By Jake Howell jake.howell@utoronto.ca

Wrapping Cannes 70

Can a filmmaker intentionally write an ending so grating it ruins the movie? Should a performer be stopped because their performance becomes violent and unsafe? By its very artistic ambition, does the performance require its audience to stop the artist from becoming violent?

These are questions Ruben Östlund’s magnificent The Square leaves as its too-long conclusion reaches its final moments. This ending left a lot of viewers deflated—for two hours, the film fills you with the feeling you’re seeing something truly special. Another half hour, though… well, that this now-Palme d’Or-winning art goes too far (and comes across so anticlimactic) is entirely the point: A film this prismatic could never be a perfect Square.

It’s good to put Cannes 70 to bed after festival attendees tired of taking sides in a suggested debate between “cinema” and Netflix (as if they were diametrically opposed). And with the final awards ceremony complete, we can now confirm Jury President Pedro Almodóvar (how fun is that to say?) was true to his word: the streaming service took home zero awards, even when it was rumored a few days ago the director signed some sort of production deal with Netflix. (Maybe the announcement was a way of shirking potential conflicts of interest?)

For Best Actor, Joaquin Phoenix accepted on behalf of Lynne Ramsey’s You Were Never Really Here, the final film in Competition, which wound up wowing exhausted critics.

Similarly, Diane Kruger’s first German-language production (Fatih Akin’s In The Fade) was deemed the Jury’s Best Actress prize. My only issue is that the race was limited to begin with—indeed, jury member Jessica Chastain found it “quite disturbing” that the festival had a dearth of female representation on screen.

There was a tie for Best Screenplay: You Were Never Really Here (which I was unable to see) was neck-and-neck with The Kiling of a Sacred Deer, one of the most divisive films this year. Given that Sacred Deer’s dialogue is as striking as its visuals, I can’t wait to see Ramsey’s latest to see what’s in store.

It’s wonderful to see Sofia Coppola take Best Director for her remake of The Beguiled. The filmmaker has been booed at Cannes (like many masters before), so to see her take a major award is great (especially when it’s a trophy a woman hasn’t held since 1961).

The Festival’s Jury Prize went to Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless, which is a totally respectable prize for a totally respectable movie. I didn’t meet a single critic at Cannes that disliked the film; folks were either moderately cool on the film’s themes, which are heavy-handed, or deeply impressed by their gravity. No one debates its technical feats, however: the film is a cold stunner.

The Grand Prize was more predictable—at least in that Robin Campillo’s 120BPM (120 Beats per Minute) felt guaranteed to be on the board with something. It’s political, it’s timely, it’s accomplished, it’s French: the ingredients for a Cannes prize-winner. But don’t let me reduce its win: The film is a powerful, compassionate drama.

The Square, though. I can’t wait for actual audiences to see it. I can’t wait to discuss its many possible interpretations. It’s one of the best Palme decisions in years.

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“I remember very much the iconography and the images and the statues in church were very emotional for me. Just the power of that, and even still — just seeing prayer card, what that image can evoke. I have a lot of friends that are involved in the esoteric, and I know some girls in New York that are also into the supernatural. I don’t feel that I have that gift. But I am leaning towards mysticism… Maybe men are more practical, maybe they don’t give into that as much… And then also, they don’t convene in the same way that women do. But I don’t know, I am not a man, I don’t want to speak for men. For me, I tend to gravitate towards people who are open to those kinds of things. And the idea for my film, White Echo, I guess stemmed from that — I find that the girls in New York are more credible. What is it about the way that they communicate their ideas with the supernatural that I find more credible? And that is where it began. All the characters are also based on friends of mine. I worked with Refinery29 on that film, and found that they really invest in you which is so rare in this industry.”
Chloë Sevigny

“The word I have fallen in love with lately is ‘Hellenic.’ Greek in its mythology. So while everyone is skewing towards the YouTube generation, here we are making two-and-a-half-hour movies and trying to buck the system. It’s become clear to me that we are never going to be a perfect fit with Hollywood; we will always be the renegade Texans running around trying to stir the pot. Really it’s not provocation for the sake of being provocative, but trying to make something that people fall in love with and has staying power. I think people are going to remember Dragged Across Concrete and these other movies decades from now. I do not believe that they will remember some of the stuff that big Hollywood has put out in the last couple of years. You’ve got to look at the independent space to find the movies that have been really special recently. Even though I don’t share the same world-view as some of my colleagues, I certainly respect the hell out of their movies which are way more fascinating than the stuff coming out of the studio system.”
~ Dallas Sonnier