This Is Not a Film – Miss Bala – Melancholia – House of Tolerance – Drive – Elena – The Tree of Life

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Other Fests: Venice / Chicago

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Jurors: Robert De Niro (president), Olivier Assayas, Martina Gusman, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Jude Law, Nansun Shi, Uma Thurman, Johnnie To, Linn Ullmann
 

 
Palme d'Or:The Tree of Life, USA, dir. Terrence Malick
Grand Jury Prize (tie):The Kid with a Bike, Belgium, dirs. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Turkey, dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Jury Prize:Polisse, France, dir. Maïwenn
Best Director:Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn
Best Actress:Melancholia, Kirsten Dunst
Best Actor:The Artist, Jean Dujardin
Best Screenplay:Footnote, Joseph Cedar
Technical Grand Prize:The Skin I Live In, José Luis Alcaine, cinematographer
FIPRESCI/International
    Critics Prize:
Le Havre, Finland, dir. Aki Kaurismäki
Prize of the Ecumenical Jury:This Must Be the Place, Italy, dir. Paolo Sorrentino
Caméra d'Or (first feature):Las acacias, Argentina, dir. Pablo Giorgelli



Competition Films I Have Seen:
Ranked in order of preference
 
My Palme d'Or
The Tree of Life (USA, dir. Terrence Malick) - A brother's grief kiln-blasted and glazed into a grand, restless, ecstatic lament for a living and dying world

Sleeping Beauty (Australia, dir. Julia Leigh) - Astounding control of image, color, pace. Tensions grip, enigmas fascinate. Brisseau + Bu˝uel + Barney ¸ Breillat.

Melancholia (Denmark/Sweden, dir. Lars von Trier) - Last Days at Marienbad. Is doom a simile for depression, or disconsolate wedding a metaphor for denying imminent doom?

House of Tolerance (France, dir. Bertrand Bonello) - Fin-de-siècle brothel as tactile ecosystem, crystalline fantasy, zombie purgatory, and site of vexed nostalgia

Drive (USA, dir. Nicolas Winding Refn) - Python coiled around a gator. Lithe muscle. Violence as potential energy. Magnificent, though awe packs chaser of distaste.

The Artist (France, dir. Michel Hazanavicius) - An enchantment, so witty and warm in first half. Settles for just warmth in second, but I'd see it twice. Wiss plezhur.

The Kid with a Bike (Belgium, dirs. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) - Taut, economical as ever. Strong kid's eye view. Thinner around adults, but Rongione great foil for de France.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey, dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan) - Elegant, searching, with awe-inspiring night photography, but lacquered as ever, dreaming of Palmes

The Skin I Live In (Spain, dir. Pedro Almodóvar) - Shots and edits to savor, and Almodóvar's rotted-out men intrigue, but the sum feels both familiar and elusive

Hanezu (Japan, dir. Naomi Kawase) - Despite repetitive and self-serious passages, the delicate, mythopoeic approach to a romantic-triangle narrative engaged me.

Michael (Austria, dir. Markus Schleinzer) - Opacity, random fate, and narrative frustration are the points in this study of the pedophile as agitated efficiency expert

Footnote (Israel, dir. Joseph Cedar) - Cedar's shallow, flamboyant direction tends to dull what's nervy and rich in his script. Strong actors. Strangling score.

We Need To Talk About Kevin (UK, dir. Lynne Ramsay) - Early formal rigors must buoy increasingly puerile conceptions. Ends up 30% Ramsay, 70% Sam Mendes.

This Must Be the Place (Italy/USA, dir. Paolo Sorrentino) - Euro Americana in Don't Come Knocking vein, but more winningly idiosyncratic. Uneven, but out on fun limb.

Le Havre (Finland/France, dir. Aki Kaurismäki) - Way too "Hipster Darling takes a walk on The Blind Side" for me. An overpraised, openly laurel-seeking divertissement.



Sidebar Selections I Have Seen:
Ranked in order of preference
 
Elena (Un Certain Regard: Russia, dir. Andrei Zvyagintsev) - Warmth and cold. Suspense and certainty. Western arthouse style merged with Ozu-esque themes and framing elements. Exquisite.

