Tuesday, May 29, 2012

(Delayed reactions to the) 2012 Cannes Film Festival Winners

 It's been a busy couple of days, and as such I haven't really been able to find time to blog, a little inconvenient considering the timing. In addition to this brief commentary on the winners from this year's Cannes fest, I have one more competition film to review, John Hillcoat's Lawless. More imporant for now, though, are the winners picked by the jury led by Italian actor/director Nanni Moretti. 

Palme D'Or: Amour (Michael Haneke)
Thank goodness they got this one right, because it's all downhill after the top prize. My favorite film of the festival (competition or not), I was worried that Haneke's recent victory at Cannes - winning the same prize for 2009's The White Ribbon - would hurt him this year. How happy I am to be wrong. Not only will this boost the terrific film's profile, it also helps upset just about everything that follows. It's technically a safer choice than my other Cannes fave, Holy Motors, in that it's not completely insane, but Haneke's piercing look at death and old age only reinforces why the man is as revered as he is, all while showing us a heartfelt (albeit austere) side.

Best Director: Carlos Reygadas - Post Tenebras Lux
If you read my super brief "review" of Reygadas' film, you'll know that I am no fan of this decision. I was with people at the festival who were really rooting for Lux to take home a prize, and their adoration for the film always made me scratch my head. Reygadas is thinking big, but the execution also just feels so sluggish and empty that the film as a whole becomes a painfully long two hours to sit through. Add in the obnoxious split image/blur effect that the director throws in, and you have a massive self-important misfire. Oh well, at least he didn't claim the Palme, as some rumors were suggesting in the hours before the closing ceremony.

Grand Prix: Reality (Matteo Garrone)
A true head-scratcher, and I say that in recognition of the fact that the jury president hails from the same country as Garrone. If they were going to reward this film, it should have been in Best Actor for Aniello Arena. He was the only part of this dull, cliched look at modern culture's obsession with reality TV actually worthy of praise. Everything else was as flat as an abandoned cup of soda.

Grand Jury Prize: The Angel's Share (Ken Loach)
Another head-scratcher. Loach's film is a pleasant little diversion with some nice acting, but it's also the type of film lacking in a single remarkable element. Even if Cannes did a full roster of awards a la the Oscars, I still doubt there would be a category where this would crack the top five. To be fair, Cannes has been kind to Loach (he won the Palme in '06) for years, but the general consensus seemed to be that he was taking it easy this time. Clearly Moretti (and others?) felt differently.

Best Actor: Mads Mikkleson - The Hunt 
One of the two rewarded films I didn't manage to see, there's really not much I can say here. Yes, I had favorites I was rooting for (Trintignant, Lavant, Schoenaerts), but I've heard nothing but good things about Mikkleson's work in the film, even from those who weren't fans of the rest of the piece.

Best Actress: Cristina Flutur and Cosima Stratan - Beyond the Hills
The other victorious film I didn't get to see was, sadly, Cristian Mungiu's latest, which earned some of the festival's strongest reviews. Again, I heard great things about the work, so I have no comment, although I'm still a tad shocked that odds-on favorite Marion Cotillard didn't win. If Rust and Bone, a good but not spectacular film, was going to take home a prize, Actress seemed like its best bet by a large margin.

Best Screenplay: Cristian Mungiu - Beyond the Hills
See previous two categories.

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