Cannes 2012 | Post Tenebras Lux, Holy Motors, awards predictions

Post Tenebras Lux

Post Tenebras Lux

Apparently I missed real fireworks after leaving Cannes on Thursday. Lee Daniels's The Paperboy not only earned terrible reviews (the AV Club's Mike D'Angelo on Twitter: "Lee Daniels. The worst director of our time, or the worst director of all time? Discuss"), but sources suggest that apart from its general ineptitude, it features a scene in which Nicole Kidman urinates on Zac Efron. How could I ditch France without catching that?

More frustratingly, I also missed David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis and Jeff Nichols's Mud, which screened Friday and Saturday, respectively, and seem to have divided the international press corps. Cosmopolis, Cronenberg's much-anticipated adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel, will open in late summer, so I'll see that one soon enough. But if I fail to predict an award for one of those two (or such lesser-heralded titles as Im Sangsoo's The Taste of Money and Sergei Lotznitsa's In the Fog), you now know why.

I did, however, end my festival with fireworks of a different sort—Leos Carax's Holy Motors and Carlos Reygadas's Post Tenebras Lux. The latter received the most baffled reception I've ever witnessed at Cannes: boos and, I'm pretty sure, moos, for a movie in which livestock makes up a significant portion of the cast, followed by almost reflexive applause. The opening sequence, in which a young girl frolics with farm animals as a storm approaches, is mesmerizing on a formal level—a hypnotic combination of focal tricks, grounding-level shooting and the sounds of approaching thunder. A subsequent scene in which a minotaur-like specter wanders through a home seems to be an homage to Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's patented combination of the natural and the cosmic. (One way to read the film is as a prelude to a man's death—a sort of Mexican Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.) But the class tract that makes up much of the movie is so disconnected that, as a colleague remarked, it could have been re-edited in any order.

One of the best-loved titles at the festival—and tipped by many to win the Palme d'Or—Holy Motors represents a comeback for former cinéma du look superstar Leos Carax, whose last first feature was 1999's Pola X. Carax regular Denis Lavant plays a movie star–like figure who crisscrosses Paris assuming assorted roles—a homeless lady, for instance, or the sewer monster from Carax's short "Merde" (2008). Carax himself is seen at the beginning, and Holy Motors alternately plays as confession or an especially uninhibited autobiography.

Holy Motors peaks early, with one of Lavant's guises going to a film studio to shoot a motion-capture segment, an interlude that resembles a real-word Tron. There's an impromptu musical number by Kylie Minogue and warm banter between Lavant's character and his driver (played by Eyes Without a Face's Edith Scob, sensational). Less visually lush than Carax's other films, Holy Motors sometimes gives off a weird-for-weird's-sake vibe, but no movie at the festival matched it for scene-for-scene inventiveness.

The awards will be held in a few hours, French time, and predicting the winners is a notoriously tall order. No matter what the critical consensus is, the jury is composed of various film artists (plus Jean-Paul Gaultier) whose tastes and familiarity with the directors in question are unknown. For all the prognostication we see every year, no one knows anything—and this year is more open than most. One last caveat: Because I've only seen 17 of the 22 competition films, consider these educated guesses at best.

Palme d'Or Holy Motors
French films almost never win (before The Class in 2008, you have to go back to Under Satan's Sun in 1987), but Motors's chief competition, Amour by Michael Haneke, is (a) also French and (b) at a disadvantage because Haneke just won in 2009 for The White Ribbon. At once visionary-looking and heartfelt, Carax's movie offers a middle ground in a fest divided largely between underwhelming commercial efforts and off-the-wall experiments.

Grand Jury Prize (second place) Moonrise Kingdom OR something I haven't seen yet

A cop-out, maybe, but my other instinctive choice here, Alain Resnais's You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!, seems to bore as many people as it entrances. Moonrise Kingdom doesn't really need the prize, but it's a crowd-pleaser, and my awards list was looking a little grim. Another possibility: Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills, which strikes the right balance between austerity and accessibility.

Jury Prize Post Tenebras Lux
This award tends to be more a pat on the back for fence-swinging than an all-out endorsement. I suspect the jury will find a way to honor Reygadas here. He also won the fest's unofficial Prix de WTF in 2007, for Silent Light.

Best Director Abbas Kiarostami, Like Someone in Love
Jury president Nanni Moretti is a professed Kiarostami admirer, and even those who find Like Someone in Love baffling have to swoon for its gorgeous cinematography and booby-trapped construction. Giving Kiarostami Best Director is a way to honor the movie as part of an ongoing project—the film continues the themes of Certified Copy and Close-Up—rather than a standalone work.

Best Actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, Amour
The star of The Conformist and Z might have earned this as a career-capping honor, but he's also the lifeblood of Haneke's Amour, giving a sensitive, visceral and boundlessly moving performance as a husband caring for his dying wife. There's no way that film walks away empty-handed. But Trintignant admittedly has a lot of competition, from Mads Mikkelson (of Thomas Vinterberg's unpersuasive written persecution thriller The Hunt) and especially Aniello Arena, the star of Matteo Garrone's Reality, who has quite a compelling back story.

Best Actress Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
The jury might also double down on Amour by selecting Emmanelle Riva, who plays Trintignant's character's wife. But Cotillard's performance as a woman who loses her legs is clearly the highlight of the competition title that seems most simpatico with jury president Nanni Moretti's sensibility.

Best Screenplay Paul Laverty, The Angels' Share
[Shrugs.] Word on the street is that jurors Alexander Payne and Ewan McGregor laughed all the way through this film. I'm not sure that means it will win an award, but that's more evidence than I've got for most of these.

I'll be airborne when the awards are announced, so stay tuned for postgame commentary on Monday here.

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