29 May 2006

Is Cannes as shitty as the Oscars?

The obvious answer is "no," Cannes is not nearly as awful at the Academy Awards -- after all, I don't think Crash was ever in competition there. However, I can't say some of the more recent Palme d'Or winners don't have something in common with those Best Picture Oscar winners, in that they'll probably all be forgotten in ten years. This is hardly a criticism of this year's awards ceremony, as I've seen none of the films yet, but, really, who got super excited when they heard the new Ken Loach film won the Palme d'Or? Certainly not me. In the past seven or so years, the Cannes jury have been leaning toward political films and subdued (read: boring) neo-realist films. The only two American films to go home with the Palme d'Or since the mid-90s were hot button-pushers (Gus Van Sant's Elephant, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11). This year we've got a period piece about politics in 1920s Ireland, which teams well with Roman Polanski's win for The Pianist in 2002. And, of course, we have the Belgian Dardenne brothers, who won last year with L'Enfant and in 1999 with Rosetta, both nicely paired with Nanni Moretti's "human drama" The Son's Room (La stanza del figlio), a trio of films so quiet they were barely remembered by the time they even got to the United States. And then, of course, there's Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark, a film that doesn't appear to fit with these boring Cannes trends, but maybe the jury, lead by (groan) Luc Besson that year, mistakenly took the film for a a stark drama/political statement on immigration in America instead of the absurdist musical melodrama snuff flick it really is.

I suppose I just find it strange to see a film like Rosetta or Elephant taking top honors in recent years alongside previous winners like Antonioni's Blow-Up, Coppola's Apocalypse Now, Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les parapluies de Cherbourg), Carol Reed's The Third Man, or Fellini's La dolce vita. Then again, I suppose it's much simpler judging things as time had passed. For all the Cannes jury knew at the time, maybe La dolce vita would be as quickly forgotten as The Son's Room. I suppose also that I'm looking at some of the greatest hits of the festival; I mean, you've seen the 1962 winner O Pagador de Promessas (Payer of Promises), right? Oh, maybe not. I had the scary thought in my mind that maybe there's nothing wrong with the Cannes jury, and maybe it's just cinema that's getting continuously shittier as time goes on. I wiped my brow shortly after that thought and remembered that we can still look forward to the always sure-to-be-challenging works of nouveau auteurs like Michael Haneke, Pedro Almodóvar, Lars von Trier, etc. I guess I should just quit bitching; you'd rather see a neo-realist drama take the top prize than some Russell Crowe/Ron Howard flick, right?


Eric said...

Good call with Dancer's snuff description.... I assume foreigners saw it as an attack on our judicial system....

Keep in mind WILD AT HEART, PULP FICTION, MASH, BARTIN FINK and ALL THAT JAZZ won the same award and I don't think any of them can match wits with BLOW-UP or even the Cannes-less FACES.

Could it be that cinema is not dead but Cannes's checklists are? Was Tribeca any better?

Also, are we really stuck in a neo-realist movement? I blame that on Bush.

J said...

Us? No. I don't think so -- realism is a very Italian, very British sort of thing (and Belgian, if you look at those damned Dardenne brothers).

I've always found it amusing what most people consider to be Lynch's most scattered (in a bad way) film, Wild at Heart is his only Cannes win.

It is possible that Cannes needs to air itself out; it's lineup is always predictable and its awards are getting to be that way too. If you notice, other than Dancer in the Dark, "challenging" films usually only get the Grand prix or the Prix du jury: Dumont, Haneke, Park Chan-woo. There are others.

Eric said...

I've always wanted to start a 10 years old film festival, where if we were to have one this year, we'd judge the films made ten years ago... etc... so we dont eat as much crow.

Tim Almond said...

I commented to someone just this morning that Cannes was once a festival about interesting cinema like Pulp Fiction, Wild at Heart and The Piano.

It seems to be more about anti-Americanism now.