My Cannes started this year with the cooly suggestive image of a beautiful young woman under surveillance, as captured in the viewfinder of a pair of binoculars, in French director Francois Ozon's Young & Beautiful, and ended with probably the most famous fall in the history of cinema, that one that concludes Alfred Hitchcock's magisterial Vertigo.
The Ozon was part of the official competition selection, the Hitchcock, preceded by a terrific introduction from Kim Novak, the concluding work of the Cannes Classics program. All told, I saw thirty-seven films: twenty in the official competition, two in official selection, out of competition, seven in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, three in the Directors' Fortnight and five in the Cannes Classics.
Every festival is an object lesson in frustration and thwarted ambition. I especially regret not being able to see more of the Un Certain Regard program, because I was largely impressed by what I did sample. I also heard or read about especially encouraging reports of Lav Diaz's reportedly extraordinary 250-minute long Norte, the End of History, Rithy Panh's prize-winner The Missing Picture, Hany Abu-Assad's Omar, Mohammad Rasoulof's Manuscripts Don't Burn, Diego Quemada-Diez's La Jaula de Oro and Hiner Saleem's My Sweet Pepper Land.
The competition is what excites and infuriates the critics, writers and assembled press. These are the also titles most likely to dominate the art-house release schedule and also turn up at other festivals, like Telluride, Toronto and New York, in the fall. Many of the key works have already been acquired for American distribution, and new deals are still being announced.
What follows are my own rankings, if you will, with corresponding grades, of the films of this year's competition.
Now that enough time has passed, it is possible to start putting this year's edition in the proper context. Just as I began to express my own internal doubts about the quality roughly halfway through the festival, Cannes accelerated to another gear and many. A friend remarked in the opening weekend that the competition was dominated by filmmakers who tended toward the erratic.
Yet, several major directors delivered their strongest works in years: I'm thinking of the Jarmusch, with his best film since Dead Man; the Jia, his strongest since Still Life; James Gray's The Immigrant is, I think, his best film, period. I've been pretty cool about the works of Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, but his The Great Beauty had a pop and vitality that proved rather gorgeous.
Even the weakest films were not entirely without moments of isolated pleasure. The Miike has some brilliantly designed set pieces in the first third, like a shootout on a train; Arnaud des Pallieres' Michael Kolhaas does interesting things with landscape.
In the coming days, I'll be offering other ideas and thoughts on the festival. It's over, but much of what I saw and experienced is still dancing around in my head.
1. Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Color (A)
2. Jia Zhang-ke's A Touch of Sin (A-)
3. Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive (A-)
4. James Gray's The Immigrant (A-)
5. Arnaud Desplechin's Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian) [A-]
6. The Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis (A-)
7. Roman Polanski's Venus in Fur (B+)
8. Asghar Farhadi's The Past (B+)
9. Steven Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra (B)
10. Alexander Payne's Nebraska (B)
11. Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty (B)
12. Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's A Castle in Italy (B-)
13. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's Grigris (B-)
14. Kore-Eda Hirokazu's Like Father, Like Son (B-)
15. Francois Ozon's Young & Beautiful (C+)
16. Alex van Warmerdam's Borgman (C+)
17. Arnaud des Pallieres' Michael Kolhaas (C)
18. Amat Escalante's Heli (C)
19. Takashi Miike's Shield of Straw (C)
20. Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives (D)
(Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux in Abdellatif Keciche's Palme d'Or-winner, La vie d'Adèle - Chapitre 1 & 2)Image courtesy of Cannes Film festival