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10 Things We Learned from Cannes 2013

abdellatif-kechiche-palme-dor


10.) The Coens can do no wrong.
Of course you knew that already, right? Wait, you didn’t?!? Well Inside Llewyn Davis was one of the best received films of the festival, and it took home the Competition’s Grand Prix award. So let me reiterate: The Coens can do no wrong. They are the best filmmakers of their generation.

9.) James Gray makes the best James Gray movies.
The Immigrant (née Lowlife and Nightingale) might be a generational departure for so-often-called-underpraised-that-he-might-now-be-overpraised American director James Gray, but by most accounts, it’s a James Gray film through and through. The same can be said for Guillaume Canet’s English-language debut, Blood Ties, which screened out of Competition. Gray’s name is attached to the film (he co-wrote it), and it does have a few passionate admirers (Owen Gleiberman writes, “Blood Ties evokes the brilliantly ramshackle, down-and-dirty spirit of Sidney Lumet, which Canet blends with his own inquisitive heart.”) But it’s no The Immigrant.

8.) Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn are human beings—not real heroes.
Only God forgives puns that bad—or that bad. It’s funny, though, what happened to Only God Forgives. The word scathing doesn’t begin to describe some of the reviews for Refn’s latest (Jeff Wells writes, “It’s a shit macho fantasy — hyperviolent, ethically repulsive, sad, nonsensical, deathly dull, snail-paced, idiotic, possibly woman-hating, visually suffocating, pretentious.”) Considering I wasn’t nearly as high on Drive as most others, it’s a 50-50 shot whether I even bother with Only God Forgives. Oops.

7.) Women can make great films…
…just don’t give them a Competition slot. Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant was an early favorite that played the Director’s Fortnight. Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring opened Un Certain Regard to mostly positive reviews. Claire Denis, one of the world’s most admired directors, was also relegated to Un Certain Regard with her latest film, Bastards, which stunned most festival attendees (in a good way, it seems). And Rebecca Zlotowski’s sophomore film, Grand Central, should (according to Hitfix’s Gregory Ellwood) “cement her status as one to watch within the global filmmaking community.”

But if none of these titles cracked the Competition, there must have been some really dynamic female filmmakers competing for the Palme, right? Well Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s A Castle in Italy was the only one, and there doesn’t seem to have been single positive word written about it. A lot of people were pissed about this going into the festival, but I was willing to give Thierry Fremaux and his fellow programmers the benefit of the doubt. Maybe these films just weren’t up to snuff, and perhaps A Castle in Italy was going to wow us all. But this is pretty shameful. Time to go back to the drawing board, Monsieur Fremaux.

6.) Filmmakers to watch: Chandor, Saleem, Van Warmerdam, Coogler, Guiraudie.
J.C. Chandor is going way out on a limb with the dialogue-less All Is Lost, but the buzz behind Robert Redford’s performance is palpable. sounds like a serious Oscar vehicle for Robert Redford. Hiner Saleem’s My Sweet Pepper Land had me at “Kurdish Western.” Alex van Warmerdam’s Borgman went home awardless, but the one guy I’d never heard of going into the festival is one I’ve got my eye on. It was quite warmly received and sounds almost impossibly difficult to classify. We knew all about Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station from Sundance, but like Beasts of the Southern Wild last year, its success at Cannes will help carry it through to an inevitably successful summer release. Finally, the buzz behind Stranger by the Lake from director Alain Guiraudie, who took home Best Director in the Un Certain Regard category, is enough to demand I take a closer look at his filmography.

5.) Jodorowsky is back.
It’s been 23 years since Chilean auteur Alejandro Jodorowsky last came out with a film, but his The Dance of Reality played Director’s Fortnight and wowed audiences. Also playing Director’s Fortnight was Jodorowsky’s Dune, a very curious-sounding documentary about the director’s failed attempt to adapt Dune in the mid-1970s. It seemed Jodorowsky thought this would be the most important movie ever made, and his ideas of grandeur got the best of him. As crazy as it sounds, I’m even more intrigued by the documentary about the movie that never happened than I am about the man’s actual new film, but both sounds like must-watches, and it’s really cool that his voice is back and as clear as ever before.

4.) A Separation was no fluke.
Asghar Farhadi had some damn near impossible expectations to live up to. Seriously. Is there any film fan out there who’s not totally enamored with the man’s Oscar-winning 2011 film? I honestly don’t know of any. And while his follow-up, the consistently raved-about The Past, didn’t take home the Palme like I was predicting, it did win Berenice Bejo a Best Actress award, and even those who couldn’t help but compare it somewhat unfavorably to A Separation won’t deny Farhadi’s skill, nor his quick ascendance to the real upper echelon of the international filmmaking world.

3.) Soderbergh isn’t done yet…right?
With Side Effects already occupying the #1 slot on my list of favorite 2013 films so far, I’m eagerly awaiting sitting down to the critically adored (and stunningly shut out, as far as awards go) Behind the Candelabra. That said, I’m also dreading the film’s conclusion as it might be the last new Steven Soderbergh movie ever. But if the buzz out of Cannes means anything, the guy is going out with a bang.

2.) Nebraska and Bruce Dern are Oscar contenders.
As good as this year’s festival seemed from this side of the Atlantic, there don’t seem to be many genuine Oscar contenders to emerge. Inside Llewyn Davis could certainly pick up a token Best Picture nomination. Robert Redford will likely be in contention for a Best Actor prize. But there certainly wasn’t a Midnight in Paris or The Artist—a film you can look at and guarantee it’ll be in the running for a number of awards.

The closest thing at this year’s festival was Alexander Payne’s Nebraska. While some faulted it for being too slight (Time Out New York’s Keith Uhlich went so far as to call it “hicksploitation sentimentalism”), others, like Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone (who tweeted out “Just saw next year’s best picture winner or a very strong contender #nebraska”) fell for the film’s subtle charms. Whatever the film’s chances, Bruce Dern seems like a shoo-in for a Best Actor nomination after taking home the same award at Cannes.

1.) Blue is the warmest color.
It was Abdellatif Kechiche and his film’s two lead actresses, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux, who won the festival’s top prize, the 2013 Palme d’Or. Spielberg and his jury’s move was unprecedented, subverting a new rule that prevents actors and actresses in Palme d’Or-winning movies from winning an acting prize at the festival. But Blue Is the Warmest Color was far and away the most talked about and critically beloved film of the festival. Good for Kechiche. Odds are this film needed sterling reviews (the Palme doesn’t hurt, either) to get into theaters, what with its explicit lesbian scenes and three-hour running time. IFC is releasing, and while we’ll have to temper expectations as far as Oscars go for Palme-winning movies (we were spoiled with Amour and The Tree of Life the last two years), you know they’ll take good care of this baby. I’ve already pre-ordered the Criterion Blu-Ray.

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