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!