Time for a little mid-Cannes Palme check-up. Out of a conservative eighteen films playing in competition, there’s only four left to go. In the madness of press lines, while fighting sleepless nights and ignoring growling stomachs, we have managed to see and review all fourteen films and our grades have covered all ranges; from near-failures (“The Captive,” “The Search”) to total winners (“Foxcatcher,” “Mr. Turner”) But that’s just us. Daily magazines at Cannes like Screen International love to pool critics’ opinion into a consensus and analyze who’s got the edge for the Palme. So let’s take a closer look at what’s favored, and what we thought of each one (with a little special attention given to a particular Turkish talkie.)
“Mr. Turner” was the one that began it all, and like most of the critics out there, we think it ranks among Mike Leigh’s greatest work (read our review), showing that the man knows how to handle the pesky biopic genre with class. It’s no surprise, then, that it still ranges high on the possibility list even though it was the first out of the gate. Timothy Spall and Mike Leigh are also tipped for likely Best Actor and Best Director prizes. And if there was a category for Cinematography, it would be “Mr. Turner” fair and square as it’s the best we’ve seen come out of the French Riviera yet. Hot on its heels, is the lengthiest and one of the most predicted titles before festival even began, the epic “Winter Sleep” from Cannes regular Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Our review didn’t throw much love its way, but we’ll get back to this one in just a moment.
Following right behind these two heavyweights is Alice Rohrwacher’s “The Wonders,” fair to be named as the most pleasant surprise of the Competition so far. Rohrwacher expressed her surprise when she was announced in Competition, saying she expected Un Certain Regard or Directors' Fortnight. Fast-forward a few weeks later and not only is she premiering in Competition, but she gets an enthusiastic standing ovation and has critics circling it as most likely Palme winner. For someone who mostly had question marks next to her title, that’s as good as it gets at this stage in the game. Personally, we found it a little too Sundance-y for our tastes, but certainly appreciate its audacious and personal look at family life (read our take on it here). In something of a surprise, David Cronenberg’s “Maps To The Stars” isn’t far behind as it too received a great welcome and added more coal to the heated predictions (our review). Cronenberg is rumored for possible Best Director as well. Finally, the latest Dardenne film floored audiences and had cranky journalists applauding at the crack of dawn screening. Count us among the ones who loved it because “Two Days, One Night” is a momentous picture, you can read our review for that here, and it would be a genuine shock if the Best Actress award evades Marion Cotillard for a third time.
If we put our trust in the critics,” Mr. Turner” and “Winter Sleep” lead the way with, believe it or not, “Maps To The Stars” not far behind. However, the love for “The Wonders” may not be as widespread but boy is it loud. But, let’s rewind the tape and go back to Winter Sleep for a minute. Our Playlist review (and a few others out there) thought it had a lot of great ideas that didn't quite come together, and went on for too long. But the view out there is decidedly mixed and some think it's a very strong viable Palme d'Or contender. In fact, this writer very much thinks so and would like to take a bit of time to talk about why I think it should have its nose in the front.