When he was Variety‘s lead film critic Justin Chang would deliver his opinions with as much tact and finesse as possible. He would sometimes pan films, of course, but in a way that might prompt a reader to say, “Well, I guess this film has certain merits as well.” “Blunt” and “direct” may have been in Chang’s toolbox, but they were rarely used. But they are now that he’s a big-dog critic at the L.A. Times.
In a sharply phrased piece about Sunday’s Cannes Film Festival awards and particularly about the shortcomings of Ken Loach‘s I, Daniel Blake and, more odiously, Xavier Dolan‘s It’s Only The End of the World, which won the festival’s Grand Prix (or second place) award, Chang has let go Sam Peckinpah-style.
“In handing Ken Loach his second Palme d’Or for I, Daniel Blake (he won the first Palme in 2006 for The Wind That Shakes the Barley), Miller’s jury, deliberately or not, wound up favoring an angry, relevant message rather than a great work of cinema. Loach inadvertently seemed to confirm as much when he noted in his acceptance speech that film is ‘exciting, it’s fun, and as you’ve seen tonight, it’s also very important.’
“Still, better for the Palme to have gone to Loach than to Quebec’s Xavier Dolan, the 27-year-old world-cinema enfant terrible who pretty much horrified the press audience by inexplicably winning the runner-up Grand Prix for It’s Only the End of the World.
“In my 11 years of attending Cannes I cannot recall a worse jury decision than this one. A badly shot, shrilly performed and all-around excruciatingly misjudged dysfunctional-family torture session that felt far longer than its 97-minute running time, World was by far the least endurable film in competition (and that includes Sean Penn’s dreadful but dreadfully entertaining The Last Face).