As Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here” wraps up the Palme d’Or contest, we take a look at some other crucial and trivial awards from the 70th Cannes Film Festival.
Fittingly, the competition ended with a shudder. This anniversary edition of the world’s top film gathering has been pretty bleak, both in topic and in quality. We’ve had dysfunctional families, insufferable men, vodka-infused Russian grimness, and self-hating bourgeois Europeans aplenty. But the gloom reached a whole new level in Lynne Ramsay’s psychological drama “You Were Never Really Here”, the last competition entry, which screened on Saturday. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, it involves a brutal and tormented hitman who sets out on a deadly mission to rescue a teenage girl from sex traffickers.
A hallucinatory experience, Ramsay’s latest feature is wildly uneven but at times intoxicating. It is a moving portrait of a former soldier damaged by war and a childhood of abuse, and proves the Scottish director has a remarkable knack for conveying hideous violence, without actually showing the blows. I could see some in the jury loving it, starting with filmmaker Park Chan-wook, of “Old Boy” fame. In fact this movie is almost crying out for a more accessible Korean remake, perhaps by Park himself.
Talking of juries, Cannes delivered its first verdict on Friday, awarding the annual Palm Dog award to standard poodle Bruno for his pawformance in Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories”. I honestly can’t remember much about Bruno’s turn as Dustin Hoffman’s neglected pet (the film screened over a week ago and there’s been dozens more since). But the long-suffering children, siblings and pets of insufferable, egotistic men have been a recurrent theme throughout this year’s festival, so I guess Bruno is a worthy winner. The jury also paid tribute to the many four-legged officers that have helped keep the festival safe, inviting security dog Evan and explosives sniffing dog Glock onto the stage. And if you’re interested in knowing more about past prize-winning canine roles, you’ll be glad to know Italy’s National Museum of Cinema, in Turin, is hosting an exhibition on the Palm Dog and other animal film stars later this year.
There’s actually been a relative dearth of dogs on screen this year (the Palm Dog jury spoke of a “pawcity of dog roles”), perhaps because they were too busy policing the festival. Instead we’ve had voyeuristic, fratricidal cats, alive and stuffed, in François Ozon’s “L’Amant double”, while Yorgos Lanthimos gave us film titled on a sacred deer from Greek mythology that never even showed up. But it’s been a pig year, with ordinary pigs, guinea pigs, and monster pigs stealing the show. Michael Haneke’s disturbing “Happy End” featured a particularly disturbing young girl experimenting on guinea pigs (and posting the grim result of her experiment on social media). The biggest animal hit was undoubtedly the genetically-modified monster pig in Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja”, a Roald Dahl-like Pig Friendly Giant, named Okja, that actually looks more like a hippo and is cuddlier than a pug. But our Palme Pig goes to Gerard Depardieu’s sweet little piglet friend in this improbable Bulgarian production we stumbled upon at the Cannes Film Market.
Perhaps the most striking feature of this year’s line-up was the ubiquity of children parts. There was the abovementioned creepy girl in Haneke’s “Happy End”, played by Fantine Harduin, and an even creepier role for Barry Keoghan as a vengeful 16-year-old in Lanthimos’s “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”. Ramsay’s brutal thriller tackled child sex trafficking, while runaway kids starred in Todd Haynes’s sweet “Wonderstruck” and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s anything-but-sweet “Loveless”. South Korean teen actress Ahn Seo-hyun was a standout performer in “Okja”, as the monster pig’s human companion. She was the clear frontrunner for the Palme Kid - until we finally got to see Sean Baker’s riveting and heartbreaking “The Florida Project”, which screened in the Directors’ Fortnight (but really should’ve been in line for the Palme d’Or). It stars Brooklynn Prince as Moonie, a six-year-old pint-sized whirlwind of mischief and rudeness who’s also terribly cute.
Even children were outnumbered by the endless gallery of female nudes paraded in the line-up. Time and time again we’ve had women as muses, comforters and trophies baring it all - and, as always, precious few men (save in blurry, distant shots involving a post-coital cigarette). Mercifully, French directors Robin Campillo and François Ozon helped correct the gender imbalance in “120 Beats per Second” and “L’Amant double”. But our Palme Nude goes to a man of clay in Jacques Doillon’s otherwise gruelling biopic “Rodin” (full of foolishly giggling models, always running about naked and eager to get in bed with the famed artist). In the film’s standout scene, we see Rodin using a pregnant woman with a swollen belly as his model for prolific French writer Balzac, who is portrayed as being literally pregnant with his work (close to a hundred novels published in his lifetime).
Forget the films. Beautiful girls in beautiful dresses is what makes Cannes the world’s most glamorous festival, and the famed red walkway is where it’s all happening. Every day, our red carpet photographer supplies us with hot shots and some priceless gossip from the red rug. We’ve asked him to send us his favourite pic this year - and fittingly, it’s outrageous and red.
The Grand Théâtre Lumière, which lies beyond the red carpet and its legendary 24 steps, is widely regarded as the temple of art-house cinema. This year it was also home to an epic fail that handed Netflix a cheap victory in its battle with the big screen. Cannes kicked off a very French fracas last month by including the streaming upstart in the race for the Palme d’Or. Pressed by furious exhibitors, it has since scrambled to talk tough, warning Netflix that it must allow its productions in theatres – where films are meant to be shown. But when it proceeded to show how with the screening of “Okja”, the result was an embarrassing fiasco: Tilda Swinton’s head chopped off, a deafening chorus of jeers and boos, and a forced interruption 10-minutes into the film, in the hallowed Lumière, of all places. It turned out the festival staff had failed to raise the curtain properly, cutting off the top and bottom sections of the print (and fuelling rumours of a conspiracy to sabotage the Netflix screening).
For some critics, booing, clapping and cheering is what Cannes is all about. This year’s lacklustre competition meant we got none of the enthusiastic hollering that greeted the screening of "Mad Max: Fury Road" in 2015. There weren’t that many boos either, except perhaps for “Rodin” (there would surely have been a lot more had a quarter of the audience not left midway through the film, sighing and groaning). Far more entertaining than the boos are the actual slurs blurted out by exuberant critics (who tend to be Italian or Spanish-speaking). Last year we had an accusatory “Nepotismo!”, which referred to frequent accusations that the festival always invites the same directors. This time we had a gratuitous “Fascist!” aimed at Lanthimos for his “Sacred Deer”, while poor Doillon was accused of doing “Cinema viejo” (old cinema) that is “Just shit!”
Palme within the Palme
Movies within movies are as “viejo” as cinema, and yet filmmakers never seem to tire of them. The 70th Cannes Film Festival kicked off with one such ploy in Arnaud Desplechin’s “Ismael’s Ghosts” – the oh-so-French tale of a self-absorbed filmmaker who can’t finish his distinctly uninteresting spy movie (largely because there are too many women in his life). “Wonderstruck” also had a film within the film, this one rather sweet, while Haneke used various techy devices to give us screens within the screen. But the Palme within the Palme goes to the adventures of “Pagina Man”, a hilarious character invented by Hoffman’s granddaughter in “The Meyerowitz Stories”. Grace Van Patten is excellent in the part of the superhero blessed with both a penis and a vagina. Should “Pagina Man” ever become a franchise, I would relish seeing Michael Cera have a shot at it too.
Date created : 2017-05-27