I can hardly believe it’s snuck up on like this, but today I jet off to the south of France for the Cannes Film Festival, which officially kicks off tomorrow with the premiere of Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.” Currently, we’re in the exciting night-before-Christmas stage of the festival. 22 Competition films (among a buffet of others in secondary strands) lie unseen ahead of us: all of them have serious artistic intentions and creditable names attached, and have been hand-picked for the programme by the powers that be.
Yet there will be successes and there will be failures: predicting the annual critical disaster as much a sport as handicapping the jury awards. We have no idea what the prizewinners and/or future classics from the lineup might prove to be — and that “and/or” is crucial, since the two don’t always overlap. Cannes juries are no less capable than the Academy of missing the boat with their choices, of passing over long-haul masterworks for short-lived sensations. Will future generations care about Palme d’Or winner “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” — any more than people today care about “The Mission?”
Cannes awards are certainly nice to have, and can be invaluable in securing distribution for challenging no-name arthouse titles, but when push comes to shove, they’re no less arbitrary a measure of worth than, say, a Golden Globe — not least because they’re decided by only nine people. To prove that point, today’s list focuses on some of the finest films to play in Competition at Cannes, only to leave the Croisette completely empty-handed, with not so much as a Special Jury Prize to call their own. In some cases, they lost out to worthy competitors; in others, the outcome is a little more puzzling. All of them, however, deserved something for their pains.
Going through the Competition selections from each of the festival’s 64 years, I was surprised by the sheer amount of noble losers I had to choose from: even in years where the jury mostly gets it right, there tends to be an outstanding film or two left on the sidelines.
Honorable mentions include Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast,” “A Place in the Sun,” “The Tales of Hoffmann,” “Funny Face,” “Sons and Lovers,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “My Night with Maud,” “Murmur of the Heart,” “Walkabout,” “Thieves Like Us,” “The American Friend,” “Being There,” “Heaven’s Gate,” “Thief,” “Shoot the Moon,” “The King of Comedy,” Claire Denis’s “Chocolat,” “Sweetie,” “King of the Hill,” “Through the Olive Trees,” “Spider,” “The Headless Woman,” “Synecdoche, New York,” “Bright Star,” “Another Year,” “My Joy” and, from just last year, “Sleeping Beauty” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” Grand total of Cannes prizes between them? Zero.
So, remember these films (and, of course, the 10 listed below) when, in a little under two weeks’ time, Nanni Moretti’s jury doles out its prizes: a Cannes award is but a short-term victory. Have a browse through our embedded gallery, and feel free to share your thoughts below.
For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.
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