Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cannes 2010 Lineup, My Thoughts On

So the Cannes competition schedule came out today, and the first thing I notice is how small it is. After all, sixteen movies seems like a pretty dinky bunch for Cannes. But then I remember that nowadays, there is always at least a handful of movies selected after the initial announcement, so that gives me hope for some enticing future choices. Because, really, this isn’t all that impressive.
Then again, last year brought us a much-vaunted “All-Star Cannes” (Haneke! Loach! Almodovar! Tsai!), and many of those turned out to be fairly disappointing. I mean, Basterds was undeniably awesome, and despite- or perhaps because of- its nature, Antichrist was a worthy entry in competition. But in retrospect, I wouldn’t make any claims for Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, Almodovar’s Broken Embraces, or the half of Chan-wook Park’s Thirst I bothered to watch. Even Haneke’s Palme winner, The White Ribbon, was no great shakes.

So in this way, it’s good that there are some unknown quantities in the mix this year. Of course, new films by onetime Palme winners Abbas Kiarostami and Mike Leigh are good news, especially since they’ve foregone Cannes in recent years. And there are a few other world cinema “usual suspects” in there as well- Rachid Bouchareb, Lee Chang-dong, Bertrand Tavernier. Then there’s the inclusion of Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul, whose transcendent awesomeness should counterbalance the suckiness that Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu and Doug frickin’ Liman bring to the table. And despite his flagrant inconsistency as a filmmaker, it’s always interesting to see what Takeshi Kitano is doing.

However, one of my favorite aspects of Cannes-watching is the element of surprise. Think about the 2007 fest, in which Croisette regulars like the Coen brothers, Wong Kar-Wai, Emir Kusturica and others were bested by a little-known Romanian named Cristian Mungiu. In the end, it’s all about the movies themselves, and even if I don’t think 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days was the best film in competition, it was certainly one of them, and I have no problem with the jury throwing a bone at quality instead of simply wanting to give a makeup Palme to an old favorite, like what happened last year.

Anyway, I expect that sometime in the next few weeks, we’ll get at least three or four more competition selections, including perhaps one more American film (dare I hope for Tree of Life?). But as it stands, here’s what we’ve got right now:

Mathieu AMALRIC – Tournée
Xavier BEAUVOIS – Des Hommes et Des Dieux
Rachid BOUCHAREB – Hors la Loi
Alejandro GONZALEZ INARRITU – Biutiful
Mahamet-Saleh HAROUN – Un Homme Qui Crie
IM Sang-soo – Housemaid
Abbas KIAROSTAMI – Copie Conforme
Takeshi KITANO – Outrage
LEE Chang-dong – Poetry
Mike LEIGH – Another Year
Doug LIMAN – Fair Game
Sergei LOZNITSA – You, My Joy
Daniele LUCHETTI – La Nostra Vita
Nikita MIKHALKOV – Burnt by the Sun 2
Bertrand TAVERNIER – La Princesse de Montpensier
Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL – Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Again, not the starriest Cannes lineup ever, but there should be at least a handful of winners. This is Cannes, after all. And even if the main competition disappoints, there’s still new movies from Hong Sang-soo (Ha Ha Ha), Cristi Puiu (Aurora), Lodge Kerrigan (Rebecca H. (Return to the Dogs)), and Jean-Luc frickin’ Godard (Film Socialisme) playing in the sidebars.

Normally, I’d try to make some half-assed predictions about which of the films would go over well with the Tim Burton-headed jury, but considering that the lineup is almost certainly incomplete, I’ll refrain from that now, except to say two things:

1. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Burton and his crew- including Kate Beckinsale, Benicio Del Toro, and Victor Erice- were gobsmacked by Joe’s offbeat whimsical fantasy, and

2. If by some chance Amalric’s film turns out to be awesome- I haven’t heard great things about his previous efforts, but you never know- and he ends up winning a prize, I hope he finds time to bust out some funky dance moves onstage:

The Cannes Film Festival runs from 12 May to 23 May. Watch this space for more announcements.

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