Cannes 2013: How the Festival’s Most Anticipated Films Fared With the Critics — And When You Can See Them

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The 66th annual Cannes Film Festival is officially behind us. Drama seemed to leap off the screen on the French Riviera with unseasonable rainy weather, a string of robberies, and plenty of emotional moments. The reviews are in, deals have been inked, and the festival’s most prestigious awards have been granted. We took a look at how the most anticipated titles fared with critics and filled you in on the latest details so you can be there when Cannes’ greatest arrive in a theater near you.

Only God Forgives

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm

Synopsis: Julian (Gosling) runs a Bangkok boxing club, which is a front for the family drug smuggling business. When his brother is murdered, the clan’s criminal matriarch (Thomas) demands Julian seek revenge for the slaying. At the same time, Julian is forced to contend with a retired cop who threatens to shut his operation down.

What the critics said: Early reviews were mixed and fiercely divided. Cannes audiences booed the brutal thriller, but the critical crowd has misjudged some of the finest films in cinema before — like Antonioni’s L’avventura. Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells sided with audiences and had a few caustic words to add: “It’s a shit macho fantasy — hyperviolent, ethically repulsive, sad, nonsensical, deathly dull, snail-paced, idiotic, possibly woman-hating, visually suffocating, pretentious.”

Only God Forgive‘s dreamlike visual style was widely lauded, but several noted how empty the characters and plot felt. “All the aesthetic pleasures in the world mean little, however, when put in service of such one-dimensional characters and shallow moral codes,” Slant Magazine’s Jordan Cronk wrote.

The moody minimalism worked for some, however. The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw left us anxious to see more: “It is ultraviolent, creepy and scary, an enriched-uranium cake of pulp, with a neon sheen. The first scenes made me think that Wong Kar-wai had made a new film called In the Mood for Fear or In the Mood for Hate.”

Awards: The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or.

When you can see it: The film is slated for a July 19 release in the US and will open in the UK on August 2.

The Bling Ring

Director: Sofia Coppola Starring: Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga

Synopsis: A group of celebrity-obsessed teens rob Hollywood’s rich and famous, with Emma Watson playing lead bad girl. The millennial crime caper is based on the real-life 2008 case that saw $3 million in belongings taken from celebs like Paris Hilton. Several real-life stars, including Hilton, appear in the film.

What the critics said: Critics have been longing for Coppola to return to the success of her early days, and The Bling Ring doesn’t seem to be the smash many were hoping for. Reviews are divided, but writers like Emanuel Levy defended the movie as the filmmaker’s best work since Lost in Translation. “Very much a zeitgeist film, The Bling Ring is a moral fable and cautionary tale,” Levy expressed. “In its good moments, which are plentiful, the movie suggests what it means to be young, ruthless, technically alert, and most important of all, obsessed with fast achievement of fame and celebrity, even if it calls for using illegitimate means.”

Meanwhile, Twitch’s Ryland Aldrich felt the film didn’t delve into the mindset and mayhem deeply enough: “Instead of using character development to teach the audience what went wrong with these kids (or, say, generation), Coppola just takes us on a 90-minute vacation into their fun-filled lives of coke-fueled clubbing and slo-mo selfies. Where is the conflict?”

Still, Jon Frosch from The Atlantic sided with Levy, stating: “The Bling Ring is filled with snappy dialogue (it’s by far the chattiest of Coppola’s films) and gorgeously choreographed sequences of night-club bacchanals, shopping sprees, and, of course, the burglaries. Coppola uses slow-mo and a soundtrack full of pop and hip-hop hits (Sleigh Bells, Kanye West, Frank Ocean) to give the film a kinetic force, even if it doesn’t cut very deep or go very far.”

Awards: Coppola hasn’t taken home an award from Cannes since Marie Antoinette won the Cinema Prize in 2006. The Bling Ring was nominated for the Un Certain Regard Award.

When you can see it: The film arrives in US theaters on June 14.

