It isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility that some of the performances seen at Cannes next week will be forgotten come Oscar time. That they play at Cannes gives them a bit of a jumping off point – but the truth is, if the performance is that good it won’t matter where people see it first.
Up front will be Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, which will screen in Cannes right around the same time it screens in NY and LA. So expect a lot of reviews all at once and I’ll make a prediction: they will be widely differing across the board. Some will love it, some will hate it. What we do about it sight unseen: there isn’t another movie like it. Sometimes movies like that are tough to sell to an industry hungry for ice trey marketing: This one goes there, that one goes here. One hopes that people take to the film with an open mind.
Either way, Arnaud Trouve, the Movie Parliament Minister for Foreign Affairs (sounds like a character from Inglourious Basterds) has given a bit of a Cannes preview.
– “La Piel que habito” (The Skin that I inhabit): the latest Almodovar, starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya and long-time friend Marisa Paredes. Trailer is not available yet, but the stills suggest a creepy tale of revenge in the world of plastic surgery. Watch out ! It sounds quite nasty for the Academy, but they embraced “Talk to her” so who knows.
– “The Tree of Life”: time to welcome Terrence Malick with his highly anticipated story about a family and how its history resonates through the origins of the world. The trailer gave me goosebumps. Everybody seems at the top of their game and the film could definitely follow the steps of “The Thin Red Line” and earn Oscar Nominations for Picture, Director, Screenplay and Cinematography. In less than a month, we will see if the film lives up to its stratospheric expectations.
– “Ichimei” (‚ÄúHara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai‚Äù): Takashi Miike is a prolific director, offering up to 4 films a year. I’m glad to see him in Competition, with a 3D remake of a 1962 samurai movie. It is the first 3D film ever to compete for the Palme d’Or.
– ‚ÄúMelancholia‚Äù: every Lars Von Trier film is an experience. This one goes no further than the end of the world, told through the eyes of a bride (Kirsten Dunst). Surely a career-defining turn for Dunst, who already proved her acting chops with Sofia Coppola and Michel Gondry. She could earn Cannes Best Actress prize like Von Trier’s heroines Emily Watson, Bj√∂rk and Charlotte Gainsbourg did before her.
– “Drive”: Nicolas Winding Refn (“Valhalla Rising”). Ryan Gosling. Carey Mulligan. Mafia. Car stunts. Need I say more ?
Other contenders for Best Actress are Tilda Swinton (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”) and Emily Browning (“Sleeping Beauty”). Best Actor seems chewed up for Sean Penn, not in “Tree of Life”, but in “This Must Be the Place”, as an ex-rock star fulfilling his dad’s revenge.
Surprises could come from Cannes veterans such as the Dardenne, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Aki Kaurismaki, Nanni Moretti, or newcomers like Joseph Cedar (“Beaufort”).
The shock of the Festival could be “Michael”, a directorial debut by Michael Haneke’s casting director, inspired by the Natascha Kampusch affair.
I think Naomi Kawase’s film about the Japanese city of Asuka through the ages will offer peace and relief, in contrast with the devastating recent news of Fukushima.
I also have a feeling that Maiwenn’s “Polisse” (about a special police section taking care of youngsters) might get the favors of Robert de Niro’s jury.
Finally, a last minute entry to the Competition might indeed be very surprising: “The Artist” is a silent black-and-white film about two movie stars in the 20’s. Shot in Hollywood and co-starring John Goodman, this French production comes from the creators of Gallic comedy hits “OSS 117” (a kind of James Bond parodies).
Unfortunately, unless they screen before the 19th, I will miss both Melancholia and This Must be the Place – just part of my ongoing bad planning when it comes to Cannes.
Tilda Swinton and Sean Penn, though, are two you really have to take seriously when they turn in “important” performances.