Yes, We Cannes

The annual Cannes Film Festival never fails to combine a sampling of the best in cinema with the not-as-great.



The big news at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival -- at least for queer cineasts -- was the ho-hum reception to new films from Pedro Almodóvar and Ang Lee and the breakout success of Montreal's out talent Xavier Dolan. Dolan wrote, directed, and stars in I Killed My Mother, a blisteringly funny account of a mother and son's love-hate (or, more often, hate-hate) relationship. It dominated the Directors' Fortnight, winning three top prizes, including best French-language film and best first or second feature.

Dolan's film will play at the Toronto Film Festival this fall and is rumored to be in the running for the New York Film Festival (which selects only the cream of the crop from other festivals around the world). Confident, handsome, and charming, with just the dash of ego needed for a director, Dolan proved himself a serious talent and is certain to be making films for years to come.

Almodóvar's Broken Embraces came and went in the competition without causing much of a fuss. Starring Penélope Cruz, it features his currently typical mix of melodrama (involving a blind director turned screenwriter, a secretary turned mistress, an angry gay son turned would-be director, a dead titan of industry) that adds up to much less than the sum of its parts. Critics shrugged after checking with each other to see if they'd missed something. Was that all there was, they asked? Yep. On the other hand, the brochure that was distributed to the press to promote the film was by far the most lavish and eye-catching of the fest -- it looked more like a fabulous edition of Vogue than something as banal as a promotional item. Almodóvar still has style.

Lee's mild, amiable Taking Woodstock has a gay central role played by Demetri Martin, and that alone is cause for celebration among his gay fans. It tells the modestly diverting story of a closeted young gay man in the 1960s helping his parents with their ramshackle Catskills hotel when Woodstock comes to town and upends their lives. It too barely caused a ripple even among serious Lee fans and seemed more like a throat-clearing by Lee (who had made a string of serious films) than a substantial work.

Tags: film