The biggest film festival in the world has ended, and the winner of the Palme d’Or, Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, is a visually overwrought, underwhelming tale of depreciated innocence in the months before WWI that is more concerned with itself than those watching it.
But then, Cannes appeared to be full of those films this year (see the list of awards here). Whether it was Von Trier’s Antichrist or Tarantino’s overlong Inglourious Basterds (which for me has lessened in quality as the days go by), this year’s competition was full of long films with grand concepts that overshadowed simpler fare such as Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric and Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces. Ironically enough, Antichrist and Basterds split the Cannes acting awards, Charlottle Gainsboroug winning as the grieving wife in Von Trier’s film and Christoph Waltz winning as Hans “The Jew Hunter” Landa in Tarantino’s revisionist piece. But, to be fair, both gave incredible performances and were the best parts of their respective films.
As far as the market was concerned, this is was a slow-selling year – one of the slowest in a long while. It appears that companies aren’t biting at merely ideas or treatments anymore, but rather on finished screenplays and finished films. Films still sold, but for not as much as asked or expected.
As a matter of fact, the secondary film festivals, namely Director’s Fortnight and Un Certain Regard, offered equally solid fare as compared to the main competition. Amreeka, the Director’s Fortnight winner, which focuses on a immigrant single mother’s struggles, had some of the strongest performances at Cannes.
Similarly, Denis Dercourt’s dramedy Tomorrow at Dawn, coming out of the Un Certain Regard selection, is a simple and charming story concerning roleplay and the obsessive world its participants engross themselves in. The two participants the narrative focuses on are two brothers, the older a concert pianist and the younger a full-fledged role-player.
Rather than demonize the hobby, the film’s characters serve to show all sides of roleplay, from endearing to dangerous.
Certain moments, such as one in which the brothers run away from an incident at a 18th century-traditional duel to their car and speed away, offer an organic kind of comedy that pulls no punches and uses no gags. It’s just funny to watch.
High-profile films, like Coppola’s Tetro, flopped while lesser-know films, like Jacques Audiard’s Un Prophete (Grand Prix winner), through the fog of a whole lotta films. Even Cannes darling Jane Campion’s generally well-received Bright Star lost steam and got no award recognition.
Meanwhile, the out-of-competition films were some of the best films I saw in Cannes – namely The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Drag Me To Hell. While Gilliam’s was a whimsical, visuall spellbinder, Sam Raimi’s was an all-nonsense B-horror film made with an A-horror film budget. Both premiered towards the end of the festival, providing an overall underperforming festival some much needed finale fireworks.
Now, as with every year, it’s time to wait and see how these films perform where it really matters – in the theaters. My guess is that Antichrist will gain a cult following in the states, Basterds will flop after its first week domestically but make an worldwide killing; Tomorrow at Dawn will never get a U.S. release and you’ll only see Imaginarium if you live in a major city. Luckily, Drag Me To Hell opens wide on Friday. Enjoy it, it was one of the best films at Cannes this year.
What did you think of this year’s Cannes selection? Which films are you most excited to see?