The 2019 Cannes FIlm Festival is over and here’s what won! Interestingly enough, for all the critical acclaim and excitement that greeted Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, the jury ignored both of them.
Palme d’Or: Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite” Grand Prize: Mati Diop, “Atlantique” Director: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, “Young Ahmed” Jury Prize (tie): Ladj Ly, “Les Misérables” and Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, “Bacurau” Actor: Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory” Actress: Emily Beecham, “Little Joe” Screenplay: Celine Sciamma, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” Special Mention Prize: “It Must Be Heaven,” Elia Suleiman
CAMERA D’OR (across all sections)
César Diaz, “Our Mothers”
UN CERTAIN REGARD
Un Certain Regard Award: “The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao,” Karim Ainouz Jury Prize: “The Fire Will Come,” Oliver Laxe Best Director: Kantemir Balagov, “Beanpole” Best Performance: Chiara Mastroianni, “On a Magical Night” Un Certain Regard “Heart” Prize: “The Climb” and “A Brother’s Love” Special Jury Prize: Albert Serra, “Liberte” Special Jury Mention: “Joan of Arc,” Bruno Dumont
Nespresso Grand Prize: “I Lost My Body,” Jérémy Clapin Leitz Cine Discovery Prize for Short Film: “She Runs,” Qiu Yang Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award: Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, “A White, White Day” Gan Foundation Award for Distribution: The Jokers Films, French distributor for “Vivarium” by Lorcan Finnegan SACD Award: César Díaz, “Our Mothers” Canal+ Award for Short Film: “Ikki Illa Meint,” Andrias Høgenni
In Competition: “It Must Be Heaven,” Elia Suleiman Un Certain Regard: “Beanpole,” Kantemir Balagov Parallel Selection: “The Lighthouse,” Robert Eggers
Europa Cinemas Label Award for Best European Film: “Alice and the Mayor,” Nicolas Pariser SACD Award for Best French-language Film: “An Easy Girl” Rebecca Zlotowski Illy Short Film Award: “Stay Awake, Be Ready,” Pham Thien An Carrosse d’Or: John Carpenter
Prize of the Ecumenical Jury: “A Hidden Life,” Terrence Malick
“For Sama,” Waad al-Khateab and Edward Watts Special Prize: “The Cordillera of Dreams,” Patricio Guzman
Queer Palm Award: “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” Céline Sciamma Short Film Queer Palm: “The Distance Between Us and the Sky,” Vasilis Kekatos
I know that I should probably be more excited about The Dead Don’t Die, the upcoming zombie comedy film from Jim Jarmusch.
I mean, after all, Jim Jarmusch has made some brilliant films and I enjoyed his take on vampires, Only Lovers Left Alive. Add to that, the film is full of wonderful actors, people like Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, and Tilda Swinton. And yet, for whatever reason, I can’t summon up much enthusiasm for The Dead Don’t Die. Everything that I’ve seen about it so far just seems to add up to one big “meh.”
Maybe it’s just the fact that there’s seems to be a new zombie movie every week. Seriously, zombies were a lot more interesting before they went mainstream.
Anyway, The Dead Don’t Die opened the Cannes Film Festival yesterday and the response so far has been rather lukewarm, if respectful of the fact that the film was directed by a very important filmmaker. Reading the reviews, you get the feeling that it’s a film that the reviewers wanted to like more than they actually did.
To coincide with the Cannes premiere, here’s a new redband trailer! You can watch it below. Maybe it’ll leave you with a bit more enthusiasm than it does me.
The Dead Don’t Die comes to theaters on June 14th.
In Tokyo, Osamu Shibata is married to Nobuyo, who live in poverty. Osamu receives occasional employment and Nobuyo has a low-paying job, but the family relies in large part on the grandmother’s pension. Osamu takes his son Shota shoplifting for groceries, and discover a girl, Yuri, homeless. Osamu takes Yuri to their home, where the family informally adopts her. However, the Tokyo police, aware Yuri is missing, begin to search for her.
