#Cannes: The Men Who Weren't There

by eug
May 22, 2011 11:29 AM
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This year's Cannes Film Festival was marked by profound absences, a fact that was frequently noted tonight as the event drew to a close.

For the first time in as long as I can remember, the winner of the Palme d'Or didn't hoist the weighty gold and crystal trophy up in front of photographers, smiling proudly at his victory. Instead, the winner left a pair of producers to do the work for him.

Terrence Malick won the Palme d'Or tonight for his fifth feature film, "The Tree of Life," a movie that stirred debate immediately after first screening on Monday morning. Following the showing, after journalists pushed and shoved their way into the intimate press conference room in Cannes, Malick was nowhere to be found. He declined to sit in front of journalists to discuss the film. On the red carpet later, again no Terrence Malick. Although, there's word that someone saw Malick peek in at the end of the gala showing that night in Cannes. A friend of a friend supposedly has an iPhone photo of the back of his head.

"He remains infamously and notoriously shy and low-profile and quiet and humble," the typically reserved producer Bill Pohlad said on stage tonight in Cannes. The film will open in U.S. theaters later this week. Wouldn't it be amazing if Malick would stand up somewhere in public and take a bow?

"Malick should have accepted the Palme d'Or by entering the jury's collective mind and thanking them in hushed, playful voice-over," critic Matt Zoller Seitz quipped tonight on Twitter.

Meanwhile, another Cannes award winner also went unseen.

In a rejection beyond compare, the Cannes Film Festival abruptly dismissed Danish director Lars von Trier from its event last week. It was a dramatic move for a festival that has stood by von Trier for a long time, embracing even his most controversial work over the years. Sitting inside the press conference for von Trier's "Melancholia" last week, I noticed that the filmmaker was enjoying himself. In Cannes two years earlier, it was apparent that the filmmaker was dispirited. He survived a contentious discussion with journalists who took him to task for his new film. "I am the best film director in the world," he famously declared, defending himself in at the festival, "I think its a very strange question that I have to defend myself. I don’t feel that. You are all my guests, it’s not the other way around, that’s how I feel."

This time around, von Trier entertained the press with jokes that went too far when he wryly aligned himself with Hitler and facetiously called himself a Nazi. The festival took the unprecedented step of proclaiming him persona non grata. "Maybe it would be good for me not to come to Cannes anymore," he told the New York Times the other day.

Accepting the award for best actress for her performance in "Melancholia," Kirsten Dunst thanked Cannes festival organizers for allowing the film to remain in competition. A few days ago at that legendary press conference, she muttered quietly to von Trier as he made news with his comments and visibly moved herself away from him as he dug in deeper. Tonight in Cannes she praised the director, but admitted on stage, "Wow, what a week it's been!"

Some found the festival's move to dismiss von Trier rather strange. "Especially in a festival that's showing work by two filmmakers who were banned in their own country for making films, it actually does strike me as a little bit extreme," explained the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Scott Foundas during a FilmLinc.com audio podcast the other day.

Foundas was referring to Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, two jailed directors who were not allowed to participate in the festival.

This weekend, Mohammad Rasoulof's "Goodbye" (Be Omid e Didar) won the best director prize in the Un Certain Regard section in Cannes. Meanwhile, Jafar Panahi's "This Is Not a Film," a new movie made under 'semi-clandestine conditions', was smuggled to Cannes via a USB drive hidden within a cake (according to the New York Times). The day in the life look at Panahi's existence now in Iran drew praise during two screenings late in the festival last week. It is a cleverly conceived work that depicted a stifled artist struggling with how to express himself.

"Have you been in touch with Mr. Panahi since you’ve been here in Cannes?" Dennis Lim asked Panahi's collaborator Mojtaba Mirtahmasb in Cannes. "I’m in contact with him, and his wife and his daughter are here and they are in contact with him all the time," Mirtahmasb told Lim, "He’s always on Skype. Jafar is very happy that his film is here but I’m sad he is not here and I miss him a lot."

Also deeply missed already is Donald Krim who died on Friday in New York City when, by all rights, he should have been on The Croisette. Declining health kept Krim away from Cannes and whispers during the fest's first weekend indicated that the leading figure in international cinema was in his final days.

The longtime president of Kino International, Don Krim sold his company to friendly competitor Richard Lorber late last year in the midst of the battle with cancer that he ultimately lost. Krim was the co-president of Kino Lorber until his death on Friday at home. Over the years, he shepherded countless Cannes films to U.S. theaters and introduced American audiences to filmmakers including Wong Kar-Wai, Michael Haneke, Amos Gitai, Aki Kaurismäki and many others.

On stage tonight at the Cannes awards ceremony, a letter from absent best screenplay prizewinner Joseph Cedar was read. Accepting his award remotely, Cedar noted Friday's passing of Don Krim and saluted the industry veteran, dedicating the prize to the Kino stalwart.

"Mr. Krim enriched our lives and expanded our vision," Manohla Dargis succinctly noted in the New York Times.

There's no doubt that of all those missing in Cannes this year, Don Krim is the one whose absence is the most striking. It's permanent.

photo by eugene hernandez

A founder of indieWIRE, Eugene Hernandez is the former editor-in-chief of the publication. He is now the Director of Digital Strategy at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and can be found on Twitter (@eug).

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1 Comment

  • Mark Rabinowitz | May 25, 2011 2:27 AMReply

    Great piece, Eug!

    I'd like to also remark on the absence of our great friend and colleague, Peter Brunette who passed away last June. A lovely and gentle man, Peter was a mainstay on the Croisette and will be missed.