Monday, May 25, 2009

Cannes, Day Twelve, the Finale

Friends: The jury did not take the dare. Nine of the twenty films in Competition were acknowledged with some award or another. "Enter the Void" was not one of them. That Gaspar Noe did not receive the best director award was no shock, but giving it to Brillante Mendoza of the Philippines for "Kinatay" was the biggest shocker in years.

In recent history the best director award went to what was generally considered the second best film in the festival. Last year it was "Three Monkeys" by the Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylon, who happened to be perhaps the most distinguished of this year's nine jurors other than the president of the jury Isabelle Hubert. Hanakae won best director a few years ago for "Hidden," Schnabel for " The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," Gonzalez for "Babel." "Kinatay" had the lowest rating of any film in Competition from "Screen" magazine's panel of ten international critics.

There was a strong favor for Asian films from this jury. The Chinese film "Spring Fever" surprisingly was awarded the best screenplay and the Korean vampire film "Thirst" was given the jury award for third best film along with the English "Fish Tank." "Fish Tank" was the only one of those four that I was rooting to win something. Another of my rooting interests, "A Prophet," the French prison film, won the Grand Prix for second best film falling to Hanake's "White Ribbon."

Hanake gave Hubert a prolonged hug on stage, without kissing. She won the best actress award here a few years ago for her performance in Haneke's "The Pianist." From the moment the schedule was announced, Haneke was listed as a favorite to win the Palm d'Or, just as last year people speculated Sean Penn as president would show preference to Clint Eastwood's "The Changeling." Penn did give Eastwood an honorary lifetime achievement award. The extra, unnecessary lifetime achievement award this year went to veteran French director Alain Resnais for his film "Wild Grass."

Considering some of the jury's choices, this year's awards are not entirely credible. Both Charles and I were rooting for the French film "In the Beginning" to be recognized with something. It could have been given best screenplay or best actor if nothing else. But three of the nine awards were doled out to the French, perhaps their quota. The French also took the best actress award--Charlotte Gainsbourg for her agonizing role in Von Trier's "The Antichrist." This was the 8th film of Von Trier to play at Cannes, and the seventh to win an award. The best actor award went to Christophe Waltz in "Inglorious Basterds," a bit of a surprise, but not entirely undeserved. He gave the most emotional acceptance speech, thanking Tarantino for rescuing his career and Brad Pitt for looking at him eye to eye.

The three films I saw today before the awards on "Catch-up Sunday" all won awards. I left the campground at 7:20 this morning, my earliest departure of the festival, to get in line for "Inglorious Basterds." There were already 100 or so people before me, Tarantino devotees not put off at all by the tepid reviews. Most of "Screen's" panel gave it two stars. The lone four star rating came from Scott Foundras, the only American of the ten reviewers, standing up for his countryman, just as the Dane critic did for Von Trier's film.

If I gave out stars, I'd give it three. Evidently producer Harvey Weinstein, notorious for cutting films, has no power over Tarantino. Someone desperately needed to reign in Tarantino's dialogue. Verbal repartee went on interminably under the guise of tension building when in fact the tension was fizzling away with the climax to each scene blatantly obvious to all, even those jousting. I kept murmuring, "Get on with it Quentin, this is totally unnecessary." It was gab, gab, gab as if Tarantino was trying to make a French film. In a way he was, paying homage to the French here and there. At one point a young woman who owns a movie theater comments, "I am French, we respect directors in our country." That got applause from the audience.

The woman was a young Jewish blond who had earlier escaped her hiding place on a French farm when Christophe Waltz, a Nazi known as "The Jew-Hunter," tracked down her family, killing them all except her. It was a thrill seeing her on the screen, as I stood beside her for hour an hour-and-a-half waiting to get into Hanake's film, not knowing who she was, but suspecting that she was an aspiring actress. She was beautiful, though not strikingly so, almost a generic blond, but with a slight scar on the side of her face, that confirmed to me who she was when I saw her on the screen in a semi-starring role. She spoke French the entire time in line with a woman companion. If I had already seen "Inglorious Basterds" I would have had lots to ask her.

Tarantino proves once again that he can write dazzling dialogue, though not necessarily of much substance. This was almost a silly film of no magnitude.

Willem Dafoe may give his most boring performance ever in "Antichrist." He is a therapist trying to help his wife overcome her extreme grief over the death of their young son. She blames herself. She is hospitalized for over a month on way more medication than Dafoe deems necessary. He finally takes matters into his own hands and brings her home and then to their cabin in the woods. Dafoe is as stoical and restrained as a rock, somewhat condescendingly, as he tries to reason his wife back to normal. She is high-strung and resents his composure and arrogance, finally turning on him with extreme vengeance that was a horror to watch. Most of this film was sheer tedium, then agony. Some critics defended the film, saying even though people hated it, no one walked out on it. If the outrageous violence had occurred earlier, there would have been walkouts aplenty. People were just being respectful to Von Trier's talents, hoping the film would amount to something. Gainsbourg certainly deserved her award for best actress. She digs deep to express her despair and torment, though her performance is not enough for any but dedicated cinephiles to justify seeing this movie.

An older man discovers a wallet in Alain Resnais' "Wild Grass." He takes it to the police station and leaves his name and phone number so the owner, an attractive woman dentist, can call and thank him if she wishes. When she calls, he is upset she only offers thanks. He'd like to meet her even though he is seemingly happily married. He begins stalking the woman. She finally goes to the police to complain after he slashes her tires. But them she begins stalking him in this gentle, lightweight, fairly inconsequential, semi-absurd tale.

The closing night film after the awards ceremony was "Coco Chanel and Igor Starvinsky" a biopic of their affair in Paris 1913. The closing night film is usually something of little note that will disappear into obscurity. This French film was no exception.

So now it is off to Nice, 30 miles away and the ferry to Corsica. There are no ferries on Monday, so I have some leisure to recover from my 70 plus films in the last 12 days. I finally had a chance to talk to a couple of my campmates that were attending the festival. One was a 60-year old American from Memphis was is an actor. He flies out to LA every couple of months for something or other. He had a role in David Fincher's "Zodiac." He sacrificed work as a body double for Donald Trump to come to the festival. He was at the campground last year but we never met. It was nice to make his acquaintance, even though he only sees one or two movies a day. He attends the festival as a film-maker, submitting a short and then getting a pass for 90 euros.

In another tent was a young Englishmen. Like the American he was here more to network than to see movies. He saw 22.

Later, George

1 comment:

Gillian said...

I love Tarantino films.

Enjoy your leisure time - at least it gives you some square-eye recover time.

Enjoy Nice....