2018 Cannes, Cannes

2018 Cannes Palme d’Or

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Upon announcing the competition lineup, Frémaux noted that his team purposely picked lesser-known films rather than went with the big names. The final lineup reflects that sentiment with only a handful of Hollywood films – only 2 compared to say, 2012, where 7 films produced by the States premiered In Competition and a list with many new faces.

The main narrative during the event revolves around the ongoing dispute between Cannes and Netflix.  As Frémaux mentions, Cannes established a rule this year saying films must receive French theatrical distribution if they want to be eligible to premiere in the Competition lineup. The rule prevents Cuarón’s Netflix-backed Roma from premiering in competition and as a result, Netflix pulled out all their films, most notably Roma and Orson Welles’s The Other Side of the Wind. The Mexican film would later claim the Golden Lion at Venice and become a major player at that year’s Oscar.

The war-of-hate from Harvey Weinstein that sparked the #MeToo movement also casts a shadow to the festival. It tied to the event where 82 film industry women paraded the red carpet to protest gender inequality. For its 71 years history only 82 films directed by women have been in Cannes’ Official Competition. It also happened on the day when this very blog came into existence. It’s fitting that the Festival follows this with the screening of The Girls of the Sun – a feminist film about women’s struggle and empowerment. 

About the Palme D’or shortlist, it’s another strong year. There are some install classics – you can read below to find out. But more importantly, all these 21 films are very close in terms of quality, making it an exciting year where I can argue that every film has its merits to be included in the lineup. If I have one minor objection, it’d be that the French selection isn’t strong, as you can see below where they placed at bottom of my list.

It’s interesting to note that at the time of the event, there were 2 directors In Competition list placed under house arrest for making films their governments despise (Jafar Panahi and Kirill Serebrennikov). I feel it makes sense then that this programme has 3 road movies on the list (3 Faces, Yomeddine, Carpenaum). It is, after all, a reach for freedom and a rebellion against conservative social norms (all 3 films touch that issue). Realism is back in fashion in this 2018 edition, utilized by nearly half of this list, with documentary-like realism (Carpenaum, 3 Faces, At War), neo-realism (Ayka, Dogman, Yomeddine) and even magical-realism (Happy as Lazzaro). As a result, this list introduces us to many lesser-known and non-professional cast, most notably the acting winners Samal Yeslyamova (Ayka), Marcello Fonte (Dogman), the child actor Zain Al Rafeea in Capernaum and the disabled actor Rady Gamal in Yomeddine.

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2015 Cannes, Cannes

2015 Cannes Palme d’Or

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

2015 marks the very first year that I attended Cannes and the phrase “you have to be there to know the feeling” certainly applies here. It’s just one-of-the-kind experience, so much so that I’m glad to overlook the fact that the 2015 lineup is pretty weak, in fact the lowest point out of the whole decade. Dheepan’s win is amongst the least plausible winner pick in recent years, and I could point to the last-minutes choice for where Cannes makes a head-scratching decision: they picked the underwhelmed Valley of Love and Chronic instead of Weerasethakul’s mesmerizing Cemetery of Splendor, even more puzzling with the fact that Cemetery is right after him winning Cannes for Uncle Boonmee and if Cemetery were in, it could comfortably sit in the top 3. To be fair though, the rest of The Coens’ jury choices are fine with me, but truly that one major pick stings.

This edition is notable for having international directors fleshing their muscles and working in English productions, with varying degrees of success. While The Lobster and Youth make a swift transition to Anglo-saxon market, Tale of Tales, Louder than Bombs and Chronic make little impact. If I have to sum up the general themes of films competing this year, this line-up has a strong flavor of costumed pieces (Macbeth, Marguerite & Julien, Tale of Tales and to a larger extent The Assassin and Carol as well). Personal and familial drama are featured frequently in the Main Competition, and “grief” becomes one of the main themes for many films this year (The Sea of Trees, Louder than Bombs, Mia Madre, Valley of Love you can also argue that Son of Saul is in here too).

It’s the first time in a while where there are 3 Italian directors competing for Palme D’or (you can see their pic together below). Asian films are in good shape with all 3 films making it to my first half. It’s just the general field lacks depth as I could only regard the first 7 films as solid. Finally, 2 French women directors are in the line-up but the Marguerite & Julien slot is just plain bad – while Cannes always assert that they pick films based on the quality and not who’s behind the project, it’s films like this that make me think they fill this slot to meet the quota. Pretty uninspiring choice.

Should have been on the list:Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) – Un Certain Regard

Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes) – Directors’ Fortnight

Love (Gaspar Noe) – Midnight Screening

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2000 Cannes, Cannes

Cannes 2000 Preview

As we’re approaching the starting line of our 2000 Cannes project, it’s time for a little warm up. Here in this Preview both Armitage and myself will give you a rundown of our initial impression and expectation towards the 2000 Cannes lineup and Cannes itself.

