Cannes Film Festival 2011 Winners
What's the prevailing message from this year's Cannes Film Festival? Terrence Malick rules the Earth. Listen up Hollywood: It's all about quality, not quantity. The Cannes jury, presided over by Robert De Niro and including Uma Thurman, Jude Law and a smattering of foreign luminaries, has selected the winners of this year's competition slate. The results are illuminating.
Foremost in the winner's circle is Terrence Malick, and I could not be happier for the enigmatic auteur. His breathtaking "mediation of life, death and the universe," The Tree of Life, has won the Palme d'Or (only the 15th American director to win the iconic award), which is the top prize at the prestigious festival on the French Riviera. Given Malick's superlative track record—consisting of sweeping ambitions, spiritual postulations and visual splendors—it's impossible not to be astonished by his unrelenting scope and exhilarating depth. From what I've read, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain were perfectly tuned to the script; a mixture of artistry and adventure. May 27th cannot come soon enough.
The prize for best actress went to Kirsten Dunst for her role as Justine, a despondent bride in Lars Von Trier's apocalyptic saga Melancholia. This was a somewhat contentious choice. Many festival attendees were hoping to see Tilda Swinton win for her performance in Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin. I'll watch both films at some point and judge the respective merits for myself.
Crime thriller Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, a beautifully photographed film by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, shared the Grand Prix award with Le Gamin Au Velo (The Kid with a Bike), a powerful film directed by Belgian directors Luc and Jean Pierre Dardenne, who won the Palme d'Or twice before (once in 1999 for Rosetta and in 2005 for L'Enfant). I'm unfamiliar with Ceylan's prior work, but I love crime thrillers. And any film that borrows the Once Upon a Time phrase warrants my full and undivided attention. The Dardenne brother's ingenious use of light and sound as well as close framing and tracking shots (in L'Enfant) attaches a piercing moral substantiality to their narratives; they deserve every measure of acclaim.
Nicolas Winding Refn won best director for Drive, which starred Ryan Gosling as a stunt car driver who, quite compellingly, also drives getaway vehicles. The film's win could mark a substantial personal victory for Gosling. The momentous attention given to the award-winning film could accelerate the direction of his promising Hollywood career, expanding his constituent resume from quirky indie favorite to bona fide action star. Like Eminem, I do know one thing though...My sister is in love with him.
The best screenplay prize went to Joseph Cedar who wrote Footnote, an Israeli movie about a father and son, who both study Talmud. In my Top Ten Cannes Preview, Conrad's film came in at number 10. Its impressive victory undoubtedly cements my intense desire to see it. And the journalistic film community assures me I will not be disappointed. All critics purport it to be a classy film with a conscientious literary quality. A colorful, profound statement like that reminds me of Good Will Hunting...which, oh by the way, won an Academy Award for best original screenplay.
The jury prize went to the crime drama Polisse, directed by Maiween Le Besco, about the juvenile protection unit in Paris. Some critics deem this cop drama to be an overcooked and overacted movie with a muddled tone and a preposterous ending. I'll evaluate the verisimilitude of these accusations for myself. Sometimes critics flaunt ludicrous opinions just to elicit controversy, and consequently, attention. That may be the explanation for their quibbling.
Other winners included French star Jean Dujardin as best actor for, what many spectators lauded, is his charismatic turn in Michel Hazanavicius's melodrama The Artist. Dujardin plays a 1920's silent-film actor facing career oblivion as talkies take over Hollywood. Hazanavicius's film, in an effort to uphold authenticity, was shot silent-film style in black and white. It opens in the U.S. this fall.
Maverick film producer Harvey Weinstein is claiming this year's festival is the best in 25 years. There's no denying the fact that Cannes 2011 showcased the work of some exceptional filmmakers, whose veritable entries, I absolutely cannot wait to feast my eyes on. Since I was not there to judge the merits of each film for myself, I'll have to trust the reasoned opinions of many respected film critics. One thing is certain. On May 27th, I'll be heading to my local theater to watch The Tree of Life. It will be the first, among the many exalted films named above, that I will get the opportunity to witness. In the immortal and infamous words of one Bart Scott (New York Jets linebacker), "Can't Wait!"Official Competition (list courtesy of Slashfilm)
Palme d’Or: The Tree Of Life (dir: Terrence Malick)
Grand Prix (Runner-up to main award): (tie) Kid With A Bike (dir: Dardenne brothers), Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Mise en Scene (Best Director): Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
Best Actress: Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)
Prix du Scenario (Screenplay): Joseph Cedar, Footnote (Israel)
Prix Du Jury: Poliss (dir: Maiwenn)
Palme d’Or Court Metrage: Cross Country (dir: Maryna Vroda)
Camera d’Or (Best First Film): Las Acacias (dir: Pablo Giorgelli)