Monday, May 27, 2013

Cannes 2013 Day 12

French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche poses on stage with French actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos (left) and  Léa Seydoux 

Léa Seydoux, Abdellatif Kechiche, and Adèle Exarchopoulos

Bérénice Bejo

Frédérique Bel

Uma Thurman

Closing ceremony from The Guardian: 

Cannes awards ceremony from The Hollywood Reporter: 

A French site that lists daily galleries of red carpet photos, by date, offering regular or giant sized photos: 

Another large gallery of photos:  
People magazine hits the Cannes red carpet:,,20700799,00.html 

20 Marie Claire Cannes photos:   
Cannes 2013: The Film Festival In 20 Instagram Photos | Marie Claire 

Mike Oleszczyk interviews American director James Gray from the Ebert blog: 

Ben Kenigsberg interviews Cannes Best Actor Bruce Dern from the Ebert blog:

candid photos from our men on the street, Robbie Miller and George the Cyclist, who has his own cycling blog (

Agnès Varda 

Claire Denis at the premiere of Bastards

 Léa Seydoux

Marcel Ophuls    

Roman Polanski and Adrien Brody

Jury press conference watched on big screen television

Spielberg's yacht

Cannes as a Spielberg movie

Todd McCarthy analyzes the awards from The Hollywood Reporter:

CANNES -- Did Steven Spielberg actually dig the lesbian love story? Was Bruce Dern really better than Michael Douglas? What jury members pressed for the ultra-violent Mexican film that no one wanted to think about after it showed on the first day? Was Berenice Bejo really better than Marion Cotillard, who was initially supposed to play her role in The Past? What was presenter Asia Argento on? Was that Agnes Varda’s real hair or a hat?

These were some of the questions people wanted answers to after the awards were presented Sunday night to conclude the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Whether it had won or not, this was already destined to be the year of Blue Is the Warmest Color, given how everyone had to see it just for the unprecedented and protracted realistic sex scenes between Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux in Abdellatif Kechiche’s close-up, three-hour portrait of a female love affair. (Read THR's review here.)

The awards are almost always a strangely stiff, awkward affair, basically conducted in two languages, French and English, and with frequent TV cutaways to unsuspecting audience members caught disdaining or ignoring what’s being said onstage.

This year’s presentation, hosted by a sometimes odd but faintly amusing Audrey Tautou, was particularly snappy. This wasn’t thought of as a particularly Asian-dominated festival, but Asians came on strong at the outset, winning the Cinefondation award and the Camera d’Or for best first film in any category, as well as Jia Zhangke’s screenplay award for A Touch of Sin and the Prix du Jury to Kore-eda Hirokazu for the generally appreciated Like Father, Like Son.

When director Amat Escalante was brought up to accept the directing prize, the first words out of his mouth were, “I wasn’t expecting this.” No one in the audience disagreed with him, as this sometimes unwatchably violent film about contemporary Mexico was not something anyone considered in the mix for awards.

The big standing ovation of the evening went to Kim Novak, who was at the festival to appear with the restored version of Vertigo, which last year was rated best film of all time in the once-a-decade Sight & Sound magazine poll.  The star seemed genuinely pleased to be here, as did Inside Llewyn Davis leading man Oscar Isaac when he accepted the Grand Prix from her on behalf of the Coen brothers, who had already returned to the United States.

It was tears and cheers and hugs all around when Spielberg finally announced the Palme d’Or for Blue Is the Warmest Color, with the two stars and director all announced as winners of the prize. This is the second year in a row that the Palme has gone to a French film directed by a foreigner — Austrian Michael Haneke won last year for Amour and Kechiche is Tunisian. The director responded onstage very slowly and seriously while the actresses just gushed, and the win certainly confirmed Blue as the hot film of the moment, no matter the misgivings numerous critics have about it for reasons ranging from length and lack of artistic discipline to feminist issues. Spielberg’s jury made it official: It’s the film of the year so far, not just sexually but artistically.