Only Lovers Left Alive

Director: Jim Jarmusch Starring: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska

Synopsis: Swinton and Jarmusch reunite for the first time since The Limits of Control in 2009. In this tale of two vampires, Hiddleston plays an underground musician, Adam, depressed by the modern (human) world. He reunites with his centuries-long lover Eve (Swinton), but their passionate relationship is disrupted by Eve’s younger sister (indie favorite Wasikowska).

What the critics said: “When the movie hits its groove it’s an unalloyed delight, the decrepit locations, lugubrious lensing and fractionally off-note performances inducing a narcotic spell not unlike the slump of a vampire who’s had his or her fill,” Total Film’s Jamie Graham wrote. Writer Guy Lodge disagreed: “It’s a thin premise for what amounts more to an extended sketch than a fully realized love story, though at least the one-ply joke is a droll one, played with good humor by the leads.” Lodge, and others, wondered if the film was a “fans-only effort.” The Guardian‘s Robbie Collin appreciated the “time-honored Jarmuschian” approach, saying, “the few things that happen in Only Lovers Left Alive happen very slowly, but the dialogue is always gloomily amusing, and Swinton and Hiddleston’s delivery of the gags is as cold and crisp as footsteps in fresh snow.”

Awards: The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or — the first time for Jarmusch since his nomination for Broken Flowers in 2005.

When you can see it: Just before its Cannes premiere, Sony Pictures Classics picked up North American distribution rights to the movie. A release date should be announced soon.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman

Synopsis: A young singer-songwriter tries to make it in New York’s folk music scene during the 1960s. The film was loosely inspired by Dave Van Ronk’s 2006 memoir The Mayor of MacDougal Street .

What the critics said: The Coens’ latest is a critic favorite, with universal praise for Isaac’s performance — his dramatic and musical prowess. “The film opens with a full length song performed by the actor, and he’s simply great, selling the soul of Llewyn’s music with plaintive ease,” The Playlist wrote. The Film Stage also applauded the actor: “Isaac is simply incredible, in a performance that anchors the entire film with his raspy voice and stern scowl.” Sasha Stone at The Wrap felt the directors “stepped a bit out of their comfort zone,” with positive results, and called the film “an accomplished, breathtaking work, a portrait of a specific time and place before everything changed.”

Awards: The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or and won the Grand Prix.

When you can see it: Inside Llewyn Davis will have a limited release on December 6, expanding on December 20 — just in time for awards season.

Venus in Fur

Director: Roman Polanski Starring: Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric

Synopsis: Polanski’s new film stars his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, and Mathieu Amalric as an actress and theater director rehearsing a production of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 erotic novella, Venus in Furs. The balance of power shifts so that Seigner’s character slowly dominates the director. The film is actually an adaptation of David Ives’ Broadway play, Venus in Fur.

What the critics said: Polanski is a divisive figure, and his recent comment about birth control isn’t helping matters. Regardless, Venus in Fur made an impact with critics, many citing Seigner’s performance as striking. “Seigner is terrifically good and deserves all the great notices coming her way. And there’s definitely wit and verbal dexterity on display, and a fun kind of dismantling/rebuilding of our preconceptions throughout,” Indiewire’s Jessica Kiang said. She also questioned the film’s depth: “Beneath a brittle veneer of verbal dash and cleverness this stagebound adaptation has little insight to give us into anything except the sexual hubris of an aging man, and frankly, we’re not sure we give a damn.” Variety‘s Scott Foundas said Seigner’s performance “engulfs the screen… [and] does full justice to a demanding role.” Some critics noticed a resemblance between Amalric and young Polanski. “It’s as if Polanski were winking at the audience about the inherent sado-masochism in every actor-director pact, insouciantly offering up his derriere to be spanked,” THR‘s David Rooney wrote.

Awards: The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or.

When you can see it: There is no North American release info available at this time.

Behind the Candelabra

Director: Steven Soderbergh Starring: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon

Synopsis: The film is based on Scott Thorson’s autobiographical novel about his tempestuous six-year relationship with flashy pianist and vocalist Liberace.

