Monday, May 23, 2011

Film News

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)


  1. I wondered what happened to Lynne Ramsay. Haven't heard anything from her since the extrememly dull Morven Callar ten years ago.


  2. I'm not surprised that Malick won Palme d’Or - he deserves it.

    I most happy for Kirsten Dunst though. She grew up tremendously as an actress over the years, and I'm glad she finally got a recognition. :) Did you watch her in "All Good Things"? Wow, dude, she was absolutely fantastic!

  3. I was first shocked that he won the prize, since there were about 60% of critics who called his film a pompous, shallow and overly pretentious project, and maybe about 40% who gave it average scores. It was quite surprising reading so many totally opposing criticism. I guess all those Hollywood actors in the jury had something to do with it.

  4. And now begins the frustrating wait for all these to be released.

  5. @ mooderino

    Ha, yeah she hasn't been too prolific. I've never seen Morvern Callar, but if it's dull, I'm going to avoid it.

    @ Nebular

    Thanks for seconding my choice. Malick completely deserved it, and I'm happy to say that my man, De Niro played a part in his Cannes coronation.

    This breakthrough of sorts for Dunst will definitely bode well for her career. Her performance gives me another reason to check out Melancholia.

    @ Dezmond

    Yeah, a number of critics derided the film claiming it was overindulgent and pretentious. We know Malick's films are divisive. It's good to know the Jury overlooked the snide and tawdry insults. I just checked RT and it holds an 89% fresh rating.

    @ Bonjour

    Haha, it is a FRUSTRATING wait indeed. I feel your grievance.

  6. Great catchup, Matty! Congratulations to all the winners!

  7. I'll probably be checking out the majority of these on DVD as my limited budget has me going full bore for all the big action flicks.

    I do plan to see the Malick film as he is a director I quite enjoy.

  8. @ Craig


    @ Melissa

    I hear ya. That's a good strategy. Save the big ticket admissions prices for the big spectacles.

  9. Great coverage, buddy! The Tree of Life has got a completely wonderful buzz from Cannes. Most of film critics I thought also praised the film.

  10. Its nice to good films get their due...which sometimes doesn't happen in mainstream awards like the Oscars....
    I hope to catch The Tree of Life and others on Dvd someday or if some local groups here screen them as part of their annual film fetes.
    Nice post.

  11. @ Jaccstev

    Thanks homie! We're both in for a stunning visual treat. Malick won't let us down.

  12. @ Rek

    Thank you!

    I completely agree. A majority of the festival films depend on word of mouth. They either get limited releases or secure zero distribution. It's a shame. Some of the best films of the year come from festivals like Cannes. The problem: either moviegoers don't hear of them (because of their limited release) or they don't put forth the appropriate effort to see them. I, for one, will watch as many as I can by exhausting every legitimate resource available to me.

    And hopefully you catch The Tree of Life!