Of the nine films I most anticipated seeing at Cannes, two exceeded expectations (“Volver,” “Red Road“), another three delivered about what was expected (“Taxidermia,” “Climates,” “Babel“), a couple fell short (“Fast Food Nation,” “Flandres“), while another pair I missed altogether (I got shut out of a market screening of “Bug,” but Variety panned it, so I don’t feel so bad; and I was just too busy on my last day to catch the short film program.)
Unfortunately, I left before the premieres of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and Argentine filmmaker Adrian Caetano’s Buenos Aires 1977 (both of which had been building positive buzz during the last half of the festival), so it’s not fair for me to make any definitive pronouncements about Cannes’s 59th competition. But judging from my seven days at the festival — recounted in these indieWIRE reports: #1, #2, and #3 (where I go into more detail about the aforementioned films) — I don’t think this year will be remembered as one of the greats. “There are no masterpieces,” one film industryite said, echoing a refrain I had told myself the previous day.
I plunked down my own hard-earned cash to attend Cannes with the hopes of being shaken to the core by the “seventh art” — because that’s really what it’s all about, right? We travel halfway around the planet to be one of the first to endure some kind of cinema-induced epiphany. And I can’t say that I felt it.
There were some revelations: the mood of Red Road, the pure joy of Volver, the endless streams of vomit in Taxidermia, the opening swamplands of Ten Canoes, the Tokyo disco scene in Babel, and much of Climates — which the more I think and talk about it may be my favorite of the fest. But of the roughly 24 films I saw from start-to-finish (and without napping once, I might add), few left me floored. Where were the masterpieces? As one film festival programmer told me, “It’s going to be a strong Venice.”