The Cannes Film Fest has thrust a few Best Actor contenders into the spotlight, and though there are many months and many films to go, they seem promising contenders to be strongly considered.
The top tier nominees right now would have to be Michael B. Jordan for Fruitvale and Oscar Isaac for Inside Llewyn Davis. Both actors have already shown diversity in their work, which only adds to their heat heading into the race. Isaac, for instance, played the jailbird boyfriend to Carrie Mulligan in Drive, the complete polar opposite his folk singer ex-boyfriend of Carrie Mulligan (again) in Llewyn Davis. Michael B. Jordan’s notably different work on Friday Night Lights and The Wire. While Jordan’s is the more emotionally expressive role, Isaac plays guitar and sings. Both will have ended the year having turned in two of the best performances.
You have to appreciate a film festival that would put a movie as strange as Alex van Warmerdam’s Borgman in main competition. Though it often feels like the cast and director are making it up as they go along, it features memorable moments that are ultimately hard to shake.
Warmerdam aims to position itself as a kind of Occupy-ish revenge fantasy on the upper class. We first meet Borgman (Jan Bijvoet) at his starting point: literally a hole in the ground. He and two of his partners live in holes they dug with beds and caves underneath. But if you think that somehow is the key to everything, it isn’t. Perceptions are quickly formed and just as quickly dispelled about who Borgman and his wrecking crew really are. They might even be dogs for all we know. Yes, dogs.
You have to toss all preconceptions and watch the dream play out. It isn’t just any dream, but one of those bizarre, rambling, vivid dreams that startle you awake in a cold sweat — like a naked man straddling you, staring at you while you sleep making you dream terrible things about your husband as you’re being seduced by Borgman. That is but one of the recurring images that cling to the psyche.
Those of us who know Bob Dylan’s story well can point to his profound influence on the folk music scene in Greenwich Village in the early sixties. What is remarkable is how Dylan had shaped his own unique style from an amalgam of folk singers of the time, borrowing what he needed from Woody Guthrie and absorbing the best of the rest from everyone else. That doesn’t explain his genius, nor does it explain his subsequent break with traditional folksinging — going electric, infusing his lyrics with rock-n-roll poetry, and refusing to be lumped in with the protest folkies of the time. Dylan’s shift from conversational to confessional is the crux of his musical evolution. While none of that may seem to matter in Joel and Ethan Coen’s melancholy meditation on the time before Dylan changed everything, awareness of the split that was brewing makes the movie all the more potent. Inside Llewyn Davist captures a distinct moment in time when a scraggly young man from Hibbing, Minnesota struggled to find his place on the brink of a wayward movement about to be forever altered.
Watching the folk singers in Llewyn Davis, it’s easy to see how a guy like Dylan could completely overwhelm everything else on offer at the time. How do you justify hard-knock ballads about your life when the guy right behind you is Bob Dylan? A man who shows up at the mic playing his guitar like everyone else but departing the traditional laments of folk music to write lyrics like you’ve never heard before. For better or worse, the thing that stands out about early folk music is how genial and predictable it all was.
Today, right now actually, I will attempt to join Craig Kennedy in line for the Coen brothers Inside Llewyn Davis which will have its first screening here in Cannes two hours from now. It’s raining here so that means two hours standing in line in the rain. I hope they appreciate that people out there are willing to do that just to try to get a seat in a crowded screening. With a blue badge you are only allowed entry after the pinks and the whites have gone in and other mysterious lines of people none of us fully understand. Market screenings? Students? VIPs? Both The Bling Ring and Llewyn Davis are screening in the littler theater, the Debussy. Did I mention it’s raining?
Wish me luck.
(photo swiped from Jeff Wells’ Hollywood-Elsehwere, “Make me miserable. Make me damp. Drench the festival. Have an umbrella at the ready or die. Misery loves company. Cats and dogs. Little rivers and flash floods on the streets. Philippine monsoon. Apocalypse Now. At around 1:30 or 1:45 pm it stopped raining and it started pouring, you see. It didn’t come down in sheets, but almost that. Right now there 20,000 people in this town with damp socks.”)