Cannes always surprises us and luckily, so does the jury! This festival started off in a hazy artistic background and with a hesitant selection, announced in several phases… But it ended up with one of the most coherent and significant prize lists of its long history, plus a bonus: the Mediterranean cinema was placed in the first row of winners…
At the beginning of May, anything could still have happened. First of all, the disparities in the selection seemed to weaken the contest. During the traditional press conference held later than usual, the selectors themselves appeared doubtful by being unusually careful in their speeches. It took another eight days to communicate the missing titles of the contest, consequently adding more doubts as to its outcome. For example, the selection of “Between the Walls” by Laurent Cantet, who then won the Golden Palm, was only disclosed on 30 April, with a last minute press release… On the same day we finally got to know the names of the last two members of the jury: two women, actress Jeanne Balibar and the Iranian film-maker Marjane Satrapi, were going to assist Sean Penn… “Two women because they needed to catch up on this jury’s gender equality!” commented some evil-minded reporters… But then again this is also Cannes: an insatiable crave for criticism which largely spills over the cinematographic context by posting a delighted and unabated bad will…
Do the selectors deserve the prize for Best Directors?
No bones broken after all… Though this selection was not of an exceptional level, it ended up by being rich and assorted. Only comedy was missing as usual, apart from a great Woody Allen who was projected out of competition. Finally the range of genres and of aesthetic forms was so wide, that appraising on the same go an animated documentary like the outstanding “Waltz with Bashir”, by Israeli director Ari Folman and a high quality Hollywood film like Clint Eastwood’s “The Exchange”, turned out to be quite a challenge. The jury - which flaunted with great pleasure a rebel spirit starting from the first press conference day (when several members, among which the president, lit a cigarette to protest against the no smoking rules, among other more serious political stances…) - could have well shared the Golden Palm between 4 or 5 films…They would have received a warm applause!...
Then, why did we feel that those movie-going thrills were weaker than usual? Is it due to a skilful strategy aimed at getting a better press? If you expect a mediocre level, then the surprise effect will be even greater!... Come on, I’m sure it wasn’t a planned effect! This thought is the fruit of a twisted mind. A well informed journalist even told us that the Managing Director, Thierry Frémaux, hesitated, until the last minute, to include “Between the Walls” in the competition, fearing that this almost documentary story of a French college, directed by Laurent Cantet, could have been considered too “local” by the foreign festival goers…
Nonetheless, suspecting, even for a second, that the organisers of the greatest festival in the world could be making a bit of a cinema to better occupy the media, is only a sign of our times. Everyone admits that to be on the first pages of the international press, you need to parade movie stars in Cannes, and the majority has to come from Hollywood. So, in the last twenty years, on the Croisette, like everywhere else, it all boils down to marketing. An army of specialists disembarks on the Croisette to fight with great professionalism. The stars follow a ritual that keeps getting stricter: collective interviews, some nights out in posh receptions or gala dinners, the inevitable posing in front of packs of photographers, mandatory presence at the official press conference where looks are more important than speeches… The art of film-making is losing its importance faced with this sequin feast; the press conferences that are almost deserted by independent movie makers (though they’re included in the competition and awarded after all!), bear witness to this sad situation…
We must admit it: 40 years after May ’68, cinephilia isn’t what it used to be. The “Director’s Fortnight” born from this contestation, another festival within the festival, a place for contestation and discovery, is celebrating its 40th year…by being trivialised and vampyrised by the system…
May 2008: being aware of the world around us…
However the spirit of May ’68, reviewed and adapted to the world of 2008, was present on the screens of the Croisette and the jury made no mistakes. San Penn had announced that they were going to favour the filmmakers that portrayed a certain awareness of the world surrounding them. They kept their word without falling in the trap of a showcase prize list. The jury confirmed its clairvoyance by finding a good balance between form and content, between political militant films and an intelligently and aesthetically engaged form of movie-making.
The prize list announced on the night of 25 May was of a rare internal coherence and bore witness of a remarkable intellectual soundness. It did not bow to the effects of fashion of or seductive experiences nor to politically strong contents treated trivially… This year, Cannes awarded sincere intentions, sharp outlooks, original movie languages and strong directions.
