There is a lot of honor that comes with being given the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. As the premiere event for world cinema, it has long been held as the standard of excellence, even more-so than the Academy Awards or BAFTAS. This year saw the film from Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan called Winter Sleep take the top prize and immediately become a must-see for audiences. With its upcoming release, the first trailer has arrived to give American audiences a peek into what this film is going to be dealing with. To say the least, it is at least beautiful to look at with a lot of promising other elements tied in.
I cannot claim to be an expert on Cannes Film Festival. For starters, my knowledge of world cinema is despairingly low to even get enthusiasm for foreign films. I have a few directors that I love, but I rarely pursue the more obscure titles. At best, I have gotten into the habit of watching the Palme d'Or winners, which have been hit-and-miss in terms of quality. Cannes tends to reward more meditative, long formed films that take their time to build up. Last year's winner, Blue is the Warmest Color, clocked in at three hours. Winter Sleep is 196 minutes, or three hours and 16 minutes. It's not easy feat to sit through epics of this nature, especially if they delve into melancholy territory.
Yet there is something appealing about Palme d'Or winners. They represent something greater than simply being a world film. It is a footnote for what world audiences can look to as the epitome of greatness. These audiences don't always represent the long term opinions of film, speaking as Taxi Driver was notoriously booed. With the issues of seeing them also problematic due to limited release, I cannot guarantee that I will actually see this in a reasonable fashion, though I do intend to.
The one benefit is that the film has been selected as the Turkish entry for next year's Academy Awards. Where last year saw Blue is the Warmest Color disqualified for release reasons, Winter Sleep looks to follow in the wake of 2012's Palme d'Or recipient Amour, which also took home the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and even landed in the Best Picture and Best Director race. This is a welcome sign of potential success for Ceylan, though it does seem likely that it won't happen.
What exactly is Winter Sleep? Here's the trailer:
Looks pretty good. For those who need more, here's the plot according to IMDb:
"Aydin, a former actor, runs a small hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife Nihal with whom he has a stormy relationship and his sister Necla who is suffering from her recent divorce. In winter as the snow begins to fall, the hotel turns into a shelter but also an inescapable place that fuels their animosities."
Sounds like a pretty hard hitting drama. I am not entirely what to expect nor do I understand how it could work at its lengthy run time. However, there must be something in the performances that compels deeper drama and gives way to something greater. Maybe the snow will serve as a metaphor for some hostilities. Nonetheless, I think that the film's immediate success is that it looks rather gorgeous and its desolate scenery in the trailer seem almost photographic in their design. I have a feeling that this will be a great film to look at, even if I am unsure how the actual story will compel.
It is too early to determine if Winter Sleep is going to be the next phenomenon. The one detriment is that compared to Amour, it doesn't have the attention-grabbing actors. Sorry to say, but Ceylan has never been nominated in the Best Foreign film category whereas Michael Haneke has for The White Ribbon. Then again, there's hope that the bias doesn't play into things and that the film will be able to stand up on its own merits. The only question is if the magic of the Palme d'Or is going to cloud their judgment, or if it is actually going to be considered by its own standards. Only time will tell.
Does Winter Sleep stand any chance at the Oscars? Does the Palme d'Or always guarantee Academy Award recognition? Is there any other category that Winter Sleep could possibly get nominated in beyond Best Foreign Film?