What the critics said: The director claims the movie will be his last, and if it is, critics agree Soderbergh is leaving cinema on a high note. “Whether the biopic Behind the Candelabra ends up being a swan song for director Steven Soderbergh or merely the last entry in one phase of a long career, it’s an impressive work,” New York magazine’s Matt Zoller Seitz wrote. Critic Anne Thompson gave Soderbergh’s final act high praise: “If Behind the Candelabra is [Soderbergh’s] final film, it’s a winner, easily among the best of his 26 features.”

Awards: The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or. White poodle Baby Boy won our favorite award: the Palm Dog.

When you can see it: If you missed the movie’s HBO premiere on May 26, you’ll have to wait for Blu-ray. Soderbergh couldn’t secure a studio willing to release the film. “They basically said it was too gay,” the director said.

The Past

Director: Asghar Farhadi Starring: Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa

Synopsis: A Frenchwoman (Bejo) asks her Iranian husband (Mosaffa) to return from Tehran to finalize their divorce proceedings. He finds her involved with a new man (Rahim).

What the critics said: Iranian director Farhadi won the Foreign Language Oscar for the phenomenal drama A Separation last year, and his follow-up was equally well received. The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw echoed the sentiments of many critics: “It is an intricate and often brilliant drama, with restrained and intelligent performances; there is an elegantly patterned mosaic of detail, unexpected plot turns, suspenseful twists and revelations. The narrative structure itself is perhaps a little over-determined; there is some melodrama in the tragedy, and the continued absence from the screen of one important character perhaps makes the final scene a little easy to guess. It is often rather like a stage-play, but interestingly and bracingly so. The continuing force and intelligence of Farhadi’s film-making is compelling.”

Time Out New York‘s Keith Uhlich added, “You never feel like you’re in the hands of anyone less than a master storyteller.”

Awards: The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or. Bejo won the Best Actress award. The film also won the Ecumenical Jury Prize.

When you can see it: No US theatrical dates are set at this time.

Nebraska

Director: Alexander Payne Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk

Synopsis: Payne’s black-and-white road dramedy centers on a father (Dern) and son (Forte) stuck in Nebraska on their way to claim a Mega Sweepstakes prize that may or may not exist.

What the critics said: Critics found it to be a modest, touching effort with engaging performances. Raffi Asdourian (The Film Stage) said Payne’s newest was a “striking film for its simplicity and the manner with which it connects emotionally.” He concluded: “Alexander Payne continues his streak of creating films that plumb the depths of a character’s life while asking you to ponder your own.” Jordan Hoffman from Film.com was more critical in his review: “There’s an essence of falseness around the characters and the scenario, and the lack of full-throated bite holds it back from being harsh satire. There are some laughs – and a few moments worthy of tears – but there’s a breaking point of believability in here somewhere that keeps “Nebraska” merely good as opposed to great.”

Awards: The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or. Dern won the Best Actor award.

When you can see it: Nebraska arrives in US theaters on November 22.

As I Lay Dying

Director: James Franco Starring: James Franco, Logan Marshall-Green, Danny McBride

Synopsis: Based on William Faulkner’s 1930 novel, Franco adapted the tale about a southern family coping with the death of their mother and their quest to honor her wish to be buried in the town of Jefferson.

What the critics said: Franco delivered the second major literary adaptation to Cannes audiences after Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. He wore the hats of writer, director, and star for the admirable and ambitious project that ultimately wasn’t as invested as critics initially predicted. CineVue’s John Bleasdale wrote: “There’s none of Faulkner’s sense of looming doom nor sense of true ‘thunder’ to Franco’s piece. Instead, we’re left with a not-so-awful vanity project, but one which wears its thinking too obviously on its sleeve and doesn’t, in the end, fulfill any of its lofty ambitions,”

Awards: The film was nominated for the Un Certain Regard Award.

When you can see it: There is no distribution information at this time.