Excerpts from Justin Chang at Cannes from Variety:

CANNES — “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” Abdellatif Kechiche’s sweeping and sexually explicit drama about a French teenage girl’s love affair with another woman, received the Palme d’Or at the 66th annual Cannes Film Festival on Sunday night. In a history-making decision, the Steven Spielberg-led jury opted not only to give the first Palme d’Or to a gay romantic drama, but to present the accolade jointly to three artists: Tunisian-born director Abdellatif Kechiche and French actresses Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux.

With its 175-minute running time (the longest of any film in competition) and graphic lesbian sex scenes, “Blue Is the Warmest Color” dominated festival conversation following its first press screenings on Wednesday night and was swiftly acquired for Stateside distribution by IFC’s Sundance Selects. Still, audiences at the Palais des Festivals were held in some suspense until the final moments of the ceremony, as Exarchopoulos’ presence had led many to assume she had won the actress prize, which would have technically prevented “Blue” from also winning the Palme...

At a press conference following the ceremony, Spielberg described Kechiche’s film as “a great love story that made all of us feel privileged to be a fly on the wall, to see this story of deep love and deep heartbreak evolve from the beginning. The director didn’t put any constraints on the narrative. He let the scenes play in real life, and we were absolutely spellbound.”

While the presentation of international cinema’s highest honor to this particular film struck a topical note at a time when the gay-marriage debate continues to rage (France just legalized gay marriage last week), Spielberg rejected the idea that politics had influenced the jury’s decision. “As you know, the characters in this film do not get married,” he said. “Politics were never in the room with us.” He also said that the decision to honor thesps Exarchopoulos and Seydoux alongside Kechiche was essential, noting that, “If the casting had been even 3% wrong, it wouldn’t have worked in the same way. All of us felt we needed to invite all three artists to the stage together.”

Spielberg added that while he expected the film to play well in the U.S., “I’m not sure it will be allowed to play in every state.”

The jury presented a united front backstage, as Spielberg noted that there had been no behind-the-scenes drama, and that he and his fellow jurors were able to come to a consensus on “at least three of the incredibly important choices.” Juror Nicole Kidman noted that, given their hectic schedule, she asked her jurors to see certain films more than once. In addition to Spielberg and Kidman, the jury included directors Ang Lee, Cristian Mungiu, Lynne Ramsay and Naomi Kawase, and actors Christoph Waltz, Daniel Auteuil and Vidya Balan.

Ben Kenigsberg from the Ebert blog:

CANNES, FRANCE — At the festival's official post-awards press conference, the jury's leader Steven Spielberg spoke at length about the group's surprise decision to award multiple citations for the Palme d'Or, which went to "Blue Is the Warmest Color." In a break with the usual protocol, the prize was given not just to the winning film's director, Abdellatif Kechiche, but also to his lead actresses, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.

Spielberg said the split, which enabled the jury to give Best Actress to another festival favorite, Bérénice Bejo from "The Past," was a natural choice. Kechiche's film, Spielberg said, "was something that could not have happened had the casting been three percent wrong."

"Blue" centers on Adèle (Exarchopoulos), whom we meet at 15 and follow over several years through her romance with painter Emma (Seydoux), the first woman she loves. Coming from a jury of nine members — four of whom are themselves directors — the Palme d'Or decision was received as a magnanimous gesture, a way of acknowledging how much of the movie's power derives from raw close-ups, silences, and scenes of the characters quietly contemplating each other at meals. 

Inevitably, Spielberg and his colleagues fielded questions about the movie's explicit sex scenes, which are notable for their length and intensity. "For me, the film is a great love story," Spielberg said. "And the fact that it's a great love story made all of us feel like we were privileged, not embarrassed, to be flies on the wall." He also provided what may amount to a boost to the film's marketing, speaking optimistically of the movie's commercial prospects in the U.S. "I think it's going to get a lot of play, and I really feel the film will be quite successful in America," he said.

There had been speculation that an award for "Blue" would effectively function as a shout-out to France's May 18 legalization of gay marriage. But jurors wouldn't go there. "Politics was not a companion in our decisions," Spielberg said. 

As far as the dynamic of the deliberations, there was, according to the jury president, "a very, very unanimous consensus on at least three of the critical choices."

