Cannes Film Festival 2010

By Lightning, Robert K. | CineAction, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

Cannes Film Festival 2010


Lightning, Robert K., CineAction


With no controversial entrees like last year's Antichrist or inglourious Basterds or (to my knowledge) critically-acclaimed debuts like Xavier Dolan's J'ai Tue Ma Mere, there seemed few if any 'must sees' at this year's Cannes Film Festival, making my experience this year an entirely less intense affair. Even the low point of my festival viewing, Stephen Frears' pedestrian sexual roundabout Tamora Drewe, offended only in being no more than what it was intended to be: an innocuous bourgeois entertainment, not actively offensive but a disappointment in a festival setting.

Among the festival's high points was the timely screening of the documentary Cleveland Versus Wall Street, a Swiss-French co-production that stages a mock trial that seeks to indict Wall Street banks for the decimation (financial and otherwise) of the city of Cleveland, Ohio. Bringing together a cross-section of contemporary American capitalist society (including homeowners, a former drug dealer, a Tea Partyer, and a former advisor to Ronald Reagan) the film documents Cleveland lawyer Josh Cohen's attempt to prove the local affect of the banking decisions that led to the recent market collapse. If for no other reason the film is remarkable for demonstrating the shared capitalist psychology (rooted in the ideology of 'personal responsibility") that links a free market ideologue to a homeowner facing foreclosure, a psychology that dictates the latter's self-condemnation and admission of guilt when under cross examination--even when it is he who is so clearly a victim (of predatory lending).

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Although inspired by the most recent of global financial crises, Cleveland also provides a diagrammatic description of the perpetual exigencies of capitalism and demands to be read in the proper political and historical context, a reading I cannot provide at this time. Similarly, the Godardian aesthetic being in guestion, I cannot at this time provide a reading of Film Socialisme, more than one viewing of Godard being required for even a provisional assessment. Finally, as it attempts to actualize democratic principle in its central romance, I am developing for future publication an essay on Doug Liman's political thriller Fair Game that views it in relation to the Classical Hollywood tradition of the democratic couple.

Note to readers and filmmakers: I apologize in advance for any errors in the following readings, based as they are upon a single viewing in the heightened atmosphere of a festival. I issue here also a general spoiler alert.

Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, USA) belongs to that film genre where a marriage, on the brink of dissolution, is examined in flashback, the film making the case for the union's continuance. (Steven's Penny Serenade and Cukor's The Marrying Kind come immediately to mind). But for its refusal of the conciliatory ending, Blue Valentine adds nothing radically new to the genre, its primary appeal (as is often the case) is its providing a showcase for two talented performers, here Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.

The film also provides instances of felicitous direction as when a close shot of Gosling (in flashback) at the moment he first sees Williams, his face seeming to anticipate disapproval, is answered by a direct cut to a close shot of the seemingly disapproving Williams (in the present day), the editing suggesting (as husband and wife appear to face each other across time) their incompatibility from their first meeting. Given the generic requirement to dramatize the extreme fragility of the institution of marriage (as well as its fragile resilience) the film's non-traditional response to the question of whether the marriage will survive or not seems arbitrary and one suspects that the Cukor film would have come to an identical end had such been allowed in 1952.

After his fine, first feature J'ai Tue Ma Mere (focus of a sensational Cannes debut in 2009) Les Amours Imaginaires (Xavier Dolan, Quebec) finds its director in a relatively relaxed mood. …

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