The Measure of a Man
It was just at the half way mark of this year’s Cannes that I saw what to me is the performance of the festival. Vincent Lindon in Stephane Brize’s The Measure of a Man gives one of the most compelling performances I’ve seen in a long time. Timothy Spall gave a wonderful, larger than life portrait of JMW Turner last year (and won the best actor award here), but Lindon portrays a true everyman in a remarkably controlled performance.
In Cannes’ “year of the woman” some of the most affecting acting is coming from men. In addition to Lindon, Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel are marvelous as long time friends and artists (the former a composer; the latter a film director) who mull over their own impending end of days in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth.
Colin Farrell gives a well-tempered performance as a man in a society a bit in the future (but might as well be today) who must marry or be turned into an animal (yes, you read that correctly) in Yorgos Lanthimos’ dark, dark comedy The Lobster. Hungarian actor Geza Röhrig leaves an indelible impression as a concentration camp prisioner in Son of Saul, by first time Hungarian director Lázló Nemes.
Over in Un Certain Regard, Matthias Schoenaerts plays a French Army veteran with post-traumatic stress syndrome after a tour in Afghanistan in Alice Winocur’s Maryland (Disorder). His character must deal with his personal demons while guarding the family of a shady businessman. In another film dealing with the war in Afghanistan, Jérémie Renier is superb as a squad captain struggles to find some of his soldiers who have literally disappeared from the face of the earth in Critics Week selection The Wakhan Front by Clément Cogitore, making his feature film debut.
Not all of these actors are eligible for the Best Actor award – only those in competition films have a shot. As good as they are, neither Schoenaerts nor Renier will see the award; their films are in other sections. But my top choice is M. Lindon. He has a long and wide filmography and though his name might not be recognizable, chances are you’ve seen him in a number of films, if you go for the French ones.
Other big names are certainly represented in the competition: Vincent Cassel gives a wild turn as a sex-starved king in Matteo Garrone’s Tale of Tales, his compendium of medieval fairy tales. Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanable wander Gus van Sant’s The Sea of Trees trying to find a way out (from the forest, or from life?), while Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro play colleagues but also antagonists to Emily Blunt’s FBI agent in Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario.
Gerard Depardieu plays opposite Isabelle Huppert as exes trying to reconnect with their dead son in Death Valley in Guillaume Nicloux’s Valley of Love. And, though the film hasn’t played yet in the festival, everyone is looking forward to seeing Michael Fassbender’s interpretation of the lead role in the Scottish play, as Justin Kurzel brings Macbeth to the screen again.
More performances to come, and there will be female performances to address as well. As each film unspools (actually, only one short film in Directors’ Fortnight was on 35mm and actually unspooled), the favorites and the odds change.