The conference highlight came from "Nebraska" director Alexander Payne, who accepted the Best Actor award for his star, Bruce Dern, who had already left town. (Read our interview with him here.) Did Dern have a comment? Actually, Payne confessed, he hadn't told him yet, having only just texted Dern's daughter Laura to spread the news. She texted back mid–press conference, and Payne shared the message: "AMAZING! Driving to Pasadena now. Can we call you together from there maybe in 30 minutes?"

No word on what the call was like, but Payne and his fellow winners adjourned to Agora, the waterfront festival party space adjacent to the Palais. While Payne and a few other notables like "Michael Koolhaas" star Mads Mikkelsen mingled with festivalgoers, celebrities generally gravitated to a cordoned-off area. It was the kind of occasion for which France reserves its sternest earpieced guards.

As of 11pm, juror Nicole Kidman could be spotted through the partitions chatting with Cinéfondation and short-films jury president Jane Campion (who directed Kidman in "The Portrait of a Lady"). Christoph Waltz gabbed with his "Inglourious Basterds" and "Django Unchained" producer Harvey Weinstein, and Spielberg himself worked the room. New winners — Kechiche, Exarchopoulous, Farhadi — also turned up, ready to be welcomed to the inner circle.

Todd McCarthy's wrap up from The Hollywood Reporter: 

The differences between American classicism and and the artsy, sexually explicit Europeans was never more stark.

CANNES--In more ways than one, differences in style and content between high-end American and European films were manifest in the competition at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

It’s been true for years that French filmmakers, and sometimes other Europeans, have been more upfront with the way they show sex than have Hollywood directors. Still, no one on either side of the Atlantic could remember scenes of such duration and explicitness, and certainly not between two women, in a so-called mainstream film as Tunisian-born, French-based Abdellatif Kechiche serves up repeatedly in the year’s most talked-about film, Blue Is the Warmest Color  (La Vie d’Adele—Chapitre 1 & 2).

Equally bold gay male sex was prominent in Alain Guiraudie’s Un Certain Regard drama Stranger By the Lake, so the ones left to their own devices this year were straights, about whom there was nothing comparable except for Francois Ozon’s non-explicit look at a 17-year-old who prostitutes herself by choice, Young & Beautiful.

These unusual sexual elements were the attention getters, but what was more noticeable throughout the official selection was a different stylistic approach: Most of the Americans tended to adhere to classical storytelling models and a precise visual approach, while some of the Europeans, and most noticeably Kechiche, went for a looser structure and more random images favoring intimacy over formalism.

It should be stressed that the Americans made a very impressive showing this year. The four main U.S. competition entries—the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska and James Gray’s The Immigrant—were all strong, and it was gratifying to see these fine directors all step up so well with such diverse, intimate and superbly made work.

In a very different vein (with what is technically a U.K.-German production), Jim Jarmusch delivered his best film in years in Only Lovers Left Alive; James Franco startled many observers with how well he adapted a difficult William Faulkner novel in As I Lay Dying, which was in Un Certain Regard; J.C. Chandor’s one-man sea survival drama All Is Lost was regarded as good enough to have been in the competition, where Robert Redford would have vied strongly for an acting prize, and Jeremy Saulnier’s low-budget suspense drama Blue Ruin was one of the hits of the Directors’ Fortnight. Only Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring came up short on the American side. And, oh yes, The Great Gatsby opened the festival, but that already seems like ancient history.

All these American films were beautifully made, and the four competition titles featured well-drawn screenplays served by confident, exacting visual styles that made you feel you were in excellent hands. Few directors in the world can match the Coens when it comes to creating bold compositions and knowing how to cut and pace a scene—the entire trip-to-Chicago interlude in Inside Llewyn Davis is the most bracing and hypnotic stretch of film I saw in Cannes this year—and the sheer craft of the film was a thrill all by itself.

