The 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival is finally winding down after 12 gruelling days of screenings, but there is still no clear frontrunner for arguably the most prestigious award in film, the Palme d’Or.
As the heat-soaked days tabulated and the slow-paced movies kept getting screened, so did the snoozing. At Wednesday’s 9:45 p.m. screening of Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave, there were moments when snoring could be heard ruminating all around. It may not have been a case of the film being bad, but rather the pummeling nature of this festival, which quickly turns into an endurance test. No wonder a familiar daily image was that of journalists downing double-shots of espresso and chain-smoking cigarettes.
What many called a very weak 21-film competition was still filled with the usual wonders that come with being the most important film festival in the world. Some marquee titles the jury might reward the Palme to include Ruben Ostlund’s outlandish, politically incorrect comedy Triangle of Sadness, Ali Abbasi’s Iranian serial killer shocker Holy Spider, the Dardenne Brothers’ immigration tale Tori et Lokita, and James Gray’s wonderfully personal drama Armageddon Time.
There were boos as well, a Cannes tradition. Arnaud Desplechin’s soap-ish and messy Brother and Sister received boos and whistles at its first screening. So did Albert Serra’s meandering 165-minute Pacification. Meanwhile, Tori et Lokita had a critic in the balcony booing the film senselessly for several seconds before going on to throw a tantrum about the film on Twitter. He’s since deleted and rewrote the tweet.
David Cronenberg could finally be getting his due and win the top prize for his contemplative and shocking Crimes of the Future, but the film is a polarizer, having had many walkouts during its screenings. The 79-year-old director gave us a body-horror sci-fi filled with the obsessions that have invaded his legendary near five-decade career. One only hopes the filmmaker-heavy jury makes a bold choice and rewards the Canadian director the Palme.
It wasn’t just arthouse films being showcased at Cannes, though. Some Oscar-buzzed films also premiered, becoming contenders (and pretenders) in the process. Screening out-of-competition was Baz Luhrmann’s wildly over-the-top Elvis, a biopic of the legendary singer that truly sings. The 12-minute standing ovation the film garnered at the Lumière theatre definitely augmented its Oscar odds. Ditto Austin Butler’s uncanny performance as the King himself. Much like in Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann’s direction is not subtle whatsoever, but his swirling camera movements and snappy editing fit quite well in telling the story of Elvis’s wildly extravagant life.
Tom Cruise also showed up to the premiere of Top Gun: Maverick as only Tom Cruise could, with French Air Force fighter jets flying over him, spraying the sky with coloured smoke in red, white and blue. As for the movie itself, even the snobbish Cannes press seemed keen on it, heralding it with rave reviews.
The Cannes market, the biggest wheeling-and-dealing showcase for distributors, producers and filmmakers in the world, was also back in action, after going virtual last year. Netflix and Apple were busy, but so were the smaller-scale companies. The most surprising films to get the green light included ones starring Anthony Hopkins as Sigmund Freud and a Polish-produced biopic of Vladimir Putin.
Like almost every year at Cannes, there was a notable red carpet protest. This time around it was far-left feminists storming the red carpet premiere of Holy Spider. The protesters, members of a feminist collective known as Les colleuses, used black smoke bombs when Cannes security tried to stop them from marching. It ended peacefully, but the moment felt right at home for a festival that’s been known to prompt outlandish political acts.
Oddly enough, with close to 40,000 attendees from all over the world descending on the Croisette, COVID cases continued to go down daily according to the Cannes medical registry. This bodes well for Venice in late August and the Toronto International Film Festival in early September.
With many productions having been halted these past two years, one can understand the underwhelming nature of this year’s Cannes lineup. Maybe festival head Thierry Fremaux just didn’t have enough quality submissions to choose from to make this one an edition for the ages.
If anything, though, this mask-less edition of Cannes seems like it will rejuvenate moviegoing, and it reminded us that there is no better way to watch a great movie than in a packed house with, as director Claire Denis stated, “absolute electricity in the air.”
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