This year’s strangely low-key Cannes Film Festival has come to a close! Here’s what won at Cannes this year:
Palme d’Or: Shoplifters by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Grand Prix: BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee
Best Director: Paweł Pawlikowski for Cold War
Alice Rohrwacher for Happy as Lazzaro
Jafar Panahi for 3 Faces
Best Actress: Samal Yeslyamova for Ayka
Best Actor: Marcello Fonte for Dogman
Jury Prize: Capernaum by Nadine Labaki
Special Palme d’Or: Jean-Luc Godard
Un Certain Regard
Un Certain Regard Award: Border by Ali Abbasi
Un Certain Regard Jury Prize: The Dead and the Others by João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora
Un Certain Regard Award for Best Director: Sergei Loznitsa for Donbass
Un Certain Regard Jury Award for Best Performance: Victor Polster for Girl
Un Certain Regard Award for Best Screenplay: Meryem Benm’Barek-Aloïsi for Sofia
First Prize: The Summer of the Electric Lion by Diego Céspedes
Calendar by Igor Poplauhin
The Storms in Our Blood by Shen Di
Third Prize: Inanimate by Lucia Bulgheroni
The question that we ask every year is whether the Cannes Film Festival will have any effect on the Oscar race. We especially ask that whenever an American film wins the Palme d’Or or an American or British performer takes home one of the acting prizes. This year, BlacKkKlansman was the highest rewarded American film, though it didn’t pick up the Palme. That said, even if it didn’t win the top prize, BlacKkKlansman did receive rapturous reviews, certainly enough justify it’s current status as a possible Oscar nominee.
In the history of Cannes Film Festival, only two documentaries have won the Palme d’Or.
The second documentary to win was Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, which won in 2004 despite not being a particularly good film. In fact, even by the standards of Michael Moore, it was deceptive and sloppy. However, it was also anti-Bush at a time when the entire world was anti-Bush and that was enough for it to win. (Hilariously, at the time, there was serious talk that Fahrenheit 9/11 would somehow keep Bush from winning reelection, as if anyone who was even thinking of voting for Bush would have ever bothered to sit through Moore’s film.)
Far more interesting than Moore’s screed is the first documentary to win the Palme, 1956’s The Silent World. Narrated and co-directed (with Louis Malle) by the famed oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau, the film follows Cousteau and the crew of Calypso over the course of two and a half years, as they explore the Mediterranean Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The film was one of those first to make use of underwater color photography, which at the time was quite revolutionary. Chances are that, for many audiences in 1956, The Silent World was their first chance to see what the undersea world was actually like.
Unfortunately, Jacques and his merry band of divers spend a good deal of the documentary destroying stuff. Watching the film, it’s obvious that the divers don’t understand the potential damage of their actions and Cousteau would go on to renounce a lot of the exploration techniques used in The Silent World but still, it’s hard not to occasionally cringe. Watching the divers as they explore the underwater depths, you immediately notice that they seem to be rather grabby, snatching everything that they can off of the ocean floor. When Cousteau feels that a coral reef is getting in the way of his research, he solves the problem with dynamite. Then there’s the scene where the crew of Calypso kill several sharks that are eating the carcass of a baby whale. (Cousteau explains that the shark is the diver’s natural enemy, which may be true but doesn’t excuse the slaughter that follows.) Making all of this even worse is that the baby whale wouldn’t have died in the first place if it hadn’t been hit by the Calypso’s propeller. Scenes like that leave you wondering if maybe it would be better for everyone is Jacques and his crew just went home.
And yet, at the same time, this documentary features scenes of underwater beauty that remains breathtaking even after 62 years. The underwater camera captures schools of beautiful fish ducking out-of-the-way of the human invaders and, in the films most haunting sequence, we follow a diver as he explores a sunken ship. In these moments, the beauty of the underwater world overwhelms you and you forget about your reservations about what’s going on with the crew of the Calypso. In these moments, you embrace the beauty of it all and the world suddenly seems as if its full of limitless possibilities.
