Competition Films I Have Seen:
Ranked in order of preference
My Palme d'Or
The Tree of Life (USA, dir. Terrence Malick) - A brother's grief kiln-blasted and glazed into a grand, restless, ecstatic lament for a living and dying world
Sleeping Beauty (Australia, dir. Julia Leigh) - Astounding control of image, color, pace. Tensions grip, enigmas fascinate. Brisseau + Bu˝uel + Barney ¸ Breillat.
Melancholia (Denmark/Sweden, dir. Lars von Trier) - Last Days at Marienbad. Is doom a simile for depression, or disconsolate wedding a metaphor for denying imminent doom?
House of Tolerance (France, dir. Bertrand Bonello) - Fin-de-siècle brothel as tactile ecosystem, crystalline fantasy, zombie purgatory, and site of vexed nostalgia
Drive (USA, dir. Nicolas Winding Refn) - Python coiled around a gator. Lithe muscle. Violence as potential energy. Magnificent, though awe packs chaser of distaste.
The Artist (France, dir. Michel Hazanavicius) - An enchantment, so witty and warm in first half. Settles for just warmth in second, but I'd see it twice. Wiss plezhur.
The Kid with a Bike (Belgium, dirs. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) - Taut, economical as ever. Strong kid's eye view. Thinner around adults, but Rongione great foil for de France.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey, dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan) - Elegant, searching, with awe-inspiring night photography, but lacquered as ever, dreaming of Palmes
The Skin I Live In (Spain, dir. Pedro Almodóvar) - Shots and edits to savor, and Almodóvar's rotted-out men intrigue, but the sum feels both familiar and elusive
Michael (Austria, dir. Markus Schleinzer) - Opacity, random fate, and narrative frustration are the points in this study of the pedophile as agitated efficiency expert
Footnote (Israel, dir. Joseph Cedar) - Cedar's shallow, flamboyant direction tends to dull what's nervy and rich in his script. Strong actors. Strangling score.
We Need To Talk About Kevin (UK, dir. Lynne Ramsay) - Early formal rigors must buoy increasingly puerile conceptions. Ends up 30% Ramsay, 70% Sam Mendes.
This Must Be the Place (Italy/USA, dir. Paolo Sorrentino) - Euro Americana in Don't Come Knocking vein, but more winningly idiosyncratic. Uneven, but out on fun limb.
Le Havre (Finland/France, dir. Aki Kaurismäki) - Way too "Hipster Darling takes a walk on The Blind Side" for me. An overpraised, openly laurel-seeking divertissement.
Sidebar Selections I Have Seen:
Ranked in order of preference
Elena (Un Certain Regard: Russia, dir. Andrei Zvyagintsev) - Warmth and cold. Suspense and certainty. Western arthouse style merged with Ozu-esque themes and framing elements. Exquisite.
Miss Bala (Un Certain Regard: Mexico, dir. Gerardo Naranjo) - Polanski's Pianist remade as ballistic drug-war suspenser, as terrorized, evacuated lead withstands a hellish picaresque
Snowtown (Critics' Week: Australia, dir. Justin Kurzel) - A barely habitable biome of venality. Intimidating technique, unnervingly porous community of perps. But is it too much?
Corpo Celeste (Directors' Fortnight: Italy, dir. Alice Rohrwacher) - Coming-of-age tale hooked to coming-to-grips tale bathed in textures and tensions of coming into or out of community
This Is Not a Film (Out of Competition: Iran, dirs. Mohsen Makhmalbaf & Mojtaba Mirtahmasb) - It isn't, quite, but it scores its points, uses offscreen space and sound smartly, and ends on its best sequence
Take Shelter (Critics' Week: USA, dir. Jeff Nichols) - I See Heavy Weather. Savvy casting and acting down the line, strong hold on milieu, but story idles, then collapses.
Oslo, August 31st (Un Certain Regard: Norway, dir. Joachim Trier) - I don't get Trier. His sensitivity blurs into a deadpan mawkishness; people too vague. At least this one builds.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (Un Certain Regard: USA, dir. Sean Durkin) - Moody Meatless Menacing Morbid Maybe Maybenot Middling Murder Mindfuck Meh Mupstatefolksaresospooky Boo
Return (Directors' Fortnight: USA, dir. Liza Johnson) - Cardellini good in a Michelle Williams part; Shannon un-typecast. Addiction drama dulls post-Iraq story. Last third flails.
The Slut (Critics' Week: Israel, dir. Hagar Ben Asher) - Shot and mixed like a brittler Dumont film, and far from uninvolving, but script ought to have drawn out comic potentials
The Beaver (Out of Competition: USA, dir. Jodie Foster) - Spotty set-up and execution, bum ending. Lots wrong, yet still engrossing, as Gibson manages restraint and exorcism at once.
Midnight in Paris (Out of Competition: USA, dir. Woody Allen) - Punk'd again! Amiable enough but seemingly inspired by a Barnes & Noble desk calendar. Why such swoony reviews?
Competition Films I'm Curious to See:
Ranked in order of interest; more on this year's lineup here (opens in a new window)
Hanezu, Japan, dir. Naomi Kawase
Polisse, France, dir. Maïwenn
The Source, France/Morocco, dir. Radu Mihaileanu
Sidebar Films I'm Curious to See:
Listed alphabetically; more on this year's lineup here (opens in a new window)