PART ONE – THE WINNERS
So you don’t have time to search through the plethora of news articles in the world to get a proper wrap-up of the Cannes Film Festival, here’s a brief summary of how each film fared in the competition, the critical consensus, some clips if available and their prospective releases. So consider this your one-stop info summary for Cannes 2007.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days dir. Cristian Mungui (Romania)
Prize: Palme D’Or
Hot off the heels of the other great recent Romanian film to be born at Cannes (“Death of Mr. Lazarescu” 2005), Crisitian Mungiu’s film has been acclaimed as “pitch perfect” and “brilliantly acted”. Mary Corliss of Time Magazine calls it a “gripping and satisfying film”. The film features long takes and is very observational and natural in its style, and unfolds a tragic story about a young girl who is raped and impregnated and forced to perform her own abortion. It sounds like tough visceral material, but a worthy journey to take. Cristian Mungiu is a filmmaker to watch, as this is a supposed first film of a series of films about life in Communist Romania. IFC Films snapped up the American distribution rights. But as far as I know no release date is set.
The Edge of Heaven dir. Fatih Akin (Turkey)
Prize: Best Screenplay
A Turkish man travels to Istanbul to find the daughter of his father's former girlfriend. Derek Elley of Variety calls the film “utterly assured, profoundly moving”, but detractors feel the film is unnecessarily clever in its narrative structure. Cinematical describes it as “strong and artful and well-made, but it also feels like its unpredictability is actually predictable.”
The Banishment dir. By Andreï Zviaguintsev (Russia)
Prize: Best Actor (Konstantin Lavronenko)
A trip to the pastoral countryside reveals a dark, sinister reality for a family from the city. This is Andrei Zviaguintsev’s second film after 2003’s “The Return”, which won him the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Reaction is mixed. Timeout UK, says it “plays like the wet dream of a Tarkovsky fanatic.” But David Gritten of the U.K. Telegraph calls it a masterpiece and worth the 4 year wait after “The Return.” This looks like a hit or miss film, either a ‘mythic masterpiece’ or a ‘weary disappointment.’
Le Scaphandre et le Papillon dir. Julian Schnabel (France)
Prize: Best Director
Julian Schnabel’s long hiatus after “Before Night Falls” in 2000 was worth the wait. Also known as “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, Schnabel’s film instantly became one of the buzz films of the festival. It’s the true story of Elle France editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffers a stroke and ends up only being able to communicate by blinking one eye. Mathieu Amalric plays the lead in the universally acclaimed remarkable film. Though the subject matter is similar to Alejandro Amenabar’s “The Sea Inside”, Schnabel’s film is worthy of its own acclaim and, as you can see by the trailer below, appears to be a uniquely artistic take on the theme. Miramax picked up the North American distribution rights. Expect a winter release in time for Oscar consideration.
The Mourning Forest dir. Naomi Kawase (Japan)
Prize: Grand Prix
A caregiver at a small retirement home takes one of her patients for a drive to the country, but the two wind up stranded in a forest where they embark on an exhausting and enlightening two-day journey. This appears to be another meditative film about grieving and loss. Reviews for this film seem sparse, but a Jury Prize is no small achievement.
Paranoid Park dir. Gus Van Sant (France)
Prize: Special 60th Anniversary Prize
Gus Van Sant’s new film is told in the same manner as his “death trilogy” - unknown or non-actors, long tracking shots, with a cerebral fear of simmering violence and dread. He again examines the subject of violence and disaffected youth, this time telling the story of a teenager who accidentally kills a security guard. In general, this appears to turn off as many people as it turns on, which is the usual reaction to his recent films. He employs the masterful Christopher Doyle instead of Harris Savides to shoot the film. Apparently his super 8mm footage he shot for the skateboarding sequences is magnificent. It’s scheduled for release in France (who financed the film) in September of this year. No North American release date is set
Persepolis dir. Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (France)
Prize: Jury Prize
A poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. This seems quite possibly the oddest selection from Cannes in many years. A black and white animated film based on a graphic novel about the Iranian Revolution. Lisa Nellson of Variety says “this autobiographical tour de force is completely accessible and art of a very high order.” Richard Corliss of Time says, “Even when the story turns from Iranian political melodrama into more familiar coming-of-age territory, ‘Persepolis’ never loses its momentum, its sustaining sense of fun or its rapturous hold on the viewer.” Since it’s animated, in another language, look for a U.S. release with American celebs dubbing the voices. Though my guess is Sony Pictures Classics won’t turn it into a Shrek-like extravaganza.
Silent Light dir. Carlos Reygadas (Mexico)
Prize: Jury Prize
A film about a devout Mexican Mennonite whose faith is put to the test when he falls in love with a woman. Manohla Dargis calls Reygadas’ film, “A story about grace and the fallen world, and owes a strong debt to the Danish master Carl Dreyer” and The International Herald Tribune calls the film “the happiest surprise of the festival” and “a film that continues to linger in my thoughts days after seeing it.” Reygadas has been at Cannes before with “Battle in Heaven” and “Japon” and this film appears to be another hit for both himself and the red hot Mexican cinema-scene as well.
Secret Sunshine dir. Lee Chang-dong (South Korea)
Prize: Best Actress, Jeon Do-yeon
A mother moves with her son to the town where her dead husband was born. As she tries to resettle herself and set out on a new foundation, another tragic event overturns her life. According to Variety’s Derek Elley, the film is a slowly paced ambitious film that suffers from its long 142min running time. Anthony Kaufman disagrees, saying it’s “sensitive and fully naturalistic…” and “…expresses profound human truths in a fully realized way that has been rare at this year's festival.”
No Country For Old Men dir. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (U.S.)
Though not a prize winner, this is another one of the major buzz films. The latest Coens film is an adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy modern western novel. The logline reads, “violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon some dead bodies, a stash of heroin and more than $2 million in cash near the Rio Grande.” An interesting cast of non-Coens players include, Javier Bardem, Woody Harrelson, and Josh Brolin. The film is a return to the lean and mean days of “Millers Crossing” and “Blood Simple,” but with the black wit of “Fargo” still present. In fact, some have dubbed it “Fargo” in Texas. Despite not winning any awards, the film is a critical success already. Jason Anderson of Toronto’s Now mightily approves and gives it four stars, and Alison Willmore of the IFC Blog is bold enough to say “No Country For Old Men is the best thing the Coens have ever done.” Miramax will release the film in November in the U.S. and Canada.
Please check in tomorrow for PART TWO of the Cannes 2007 Wrap-Up.