Summer’s Sleep

In a year where no one film appeared to set the Croisette alight, the Competition jury’s awards seemed set to be a particularly mixed bag. Of course, attempting to predict the Cannes results is an even more foolhardy errand than tracking the Oscars – with a new selection of jurors every year, there’s no accounting for past tastes. One can try to guess what Jane Campion would favor based on her personal style and industry presence, but one never knows where or if a filmmaker’s patterns of production and consumption will overlap – Steven Spielberg and his jury going for “Blue Is the Warmest Color” last year is a pretty sterling example of the left-field subversion that can pop up at any moment.

So what did Campion and crew decide on in the end? Let’s take a brief look:

Palme d’Or (first place): “Winter’s Sleep,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Grand Prix (second place): “The Wonders,” Alice Rohrwacher

Best Director: Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”

Prix du Jury (third place): (TIE) “Goodbye to Language,” Jean-Luc Godard, and “Mommy,” Xavier Dolan

Best Actor: Timothy Spall, “Mr. Turner”

Best Actress: Julianne Moore, “Maps to the Stars”

Best Screenplay: “Leviathan,” Andrei Zvyagintsev

Camera d’Or (best debut in the Official Selection): “Party Girl,” Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq, Claire Burger, Samuel Theis

It’s rare that the odds-on favorite going into the festival actually prevails at Cannes, but that’s what happened this time, with Turkish director Ceylan’s three-hour, philosophical/conversational essay piece “Winter’s Sleep” winning over Campion’s jury and reasserting just about every stereotype of art-house cinema in the process. It was one of the more divisive entries in the Competition, with responses torn between admiration for Ceylan’s ambition and formal abilities and quite a bit of eye-rolling at what many will perceive as a pretentious and self-indulgent excuse for a diatribe. But Ceylan is one of the most respected international filmmakers that you’ve never heard of – he’s won the Grand Prix twice and Best Director once at this festival before, so there certainly was a sense that he was in line to be rewarded.

The late-breaking “Leviathan,” which screened second to last in the Competition and seemed to emerge as the critical consensus choice for the Palme, had to make do with the relatively minor award for Best Screenplay. I would say not to be too concerned for the film’s fate, that it would appear marked for some end-of-year critic’s picks and a run at the Foreign Language Film Oscar, but Zvyagintsev’s parabolic indictment of social corruption has already run afoul of the Putin regime – the Russian Ministry of Culture has already expressed its displeasure with the film’s critical commentary, and its chances of being selected as the country’s Oscar submission seem low. I try not to second-guess festival picks, considering I have of course not seen any of the films in question, but this seems something of a missed opportunity to truly stand up for freedom of expression on a major international stage.

One thing we could almost certainly count on was that Campion, the only female director ever to win the Palme, and her female-majority jury (Sofia Coppola, French actress Carole Bouquet, Iranian actress Leila Hatami, and South Korean actress Jeon Do-yeon being joined by Willem Dafoe, Gael García Bernal, Nicolas Winding Refn and Chinese director Jia Zhangke) would support the notoriously underrepresented women filmmakers in the Competition. And indeed, first-time competitor Alice Rohrwacher’s “Dogtooth”-esque family/beekeeping tale “The Wonders” was something of a “surprise” pick for the runner-up Grand Prix slot. For a moment even, tracking the announcements live, I thought the two women might go one-two, as rumors had been swirling that Naomi Kawase had also been called back to the Cannes red carpet. That would have been a mighty bold statement to the festival organizers, but “Still the Water” went home empty-handed after all, probably to the delight of a number of snarky Twitterers who jumped on the director earlier in the week for seeming to “beg” for the Palme. Surely, publicly calling one’s own film “my masterpiece” is asking for trouble, but I can’t help but think she was just trying to take pride in her work and that ultimately, all that matters is whether the film delivers or not – as is the case with every single other movie, ever.

