When surveilling the postscript and how the Pedro led jury handed out the awards, the consensus is: job well done. However, while we were packing our bags and feel generally happy about a certain feminist stance, a balanced importance paid to film as art and film as a message, we can;t help but feel that there is one filmmaker who might have been one of the more convincing voices when the jury was in lock down mode. The adage “more is better” was certainly the case for the overwhelming favorite film of Cannes in 2016, but the tone deaf jury snubbed Toni Erdmann. Whether Maren Ade was a more outspoken member when Palme talked bubble up will matter of factly be under lock and key until we are old and grey, but we can advance the theory that on May 28th of 2017, cinema won. More specifically, originality, prowess behind the camera and non confined ideas when exploring multiple narratives and themes was championed.
In essence, 2017 was a year where a filmmaker’s film would be victor. This certainly rings true for Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here (which nonetheless managed to pick up a pair of awards and was my highlight of the fest) and if it hadn’t been placed dead last in the heap, it might have taken top honors (the female supporting character is the true definition of female empowerment but that could have easily been lost in the bludgeoned mayhem that ensues). I think we collectively feel good that: a. Sofia Coppola won Best Director (with a good film that is slightly better than The Bling Ring) and b. the important message film (120 Beats Per Minute) of the fest didn’t have an I, Daniel Blake crowning moment. The deliberations for the Palme d’Or was a nod to “difficult” films, not of the esoteric Uncle Boonmee kind, but a possible added critique to the diminished attention span age of Youtube clips sort era. No strangers to the long form or risk factor, Paolo Sorrentino and Park Chan-wook certainly backed the concept, but who better to underline length is just as important as girth than the producer of three part volume: Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights. Ruben Ostlund’s The Square was a dozen minutes or so shy of the 160 plus minute runtime mark for Ade’s third feature.
On paper, the 2017 Cannes Film Festival (with at least a quarter of the total nineteen comp offerings) had the makings of a vintage year, but most would agree, it fell short. There was a nagging sense that a couple of the less remarkable titles that fell well below the gold standard of the comp could have easily been replaced by established auteurs found in the sidebars (specifically Claire Denis’ Let The Sunshine In) or that the new generation of first time filmmakers (Kantemir Balagov’s Closeness programmed in the UCR) could have joined the likes of Ruben Ostlund and Robin Campillo.
In off years, the programmers need to be more risk friendly programming wise. This appears to be already less of a necessity for next year’s batch as master filmmakers readying their productions for current summer shots. While I didn’t have the chance to unearth more than a dozen items in the sidebars, when asked, I tell folks it was a good year, not a great year for Cannes.
Joining Nicholas Bell’s assessment, my top 10 films of the 2017 edition also include the Safdie’s (they break a tie with other 3-star film items) and great works from the auteur set in Zvyagintsev, Haneke and Ostlund. Sean Baker would have been the best film I saw from the Quinzaine line-up, but a last minute viewing of a Claire Denis confirmed that she is much maligned on the Croisette (2013’s Bastards also deserved Comp consideration instead of UCR line-up demotion).
The real surprise for me comes in Michel Franco’s ability to renew my interest and convey dread in fascinating dysfunctional family/character portraits. As with all good fests, a sense of renewal in new talent was assuredly witnessed in Kantemir Balagov’s debut – a powerful miserablist catch-22 film with a strong recent historical context. A Naomi Kawase in top form proved Fremeux right and this film critic wrong. I’m going against the critic grain here, but the poetically rendered rom drama and film within a film in Radiance once again made me a believer in the Japanese filmmaker’s sensibilities and filmmaking abilities, but the true highlight was Lynne Ramsay’s fourth feature. Amazon gave her free reign, the festival allowed her to submit even while it was still in progress (and by her own account there are still touch-ups), but You Were Never Really Here is the raison d’etre for coming to Cannes. This is a masterwork. Here is my top 10 from Cannes 2017.
#10. Good Time – Safdie Bros.
#9. Radiance – Naomi Kawase
#8. April’s Daughter – Michel Franco
#7. Loveless – Andrei Zvyagintsev
#6. The Florida Project – Sean Baker
#5. Happy End – Michael Haneke
#4. The Square – Ruben Ostlund
#3. Closeness – Kantemir Balagov
#2. Let The Sunshine In – Claire Denis
#1. You Were Never Really Here – Lynne Ramsay