Though Carlos Reygadas didn't win the Palm d'Or, he won the next best thing, the best director award, an award that often goes to the best film from a divided jury. This jury wasn't brave enough to go that far and went with the very safe choice of Hanake's "Amour," a very average film that any film-maker could have made. Reygadas could have been given the best director award here for his second film "Battle in Heaven" seven years ago, but he was too young and unknown for that jury to make such a choice. But this nine-person jersey, spearheaded by three most accomplished directors, Nanni Moretti, Alexander Payne and Andrea Arnold, clearly recognized the brilliance of "Post Tenebras Lux," the most distinguished directing of any of the films here.
Both Ralph and I watched it for a second time earlier in the day and appreciated it even more. It is a film that isn't so easy to piece together on the first viewing, though one can't help but be impressed by its great cinematic flair. There is much more of a narrative to the film than we had at first detected. And we will both be happy to see it again, hopefully at Telluride over Labor Day weekend.
It seems as if no jury at Cannes can get all seven of the awards it doles out right. There is always at least one big surprise. At first it looked as if it was going to be giving Ken Loach's "Angels Share" the Jury Prize for the third best film, the first award given out. Although it is a fine film, it has little of Loach's usual social commentary and is little more than light entertainment. It is very unusual for a jury to give such a film an award.
There were a handful of other equally entertaining films with much more substance and depth that could please multiplex audiences as well as those of the art house--"Rust and Bones," "Mud," and "Killing Them Softly," none of which were given awards. The biggest surprise of those three was "Rust and Bones" being overlooked, especially with Emmanuelle Devos on the jury, who had starred in two of "Rust and Bones" director Jacques Audiard's films. "Rust and Bones" could have been given any of several awards--best actor, best actress, best screenplay or any of the three best films.
One can not deny jury favoritism. English actor Ewen McGregor no doubt pushed for Loach's film. And Italian Morretic, president of the jury, no doubt had his way awarding the Italian feature "Reality" the Grand Prix award for the second best film, a real shocker. It certainly wasn't. Its director Matteo Garrone was the beneficiary of similar national favortism with his last film at Cannes, "Gomorrah," which also won the Grand Pruix. There was a very strong-willed Italian director on that jury who saw to it that the two Italian films in Competition that year won awards, that and Sorrentino's "Il Divo."
In the press conference after the award ceremony Payne was asked how he could overlook the seven films in Competition that had a North America influence, none of which won an award. Payne shook his head in despair at the question, not wishing to accept the insinuation that he had a responsibility to award a film from his country. National favoritism also is obvious in the reviews from "Screen" magazine's panel of ten international journalists. The Brazilian was the only one to give fellow countryman Walter Salles's "On the Road" a four star review, with just about everyone else giving it two stars or less. Lars Von Trier was similarly blessed with a four star review from the Danish representative a few years ago for the much reviled "Antichrist," everyone else hating it.
Five of the seven award winners had all won previously at Cannes. Only the best actor and actresses were first time winners, as is usually the case. It was most thrilling to see the two young Romanian actresses from "Beyond the Hills" given the best actress award. The jury really had to like that film to violate the taboo of giving a film two awards, as its director Cristian Mungiu was given the award for best screenplay as well. It was the second award of the evening given out. Mungiu was clearly disappointed in having to accept it, as he was hoping he had been invited back to the awards ceremony for another "Palm d'Or" to go along with his for "Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days." Pedro Almodovar had a similar reaction with "Volver," another film that won for its cast of actresses as well as screenplay. That year "Volver" had the highest rating from the critics. Rarely though does the film with the highest rating from "Screen's" panel win the Palm d'Or. This year is an exception, though "Amour" was tied with "Beyond the Hills" with a 3.3 out of 4.
The biggest relief of the evening was that the jury did not give "Holy Motors" an award or pull a real surprise and give "On the Road" or Kiorstami's film something. But I had faith in Payne to get things right and Moretti too. Moretti had previously served on the jury in 1996. Gilles Jacob, the festival's long-time director, wrote in his memoirs published a year ago, "Citizen Cannes," that Moretti stood up for a film that year that deserved the Palm d'Or against the initial wishes of the rest of the jury. Jacob, sits in on the jury deliberations, though tries to keep his mouth shut, was very grateful for Moretti's strength and good sense.
When it came down to the last two awards to be given for the two best pictures we knew that Hanake was going to get one of them as he was most evident sitting in the audience. Since "Rust and Bones" had yet to receive an award, there was the possibility that this jury might right the wrong of several years ago when Hanake's "White Ribbon" was given the Palm d'Or over Audiard's "A Prophet." But that was not to be.
