchased the Blu-Ray, so that's more reason to get familiar with Nicolas' most recent work.

    And thanks a lot!

  18. If you get the chance, go to the official Cannes site and watch the photocall, interview, and press conference for Le Havre. Aki Kaurismaki is such a funny character. His answers are priceless.

  19. Haha! Good stuff. I'll check it out.

    Thanks for the suggestion.

  20. I assure you it will be the most interesting movie you see all year. I trust Terrence Malick's genius that much.