Last year, I kicked off the FSR Cannes Awards by taking the opportunity to give three awards to The Artist (three of the Oscars it won actually, if you’re interested in just how much of a boss I am), and though there isn’t quite the same standout type of film at this year’s festival, there were some notable highlights. The rain was not one of them.

This year, I saw 21 of the hundreds of films available to see, so these awards obviously only take in those that I deemed worthy of my attention (or which were possible to see given the intense mathematical equations required to see everything and write reviews of them all in timely enough fashion that all of the key information doesn’t bugger off out of your head). Here are my own highlights of the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival:

Best Film

The Hunt Movie (Jagten)

The official Jury might have decided on Michael Haneke‘s Love as the winner of the Palme d”Or this time out, but the film which left the most pronounced imprint on me this year was by far and away Thomas Vinterberg‘s The Hunt (or Jagten to give it its original Danish title). The portrait of situational horror starring Mads Mikkelsen is an ordeal, subtly executed and hugely affecting, thanks in part to Mikkelsen’s exceptional performance (he was a close runner-up for the Best Actor award below) and Vinterberg’s excellent slow unraveling of the story. It probably won’t get wide cinematic release, but do yourself a favor and go and see it – I guarantee you will come out angry at everyone and disgusted with the rotten influence of sensationalized mob morality.

Best Director

If Cannes is supposed to open the world’s eyes to something new, then in Holy Motors and Beasts of the Southern Wild it did its duty well. Both directors showed commitment to storytelling and impacting aesthetics, even if Carax’s own manifesto was a lot more odd than Zeitlin’s – Carax should be applauded for his commitment to being so weird, and for making such a consciously unconventional project, but Zeitlin’s debut film was a triumphant celebration of a new talent. Every artistic decision appeared pronounced and well-measured, and his film is striking and invigorating as a result – a great upcoming talent.

Best Actor

I feel quite confident in saying that there was more chance of Lars Von Trier sitting as President of the Jury this year than there was of either Lawless or Killing Them Softly walking away with much official recognition when the curtain dropped on this year’s festival, despite the fact that the films featured two of the stand-out acting performances of the entire schedule. The films were just too commercial (though not as commercial as some might think), considering how obviously left-field the festival organizers went this year thanks to being accused of allowing commercialism to triumph last year. How dare they include the film that went on to win the Best Film Oscar, I mean, how DARE they.
Both Pearce and Gandolfini stole the show in their respective, violent films, with Pearce’s deliciously heinous villain ranking almost equally with Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in the villainy stakes, but bringing altogether more pantomime zest to his role. Effeminate but explosive, his Special Agent Charlie Rakes was only undone by an authentic, oddly tragic performance from Gandolfini as the remaining dregs of the old gangster life, his body and mind wearing the scars of excess, a world away from the luxury and aspirational promise of Goodfellas. Gandolfini is a powerhouse in Killing Them Softly, monologuing twice to wonderful effect and proving that there is life after all beyond The Sopranos.

Best Actress

Though I disliked Laurence Anyways, thanks to the director’s self-conscious stylistic nonsense, Clement was great as Fred, a thirty-something hipster confronted with her boyfriend’s revelation that he wants to undergo a sex change. Hers was an emotional piquant performance, swinging from elation to depression with a conviction to authenticity that the script unfortunately lacked at times. But for the sheer ballsiness of the performance, Nicole Kidman‘s Charlotte Bless has to be the winner here. Along with John Cusack’s nasty mentalist, Kidman’s sexed-up Barbie doll take on the character is the best thing about what is otherwise a disappointing affair. She is vampy and vulnerable in equal measure, and it’s nice to see her actually challenging herself for the first time in a while, and offering a character not everyone will like.

The Sexy British Sell-Out Award

  • Runner-up: Kelly Brook
  • Winner: Cheryl Cole
You might only faintly recognize the names – Cole was kicked off the American X Factor for having too strong an accent (the same accent as my own, as it goes you racist fucker, you) and is in What To Expect When You’re Expecting, and Brook has been in an assortment of garbage films, the pinnacle of which was Piranha – but these two are pretty big deals this side of the pond. Cole is something of a singer, and Brook seems to be beloved for her rack, and they command lots of column inches here, but their presence in Cannes was indicative of something bigger than them, and something that critics of the festival’s direction have quickly picked up on. Both were there simple to peddle goods, effectively becoming no more than sexy walking billboards, paid lots to appear on the Croisette for their clients.
In Cole’s case, she was paid an astronomical sum by L’Oreal to turn up for two and a half hours, watch 15 minutes of a film and generally look stunning with absolutely no merit to the festival. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose, but it does open the festival to questions of integrity.

Life-Time Achievement For Services to Cannes Award

  • Winner: Ken Loach

Someone is going to do it sooner or later, considering every single film he makes is now featured in some way or another at the film festival, so I thought I’d get my praise in now so I can be all smug when it actually happens. Loach is a genuine British treasure, and The Angels’ Share continued his fine form – and if he isn’t recognized for having somewhere close to 800 films in Cannes, they need to seriously re-evaluate their priorities. Plus, with Michael Haneke winning the Palme D’Or on the strength of his name and relationship with the festival alone (probably), the same must surely be on the cards for Loach soon enough.

Complete Cannes 2012 Coverage


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