Because I am writing this from the comfort of my home in Northridge, CA, instead of filing from the press lounge at the Grand Palais, there is a weird feeling of disconnect even though I was at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for most of its duration. I missed a few films for various reasons, and as a result, there are things I can comment on and things I can’t. One thing is obvious, though, looking at the list of winners for the festival… Cannes covered a lot of ground this year, and it was an incredibly strong line-up overall.
The biggest award at the festival is the Palme D’Or, and the winner was “The Tree Of Life,” Terrence Malick’s long-in-development personal look back at childhood in the ’50s in Texas, as well as our place in the universe. As I said in my review of the film, I thought it was a beautiful, ambitious piece, and I’ve certainly spoken to people whose genuine reactions to the film were emotional and profound. I just felt like, for me, it was Malick doing Malick, feeling the pressure to deliver THE film instead of just a film, and less successful overall than past efforts from him. I certainly wouldn’t slam the choice, and I think it’s a movie that leaves a lot of room for each individual viewer to walk away with a very different experience.
Best Actor was awarded to Jean Dujardin, the sensationally funny star of the “OSS 117” films, whose new film “The Artist” was one of the most talked-about films of the festival. It was one of my top five must-sees walking into the fest, so of course a conspiracy of bus schedules and big buzz shut me out of it for the entire week. I am crushed, but at least The Weinstein Company already has plans to release the film here in the US this year. Can’t wait. This is the silent b&w comedy about a silent-era movie star struggling to hold onto his career in the early days of sound.
Nicolas Winding Refn has been making very good movies for a while now. Anyone who was a fan of his “Pusher” trilogy already knew how good he could be. “Bronson” was the movie that really started to make some international noise for him in recent years, and with “Drive,” his latest, he appears poised for some real box-office success and, as we saw here, some awards love. Winning Best Director of Cannes for a movie that is built around car chases seems like a magic trick of some sort, so hats off to him.
I am delighted to see that Kirsten Dunst won Best Actress for “Melancholia,” the end-of-the-world meditation from director Lars Von Trier, and no, I still don’t care what poorly-phrased jokes he made in a press conference. Dunst has always been an actor who I’ve rooted for, and she has had some major ups and downs in her career. With this film, I feel like she gave a performance not even she was totally aware she was capable of giving, and to see her rewarded for it is a very good thing.
The Grand Prix was actually given to two films this year, so the Dardennes get to win for “The Kid With The Bike,” and Nuri Bilge Ceylan also wins for “Once Upon A Time In Anatolia.”
The Jury Prize was given to “Polisse,” a tough-minded look at child prostitution and the cops who deal with it, and director/actor Maiwenn picked that one up. The Best Screenplay award went to Joseph Cedar’s “Footnote,” a well-liked drama from Israel. Finally, the Camera D’Or, the award for best first film, went to a movie I did not realize even played at the festival until I heard the title announced during the awards ceremony, “Las Acacias.”
They covered a lot of ground with the films they picked, and as always, there were some very well-liked movies like “We Need To Talk About Kevin” or “Le Havre” or “Miss Bala” that were shut out entirely. Such is the nature of giving awards. The real winner this year is the international audience that’s about to get all of these films unleashed on it. It was a great year, a great strong field of films to discuss, and hopefully you’ll get the chance to judge for yourself how right (or wrong) the jury got it in the months ahead.