One day prior to announcement of the Palme’d’Or Awards, there is a singular lack of excitement about the winners. The best bets are quiet hurrahs. The films in both the main sections, Competition and Un Certain Regard (the first, the large-scale film and the second the more intimate work) have been applauded.
They represent well-known directors and good content. But many have not lived up to expectations. Blue is the Warmest Colour is an extended (three hour) tale of young love from Franco-Tunisian auteur Abdellatif Kechiche. A young girl discovers adulthood in a passionate affair with another woman. The long and detailed sex scenes are red hot but not shocking. Production values are as stupendous as the acting, specially a breakout performance from Adele Exarchopoulos.
From Italy, Paolo Sorrentino’s A Great Beauty is a densely filled rendering of Rome in all its splendour, artifice and superficiality. A modern take on the themes of Fellini’s “La dolce vita’, the film follows a writer losing his powers and then finding his intellectual balance again. Early in the festival, two films established their place as contenders for the Palme: A Separation, Asghar Farhadi’s latest film and The Past, an incisive and compassionate family on the visceral ties and responsibilities in a failed marriage and how love can heal.
From France, François Ozon’s Young and Beautiful (Jeune et Jolie) is a well observed, absorbing exploration of a 17-year-old girl’s wilful entry into the world of prostitution. Ozon (of Swimming Pool fame) sees her self-assurance as an emotionally challenging one – and the credit goes to a bewitching performance by the young actor, Marine Vacth.
The eagerly awaited Competition films that showed at the tail-end, Jim Jarmushe’s Only Lovers Left Alive, and Roman Polanksi’s were both quaint offerings that did not quite get where they wanted to. The first is a beautifully presented and well-enacted story of modern-day vampires visualised in a highly sophisticated way. Polanski’s film Venus in Fur is a two-actor stage presentation of how an audition can transform the very nature and concept of what the playwright has envisioned.
Usually, as the festival plays itself out, viewers also look for the more modest, even marginalised film, one that captures hearts and minds - as did Michael Haneke’s Amour last year, Lars von Triers Dancer in the Dark and Fahrenheit 9/11, the documentary by Michael Moore, some years ago. All Palme d’Or winners - all outsiders.