Connect with us


Cannes 2009: The Wrap-Up

With no run away, break out titles as in the previous years (Babel, Volver, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, NCFOM, Silent Light, The Class, Gomorrah, Synecdoche, New York, Waltz with Bashir) Cannes 2009 might not have been a bust, but it was disappointing to see so many mediocre films make it into the main comp.

With no run away, break out titles as in the previous years (Babel, Volver, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, NCFOM, Silent Light, The Class, Gomorrah, Synecdoche, New York, Waltz with Bashir) Cannes 2009 might not have been a bust, but it was disappointing to see so many mediocre films make it into the main comp, which could only signify that: Venice and TIFF might have vintage festival editions ahead (we’ll be in Toronto covering that festival). It would be unfair to totally dis the festival as there were plenty of other films worth mentioning. At the top of my list is Andrea Arnold’s second film, Fish Tank (which shared the 3rd place prize with Thirst). [Update: As an added bonus, check out the video feature (below) which was recorded with Alex Billington from We go over some of the highlights of the fest.]

Fish Tank features a delicious performance from a non-actor Katie Jarvis who was picked from obscurity (she was apparently in a heated, public argument with her boyfriend and I’m not sure if it is a casting agent or Arnold’s herself who saw staring role potential). There are some perhaps too many metaphors and extra twists in the ending but as I mentioned: “borrowing from the spirits and miserable life settings that afflicted her previous female characters in short film Wasp, and the voyeuristic Red Road, Arnold offers such a rich character portrayal featuring newbie actress who becomes the poster child for a maligned adolescence and just as difficult childhood”.

The second worthy mention of the festival (which also features a stunning debut performance) is Jacques Audiard‘s A Prophet. Almost equalling the brilliance of his previous two pictures (Read My Lips, The Beat that my Heart Skipped). A spontaneous knee-jerk reaction from the crowd made this prison drama the first official buzz title of the festival. Look for it to make waves in France and to perform well in other countries. Has I mentioned before, Tahar Rahim can kiss obscurity goodbye – we’ll be seeing have a lengthy career.

I was able to see a good chunk of the main comp titles, and among the better films in the competition we can look forward to Jane Campion‘s Bright Star, a beautifully directed rendering of an unemancipated love connection. Pedro Almodovar‘s Broken Embraces is solid Pedro, not up there with All About My Mother or Talk to Her, but a savory side-dish of melodrama with a pinch of noir. Ken Loach‘s comedy Looking for Eric works extremely well as both a comedy and drama, part of the charm is the duo featuring a known professional soccer player (Eric Cantona) and a mail carrier in turbulent times (Steve Evets). It wasn’t what I had expected and Paul Laverty’s screenplay works in all acts, it might be the reach and popularity of The Full Monty. The Palme d’or winning film from Michael Haneke is a strong effort and I think will work well outside the context of a film festival. I had mentioned that “it’s not the kids, but the adults who are lacking in moral fiber in The White Ribbon, a picture that is a departure for a director who would normally be a little bit more savage with his characters. Set in a small village where nothing goes unnoticed, this precursor to the WWI toils with the idea that the innocent are victim to iron hands.”

Inglorious BasterdsEnter the Void and Antichrist were the most talked about pictures before, during and most likely after Cannes. There might be some edits needed for Tarantino and Noe’s films (both films had qualities and faults), while Lars von Trier’s film is best left untouched — it is definitely out there as it embarks into some weird territory, but the horror drama is an item of sheer aesthetic beauty and Gainbourg’s perf is tour-de-force and will be referenced several decades from now as a pivotal point in her career as an actress.

Of the more interesting films from the Un Certain Regard section include a pair of Romanian films from filmmakers whose work I’ve appreciated in the past. Corneliu Porumboiu‘s award winning Politist, Adjectiv and Cristian Mungiu and co.’s Tales from the Golden Age. offer insightful, sometimes humorous looks into communist and post-communist realities of their country.

Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s Air Doll might not have received a specifically warm reception, but I enjoyed this fantasy, drama romance about a blow up doll who comes to life and ventures outside her home and her sexually starved owner. It’s bizarre — in a good way, and the lead actress does a great job at doing something you’d rarely see an actress do: in inflating herself. Mia Hansen-Love‘s second feature film (it picked up an award) Le Pere De Mes Enfants is a simple story that sadly details what happens when a father is at wits end and takes the most drastic of decisions. Its authentic, it has that Euro-flavored feel to it where you might forget you are watching actors playing characters because the narrative is naturalistic and void of the trappings of placing characters in anything put real situations.

The Director’s Fortnight sidebar might not have produced a grandiose hit film, but the section offer some pleasant discoveries in three first time filmmakers. Axelle Ropert‘s La Famille Wolberg offers a vivid portrait about a family being torn apart, Xavier Dolan‘s J’ai Tue Ma Mere shows the breaking point between mother and son, and Michael Franco‘s Daniel y Ana sees what happens when a pair of siblings violently torn apart. I would add Denis Villeneuve’s Polytechnique to the list (which I had already seen last February) of must sees.

That’s my quick recap on the pros of the 2009 edition. Stay tuned for a Top Ten list of the best film moments and a top ten of best new names to look out for. I’ll also be uploading long form reviews of the 33 films that I saw at the festival. Au revoir Cannes!

Continue Reading
You may also like...

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

Click to comment

More in Retro

To Top