Miss Bala (Un Certain Regard: Mexico, dir. Gerardo Naranjo) - Polanski's Pianist remade as ballistic drug-war suspenser, as terrorized, evacuated lead withstands a hellish picaresque

Snowtown (Critics' Week: Australia, dir. Justin Kurzel) - A barely habitable biome of venality. Intimidating technique, unnervingly porous community of perps. But is it too much?

Corpo Celeste (Directors' Fortnight: Italy, dir. Alice Rohrwacher) - Coming-of-age tale hooked to coming-to-grips tale bathed in textures and tensions of coming into or out of community

This Is Not a Film (Out of Competition: Iran, dirs. Mohsen Makhmalbaf & Mojtaba Mirtahmasb) - It isn't, quite, but it scores its points, uses offscreen space and sound smartly, and ends on its best sequence

Outside Satan (Un Certain Regard: France, dir. Bruno Dumont) - Typical Dumont menu: hypnotic lensing and landscapes, pugnacious actors and ideas, taken to bold, unseemly extremes.

Play (Directors' Fortnight: Sweden, dir. Ruben Östlund) - High-handed audience manipulation, trading on prejudices while tsking them. Still, clever construction. Many indelible scenes.

Take Shelter (Critics' Week: USA, dir. Jeff Nichols) - I See Heavy Weather. Savvy casting and acting down the line, strong hold on milieu, but story idles, then collapses.

Oslo, August 31st (Un Certain Regard: Norway, dir. Joachim Trier) - I don't get Trier. His sensitivity blurs into a deadpan mawkishness; people too vague. At least this one builds.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Un Certain Regard: USA, dir. Sean Durkin) - Moody Meatless Menacing Morbid Maybe Maybenot Middling Murder Mindfuck Meh Mupstatefolksaresospooky Boo

Return (Directors' Fortnight: USA, dir. Liza Johnson) - Cardellini good in a Michelle Williams part; Shannon un-typecast. Addiction drama dulls post-Iraq story. Last third flails.

The Slut (Critics' Week: Israel, dir. Hagar Ben Asher) - Shot and mixed like a brittler Dumont film, and far from uninvolving, but script ought to have drawn out comic potentials

The Beaver (Out of Competition: USA, dir. Jodie Foster) - Spotty set-up and execution, bum ending. Lots wrong, yet still engrossing, as Gibson manages restraint and exorcism at once.

Midnight in Paris (Out of Competition: USA, dir. Woody Allen) - Punk'd again! Amiable enough but seemingly inspired by a Barnes & Noble desk calendar. Why such swoony reviews?



Competition Films I'm Curious to See:
Ranked in order of interest; more on this year's lineup here (opens in a new window)
 
The Source, France/Morocco, dir. Radu Mihaileanu

Also in Competition: Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Japan, dir. Takashi Miike
Pater, France, dir. Alain Cavalier
We Have a Pope, Italy, dir. Nanni Moretti


Sidebar Films I'm Curious to See:
Listed alphabetically; more on this year's lineup here (opens in a new window)
 
Un Certain Regard: Arirang, South Korea, dir. Kim Ki-duk
Beauty (Skoonheid), South Africa, dir. Oliver Hermanus
The Day He Arrives, South Korea, dir. Hong Sang-soo
Goodbye, Iran, dir. Mohammad Rasoulof
The Minister, France/Belgium, dir. Pierre Schoeller
Stopped on Track, Germany, dir. Andreas Dresen
Where Do We Go Now?, Lebanon, dir. Nadine Labaki
The Yellow Sea, South Korea, dir. Na Hong-jin
Directors' Fortnight: Breathing, Austria, dir. Karl Markovics
The Giants, Belgium, dir. Bouli Lanners
Mushrooms, India, dir. Vimukthi Jayasundara
On the Edge, Morocco, dir. Leïla Kilani
Porfirio, Colombia, dir. Alejandro Landes
The Silver Cliff, Brazil, dir. Karim Aïnouz
Volcano, Iceland, dir. Rúnar Rúnarsson
Critics' Week: Las acacias, Argentina, dir. Pablo Giorgelli

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