CANNES—Whether with dreams of familial contentment or with concealed intentions of greed and bloodlust, there was an overwhelmingly recurring theme of unpredictable characters inserted into family situations in the films at Cannes this year.
Although it played outside of competition
was the festival favorite. In Woody Allen’s first foray into a London-set story Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays an opportunistic former tennis pro who marries into an upper crust British family with the idea of stealing Scarlett Johansson away from his new brother-in-law. When murder enters into the equation the movie hits a diminished minor chord that resonates well against Allen’s
Crimes And Misdemeanors
(Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne), the winner of this year’s Palme d’Or, presents the audience with a challenging teenaged protagonist in the guise of Bruno (Jeremie Renier) a French street criminal who’s recently fathered a son by his immature but loving girlfriend Sonia (Deborah Francios). The film delivers a sucker punch when the seemingly attentive Bruno spontaneously decides to sell the couple’s baby on the black market.
Jim Jarmusch’s crowd-pleasing
portrays Bill Murray as Don an aging bachelor who goes on a journey to visit his ex-girlfriends in search of a son he may have sired 20 years ago. Don’s bizarre experiences during his unannounced visits make for some very funny minimalist cinema.
Writer/director David Jacobson (
) takes Ed Norton on an imposter’s path in
Down In The Valley
in which Norton plays Harlan, a self-professed cowboy from the Midwest transplanted in the San Fernando Valley. Harlan uses his fish-out-of-water soft-spoken charm to seduce the teenaged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) of a single father (David Morse). But Harlan is not what he appears and his sudden shift to violence negates everything he’s disclosed in this well-acted but false-ringing film.
The extraordinary Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange appear together in Wim Wenders’
Don’t Come Knocking
about a washed up Hollywood cowboy actor who discovers he may have a son from a long ago fling with a woman in Butte, Montana. Shepard’s character nearly bites off more than he can chew as he’s forced to discard the emotional crutches of his past to make peace with the present.
From Michael Haneke’s cinema of confrontation comes
(“Hidden”), which won the Cannes award for Best Director. Georges (Daniel Auteuil) is the host for a literary review TV program when he isn’t tending to his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche) and young son. The family is threatened when anonymously sent surveillance tapes and childish drawings point to a person from Georges’ childhood who may be out to destroy the family. The implications subtly expand to include possible governmental intrusion as Georges inadvertently induces a shocking act of ultimate violence while the source of the surveillance tapes remains an enigma.
In Tommy Lee Jones directorial debut,
The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada
(for which he won Cannes’ Best Actor Award), Jones plays Pete Perkins, a Texas rancher who befriends a Mexican immigrant named Melquiades Estrada who entrusts Pete to bury him in his hometown in Mexico when he dies. Pete’s brotherly duty comes all too soon when a border guard (Barry Pepper) shoots and kills Estrada.
In Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu’s
Peindre Ou Faire L’Amour
(“To Paint or Make Love”), William and Madeleine are a happily married couple who test the waters of sexual freedom after their daughter goes away to college. After moving into an old house in the countryside the couple is gently seduced by their blind neighbor and his attractive wife into a game of sexual swapping that turns their world upside down.
Although this year’s festival lacked the plethora of political documentaries of last year’s festival, there was one documentary that addresses the subconscious reasons for so many films about people with hidden agendas working their ways into familial environments.
The Power Of Nightmares
was initially a three-part television series for the BBC. In it, director Adam Curtis establishes the way that the U.S. government has changed from offering its citizens a great society, to offering nothing but protection from vague evil forces.
Curtis makes his final and clearest point when he proves that Al-Qaida is a complete and utter fiction created by the U.S. Justice Department. Curtis asserts that there is no such global network of terrorists working together to undermine societies. Perhaps soon we will see the words “Al-Qaida” only ever prefaced with the word “fictional.” If the Buzzcocks were a band forming today they might write a song called “There is No Terror in this World Anymore” with the refrain, “not like in the states.”