I didn’t stay up until 3 am to file my reactions to the announcement of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival slate because (a) I was presuming that no wowser surprises would be included (this has turned out to be correct) and (b) there’s an apparent downside factor attached to…well, a good percentage of the films announced this morning. I’m not exactly “blue” in the Billie Holiday sense, but the Cannes turn-on factor is down this year. When the stars are aligned above the right kind of Cannes slate I’ll feel an 8 or an 8.5 warm gutty-wut in my soul. My bones and inner organs tend to vibrate. This one feels like a 6 or a 6.5. Okay, a 7.
Agreed, none of the announced films are radiating “please, God…no!” vibes except for the out-of-competition slot given to Steven Spielberg‘s The BFG, but very few seem (emphasis on the “s” word) to possess that special X-factor anticipation tingle-vibe that you can always somehow sense from a distance. And so my insides aren’t humming. The little pleasure light that hangs near the bow of my Cannes-bound ship won’t illuminate no matter how many times I unscrew and re-screw the bulb.
This is a good attitude to have, by the way, because when and if something really pops I’ll be all the more startled and thankful.
At least there’s (a) Baccalaureat, the competition film from Romania’s Cristian Mungiu, who can do no wrong in my eyes; (b) Cristi Puiu‘s Sierra-Nevada, about a demimonde of prickly Romanian family members who’ve assembled to raise a glass for a deceased patriarch; and (c) Julieta, about a character played in younger-older stages of her life by Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suarez, from the almost entirely faultless Pedro Almodovar. (If anyone can tell me why Pedro made I’m So Excited, I’m all ears.)
I’d like to express my deep, heartfelt gratitude to Thierry Fremaux or God or fate for the wonderful, glorious absence of Terrence Malick‘s Voyage of Time, the IMAX film that Mr. Wackadoodle has been fiddling with for the last four or five years, and which had been mentioned here and there as a possible out-of-competition inclusion.
Woody Allen‘s Cafe Society will open the festival, but opening-nighters are often chosen because they’re relatively mild or unchallenging or even toothless. Do the math.
Director Andrea Arnold seemed to have some kind of lightning in her bottle when she made Red Road and Fish Tank but American Honey, described as a portrait of “a group of young people who travel the country selling magazine subscriptions and making trouble,” sounds fucking dreadful. Magazine subscriptions? Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough costar. (Competition)
I’m enormously grateful, by the way, that Derek Cianfrance‘s The Light Between the Oceans wasn’t chosen. The prospect of watching Fassbender-Vikander engaging in a form of delusional child-rearing on an isolated island…forget it, leave it there. And thank our Almighty and Merciful God that James Gray‘s The Lost City of Z wasn’t chosen for whatever reason.
Aside from The BFG, which I wish I had the balls to totally ignore, the two biggest out-of-competition flicks are Jodie Foster‘s Money Monster, a kind of New Mad City in a TV studio, and Shane Black‘s Nice Guys, a late ’70s throwaway caper popcorn flick with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.
Kleber Mendonça Filho‘s Acquarius, about an older widowed music writer (Sonia Braga) who time travels, is giving me weird vibes because of an unwanted “c” in a word that is always spelled Aquarius. (Competition)
Paul Verhoeven‘s Elle, which stars the legendary Isabelle Huppert, is some kind of balls-out revenge flick. I’m not making negative assmptions but what could come of such a notion? Ask yourself that. (Competition)
No intuitive vibes at all from Nicole Garcia‘s From the Land of the Moon, which stars Marion Cotillard. (Competition)
Park Chan-Wook‘s The Handmaiden, allegedly about a couple of con artists out to scam a wealthy Japanese heiress, will undoubtedly be another dark, DePalma-influenced potboiler of some negligible kind. The South Korean director has been dining out on Oldboy for years, but if you ask me he’s just another high-style guy (look at me! wheee!) who lives in his own hermetic realm, doesn’t know from restraint or has almost nothing to say about anything. I wrote him off completely after seeing Stoker. (Competition)
Ken Loach‘s I, Daniel Blake is about an injured carpenter and single mother struggling to get by on the dole. Start an online business. Sell drugs. Heal and get back to work. Do something. (Competition)
Xavier Dolan‘s It’s Only the End of the World is a French-language drama about a writer who returns home to announce to his family that he’s dying. Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel. Honestly — do you really want to see this? A death movie by a 27 year-old director whose life and career are totally on the ascendancy? (Competition)
Sean Penn‘s The Last Face. More political-social consciousness, the unfairness and brutality of things, the game is rigged against the poor, etc. We’re all sensing what this probably might be, but let’s leave it there. The plot is about humanitarian workers (Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem) having an affair against the backdrop of war-torn Liberia. (Competition)
Jeff Nichols‘ Loving (Focus Features, 11.4), an interracial marriage period drama starring the dreaded Joel Edgerton (wait for his Southern accent…wait for it!) along with Ruth Negga. The only Cannes film likely to be an Oscar-season hopeful.
Brillante Mendoza‘s Ma’Rosa — no space after the “a” in Ma or after the apostrophe…?? (Competition).
Nicolas Winding Refn‘s The Neon Demon, a high-style, Los Angeles-based cannibalism flick in which Elle Fanning plays a young model preyed upon by jealous rivals. I’m guessing she’ll wind up as an eater rather than a victim. (Competition)
Jim Jarmusch‘s Paterson. Will anything “happen” in this tale of a married, blue-collar bus driver with a pronounced schnozz (Adam Driver) who dabbles in poetry but otherwise endures what I presume will be a kind of monotonous life? Is he the new Travis Bickle? (Competition)
Olivier Assayas‘ Personal Shopper. Set in Paris and said to be “interwoven with supernatural elements”, pic stars Stewart as a shopper who works for a celebrity of some gender or another. I’m already half-asleep just thinking about this. (Competition)
Bruno Dumont‘s Slack Bay, an early 20th Century period piece costarring Fabrice Luchini and Juliette Binoche. No comment. (Competition)
Alain Guiraudie‘s Staying Vertical, about a single film director raising a young son. (Competition)
Maren Ade‘s Toni Erdmann, about a father looking to raise the spirits of a daughter. Sounds dreadful. (Competition)
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne‘s The Unknown Girl, about a young doctor investigating the identity of a girl who died after being refused treatment. Do the Corleones of the Croisette still carry the same tumescence in the minds of Cannes journo-critics, or have things begun to soften? I got off the boat after seeing The Kid With A Bike. (Competition)
I need to study Un Certain Regard, Directors Fortnight and whichever films might be screening to buyers on the rue d’Antibes…later.
Dialogue from Stanley Kubrick and Kirk Douglas‘s Spartacus: Helena Glabrus (Nina Foch): “Our choosings bored you?” Lucius Batiatus (Peter Ustinov): “Oh no, Lady Helena. I tingle.”