Written by Sarah

The Cannes Film Festival wrapped up on Sunday with the award ceremony at which Terrence Malick’s long-awaited The Tree of Life was given the top prize, the Palme d’Or. Last week after Tree’s mixed reception on the Croisette I posited to Lainey that Tree was more Oscar than Cannes, but she said no, that it was definitely more Cannes than Oscar. Looks like she was right. Though it’s way too early to make even vaguely educated guesses, and winning at Cannes doesn’t automatically translate into winning at the Kodak, I do think Tree will have a presence at next year’s Oscars. This kicks off what will be a long year of love-hate for Tree in the film world. (Lainey: And it also kicks off Brad Pitt’s Oscar campaign, as you saw last week when the Brange played King and Queen of Cannes.)

A big winner was the Marche du Film, with sales being way up over previous years, prompting many to declare the economic slump in the industry over. I see a new hesitation, though, as many deals begun in Cannes won’t close for a while yet as distributors make sure they know exactly what they’re getting. Projects that just screened sizzle reels (clips instead of full scenes or a complete film) aren’t closing deals as quickly and where big money is being spent caution follows. Buyers are taking a little extra time to be sure of the product they’re getting before shelling out top dollar, even for projects that will bring returns in prestige and/or box office.

Other winners include Best Director winner Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive (Ryan Gosling was on hand, continuing the Gosling/Refn bromance on the Riviera), Israeli writer/director Joseph Cedar picked up Best Screenplay for Footnote, and Kirsten Dunst capped off her comeback trip with a Best Actress win for Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (more on von Trier later). I’m all over Dunst’s comeback triumph. I’m not a Kiki fan, but it’s good to have her back in quirky/charming mode, not homeless/potentially crazy mode.

As for her director, the now-embattled Lars von Trier, well he’s clearly an idiot. His remarks about Nazis (among other things) were met with profound distaste and disapprobation in Cannes, as they should be, but I disagree with the festival’s decision to ban him for life, mostly because I think they’ll end up reversing this decision. Von Trier is, and always has been, a provocateur. He makes provoking, often difficult, movies and he’s known for giving fruity answers at press conferences.

I think, in his head, everything he said at the Melancholia press conference was funny, but the reality is that he’s a jack*ss who took it too far. The proper response from the festival would have been, “Lars is an idiot and obviously his views don’t reflect ours and we’ve asked him to leave for the remainder of the festival because we can’t handle what a dumb*ss he is right now.” That way, he’s sent off in disgrace for being so dumb, but the door is open down the road when they want him back. Which they will, because Lars von Trier is what the Cannes Film Festival is all about. His career isn’t measured in box office but in how much he can stir up a festival (his last Cannes showing, Antichrist, won Charlotte Gainsbourg a Best Actress prize, but also left many declaring it the worst movie they’d ever seen). Cannes will ban him for life until he makes another arty pot-stirrer. Cannes loves drama and von Trier is basically a professional drama queen.

But speaking of measuring box office, Pirates of the Caribbean: Map to More Money premiered at Cannes, to underwhelming reviews, and then opened over the weekend with $90 million. After last year’s disappointing impact on the film community at large, the organizers at Cannes were determined to bring that clout back this year. While Pirates’ box office is considered soft (which is ludicrous) compared to other entries in the franchise, it is the biggest single-weekend opening of 2011. And with films like Tree, We Need to Talk About Kevin and one of the top titles in the market, Iron Lady, looking like early award-season bait, they’ve succeeded with that. Drama, controversy, a lucrative market, Pitt Porn, award contenders—2011 was a great year for Cannes.

Photos from Wenn.com