Similarly, the camera is always in just the right place and shots are held not a beat too long or too short in Nebraska, Payne’s black-and-white road trip that reveals added depth on a second viewing. Soderbergh makes orchestrating comedy, emotion, gaudy spectacle and the acceptance of two big movie stars as gay lovers look easy in Behind the Candelabra, while Gray creates a moving character study against a superbly drawn period setting on a tiny budget in The Immigrant.

Some of us call this approach, which honors the styles developed over decades by the greatest Hollywood directors, classical. Those wishing to disdain it term it old-fashioned or conservative. Most directors would say that one should use an approach that best serves the material, which, in the case of Jarmusch’s dreamy, mood-drenched vampire love story, is something rather looser and atmospheric than the tack taken by the other Americans.

But Kechiche ignores all of this, thrusting the camera as close as he can to his performers, cutting anytime he feels a part of a different take might be better and, in general, caring as much about formal aspects and visual niceties as the Scandinavian Dogme movement did a couple of decades back. What Kechiche is aiming for is intimacy through sustained physical proximity, which he indisputably achieves, both in the sex scenes and the more conventional dialogue exchanges; you’re really close to these women and their characters come vibrantly alive.

To do this is an accomplishment, but that’s all he achieves. His storytelling in all of his films is undisciplined, choppy and sometimes arbitrary. There’s little discernable shape to his narratives, to the point where you don’t have a sense if you’re five minutes or an hour away from the ending (I’d really had enough of Blue after about two hours, when there was still an hour to go). Kechiche justifies himself in advance by having characters talk about great novels that are many hundreds of pages long and, of course, some of the greatest films are extremely lengthy. But they are also paced and modulated accordingly. Virtually all of Kechiche’s scenes are shot with just one thing in mind, getting in there tight with the actors to observe their skin and, in this case, their bodily fluids, particularly snot and tears. It pays dividends at times, but if you begin looking at your watch during explicit sex scenes, something’s amiss. I’d never done that before.

Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, which was one of the four or five films I liked best at Cannes, is similarly marked by a lack of discipline, but more in the realm of traditional dramaturgy. The camera swoops and darts and glides through Rome in very exciting ways that, during the film’s best sequences, make the pulse race and the head swoon. The film is an immersion in Rome and the dissolute life style of a talented writer who has abandoned serious work and devoted himself to fashionable journalism and the social swirl.

Sorrentino’s narrative sin, in my view, lies not in structural deficiencies but in setting up ideas and expectations in the first two-thirds that he then ignores and doesn’t follow through on. When the 65-year-old journalist announces that he no longer intends to waste any time and will only devote himself to things important to him, it seems to suggest a turning point. But the film then swings off in other directions, never to take up the writer’s promise again, which might be the point but doesn’t really feel like it, especially since what’s onscreen instead seems more aimless and esoteric than what’s come before.

Films like those by Kechiche, Sorrentino and several others generate their own qualities, magic and excitement that have little to do with what many of us value in the American films; both schools of filmmaking can be great in their own ways and one is not by definition better or worse than the other. But it seemed to me that most of the Americans at Cannes this year benefitted from their observance of certain time-tested cinematic rules and principles, while the Europeans, while creating some excitement, could have been even better with a bit more narrative discipline and rigor.

The Cannes Criterion Forum is up and running: 

While Les Etoiles de la critiques is now complete, where Blue Is the Warmest Color surpassed The Past (Le Passé) as the highest rated film, followed by the Coens, followed by A Touch of Sin. In Un Certain Regard, it's a tie between Stranger By the Lake and Grand Central.  Without a numerical rating, my quick criteria is counting how many films get 3 or more stars:

With the grid complete at Ioncinema's Critics' Panel 2013, Blue Is the Warmest Color has risen above all others with a 4.3 rating, followed by a tie between The Past and the Coens averaging 3.7, Jarmusch's late entry Only Love left Alive is rated 3.5, followed by A Touch of Sin at 3.3, and now four films tied at 3.1:

Screendaily also has their Jury Grid, actual page 16 (Digital page 18) of the Screen Edition for Day 9 dated May 23, 2013, not updatedin two days now, but check back later in the day. Start on the link provided, click on the bottom right of the image, and there are two sets of multiple photos displayed on the bottom, where what you want is the first group, almost all the way to the right, where page 18 does the trick, click on that page until you display the largest viewable image. However, a new leader alters the standings, where Blue Is the Warmest Color now has the highest rating at 3.6.  Currently only one other film rates above a 3 rating, as the Coen brothers averages 3.3, The Past and Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty are at 2.8, while Like Father, Like Son and Behind the Candelabria are at 2.5:  

Screendaily announces a new leader on the Jury Grid, but then loses interest in completing the rest of the grid:

Neil Young's final predictions from Jigsaw Lounge maintains the odds for projected winners:  

And, of course, George is back at Cannes this year, where he posts his final reviews: 

For the second year in a row the jury awarded the best director award to a Mexican, both times surprising all the prognosticators. The Carlos Reygados win last year was fully deserved, this year's to Amat Escalade for "Heli" not necessarily so, even though I have been one of the lone champions of this film all along, even writing yesterday that I hoped the jury would acknowledge it in some way. This film of contemporary Mexico and the horrible power of the drug forces was most commendable, though no where as extraordinary as last year's "After the Darkness, Light." There was no mistaking the influence of the true Mexican master, Reygados, with lingering shots, the pacing and so forth, on Escalade. It was most heartening that the jury gave "Heli" an award. One can hardly dispute the choice of this director-heavy jury, five of whose nine members are highly accomplished directors, perhaps the best collection of directors ever on a Cannes jury. Certainly so in the ten years I've been attending the festival.

Although "Blue Is the Warmest Color" had become the favorite to win the Palm d'Or, I wasn't so sure after seeing it earlier in the day after standing in line for ninety minutes to make sure I got in. It was a very exciting ninety minutes though, as my anticipation heightened minute by minute knowing I could be in for a great cinema experience based on all the buzz the film had generated. And I knew I shared that feeling with the thousand people in line with me.

Right away I was grabbed by the genuine dialogue of a cluster of high school girls discussing boys. It was clear the script had been written by someone who truly knew these characters and subject. That continued scene by scene. All the buzz on the film centered around the lesbian love scenes. It's at least half an hour into the film before high school junior Adele realizes that she likes girls rather than boys after a brief fling with a guy that her girl friends somewhat goaded her into. Even before that a blue-haired girl, who is a few years older than Adele, catches her eye in the distance as she walks along with her arm clutching another girl. They manage to connect in a gay bar where they have a brief conversation. Their next meeting is outside Adele's high school, alarming Adele's girl friends. Their relationship is slowly and realistically developed. It eventually leads to wildly passionate sex. It is most explicit, but not exploitative in the least.

Several of the bed room scenes go on and on with a non-stop crescendo of blissful, agonized moaning. Their bodies become entangled in every manner. It was truly remarkable film-making and acting. Half-way through this three-hour movie I felt it was a sure Palm d'Or winner. Half an hour later though it began to fizzle out, and I began to fear all its hype was based on the electrifyingly graphic sex scenes. My mind began to wander, more looking forward to meeting my friend Andrew, who had just flown in from Bangkok with his bike to join me for the next few weeks, than the rest of the movie.

This was not a shoe-in for the Palme d'Or as some movies have been over the years. The jury would have some discussion. When I learned the FIPRESCI jury had awarded it its top prize, I thought that might jinx it, as not even half of the time do the two juries agree. But this year they did. In the post-ceremony press conference Spielberg and his fellow jurors emphasized they liked the movie so much because it was just a good love story. It did not matter to them that the lovers were women or that there was explicit sex. Spielberg said, "There was no politics in the room." When another questioner wanted the jury to comment on what statement they were making with awarding this film, juror Christoph Waltz impatiently snapped, speaking for the only time during the press conference, to drop all such talk. It was just a good movie, he reiterated.