In those moments, you can understand why The Silent World not only won an Oscar for Best Feature Documentary but the coveted Palme d’Or as well.
The 1982 film Missing takes place in Chile, shortly after the American-backed military coup that took out that country’s democratically elected President, Salvador Allende.
Of course, the film itself never specifically states this. Instead, it opens with a narrator informing us that the story we’re about to see is true but that some names have been changed “to protect the innocent and the film.” The film takes place in an unnamed in South America, where the military has just taken over the government. Curfew is enforced by soldiers and the sound of gunfire is continually heard in the distance. Throughout the film, dead bodies pile up in the streets. Prisoners are held in the National Stadium, where they are tortured and eventually executed. Women wearing pants are pulled out of crowds and told that, from now on, women will wear skirts. The sky is full of helicopters and, when an earthquake hits, guests in a posh hotel are fired upon when they try to leave. About the only people who seem to be happy about the coup is the collection of brash CIA agents and military men who randomly pop up throughout the film.
Again, the location is never specifically identified as Chile. In fact, except for the picture of Richard Nixon hanging in the American embassy, the film never goes out of its way to point out that the film itself is taking place in the early 70s. If you know history, of course, it’s obviously meant to be Chile after Allende but the film itself is set up to suggest that the story its telling is not limited to one specific place or time.
Charlie Horman (John Shea) is an American who lives in the country with his wife, Beth (Sissy Spacek). Charlie is a writer who occasionally publishes articles in a local left-wing newspaper. In the aftermath of the coup, Charlie is one of the many people who go missing. All that’s known is that he was apparently arrested and then he vanished into the system. The authorities and the American ambassador insist that Charlie probably just got lost in the confusion of the coup and that he’ll turn up any day. Even though thousands have been executed, everyone assumes that Charlie’s status as an American would have kept him safe. As brutal as the new government may be, they surely wouldn’t execute an American….
Or, at least, that’s what Ed Horman (Jack Lemmon) believes. Ed is Charlie’s father, a businessman from New York who simply cannot understand what’s going on. He can’t understand why his son and his daughter-in-law went to South America in the first place. He can’t understand why his government is not doing more to find his son. And, when he eventually arrives in South America himself, Ed cannot understand the violence that he sees all around him.
Working with Beth, Ed investigates what happened to his son. At first, Ed blames Beth for Charlie’s disappearance and Beth can barely hide her annoyance with her conservative father-in-law. But, as their search progresses, Beth and Ed come to understand each other. Beth starts to see that, in his way, Ed is just as determined an idealist as Charlie. And Ed learns that Charlie and Beth had good reason to distrust the American government…
Costa-Gavras is not exactly a subtle director and it would be an understatement to say that Missing is a heavy-handed film. The Embassy staff is so villainous that you’re shocked they don’t all have mustaches to twirl while considering their evil plans. When, in a flashback, Charlie meets a shady American, it’s not enough for the man to be a CIA agent. Instead, he has to be a CIA agent from Texas who heartily laughs after everything he says and who brags on himself in the thickest accent imaginable. When Charlie talks to an American military officer, it’s not enough that the officer is happy about the coup. Instead, he has to start talking about how JFK sold everyone out during the Bay of Pigs.
As the same time, the film’s lack of subtlety also leads to its best moments. When Beth finds herself out after curfew, the city turns into a Hellish landscape of burning books and dead bodies. As Beth huddles in a corner, she watches as a magnificent white horse runs down a dark street, followed by a group of gun-toting soldiers in a jeep. When Ed and Beth explore a morgue, they walk through several rooms of the “identified” dead before they find themselves in a room containing the thousands of unidentified dead. It’s overwhelming and heavy-handed but it’s also crudely effective. While the film itself is a bit too heavy-handed to really be successful, those scenes do capture the horror of living under an authoritarian regime.
