Monday, May 29, 2006

Cannes't Hardly Wait

(How's that for an awkward post title? I amaze myself.)

Whenever the Cannes Film Festival ends I am left with two feelings only: Frustration and Anticipation. The first state of mind obviously springs from how long I know I will have to wait to see the films (sometimes well over a year --if they ever see release at all --given the state of international distribution) and the second is the natural byproduct of all that waiting.

So if you have any pull with the cinematic gods, please wish all of these films quick distribution. Lengthy waits do nothing to help films capitalize on their Cannes buzz. If you need an example just consider the twist of fates for last year's Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and Match Point. They both looked like buzz giants until well over six months of "they're freaking brilliant!!!" buzz curdled into backlash and 'who cares?' as they opened in late December.

If you haven't really been paying attention or waiting for folks like me to wrap it all up for you. Here ya go. The rundown.

Trinity of Power
The films that will get the most momentum from Cannes are the following big winners: The Palme D'Or winner was Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley a period piece set in Ireland which stars the still-ascending Cillian Murphy (previously celebrated at the Film Experience here and still to come in the Top 100 Actor Countdown). You can be sure this film will make it to US screens. Internationally celebrated Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams) won the directorial prize for his third multi-narrative accident tragedy Babel --gee, um. do you think he'll mine this territory for as long as M Night Shyamalan relied on the trick endings? The title Babel presumably comes from the multi-lingual multi-cultural communication mishaps therein. Given Babel's trio of headliners (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Gael García Bernal) there was never any doubt that this would attract media attention and make the international rounds but here we have a nice shiny prize to help the film in its eventual quest for Oscar glory next winter.

Finally, Pedro Almodovar's Volver was well received too. Pedro's apparently still on that giddy masterpiece-making roll. It's the only film to win two prizes; a screenplay award and a collective Best Actress win (which should give some good copy to FYC ads for Penelope Cruz in the Oscar Best Actress race and might even help that international treasure Carmen Maura in the parallel supporting actress contest. If AMPAS is still in love with Almodovar. And why wouldn't they be? Who in their right mind wouldn't be?

If It sounds vulgar to view awards at the world's greatest film festival in light of future Oscar competitions, give me the benefit of the doubt. Awards and their perceived aftereffects are realities of the market place and distribution deal incentives and the like. I'm not ever intending to suggest that a Cannes win isn't a lovely end goal in itself. But this is awardage we're talking about. It is a vulgar process: also exciting, unpredictable, addictive, and glamourous.

Other Prizes & Buzz Hits
Big awards aren't everything. Exposure is the main goal. If you get a buzz boost or a sale or raves or a minor award, you've won. The end goal is presumably to get the films out there for the filmgoing community to see. To that end the following films had a good festival. The Algerian drama Indigènes, which seems to be referred to as Days of Glory in some articles (?), won a collective Best Actor prize (one of the recipients was Sami Bouajila the title character in the minor gay hit The Adventures of Felix a few years back.) so we might get to see it here stateside. Although it certainly took The Son, a previous Best Actor winner, a million years to make that same Atlantic jump.

Second place or "Grand Prize" went to Flanders, another brutal Bruno Dumont film (of Humanité fame). "Jury Prize"went to the British film Red Road by Andrea Arnold. You may recall that last year Miranda July tied for the Golden Camera (the prize that goes to a best first-time director) for her loveable Me and You and Everyone We Know. This time the prize went to a thirty-one year old Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu A Fost Sau N-A Fost? also known as 12:08 East of Bucharest. Norway's Bobbie Peers won the best short film prize for Sniffer.

Some films play out of competition or just don't win awards but still win due to the buzz generated. John Cameron Mitchell's long lonnnnng awaited follow up to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus was quite well received. You may recall that that film was titled The Sex Film Project for a long time and the story-filled casting process was chronicled in detail by Salon some years back. The explicit onscreen pansexualilty will undoubtedly cause it trouble with American distribution but we'll get it eventually. Other films that seem to be doing well word-of-mouth wise are the Mexican film El Violin, a Norwegian comedy The Bothersome Man, Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, and Joon-ho Bong's monster movie The Host.

Critical Cat Fighting to Continue
The two most divisive American titles, The Donnie Darko follow up Southland Tales and Sofia Coppola's stylized Marie-Antoinette (with the divisive Kiki Dunst as the titular teen queen) won't reach American theaters until the fall or later. But whenever they do arrive, expect critical battles to ensue. They may have a rival in provoking disparate reactions in the Italian film A Friend of the Family.

tags: Kirsten Dunst, Sofia Coppola, movies, film, Cannes, Marie-Antoinette, Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt, Gael García Berna, Pedro Almodovar, Volver, Cillian Murphy, Penélope Cruz, Southland Tales


Anonymous said...

