Cannes 2012 | Conclusions
That's it for Cannes, which I've wrapped here, although I feel compelled to join in the general hand-wringing about the jury's failure to acknowledge Holy Motors. It's particularly hard to believe the jurors ignored Denis Lavant's performance—a tour de force in a role that requires the actor to assume a different appearance and personality in nearly every scene.
I'd also like to have written more about Best Director winner Carlos Reygadas's Post Tenebras Lux, but to tell you the truth I'm still baffled by it. My attempt at a summary would basically consist of a list of nouns ("thunder," "girl," "cows," "death," "demon," "nudity," "focal tricks," "animal cruelty"). I'd need a second viewing to make sense of the narrative, which has befuddled pretty much everyone I've talked to.
That said, it's worth addressing a few noteworthy films that I didn't get to in either the wrap or my posts during the festival.
After the Battle Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah's film was clearly in competition because the programmers wanted to find a way to acknowledge the Arab Spring. But there's no way this inert, variably acted look at a horseman (Bassem Samra) who took the wrong side in 2011's Tahir Square protests could be the best work they found.
Rust and Bone As with filmmaker Jacques Audiard's previous movie, A Prophet, a few strong scenes—and in this case, an excellent Marion Cotillard performance as a woman who loses her legs in a freak killer-whale accident—can't compensate for contrived material. Bullhead's Mathias Schoenaerts plays the man who grows emotionally while learning to care for Cotillard's character; parts of the film resemble a commercialized version of one of the Dardennes' responsibility tales.
Mekong Hotel The hourlong latest from SAIC grad Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives) plays more like gallery art than a full-fledged feature. It makes interesting use of guitar and organ-eating ghosts.
Laurence Anyways It's only his third film, and he's all of 23, but Quebecois director Xavier Dolan delivered a 159-minute whopper about a male-to-female transsexual (Melvil Poupaud) getting by in late-'80s and '90s Montreal. Suzanne Clément is terrific as the woman with whom he has an on-again, off-again romance (the scene in which she dresses down a bigoted waitress is by far the movie's best). It's also hard not to be worn down by the crazed ambition of the project; has Dolan even experienced this kind of decade-deferred regret yet? The gender politics of the final scene threw me, though, and Dolan's filmmaking technique is still…raw? I kept thinking I was seeing a projectionist's error, only to realize that's how the movie was shot.
The Hunt In one of the jury's more mystifying choices, Mads Mikkelsen won Best Actor for his performance as a Danish schoolteacher falsely accused of exposing himself to a minor. The basic premise might lend itself to a compelling film, but the writing in Celebration director Thomas Vinterberg's parable isn't especially persuasive. The townspeople prove uniformly credulous, and Mikkelsen's character is far too passive in defending himself. Some have argued that his failure to assert his innocence is part of the movie's subject; still, it makes for unconvincing drama.
You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet The kindest thing I can say is that I found 89-year-old New Wave lion Alain Resnais's previous film, 2009's Wild Grass, far more adventurous. The sendoff here—which includes Resnais's late-career stock company, playing theater actors, showering their onscreen director with accolades—feels irritatingly self-satisfied.
Room 237 Stanley Kubrick, this documentary tells us, had an IQ of 200, but you'll think that's a lowball estimate after seeing this annotated look at the messages he may or may not have hidden in The Shining. Director Rodney Ascher's work of filmed film criticism will be irresistible to fans.
The Angels' Share I've found the last decade's Ken Loach films dreary and didactic, so I was surprised to warm even a little bit to his latest, a stealth comedy in which a down-and-out young parent (Paul Brannigan) contrives to pilfer some of the world's most rarefied whiskey. The emphasis on value—connoisseurs will pay millions for a liquor in a country that leaves the protagonist and his friends in poverty—gives Loach's polemic slightly more kick than usual.
At Cannes, you never know who might stage a comeback.