By Jake Howell jake.howell@utoronto.ca

Cannes 67 Wrap-Up

Cannes 67 – c’est fini.

After dozens of screenings, predictions, and an endless series of queue debates, we have a Palme d’Or.

Presented by a jury led by the inimitable Jane Campion (in terms of grace, eloquence, and the smile on her face, one of the best Presidents in recent memory), the film that receives the most prestigious prize in world cinema is Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep.

In my May 6 snapshot of Turkish director Ceylan, I wrote: “Ceylan is essentially three for four in his Cannes career… do not be surprised if 2014 marks Turkey’s second Palme d’Or win, after Yılmaz Güney and Şerif Gören’s golden The Way (1982).”

Both before and after the film screened early in the Competition slate, it was the critical (and bookie) favorite to win the Palme.

Ceylan’s long-form style is unapologetically his own, despite it leaving some audiences cold (in the same snapshot a commenter snarked Ceylan is “a horrible, pretentious director”). I don’t begrudge folks for feeling outright alienated by the auteur’s lengthy films, but to claim they are without merit is certainly misguided.

Tuck yourself in for Winter Sleep, which clocks in at 196 minutes. It’s a reflective, deliberately-paced meditation that is choreographed much like a piece of theatre (which I mention because of the film’s relevant subtexts). The sets look and feel like stages. Shakespeare is referenced (in the dialogue—but then again, a major locale is the Hotel Othello). Boundaries are stretched. You may take an intermission (read: nap).

It’s a major winner, and one that was probably overdue (2011’s Once Upon A Time In Anatolia is pretty great). While it didn’t do as much for me as some of the other films in Competition, there’s still plenty for me to admire here. But that’s the beauty of subjectivity: one person’s masterpiece is another person’s walk-out (or conk-out). Moving on.

Meet your 2014 Grand Prix winner: one of the unsung gems this festival is the enigmatic and beguiling Le Meraviglie (The Wonders), directed by sophomore filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher, who debuted 2011’s Corpo Celeste in the Director’s Fortnight. People don’t typically jump from that program immediately to the Palme d’Or Competition with their follow-up film, so expectations were high for The Wonders.

Based on some autobiographical elements from Rohrwacher’s life (the film also stars her sister Alba), The Wonders looks at a rural family of beekeepers in the sun-kissed Umbrian countryside who join an artisanal produce contest that has echoes of ancient Etruscan agriculture—emphasis on the culture. “I cried at the end,” jury member Nicholas Winding Refn said at the awards ceremony. The film has a conclusion that will have you talking—possibly also mystified, but talking just the same.

On to the Jury Prize, or Prizes. There are two this year, as Xavier Dolan shares the stage with an absent Jean-Luc Godard for Mommy and Adieu au Langage 3D, respectively.

Québécois auteur Dolan, only 25, is just killing it. He’ll return to the Cannes stage soon enough—hell, maybe in 365 days from now (he’s that prolific)—and when he does, he’ll come gunning once again for that Palme, which his home country of Canada has never won. Mommy, his 2014 entry, was as passionate as it was mature and thoughtful. The film portrays a difficult relationship a son has with his mother, shot in an intriguing (yet justified) 1:1 aspect ratio. It’s quite good—in fact, press booed when it only won the Jury Prize. There are a lot of people where who thought it should have won the gold, and it’s very likely you will too.

Godard is much older than Dolan, yet seems more playful than him. To get a sense of what Goodbye to Language is like, please read my oh-so-scholarly article that pays homage to this wonderfully funny essay film. Earlier today Cannes was one of the only major film festivals that hadn’t yet given one of the original modern auteurs a prize, but his 2014 Jury Prize rectifies that. Not that Godard gives a damn, mind you. Goodbye to Language is Godard at his most eccentric, and it’s a lot of fun.

Best Director went to the always solid Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher, the handsome, brilliantly-acted nonfiction dramatization led by Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, and Mark Ruffalo. Many press here claim it’s an Oscar prizefighter in the making (does this mean the race has begun? Oh god), but MCN’s very own David Poland thinks otherwise. For my money, however: a strong movie, proficiently told.

Winner of the Best Script award is Andrey Zvyagintsev’s massive Leviathan, a picture that gets bigger and bigger the more I ruminate on it. Except that this year that title seems like a throwaway: the masterful direction and cinematography of Leviathan are far more salient than its dialogue, but I suppose I’m happy that it got recognized in one way or another. It’s a superb picture; ironic and complex, capturing some knockout performances.

Speaking of the players: the Best Actor prize went to Mr. Turner’s Timothy Spall for his portrayal of the master British painter JMW Turner, an award that seem clinched in the opening days of the entire festival. Working with director Mike Leigh over three decades and surviving leukemia in the process, Spall ends his “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” streak with a well-deserved honor.

Finally, my favorite surprise of the night: Julianne Moore, Best Actress. Her screen time in David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars is an energizing highlight of the film (she ultimately steals the show). She plays the rude and crude Havana Segrand, a fading Hollywood star haunted by her past as she attempts a return to the business. Smart money was on French favorite Marion Cotillard, tipped to win for her expectedly strong turn in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night, but Moore’s role was far more memorable.

As always, thank you for reading. It’s a pleasure to come to this event and it’s a privilege to cover it.

À la prochaine!

 

3 Responses to “Cannes 67 Wrap-Up”

  1. Daniella Isaacs says:

    Thanks, Jake. I’ve been following you all week.

  2. Jake Howell says:

    That means a lot, Daniella. Thank you.

  3. Jay Stone says:

    Me too Jake! I always enjoy your take on things.

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Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
~ Chevalier‘s Rachel Athina Tsangari

“The middle-range movies that I was doing have largely either stopped being made, or they’ve moved to television, now that television is a go-to medium for directors who can’t get work in theatricals, because there are so few theatricals being made. But also with the new miniseries concept, you can tell a long story in detail without having to cram it all into 90 minutes. You don’t have to cut the characters and take out the secondary people. You can actually put them all on a big canvas. And it is a big canvas, because people have bigger screens now, so there’s no aesthetic difference between the way you shoot a movie and the way you shoot a TV show.

“Which is all for the good. But what’s happened in the interim is that theatrical movies being a spectacle business are now either giant blockbuster movies that run three hours—even superhero movies run three hours, they used to run like 58 minutes!—and the others, which are dysfunctional family independent movies or the slob comedy or the kiddie movie, and those are all low-budget. So the middle ground of movies that were about things, they’re just gone. Or else they’re on HBO. Like the Bryan Cranston LBJ movie, which years ago would’ve been made for theaters.

“You’ve got people like Paul Schrader and Walter Hill who can’t get their movies theatrically distributed because there’s no market for it. So they end up going to VOD, and VOD is a model from which no one makes any money, because most of the time, as soon as they get on the site, they’re pirated. So the whole model of the system right now is completely broken. And whether or not anybody’s going to try to fix, or if it even can be fixed, I don’t know. But it’s certainly not the same business that I got into in the ’70s.”
~ Joe Dante

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