CANNES FILM FESTIVAL May 11-22, Cannes, France. Rating: NNNNN
Cannes - this is the power of Cannes: when the festival logo comes up onscreen in the Lumiere cinema just before a movie begins, people snap photos. Of the logo. People also take photos of themselves posing on the red carpet or dwarfed by the beige hulk of the Palais or touching something with "Cannes" on it. And these aren't just tourists. The slightest Cannes detail can arouse devotion in the most hardened industry veteran. It's beyond branding. It's religion.
And so we can consider the Dardenne brothers to be officially beatified. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne picked up their second Palme d'Or here on Saturday, for The Child , another lacerating, close-up look at life in what must be the bleakest city in Belgium. They won six years ago for Rosetta.
This time the Dardennes follow two marginal kids trying to cope with their newborn baby, but the technique is familiar. There are no music cues, no establishing shots, no moments to pull you back from what's happening to the people onscreen - or moments to push you artificially closer either. The camera alone measures the emotional distance between you and the characters. The discipline is impressive, especially since the technique insists on withholding judgment.
Few directors have two Palmes d'Or. Jury president Emir Kusturica is one of them, which is why the Dardennes weren't expected to win. Bitchy Croisette gossip said Kusturica would never let another director match the pair of Palmes he won for When Father Was Away On Business and Underground.
All week critical consensus had picked Michael Haneke 's Hidden to win, but it took the best-director prize instead. David Cronenberg , whose A History Of Violence was also highly touted, at least among North Americans and Viggo Mortensen fans, went home prizeless.
The second-place Grand Prize went to Jim Jarmusch 's Broken Flowers , and the third-place Jury Prize to Wang Xiaoshuai 's Shanghai Dreams .
If you picked your way through the Competition, you could draw out a theme of irresponsible fathers heading for a reckoning. In The Child, a petty crook sells his newborn son. In both Jarmusch's Broken Flowers and Wim Wenders 's Don't Come Knocking , an aged lothario goes looking for the child he never knew he had. In Cronenberg's film, a father transmits a viral taste for violence to his teenage son.
It's good sport picking themes from dozens of disparate movies, but of course it's no more reliable than spotting Picasso's Guernica in a passing cloud formation.
Better to let the fragments of meaning rest. I loved hearing Jarmusch use Ethiopian jazz from the early 70s as the musical motor for Broken Flowers, for instance, and there may be a connection to the Louis Prima tracks in Atom Egoyan 's Where The Truth Lies . But let it rest.
And David Bowie 's Young Americans backs the best (and final) five minutes in Lars von Trier 's Manderlay , which could open a portal to Marock , the super-pleasurable teen angst debut from Moroccan filmmaker Laïla Marrakchi . Marock deploys Bowie's Rock 'N' Roll Suicide for both its melancholy and its euphoria. But let that rest, too.
In the end, Cannes was a jumble of gunplay, war guilt, ice cream, blow jobs, lobsters and Scarlett Johansson playing ping pong. You figure it out.
The full daily chronicle is online at www.nowtoronto.com/minisites/cannes/2005 .
PALME D'OR FOR BEST FILM
The Child , Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium
Broken Flowers , Jim Jarmusch
Shanghai Dreams , Wang Xiaoshuai
Michael Haneke , Hidden
BEST MALE PERFORMANCE
Tommy Lee Jones , The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada, directed by Jones
BEST FEMALE PERFORMANCE
Hanna Laslo , Free Zone, directed by Amos Gitai
CAMERA D'OR FOR BEST FIRST FILM
Shared by The Forsaken Land , by Vimukthi Jayasundara, Sri Lanka, and Me And You And Everyone We Know , by Miranda July, USA