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Johnny To’s quirky Hong Kong Triad actioner, Election, had scant violence, and David Cronenberg’s History of Violence had no quirks, while Palme d’Or winning L’Enfant, from Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, had no overstatement – but there is more to the Festival de Cannes than the 21 films in the Competition. Andrew L. Urban and Louise Keller report.

The empress of liners, the Queen Mary 2, anchored in the bay of Cannes overshadowing all other craft while playing host to the VIP party for Star Wars- Revenge of the Sith, but the 2005 Festival de Cannes did not play out with any particular film grabbing the centre of attention, as varied reviews and mixed reactions congealed to form a cinematic tapestry. 

Only 200 VIPs were ferried out to the QM 2, and none of the other parties seemed to generate the sort of word of mouth their film connections would have hoped for. The first big bash of the festival turned into a scrum with no payoff, another proved a little dull, and a third had neither champagne nor wine to offer… zut alors! A couple of smaller, private functions in luxury villas did get better word of mouth, though.

Besides the established auteurs with films in the main Competition – David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Gus van Sant, Lars von Trier, Wim Wenders (none of whom scored a prize) and the Grand Prix winning Jim Jarmusch, established actor Tommy Lee Jones took home the best actor award (for his self directed role in Three Burials, which also won the screenplay award), but there were rewards for anyone prepared to go looking in the other sections and sidebars – or even further - into the nooks and crannies of Cannes. (See below for winners list.)

For example, Roger Donaldson’s superb biopic of legendary New Zealand motorbike racer, Burt Munro, played by Anthony Hopkins in The World’s Fastest Indian, screened by invitation only (under the auspices of the New Zealand Film Commission). Munro built an Indian (motorbike, not ethnic person) with which he won the land speed record in 1970. Hopkins’ performance generated a wave of praise along the Croisette.

Another ‘by invitation’ screening was the first public showing of Guy X, starring Jason Biggs, Natascha McElhone, Jeremy Northam and Michael Ironside; directed by Saul Metzstein, the film, based on real events, begins as a dark comedy but develops gravitas as it reveals the existence of a secret US military hospital in the Arctic where badly injured US soldiers from the Korean war are hidden away until they die. 

"a firm favourite"

In Director’s Fortnight, La Moustache was a firm favourite, teaming Emmanuelle Devos (unforgettable in Read My Lips) with Vincent Lindon for an adaptation of the popular novel about a man who shaves off his moustache, but his wife not only fails to notice but denies he ever had one. This triggers a film of great intrigue and charm from director Emmanuel Carrere, who confesses to not being able to fully unravel the story.

Also in Director’s Fortnight, Yves Caumon’s Cache Cache amused with its story of Raymond (Bernard Blancan), a farmer who hides in the well when his family home is sold to a young professional family who renovate and move in, while he lives on the edge of this new world. Raymond never says a word in this droll comedy, but he gets most of the laughs. A tad shorter and given a better ending, this could have been a minor comic masterpiece.

Australian Greg McLean had Wolf Creek, his debut feature, selected for Directors Fortnight. Delivering everything it promises, this horror/thriller boasts excellent naturalistic performances, a strong story and a good script, taut direction and excellent cinematography. The Weinsteins had already bought major rights (US, UK) for three times the budget.

Australia’s double bill in Un Certain Regard, Jewboy and Yellow Fella, also made for a strong outing. Jewboy generated a favourable review in Variety, by long time Urban Cinefile contributor Richard Kuipers, who wrote: “..a consistently involving character study… writer/director Tony Krawitz emerges as a talent to watch…” When published in the film trade bible, these are the kind of remarks that can fuel a career launch. And that is why such fest screenings are so valuable for (Australian) filmmakers.

Yellow Fella, Ivan Sen’s 25 minute doco about Aboriginal Tom Long (who as a young man starred in The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith) proved a moving and dense story of Long’s search for his white stockman father – or rather his grave, and through that search, a sense of his own roots. Sen’s natural cinematic talent is simply but well exercised in this personal doco.

"My personal favourite"

A personal favourite of the festival was found in the Midnight Screenings – launch pad for Strictly Ballroom all those years ago. Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, starring Robert Downey jnr, Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan, is a superb, blackly comic, hip and wisecracking film with standout performances and a refreshingly acerbic tone, about a petty crim, a private eye and a mysterious murder or two in bad old Los Angeles.

So back to Star Wars, which screened out of competition, as did Woody Allen’s Match Point and Christian Carion’s Joyeux Noel. The auteur theme continued here, too, and so did the mixture of responses. The Brits didn’t take to Allen’s first UK filmed movie, but the Americans and the Aussies liked it. But everyone thinks George Lucas has closed his Star Wars chronicles in a strong showing, a mix of dramatic action and moving sentiment. Carion’s fact based tri-lingual film triggered a bidding war after its screening, with Sony winning the major share of the markets (US, UK, Italy & South America – but not Australia) with a multi million dollar package. It’s the true story of enemy soldiers at the trenches of WW I celebrating Christmas together.

The 30 minute awards ceremony was graced by presenters such as Kristin Scott Thomas (a regular now), Ralph Fiennes, Penelope Cruz, Hilary Swank, with Fanny Ardent (the lone French thesp) presenting the Palme d’Or.

Cannes 2005 – The Winners
Palme d’Or : L’Enfant – dir. Luc and Jean Pierre Dardenne

Grand Prix : Broken Flowers – dir. Jim Jarmusch

Prix de Jury : Shanghai Dreams – dir. Wang Xiashuai

Best Script : Three Burials - Guillermo Arregio

Best Director : Michael Haneke – Cache

Best Actor : Tommy Lee Jones – Three Burials

Best Actress : Hana Laszlo – Free Zone

Published May 26, 2005

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The Brothers Grinn - Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne and winning film L'Enfant


Guy X

Three Burials

Broken Flowers

Wolf Creek

History of Violence

La Moustache

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang


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