Of the venerated directors being honored here over the course of the week — from Alain Resnais to Roman Polanski — the dominant feeling so far has been one of fond looks back rather than bold leaps forward, with little ground being broken in form or ideas.
Although Wes Anderson’s coming-of-age picaresque “Moonrise Kingdom” launched the festival on May 16 on a whimsical, adventurous note, the movie hewed to the director’s signature controlled, ultra-composed style and thematic preoccupations with difficult families, precocious children and young love.
Once the film screenings got underway in earnest, audiences were introduced to a series of protagonists mired in situations out of their control or their destructive habits of self-deception. (It was surely a coincidence that a patch of rainy, windy and chilly weather moved in and refused to budge until Wednesday.)
In Jacques Audiard’s “Rust & Bone,” Marion Cotillard delivered a raw, stripped-down performance as a physically vital woman forced to come to grips with new limitations after a debilitating accident. In the visually rich but psychically despairing “Paradise: Love,” Austrian actress Margarete Tiesel delivered a physically fearless performance as a depressive, aging woman whose search for sexual gratification while on vacation in Kenya grows only more desperate and unsavory. In Egyptian filmmaker Yousry Nasrallah’s otherwise obvious and unfocused “After the Battle,” actress Nahed El Sebai portrayed a put-upon Muslim wife and mother with bracing fire and spirit. In Thomas Vinterberg’s well-crafted but banal thriller “The Hunt,” Mads Mikkelsen delivered an equally impressive performance as a kindergarten teacher who’s trapped in a web of social calumny when he’s accused of sexually abusing a student.
By far the most affecting and heroic portrait of stuckness has been Michael Haneke’s elegant, austerely shattering marital drama “Amour” — so far the odds-on favorite to win the Palme d’Or on Sunday — in which Jean-Louis Trintignant plays a man whose wife is slowly dying, in an austere portrait of devotion that Haneke has conceived with a warmth and compassion usually missing from his work.
And it hasn’t just been the characters on-screen who have seemed stuck: In some cases, the filmmakers seem to be stalled, with directors such as Matteo Garrone following up his taut 2008 crime drama “Gomorrah” with “Reality,” a derivative, tonally uneven semi-comedy about reality TV. The Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami may be congenitally unable to make an uninteresting movie, but his movie here, “Like Someone in Love,” represents a minor work, more a series of flawlessly composed shots than a fully realized film.