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Cannes Dispatch: And That’s a Wrap

With the presentation of the competition awards, the 70th Cannes Film Festival officially closed last night. I called some of the winners in my predictions but failed to place even one of them in the correct category. While it’s always foolish to try to guess the preferences of festival juries, this gives you an idea of the utter lack of consensus this year as to who should win what over whom.

In other words, it’s not a CAROL year or a TONI ERDMANN year where there’s one thing that everyone loves. The star-giving on Screendaily’s traditional international jury grid is seriously all over the map.

In some instances I’m actually quite happy to be wrong about what Almodóvar & Co. would do. Making Joaquin Phoenix a Cannes Best Actor, for example, is an awesome choice. What a tremendous performer. So glad he locked eyes with Lynne Ramsay, who really knows how to bring out the many qualities of his soulful on-screen presence. To honor Ramsay in her screenwriting instead of directing capacity for YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, however, is a head-scratcher. As much as the adapted screenplay intrigues with its daring minimalism, it’s how Ramsay visualizes each scene that keeps the picture dangerously alive.

The jury made no outright embarrassing choices, which – just look at what happened last year – is hardly unheard of. I mean, do I think they did themselves a disservice by leaving out the sweeping metaphorical road movie A GENTLE CREATURE or Michael Haneke’s wickedly perfect HAPPY END? Yes. But do we have something to be thankful for that THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES and Adam Sandler, for example, are excluded from the winner’s circle? Hell yes. And the three films chosen for top awards recognition are – rather exceptionally – all good/great films. Hard to complain in a year where female filmmakers are awarded Best Director and Best Screenplay prizes.

LOVELESS is the closest thing to a critical darling this year. It’s pristinely made, technically flawless and, despite its brilliant surface, packs quite an ugly punch. BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE) is far messier but sweeps you off your feet with its heartbreaking, full-blooded embrace of love and humanity. As for THE SQUARE, which may run too long and unfocused in my opinion, the intellectual sharpness and tonal subtlety of many of its tensely hilarious scenes nonetheless impress. All three, if submitted by their countries, should be considered major contenders for Foreign Language Oscar.

As Sasha has already pointed out in her analysis yesterday, the Cannes-Oscars correlation is limited. In fact, at this premature stage in the race, I’d actually say Todd Haynes’ unawarded WONDERSTRUCK looks like the most formidable player of the whole bunch. Its sweet, gentle story about childhood and innocence would probably face less resistance from Academy voters than edgy, violent fares like YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE or THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER. To a lesser degree this also goes for the Palme-less GOOD TIME, which tells a story with broader appeal surprisingly well and features a knock-out performance by Robert Pattinson.

As for myself, I had the best time in Cannes. It was an absurdly intense experience that offered a welcome escape from our often hideous reality to a place of freedom and artistic vision. We live in a world where borders are being drawn again instead of being torn down yet here I am: a Taiwanese guy living in Germany covering a French festival for an American website. For this opportunity I’m grateful to the whole AwardsDaily team.

Finally, aside from prizes and Oscar considerations, here are my own personal top 10 films seen at the 70th Cannes Film Festival:

1. BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE)
2. HAPPY END
3. A GENTLE CREATURE
4. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
5. GOOD TIME
6. L’AMANT DOUBLE
7. THE WORKSHOP
8. LOVELESS
9. THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
10. THE FLORIDA PROJECT