For a festival celebrating its 60th year, the Cannes Film Festival proved mighty frisky. Sure, a handful of the 21 international titles in competition were dolorous arthouse tush-testers – but enough films pleased, entertained and touched a viewer that Cannes 2007 turned out to be memorable.
This year’s top prize, handed out on Sunday night as the 12-day festival in this resort town on the French Riviera ended, went to 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, an emotionally wrenching Romanian drama about a woman helping a friend seek an illegal abortion in the waning days of the Communist regime. It’s expected to open in the U.S. later this year or next.
Two American filmmakers won major prizes: Artist-turned-director Julian Schnabel was named best director for his French-language film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It’s a visually stunning drama based on a memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby, a successful French magazine editor who, after suffering a massive stroke at age 43, could communicate only by blinking a single eyelid.
And director Gus Van Sant, a Cannes regular, took home a special prize for Paranoid Park, his wispy drama about a teenage skateboarding enthusiast who accidentally kills a man. The Cannes jury said it was awarding the prize for Van Sant’s total body of work.
Here’s my personal scorecard on movies either competing or premiering at the festival:
• A Might Heart: Angelina Jolie peels away the glamour to give a controlled, moving performance in a documentary-like drama about Mariane Pearl, the wife of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. It opens June 22.
• No Country For Old Men: Ethan and Joel Coen, the sibling directing duo behind Fargo, return to top form with a bittersweet crime drama based on a Cormac McCarthy novel. Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem star. It opens in November.
• Sicko: Director-provocateur Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11) delivers another hugely entertaining documentary, this one targeting the ailing U.S. healthcare industry. Expect his film, due June 29, to jumpstart debate on the issue in the upcoming Presidential race.
• Paranoid Park: Okay, so it won a prize. Big deal. As in his other recent films, Van Sant here focuses on a good-looking, mumbling youth dumber than a bag of hammers. He fails to make viewers understand why we should care about this kid.
• My Blueberry Nights: While as gorgeously lush as his previous arthouse hit, In the Mood for Love, Hong Kong-based director Wong Kar Wai’s first English language film suffers from a crushingly banal script. And singer Norah Jones proves a ho-hum leading lady. It also stars Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Rachel Weisz.
Title That Had Me Laughing Hardest:
Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead: Can’t say I bothered to see this no-budget screamer from Troma Inc. (a production company specializing in cheapie exploitation films) but I sure do love the title.