It has continued to rain in Cannes, and enthusiasm appears to be as dampened as the sidewalks.
On Monday, for instance, three films that weren't ready in time for the festival nonetheless dominated chatter along the Croisette. The Weinstein Company's unveiling of footage from Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," David O. Russell's "The Silver Linings Playbook" and Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" quickly overshadowed the latest from 90-year-old French icon Alain Resnais, and even got people to stop talking about the rain for a while.
Sharon Waxman offered her take at TheWrap, while the Huffington Post used an enormous banner headline – "HOW DID HE DO?" – and a slideshow of tweets to sum up the reaction to the first peek at Tarantino's film about an escaped slave (Jamie Foxx) looking for revenge. Among the responses: "Looks ace," "looks so good," "mind successfully blown," "f'n badass," "crazy unleashed," and more variations on those themes.
James Rocchi, though, did have the sense to point out that figuring out if a movie's going to be good after watching a few minutes of carefully-selected footage is "like guessing college grades from an ultrasound."
The hot trend at Cannes this year, writes Steven Zeitchik, is Americana. His point isn't exactly that the international auteurs for which Cannes is known are looking stateside for inspiration – Kiarostami, Haneke and Audiard aren't mentioned – but that a number of indie films do so. He mentions "Mud," "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild," all made by American filmmakers; "Lawless," made by an Australian with a largely American cast; and "On the Road," a Brazilian director's take on a very American novel.
“I think there's a notion among independent filmmakers now that myth has run aground in our country's mainstream film culture," "Beasts" director Benh Zeitlin told Zeitchik. “… Some of us outside Hollywood feel like our response should be to raise and reclaim our basic myths.”
(Of course, Cannes has always embraced America: since the establishment of the modern Palme d'Or award in 1975, films from the USA have won 10 awards, far more than any other country. The runners-up are Italy, Japan, Denmark and the UK, with three each.)
In his Cannes "Critic's Notebook," Todd McCarthy decrees that the festival got off to a tepid start but got much better over the weekend. But when he breaks down the films he's seen one-by-one, it doesn't look quite so cut-and-dried: he liked the first two films, Wes Anderson's "Moonlight Kingdom" and Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone," didn't like "After the Battle" and "Paradies: Liebe," though "Lawless" was "quite watchable," thought "The Hunt" was decent and was ultimately disappointed in "Beyond the Hills." It wasn't until Sunday's screening of Michael Haneke's "Amour" that McCarthy, like many other festivalgoers, found a film he could wholly embrace.
Also taking the long view is Guy Lodge of In Contention. At the halfway point of the festival, he titles his column "Queuin' in the rain," and then begins like this: "It's generally a sign of a lukewarm film festival when the principal point of conversation across the Croisette is not which A-list auteur just set the competition afire … but the rather more mundane topic of the weather."
His other observations: It's harder to get into films this year, the festival has been short on "truly buzz-worthy films," and surprises have been in sort supply. Surveying the Palme d'Or field, he sees "Amour" and "Rust and Bone" on top, though he hears the jury liked "The Hunt" and "Beyond the Hills."
For the remaining six days, Lodge concludes, he's looking for a few jolts, and some sunshine.