Even if some newspapermen play the game every year of « this year was better than last year… » or « last year was much better », International Cannes Film Festival was again offering a huge number of films, with as always films between gems and failures. Both gems and failures could be of different kinds.
Some disasters were from mainstream cinema (The Da Vinci Code, by Ron Howard, USA) with no other purpose than marketing for the benefit of the distributor not for the Festival, some were experimental failures thinking doing audacious concept films when they repeat old experiments of the past (Hamaca Paraguya, by Paz Encina, Argentina, France, Paraguay). Some totally unsatisfied films were from new directors having ambitions (Southland Tales, by John Kelly, US; Scanner Darkly, by Richard Linklater, US) in the frame of narrative cinema, or from more experienced directors but going down in confusion in their own chaos (Gwai wik / Re-Cycled, Pang Brothers, Thailand, Hong-Kong), or having no ambition at all except expressing informations (the other film by Richard Linklater, Fast Food Nation, US).
Failures will be forgotten but gems will remain. Some countries were forgotten as usual in Cannes (Germany, India), some were not represented as before (many Asian countries which normally in Cannes are rather numerous), some were over represented also as usual (France, US). But thru this large offering of features and documentaries, lines could be tracked down in the world cinema, or parts of what is the cinematographic world.
Some have choose to do films about the past even talking of today, when some have choose to do films about today even looking in the past.
More interesting were directors which have proved nothing new with their last films, except historical vision, courage of opinion and perfection of style with Ken Loach and The Wind That Shakes The Barley who wins a very appropriate Golden Palm (UK, Germany, France). Intelligence, lightness in historical reconstruction, audacious relationship between yesterday and today is the mark of Marie-Antoinette (US) by Sofia Coppola , when Indigènes (France, Morocco, Tunisia) is a “John Fordian” adventure whih a political statement about history directed by Rachid Bouchareb. Summer Palace (China, France, Germany) by Lou Ye is and erratic vision of historical moment – Tien Ahmen for the fist time on a Chinese screen – but with no emotional result, when his brother in arms, Wang Chao is filming day-life in China today, that authorities doesn’t want to see in Luxury Cars (China, France).
In Spain today, humour, elegance, undisputable cleverness to express deep thoughts with lightness, is produced by Pedro Almodovar, with Volver (Spain), when sharp managing of emotions in a very confined frame is made by Nuri Bilge Ceylan in Iklimler / Climates (Turkey, forgotten in the awards), and an ironic vision of people in a stylised world is presented again by Aki Kaurismaki and Laitakaupungin valot / Lights in the Dusk (Finland). Il Caimano (Italy) is necessary satiric comedy as a political tool by Nanny Moretti and The Host (South-Korea), a superb reverse “cliché” of the “monster film” as a political comment by Bong Joon-ho (refused as an Official entry, but screened with a lot of success in Director’s Fortnight). Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu with Babel (Mexican, US) shows again his powerful competency in “mise en scène” asking questions about world, present and future, and Johnnie To demonstrates unexpectedly a powerful statement about political power in a violent story of gangsters with Elections 2 (Hong-Kong). United 93 (US ) is a social critic of a political event reconstructed by Paul Greengrass, when a mix of genres between history and fantasy happens in El Laberinto del fauno / Pan’s Labyrinth (Spain) by Guillermo del Toro, but opposite to any ”barocco”, redemption thru violence of war and style economy distinguishes Bruno Dumont and Flandres / Flanders (France).
But some films who were not answering to any classical criteria, were as interesting as the one mentioned before, sometimes with their own weakness or limitation of their concept, as Ten Canoes (Australia) of Rolf de Herr in an audacious reconstruction of anthropologic approach, the sometimes confused Il regista di matrimonio by Marco Bellochio (Italy) but always inventive, and the non fiction essays of Garin Nugruho about tsunami with no exploitation of pathos (Serambi, Indonesia), or Sidney Pollack observations and notes about giant provocative architect Frank Ghery (Sketches by Frank Gehry, US).
Last but not the least, for the fullfillment of total discovery, a film coming from an unknown or almost unknown director, was Taxidermia, by Hungarian Georg Palfi, a tremendous, audacious, vision of national history of the last seventy years in a fascinating cinematographic vision of grotesque mankind, moral and physical cruelty.
From the most conventional type of film opening the festival (The Da Vinci Code) to the discovery of a total original writer-director coming from an almost lost country for industrial production, Cannes is – as always – a mix of differents types of expressions, styles, ambitions, and results, able to renew again every year.