The Palme d'Or race hasn't been this murky in years, but you can probably count out the new Roman Polanski and Jim Jarmusch films
For the last week and a half, people in Cannes have been trying to figure out the tastes of Steven Spielberg‘s jury – and now that the festival is reaching a conclusion without any one film asserting itself the way “Amour” did last year or “The Tree of Life” the year before, the guessing game has gotten more difficult and more feverish.
The Palme d'Or is harder to call than it's been since 2009, when a jury headed by Tim Burton opted for the aggressively weird “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” over “Of Gods and Men,” “Biutiful,” “Certified Copy” and “Poetry,” among others.
And it has left festival-watchers grasping at the thinnest of clues, or trying to create clues out of thin air.
Spielberg makes movies about kids and parents – does that mean he'll respond to “Like Father, Like Son?”
Nicole Kidman was spotted wiping away tears as she left “The Past” – is that a good sign?
Directors outnumber actors on the jury five to four – will the choice be a real director's statement (“The Great Beauty,” “A Touch of Sin”) as opposed to a movie with a dominant lead performance (“Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Nebraska”)?
Asghar Farhadi's “The Past” was the festival's first movie to get a Palme d'Or buzz, the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” seized a little momentum last weekend, and Abdellatif Kechiche's “Blue Is the Warmest Color” was the critical sensation of the last few days.
(It doesn't hurt the buzz to have a critical sensation with a graphic 20-minute teen-lesbian sex scene, but what will it mean to the jury?)
The bottom line is that most people have little idea what's liable to come out on top, though everybody in Cannes will be watching the red carpet at Sunday's awards ceremony to see who's still in town – or more importantly, who's back in town.
That's because while Cannes organizers don't reveal any of the winners ahead of time, they do suggest to the appropriate people that it'd make sense for them to attend the ceremony, even if it involves returning to town. So if somebody shows up for the ceremony, there's a decent chance their movie is going to win something.
Before those clues become evident, speculation swirls around a handful of titles. At RogerEbert.com, Ben Kenigsberg predicts “Blue Is the Warmest Color” for the Palme, with “The Immigrant” taking the second-place Grand Jury Prize and “The Great Beauty” winning the Jury Prize.
Duncan Houst at FilmMisery agrees about “Blue” on top but puts “Like Father, Like Son” second and “The Past” third, while John Gilpatrick at the John Likes Movies blog goes with “The Past” to win, “Like Father” to place and “Borgman” to show. And Neil Young, who's been doing this longer than most at Neil Young's Film Lounge, goes with “The Past,” followed by “The Great Beauty” and “Grisgris.”
And perhaps this tweet from filmmaker Jamie Stuart is worth bringing up at this point: “One thing to remember as you read the Cannes tweets from journalists: they're ALWAYS wrong with their awards predictions. Pay no attention.”
The last two films to screen at Cannes, Roman Polanski‘s “Venus in Fur” and Jim Jarmusch's “Only Lovers Left Alive,” don't show up in many predictions. The Polanski film, an adaptation of the David Ives play about a theater director mounting a production of the Sacher-Masoch novel “Venus in Furs,” won raves for his leading lady (who also happens to be his wife), Emmanuelle Seigner, and plenty of comments about how its other character, the director played by Mathieu Amalric, was clearly a Polanski stand-in of sorts.
“Both funny and strangely sensual, it begins with the air of a throwaway screwball comedy and ends up more weird and biting,” said Dave Calhoun in Time Out London.
Jeff Wells called it “one of [Polanski's] modest, minor efforts a la ‘Death and the Maiden.'” The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw found it to be an “enjoyably hammy, stagey two-hander…daring in its verbose and middle-aged way.”
Griped Jessica Kiang at the Playlist, “beneath a brittle veneer of verbal dash and cleverness this stagebound adaptation has little insight to give us into anything except the sexual hubris of an aging man, and frankly, we're not sure we give a damn.”
Jarmusch's “Only Lovers Left Alive,” meanwhile, was lauded in many circles as an entertaining and stylish vampire flick – but let's face it, vampire flicks don't really win the Palme no matter how entertaining and stylish they are.
“It's a designer doodle of a dream, like much of Jarmusch's work, though it's clear some effort has gone into making it appear this cast-off,” wrote Guy Lodge at In Contention. “…I suspect this is a fans-only effort, however en vogue the vampire genre may be these days.”
On the other hand, Jarmusch and stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston certainly make one of the most eye-catching trios to hit the Cannes red carpet this year.
And finally, I guess we missed this one while reporting on the winners in the Un Certain Regard and Directors Fortnight sections, and the Fipresci critics’ prize, and the Cinefondation awards … but the Palme Dog, which and goes to the best canine actor at each Cannes (really, it does), went to Baby Boy, who plays Liberace's poodle in “Behind the Candelabra.”
Some people thought they were going to have to rename the award this year and give it to the cat from “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Goes to show you how nobody knows anything when it comes to Cannes awards.
Answers will be forthcoming, in the evening in Cannes and the morning in Hollywood.