CANNES: Starfish and coffee

Posted by · 5:36 am · May 24th, 2010

“Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye,” you might have thought (or even sang, in gravelly Leonard Cohen tones) after my rushed response to yesterday’s Cannes winners. But having recharged overnight with a hearty curry and a good 13 hours’ sleep, it’s time to properly put a bow on Cannes 2010.

Perhaps it was quite a Tim Burton-flavored festival after all. Jury presidents at Cannes often seem at pains to choose the last film anyone would associate with their own work — which is partly why I picked the sober ecclesiastical drama “Of Gods and Men” for the Palme — but Burton and his cohorts swung in a quirkier direction. “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” which I flippantly likened to a parallel-universe take on Burton’s own “Big Fish,” becomes the first fantasy film (of a type) to take gold at Cannes since “Miracle in Milan” almost 60 years ago. (More surprisingly, it’s also first Asian winner since 1997.)

I wish I could personally groove to the film the way almost everyone else does (my C+ grade sticks out like a sore thumb on indieWIRE’s critic score roundup) but objectively speaking, it’s the best choice Team Burton could have made for the Palme: the undisputed critical favorite of the festival, a wholly unique, challenging piece from a distinctive major auteur, and a film that can truly benefit from the award in securing international distribution that could prove elusive otherwise. Plus, it won me £50 on a Palme bet I made weeks before the fest started. I’m liking the film more already.

If I’m feeling pleasantly sanguine about the outcome, Juliette Binoche has a lot to do with it. All the jury’s choices were respectable — that oddball Best Director nod for Mathieu Amalric is growing on me by the hour — but in their one move that mirrored my personal picks, the French icon took Best Actress for my own favorite film of Cannes 2010, Abbas Kiarostami’s ingeniously coded relationship study “Certified Copy.” She owned the awards ceremony with a lengthy but stirring speech in which she addressed the hot-button issue of Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s imprisonment.

Admittedly, the jury would have been hard pressed to make a bad choice in this category: in any other year, the wonderful Lesley Manville or Yun Jung-hee could have won in a walk. But a second viewing of “Certified Copy” brought home the subtly astonishing character-within-character games Binoche plays throughout the film, and her heartbreaking final scene raises the performance to the ranks of her finest screen work.

Not only am I thrilled that this award neatly completes the actress’s career trophy cabinet — in addition to her Oscar, BAFTA and Cesar, she now joins only Sean Penn and Jack Lemmon in claiming the festival awards trifecta of Cannes, Venice and Berlin — but  I’m doubly pleased that she now has a major honor to show for her latter-day career transition from queen of beautifully aloof sadness into a slightly kinder, more careworn screen presence in films like “Flight of the Red Balloon,” “Summer Hours” and now Kiarostami’s wonder.

In many ways, my favorite working actress was also the patron saint of my first Cannes trip. Not content with starring in its best film, her face also looked out on us all along the Croisette from the official festival poster. Finally, she was also present for my own most treasurable Cannes experience: my first walk up the red-carpeted steps to the Grand Palais theater for the evening gala screening of “Certified Copy.”

As I got to the top, flash-blinded and sweating slightly in an Aquascutum tux that still seems entirely too classy for me, I turned around to see Binoche (radiant, luminious — when you see her in person, all the clichés apply)  just beginning her own slow ascent before getting hustled inside by vigilant festival staff. I can be a cynical bastard a lot of the time, but having dreamed of being in that exact spot since I was about 11 years old, I don’t mind admitting that I got something in my eye.

For that alone, Cannes 2010 would have qualified as a hit for me. From a critic’s point of view, sure, the festival was a disappointment. Great films were in notably short supply in both the Competition and Un Certain Regard selections, and even those didn’t qualify as revelations: the films I liked most — “Certified Copy,” “Another Year,” “Blue Valentine,” “Poetry,” even Oliver Schmitz’s “Life, Above All” — were films for which I already had high expectations beforehand.

But as one colleague said to me on the last day as we were comparing notes on our favorites, “You only need to fall in love once at a festival to make the trip worthwhile.” As “Certified Copy” immediately joins “The Illusionist” (another film I wouldn’t have seen yet if not for the privilege of festival-going) atop my Best of 2010 list, and as several days’ distance convinces me that Mike Leigh’s latest is among his greatest, I can hardly disagree.

The films, in any case, are only a portion of the festival experience. I’ll have as many fond memories of Cannes that take place outside a darkened theater: feeling like an impostor with Sasha Stone at the super-swish Abu Dhabi beachfront party, drunkenly chatting with Atom Egoyan at the Petit Majestic, fictionally scuffling with Jeff Wells over the merits of dweebs and hot dogs, discovering the joys of Cointreau ice cream at the gaudy 1950s-themed ice cream parlor near the Palais, having Michelle Williams remember me from our 2008 phone interview in the most touching way possible (“Aw, you’re the guy whose dog died!”), and, on the last day, swapping cracks with fellow journos in the most fun game of the festival, “Retitling ‘Burnt By the Sun 2’.”

(As pleased as I am with “Burnt By the Sun 2: Armed and Fabulous” and “Burnt By the Sun 2: Havana Nights,” I think someone else won hands down with “Burnt By the Sun 2: The Deadly Art of Illusion.”)

