One thing everyone (more or less) could agree on was that the Coen brothers, after floundering with Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers, made a striking return to form with No Country For Old Men, a stark modern-day Western based on the Cormac McCarthy novel and featuring Javier Bardem as the creepiest movie psycho this side of Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs.
Also scoring high marks (and a special 60th Anniversary prize from the jury, "for his career and because he made a lovely film") was Gus Van Sant, whose Paranoid Park continues his recent string of low-budget films made with mostly unknown actors in and around his native Portland. Here, though, working form a source novel by Blake Nelson about a high-school skateboarder trying to make sense of his involvement in an accidental murder, Van Sant carries his ongoing experiments with image and sound design to new levels of sophistication. (The cameraman is the brilliant Christopher Doyle). The result is a fragmentary, dreamlike portrait of teen alienation—the movie Van Sant was trying to make with Elephant—in which every artistic decision seems to flow organically out of the material rather than being lacquered on top (à la Schnabel). Van Sant is now fully unrecognizable as the director who once guided a slick Hollywood package called Good Will Hunting to massive box-office returns and nine Oscar nominations. No wonder that, by the end of Cannes, Paranoid Park had yet to find a U.S. distributor. (As this article was going to press, Variety announced that IFC First Take had once again come to the rescue.) Even less surprising is the news that Van Sant's latest was fully financed by—you guessed it—the French.