The Cannes Film Festival kicks off today in the south of France, and yes, I should be there. Not only is it probably sunny and warm, but there are the movies, and the boos, and crazy photographers.
But let’s stick with the movies. Cannes often sets the rest of the film-going year in motion. Last year’s Palme D’Or winner, Michael Haneke’s stunning “Amour,” went on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and even squeaked into the Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Actress categories. It probably should have won those four, too.
Sometimes, other awards stand out. In 2011, “The Artist” missed out on the Palme D’Or but received major praise, earning Best Actor honors for Jean Dujardin. (Remember him?)
On a personal level, I’ve been keeping track of Cannes for years now. I can recall watching the awards on some choppy, buffering website in the early 2000s, and seeing the late Roger Ebert host coverage on cable at some point. Some of my most beloved movies of recent years – “Drive,” “Rust and Bone,” “Holy Motors,” “Blue Valentine” – screened there, and waiting anxiously to hear what earned cheers and what earned jeers has become a May pastime.
The 2013 lineup has its share of highlights. Here are the top five reasons I wish I were sitting in a crowded movie theater in Cannes:
- “Only God Forgives”: I don’t know what it is about “Drive,” exactly. I saw it shortly after its TIFF premiere in 2011, and my response was, roughly, “Meh.” Then, days later, I noticed I couldn’t get it out of my head. I began listening to the soundtrack like mad, and when I saw the film again, it had easily burrowed its way onto the (lengthy) list of my favorite films. The idea of Nicholas Winding Refn working together again, this time on a film about revenge and Thai boxing clubs? Yeah, I’m in. The trailer sealed the deal. This is my most eagerly awaited film of the summer.
- New Polanski: “Carnage” was stagy and a bit dull, despite some strong performances and some piercing dialogue, but his new film, “Venus in Fur,” stars his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, and the actor I would cast in a Polanski biopic, Mathieu Almarac. (I just enjoyed his great performance in “Chicken and Plums.”) Quite frankly, it’s always interesting to see what Roman is up to.
- Capital-M MAJOR directors unveiling their latest creations: Alexander Payne, the Coen Bros., James Gray, Sofia Coppola, Jim Jarmusch. Wow. We will get to see Coppola’s “Bling Ring” soon, but the others might not show up until autumn, at the earliest.
- The jury is fascinating: I love the idea of Steven Spielberg as jury president. What will he seize on? Wouldn’t it be awesome if it was “Only God Forgives”?! But the jurors are also fascinatingly diverse: Nicole Kidman, Lynne Ramsay (fresh off of her “Jane Got a Gun” controversy), Ang Lee (who just beat Spielberg for a Best Director Oscar!),Christoph Waltz, Daniel Auteuil, Cristian Mungiu, Indian actress Vidya Balan, and Japanese director Naomi Kawase. I’d love to be in on those jury meetings.
- The premiere of Paolo Sorrentino’s “La Grande Bellezza”: I see a lot of movies. So when I say I was taken aback at a film’s utter strangeness, that means something. “Il Divo” director Sorrentino’s last film, the Sean Penn-is-Robert Smith-sorta “This Must Be the Place” is truly, truly odd. It is streaming now on Netflix, and note I did not say it is bad, exactly. I’m not quite sure how I’d rate it, honestly. But it’s certainly unique, and I can’t wait to see how Sorrentino follows it up. I know little about “La Grande Bellezza” (“The Great Beauty”), but this IMDB description intrigues me: “The story of an aging writer who bitterly recollects his passionate, lost youth. A portrait of today’s Rome.” Will “banga banga parties” be referenced?
The Cannes Film Festival runs through May 26. My Palme D’Or pick: I could see Spielberg and co. embracing Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska.” I don’t expect a Spielberg-led jury to go for Takashe Miike, so “Nebraska” seems a safe choice.
Poster art courtesy of Radius-TWC