It is hard for juries not to have some nationalism influence its choices. Italian films win awards when there is an Italian on the jury. That happened last year with "Reality" and several years before with "Gomorrah" and "Il Divo." There was no Italian on this year's jury, so "The Great Beauty" did not win an award despite predictions all round that it was a contender for the top prize. It being shut out was the biggest surprise of the evening. Nationalism prevailed. The two Hollywood-connected Americans on the jury saw to it that two American films won awards, "Nebraska" with Bruce Dern unexpectedly winning best actor, and "Inside Llewyn Davis" winning the runner-up to the Palm d'Or. Just as last year's jury president Nani Moretti allowed "Reality" to win an award shocking all, Ewen McGregor likewise last year saw to it that fellow Englishman Ken Loach won an award for one of his lesser movies, raising eyebrows all around.

The best actress award was another of this year's surprises, though not necessarily tainted, going to Berenice Bejo for her performance in "The Past." No one was more surprised than herself. Twice in her brief acceptance speech she tearfully commented, "I did not expect this." That is understandable, as she could see the two actresses from "Blue" in the audience and since only winners are called back to the ceremony, she figured it had to be them. She thought she was only there to share in a joint prize for her film, quite possibly the Palme d'Or, but the Spielberg jury pulled a trick and awarded the two actresses a joint Palm d'Or with the film, circumventing the rule that a picture can't get acting awards along with one of the best picture awards. The jury was firm in wanting to award both the film and the actresses, since their uninhibited performances were so extraordinary.

Both "A Touch of Sin" and "Like Father, Like Son" were expected award winners, though not necessarily for what they received, best screenplay for the Chinese film and the Jury prize for the Japanese film. It was a jury that might have only gotten one of the awards right, the top one, though it is all so subjective, there is no saying. There were half a dozen worthy winners of both the acting prizes. Those who won them were near the bottom of their lists, but still, they gave commendable performances. I even wrote in my review of "The Past" early in the festival, before many other great performances came along, that both leads could be awarded.

I managed to squeeze in portions of two other Competition films that I hadn't seen and also two that I had seen but liked so much was happy to see again. I began the day with the African film "Grigris," having to leave half-way through to get in line for "Blue." A different jury could have given it an award for its heartfelt portrayal of a young man in a small African town who is a spectacular dancer despite a deformed leg that leaves him with a pronounced limp.

I had no difficulty walking out on Jim Jarmusch 's "Only Lovers Left Alive" half-way through to go to the awards ceremony. This vampire story starring Tilda Swinton was astoundingly lifeless and inert without any of the off-kilter dialogue that are the hallmark of a Jarmusch film.

Polanski's "Venus in Fur" was even better the second time, just 24 hours after my first viewing. Spielberg and gang had to have some prejudice against Polanski not to give it an award. I notice there is a backlash against it, probably by the same people who did not like Abbas Kiorastami's "Certified Copy," as it has a similar sense of mystery to it that offends some. I also saw the first hour of Sorrentino's film a second time. It did not seem to flow as seamlessly and effortlessly as it did the first time, but I was watching it after the awards had been given and was perhaps projecting the jury's rejection of it.

I passed on the closing night film "Zulu" so I could watch the jury press conference on a large television outside the room where the press conference was being held. It only went on for 25 minutes and nothing of real substance was said other than that Spielberg let slip that the jury had full consensus on three of the awards, implying that it was good to have any consensus at all. No one followed up on that. Most of the questions were directed to Spielberg, though at one point he said, "Does anybody else want to answer the question, because I don't want to answer all of them."

Someone asked Nicole Kidman what were the best and worst parts of being on the jury. She just said that it was strange to watch movies sometimes at 8:30 in the morning and also at 10 at night. She said it was an entirely different experience seeing a movie so late. Spielberg said he enjoyed all his fellow jurors so much that he would like to take them all home with him. No one asked about the rumors that the jurors were watching movies on his $28 million yacht.

Let’s let Columbia film student Robbie Miller have the final thoughts on Cannes this year:

By the way, I don't know how much you read about Heli - loathed by the critics and many attendees (excepting some enthusiasts) - but it is an incredibly brave and unexpected choice by the jury considering its brutality.  I give a lot of credit to the jury for this.  It makes me optimistic for the future of cinema that a film so maligned can nevertheless be appreciated and awarded by those in an influential position.

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