Mario: My prime reasons for picking the year 2000 as our first edition are due to the fact that it was the first year of the whole new century and what a year to kick-start a new millennium with style. It was the year where Asian cinema took the world by storm with the massive cultural impact of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon to the Western world and many other works like Platform, Suzhou River, Battle Royale that didn’t make this official list but proudly stand the test of time. Iranian cinema had a good showing as well with The Circle,The Day I Became a Woman and a young talented voice in this Official list. 

As for the lineup, I have only seen 7 films out of the Main Competition so far, which is to say that there’s a lot more to unravel, and I’m more than happy to revisit films that I am always fond of. It’s worthy to note that 2000 was one of the last years where Gilles Jacob was the president – the current-director Thierry Frémaux would later replace him as artistic director in Cannes 2004 after a general negative reaction over the quality of the Official Selection in 2003. It remains to be seen on which side this programme will befall, but if I have some minor complaint as of now it would be the decision to place Luc Besson as a Jury President. I don’t mean to disrespect one of the best action auteur working today, but his works have never been in Cannes In Competition, making the decision feels more because of his star-power status. The rest of the jury was in great shape, in contrast, with a 50/50 ratio between the ladies and the gentlemen.

My most anticipated titles: Sight-unseen: Eureka 

                                            Already-seen: In the Mood for Love

Armitage: Hello, dearest readers of the blog, how are all of you doing these days? I know you must be unfamiliar with who the new girl on the block is, but in the coming days, I hope to be better acquainted with you all. 

I shall be joining Mario (as the voice of reason) as we watch movies together over the coming weeks. We are going to undertake the ‘Cannes: Year in Review’ project this time around but there are many more such projects to come in the near future. The reason we picked this project is because Cannes film festival has always held a special place in the hearts of both of us. I have never personally been to see a movie there but some of my all-time favorites have been part of past Cannes line-ups and I have discovered many hidden gems which I would have never gotten around to watching if not for the recognition they received there. 

As for what these favorites might be, all I can say is some people like movies to lift up their mood while some people like it when they are able to shed a tear or two while watching one. Out of these two, I fall more in the later category. My favorite genre of media has always been understated character dramas. Though, I can always appreciate if a movie has real ambition behind its story-telling no matter how flawed it may be. I particularly enjoy the works of Andrey Tarkovsky, Richard Linklater, Michael Haneke and Lars Von Trier. The latter two being perennially beloved at Cannes. 

And over the coming weeks, I hope to discover many new favorites as we delve into the short-listed movies at Cannes from the year 2000. There is no great metaphor at play in why we decided to start with this year apart from the fact that well, what better way to start a new series than with the start of this century!

With that, I conclude my introductory monologue. As for you all, come join me and Mario as we watch some great movies over the coming month. It’s gonna be real fun!!

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2019 Cannes, Cannes, Site Updates

My Top 10 Films in Cannes that don’t Compete for Palme d’Or

Well, the title says it all. The Palme d’Or lineup has gathered a lot of media attention, but one of the joy in Cannes is that they have varied choices beyond that, many of them take us by surprise and gain more traction as the year goes. This year is no exception as there are plenty titles worth raving about. With this list, let’s see some alternatives from the big titles that rarely get cover anywhere else, from wide range of medium, genres from all over the world.

note: there are 2 films that were originally on my watchlist but I couldn’t find the time to watch. Sight-unseen mention to The Lighthouse (Director’s Fortnight) and the animated feature The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily (Un Certain Regard)

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2019 Cannes, Cannes

2019 Cannes Palme d’Or

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

All things considered, 2019 offers another strong lineup that stay very well in conversation for the whole year. Only 5 films make it to my “Silver Moon in Full Bloom” status, but this is a year stack full of worthy films that all bring something interesting to the table. If you look closely into this year’s lineup, you can draw some major underlying themes that lead the discussion. First, SOCIAL SATIRE becomes as relevant as ever, outlined by Parasite winning Palme d’Or that touch on the class inequality in a smartly twisted way. The Dead Don’t Die opens the Festival with its dry satire on the world that has gone mad, not unlike the real world. Bacurau and It Must Be Heaven fall into this spectrum as well with their fresh (and funny) take on social identities. Second, POLICE THRILLER roars like a lion this year, with many films, especially French titles Les Miserables, Oh Mercy, using this format to suggest the ongoing tension between the law and the suppressed citizen. Neo-noir police genre also is on the rise with The Whistlers and The Wild Goose Lake. Lastly, this is a year where movies about film-making, film-within-a-film gain some attraction with the likes of Once upon a Time in Hollywood, Sibyl, Pain & Glory and Frankie. This year also offer wide range of other subject matters, from friendship (Matthias & Maxime), to benefits (The Wild Goose Lake) to friends with benefit (Mektoub Intermezzo). Amongst serious social issues, class conflict (Parasite, Bacurau, Sorry We Missed You, Atlantique), Muslim crisis (The Young Ahmed, Les Miserables) and personal crisis (Pain & Glory, A Hidden Life, Frankie) and queer romance (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Matthias & Maxime) are hot topics.

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