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.

Comments are closed.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“The sad and painful truth is that pretty much everyone in this town knew who Harvey was. I have had long talks with my most liberal friends. Did we know he was a rapist? We didn’t. But did we know that for decades he has been offering actresses big careers in exchange for sexual favors? Yes, we did — and make no mistake, that is its own kind of rape. And did we all — or did any of us — refuse to do business with him on moral grounds? No. We ALL STAYED IN BUSINESS WITH HIM. I have never done business with Harvey but I can tell you with certainty that I would have — because I was recently approached by a film festival he sponsors. They asked me to submit my short film for their consideration and I did it without thinking twice. I am a dyed-in-the-wool feminist and a vocal one at that. So why didn’t I think twice? Because this entire town is built on the ugly principals that Harvey takes to an horrific extreme. If I didn’t work with people whose behavior I find reprehensible, I wouldn’t have a career.”
~ Showrunner Krista Vernoff

From AMPAS president John Bailey:

Dear Fellow Academy Members,

Danish director Carl Dreyer’s 1928 film “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is not only one of the visual landmarks of the silent era, but is a deeply disturbing portrait of a young woman’s persecution in the face of the male judges and priests of the ruling order. The actress Maria Falconetti gave one of the most profoundly affecting performances in the history of cinema as the Maid of Orleans.

Since the decision of the Academy’s Board of Governors on Saturday October 14 to expel producer Harvey Weinstein from its membership, I have been haunted not only by the recurring image of Falconetti and the sad arc of her career (dying in Argentina in 1946, reputedly from a crash diet) but of Joan’s refusal to submit to an auto de fe recantation of her beliefs.

Recent public testimonies by some of filmdom’s most recognized women regarding sexual intimidation, predation, and physical force is, clearly, a turning point in the film industry—and hopefully in our country, where what happens in the world of movies becomes a marker of societal Zeitgeist. Their decision to stand up against a powerful, abusive male not only parallels the cinema courage of Falconetti’s Joan but gives all women courage to speak up.

After Saturday’s Board of Governors meeting, the Academy issued a passionately worded statement, expressing not only our concern about harassment in the film industry, but our intention to be a strong voice in changing the culture of sexual exploitation in the movie business, already common well before the founding of the Academy 90 years ago. It is up to all of us Academy members to more clearly define for ourselves the parameters of proper conduct, of sexual equality, and respect for our fellow artists throughout our industry. The Academy cannot, and will not, be an inquisitorial court, but we can be part of a larger initiative to define standards of behavior, and to support the vulnerable women and men who may be at personal and career risk because of violations of ethical standards by their peers.

Yours,
John