The jury did also reward two more of the festival’s scant female filmmakers with the Camera d’Or, the selection for the best debut film by a director anywhere in the Official Selection (including not only the Competition slate, but the Un Certain Regard and Director’s Fortnight sidebars). The co-created “Party Girl” was one of the most well-received Un Certain Regard selections, so it certainly seems a worthy choice – Ryan Gosling’s less-loved “Lost River” will surely get its fair share of attention stateside anyway. The typical aversion of Cannes juries to American fare that is all but guaranteed to resurface later in the year makes the selection of Bennett Miller for Best Director for his third feature, “Foxcatcher,” all the more impressive. It’s a strong start to what will now be a very long awards season for the film and its well-received performances from Steve Carell and Channing Tatum; but let’s not start thinking about that just yet.

Elsewhere, old Cannes mainstays Ken Loach and the Dardennes brothers shockingly came away with nothing from the jury – the Dardennes failing to pick up any prize at all for the first time ever in their Competition careers. But the old guard was represented by cinema’s greatest curmudgeon, as Jean-Luc Godard’s typically inscrutable string of images (now in 3D!) “Goodbye to Language” took half of the third-place Jury Prize. He shared with Xavier Dolan and “Mommy,” one of the more formally daring and much-discussed entries; an unexpectedly appropriate gesture, considering the Canadian enfant terrible‘s certain stylistic resemblance to a young Godard, and a kind of poignant recognition of both the youngest and eldest filmmakers in the Competition in one fell swoop.

Finally, Campion’s jury summarized its mix of the eclectic and the expected with its acting choices: Timothy Spall’s performance as J.M.W. Turner, like “Winter’s Sleep,” had widely been pegged as a winner before the festival even started, while Julianne Moore’s broadly satiric comic turn in David Cronenberg’s gonzo “Maps to the Stars” was a more off-beat choice. Moore becomes only the fourth actor ever (after Juliette Binoche, Sean Penn and Jack Lemmon) to collect leading acting prizes from all three of the major European festivals at Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

Other films that were broadly admired but perhaps not adored, including Olivier Assayas’s “Clouds of Sils Maria,” the Dardennes’ “Two Nights, One Day,” Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu” and Damián Szifrón’s “Wild Tales” will hope to find their audiences even without a Cannes prize. In a year where only Atom Egoyan’s “The Captive” and Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Search” were generally dismissed and/or reviled, something had to give. As always, we are left wondering why certain titles from Un Certain Regard (“Party Girl,” Jessica Housner’s “Amour Fou,” Ned Benson’s “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” Ruben Östland’s “Force Majeure,” Kornél Mundruczó’s “White God”) couldn’t have made the leap, but so it goes. Another year, as Mike Leigh might put it.

The Old Familiar Faces

Whoever is making the official Cannes Festival posters is on a roll. Last year’s art-deco-meets-pop-art appropriation of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward was sparkling, woozy, a fairly perfect approximation of the filigreed hype that builds up every year on the Croisette in a one-sheet. If that poster revealed a bit too much by just barely hinting at the emptiness behind the pomp and circumstance, this year’s is everything that Cannes WANTS to be: namely, the coolest, sexiest, most suave dude in the room, and don’t you forget it. It has me thinking I put Marcello Mastroianni a couple rungs too low on this list a few years back.

Even if we didn’t have Marcello undressing us with his eyes from every theater wall and computer screen, this year’s Competition lineup would be another confirmation of Cannes’ particular brand of gentlemen’s club-cool – which is to say, an atmosphere generally populated and promulgated by older European men. At this morning’s announcement of the full 2014 slate, Cannes director Thierry Fremaux claimed that the festival was looking for new, fresh filmmakers, and that 15 female directors were included in the Official Selection. True only to a point – while the Un Certain Regard and Director’s Fortnight sidebars may be a bit more diverse, the official Competition  lineup remains as stodgy and masculine as ever: out of 18 films, only 5 were helmed by directors making their first Competition appearance, and only 2 were directed by women. That is not to say, especially at this early date, that any individual slots were wasted or unjustifiable, or even that Cannes’ preference for regulars is a terrible thing – one just does wish that the most renowned celebration of international cinema in the world could find ways to make diversity a regularity.

