Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cannes 1995: Jury Awards

First off, I want to thank everybody who followed this feature, and for making the five of us feel that we weren't shouting into a total void, or throwing a party to which we hadn't invited anybody else.  Comment sections were pretty quiet, but murmurs over Twitter and elsewhere indicated there was an audience for our nuttiness.  We hope you'll dig up some of these films if you haven't already, whether to share or challenge our enthusiasm, or to mirror or refute our distaste or indifference.  As for "we" and "us," I couldn't possibly be more grateful to Ivan, Tim, Alex, and Amir for cramming so many movies into a month and producing such thoughtful and zippy reflections on them, at a time when all five of us had plenty else going on.  I woke up every morning excited for what they'd have to say, and they never disappointed.  You can use the "Cannes 1995" label at the bottom of this post or head over here to remind yourself of all their pearls of wisdom.

Tim and I were the last two people to leave the hotel room; we also kept the craziest schedules, heading out earliest and coming latest, to see the most sidebar entries.  Over our final breakfast in our beachfront hotel (yes this is all made up what of it this was our best shot at a mental vacation shhhh) we swapped cocktail serviettes with our Top 10s on them.

Nick's: 1) Safe, 2) Underground, 3) Georgia, 4) Nasty Love, 5) L'Enfant noir, 6) The White Balloon, 7) Good Men, Good Women, 8) The Arsonist, 9) The Neon Bible, 10) Ed Wood

Tim's: 1) Dead Man, 2) Safe, 3) Ed Wood, 4) Underground, 5) Hello Cinema, 6) Good Men, Good Women, 7) Lisbon Story, 8) The Arsonist, 9) Nasty Love, 10) Georgia

That lets you know where at least two of us started as we entered deep sequester with our fellow jurors. As for determining prize-winners among all five of us, I would say there was pretty speedy agreement about many of these choices, even though at least half of them involved some haggling—whether about levels of achievement within each category or about distribution of prizes across the slate.  The closest calls had to do with the Palme vs. the Grand Jury Prize, which probably divides a lot of juries, and with the exact criteria for the Jury Prize, which I'm not sure we're giving to our third-place film, but certainly to a film that impressed us from multiple angles and didn't seem to come out on top in any one area.  So let that be a lesson to you kids out there making assumptions about what Jury Prizes, or any Cannes prize, or any juried film award, necessarily implies about the conversation behind it.

I'll be announcing our selections over my Twitter feed over the next couple of hours, and will later group all the news here.  Meanwhile, we'd love to hear your choices or other Cannes '95-related thoughts in the Comments section ... and stay tuned for one more Roundtable still to come (following this one and this one, both of which taught me a lot), plus some late-breaking discussions with film scholars and other experts who can unpack some of our recent viewing from more specialized perspectives.  So, the awards aren't the end, but the beginning of the end.  And they are...

Palme d'or: Underground
(also won the same prize at the actual 1995 Cannes Film Festival)
Extravagantly assembled and hauntingly carnivalesque.  Two jurors apiece felt strongly that Underground or Dead Man was the best of the festival by a significant margin. The fifth juror got called in as a tiebreaker. Controversies over the movie's political framing of the Balkan framing were not absent from our deliberations, but we also noted the movie's contextualizing of all historiography as a series of addled, self-interested, and desperately maintained victors' narratives, as well as admiring its ambitious construction and remarkable brio.

Grand Jury Prize: Dead Man
(originally awarded to Ulysses' Gaze)
In addition to the vehement support Dead Man attracted for the Palme, the cinematography by Robby Müller and production design by Bob Ziembicki were the consensus choice for a Technical Grand Prize we wound up not giving—both because the film wound up claiming such a higher award and because no other film seemed worthy of claiming that title in Dead Man's stead, notwithstanding scattered support for various elements of Sharaku, The Neon Bible, and the Moreau jury's choice, Shanghai Triad.

Best Director: Hou Hsaio-hsien, Good Men, Good Women
(originally awarded to Mathieu Kassovitz, La Haine)
Not everyone on the jury relished Good Men, Good Women or feels particularly susceptible to his trademark style of deliberate framings and long, slow takes. But the film's fans rated its direction as with even greater ardor than the film as a whole; with only Jarmusch and Kusturica drawing comparable enthusiasm in this area, Hou was the obvious choice.

Jury Prize: Nasty Love
(originally awarded to Don't Forget You're Going to Die)
For a while it appeared Ed Wood had this in the bag, and Nasty Love might pull down the screenplay citation. But a number of factors flipped that already-tenuous script: Nasty Love drew substantial support in all categories, without coming out tops in any; another contender made a bullish case for the screenplay citation; Ed Wood elicited more admiration than passion; and Nasty Love had the momentum of feeling like our "discovery" in the Competition. The last juror to see it turned out to be a big fan—rating it higher, perhaps, than any of the other prize designees—so this seemed like the due recognition. Burton's film will have to clutch its two Oscars and cry into the octopus tank.

Best Actress: Kristin Scott Thomas, Angels and Insects
(originally awarded to Helen Mirren, The Madness of King George)
An early favorite who never got supplanted, despite substantial praise for Anna Bonaiuto in Nasty Love, Annie Shizuka Inoh in Good Men, Good Women, and Gena Rowlands in The Neon Bible. Carrington's Emma Thompson and Shanghai Triad's Gong Li also factored into the conversation, albeit in a slightly lower frequency. Nobody even listed Mirren among their top five choices in this category; it remains, easily, the biggest head-scratcher among the original jury's choices...

Best Actor: Jonathan Pryce, Carrington
(also won the same prize at the actual 1995 Cannes Film Festival)
...whereas this one was the most quickly and emphatically co-signed. Only Ed Wood's Martin Landau put up any real fight for second place, with vigorous but surprisingly isolated voices stumping for Mark Rylance and Nigel Hawthorne. Pryce got first place on three of the first four ballots in our straw poll, and that was pretty much all (s)he wrote.

Best Screenplay: Jim Allen, Land and Freedom
(not awarded at the actual 1995 Cannes Film Festival)
My guess is that the "unanimous" Special Jury Prize that Jeanne Moreau's jury conveyed upon Christopher Hampton's Carrington started as a Screenplay award and grew to honor his directing and general stewardship of the project.  We could have doubled up on Carrington endorsements as they did. But even beyond its artful parsing of anti-Franco politics and its remarkable ear for intramural dissent among activists and radicals—and setting aside its iffy frame-story and flirtations with cliché—the script for Ken Loach's Spanish Civil War drama galvanized all of us.  Indeed, the film as a whole was a favorite among most of the group, without quite rising to Palme-level endorsement.

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Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

i've always been weirded out by the Madness of King George love for Helen Mirren, too. and HEARTILY support the KST win. she's marvelous in Angels & Insects (as is the movie in its entirety basically.... at least from my thin memory).

despite my reservations about King George I preferred Hawthornes work to Pryce's so your jury is alas not perfect without me ;)

9:12 AM, May 29, 2015  
Anonymous BVR said...

Loved this series, but I didn't comment mostly because I have not seen many of the foreign movies (so I don't have an opinion). Still, I'm surprised that Julianne Moore wasn't even mentioned in the Best Actress blurb. She easily takes my Best Actress prize, even with tremendous work from Rowlands, Scott Thomas, Jason Leigh, and Thompson. Moore's best performance ever, and that's saying something.

8:08 PM, May 29, 2015  

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