Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

On the rituals of Cannes (and what’s going to win)

Spend a while at Cannes and you realise how much the place is in thrall to ritual. The same things happen at the same time every day. Each year ancient rhythms play themselves out. Much of this is self-imposed. Attendees …

Sat, May 21, 2011, 21:52

   

Spend a while at Cannes and you realise how much the place is in thrall to ritual. The same things happen at the same time every day. Each year ancient rhythms play themselves out. Much of this is self-imposed. Attendees get into  habits over the decades and refuse to get out of them. You could, I suppose, accuse me of falling into this trap. After all, at the last screening this morning, I did what I did last year and took a nice photograph of the arriving (slightly thinned-out) crowds. Looking at the photograph, something suddenly struck me. Consider that lady with the very red hair in the middle of the image. Correct me if I am wrong. But isn’t that the same person — chatting in the same row — who appeared in the equivalent place in the equivalent image from 2010? Have a look here. Cor, this is like being in Blow Up. Isn’t it? Anyway, I’m one to talk. As you will see, I am taking the photo from the same seat. My seat, that is.

So, what’s going to win the Palme d’Or? To my mind, there are two strong favourites. I was equivocal about The Tree of Life — quite brilliant moments interspersed with much torpor — but the weight of history behind Terrence Malick and the film’s sheer hugeness could well propel it over the line. In complete contrast, we have The Artist. A late entry to the contest, this gorgeous pastiche of silent movies took everyone by surprise with its charm and invention. It would be a populist winner. Coming from Michel Hazanavicius, hitherto a director of spy parodies, the film carries no baggage. Punters could not complain that he was being given the award as a belated lifetime achievement award.

Mention of the prize for long service calls up thoughts of Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre and Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In. Both could easily win and both would be worthy of the title. Oh yeah, then there’s Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin (fair chance), Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (decent chance) and Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must be the Place (outside bet). Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia would be in with a shout if not for certain events at a certain press conference. I don’t think we need to go there again.

In contrast to last year, this has been a strong competition and it is, thus, awfully hard to call. (Lordy, I forgot about the Dardennes brothers above.) But, for what it’s worth, here are my predictions for the top three prizes.

THE PALME D’OR

The Tree of Life

GRAND PRIX

The Artist

JURY PRIZE

We Need to Talk About Kevin

So, what should win? Happily, there are any number of film that I would happily see triumph. Despite my reservations about The Tree of Life, it remains the work of a highly original, uncompromising talent. Such beasts should be celebrated. I still think Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin is among the most invigoratingly juiced-up literary adaptations you could hope to see. Though a lot of people hated it, I think Joseph Cedar’s Footnote is as original as comedies get. I was amazed that Markus Schleinzer’s Michael, a chilling story of pedophilia, didn’t pick up more heat. Hmm… After tossing a coin and spinning a roulette wheel, here’s what I have come up with.

THE SCREENWRITER D’OR

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Terrifying directorial pizzaz and a towering performance from Tilda Swinton.

SCREENWRITER PRIX

Michael

Utterly chilling in its sombre banality.

SCREENWRITER JURY PRIZE

Drive

A terrific entry in the existentialist villain school of post-noir film-making.

Do I want to sneak Melancholia in? Too late now. But Le Havre was so delightful. Oh, heck I’ve done it now. In short, a damn fine year.

That’s right Lynne. Being Scottish, you’d better get keep that hat on while in the sun. Congrats on Screenwriter D’Or.

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