Cannes Update: I'm Struggling to Find Great Films - But Why?
by Alex Billington
May 19, 2010
As you may have noticed, my coverage of the Cannes Film Festival this year has not been up to par with other festivals or even my coverage of last year's Cannes. It's not that I haven't had the time to do as much coverage, per se, but as the fest goes on I'm starting to feel like it has to do with my lack of excitement, lack of interest, and lack of enthusiasm for this year's line-up. I'm struggling to find great films beyond the ones I've expected to like and I'm not sure whether to say that it's a bad year for films or whether it's the line-up Cannes chose. I'm leaning towards the latter, but I know I'll get crap for saying that, even if it's my opinion.
I'm may be putting my critical reputation on the line by being as honest as I possibly can be about this year's Cannes Film Festival, but so be it. By now I've only seen about 15 films, which is about half as many as Eric Lavallee from IONCinema.com has seen at this point, but that's because I know my tastes and interests very well (and I'm just not even remotely interested in most of the films playing). And even the films that I try to open myself up to, like Mike Leigh's Another Year, I've ended up disliking. In fact, I hated Mike Leigh's film, and that's ironically the film that is getting the most positive praise from "professional" critics. Obviously my tastes in cinema differ than most of the critics here, but there's nothing wrong with that, that's just me.
The odd thing is that I loved last year's Cannes Film Festival, through and through. I saw some films I really didn't like (I hated Giorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth), but I was able to watch some fantastic films, and not just Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, but films like Jacques Audiard's Un Prophete and Heitor Dhalia's Adrift. I think the problem with this year's line-up is that there aren't as many films that particularly stand out as huge discoveries like those two. I've seen some great film this year, like Alejandro González Iñárritu's Biutiful, but where are the other wonderful discoveries? I'm struggling to find more great stand out films.
I've had long talks with Eric and other friends in Cannes about the line-up, and most seem to agree that it's not a great year, even if they say they've loved more films than I have so far (there still are four more days left). The biggest criticism I've received is that I haven't seen enough films (that might be good). I'm trying to see as many more as I can by the end of the festival, but besides the few I'm looking forward to, I've just lost my enthusiasm for the films that are here, especially because I feel like the line-up in particular is pretty bad. As in, I know that I'm not going to like most of the foreign films that they chose, and the question still remains: Who is to blame? Was it just the kind of films there were ready by Cannes, or was it the selection?
I really don't have an answer to those questions because it's on-going endless debate, and some will say that it's just me, while others will agree. Everyone has their own tastes and it seems as if mine differ from most at the fest. Cannes is known as a festival for auteurs, which I don't have anything against and it's obvious that I've discovered and loved great films from great auteurs (Audiard, Iñárritu, Tarantino), but this year's pick of auteurs just doesn't seem to be up to the level I usually expect from Cannes (even the average grades on criticWIRE are C's and B's). Other critics may like the films, but I feel like they could've chosen some other better films. I don't know what they could've been, but I just feel like this year's selection was disappointing.
Anyway, I guess I'm trying to come up with an excuse for the lack of coverage this year, and there really isn't one besides the fact that there's something about this Cannes that just feels like a huge let down. I love the festival and I love being here, I truly do, and I'm glad that I have at least seen a few good films (Les Amours Imaginaires, Outrage, Biutiful) but it's just not my year here. I'm already looking forward to the Telluride and Toronto Film Festival line-ups, as they'll likely show the films that I wanted to see here, but didn't show up. So until then, I'll do my best to finish these last few days and bring you as much coverage as I can!