When "Realty" won it meant I would have to skip the closing night film "Therese Desqueyroux" by Claude Miller starring Audrey Tatou, as "Reality" was coincidentally screening an hour later and I had yet to see it, just one of the two Competition films I had missed. The other was the Opening Night film "Moonrise Kingdom." I came within two minutes of seeing it earlier in the day. People were still trickling into the Bazin theater for its 4:30 pm screening when I arrived 15 minutes earlier. I quickly ducked into the bathroom next door. When I came out the "Complet" sign had been posted. I wasn't overly upset as it meant I could go upstairs to the Bunuel theater and see the Reygadas film again. Intuitively I knew that is what I should have wanted to do anyway. As always, I do not get upset when I am turned away from a film, rather accepting it as an opportunity to see something else.
Though I saw 73 films this year, including 21 of the 22 Competition films and 10 of the 20 in Un Certain Regard, there were a few I regretted missing. One was "7 Days in Havana" a compilation film by seven directors including Gaspar Noe. Ralph saw it, as he is an ardent Noe fan as well, but he couldn't recognize which of the seven segments was Noe's, so it didn't seem as if I missed anything of significance. He said the only segment whose director he could identify was the one by Emir Kusturica, as he starred in his. He played himself attending the Havana film festival and not wishing to fully participate in it.
I was also sorry to miss an animated feature with Werner Herzog as the voice over and also a documentary on the foremost editor of film trailers narrated by Jeff Bridges. But one can't see everything, though I certainly give it a good effort. I had more seven film days this year than any year before, largely thanks to a more conveniently located Internet outlet for my daily postings. If I didn't have that obligation I would have watched "Amour" for a second time today giving it another chance to impress me. As it was, it was only a four film day, the only day of less than six.
"Amour" was one of four films scheduled to play in the 1,068 seat Debussy theater on repeat Sunday, the largest of the four theaters for the repeats. The others have seating of 400, 350 and 300. The top-seeded films were "The Angel's Share," "Holy Motors," "Amour" and "The Hunt." Keller attended "The Hunt" screening. He said there was a riot among those waiting to get in and horse-mounted police were called in and people were arrested.
The lowest seeded films, the films the festival directors thought had the least interest, playing in the 300 seat Bunuel were "On the Road," "Like Someone to Love," "Mud," "Post Tenebras Lux," and "In the Fog."
I began the day with "Beyond the Hills," one of the three films I was most looking forward to seeing when the festival schedule had been announced a month ago along the the Reygadas film and Dolan's film. This true story of a young girl who comes to a small monastery to visit a friend of hers and take her away was not as powerful as the director's Palm d'Or winner, a near impossibility, but it was still a most impressive film.
It was only fifteen minutes between the end of this film and Kiarostammi's "Like Someone in Love." If I didn't get in I had no back-up film. I would go fulfill my Internet duties and then see Hanake's film. But there were barely 100 people who cared to see it. This story of a Japanese student who moonlights as a hooker was very slight and dull. It has an element of mistaken identity similar to "Certified Copy," but is a pale imitation.
I had been turned away from "Reality" three times early in the festival. It was surprising there was so much interest in it, as the reviews had been very tepid. It seemed hihgly unlikely the jury would award it anything, so I wasn't regretting very much that I had missed it. Despite my low expectations, I found the film more enjoyable than I thought it would be, though still not worthy of the Grand Prix. It was one of two films I saw on this final day of the festival with someone going slightly mad. One of the girls in "Beyond the Hills," frustrated at not being able to pry her friend from the monastery, goes into such fits that she is hospitalized.
In "Reality" it is a husband and father of two girls who becomes unhinged. He has a very exuberant and outgoing personality even for an Italian. He sells fish from a stand in a town square. He thinks his winning personality will earn him selection to a reality television that will make him rich and famous. He has an hour-long audition that goes very well. He's so confident of being selected, he convinces his wife that he should sell his fish stand. When he isn't selected, he suffers a great downward spiral. It is an entertaining comedy-drama, but not as fine a film as "Rust and Bones" and a few others.
Once again Cannes was a great twelve days of cinema. Even Keller came to agree that it was a privilege to be here. This year did not have the greatness of last year, but still it was a reassuring testimony to the state of cinema. There were a remarkable number of very fine films. I'll be back and so will Ralph. Not so sure about Keller though.