Sunday, May 28, 2017

Cannes Day Twelve--The Awards

When I watched "The Square" for the second time just hours before this evening's awards ceremony, I was more convinced than ever that it would have strong advocates on the jury that could well win it the Palm d'Or, though it wasn't listed among the favorites by any of the prognosticators.  The festival thought so little of it that it programmed it in the smallest of the four theatres for the day's repeat screenings of all the Competition films.  But I read the jury right and it came away with the prize for the best film of the festival.  Jury president Pedro Almodovar said he was impressed by the "incredible imagination" of its director Ruben Östlund.

It was easily the most audacious film of the nineteen films in Competition with scenes of impact and social commentary that included such widely disparate subjects as Tourette's syndrome, beggars, an ignored chef, a used condom and on and on.  A breathtaking ten-minute scene of a bare-chested performance artist bounding around imitating a menacing gorilla at a dinner party of wealthy donors at an art museum was without compare. It alone could have earned the film its Palm d'Or. The performance intimidates several of the formally-clad to flee. When it starts getting out of hand, the museum director tries to intercede and end the performance, but it only escalates, culminating with the gorilla molesting a women.  It takes awhile before anyone is brave enough to intercede.  When someone finally does others gradually join in pummeling the gorilla as if they were in a back alley.  

That is the most extreme of the many confrontational scenes in the movie, most of which  are at first comical but are anything but.  The museum director, who carries the picture, has several awkward encounters with an American reporter  that one would like to laugh at but really can't.  One is the most unlikely of tug-of-wars over a condom they have just used.  The woman lives with a chimp who just wanders in the background, a device that had to please juror Maren Ade, director of "Toni Erdman" that had an outrageous gorilla scene.

In the press conference after the awards ceremony a reporter asked Almodovar why the jury didn't give the Palm d'Or to "120 Beats Per Minute," the French film on gay rights that won the top prize from the FIPRESCI jury of foreign journalists and many thought would win here, receiving the Grand Prix instead.  Almodovar said he liked it a lot, but "The Square" more. One of Ralph's favorites, the Russian film "Loveless," that had the highest rating from Screen magazine's panel, took the third place Jury Award.  It continued the tradition of the highest rated film not winning the Palm d'Or.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the eight awards was Sofia Coppla winning best director for "The Beguiled."  It was a fine film that I thought the jury might want to make a statement with and let her be just the second woman to win the Palm d'Or.  Instead, she becomes the second woman to win the best director award after Russian Yuliya Sointseva in 1961 for "Le Dit des Annees de fer."  That award garnered the most talk in the post--awards press conference with the jury. Each of  the four woman jurors spoke at length on women getting their due in the industry.  Coppola wasn't on hand to receive her award.  Nor was Nicole Kidman for a special 70th Anniversary award for her roles in two Competition films and two Out-of-Competition films.  The best actress award went to the truly deserving German Diane Kruger in "In the Fade."  That was one of three films I watched today for a second time.  I came out of that convinced she would win the award for the range and power of her performance responding to the death of her husband and young son from a bomb placed outside her husband's shop.

Joaquin Phoenix won the best actor award for Lynn Ramsey's "You Were Never Really Here."The jury liked the film enough to also give it best screenplay, which it shared with the Greek horror movie "The Killing of the Sacred Deer."  Ralph and I watched the first twenty minutes of Ramsey's film before the Awards Ceremony.  It is a barrage of images and quick takes that are all clues of what is to come, but even having seen the film the day before, we couldn't make sense of all the clues.  Ralph couldn't even remember Phoenix ripping a page out of a book and then turning the next page in the reverse order that one would read it after we walked out of the theater and I asked what it could possibly mean.  That was just one of many of such clips.  The critics are giving Ramsey the benefit of the doubt that she knows what she's doing even though her audience couldn't possibly.  Even so, it's nice to see her film recognized.  

I would have liked the Hungarian film "Jupiter's Moon" to have gotten an award, especially after watching it again today.  Juror Will Smith said he loved it, but he didn't have enough sway or support to give it an award.  It's lead actor had to be in the running for best actor, but it could also have won for best director, especially with the airborne figure of a Syrian refugee who has taken three gunshots to the chest drifting and floating throughout the movie.  His new powers are as much of a mystery to him as to the doctor who befriends him and uses his talent to raise money.  The movie raises the question, "The Bible is full of angels, but we never see one."

"Rodin" was the only movie I saw for the first time today.  Vincent Lindon, a former best actor winner, could have easily won another for his superb portrayal of the French sculptor starting in 1880 at the age of 40 when he is about to make a major breakthrough in his art.  He begins a tumultuous ten year affair with Camille Claudel.  He sleeps with many of his models and his matronly housekeeper.  It is during this period that he completes his controversial sculpture of Balzac that he spent seven years trying to realize.  This was a much more understated biopic than the earlier one on Godard that likewise could have won a best actor award.  This jury however elected to go with the American, as did Spielberg's jury when it gave the award to Bruce Dern in "Nebraska" rather than to the sensational Italian in "Great Beauty."

Looking over the schedule on Repeat Sunday, I would have gladly watched more than half of the movies a second time, including both "Rodin" and the Godard pic "Redoubtable." That may be the highest percentage ever. I know Janina will love both of them, so as with many of the movies I've just seen, I look forward to watching them again with her and gaining her academic and scholarly insights.  We'll be meeting up Wednesday over in the Cevannes at Craig and Onni's to begin a month or more of biking.  As sensational as Cannes always is, I know that will be even moreso.


Matt said...

Thanks for you daily reviews George. I appreciate that your opinions are your own and not just following the other critics. As is often the case, many films that are critcized at Cannes end up being pretty good and liked by audiences once they get released. Happy travels!

Bill Burns said...

George, can you help me out here? I'm trying to make sense of the following:

"The movie raises the question, "The Bible is full of questions, but we never see one."

What question? One what?

I'm guessing either you were in a hurry, or tired, or it was just a typo from using an iPad keyboard or some combination of all of the above, but I can't make out what you're saying there.

Cheers from the Heartland!
Bill in KC

george christensen said...

Bill: Thanks for catching the typo. The quote was, "The Bible is full of angels...," implying the character with aerial abilities might be one.

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