Cannes has turned magnificently shitty today, pouring down with rain and lashing wet winds all day. Just when you thought it’s all perpetual sunshine in the Riviera. So I mostly stayed indoors, catching screenings in the Palais and hanging out in the journalist-inundated Press Room, where everyone sucks up all wi-fi connection in the Orange-sponsored space as much as possible.
First up, Benett Miller’s Foxcatcher. This is the film that restored my faith in the Official Competition, after the number of middling works I’ve seen in the festival so far. This is a properly compelling yarn told in an unfussy, unassuming and understated way with a very creepy Steve Carell, who blows that comic persona out of the water with such dramatic precision here. Despite hidden under layers of prosthetic make-up and fake teeth, Carell is revelatory, managing to flesh out both the monstrosity and tragic humanity of the super-rich corporate titan John du Pont, who sponsors Channing Tatum’s Olympian wrestler Mark Schultz and ostensibly gets a boner while coaching him and man-wrestles with him on the floor. Tatum is excellent, the best of his career so far, and Ruffalo is equally magnetic as his brother Dave Schultz. But Carell emerges as the rotten heart of this mean business – a true-to-life billionaire-turned-murderer who thinks he can buy everything, including talent and profession. Foxcatcher is now being whispered as a metaphor for the American Dream around the halls of Palais, and perhaps the manifestation of a Palme d’Or round the corner. Win or lose, expect Carell to be in your Oscar watch next year, as he may very well be a solid contender.
Leaving the screening on a high, I was on my way to the press room when I bumped into a bunch of photographers huddling around Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, who are definitely both blocking my way to my destination. Great charming guys, who both gave autographs to screaming girls and all.
And on my way out to the toilet later on, I came across four people I expected the least to see, the quartet of John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska and Julianne Moore who were on their way out from the press conference of Maps to the Stars. I halted for a bit to take some snaps, until I realised I had to dash. No celebrity could ever stop the call of nature.
There were still two more films on schedule throughout the afternoon and evening. I caught an encore screening of The Rover by Animal Kingdom director David Michôd in the gale-swept Salle de Soixantiéme. The venue’s essentially one giant tent pitched at the back of the Palais to accommodate those who
got turned down missed the main screenings, and we could hear the mighty winds raging outside, suitably accompanying Michôd’s post-apocalyptic film. There are glimpses of bleak beauty and scatterings of nihilism, but The Rover didn’t go down too well with me. While I love Guy Pearce’s performance and his ability to convey quiet gravitas by saying very little, Robert Pattinson, on the other hand, look amateurish, grappling with a role that’s beyond him. I asked Twitter folks why the hell Pattinson has a hillbilly Southern drawl in an Australian-set film, and one fan kindly pointed out that Pattinson’s character Ray hails from America’s deep south and migrated to work in the Australian mines. Apparently we’ll have to read production notes from now on to learn basic details about the film we’re supposed to be actively watching.
I finished off my evening with Competition film Still The Water by Naomi Kawase – the first film of the festival I walked out of. There’s an enigmatic wordless prologue that I loved, but that’s a brief respite in a film that tediously wears its pretensions on its sleeve. It smacks of ponderousness, ruminating on death with juxtapositions of pretty shots of the sea and shaky amateurish handheld takes just because art cinema doesn’t need a fucking dolly or tripod. There’s a touch of Malick in it, too. Those rays of sunshine through the canopy of trees? That’s been done to death, love. And don’t even start with the goat killings. I can stomach violence on screen as I have witnessed far, far worse in real life, but killing not one but two goats to contemplate on the nature of dying? Give me a break.