Monday, May 26, 2014

2014 Cannes Film Festival Recap

     The 2014 Cannes Film Festival concluded this past Saturday and from the majority of scholarly reactions, critics and film bloggers, this is was quite an exceptional year on the French Rivera. The Festival included films from David Cronenberg, Bennet Miller, Jean & Luc Dardenne, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Xavier Dolan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Jean-Luc Godard. Top heavy with Cannes veterans and highly anticipated film premieres. The eventual winner of the coveted Palme d'Or was Mr. Ceylan and his 3 hour and 16 minute film Winter Sleep. The film was heralded all-around, but it was not a complete unanimous series of appreciation. That does not detract from the excitement I have at looking forward to seeing this talky, slow paced film from the great Turkish filmmaker. His past work, especially Climates (2006), is quite special.
     The best news in my book was the high praise David Cronenberg's Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars received. Once again, this film polarized critics (no surprise there) but the one's that really liked, really, really enjoyed it and thought it was one of Cronenberg's best. Julianne Moore won Best Actress for her role in the film and I hope it leads to serious Oscar attention for this amazing, amazing actress. The screenplay by Bruce Wagner is supposedly quite brilliant as well. Another film that received almost unanimous praise was Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner, which focuses on the great, oddball British painter J.M.W Turner. The film was loved by many film reviewers and the great Timothy Spall won Best Actor for playing the title role. Loving Leigh's films, and really loving Cronenberg's work, I am highly excited to see both of these films.
     Bennett Miller's third film, Foxcatcher, had its world premiere and the reviews were ecstatic. The film, which many said is a dark look at the American Dream, stars Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and an almost unrecognizable Steve Carell. Both Tatum and Carell received high acknowledgments for their roles and will both be in the race for best actor. Miller and the film will most likely receive many Oscar nominations and from the trailer, it appears to be an extremely dark, bleak film. Miller received Best Director at the festival.
     So, already four films that look amazing and sound great, but nothing compares to the critical appreciation and over-the-top high marks for Russian auteur Andrey Zvyaginstev's fourth feature film, Leviathan. I mean, the Internet went insane for how good this multiple character, crime and corruption drama film appears to be. Having seen his first film, The Return (2003), and still needing to see his third, Elena (2011), I can only anticipate how great this film will be. It has to be. Sony Pictures Classic picked it up quickly and that is great home for foreign films. The film won Best Screenplay at the festival and apparently just missed the Palme.
     The other two films that received consensus adulation were the Argentinian black comedy Wild Tales, from Damián Szifron, and the Canadian wonder kid Xavier Dolan's, he is only 25 and has five films under his belt, Mommy. The Szifron film I knew little about, or him for that matter, and Dolan is Quebec's version of a young Godard. Both films received very positive notices and both appear to be necessary viewing. Dolan's film tied with, ironically, Jean-Luc Godard's well received, shocker in France, although I love Godard, Goodbye to Language, for the Jury Prize. And Alice Rohrwacher's The Wonders took home the Grand Prix and started a high bidding war for distribution.
    Not everything was a complete knockout though. The opening night, out-of-competition film Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman, got brutally panned. Ryan Gosling's directorial debut Lost River, although receiving some positive recognition and comparisons to David Lynch and Beasts of the Southern Wild, overall got beat-up pretty bad. Still looks quite interesting, even if it is in the fantasy drama realm. Tommy Lee Jones second feature film directorial effort, The Homesman, received mixed notices, although I believe there were more positive than negative. Big word was on all the odd, eccentric turns the film took throughout. And the much loved and admired French auteur's the Dardenne Brothers returned to the festival with the Marion Cotillard starrer Two Days, One Night. Nothing was really standing out from the reviews I read, but nothing bad either. The same can be said of Ken Loach's supposed last film, Jimmy's Hall. Nothing bad, but nothing signifying greatness.
     Whew... What it would be like to attend this festival just once. Following all the film bloggers and websites, reading reviews and tweets was exciting and exhausting, just sitting on this side of the fence. My list for films to see throughout the rest of the year and into the beginning of next is growing and growing. All of these films appear to be really exciting and Jane Campion and her jury appear to have been well-rounded in their respect and appreciation for the films, has evident by the awards given at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Oscar and festival season, and September, are only a few months away!!!

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