Tim Burton: Goofy Artist or Excellent Judge?

I know that, in the land of cinema, “goofy artist” or “excellent judge” are phrases overused, at best. But rest assured, I’m not attacking M. Night Shyamalan. I’m talking, of course, about Tim Burton’s appointment as the head of the Cannes 2010 film jury.

Okay, so he’s a bit of a Marmite director. Some would strongly imply that he’s simply remaking the odd, bizarre films from his youth, and using the same actors so often that their roles seem to blur into one another. Some would then slam their scissor-hands on the table and stand, enraged, counting Burton among the ranks of filmmakers such as Kevin Smith or Simon Pegg, who rely on recurring cast members for their familiarity and quality of work.

He’s certainly an odd choice of judge. It’s arguable that he may be a little biased. He’s a fan of kooky, dark, gothic cinema, though whether this is because he’s been aping the genuine gothic tendencies of an era soundtracked by the Cure (the aesthetic similarities between him and Robert Smith are endless) or because he genuinely believes striking, modernist approaches to cinema are the only way to go is unclear. But I can’t help but feel that all any film needs to do is throw a few mutilated, stitched-up characters into a wonky-walled set with low-lit mood lighting and they’ll sweep the board. It’s clear he has to be unbiased, and it’s a great honour for him to be chosen, but aren’t you curious?

His opening speech was, apparently, interesting enough to be documented as one that gives no sense of opinion or judgement about film whatsoever. I can’t help but feel this might be a clue as to his own awareness of his reputation as someone quite set in their ways. The BBC quoted him as saying “”The goal is to not have any preconceptions, I think we’ve all been judged, so I think we’re coming into this with a certain spirit and openness and hopefully compassion for any filmmaker.” It’s clear from this alone that he’s very light-handed when it comes to looking at the work of other people, but I’d wager favouritism over certain darker-looking films is a lot more subtle in bias than an anti-genre approach.

Alice in Wonderland recieved mixed reviews at best, and this is simply because Tim Burton’s style is, much like Kevin Smith’s, stuck in the same position again and again. The cameras may change, the technology gets updated (though it’s rumoured Burton dislikes motion capture), but the films are instantly identifiable. His judging may or may not be biased towards films that lean more towards the style he uses so often, but only time will tell. Keep following The Film Review for news and opinions on Cannes, as it happens. If you’re looking for a great tale of Tim Burton – told by another stylised director, Kevin Smith (the origin of the “goofy artist” phrase), you’ll find it below:

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