Cannes 2012 Final Blog: Existentialism Reigns as We Reach the End
by Alex Billington
May 28, 2012
"This is the end... My only friend, the end." I couldn't get that Doors song out of my head the last few days in Cannes. This year I stuck it out to the end, living in France nearly 14 days before packing up and heading out. The 2012 Cannes Film Festival has finally come to an end, the awards have been announced, and everyone has caught their flight back to destinations around the world. Things always seem different at the end; I'm infamously the one who didn't like the Palme d'Or-winning Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild has a better chance at Oscar love, and Holy Motors seems to be a critical breakout. But what else happened?
As I reflect back on this year in Cannes, I have so many fond memories, and many amazing, unforgettable experiences come to mind. On the cinematic side of things, it was the existential selections that seemed to remain on my mind the most throughout the entire time. Existentialism in Cannes? It's not that shocking, considering they love choosing unique films from around the world, and a couple this year really stuck out. The first and foremost being Leos Carax's Holy Motors, which tackles numerous topics regarding life and acting, along with the question of: "Who really are we?" Is every part of our lives a performance? Were those interactions and discussions I had around the Croisette just an act, a kind of performance of my own?
Like with many film festivals, you begin to hear buzz as the fest goes on. Following the very first screening of Holy Motors last Tuesday (on May 22nd), which I initially skipped, the buzz was rather wild. I kept reading crazy tweets both positive and negative, saying things about how it's "balls-to-the-wall crazy, beautiful and unbelievably strange." Within a few days as the buzz got even thicker, there was no question - I had to see it as soon as I could. It took a few more days, but Eric from IONCinema and I sat down late at 10PM one night to see it. I walked out amazed, perplexed, and overjoyed that I saw one of the deservedly most-talked-about and creatively inquisitive films at Cannes. The visuals, inventiveness and performances in it are spectacular.
The other big existential film in Cannes this year was Carlos Reygadas' Post Tenebras Lux, which went on to win the Best Director award despite very negative reactions from many critics. I, on the other hand and having no experience with Reygadas before this, was utterly fascinated by it. Reygadas is a Mexican filmmaker (Japón, Battle in Heaven, Silent Light) who brought his newest surreal existential tale, Post Tenebras Lux (meaning "Light After Darkness" in Latin) to Cannes, dividing critics and eliciting many walk-outs. Something about it, the imagery and ideas regarding how a family man looks back at his life and death, were so utterly captivating, I had to go see it a second time. Which I did, just to get a second look.
That's what I really love about Cannes - getting completely lost in the world of (world) cinema, even if it's something I don't yet understand or require a second viewing to fully study. Yep, I honestly didn't like the new Michael Haneke movie and I'm not necessarily a fan of him as a director, but I also took huge risks with both Holy Motors and Post Tenebras Lux and found myself contemplating not only my own existence, but my own interests and critiques of cinema. Even if colleagues kept telling me they hated the movie and couldn't find anything redeeming to it, it didn't matter, it was about my own personal experience and my own journey as a film-lover and blogger. As I mentioned, it's about discovering great films, even if others don't like them.
My favorite film coming out of Cannes was Jeff Nichols' Mud, which was one of the last films I saw (a total of 24 screenings over 12 days). I loved quite a few others, including Jacques Audiard's Rust & Bone, Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love and Xavier Dolan's Laurence Anyways. Many of these will show up on indieWire's Criticwire poll, as well as all my individual grades, but as a final recap, I had to mention them one more time. You can also find all my Cannes photos on my Instagram stream (as @abillington).
Finally, as I head home myself, I must give one last special shout out to the people—my peers, colleagues and good friends—who truly make Cannes an incredible experience. It would not be the same without them. There would be no discussion, no laughter, no joy, no entertainment or happiness. All of that comes from these guys. A very big thank you to: my Cannes cohort/roommate Eric Lavallee from IONCinema.com, our friend/roommate Yama Rahimi, Brad Brevet of RopeofSilicon, Aurelien & Emma of CinemaTeaser, Kevin Jagernauth of The Playlist, Eric Vespe of Ain't It Cool News, Raffi Asdourian & Dan Mecca of The Film Stage, Eric D. Snider & Jeff Bayer of Movie B.S., James Rocchi of MSN.com, and Glenn Heath of Press Play. It's these guys who really make Cannes unforgettable every year. I already miss them.
Here's my current complete list of films that I've seen here at Cannes Film Festival so far. I've been ranking on indieWire's Criticwire as well, and updating photos/opinions via twitter @firstshowing as often as I could. To fully wrap up, here's all 24 of my screenings/reactions listed. Alex's Cannes 2012 films:
1. Moonrise Kingdom (dir. Wes Anderson) - Liked It
2. Rust & Bone (dir. Jacques Audiard) - Loved It
3. The We and the I (dir. Michel Gondry) - Hated It
4. Beasts of the Southern Wild (dir. Benh Zeitlin) - Loved It
5. Laurence Anyways (dir. Xavier Dolan) - Loved It
6. Lawless (dir. John Hillcoat) - Loved It
7. Antiviral (dir. Brandon Cronenberg) - Liked It
8. The Hunt (dir. Thomas Vinterberg) - Hated It
9. Amour (dir. Michael Haneke) - Hated It
10. Like Someone in Love (dir. Abbas Kiarostami) - Loved It
11. Room 237 (dir. Rodney Ascher) - Loved It
12. No (dir. Pablo Larraín) - Liked It
13. Killing Them Softly (dir. Andrew Dominik) - Liked It
14. On the Road (dir. Walter Salles) - Just Okay
15. Sightseers (dir. Ben Wheatley) - Liked It
16. Post Tenebras Lux (dir. Carlos Reygadas) - Liked It
17. The Paperboy (dir. Lee Daniels) - Hated It
18. King of Pigs (dir. Yeon Sang-ho) - Just Okay
19. Cosmopolis (dir. David Cronenberg) - Just Okay
20. Post Tenebras Lux (dir. Carlos Reygadas) - Loved It
21. Holy Motors (dir. Leos Carax) - Loved It
22. Mud (dir. Jeff Nichols) - Loved It
23. Gimme the Loot (dir. Adam Leon) - Hated It
24. Maniac (dir. Franck Khalfoun) - Just Okay