Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse,” with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, won the Cannes Film Festival critics’ award for best first or second feature in Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week, one of the first prizes for which “The Lighthouse” has been eligible at Cannes.
The award was announced Saturday in Cannes by the Intl. Federation of Film Critics (Fipresci), which also honored Elia Suleiman’s “It Must Be Heaven” as the best film in competition and Russian Kantemir Balagov’s “Beanpole” as best film in the sidebar Un Certain Regard.
At the same awards announcement, it was revealed that Terrence Malick’s Cannes competition entry, “Hidden Life,” won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.
The Fipresci honor for “The Lighthouse” marks another plaudit for Eggers, who is rapidly emerging as a major talent in many critics’ view, as well as for one of the best-reviewed of movies in any section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Variety called “The Lighthouse” “darkly exciting” and “made with extraordinary skill,” commenting that “the movie, building on ‘The Witch,’ proves that Robert Eggers possesses something more than impeccable genre skill. He has the ability to lock you into the fever of what’s happening onscreen.”
Produced by A24, New Regency and Brazil’s RT Features, and picked up by Focus Features for international distribution and A24 for North America, “The Lighthouse” is shot in chiaroscuro black-and-white and a 1.19:1 box ratio, with Dafoe and Pattinson playing lighthouse keepers who drive each other to the brink of madness.
“The Lighthouse” sees “two lead actors give stormy, career-best performances,” the Fipresci jury said in a written statement Saturday, describing Eggers’ second feature as “a brutal work of art, all shot in beautiful black-and-white cinematography and fueled by a soundscape that echoes like a foghorn.”
Suleiman’s “It Must Be Heaven” is a collection of drolly observational comedic tableaux, and sees its Palestinian director-star leaving his native Nazareth to seek financing for his next movie, first in Paris, then New York and Montreal. He finds the same officialdom, absurdity and underlying violence as in his native land.
Sold by Wild Bunch – and featuring its head, Vincent Maraval, as a French film producer who tells Suleiman his project isn’t Palestinian enough – “It Must Be Heaven” was generally liked. In one of the most enthusiastic reviews, Variety said that “Elia Suleiman turns his delightfully absurdist, unfailingly generous gaze beyond the physical homeland, where parallels and dissonance abound.”
The Fipresci jury agreed: “In a subtle, stylistically strong and humorous way, this film tells a story that goes beyond politics, religions, authorities and cultural differences.”
Balagov’s “Beanpole,” his second feature, took Fipresci’s Un Certain Regard award. The Russian helmer had already won the Best Director prize at the Un Certain Regard awards on Friday. One of the 10 Cannes-selected movies, along with “The Lighthouse,” scoring 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, “Beanpole” is about two women attempting to rebuild their lives in war-ravaged 1945 Leningrad. It was praised by Variety as an “exceptionally crafted, devastating postwar drama.”
FIPRESCI PRIZES, CANNES 2019
“It Must be Heaven” (Elia Suleiman, France, Germany, Netherlands)
UN CERTAIN REGARD
“Beanpole” (Kantemir Balagov, Russia)
DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT/CRITICS’ WEEK
“The Lighthouse” (Robert Eggers, U.S., Brazil)