Cannes Film Festival 2014

By Hills, Aaron | Filmmaker, Summer 2014 | Go to article overview

Cannes Film Festival 2014


Hills, Aaron, Filmmaker


DISPATCHES FROM CANNES AND LAFF

Ken Loach. Olivier Assayas. Atom Egoyan. The Dardenne Brothers. The world's most prestigious film festival may have asked the first-ever female Palme d'Or winner (Jane Campion, for 1993's The Piano) to head up the jury, but Cannes' main competition was disappointingly chock-full of the usual suspects, i.e., older, white male auteurs on a return visit. At least this year's top honor went to Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan, whose three-hour-plus drama Winter Sleep will be released stateside in time for awards season. The characteristically Chekhovian, uncharacteristically talky epic stars Haluk Bilginer as a restless former actor who operates a hotel in the remote steppes of Anatolia, where he encounters power and class struggles among his family, tenants and community. Stunning if too frequently onerous, this one is guaranteed to spark future debates over whether or not it belongs in the exalted company of The Leopard, Wild at Heart, The Tree of Life and last year's Blue is the Warmest Color.

The Wonders nabbed the Grand Prix - the silver medal, essentially - for Italian writer-director Alice Rohrwacher (Corpo Celeste), one of only two women in contention. (The other, Japan's Naomi Kawase, may have shot herself in the foot when she pronounced her Still the Water a deserving "masterpiece" in a preCannes interview.) Loosely based on her childhood within a multicultural family, Rohrwacher's nostalgic, sweet-natured, modestly entertaining saga concerns a bee-keeping clan in the northern Italian countryside. The hippie homestead's hand-to-mouth pluckiness invokes the country's cinematic history of neo-realism in relaxed, observational Super-16mm episodes, but the narrative drive lies in preteen daughter Gelsomina's (Maria Alexandra Lungu) coming of age - as well as a novelty TV contest featuring Monica Bellucci in a platinum wig.

Splitting the Jury Prize (the bronze) were the youngest and oldest competitors, respectively: Xavier Dolan's heartfelt, transgressively funny, mildly irritating fifth feature Mommy - the 25-year-old Montreal hipster Wunderkind's fourth go-around at Cannes - had to share with octogenarian master Jean-Luc Godard, who didn't bother to appear in support of his poetic, three-dimensional provocation Adieu au Langage, truly the most fertile and exciting treasure in the main lineup. (In lieu of attending, Godard forwarded the eight-minute Letter in Motion to Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux and exiting president Gilles Jacob, which is available online without subtitles; parlez-vous français?) At the sardine-packed premiere, an audience of more than 2,000 cinephiles may have applauded when the former French New Waver unveiled a dual-layered shot never before seen in cinema; when asked in a post-awards interview whether he was a Godard fan, Dolan only replied, "No."

The most predictable (if entirely justified) award went to Best Actor recipient Timothy Spall, whose boorish, blustery, bronchial embodiment of 19th-century British artist J.M.W. Turner in Mike Leigh's biopic Mr. Turner is eccentrically masterful. Similarly worthy for Best Actress, Julian ne Moore's deceptively dignified take on the prototypically fading Hollywood starlet in David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars was a corrosively commanding highlight among an ensemble of burlesque mutants. Later this year, expect also to hear more about a fake-schnozzed, subtly showboating Steve Carrell as the real-life millionaire who murdered an Olympic wrestler in Foxcatcher, another middlebrow Oscar-buzzer from Best Director winner Bennett Miller (following his Capote and Moneyball). Rounding out the awards, Best Screenplay was given to Russian collaborators Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin for their darkly comic, politically minded dirge Leviathan, their celebrated follow-up to 2012's Elena.

But why should idiosyncratic art films be judged against one another, especially when each edition of Cannes typically shakes out half of the year's Most Important Movies? …

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