Cannes 2011: A spell of conflict, and then (some) resolution
With the major awards handed out and the last of the cinephiles, partiers, salespeople and hangers-on finally packing up for calmer climes, let's take a moment to look back at this year's Cannes Film Festival in all its intensity and strangeness.
The 2011 edition of the world's most prestigious film gathering was historic in several ways. Egyptian directors banded together to create and premiere shorts about their country's revolution just three months after it happened, while more female directors landed in the main competition than ever before (a sharp contrast to Hollywood's glass ceiling).
Less nobly, for the first time in the history of Cannes, a filmmaker was declared persona non grata at the festival. Leave it to Lars.
It was, as might be expected with any 64th installment, sometimes a festival of the familiar — Harvey Weinstein spending millions on high-profile films from the likes of Meryl Streep and Shia LaBeouf, and Woody Allen embraced again, thanks to his opening-night movie, "Midnight in Paris."
But it was also a festival filled with paradox. Cannes always contains multitudes, but the contradictions rarely have ever seemed this pungent, and they've seldom grabbed so many headlines. Cannes this year saw the European premiere of Mel Gibson's new film — and yet he had to settle for second place for the festival's biggest race-themed controversy. The Croisette also saw a silent film, Michel Hazanavicius' "The Artist," making some of the loudest noise.
It was a festival where the darkest of subjects, a school shooting, was given the flashiest of treatments with Lynne Ramsay's well-received "We Need to Talk About Kevin."
Cannes is filled with old-timers and veterans, and yet one of the biggest splashes came from a young 'un first-timer, "Drive" director Nicolas Winding Refn.
And finally, there was the festival's biggest enigma, Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," whose premiere ensured that the most scrutinized festival director was also the most invisible. Malick sat out the red carpet and the screening feting him and drove the point home when he also sat out the Palme d'Or ceremony Sunday, opting for his producers to accept on his behalf.
There was good and bad, strange and sane, in this year's Cannes. It's the favorable more than the dodgy one hopes will prevail, though in the end it will may well be that both co-exist. It was, after all, that kind of festival.
— Steven Zeitchik in Cannes, France
Photo: Sean Penn in Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." Credit: Fox Searchlight.