Craig Skinner writes for Bleeding Cool.
On Saturday 24th May, the 2014 Cannes Film Festival came to a close, for the most part, with the announcement of the competition awards. The final weekend of the festival is a wonderful opportunity to catch up on films – the festival re-screens a great many films over the weekend – so on Saturday evening I was frantically checking my phone in a thirty minute window between films rather than sitting in the Lumiere, watching the announcement.
My greatest fear, as I constantly refreshed Twitter, was that Naomi Kawase’s Still the Water would pick something up – it was by far the least interesting and horribly self-indulgent film I saw In Competition – and my greatest hope was that the jury would not shy away from rewarding the Dardennes for Two Days, One Night despite the fact that they’ve previously won twice.
Thankfully Kawase went home empty handed but so too did the Dardennes. Whilst I may be a little disappointed about the latter I was certainly happy to see the Jury award the Palme d’Or to Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep, a film of great ambition and something of a departure for the director. Winter Sleep focuses on a highly unlikeable central protagonist and features incredibly dense dialogue and a number of extraordinarily tense scenes of characters passionately arguing. Ceylan is shooting for Shakespeare – who is referenced multiple times – and Chekov and he often gets surprisingly near to those literary greats.
Unfortunately I didn’t catch Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders, which took home the Grand Prix (essentially the second prize) but I hear it is a sweet if somewhat lightweight feature. It’s already secured distribution so we should be seeing the film in cinemas within a year or so.
I was also pleased to see Bennet Miller picking up the Best Director for Foxcatcher, which will no doubt be a bitter pill to swallow for some American audiences when it is released later this year. Delving into the a real life story, Miller investigates the dark side of the ‘American Dream’ and the twisted heart of a culture that thrives on competition and a belief in exceptionalism. Miller’s direction is assured and for the most part very sensitive to the story he is trying to tell.
The Jury Prize (the third prize) was shared between the 83 year-old Jean-Luc Godard and the 25 year-old Xavier Dolan, who both brought films to the festival that showcased attempts to innovate cinematic language. Godard’s Goodbye to Language seemed very much to be a concerted effort to almost ‘reinvent’ cinema whereas Dolan’s Mommy used a rather unusual aspect ratio in a purposeful and rather novel manner.
More traditionally composed was Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, which took home the screenplay award. On one level a cutting satire of Russian politics and religion but on another a highly compelling story of a family in crisis, Leviathan was one of the densest films playing in competition and a worthy winner of the screenplay award.
The best actress and actor awards went to two acting heavyweights who turned in excellent performances – Julianne Moore in Maps to the Stars and Timothy Spall in Mr. Turner – but the choices did feel a little like the jury were playing it rather safe and keeping things a little mainstream.
I would have loved to have seen Alexey Serebryakov recognised for his excellent work in Leviathan or the extraordinarily complex performances from Haluk Bilginer and Melisa Sözen in Winter Sleep. Thanks to a weird quirk regarding the awards – films can only win one award – this would have meant each film would have been out of the running for another award though, but all three are certainly worth highlighting.
I will sign off my coverage of the festival with my top five films I saw there, which I made for the Criticwire poll. In brackets I have added the strand in which the films played. As you will see, the competition isn’t the only place where great films can be found.
National Gallery (Director’s Fortnight)
Two Days, One Night (Competition)
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Director’s Fortnight)
Winter Sleep (Competition)