After a long, exhausting, and honestly rather underwhelming, week of the Cannes Film Festival, plenty thoughts and feelings are going about. There's plenty optimism towards the unseen properties of the year, as well there should be. There hasn't been a reaction from the fest that's absolutely demolished my anticipation for any single film. Are there a few out there? Absolutely, with the utmost being most definitively Abbas Kiarostami's "Like Someone in Love", but then again, what could you really expect? Even the atmosphere of the film seemed rather cooler than that of "Certified Copy". I am still quite completely intrigued by what Kiarostami has to offer with this piece, but it's definitely now more of an object than a film.
Another weakened film, quite massively in fact, is Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly" which has had a divided response from the festival, but not so encouragingly. The main word I've heard wringing from the films rags is "heavy-handed", which I never find to be an encouraging feature. Still interested? Again, absolutely, but there's that massive weight that's restraining it far in advance. Topping off a triplet of deflated expectations is David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis", which is also dividing the festival up, though not to such leveling effect as "Killing Them Softly". It remains as intriguing a property as it was before Cronenberg brought it to the festival. There will be insane positivity right along with the negativity, and we should be glad to hear that.
Where do we come on the milder side of things, speaking of films that didn't have huge expectations leveled against it in the first place? Quite well, since I haven't heard much of anything to actively disinterest me in "Lawless", aside from the title being stolen from Terrence Malick's in-development feature. Word hasn't been so outstanding in positivity, mostly because it's a Cannes film in competition. As a normal film, which is what I'll see it as, it should prove to be quite the fun entertainment. In this atmosphere, it's to be expected for it to take a fall.
Another property that has been given a little more reassurance from its festival appearance is the just-released "Moonrise Kingdom". I'll get around to seeing it likely in the next 2-3 weeks, but word around the festival is that Anderson has found a kind match to his stylistic capabilities. I find that to be encouraging enough, since Anderson deserves to find a niche that his style works in, and I'm glad he has and is rolling with it. Perhaps on a lower spectrum than the other two, but no less encouraging a thought is "The Paperboy", directed by Lee Daniels. From a single shot, you can tell this isn't going to be a major work, but I can deal with some filth if it's done in delicious manner. Oh, and Nicole Kidman isn't so bad a factor either.
In between this and the next category are the films I am not quite as knowledgeable on as I should be, and therefore am not prepared to give them a full designation until after I see them. Matteo Garrone's "Reality" has top billing under that frame, since word out of Cannes has been so hard-to-pin and word on the film's plot so ambiguous that it really could go either way. To be honest, I'm kind of bracing myself here. Also there resides Jeff Nichols' "Mud", which seems to now be a rather disappointing follow-up to his surprisingly intense and passionate "Take Shelter". Indeed I could place this in the category of disappointments, but curiosity keeps me afloat on this one.
Now we get to the category of "could have been stronger, but still strong", and that seems to be a prevailing thought at the festival. It's kind of enraging, if we're to be perfectly honest. We always enter this festival with high hopes, often which are rewarded by bombastic responses. We simply did not get that this time around. No "Midnight in Paris", "The Artist", "The Tree of Life", "Melancholia", "We Need to Talk About Kevin", "Drive", or "Sleeping Beauty". I'm quite saddened by that, to be certain. It actually causes me to question whether cinema in general is losing its teeth, which is never something that you want to think about, but must be considered nonetheless.
As for the films that had higher hopes than they could meet, "Rust and Bone" seems to sum it up pretty well. I am still rather extremely looking forward to Jacques Audiard's romance of the festival, even if the reception has been somewhat lukewarm. My love for Cotillard and Audiard will prevail, and I hope desperately that out of it will come something sweet and somewhat devastating. Also in that crowd is Sergei Loznitsa's "In the Fog", which I had a slight burst of enthusiasm for just before the festival hit. Positive ideas abound his last film, "My Joy", and depending on who you read, his latest is an improvement or a decline on its predecessor. I'd like to think improvement, but I'll have to see both to come to that decision.
That more or less sums up that contingent, simply because Michael Haneke's "Amour" is teetering on the edge between that area and the land of the true greats. What keeps it back? Certainly not the near-universal response it has gotten, nor Haneke's penchant for devastation. It is, however, the fact that the premise and subject seem just too sweet for Haneke's interest. I wait in eager anticipation for him to get his fingers back into murky material, where he is a most welcome guest. I am still looking forward to seeing what he has weaned out of this particular tale, creatively speaking, though not on the level as the top-tops of the fest.
Almost an odd note, the best films shown at the festival are mostly not in competition at all. Take for example Sundance darling "Beasts of the Southern Wild", which has continued its winning streak with audiences at Cannes. With the release dawning in just a month now, this is one every non-festival bound critic is going to want to comment on. I find myself restrained by a certain lack of knowledge here to get truly excited about the film's promises. So it's odd that an even more isolated film of the festival gets me locked in right away. French animated film "Ernest and Celestine" has been making the lower rungs of the festival, quite sweetly in fact to catch my eye. Consider this the eventual foreign animated flick to sneak into the animated branch of Oscar at the last moment.
Then there's the Director's Fortnight winner, Pablo Larrain's "No", whose general excitement continues to hold me well after its premiere towards the start of the fest. Not much more can be said of the film until seeing it, since the details remain as elusive as for any film of spontaneous acclaim. So to goes to my most anticipated film after the festival haze, and indeed my vote for the Palme D'Or, Leos Carax's "Holy Motors". Having come out of nowhere to astonish with a weird and vivid vision, what keeps me nailed on the spot for this film is word of Denis Lavant's performance. He was absolutely stunning in "Beau Travail", so it gives me great pleasure that he may actually now be getting his proper due.
The sad news if the festival is that barely a one of these films has any Oscar potency in the box. "Holy Motors", "Amour", "Rust and Bone", "Beyond the Hills", and "In the Fog" are possibilities for the Foreign Language Oscar, and if one of those were to earn a nod outside of that category it would certainly boost their chances. One could imagine a screenplay nod for Haneke, actor nod for Lavant, or actress nod for Cotillard. "Beasts of the Southern Wild" seems very much like Sundance's bid, and given the raves it's gotten, not such a bad one. And I already said about the chances of "Ernest and Celestine", though that depends on its favor with audiences. Overall, this Cannes festival was certainly not the start of the Oscar season. When will that be? Quite likely not till Venice. Till then, we have the summer.
9. "Moonrise Kingdom"
7. "Rust and Bone"
6. "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
5. "In the Fog"
3. "Ernest and Celestine"
1. "Holy Motors"