Excuse my Engish

I regret that Volver o Babel didn´t win the Palme... i believe that they are the best

I love your web and your blog

Anonymous said...

I don't see a lot of critical divide on SOUTHLAND TALES and MARIE ANTOINETTE...most critics seemed to hate them, as far as I can tell. Certainly there may be some re-evaluating as the films near their U.S. release, but I always hate it when critics change their minds.


there's at least 3 major critics we've heard persistent rumors (can't remember the names but I think Amy Taubin is one) who will call Southland Tales a masterpiece when they publish and I'm almost certain M-A will get a second look given that it will be seen in a much different light in American screenings. ... though truthfully i never suspected M-A would have an easy go of it.

people have a really hard time with stylization in general. it's the rare film that can survive it given how badly people need things to be 'naturalistic'

Anonymous said...

Bug received solid reviews, a few of which stated had it been in competition, Ashley Judd would have been a contender for the best actress prize.

As for Southland Tales, one of the other critics was Manohla Dargis, but I have a feeling she'll just feel positive in relation to the venem it receives.

AS for Marie-Antoinette, I was surprised at how indifferent the reviews were. They weren't really dismissive as much as ..."whatever." I think stylized films can do well critically (think Mulholland Drive, Far From Heaven), but they're not easy to pull off.


oh i'm seeing it now. it's one of the MANY non-cannes or at least 'less officially cannes 'director's fortnight' offerings during cannes.

good to hear it was well received. the play is SO good as I've mentioned many times herein.

Glenn Dunks said...

" but here we have a nice shiny prize to help the film in its eventual quest for Oscar glory next winter."

except he doesn't. He gets a piece of paper rolled up in a nice red ribbon.

Modfab, you should read Ebert's last Cannes write-up in which he says this about M-A.

"Once you get over the surprise that there’s no beheading, you step back and realize what a stunning visual achievement it is, and how well Kirsten Dunst plays a 14-year-old girl who grows up into her fate and doom.

I thought the jury might give “Marie Antoinette” an award in part to correct the impression that the film was booed out of town. As I wrote earlier, the booing at the press screening (five or 10 people, maybe) was blown up into a scandal. On balance, audiences here admired the film – some of them, a lot."

I think once it comes out there'll be much less IT'S AWFUL which is the impression people get when movies get booed. But, hell, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me got a standing ovation of disgusted boos and it turned out to be one of my favourite movies ever, so...

Anonymous said...

Delurking to tell you how much I'm enjoying your blog! And also to react about Marie Antoinette. I'm French, live in France (near Cannes...) and have been midly interested in MA but waiting for the reviews to know if I wanted to see it.

And the thing is, contrary to what seems to be written a lot on your side of the Atlantic, it doesn't look like the French or even the French critics disliked the films. In fact, some of the most estimated cinema magazines and Newspapers (Telerama, le Monde, les Cahiers du Cinema...) are giving good reviews and defending the film, and the film frequentation seems to be reasonably good. Hollywood rereading the French history (especially the Revolution!) has existed since Hollywood exists, and it never preventend anyone to enjoy those movies!

It feels more like the booing was a Festival reaction of an international audience - among which Americans were in great numbers. So I'm not sure that the American critic will reevaluate the film...

This said, I think that a part of the negative reaction was because the critic was waiting for a period film, whereas what depths the film might have (I didn't see it) seems to be found in the autobiographical/Hollywood life methaphor: celebrity and denial of privacy at a young age, a life of celebrating as a way to escape responsibilities, distanciation from the rest of the world...

It seems to have been the appeal to French critics, who were looking for the usual Sofia Coppola themes mingled with the costumes film. Also, the more the reviewers are familiar with the cinema people and their woes, the more they're likely to get interested - or just, as it seems with the US critics, annoyed at the navel-gazing. Personally, it makes me hesitate to see the film: without the costumes, I'm afraid this would look like an E!news biography of some Hollywood celeb (Kirsten Dunst?), and even though the biography might be well done, I don't think the story of a rich girl who does nothing of importance would interest me.

Ramification said...

Volver and Shortbus are the two films I am most excited about it right now ... I hope they reach us in the UK rather quickly


helene, thanks for delurking! and your interesting response. i am just so excited to see it. i actually don't care if it's a failure at all. I just like to see filmmakers try different things rather than your standard biopics.

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