So before I put a lid on my Cannes coverage for the year, I’d like to take a moment to toast some of the friends and acquaintances (some old, most new) whose company helped the 12 busy, espresso-fuelled days fly by: Sasha Stone, Anthony Breznican (pictured right with yours truly, image courtesy of Sasha), Anne Thompson, Cédric Succivalli (who earns extra credit for generously getting me into the aforementioned gala screening), Jeffrey Wells, Shane Danielsen, James Rocchi, Aaron Hillis, Erik Anderson, Dave Karger, Pete Hammond and more, with a special MVP mention to my Cannes roommates Matt Noller and Mike D’Angelo.

And with that, I’m out. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my coverage as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, even if it was occasionally with matchsticks propping up my eyelids. We’ll do it all again next year, if Cannes will have us.

→ 16 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

16 responses so far

  • 1 5-24-2010 at 8:44 am

    no one said...

    fuck you Guy. Bardem best actor

  • 2 5-24-2010 at 9:01 am

    red_wine said...

    It was a blast reading you. Almost like an serialized novel with its highs and lows, cliffhangers, anticipation and an ending. You may take a bow.

    Its kinda weird that last year people were complaining it was not a good festival, in retrospect it seems 1 of the best in memory yielding a slate consisting of White Ribbon, Antichrist, Bright Star, Thrist, Enter The Void, Fish Tank, Inglorious Basterds, Wild Grass, Broken Embraces, A Prophet, Vincere, Samson and Delilah, Ajami, Dogtooth, Police Adjective, Tetro, I Killed My Mother, In the Beginning, Up, etc etc. All interesting films for one reason or another.

    This year seemed to have had Certified Copy, Uncle…, Carlos, Another Year, Of Gods And Men, Poetry, On Tour, Inside Job, Aurora, Heartbeats and maybe a couple others (that might gain prominence and fame).
    People are saying no distributor is gonna touch the new Godard with a ten foot pole.

    I agree about Binoche. She has aged most gracefully, still extremely beautiful but with a new found maturity, she now has a very calming screen presence, very benign, and wisdom that makes her very attractive. And she seems very unaffected on screen and off screen.

    The ceremony was rather superb, I liked it better than the Oscars.

  • 3 5-24-2010 at 9:43 am

    Jim T said...

    I’m glad you enjoyed the experience and even more glad that I enjoyed your coverage.

    As a gift to you, I wish Binoche will star in a movie written by you.

  • 4 5-24-2010 at 10:39 am

    Michael said...

    You did such a great job Guy! Thanks so much for providing us great coverage. I think it is so neat that all of the critics whose blogs I read daily are actually friends/acquaintances/fellow hot-dog eating dweebs behind the scenes. It strangely makes the world seem smaller, but it is so cool nonetheless.

  • 5 5-24-2010 at 10:49 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    No One: Yes, Bardem tied for Best Actor. Is there something you’re trying to say with that very insightful comment?

  • 6 5-24-2010 at 10:57 am

    Dean Treadway said...

    Really terrific coverage! Thanks, Guy!

  • 7 5-24-2010 at 12:30 pm

    Nick Davis said...

    It bears repeating: your coverage was distinctive, detailed, funny, and critically discerning, while still including plenty of the necessary caveats that a subsequent return to any film that one first experiences in a festival headrush could well yield a different opinion. A real delight to read, and I’m so glad you had such a personally good time there. Now get some sleep!

  • 8 5-24-2010 at 12:58 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    One word for all of you (commenter #1 excepted): Shucks.

  • 9 5-24-2010 at 4:09 pm

    verified_truth said...

    so.. you graded a C+ to Weerasethakul, walked out on Of Gods and Men, viscerally loved the critically panned (and dull) Kiarostami… Everyone is entitled to his own personal tastes, but that`s not being a good critic. I am sorry to say this, but the coverage from Cannes was even worse (and that was hard to beat) than the one from Venice.

  • 10 5-24-2010 at 4:32 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Always grateful for a range of feedback, though it’s difficult to accept “verified truth” from someone who hasn’t the spine to attack me under their own name.

    As I’ve explained before, I walked out of the Beauvois because I was too tired to take it in, and didn’t think it was fair on me or the film to watch it in that state. And the “critically panned” Kiarostami actually has a very respectable B+ average on criticWIRE, though even if that were not the case, why occasionally disagreeing with the consensus amounts to “not being a good critic” is something I’d like you to explain to me. Preferably under a real name.

  • 11 5-24-2010 at 5:56 pm

    Sieben said...

    Loved the coverage, Guy. You really do offer a uniquely personal, good-humored, and insightful (and very well-written to boot) take on the festival and its films.

  • 12 5-24-2010 at 7:31 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Guy, you should know by now that a critic is only credible if they conform to the opinions of the majority. Offering a unique and new perspective means you aren’t doing your job.

  • 13 5-24-2010 at 9:03 pm

    Nick Davis said...

    It’s true – when you find yourself giving rave reviews to, of all things, Kiarostami films, and finding Apichatpong movies to prompt divided and idiosyncratic reactions, it’s time to take a long, searching look at your critical bonafides. And why you didn’t know better than to outright doze through a weight, sobering, slow-moving drama, especially when basic ESP could have told you it was Grand Jury Prize-bound… well, I’m glad we’re having this talk.

  • 14 5-26-2010 at 2:15 am

    red_wine said...

    In some great news Panahi was granted bail by Iran (after paying up a huge sum ofcourse), so cause to cheer for us all and Binoche as well.

  • 15 5-26-2010 at 4:45 pm

    Anthony Breznican said...

    Excellent work, Guy. You set the pace. One could only hope to cover the festival with your passion and endurance.

  • 16 5-29-2010 at 1:36 pm

    katie said...

    THANK YOU GUY! you were spectacular!