Saturday, April 21, 2012

(Late) Cannes 2012 Competition Reaction and Preview

So, I know it's been a couple of days since the Competition lineup was revealed, but I haven't had the time to put down my thoughts about it. It is, in my opinion, one of the best slates in a long time, with many superb highlights that would stick out in bland years but come together to form what will be a very entertaining festival to watch unfold. (I'd never thought I'd say that about a lineup that has multiple Matthew McConaghy films in it, but there you go.) There's no one film that sticks so obviously above the rest (as there was with "The Tree of Life" last year), but I actually think that's better. With the opening film (Wes Anderson's admittedly terrible-looking "Moonrise Kingdom") a part of the competitive action, no day this year will sag with the boredom of delayed anticipation.

The lineup has a good deal of extremely-anticipated films this year, so many that it's actually pretty hard to process what's at the very top of the field. So I'll start with the films that look to be the odd ones out and work my way towards the cream of the crop.

Im Sang-Soo's "Taste of Money" isn't making me too excited, considering how excruciating his remake of "The Housemaid" was. This looks like the exact same movie. Oh well. 

I can't say I'm chomping at the bit for the new Ken Loach film either, and "The Angel's Share" has the potential to be the next disappointment in the line that started with "Looking For Eric." The trailer makes it look like it was shot in 15 minutes. It has a slightly interesting idea (guy looks for success in wine), but it really looks like Loach hasn't stepped up the ante at all.

I know someone who worked briefly on it, but that only slightly raises my anticipation for "Moonrise Kingdom," the film that appears to see Wes Anderson delve completely into the bullshit that many have pegged his films to be his entire career. They haven't, though, so it's sad that this last film seems to be all surfaces and no meaning. It is Anderson, though, so there'll be a couple laughs, but I feel nearly nauseated when I watch the trailer, so I doubt that's a good sign.

 Much speculation has been made about "The Paperboy" by Lee Daniels (director of "Precious"), which seems like it could be more than a little soapy. Unless it has the power of a Mo'Nique, I can't say that it'll be able to stand in the company of American cinema in general, much less the masters in competition here. It must be said, though, that Daniels is the only African-American director in competition, and though Cannes represents international diversity of some sort, much of the lineup is still white Europeans (and men; no women this time).

I've never been the hugest fan of Walter Salles. Didn't like "Central Station." Really didn't like "The Motorcycle Diaries." And now here's his version of "On the Road," which could be another problematic buddy movie or something great. Indications are towards the former, but maybe not.

And since I really didn't like cult favorite "Wild Grass" at all or even "Last Year at Marienbad" that much, Alain Resnais' "Vous n'avez encore rein vu" (a.k.a. "You Ain't See Nothing Yet") doesn't hold the same prospect of excitement that it does for others. But it's surely pleasing to see what may be the last film of this acclaimed and long-spanning career to be shown here. Call it the Godard effect?

That concludes what I'm not particularly excited about. Everything else in the selection is worth at least a solid look, in my opinion. That was exhausting to work out, so I'll just go through the highlights in rapid-fire mode.

A few past winners are coming back for more: Michael Haneke, who's following up Palme d'Or winner "The White Ribbon" with "Love"; Jacques Audiard, who won Gran Prix for "A Prophet", with his Marion Cotillard-featuring and not-outstanding-looking-but-still-cool-due-to-his-reputation "Rust and Bone," Abbas Kiarostami, who won the Palme many years ago and who put on a show most recently with "Certified Copy," with the horribly titled but tantalizingly international "Like Someone in Love"; Mateo Garrone, who snagged a Gran Prix for his exceptional debut "Gomorrah," with what may be in my top 3 most anticipated films, "Reality"; and Cristian Mingiu, the welterweight of the Romanian New Wave, Palme d'or winner for "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days," with "Beyond the Hills." Also back from previous competitions are "My Joy"'s Sergei Losnitza with "In the Fog," "Import/Export"'s Ulrich Seidl with "Paradise: Love," and most importantly to many, Carlos Reygadas, maker of the sublime "Silent Light," who has supposedly messed around massively with narrative to make "Post Tenebras Lux."

Other notables include "Cosmopolis," Robert Pattison's first real role in David Cronenberg's well-casted, hyper-sensationalized Don DeLillo adaptation; Yousry Nasrallah's "After the Battle," which looks like it could be a sleeper and one of the strongest films in competition based of its relevance to Egypt's current history; Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt," which could strike me right even if "The Celebration" struck me wrong; the amazing sounding "Holy Motors" by Leos Carax (who did a horrible segment in omnibus film "Tokyo!"); John Hillcoat's prestige-y, Shia Labeouf-y, "Road" follow-up "Lawless" (previously known as "The Wettest Country in the World"); Jeff Nichols' surprisingly quick follow-up to "Take Shelter" and competition debut "Mud" (also with Matthew McConaghy); Hong Sang-Soo's Isabelle Huppert collaboration and absurdist Competition debut "In Another Country"; and, extremely anticipated by me and many others, "The Assassination of Jesse James..." follow-up "Killing Them Softly" by Andrew Dominik. Sure to be a great Cannes.

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