The importance of the direction and the success of the Mediterranean cinema…
All the films awarded stand out for their original direction of a strong and fair topic.
Laurent Cantet, who gave France a long-awaited Golden Palm after 21 years from the success of Maurice Pialat, gives vigorous evidence by describing a reconstituted documentary reality, to then overcome its boundaries though still maintaining a strong truth. The students of “Between the Walls” are both Parisians of the 20th Arrondissement as well as children of the world in the multiplicity of their cultures, skin colours, their unease, their thirst for knowledge and hope in the future.
Matteo Garrone subverts the rules of the genre, to describe the powerful reality of the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia, by inverting the setting. He’s not interested in the spectacular life of the godfathers. This Italian director, who based his film on the highly documented book of Roberto Saviano, chooses to describe the everyday life of the small crooks that work for the Mafia, those anonymous soldiers of an army of handymen, who can carry a suitcase or commit base assassinations alike. “Gomorra” reveals their misery and their dependency that empowers this criminal organisation, responsible among a thousand other things, of the garbage problems in Naples; a very hot topic…
Paolo Sorrentino, another Italian, studies one of the most famous political subjects, by telling us the story of Andreotti, a man of power, entangled in questionable relationships and shady businesses…”Il Divo” seduces us both for the force of its direction recalling a baroque opera, and for the interest of its target…
A fourth Mediterranean film, “Three Monkeys” by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, has quite rightly won the Best Director Award…A rigorous cinematographic language, a stern and distant gaze, beautiful scenes that mark the Ceylan style… Contrary to what some have written, “Three Monkeys” is also a political film in the finest sense of the word. That is why it is placed on the cornerstone of this remarkable prize list. In fact, for the first time in his filmography, Nuri Bilge Ceylan has created characters that are not part of his entourage, and has carefully and discreetly placed them in Turkey’s social and political context. Ercan Kesal, co-screenwriter and one of the actors of the film that we discover for the first time on screen, has a lot to do with that. This hyperactive doctor, is highly aware of the mechanisms and contradictory realities of Turkish society, and has managed to grant more depth to the characters. Thus, through a story that is on the whole quite melodramatic, Nuri Bilge Ceylan was able to subvert the clichés of this genre to better probe the depths of the human soul and discover its weaknesses…
Together with the Dardenne brothers, who observe the idiosyncrasies of Belgian society or of Walter Salles who turns to Brasil’s miseries, the Mediterranean directors were the most remarkable artists of this 61st Cannes Festival. They gave proof of an outstanding sensibility and of an exceptional mastering of the cinematographic language in expressing their awareness of the complexity of the world that surrounds us.
Prize list of the 61st Cannes Festival
BETWEEN THE WALLS by Laurent Cantet
GOMORRA by Matteo Garrone
Prize of the 61st Cannes Festival
Catherine Deneuve in A CHRISTMAS TALE by Arnaud DESPLECHIN
Clint Eastwood for THE EXCHANGE
THREE MONKEYS by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
IL DIVO by Paolo Sorrentino
Benicio Del Toro in GUERRILLA by Steven SODERBERGH
Sandra Corveloni in LINHA DE PASSE by Walter SALLES, Daniela THOMAS
THE SILENCE OF LORNA by Jean-Pierre and Luc DARDENNE
Vulcain Prize to a Technical Artist
Luca Bigazzi (head cameraman) and Angelo Raguseo (mixer) for harmony between image and sound in IL DIVO by Paolo SORRENTINO.
MEGATRON by Marian Crisan
JERRYCAN by Julius Avery
HUNGER by Steve McQueen (Un Certain Regard)
Special Mention Caméra d'Or
VSE UMRUT A JA OSTANUS (Everybody dies but me) by Valeria Gaï GUERMANIKA (International Critic’s Week)
UN CERTAIN REGARD PRIZE
Un Certain Regard Prize- Fondation Gan pour le Cinéma
TULPAN by Sergey Dvortsevoy
TOKYO SONATA by Kurosawa Kiyoshi
Coup de Coeur du Jury
WOLKE 9 by Andreas Drese
Le K.O. du Certain Regard
TYSON by James Toback
Prix de l'espoir
JOHNNY MAD DOG by Jean-Stéphane SAUVAIRE