2 June 2017.
Neptune’s second report from Cannes
It’s always a sad time when the excitement of a festival is coming to an end…booths emptying out in the Market, press conferences becoming easier to get into, the closing of the myriad tents on the beach in the International Village, and a feeling of nostalgia for all the buzz dying down.
Has it been a great one, this 70th celebration of the Seventh Art in the world’s top film festival?
It’s been a mixed bag – Especially with the pompous opening and closing ceremonies in the 2200-seat Grand Lumière Salle (always shown on a “clear” Canal+) that left one wondering why they chose the obviously uncomfortable Monica Bellucci as mistress of ceremonies on this important occasion. But the lively Welcome Party on the Majestic Beach hosted by the Festival for the accredited was very generous and a great success.
There were some strong, memorable films – the Russian film NELYUBOV (Loveless) which I wrote about last week and which deservedly won the Jury Prize; the ferocious THE SQUARE (also in last week’s column) from Sweden which took the top Palme d’Or; the smart, amusing French tribute to Godard, LE REDOUTABLE; the delicate RADIANCE from Japanese director and Cannes regular, Naomi Kawase, which won nothing; the beguiling THE BEGUILED from Sofia Coppola with a strong cast including Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman which got Best Director for Coppola; and the powerful, topical AUS DEM NICHTS (In The Fade – an emotional terrorist tale), the German entry by the very talented Turkish/German director Fatih Akin, which I would have given the Palme d’Or, and which got its actress Diane Kruger the well-deserved Best Actress award.
But there were also quite a few that had one wondering how they ever got in the lineup, or the disappointments from top directors such as Michael Haneke’s HAPPY END or François Ozon’s L’AMANT DOUBLE which was an ultra-sexual psychological thriller (almost trashy and too Brian DePalma-ish). It was actually quite a hit with the aroused public, whereas I found it a cheap shot from this prolific, usually elegant and discreet filmmaker. Also the Netflix entry THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES, despite its star-packed cast including Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, felt like a minor TV series about a typical New York Jewish family (that Woody Allen has done far better) which should not have been in the prestigious Cannes Competition.
Very often the Certain Regard sidebar has some fine works that could have been in the main Competition, such as the intelligent, very timely Chilean film THE SUMMIT (La Cordillera) by Santiago Mitre about high political wheeling-and-dealings, with the always excellent Argentinean actor Ricardo Darin playing the Argentinean president, or the intense Bulgarian film DIRECTIONS, about a night of taxi rides in Sofia showing the cracks in that society. And as mentioned last week, the brave Tunisian film BEAUTY AND THE DOGS, based on a true story by female director Ben Hania, retracing the night a girl was raped by three police officers. These are necessary films that are superbly made, making them that much more important.
The Certain Regard award for Best Film went to the Iranian LERD (A Man of Integrity) by Mohammad Rasoulof, about the trials and tribulations of an honest man who does not want to bend his ideals.
It’s not easy to fit in much between the 19-film Competition lineup and the 23-film Certain Regard section, so I had to forgo the very popular Quinzaine des Réalisateurs section which takes place outside the Palais, run by Edouard Waintrop who is also Geneva’s director of the Grutli cinemas. And that is Geneva’s luck, for he always brings over a selection of his lineup, and will be showing them at the Grutli from June 7 through 13. Check out their timetable on the Cinemas-du-Grutli site.
I made a point to catch the Conversation with veteran German director Werner Herzog (FITZCARRALDO) at the Quinzaine, where he was being awarded the 2017 Carrosse d’Or from the Société des Réalisateurs de Film. It was fascinating to listen to him, like assisting in a lesson on the philosophy of life – a very special moment with an adventurous, iconoclastic creator.
And speaking of creators, I caught a brilliant documentary, JULIAN SCHNABEL – A PRIVATE PORTRAIT, in the Film Market on the iconic New York painter and director. This is a film not to miss about a man who has lived his life fully – with a rich family life while creating monumental art works and such outstanding films as BASQUIAT, BEFORE NIGHT FALLS and THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY.
Yes the Cannes Festival is many things – creation, money, bling, endless lines and parties, a circus at times, all culminating in the art of film. It’s also the leisurely morning walks on the freshly watered-down Croisette on the way to the first screening of the day, or passing a star in the lobby of one of grand hotels, or sitting next to Vincent Perez and his wife at the fun Vesuvio restaurant. It’s simply exhilarating. Vive le cinéma in the merry month of May!
And thanks to Christine Aimé for the Press, and its amazing director, Thierry Frémaux, for the whole Festival!
Some of the memorable films in the Competition:
NELYUBOV (Loveless) (****)
The present state of Russia’s society is brilliantly exposed in Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Nelyubov, a grim but powerfully constructed tale of a destructive couple who have no use for their poor 12-year old son, who ends up disappearing one day.
Their handling of the search is a unflinching study of today’s state of modern, arid relationships. In the main competition of 19 films, this one is ripe for an important award, for the director is well known for his excellent work, as with his last film “Leviathan”, which won best scenario in Cannes 2014.
THE SQUARE (***)
Following just behind in social commentary and audacity is the Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s THE SQUARE (***), a harsh reflection on the hypocrisy and idiocy of the art milieu, the guilt of northern Europe vs. immigrants, and the sad state of instant, impersonal sex.
It takes place in and around a contemporary museum in Stockholm, with its director as the central dupe of this nerve-wracking tale which takes the audience deeper and deeper into bizarre occurrences. Almost as brilliant as his last film “Force Majeure”, this one goes further under one’s skin, to turn the spectator into a voyeur as in some northern gladiator games, especially in a gala evening with a poor muscleman turned into an Elephant Man-like spectacle. Here is a tragic allegory that some found amusing.
LE REDOUTABLE (***1/2)
This was a breath of fresh air among all the heavy realism. Here was a both amusing and biting homage to one of the Nouvelle Vague’s founders, Jean-Luc Godard. Directed by Michel Hazanavicius of the multi award-winning “The Artist’, it starred Louis Garrel as Godard, who was really more a political figure than a great filmmaker. For me, Godard is a bit of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, after his one innovative film “A bout de souffle”… (Here come the attacks?!)
REDOUTABLE zeroes in on his love affair and marriage to Anne Wiazemsky, and the events surrounding the 1968 riots in France. Garrel, the usually sultry-eyed, tousled-haired hero has been transformed into the slightly balding, eccentric young Godard and he is quite perfect, copying his mannerisms, comportment and slight lisp. Here is a bit of cinematic history and intellectual satire, wonderfully filmed. An insider’s delight.
No prognosis for the awards, for festival juries are notoriously unpredictable and often crown the darker, more twisted tales rather than any crowd-pleasers. Sort of an intellectual perversity, or we know more than you common folk…
My personal favorites till now (Thursday) have been the Russian NELYUBOV, the Korean OKJA, the Japanese RADIANCE or the French REDOUTABLE, plus the Chilean THE SUMMIT and the Tunisian BEAUTY AND THE DOGS from the Certain Regard section. But we all see films with our own personal baggage and moods, don’t we?
More news and films in CANNES II, next Friday.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.