Yesterday’s news maybe, but when is a film opening up a major festival such as Cannes ever not worth weighing in on. While it’s true the slot has more often been opened to mainstream fare, with films like The Da Vinci Code, Up, and Robin Hood stopping by in hopes of a media boost, the opening night film has more recently given way to hipper indie fare. As a matter of fact both Midnight in Paris and Moonrise Kingdom ranked high on Alex’s top ten lists these past two years, and he was even more fond of Robin Hood than most critics. Assuming the trend continues, expect Alex (and hopefully Film Misery en masse) to be singing the praises of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby this May.
One need only ring the names of My Blueberry Nights or Blindness to remind readers that the opening slot is very far from a declaration of greatness, but it is quite often a declaration of mood. As Woody Allen’s aforementioned film foreshadowed a nostalgically celebratory festival in 2011, and Wes Anderson’s a jaunty, pleasantly at ease experience last year, could The Great Gatsby be hinting at more ecstatic times this year? One certainly hopes so, with rumblings of the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, and Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin appearing on the line-up later this (or early next) month.
As for Luhrmann’s film itself, the journey’s already been quite fraught with peril after it was pulled from the late 2012 blitz for a summer slotting. As disappointing as it was to have to wait five months more for such a busying affair (c’mon, that first trailer!), it’s in retrospect a smart move away from the choking political atmosphere that consumed this recently concluded Oscar season. Furthermore, us who have to bide our time stateside will be able to drink in this breezy F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation just before the European scene gets a shot at it. By then critics may have already torn Baz’s work to shreds, as they did for Australia in November of 2008. The Luhrmann loyalists, however, of whom I am a dedicated member, will stand in defense as they always do (c’mon, that second trailer!).
To catch up on even earlier news, the competition is always made a more intriguing affair by dialing in the tastes of the jury president. Last year’s head Nanni Moretti mightn’t have caused media sparks, but it turned out an undeniably quality winner in Amour, the rare Michael Haneke film I can take my mom to and not have her scarred for life. This year is a grand return to a more media friendly president choice, with Steven Spielberg bouncing back after a rollercoaster Oscar season that had the director’s Lincoln gladly coming out the other side with more than just Day-Lewis to preen over. It’ll be interesting to see what his tastes, and those of his jury, bring out as the top of the heap this year.
Also worth noting is the short competition being led by director Jane Campion, who will also be coming off the steam of her own recent work, the Sundance Channel miniseries Top of the Lake. The show begins airing this Monday, March 18th, at 9 p.m. EST, so plan accordingly with your cable providers. If you need convincing, try this on for size.