I've felt less than enthused about the Cannes Film Festival this year. Maybe I'm just insanely jealous that I didn't get to go, or that Xavier Dolan, mere months older than I, has established himself as a legitimate filmmaker while I'm at home stuck in the suck, and the general appleplexy.
In any case, with few high-profile names in the fray and fewer titles that I can pronounce with confidence, only a handful of films have piqued my interest.
Of those duking it out for the Golden Palm:
- Another Year - Because Mike Leigh is a unique voice in filmmaking who puts a lot of care into crafting his scripts when most directors go for visual style over narrative strength. And because his Happy-Go-Lucky was one of my favorites of 2008.
- Biutiful - Because Iñárritu's latest effort was offered as a potential Oscar contender when it was slated for release last year. And because Javier Bardem ain't so bad (and neither was Babel).
- Fair Game - Because I still haven't a clue what actually happened during the Valerie Plame fiasco, and this should clarify Hollywood's (and a liberal's) perspective. And because I'd see Naomi Watts in just about anything.
As for the other films featured at the festival... Yes, I had a general curiosity about Robin Hood, Wall Street 2, and Woody Allen's latest mouthful You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, but more as the work of big-name directors and less as potential expressions of art.
But one title caught my interest early on, and tomorrow is its Cannes coming-out.
Tamara Drewe is the name, and Stephen Frears (twice Oscar-nominated for The Grifters and The Queen) is at the helm of this game. I know little about the project, based on an acclaimed high-brow graphic novel in the UK Guardian, aside from what is offered in a basic synopsis and three video clips on the Cannes website.
In a nutshell, Tamara Drewe, once an awkward, ugly teenager, returns to her country home as an absolute vision, and a bit of a seductress to boot. The locals respond with jealousy, some with lust, and she incites a swirl of gossip and scandal in the small town. Though Tamara looks like a different person on the outside, has she changed on the inside? And is her confidence in her looks as strong as her confidence in herself?
It's a story about human relationships with a strong undercurrent of dark comedy. And the available clips and photo stills portray a delectable color palette with stunning cinematography.
But I'm most curious about Ms. Gemma Arterton in the title role of Tamara Drewe. Arterton burst onto the Hollywood scene in 2008's Quantum of Solace and, after Tamara Drewe, will have appeared in no fewer than 11 feature films in the span of four years. Recently, she was the most interesting part of the bloated blockbuster Clash of the Titans, and next week, she'll appear opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in what appears to be another bloated blockbuster Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
Ms. Arterton has the goods: the talent, the looks, the youthful exuberance, and a relatable appeal. Could she have a slam dunk with Stephen Frears' Tamara Drewe? There's something incredibly magnetic about her presence in the photo stills, and the part of Tamara Drewe seems ripe for critical acclaim.
I shortlisted Arterton as a Best Actress contender in my Year-in-Advance Oscar predictions. Will her aspirations--and, admittedly, my aspirations for her--come to fruition? We'll find out soon!