In a move that signals the continued decline of truly independent films in gargantuan money grab festivals like the recently wrapped Cannes International Film Festival, renowned filmmaker and auteur Terrence Malick has won the highest honor there, capturing the Palme d’Or for his new film The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain. Other top honors at Cannes went to Kirsten Dunst for her work in Lars Von Trier’s latest tome Melancholia and to Jean Dujardin, for his great work in The Artist. The Grand Prix was actually a tie, going to both The Kid with a Bike by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Winning Best Director for the film I most want to see from Cannes was Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive. The Best Screenplay Award went to Joseph Cedar for Hearat Shulayim, while the Best First Feature Award went to Pablo Gorgelli for Las Acacias. I have some thoughts on the Palme d’Or that marinated for 24 hours, time to let them out.
EW.com’s Anthony Breznican sums up my disgusted feelings about The Tree of Life‘s victory writing, “By granting it the Palme d’Or, the jury tips the balance in favor of the ambitious drama, which debuts in the U.S. May 27. No longer the movie that was booed by some, it is now the best-picture winner of Cannes 2011.” This is all Cannes is now it seems, a vehicle to launch pseudo indie films to box office success. And that is fine, just don’t sell yourself as the leader of promoting independent vision, being for the filmmakers, etc. You are for the corporations that finance these movies and the festival, plain and simple. Several other films without the star power of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn would have greatly benefited from this award, and lest we forget, Malick held everyone out to dry last year at Cannes as the film was supposed to screen at the 2010 fest, taking a spot from another film, only for him to cancel at the last minute.
Concerning Malick and his film further, it is not a slam at him, please understand, as the film may be great (I honestly can’t wait to see it this weekend in NYC), it’s just that if people were booing the film, that is an indicator that the film may just not be as great as everyone wants it to be from a clearly unproductive filmmaker (6 directed films, one a short since 1969). At this point, I feel Malick is more myth and legend than fact, for Malick’s win at Cannes seems to be more like Scorsese winning his first Academy Award for The Departed than Malick creating the most masterful film of the year, it’s like a lifetime achievement thing in a way (yes, he has won a Palme d’Or previously for Days of Heaven, a great film). The point here with Scorsese is clearly he should have won for one of his many other, finer films and perhaps Malick should have as well.
So why do certain filmmakers become deified while others never seem to get the respect and honors they deserve? There are multitude of possible answers, but ultimately it comes down to money. Brad Pitt is a more marketable star than anyone in the other films that were Palme d’Or contenders, giving Malick a huge leg up already. Check out the Cannes Critics Poll by indieWire, lots of films bunched together with similar ratings, but most of them have stars no one outside the industry or the most savvy cinephiles are aware of. It is not coincidence The Tree of Life won out folks. As soon as the stories about all the booing came out you knew there would be some sort of big win for it at Cannes. Oh well, as I said before, I will go see this film, I just don’t like what has happened to Cannes and the business in general.
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