(Interestingly, Missing was a part of a mini-genre of films about Americans trapped in right-wing South American dictatorships. While you can’t deny the good intentions of these films, it’s hard not to notice the lack of films about life in Chavez’s Venezuela or the political dissidents who were lobotomized in Castro’s Cuba.)
Missing won the Palme d’Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival (an award that it shared, that year, with the Turkish film Yol) and it also received an Oscar nomination for best picture of the year. (It lost to Gandhi.)
As I watched the 2016 film, I, Daniel Blake, two thoughts ran through my head.
First: This is one of the saddest, most powerful films that I’ve ever seen.
Second: It’s a pity that, for all of his talent, Ken Loach is such an anti-Semitic twat.
Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is a carpenter who lives in Newcastle. He’s a widower who lives alone in a small flat, keeps an eye on his neighbors, and always tries to do the right thing. As he explains it, he’s never asked for nor accepted charity. He’s worked hard all of his life and all he’s ever asked is to be treated with respect in return. After suffering a heart attack, he is told by his doctor that it will be a while before he can safely return to work. However, when Blake goes to the Department of Work and Pensions, he is told that he had been evaluated and he only “scored 12 points.” In order to receive an employment and support allowance, he would need to score 14 points. How does one score 14 points? No one seems to be quite sure. Fortunately, there is an appeals process but no one appears to be willing to give Dan a straight answer as to how the process works. He’s told that it can’t even start until he gets an official call informing him that his application for the allowance has been denied. Of course, Dan already knows that he’s been denied because, through a bureaucratic snafu, Dan received a letter telling him that he’s been denied. However, it doesn’t matter that he already knows it. What matters is that he wait for the official phone call.
In the meantime, it is continually suggested that Dan go online to solve all of his problems, despite the fact that Dan is 59 year-old and has next to no idea how to work a computer. (When he does go online, he’s forced to ask strangers for help with everything from using the mouse to submitting his forms.) Broke, Dan applies for a jobseeker’s allowance and is told that he had to spend 35 hours a week looking for employment, despite the fact that his doctor has not cleared him to work. Whenever someone is willing to hire Dan, Dan is forced to admit that he can’t take the job, adding to the list of his daily humiliations.
Meanwhile, Dan befriends a single mother, Katie (Hayley Squires), who is literally starving herself so that her children will have enough to eat. (In one of the film’s most powerful scenes, Katie has a breakdown at a food bank.) When she’s caught shoplifting, a security guard offers to help her out but his help comes with a price of its own.
And through it all, the state continues to grind both Dan and Katie into the ground. With its harrowing portrayal of two people literally being destroyed by a combination of poverty and authoritarian bureaucracy, I, Daniel Blake is the rare movie that can be enjoyed by both socialists and libertarians. At no point does I, Daniel Blake romanticize the poverty of its characters. From the minute we first see Daniel, he is obviously a very ill man and the film does not flinch from showing the personal toll of the daily humiliations of his struggle to just get someone to listen to his voice. As we watch, we hope things will work out for Dan and Katie, even though we know they won’t. Katie is fond of saying that she’s going to go back to school and Dan even makes her a bookcase for her future school books but again, we know it’s a dream that will probably never come true. It’s not a happy film but it is a powerful one.
That said, I nearly didn’t watch I, Daniel Blake because of the fact that it is a Ken Loach film. Loach is one of the world’s most acclaimed directors, a filmmaker and activist who has been making movies since the late 1960s. Loach is known for his willingness to make films that both deal with social issues and challenge the British status quo. Though he may not be well-known in the States, he’s a controversial figure in the UK. He’s also one of the leading supporters of the despicable BDS movement and, when one looks over his public comments, it’s hard not to get the impression that his criticism of Israel is motivated by more than just disagreement with Israeli government policy.
But I did watch because, ultimately, I feel that art can be separated from the artist. Ken Loach may be loathsome but this film is not. I, Daniel Blake won the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, beating out such films as American Honey, Elle, The Neon Demon, and Toni Erdmann.
