Ten films unveiled at The Cannes film festival 2011

The Hollywood glitterati descended on the sun soaked French Riviera for the annual cinematic circus that is the Cannes film festival this month. Cannes biggest clown this year proved to be Lars Von Trier. He enjoys courting controversy to lift the profile of his minimalistic and downbeat films, but his ill-conceived comments – he suggested he was a Nazi sympathizer – spectacularly back-fired when he was removed from the festival, leaving Kirsten Dunst to answer questions about Von Trier’s new film Melancholia.

Dunst won the best actress award at Cannes for her performance in Trier’s existential film, about two sisters’ changing relationship in the wake of a potential disaster set to bring about the demise of the planet.

Festival openers:

Fittingly, Woody Allen opened the French premier film festival with a showing of his latest romantic comedy the French themed Midnight in Paris.  Numerous future films were unveiled at Cannes and some, highly anticipated films, by high profile directors were screened. Like Von Trier, the ever elusive Terrence Mallick was absent from the festival, but his exile was self imposed rather than forced; he left the films key actor Brad Pitt to receive questions about his latest contemplative opus: The Tree of life, an intriguing character driven, cerebral drama about the loss of innocence. There was feverish anticipation surrounding the film, which apparently resulted in quite an aggressive ruckus outside the screen. It was booed at the start of the festival, but a Jury – chaired by Robert De Niro – turned the fortunes of Mallick’s latest opus around by bestowing it with the Palme Dor – the festival’s prestigious top award. It is the first American film to win the Palme Dor since the inexplicable win for Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11in 2004. Non Cannes visitors will have to wait until mid June to see whether Mallick’s fifth film was a worthy Palme Dor recipient.

Future films prominent at Cannes. 

Ryan Gosling was outstanding in the very poignant My blue Valentine recently; his latest performance is allegedly yet more evidence for his acting pedigree. He plays a Hollywood stuntman whose life is threatened by something other than daring stunts in the crime thriller Drive. The Danish director, Nicolas Winding Refn, received the Jury’s best director award.

Another Cannes favourite in competition this year was The Artist. A character study of a charismatic silent movie actor coming to terms with the advent of talkies. It sounds a little like a tragic version of Singin’ in the rain. It might be a revealing insight into the mind-set of actors fearing they are soon to be made obsolete. Pure speculation this, but in a time where jobs are rapidly disappearing, this sounds like a pitch that could strike a chord and become a big sleeper hit.

One film obviously not in competition – is Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides.

The underwhelming reaction to the Pirates of the Caribbean screening has sent critics sending out verbal blows to sink the ubiquitous marketing campaign for Johnny Depp’s fourth outing as Captain Jack Sparrow. Personally, I’ve never been on board with this over-rated and badly plotted franchise but I was prepared to give it another chance since they made the planks walk – i.e. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly were not involved – and the excellent Ian Mcshane had been cast as a much needed fearsome villain in Blackbeard, but it seems the tide has turned on the Pirates franchise and this one too is indeed deadwood.

This year’s Cannes film festival will also see the return of Cannes favourite Gus Van Sant. Gus Van Sant won the Palm Dor for Elephant a few years back. His latest film Restless is showing in Cannes albeit out of competition. The film about a young girl coming to terms with cancer gained column inches as the film was screened.

The first 3-D film to make it into the competition will be screened at Cannes. The big surprise is that it isn’t from Hollywood and instead hails from Japan, and get this, it is a film about Samurai honour and revenge entitled Death of a Samurai. The film has been feverishly endorsed by the ultra twisted director of Ichhi the killer Takeshi Miike, so the suggestion is the 3-D will create the illusion of copious amounts of blood in the audiences laps. I’m always scathing towards 3-D but I am intrigued to see what the Japanese can do with it.

In competition this year are four female directors. Lynne Ramsay is a director who gravities to hard-hitting drama as anyone who has seen The Ratcatcher will testify. Her latest film, We need to talk about Kevin, looks to use hard hitting material – as it is about a family coming to terms with the killing spree of their young son – to dissect a fractured marriage. The film features performances by the always excellent Tilda Swinton and the reliable John C Reily. The other three female directors and their films are as follows: Australian director Julia Leigh’s “Sleeping Beauty” intriguingly billed on IMDB as ‘a haunting erotic fairytale about a student drawn into a world of mystery and desire’; French director Maiwenn’s “Polisse”; and Japanese director Naomi Kawase’s “Hanezu No Tsuki are the other two films by female directors.”

Mel Gibson is a troubled soul; so his latest film The beaver has cathartic experience written all over it. Gibson plays a similarly kindred troubled soul who, has some sort of bizarre psychological episode which prompts him to adopt a beaver puppet as his main means of communication, Mr Garrison from South park style. You couldn’t make this stuff up as no one would believe such a script, but as it is based on a true story it gains some credence. It seems like a quirky bitter-sweet comedy drama in the mould of Lars and the real girl, the prospect of seeing Mel Gibson explore his off screen melancholy and darkness on screen is promising. Jodie Foster directs.

Spanish director and writer Pedro Almodovar is a film maker who usually writes strong female characters in intelligently written dramas. His latest film sees the Spanish director make a radical departure as he turns his hand to horror with the creepily titled The skin I live in. Now when the Spanish turn their hand to horror, great things usually happen, see the ultra creepy Rec and The Orphanage for evidence. The film is a revenge tale about a plastic surgeon hunting the men who raped his daughter. Almodovar can do great female characters so I’m sure he will use the story to make some insightful statement about women. We will see.

The majoirty of the films  shown at Cannes will get release dates in the next couple of months.

Written by @filmfelladarren

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About Filmfella Darren
Film critic, writer and long-time cinema appreciator. I write about cinema matters, because cinema matters. Like your clothes and your laptops, my articles were made in Taiwan.

One Response to Ten films unveiled at The Cannes film festival 2011

  1. Geordie says:

    I probably would have been more receptive to “The Beaver” if it had a different name. That’s just too easy to make jokes about – like this one:


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