The real winner of the Cannes Film Festival….
Yes, of course, the jury awarded the Palme d’Or to Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake — a warm and touching drama about two unemployed souls facing an unfeeling government bureaucracy. It was the second Palme d’Or for Loach (he previously won for his Irish drama The Wind That Shakes the Barley).
But the truly big winner was none other than Kristen Stewart. She was everywhere. She stayed for most of the festival. She stars in Woody Allen’s Café Society, which was the opening night film at Cannes, and in Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper, for which Assayas shared the prize for Best Director. It’s a pretentious and boring film set in the Parisian fashion world; Stewart plays Maureen, who shops for a wealthy woman, but she is also a medium trying to communicate with her dead twin brother.
The film was greeted with a mixture of boos and applause at Cannes, but no matter. Stewart was everywhere, wearing Balenciaga and Chanel, giving interviews, a subject of constant conversation. She (and her very smart publicity team) used Cannes to position her as a global star. Stewart is no Romy Schneider — there is not much that is soft about her or even romantic. In interviews, she comes off as somewhat crass. But if I had a celebrity meter and tested her before and after, her approval rating would have shot way high.
Sandra Hüller in Toni Erdmann.
It was the year of the actress…
Kering, the fashion conglomerate that owns Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and other brands, staged a private event at Cannes which reunited Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon on the anniversary of Thelma & Louise.
But, undoubtedly, this was the year of the actress, not of the director. There were really great performances from Ruth Negga in Jeff Nichols’ interracial romance, Loving; from Sandra Hüller in the German comedy which was pretty much everyone’s favorite film, Toni Erdmann; from the Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, in Asghar Farhadi’s film The Salesman; from Riley Keough in Andrea Arnold’s film American Honey. Keough is the real-life granddaughter of Elvis Presley.
In Toni Erdmann, Hüller pulls off a hilarious naked party scene toward the end of the film which begins with something many women recognize: being under great pressure to get dressed when the zipper gets stuck. I don’t want to give the comic setup away — the film will open in the U.S. later this year — but let’s just say that she handles it in a very creative and gutsy way.
The late Nellie.
Yet, the truly memorable performance for me was by the late Nellie…
Nellie was a British Bulldog. I say, “was,” because she passed away two months after finishing filming Jim Jarmusch’s wonderful little treasure of a film Paterson. Set in Paterson, New Jersey, it’s a film about poetry and the everyday. Paterson, who is also the main character, is a bus driver who writes poetry on the side, and who is in a loving and supportive relationship with his wife, played by the beautiful Golshifteh Farahani. Each day is a routine like another, until Marvin, their dog, gets mad for being left behind. Spoiler alert: The film has a wonderful, moving and funny resolution. How many films have you seen recently that made you feel really good about the characters?
Nellie as Marvin.
An unofficial Cannes Jury which has awarded the Palm Dog Award since 2001 to the best performance in a film at Cannes by a dog, live or animated, gave the award to Nellie, who plays Marvin in the film. It was a shoo-in. S/he is by turns cute and adorable, stubborn, strong, independent, a mischief-maker, and a dog with a conscience. Jarmusch said he was happy to have directed the first transgender dog performance in a film.
There was a lot of talk before the festival about the fact that this was the first Cannes after the attacks in Paris. The festival hired an Israeli security expert, who told them an attack might come from the sea. The harbor was therefore monitored, with the only disruption being the Sam Simon, an anti-poaching vessel owned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which staged a press conference at Cannes (guests included Pamela Anderson) protesting the nearby Marineland at Antibes, where a number of orca whales have died.
The real security scare happened at the posh Hôtel du Cap…
Until recently, the Hôtel du Cap at Cap d’Antibes, where many of the big stars stay, accepted no credit cards. (With the proposed elimination of the $500 euro note and Hôtel du Cap rates, this might have to account for additional baggage for cash-paying guests.) Sitting at breakfast on the hotel terrace, guests were freaked out by a speedboat rapidly approaching the hotel, whizzing past the moored yachts of Roman Abramovich, Ronald Perelman and Steven Spielberg. Six men in military clothing, and a black flag flying — what was one to think except that ISIS was on the attack?
There was panic and screams, though hotel security arrived quickly. It turns out the faux attack was a publicity stunt for Oraxy, a Paris-based website which describes itself as “the world’s first private global marketplace reserved exclusively for UHNWI.” If you don’t know what that stands for, check your assets (ultra high net worth individuals). The French National Police said, “It was not a terrorist attack. It was a communication effort and publicity for an internet site.” A hotel spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter that it was “just a bad joke … a really bad one.”
Sean Penn could have used a joke…even a bad one…
At last year’s festival, Sean Penn and Charlize Theron seemed to be in love. Then they had an argument. He tried to call and sent flowers to apologize. She did not respond. Now they had a movie they made together — The Last Face — in the Cannes competition. There was speculation over whether they would show up. Penn’s publicists talking to Theron’s publicists — you get the picture. They did show up, though they walked up the red carpet separately.
They might have just as well stayed home. The press screening I attended was met by unintentional laughter throughout and boos at the end. When, 2 hours and 15 interminable minutes later, the movie was finally over, Manohla Dargis, the film critic for The New York Times whom I sat next to, turned and with a lot of breath in her voice said, “Wow!”
Set in war-torn Africa (Liberia, South Sudan?), Theron is a doctor heading a medical relief organization, having an affair with dedicated surgeon, played by Javier Bardem. Ponderous, pretentious, filled with clichés and accused of racism (white people saving the bleeding dark people who are killing each other), it is filled with lines of dialogue which no actor in the world could possibly pull off. Consider this explanation of the meaning of romance from supporting cast member Jean Reno: “It is not grabbing. It is loving.”
Enough said. A bientôt à Cannes? Sur la Croisette? Next year?