The 2015 edition of the International Festival of Cannes which animated La Croisette from 13 – 24 May, entrusted Americans Joel and Ethan Coen, fraternal Oscar recipients, with the difficult task of judging a selection top heavy in Asian languages as well as Italian.
Titles signed by Chinese-Taiwan director Hou Hsiao Hsien (The Assassin), the Chinese Jia Zhang-Ke (Mountains May Depart), the Japanese Hirokazu Kore-Eda (Our Little Sister), represented three Oriental heavyweights. The titles followed the opening of the festival with Standing Tall / La tête haute, by Emmanuelle Bercot, which was a historic occasion: the first time after a gap of three decades that the Festival was inaugurated with a film by a woman.
Along with the Asian works, Italy positioned itself strongly with films signed by Nanni Moretti (Mia Madre), Matteo Garrone (Tale of Tales) and Paolo Sorrentino, the beloved maker of La Grande Belezza, with Youth, for which Michael Caine returned home ungarlanded.
Also in the Competition was The Sea of Trees, by American Gus Van Sant, with Matthew McConaughey performing the suicidal role. Again from the States, Todd Haynes came back to La Croisette almost two decades after the hurricane that was The Velvet Goldmine, with the lesbian drama Carol, in which Cate Blanchett falls in love with Rooney Mara, in a script based on Patricia Highsmith's novel.
Speaking with a Canadian accent there was Sicário, in which Denis Villeneuve (Wildfires) searched for a space amongst the greatest film contemporary makers, supported by the performances of Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin in a taut drama about Mexican cartels. Mexican echoes highlighted Chronic, by Michel Franco, the only Latin blood candidate for the Golden Palm. With Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender in the pivotal main roles much was expected from Macbeth, signed by Australian Justin Kurzel.
Talking about two great actors, two French "myths" Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu worked together in Valley of Love, by Guillaume Nicloux. Also on the French side was actress and director Maïwenn, who made Polisse, returning to the fray with Mon Roi, with Louis Garrel and Vincent Cassel leading the cast. Jacques Audiard reappeared after two seminal movies - The Prophet (2009), and Rust and Bone (2012) - with Dheepan, a story about a Sri Lankan warrior.
Director of the bittersweet A Springtime with my Mother, Stéphane Brizé offered The Measure of a Man / La loi du march, an ethical discussion concerning how to survive the jungle of the capitalism. Vincent Lindon plays a security guard who spies on his colleagues. Almost four years after the worldwide success of The War is Declared, Valérie Donzellie was back to action with an incestuous love story: Marguerite & Julien.
Joachim Trier, a Dane known for such films as Oslo, August 31, transformed the American Jesse Eisenberg, of The Network, as the protagonist of Louder than Bombs. Hungarian, László Nemes, a filmic newcomer, made his feature debut with Son of Saul, in which he revived the horrors of Auschwitz, by telling the story of a man who came across the corpse of a boy that resembled his son. The film provoked an immediate buzz along La Croisette.
Last but not least, the Greek Yorgos Lanthimos created in The Lobster a future sci-fi world in which Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz are given an ultimatum: you either find an ideal love in 45 days or you will be turned into an animal!
All of these represented a heavy menu for audiences who also had to contend with roars of the engines of Mad Max: Fury Road, surely the most acclaimed action blockbuster of the decade, marking George Miller's return to top form. Graphic animations such as Amusing Mind and The Little Prince also enhanced the selection.
In the Directors' Fortnight, a highlight was the monumental Portuguese epic The 1001 Nights, signed by Miguel Gomes, and in Critics' Week, the Argentinian social drama Paulina, by Santiago Mitre.
Besides the Coen Brothers the 2015 jury comprised actresses Rossy de Palma, Sophie Marceau and Sienna Miller, singer and composer Rokia Traoré, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and directors Guillermo Del Toro and Xavier Dolan. (Mario Abbade)
Cannes Film Festival: www.festival-cannes.org