The Croissette was slick with rain again on Sunday night for the 65th Cannes Film Festival’s closing ceremony, which one colleague joked was a tribute to the 1964 Palme d’Or winner The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Inside the Grand Théâtre Lumière, this year’s jury was led by president Nanni Moretti, the Italian filmmaker whose Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope) screened in 2011′s main competition. Moretti’s jury also included actor Ewan McGregor, The Descendants writer-director Alexander Payne, Inglourious Basterds actress Diane Krueger, British auteur Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank), Palestinian actress-filmmaker Hiam Abbass (The Visitor), French actress Emmanuelle Davos (Kings & Queen), Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck (Lumumba), and designer Jean-Paul Gaultier in the wild-card slot. For this writer, comfortably dry and watching the awards on TV at a nearby flat, that nine-member think tank’s choices proved parochial, or at least yawn-stifingly uninspired, but that reaction might be because the competition’s four best films—Leo Carax’s Holy Motors, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone and David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis—were entirely shut out.
Wes Anderson was dining with French friends when he got the call—three months after submitting his resplendent new feature, Moonrise Kingdom, to Cannes—that his eccentrically funny-sad, 1965-set charmer was chosen for opening night at the world’s most prestigious film festival. Sharing such thrilling news with his dinner companions, they all offered up the same reaction: “Better to be in competition.”
Fortunately for Anderson, as the director recalled during an intimate press conference more luxurious than your average hotel junket (the sound of raindrops bouncing softly off an open-air tent on the Riviera beach), Moonrise later rose to a competition slot, and remains this writer’s first and favorite selection seen at this year’s Cannes. It’s for that reason that only now, while fruitlessly waiting for a second film to rank as highly, that MovieMaker checks in at the fest’s midpoint. Which is not at all to say that this has been a “weak year,” as some jaded critics have grumbled, but we haven’t yet seen any cinematic pleasures to collectively knock us out of our chairs (or wildly polarize) à la 2011′s Melancholia, Drive and Palme d’Or winner The Tree of Life.