(With this year’s Cannes Film Festival coming to a close, I figured that I would start of today by looking at some previous winners of the Palme d’Or. We start things off with 1986’s The Mission.)
The Mission opens with a man stoically plunging over a waterfall. That man is a priest who, in the 1740s, has been sent to convert the natives of the Paraguayan jungle to Christianity. The natives’ reaction to the priest’s arrival was to tie him to a wooden cross and send him over the falls. It’s an opening that perfectly captures one of the main themes of The Mission: the contrast between the beauty of nature and the savagery of man.
The majority of the film deals with two men. Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) is the Spanish Jesuit who replaces the martyred priest. Father Gabriel is a pacifist who manages to win the trust of the natives through a shared love of music. Gabriel plays the oboe and, when it is snatched away from him, reacts not with anger but with acceptance. With the help of Father John Fielding (Liam Neeson), Father Gabriel builds a mission and works to educate the natives. This brings him into conflict with the local plantation owners, the majority of whom just see the natives as being potential slaves.
That’s where Mendoza (Robert De Niro) comes in. A brutish and violent man, Mendoza makes his living kidnapping natives and selling them into slavery. When Mendoza discovers that his fiancée, Carlotta (Cherie Lunghi), has fallen in love with his younger brother, Felipe (Aidan Quinn), Mendoza snaps and, in a moment of anger, kills his brother. Seeking forgiveness for his violent past, Mendoza travels to Father Gabriel’s mission, dragging all of his armor and weaponry in a bundle behind him. When Mendoza finally reaches the mission, he is not only forgiven by the natives but he also eventually ends up becoming a Jesuit himself.
And, for a while, everything is perfect. That is until the Spanish turn over their land in South America to the Portuguese and the new colonials decide that having a mission around will make it a little bit too difficult to enslave the natives. When Father Gabriel is ordered to close the mission, he refuses to do so. He says that he will stay and that he is willing to be martyred if the Portuguese forces attack. Gabriel believes that violence is a sin against God. Mendoza, on the other hand, announces that he will stay and he is prepared to once again pick up weapons to defend the mission…
Dramatically, The Mission is uneven. While Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson are both believable and sympathetic as Father Gabriel and Father Fielding and fit right in with the film’s period setting, Robert De Niro seems miscast and out-of-place. As good an actor as De Niro is, he just doesn’t belong in the jungles of South America. Whenever he shows up or speaks, your mind immediately goes to New York City. The film tries to juggle so many theological and political issues that it can get a bit exhausting trying to keep up with it all. Watching the film, it was hard not to wish for a chance to see what a director like Werner Herzog or Terrence Malick would have done with the same material.
That said, The Mission is a visually impressive film, one that captures the beauty, the innocence, and the danger of the jungle. The scenes of both Gabriel and Mendoza climbing the waterfall are stunning to watch and, in the end, the film does have a sincere message about the ongoing fight for the rights of indigenous people. That counts for something.
The Mission received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, though it lost to Platoon. It also won the Palme d’Or, beating out such films as After Hours, Down by Law, Mona Lisa, Runaway Train, and The Sacrifice.
Earlier today, Spike Lee’s BlackkKlansman was screened at the Cannes Film Festival to enthusiastic reviews and a ten minute standing ovation.
Not coincidentally, the first trailer was released today as well. And here it is:
Amazingly enough, this film is based on a true story. In Colorado, an African-American cop named Ron Stallworth really did manage to not only infiltrate the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan but also eventually became the head of the chapter. In the film, Stallworth is played by John David Washington, son of Denzel. His partner is played by Adam Driver, who seems to be destined to get an Oscar nomination at some point in the near future. And David Duke is played by Topher Grace, who has certainly come a long way since That 70s Show.
BlacKkKlansman is due to be released in August of this year. Both Awards Watch and Awards Circuit currently have it listed as a probable Oscar contender and, going by the initial reaction for Cannes, it very well may be.