Cannes 05 Journal: Flowers + Raccoons = Heaven

Sin City is in competition, but you already know how good that is. While many of the critics I’ve been talking to here at the Cannes Film Festival claim that this is the best lineup of films the festival has had in years—known festival quantities in competition include art-house favorites Lars Von Trier, Gus Van Sant, Wim Wenders, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Atom Egoyan, Michael Haneke, David Cronenberg, the Dardenne brothers, and Jim Jarmusch, and that doesn’t include the only slightly lesser-knowns, or any of the directors in the festival’s many sidebars—it has been my experience that this is only in theory, and not in practice. As compared with last year (my first at Cannes), the lineup is very disappointing, with only two films being of high quality, and a smattering of others being almost great but ultimately flawed (plus some good ones that I had already seen before). Despite my general disappointment, I will focus only on the ones that I liked here.

The two films that did not disappoint me in any way were the new Jim Jarmusch film, Broken Flowers, which stars Bill Murray and is set to open in St. Louis in August, and Carlos Reygadas’ Battle in Heaven, which was picked up by Tartan for distribution in the States, but God knows when you’ll actually get to see it. Of the two, Battle in Heaven has a very slight edge as my favorite film in the festival. The majority of critics here hated Reygadas’ (Japón) film, on account of the fact that it is borderline nonsensical and has potentially offensive imagery. And while I am not surprised by this reaction, it is certainly the most cinematic thing I’ve seen here, and, by extension, the most entertaining. Reygadas has an incredible eye for shot composition, location, unknown actors, and classical music, so no matter if the film follows its plot or not, it is completely riveting. When it is following the plot, it involves a man named Marcos who kidnaps a baby for the purposes of ransoming it back to its parents, only to have it die, and then be racked with guilt. Plus, he is not-so-secretly obsessed with his boss’s pretty daughter, Ana. Marcos Hernández, who plays Marcos, has a great, completely expressionless face, and his performance (specifically, his touching relationship with Ana) carries the film. Besides, I’m a sucker for things that offend people.

Much more accessible than Heaven is Broken Flowers, which many have called Jarmusch’s most commercial work to date. While this may be true, it might be misleading to his longtime fans, because he does not in any way compromise his singular style as a means to reach a larger crowd. Bill Murray plays Don Johnston, a cad who finds out he may have impregnated a woman 20 years ago, and goes on a search to find out if this is true. Murray again does a version of the kind of work he’s made a comeback with since Rushmore, but it still works, successfully continuing his hot streak for seven years running, while Jarmusch has made his best film since 1986’s Down by Law.

Also good, but not quite as good, are these: the new Cronenberg, A History of Violence, starring Viggo Mortensen as a small-town diner owner who gets roped into defending his family after he kills two men trying to rob his establishment; Haneke’s Hidden, which concerns a man (Daniel Auteuil) who keeps finding Lost Highway–style tapes of his house on his doorstep and tries to find out who is doing it; the Dardenne brothers’ The Child, which is a typically Dardennian story of two teenagers who have a kid of their own—that is, until the father decides to sell it on the black market behind his mother’s back; and the Hsiao-Hsien, Three Times, which tells three similar stories of love, but sets them in different historical situations (1911, 1966, and 2005, to be exact). Also, Sin City is in competition, but you already know how good that is.

There were also highlights outside of the festival’s main competition, including the new Woody Allen film Match Point, which everyone but the British (interesting, since it is set in London) seem to agree is Allen’s best film in 20 years. Oddly enough, it has yet to find a distributor in the States, despite Wood’s name (and Scarlett Johansson’s) being on the film. Regardless, you’ll see it soon, I’m sure, and I’m also betting right now that Johansson gets an Oscar nod for her performance. Additionally, my favorite film from Sundance, Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know, played here in the International Critic’s Week sidebar, and if I had seen it for the first time here, I’d be saying right now that it is my favorite film of the festival (it opens in America in June). Seijun Suzuki, the director of such classic ’60s-era Japanese B-movies as Branded to Kill and Youth of the Beast, has a new film starring Zhang Ziyi called Princess Raccoon, and it might just be his best work to date (and yes, I realize that that is a bold statement). And finally, in the Un Certain Regard program, I saw a Hungarian opera called Johanna; it concerns a nurse who has sex with her patients and thereby miraculously heals them, and is loosely based on The Passion of Joan of Arc.

As of right now, I’ve seen 37 films in 10 days, which is far less than I would have liked to have seen, and maybe about 3 percent of the total number of films playing here. Point being, although I was largely disappointed with the majority of the films this year, I could just have been seeing the wrong ones. In this regard, no festival will ever be able to top the experience of Cannes, because despite popular opinion, quantity can sometimes be better than quality.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply