Friday, May 23, 2014

Day Ten

Awards speculation is rampant with all the Competition screenings completed today and the nine-person jury having to make their choices.  The Russian film "Leviathan," the final film screened, fresh in everyone's minds, has suddenly become the favorite to be named the best film of the festival.  It wouldn't be my choice.  This somewhat stylized depiction of corruption and thuggery in small town Russia had my mind wandering, mainly to the film I'd seen just before, Olivier Assayas' "Clouds of Sils Maria."  I loved it, but curiously it doesn't seem to figure in anyone else's lists of awards.  It deserves best screenplay at a minimum.

It was a most intelligent script of a 38-year old famous movie and theatre actress played by Juliette Binoche largely interacting with her young assistant/minder.  It fully captures all the anxieties and tribulations of an actress trying to sustain her career as she prepares for a role in a play opposite the hottest young actress in Hollywood. She had played the role the younger actress will play twenty years before and it launched her career.  The relationship between the two women in the play mirrors her own relationship with her assistant.  As the two of them read lines from the play in beautiful Swiss scenery, sometimes as they're hiking high in the mountains its not always clear when the lines come from the play or their present relationship.  Such trickery sometimes puts off critics as it did with "Certified Copy," which won Binoche the best actress award here.  

The three sidebar categories all announced their winners today.  Ralph and I were in the Debussy as the Un Certain Rewards winners called up on stage.  Beat actor went to the Aboriginal film, an ensemble cast award to the French film "Party Girl," a special award to the Wim Wenders documentary on photographer Sebastiao Salgado, the second best film to "Turist" a Swedish film that takes place at a ski resort and the best film to the Hungarian "White God," which was screened after the ceremony.

Neither Ralph or I had seen it so we didn't have to dash up to the Critic's Weekly award winners, at least until later.  The film opens with a young girl bicycling across a long bridge in a large city being chased by a huge pack of dogs.  Then the movie flashes back to what led to this.  It was a most remarkable film of dogs taking revenge on those who abused a lead dog, who had belonged to the girl on the bike.  Her father forced her to get rid of it when she came to live with him while her mother was away.  The dog stunts were amazing.  The lead dog had been forced into dog-fighting, transforming him from a devoted pet to a hardened killer.  Opinion is split whether this movie will antagonize or please dog lovers.  It was a brave choice by the jury, overlooking the acclaimed Argentinian experimental film "Jauje" that the FIPRESCI  jury gave their top prize to.

The Critics' Weekly gave their awards to "The Tribe" from Ukraine and "Hope" from France.  I had avoided this small category of films to insure I hadn't seen its award winners in its end of the day time slot when only one other film was playing.  A young French woman beside me in line asked if I could google the Director's Fortnight winner on my iPad.  She jumped up and down with delight at the news that "Love at First Fight" had won, as she was friends with its young first-time director.  

We had to wait for "The Tribe" to finish before "Hope" began at nearly eleven pm.  It was a perfect final film for the day as I will begin tomorrow with "Timbuktu," both films set in northern Sahara Africa.  A Nigerian woman by the name of Hope teams up with a guy from Cameroon out of desperate necessity as they make the long trek from their homelands to try to get to Europe.  She is forced into prostitution to pay their way when their money is taken from them by a very hostile gang that holds them hostage.  Their perilous journey is fraught with danger and human predators in this superb gripping drama of those seeking a better life.

In contrast to the genuine terror in "Hope," the Out of Competition Argentinian film "Ardor" offered up contrived terror.  This film was put on the slate only because it starred jury member Gael Garcia Bernal.  He comes to the rescue of a family in the jungle who are being besieged by a handful of white mercenaries.  I regretted I had prolonged my conversation with Ralph after our previous movie, as it delayed my arrival to the screening of Ryan Gosling's "Lost River," playing at the same time, making me fall four short of getting in.  It was said to be a failure, but it would have been a more interesting  failure than this one.

This day of fine cinema was also highlighted by the Jacques Audiard "Master Class" conducted by master film critic Michel Ciment.  There was a greater crush bent on seeing this than the Sophia Loren Master Class two days before, many of them students showing no scruples weaselng their way towards the front of the scrum at the theater entrance,  The interview included clips from all six of the films that Audiard directed, most of which had played at Cannes.  It began with a clip of a Claude Miller film  that Audiard wrote the script for along with his father, a quite accomplished screen writer.  Audiard actually got his start in cinema as an editor, partially because he had a girlfriend who was an editor.  After writing he said he felt a little like Billy Wilder, who said he went from writer to director because he got tired of making the bed then having someone else sleep in it.  He also credited Ciment for inspiring him to make "The Beat My Heart Skipped," as he heard Ciment interview James Toback at Cannes the year "Fingers" played, the movie Audiard decided to do a remake of.  

After a clip from one of his early films he acknowledged he would film it differently now as one has to consider contemporary circumstances when making a film.  His first film was a struggle as he learned the process, but after that it became a pleasure.  He couldn't remember where he came up with the idea for "Read My Lips," one of three of his films Ciment pointed out that feature a handicapped woman who sets a man on the straight-and-narrow.

Audiard's movies are marked by their violence, though he said it very much repels him.  He thoroughly researched prison life for "A Prophet," visiting prisons in Belgium, Switzerland and France.  He chose though not to film in a prison, but rather constructed a set resembling one.  He explained that he likes to film close-ups, as he is near-sighted.  He set his glasses on the table between in and Ciment, occasionally putting them on and then groping around forgetting where he had put them.

When Ralph and I exited the nearly two-hour session the much anticipated weekend schedule of films was available.  I was thrilled that I would be able to see the four Competition films I have missed as none of them are scheduled at the same time in the five theaters that will be replaying the fifty films from Competition, Un Certain Regard and Out of Competition.  I don't know what the odds of that are, but I it helped make this one of the most satisfying days yet.  I will also be able to see several other films high on my list in the final two days of this extravaganza.

One of the reasons "Leviathon" has gained favor with the pundits and prognosticators as the jury's choice for the Palm d'Or is that it is very topical with Russia very much in the news, just as Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" won the top prize eleven years ago with the world down on George Bush.  I suspect that when the jury begins hashing it out, they'll decide on "Winter Sleep," even though I have yet to see it, but knowing well Ceylan's sensitivities.  It has to have the profundity and depth of a Palm d'Or that "Leviathan" lacked.  The FIPRESCI jury already has named it the best film of the festival. "Foxcatcher" could also be a threat depending on who are the strongest voices on the jury.  Willem Dafoe could stand up for it as could the Danish director Nicolas Renf who could well be partial to such fare, having won the beat director award here himself for the fairly commercial film "Drive" in 2011.

1 comment:

Robert Kennedy said...

Well George, you nailed it with American director Bennett Miller winning Best Director at Cannes today. Julianne Moore took everybody by surprise as Best Actress, as did Alice Rohrwacher winning the 2nd Grand Prix prize. Hard to believe the jury rated Godard and Dolan equally for the 3rd prize, but they ultimately decided they didn't want either one to go home empty handed.