Sunday, May 26, 2013

12 Thoughts from the Cannes Film Festival Awards Presentation

By now you're probably aware that Abdellatif Kechiche's three-hour lesbian romance drama Blue is the Warmest Colour (also known as La Vie Adele - Chapitre 1 & 2 in its native French, a rare case of the international retitling making for a somewhat more interesting and beguiling choice) has taken the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. It feels like a surprise given the sort of films that jury president Steven Spielberg tends to make - of course, as we should all know, what one artist creates and what they choose to ingest are not always the similar - but with the likes of Nicole Kidman, Ang Lee, and Lynn Ramsay on the jury alongside him, the critical raves the film received were surely too big to ignore.

Still, for all the surprise over not just the winning film, but the winning recipients - stars Adele Exachopoulus, so good in The Round-Up and I felt like the only person who knew who she was before the festival began, and Lea Seydoux were included in the historic Palme d'Or - the ceremony provided many funny, strange, and cringe-worthy moments that are also worth discussing.

One can only hope that Jane Campion - who prior to this evening was the only female Palme d'Or winner, although that title still does sorta stand just with a big ol' asterisk above it as she's still the only female director to win - was using this two week sojourn in Cannes to network for her Top of the Lake follow up, whatever that may be. Maybe Mads Mikkelson here could be a good foil for her once she's wrapped on the next season on Hannibal. Of course, it's hard not to hope and pray to Movie Jesus that she and Palme juror Nicole Kidman were gasbagging backstage and throwing around ideas for another collaboration. Is that too much to ask?

At some 85 years old, French filmmaker - and, really, a pioneer of sorts - Agnes Varda continues to be an amazing, entertaining gal. Her magical bob of coloured hair and her way with words. Even dubbed, her "hats off" remark made me giggle. And paired with the gorgeous (if criminally underseen in films that make it outside of Asia) was an odd juxtaposition, but hey... I wish more award ceremonies threw together combinations like this more often.

DIVINE GODDESS. It must be said that Kidman has been virtually flawless at this Cannes Film Festival with her fashion. She's said that portraying Grace Kelly in the upcoming Grace of Monaco re-inspired her with fashion and it definitely showed throughout. Just look at this or this and was there even any reason for anybody else to bother? I think not. Even the way Spielberg introduced her was like he was admitting her divine goddess-like immaculate nature. DIVINE GODDESS.

Alexander Payne - who's actually quite good looking although maybe he's turning into Patrick Duffy? - was accepting the male acting prize for Bruce Dern, the star of Payne's Nebraska. Despite my loathing of Payne's The Descendants, I might be okay with a Dern awards season run if he decides to bring daughter Laura Dern along for the ride (especially since Dern gave her best performance in Payne's best film, Citizen Ruth so it's nice symmetry), which she did at the film's premiere.

Still, what we cannot ignore is the fact that there was apparently a entire alternate universe between the perceptions of men and women in the pre-presentation speeches. The men, after being given a list of previous illustrious winners, are described as having "touched our hearts and given their all". They "overwhelm us" and are labelled "nobel" (can anybody make out what the lady says after "nobel"?) and deified as the champions of cinema. The women, on the other hand, during Orlando Bloom's opening ramble, are labelled as little more than property. "An actress doesn't belong to herself, she belongs to those who watch her." Lovely sentiment (by Ava Gardner, no less) and now I wonder if we can utilise this newfound ownership to make them do better projects? If I'd known all along that I owned Nicole Kidman, you guys...

I obviously haven't seen Asghar Farhadi's The Past - just like everything else at Cannes, us mere mortals must wait and wait and wait - but I'm super stoked by Berenice Bejo who won for Best Actress. I enjoyed her greatly in The Artist, even if her Oscar nomination for best supporting actress a bit iffy, and am glad she didn't use the fact that her American introduction was in a silent movie to smoothly sashay into American productions. It could have been so easy given so few have actually heard her speak, but instead she went to a French production by an Iranian auteur. Good on her, I say.

Asia Argento was positively on the verge of orgasm throughout her presentation of the screenplay prize to Jia Zhang-ke for A Touch of Sin. Actually, she always seems like she is on the verge of orgasm most of the time, but this seemed like a particularly peculiar time to be so. Steven Spielberg was certainly wondering what the hell was going on, trying to remain stony faced throughout her entire speech.

Speaking of Zhang-ke, I hope A Touch of Sin is anywhere as good as Still Life. Each of the films of his that I have seen since have been... well, not good. I hope to catch the Chinese director's last Cannes competitor, 24 City, at MoMA's retrospective on Chinese documentary. I hope.

Why isn't Rossy de Palma in the new Pedro Almodovar film again?

The host for the evening was Audrey Tautou. She's French, I guess. She got to look like a massive pixie, as if she's just walked in off the set of her new Michel Gondry film, and got to say stupidly written awards banter. The oddest of which was her "ooh la la" intro for Uma Thurman. Women are pretty and that's all that's worth mentioning! Along with realising I now own all the actresses I have ever seen in a movie, this was a very enlightening awards ceremony. Who needs "I Saw Your Boobs", hey?

"I'm pretty and wearing a great dress and I'm in the new Lars Von Trier movie..."

"Bitch, don't even think of entertaining the thought of being as divine and brilliant as me, okay? Smile, Nic."

"A Palme d'Or can take place in Cherbough, Rome, Paris, or in Texas. A Palme d'Or can be about a man and a woman, a dancer in the dark, or a taxi driver. It could blow up like a pulp fiction, or trigger the apocalypse. Now because of a Palme d'Or one of you will discover what la dolce vita is."

LOL, Uma. The scriptwriters worked overtime trying to stuff all those famous Palme d'Or winners into your introduction. And they couldn't get in an All That Jazz reference? Ugh. The Emmy-nominated guest star of Smash (!!!) was very pleased with herself.

I like that Steven Spielberg got up to announce the most prestigious film festival prize in the entire world with little more than a piece of scrap paper torn out of a binder book. It was a contrast to the usual white and gold cards that were used to announce all the other categories and, in retrospect, was a sign that he was about to do something somewhat off script. Actually, I wonder how much the festival itself knew about the tri-award announcement given the paper situation or Steven simply didn't want to forget to say anything and they couldn't fit it on one of their official cards.

Adele Exarchopoulos with her Palme d'Or scroll under her arm. I don't think at this stage that she and Lea Seydoux had quite figured out what had happened, but then neither had most people. I was super glad to hear during the festival that IFC's Sundance Selects picked up Blue is the Warmest Colour for an American release, but I was much more worried about Australia. It would have been incredibly disappointing if the film had remained consigned to film festivals. I was glad to read just a short while ago that Transmission Films acquired it and that's excellent news for everybody. Granted, a 175-minute explicit lesbian drama is never going to get a wide release and I worry about censorship given the already famous 20-minute sex scene, but at least Aussie audiences will get the chance to see the film at some point. Its win will certainly give the film leverage when it comes to defending that sex scene with the local censorship bodies that will inevitably raise a fuss. It'll definitely be a story worth following.

Well done to everyone involved in Blue is the Warmest Colour and I look forward to seeing it as well as whatever other Cannes titles make their way down the pipeline over the next couple of years.

No comments: