The Cannes Film Festival is a brutal mistress: it can triumphantly fulfil your filmmaking dreams, or cruelly deny them (Ryan Gosling’s the rare figure to have gone through both sides). Contenders in the various competitive sections are trotted out, day after day, to face the wrath or sympathy of the world’s press corps. Sleep-deprived and bloated from the enormous glut of cinema on offer, their opinions can have a disproportionate impact on a film’s reception, especially in the insta-reaction dependent age of Twitter.
The programming tactics of the festival organisers are also curious and sometimes perplexing. There’s a sense that the selectors intentionally put forward undeserving films, knowing that such scrutiny and surprise will stir some animated PR. Oddly mixed amongst serious and political films are obvious gestures towards securing red-carpet talent at gala premieres. It’s all subject to the whims of the most prestigious festival of cinema in the world, curated like bringing a scribbled-down cinephile wish list on a napkin to life. But then, the trick is to immediately disfigure it, in a Jackass-prankster way, with Grace of Monaco or a crap new Woody Allen film.
Here are a few of the most rotten tomato-chucking howlers of this year’s fest:
Grace of Monaco (dir. Olivier Dahan)
The Guardian’s review of this royal biopic dud, starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, was so notorious that Harvey Weinstein denounced the reviewer, Peter Bradshaw, in his company’s Cannes presentation. It forms a fearful double-bill with last year’s toe-curling Diana, in the stakes of the icing sugared royal biopic. Cult film programmers, please don’t get any ideas.
The Captive (dir. Atom Egoyan)
We were hopeful that this new, self-scripted film from Canuck arthouse great Atom Egoyan would return him to the Cannes-conquering form of The Sweet Hereafter. Still, partnering up with multiplex rom-com exile Ryan Reynolds was not the surest way back into our hearts. The film’s child-kidnapping story drew unfavourable comparisons to the recent Prisoners, and some, like Time Out London, found the far-fetched thriller distasteful and offensive in the eyes of the serious subject matter.
Lost River (dir. Ryan Gosling)
We were surprised that Gosling put his flourishing leading-man career abruptly on hold to film this trashy, and apparently Malickian fantasy-noir. Bringing back shades of James Franco’s maligned debut last year in the Cannes official selection, Lost River went down yesterday afternoon to a colossal clunk. ‘Folie de grandeur’ cried Variety’s Scott Foundas. A ‘film-maudit crapocalypse’ chuckled Tim Robey of the Telegraph. Still, there’s something encouraging and charming about an actor trying his luck with an ambitious idea, and not being too self-conscious about the outcome. Of course, we’d be surprised if a follow-up to Lost River comes to pass any time soon.
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