Canadians at Cannes: mid-fest reviews

How are Canada's high-profile films so far faring in the consumer press so far? A roundup of reviews and reaction from the Cannes screenings.

With one of the highest-profile years in recent memory, Canada was poised to be Cannes’ belle of the ball, with three big-name directors in contention for the Palmes d’Or and a raft of others screening or in sidebar competition.

But, like its sporting cousin the Olympic Games, not even the most promising athletes always make the podium. With competition fierce for the Palme d’Or and other prizes fierce, here is how the consumer press is so far responding to Canadian-directed films.

Kicking off Canada’s Cannes contingent was Atom Egoyan’s The Captive, with its premiere screening on May 16. As is well-documented in the international press by now, reviewers were less than kind. “There may have been some sense in which Atom Egoyan intended his new film to be bizarre. But surely not bizarrely acted, bizarrely written, bizarrely directed and bizarrely, completely and culpably misjudged?” said The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw. The Globe and Mail called reaction “blisteringly harsh,” a trend that’s continued with gossip-style reports this week that star Ryan Reynolds declined to attend the film’s afterparty.

However, despite what some argue is fevered overreaction, the film still managed to land a U.S. distributor during the festival.

Monday brought the premiere of David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, which received mixed initial reviews from the U.S. trades but increasingly positive reviews from the consumer press. It’s considered a dark horse candidate for the Palme d’Or award:

“David Cronenberg’s sardonic new Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars is winning raves at the Cannes Film Festival — including kudos from many of the same types of celebrities he and screenwriter Bruce Wagner are savaging.” Peter Howell, The Toronto Star (Read more here.)

“Maps to the Stars is, per Cronenberg’s usual coolly measured and impeccably composed,  though at times it feels too close to the written page.” – Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail

On Tuesday, reaction to Canadian heartthrob Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, Lost River, in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, hit the headlines, with reaction again mixed:

“There were more furrowed brows than clapping hands when the closing credits scrolled Tuesday, but to these eyes, Lost River is a stunner.” – Peter Howell, The Toronto Star (Read more here.)

“Ryan Gosling’s Lost River tests the patience” – Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail (Read more here.)

“The first film in which Ryan Gosling features behind the camera rather than in front wears its influences on its sleeve and its folly all over the shop – The Guardian (U.K.) – Peter Bradshaw (Read more here.)

Still to come this week: Canadian wunderkind director Xavier Dolan’s Mommy premiere on May 22. Dolan has already been quoted as having designs on the Palme prize, and the screening of his film is highly anticipated.

In other Cannes news, Canadian producers and distributors are keeping busy, inking a flurry of deals already: Canadians busy debuting and dealing films in Cannes.