So off-beat, upcoming and female talents like Asia Argento, Ryan Gosling, Jessica Hausner and Ned Benson will try to make their impressions in Un Certain Regard. Hausner’s exclusion perhaps stings the most, considering her last film, “Lourdes,” was a critical smash at Venice a few years ago and seemed to prime the Austrian director for the next step up. For Gosling, the slot is actually fairly generous, considering we have little but his association with Nicolas Winding Refn to go on for what his behind-the-camera style might be – we’ll see how he fares with “Lost River” (formerly “How to Catch a Monster”). Meanwhile, the Competition slate will again show off new works by established heavyweights like Olivier Assayas, Mike Leigh, the Dardenne brothers and…

…good god, is that Jean-Luc Godard’s music??!

Indeed it is! The New Wave legend, unfazed by the passing of one of his last comrades-in-arms, Alain Resnais, a few months ago (or, you know, being 83) is back with something called “Goodbye to Language” – filmed, I kid you not, in 3D. As not that big a fan of Obtuse Godard, I’m not exactly chomping at the bit. As for the fact that Irish director Ken Loach is back for the 12th time (and reportedly the last) in Competition, my favorite tweet of the day generally sums up my reaction on the matter:

Those Dardennes, of course, have to be considered threats, once again, to pick up the Palme d’Or, considering they’ve taken home at least one prize from the jury each of the five times they’ve gone in Competition. They have a much starrier effort than usual, with Marion Cotillard headlining an economic-crisis drama, “Two Days, One Night,” that has been described as a “Belgian Western.” Though I’ll tell you, I wrote my senior thesis on Westerns and I still have no idea what the hell that means.

Sight-unseen a lot of people are calling it for Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Winter Sleep,” as the director’s last film, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” took a good shot at the prize three years ago. Personally, I’m keeping my eye on “Leviafan,” the fourth film by the Russian Andrei Zvyagintsev. He’s one of those 5 new-comers to the Competition, but Zvyagintsev is, in my opinion, the best thing to happen in twenty years of post-Soviet cinema, and “Elena” could’ve duked it out with “Tree of Life,” “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” and “The Kid with a Bike” if it had been in the main event in 2011.

Elsewhere, American audiences will be more familiar with names like David Cronenberg (back with another bizarro Robert Pattinson collaboration, “Maps to the Stars”) or Bennett Miller, whose “Foxcatcher” wisely sat out the 2013 awards season and was rewarded with this prestigious slot. Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo will bring some of the Hollywood buzz to this otherwise continental affair; as will Chloë Moretz and Kristen Stewart, featuring in Olivier Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria,” which stars Juliette Binoche as an actress pushed into isolation when a younger actress (Moretz) takes over her signature role. Some empathy there, I’d imagine. Finally, Tommy Lee Jones continues his attempts to keep the prestige Western alive with “The Homesman” (following his directorial debut in 2005, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” which also earned a Competition berth).

There’s plenty more to talk about, including Mike Leigh’s Timothy Spall-starring biopic of J.M.W. Turner (a passion project of his for years), Michel Hazanavicius’ first film since “The Artist,” and let’s not forget Naomi Kawase and Alice Rohrwacher, the two women who did make it. But take a look at the full Competition lineup for yourselves – what are you most eager to see?

67th Cannes Film Festival – In Competition

  • “Clouds of Sils Maria,” Olivier Assayas (Germany, France, Switzerland)
  • “Saint Laurent,” Bertrand Bonello (France)
  • “Winter Sleep,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey, Germany, France)
  • “Maps to the Stars,” David Cronenberg (Canada, U.S.)
  • “Two Days, One Night,” Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Belgium, Italy, France)
  • “Mommy,” Xavier Dolan (Canada)
  • “The Captive,” Atom Egoyan (Canada)
  • “Goodbye to Language,” Jean-Luc Godard (Switzerland)
  • “The Search,” Michel Hazanavicius (France)
  • “The Homesman,” Tommy Lee Jones (U.S.)
  • “Still the Water,” Naomi Kawase (Japan)
  • “Mr. Turner,” Mike Leigh (U.K.)
  • “Jimmy’s Hall,” Ken Loach (U.K., Ireland, France)
  • “Foxcatcher,” Bennett Miller (U.S.)
  • “The Miracle,” Alice Rohrwacher (Italy)
  • “Timbuktu,” Abderrahmane Sissako (France)
  • “Wild Tales,” Damián Szifrón (Argentina)
  • “Leviafan,” Andrei Zvyagintsev (Russia)