A final dispatch with a foreign focus on "Two Days, One Night," "Leviathan," "Haemoo," "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" and "The Connection."
A report from the 61st Annual Sydney Film Festival, including The Rover, Life Itself, Ruin, and many more.
We all live in our own little subcultures. In mine -- loosely categorized as international film-festival cinephiliacs -- big-name contemporary filmmakers such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Abbas Kiarostami, Michael Haneke and the Dardennes brothers (yes, they've all won the Palme d'Or at Cannes) are huge, huge stars. In fact, some of us, whether we like them or not, feel they are overexposed, on the verge of becoming more than famous: ubiquitous. Like Kardashians or something. (I'll be honest: I don't know what a Kardashian is, but I keep hearing the term.) I mean, good god, the Dardennes have been all in your face throughout the 21st century, making movie after movie and picking up awards everywhere you look. And don't even get me started on Kiarostami. That guy became the international flavor-of-the-film-fest-cicruit in the 1980s, achieved his biggest commercial success in 2010, and has a new film in competition at Cannes right now.
I suppose it's true that, to most people outside our own little coterie, the Cannes Film Festival means just about nothing. Its impact on the American box office is negligible (although Kiarostami's Palme-winner "Taste of Cherry" grossed a pretty impressive $312 thousand in the US in 1998. That's about what "Marvel's The Avengers" took in while you were reading the last sentence). I guess fame -- or importance -- depends on your perspective.
A few things got me to thinking about this. One was Manohla Dargis's NY Times dispatch from Cannes. I love her observations:
• Chaz Ebert at Cannes
Dear Roger: "We were once indivisible from every atom in the cosmos," and that is how I feel when I am sitting in the Palais watching movies at Cannes with a screen spread out as wide as the galaxy, the audience circling around like protons and neutrons breathing as one in empathy.
Director Laurent Cantet accepts the Palme d'Or, surrounded by his cast.
For the first time in 21 years, a French film has taken the top prize at the Cannes film festival, and in a rarity for Cannes, the Palme d’Or was awarded unanimously. The prize could have easily been named “The Golden Apple” rather than the The Golden Palm since it went to “The Class” ("Entre Les Murs"), the Laurent Cantet film about a young teacher who tries to reach his class of primarily immigrant children in a school on the outskirts of Paris. Confronted with their apathy and sometimes outright hostility, he questions them in a Socratic fashion until they begin to ask themselves if perhaps an education might be relevant to them. This film moved me to tears and so of course I thought that, in the grand tradition of Cannes, it had no chance of winning the top prize.
CANNES, France -- By the time I walked into my hotel after the Cannes Film Festival award ceremony Sunday night, the verdict was already in. Scandale! cried the desk clerks in unison, summarizing the television coverage. Cannes was reeling after a list of winners so unexpected and generally unpopular that the TV commentators were rolling their eyes. The instant verdict was that jury president David Cronenberg, the unorthodox Canadian director, had led his jury into the hinterlands of cinema and camped there.