Cannes: How George Miller’s jury got it wrong – Los Angeles Times

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I can’t begrudge the Iranian drama “The Salesman” its prizes for actor Shahab Hosseini and for writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s solid, well-carpentered screenplay. Nor can I dispute the effectiveness of the quietly stirring performance given by the Filipino actress Jaclyn Jose in Brillante Mendoza’s “Ma’ Rosa,” except to point out that it was chosen in a year with so many superb female performances — including Sandra Hüller in “Toni Erdmann,” Sonia Braga in “Aquarius,” Stewart in “Personal Shopper,” Ruth Negga in “Loving,” Huppert in “Elle” — that struck me as fuller, richer and more resonant achievements.

Asked about their decisions at Sunday’s news conference, Miller’s jury responded with the kind of diplomatic evasiveness that past Cannes juries have showed before them: There were so many fine films, it was a difficult decision, you can’t please everyone, etc. My own sense, judging by their awards slate, is that they entered their deliberations with Ken Loach’s buzzword — “importance” — ringing in their ears. By and large, their taste ran toward tales that focused on economic disparity around the world (“I, Daniel Blake,” “Ma’ Rosa” and even “American Honey”), or that examined human corruption under oppressive societal circumstances (“Graduation,” “The Salesman”).

These are worthy causes to illuminate and, in some cases, worthy films as well. But after seeing all 21 movies in competition, I can attest that the 2016 Cannes Film Festival will not be remembered most for the films that trumpeted their importance (and self-importance) the loudest. It will be remembered for the gorgeous flurries of comedy and heartache in “Toni Erdmann,” which was acquired during the festival by Sony Pictures Classics and should put Maren Ade decisively on the international map. It will be remembered for the still but deep-running waters of “Paterson,” and for the high-wire interplay of terror, eroticism and provocation in “Elle” (and, for that matter, in Park Chan-wook’s highly entertaining “The Handmaiden” ).

Is there no room, in the recognition of cinematic excellence, for movies that don’t wear their politics or morality on their sleeve — that touch less obvious, more nuanced chords? (Like, for example, the movies of George Miller?) That say a lot without raising a megaphone? That show that comedy is worth taking seriously? As Joel Coen noted, no, this is not a jury of film critics. But it should be a jury of artists with a less rigid, more sophisticated idea of what award-worthy cinema can and should be. And who can recognize a terrible Xavier Dolan movie when it’s staring them in the face.

Cannes: How George Miller’s jury got it wrong – Los Angeles Times