Cannes Film Festival 2011: Roundup

So, the Cannes Film Festival has wrapped itself up for another year, with some extraordinary films receiving their world premieres and a plethora of fashion-clad stars adorning the Croisette. This year will probably be slightly marred by the remarks of a certain outspoken European auteur, but what would Cannes be without a bit of controversy? Here’s a run-down of some of the best moments from the 64th Festival de Cannes:

The Tree of Life blossomed – So the big kahuna this year was Terrence Malick, receiving the coveted Palme d’Or for his exuberant The Tree of Life. The anticipation surrounding Malick’s fifth film in four decades was huge and it didn’t disappoint. There was nearly blood on the Croisette for the first of its press screenings with security having to draft in police to control a storm of irate critics unable to gain access to an oversubscribed screening.

However, the elusive American director was nowhere to be seen. He avoided the film’s press conference and was absent from the awards ceremony, prompting a concoction of boos and applause from the press and audience. Although there has been a varied and mixed response to Malick’s film, early reviews were largely positive, and from what we’ve heard, Terry’s epic odyssey will have people talking for weeks after the festival dust settles.

The Artist silenced the critics: French director Michel Hazanavicius wowed the critics with his silent era pastiche The Artist (with the film’s period accuracy even apparent in its 1.33 aspect ratio). The Cannes jury mirrored the critics’ jubilation as they awarded Jean Dujardin with the Best Actor award for his portrayal of George Valentin, a silver-screen idol who can’t adjust to the new ‘talkies’.

Everybody was talking about Kevin: Lynne Ramsey’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, a bracing adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s fictional bestseller about a US high-school massacre, was the talk of the town before the second week shambles. Tilda Swinton was tipped to win the Best Actress award but was beaten in the end by Kirsten Dunst and her role as a depressive in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.

Jodie Foster’s Beaver: There was much praise and admiration for Foster who gave her press interview for The Beaver in French as well as English. However the same universal praise could not be transferred to the film, which on the whole received poor reviews. According to the press release, The Beaver is an emotional story about a man on a journey to re-discover his family and re-start his life. When it was released early this year in the US it didn’t perform particularly well, so distributor Icon will be hoping that it builds its dam this side of the pond.

The Caribbean came to Cannes: The festival tempered its flirtation with ubiquitous popcorn schlock with a star-studded screening of Rob Marshall’s Disney behemoth, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Screening out of competition, this feature was perhaps the most glamorous of glitzy listings. On Stranger Tides looks set to be a colossal hit – its opening weekend saw it take almost $350m worldwide!

Baron von Blitzschlag a.k.a. Lars von Trier: Danish film director Lars von Trier was once again in the Cannes hot seat as he caused controversy with comments he made at the press conference following the screening of his new film Melancholia. When asked about the influences of German Romanticism upon his work he joked of being a Nazi, and went on to suggest that he could sympathise with Hitler and admired the work of Albert Speer. Cannes officials rebuked the comments, castigating the director as “persona non grata”. The film remained in competition and Dunst went on to win Best Actress.

All in all, Cannes yet again delivered a varied, diverse and surprisingly interesting catalogue of films that are sure to either thrill, engage, enrage or amaze a whole army of uptight critics and eager audiences when they hit these shores over the next 12 months.

Stephen Leach