Cannes round-up: And the gong for best clinch goes to …
It's Palme d'Or weekend! But our critic on the Croisette has awards of his own to hand out
Saturday 25 May 2013
Cannes 2013 won't be remembered for the films, in all honesty. This will be the Year of the Great Damp, when the Croisette was subjected to an almost unceasing battery of torrential rain: even the finest films in the world must struggle to help you forget your sodden socks. A few titles, though, cheered the shivering soul and got me over the chagrin of waiting in long queues and of my neighbour's umbrella dripping down my collar. Here's what got my attention in the second week:
The Award for Clinical Excellence
Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn was all set to step into Lars von Trier's shoes as the Wildest Dane in Town with the follow-up to his much-admired Drive. Only God Forgives had all the ingredients for a triumph – Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas as a merciless Mafia mom, a Bangkok setting. But the film is a mechanically brutal farrago, yet another movie that treats Bangkok as a theme park for Western fantasies of sex and extreme violence. The film's beautiful photography makes it yet more of a waste.
Finest Performance by a Feline
The Coen brothers just seem to have this effortless ability. And Inside Llewyn Davis shows it to perfect effect. Set in New York's early Sixties folk scene, this brisk, witty but melancholy comedy follows one of the many singers who never got to be Bob Dylan. Oscar Isaac is intensely likeable, and can sing a heart-rending folk ballad. It's something slightly different from the brothers, but pure Coen none the less. Also has the festival's best cat performance.
The Audience Patience Prize
The films of Claire Denis don't always make immediate sense, but Les Salauds (The Bastards) is more perplexing than most. Ostensibly, a revenge drama about a sea captain (craggy Vincent Lindon) investigating a family tragedy, this one came across like Denis's version of a Seventies American paranoid thriller, mixing touches of Chinatown with nods to William Faulkner. A second viewing is not just worthwhile, but necessary.
Best Sex in a Motion Picture
The most satisfying drama on view was Blue is the Warmest Colour, about a young woman discovering her lesbian identity. But this three-hour feature by Couscous director Abdellatif Kechiche is no ordinary coming-out drama. For one thing, it contains the most explicit and altogether full-on sex scenes in recent cinema, between Léa Seydoux and newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos. But it's a rare film that treats sexual activity as a deeply pleasurable business; the bedroom scenes are part of a film that gets deep under the skin of its love story. Expect Best Actress awards for one or both of its leads.
The Golden Mirror Award
If there were a prize for the most narcissistic film in Cannes, it would go to Un Château en Italie (A Castle in Italy) by actor-director Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. Apparently autobiographical (although VBT grumpily denied this), it's an unamusing comedy-drama about a woman (VBT), her sullen younger lover (Louis Garrel) and her tedious friends and family. The grindingly unfunny gags about VBT tangling with nuns make this feel like a female version of recent Woody Allen films, only Catholic.
My Champagne Moment
One film set my heart pounding with the thrill of pure cinema: La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) from the wildly eccentric and inventive Italian director Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo). A symphonic love poem to Rome, this was something like La Dolce Vita: The Remix, the Fellini classic reimagined for the Berlusconi era. Toni Servillo plays a novelist who has wasted his energy on too many glamorous nights out. Often wordy, sometimes pithily funny, always dazzlingly beautiful, La Grande Bellezza was the one film here that got me drunk on cinema. Euphoric from start to finish, it's my favourite for the Palme d'Or.
Le Palme de Fun
Michael Douglas used to be Hollywood's most preposterous Macho Man, but we can now forget that V-necked sweater in Basic Instinct. Steven Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra was huge fun, and very poignant, in its portrayal of the final years of camp piano legend Liberace. Douglas tinkling the ivories (pianistically) and flashing the ivories (dentally) was one of the most joyous things the festival had to offer.
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