By Utpal Borpujari in Cannes
How does one judge a film? That too in a festival like Cannes where the best of the world comes, particularly this year when those competing for the top honour of Palme d’Or include Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodovar, Ken Loach, Jane Campion, Alain Resnais, Ang Lee, Lars von Trier and Michael Haneke?
The jury members are playing it safe, and not giving any hint about whether they have set up any judging regulations.
Jury chairperson and legendary French actress Isabelle Huppert takes a philosophical tone in this regard. “We are not here to judge, I think we are here to love films,” she says.
Expanding on her thoughts, she says, “It is very, very difficult to explain why one loves a work of art, a painting, a piece of music, a film. It is beyond judgement. I think we the jury will bring in a little bit of our souls to find out what the filmmakers have brought out of their souls.”
For new-age Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, whose “Three Monkeys” had won the best director award here at Cannes only last year, it is even more complicated. That is because he believes that a film not liked in the first viewing might open up fresh vistas for the viewer in subsequent viewings.
“I don’t trust myself in this, because a film that I might dislike in the first viewing might turn out to be a greatly original film in subsequent viewings. I don’t like to go by my first reaction of watching a film. I think I will use a combination of my heart and brain while doing the jury work,” he says.
To this, Huppert responds that it might not be a bad idea to have repeat screenings of films they view if the need arose. The only problem surely here will be a paucity of time as the jury will have to finish watching 20 films in ten days and then decide the winner.
Ceylan adds philosophically that it is a matter of the soul finally. “Everybody has a different soul, and tries to get in different things differently. If I find something worth fighting for, I will definitely.”
Actress Sharmila Tagore, the Indian representation in the jury, takes the middle ground, when she says that it is a huge responsibility to be a jury member.
“There are some very big names and some new names in the competition. Obviously all the films will have a certain standard, and obviously all our reactions will be certainly different from one another. I think we are in for exciting times,” she says.
What she would prefer to do is to “bring in a little bit of us in our work”. “We will be doing our duty with the same honesty, dedication and instinct that the filmmakers have shown,” she adds.
American director James Gray, UK’s Hanif Kureishi and South Korea’s Lee Chang Dong also make it clear that they are against the concept of judging any work of art but have accepted the Cannes invitation just so that they get to watch a lot of great movies and interact with their peers.
As Gray puts it, “Judging comes second.” And other jury members, including actresses Asia Argento (Italy), Robin Wright Penn (USA) and Shu Qi (Taiwan), seem to agree.
So, who will they choose for the Palme d’Or? Wait till May 23 to know.