Bastards

Director: Claire Denis Starring: Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni

Synopsis: Denis’ revenge thriller finds a container-ship captain readying to avenge a death in the family. He’s distracted from the plan after falling for his target’s mistress.

What the critics said: “Claire Denis Destined To Divide With Disturbing, Salacious ‘The Bastards,'” The Playlist’s headline reads. Jessica Kiang took note of the director’s change of tone: “While in its elliptical, fragmentary, non-linear storytelling it bears the hallmarks of a Claire Denis film, in it the filmmaker strays into territory we’d never normally have associated her with, with peculiar and deeply unsettling effect.” Kiang ultimately found it to be “smart, odd sensationalism.” Thoughts from Tim Grierson of Paste Magazine recalls Denis’ previous film, Trouble Every Day: “Everything in Bastards is viewed through the rotting unhappiness of those in the film, as kinky sex, resentment and bloodshed ooze from its pores. Don’t be afraid of the darkness, though: Denis makes it seductive.”

Awards: The film was nominated for the Un Certain Regard Award.

When you can see it: There are no American distribution details at this time. The film is in French theaters on August 7.

The Immigrant

Director: James Gray Starring: Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner

Synopsis: A Polish immigrant (Cotillard) is separated from her ill sister when they reach Ellis Island. She falls prey to a charismatic man (Phoenix) who forces her into prostitution. The destitute woman sees his cousin (Renner) as her only opportunity to escape.

What the critics said: The dark drama is Gray’s first period story and first film in five years (since Two Lovers). “The result is a solid, but strangely uninspired work that’s absorbing without ever fully grabbing you, despite a subtle and affecting performance by Cotillard and a handful of darkly beautiful moments,” France24 remarked. Slant Magazine’s Jordan Cronk felt vastly different, saying, “The Immigrant is the film James Gray has been working toward his entire career.” The balance of intimacy, melodrama, and scale won Cronk over, and the critic cited the work as Gray’s “masterpiece.”

Awards: The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or.

When you can see it: North American distribution details are not available at this time.

Jodorowsky’s Dune

Director: Frank Pavich Starring: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux, H.R. Giger, Nicolas Winding Refn

Synopsis: The film explores Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt to adapt Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune during the mid-1970s.

What the critics said: Variety called the documentary a “mind-blowing cult movie.” Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir offered his enthusiasm: “Could he really have made a densely plotted space opera with many interlocking sets of characters, especially combined with special effects that were barely possible at the time and deep-focus Wellesian cinematography? It seems impossible. But what you come away from Jodorowsky’s Dune thinking is: Hell, just maybe.”

Meanwhile, Jodorowsky debuted his first directorial effort in 13 years, The Dance of Reality , which dramatizes his childhood in Chile. The film received equally positive reviews with the Guardian calling it an “arresting spectacle.”

Awards: None

When you can see it: No distribution deals have been made at this time.

Blue Is the Warmest Colour

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche Starring: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Jeremie Laheurte, Aurélien Recoing, Catherine Salée

Synopsis: Based on the French graphic novel Le Bleu est une couleur chaude, the three-hour story centers on the passion and trials of young love between Adele (Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Seydoux).

What the critics said: The devastatingly emotional film was an unexpected hit amongst the competition titles. It debuted at the same time that France made same-sex marriage legal. Universal praise for the coming-of-age tale and its breakthrough performances abound. France24 described it as a “shattering masterpiece about sexual awakening, heartbreak, and self-discovery.” Eric Kohn from Indiewire sees the potential for a follow-up: “Kechiche creates a fleshed out environment too big for one movie to contain. Its structure certainly makes the possibility of a sequel worthy of consideration.”

Awards: The film won the prestigious Palme d’Or. An honorary Palme d’Or was given to Exarchopoulos and Seydoux for their performances. The film also took home the FIPRESCI Prize (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique).

When you can see it: Critics expressed concern about the film’s graphic content (some unsimulated) and length hampering widespread distribution. However, the film was picked up by Sundance Selects/IFC Films for US distribution. We imagine that a limited theatrical release and/or VOD date will be announced soon.