French filmmaker-actress Maïwenn won the Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes, but the director had a fair share of detractors when it came to her ensemble comedy-drama Polisse. The emotional film centers on the daily lives of a Parisian police squad dedicated to solving child-abuse crimes and was applauded for its realism and naturalistic performances. Several major publications, however, saw it as “wildly unconvincing and melodramatic,” with a “ridiculous” ending. Last year’s Cannes jury included Olivier Assayas and Johnnie To — two filmmakers with close ties to French cinema — who may have favored Maïwenn, and director Mahamat Saleh Haroun (A Screaming Man) may have appreciated the movie’s social slant. Still, in the end Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life swept the Palme.
Debut film from novelist Julia Leigh — “presented” by Cannes’ only Palme d’Or winner Jane Campion — divided critics, some finding the opaque drama far too distant. Others criticized star Emily Browning (Sucker Punch) for another overtly sexual role. Despite stunning production design from Annie Beauchamp and Geoffrey Simpson’s striking cinematography, the film’s disturbing subject matter — about a girl who becomes wrapped up in a strange world of near-necrophilic sex — may have been too much to overcome. However, judge Robert De Niro did admit that the film was amongst those being intensely considered.
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Lynne Ramsay hadn’t made a movie since 2002’s Morvern Callar, but she returned to Cannes with an adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel about a mom (Tilda Swinton) coming to terms with the violent actions of her disturbed son (Ezra Miller). The emotional film and its challenging subject matter won unanimous praise for its haunting style and stellar acting. Was the “brilliant, nihilist feminist parable” simply lost next to Mallick’s epic meditation?
Naomi Kawase’s history at Cannes made Hanezu seem like a shoo-in, but while the film had lofty intentions, many didn’t find a pay-off with the the Japanese drama. THR said Hanezu was “visually rhapsodic, but overbearingly metaphorical and emotionally wan.” Salon pointed out that the film tackles many of the same things as Mallick’s winner Tree of Life, but that the “no-budget version” may have been “too specifically Japanese to travel well.” The website also shared that Kawase isn’t a filmmaker even especially well known in her home country.