Straight onto the third batch of 10 former Cannes winners you can stream online. Many of the links are country specific (like America, UK, France), but if you are wondering about access in other countries let me know, I’ll try and find them. For now, take a look at the next lot.
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Christoph Waltz – 2009 Prix d’interprétation masculine
I, and many others I am sure, have often wondered if Christoph Waltz would have taken home an Oscar had he been in the Lead Actor category for Inglourious Basterds. I would say yes, without much doubt. The voting in Cannes is not really too concerned with this. There was the usual debates of course from the moment Waltz won Best Actor in Cannes right through to the awards season.
The opening sequence of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds introduces us to Colonel Hans Landa, and what followings is one of the most menacing and magnetic exchanges in recent years. Tarantino’s stylized, progressive dialogue is delivered here by Christoph Waltz with genuinely tension-building charisma and terror. We are thankfully invited to experience the “Jew Hunter” many times over in the movie as his bi-lingual charm and casually astute detective work add further elements to cement Waltz’s performance as one of the best of the decade, let alone year.
Le salaire de la peur – 1953 Palme d’Or
The effective way the opening scenes of Le salaire de la peur (The Wages of Fear) are shot may well be a great addition to any ‘How To’ educational film book. How To set the scene. How To get the audience attention right away. How To convey piercing heat on film. How To shoot film, period. I guess I am not the only one, too, to make the comparison between the strips of film-noir-like sunlight seeping through onto the shade, and the stripes on Linda’s revealing top. How To read too much into film? I don’t think so.
Regardless, this a cracking motion picture by Henri-Georges Clouzot, headed by the not-many-cooler-than Yves Montand as Mario. He is part of an exclusive, but desperate, band of men marooned in a scorching Mexican town tasked with a bumpy journey to aid an American oil company. “Where there’s oil, there’s America”, quips Mario at one point. These misfits, once they do set off on the hazardous roads, are literally living life on the edge. But they need the money. And as far as nervous teeth-gritting is concerned, there is no expense spared. The ‘oh fuck’ ending (cutting back to the original, hot location of safety only to tease us) is one of the biggest sucker punch climaxes in cinematic history. Last time I watched this I was almost convinced the ending might go a different way – of course, it did not.
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Joel Coen (and Ethan Coen) – 1996 Prix de la mise en scène
Fargo seems to somehow encapsulate all that is exceptional about Joel and Ethan Coen and their repertoire of outstanding film-making. And that there is nobody else quite like them. So infiltrating, so impressive is their 1996 ground-breaker (even for Oscar voters, finally) that even today it remains their best according to many. The acting is first-rate, the Coens write and direct with such gritty fervor, Carter Burwell’s stimulating music, not to mention Roger Deakins never putting a foot wrong with his visual scope.
Taking their trademark fumbled crime kidnapping scenario to new heights, with the added mix of violence, quirky dialect, and a bold diversity of characters, Fargo also offers a genuine scope of humanity, be it the unethical way a car salesman would treat his family for money, or the homely, grounded attitude of an efficient, jovial pregnant police trooper. Full to the brim with set-pieces sequences of all natures, Fargo‘s layers and invigoration will never wilt. With the win here, Joel Coen now has three Best Director prizes from Cannes – and I am fairly certain he shared every one with his brother.
Jack Lemmon – 1979 Prix d’interprétation masculine
The China Syndrome was one of those movies from the seventies you discover on your own. Nobody really told me about it, nor was I simply aware of it through it’s critical and award success, or the film’s status as instant classic (like, say, The Godfather). I saw this movie quite by accident as a boy, probably a teenager, and it gripped me from start to finish.
A young Michael Douglas was a surprise, but the real stars here were Jane Fonda (who I was in love with anyway), and the terrific Jack Lemmon. Back then I was obviously a fan of his famous comedy work, but to see him this impressive in a pure dramatic role was a real eye-opener, as I continued to nurture my passion for cinema. To be honest, you run out of superlatives with Lemmon with each film you watch.
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Irène Jacob – 1991 Prix d’interprétation féminine
Personally speaking, Irène Jacob‘s screen presence has more than once inspired my own creation on on-screen heroins in mt screenwriting. In La double vie de Véronique she shows a range of performance (not unlike the brilliance on display in Krzysztof Kieślowski‘s Three Colors: Red), whether it be the child-like hope of her singing or exploring ways to see the world, or the heavy sadness that somehow overcomes her throughout.
She seems to be on the brink of joy or tears, we are not always sure which, and Jacob has the perfect face for such multi-emotional performance in a dual role. It is a tranquil, subtle piece of expressive, non-explosive acting. Kieślowski was renowned for bullying his own ability as a film-maker to convey exactly to the screen what was in his creative mind (not the only one to feel this way I suspect). With Jacob’s help here, and elsewhere, I can’t see what greater way he could have seen this.
Julian Schnabel – 2007 Prix de la mise en scène
Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly) is an extraordinary looking film, and concept, unlike much you have seen before, or could see in the future. A grand achievement by director Julian Schnabel. The set-up is purely about perspective, we see much of the movie through the point of view of the main character. And I mean this quite literally, through his eyes. For those who have not seen it, or know what it is about, the movie is based on real events, when Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) suffered a stroke and was left paralyzed from the head down. Bauby’s eyes guide us (well, one eye actually), not the exact way they guided him, but Schnabel certainly gives it a good go.
The film also tells the story of Bauby’s life prior to the ailment. Some of the technical story-telling is so astonishing you wonder what kind of trickery this really is. Schnabel’s direction is so tight and meticulous, it flourishes – at times you suffocate as your heart breaks. Beating the likes of Cristian Mungiu, Naomi Kawase, Wong Kar-wai, Joel and Ethan Coen, David Fincher to the directing prize was no surprise in spite of that strong competition.
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Das weiße Band, Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte, – 2009 Palme d’Or
The White Ribbon is by its own declaration a German children’s story (Das weiße Band, Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte). But it’s no fairy tale. Or at least, not as we know it. Set in the early 20th century, some time not long before World War I, in a small German village where the simple life is diluted with strange goings-on. This is not a thriller, nor a horror. The patiently-paced story seems to portray villagers of all ages, and age has no barrier to ask why or respond to the bad things that happen.
At times it feels like a collection of harmonious short-stories scattered for harvest, their relation to one another not in question. A series of beautiful photographs capturing these terrible things, wonderfully crafted characters, and the importance of wondrous innocence. Michael Haneke‘s direction and writing, accompanied by the marvel that is Christian Berger’s black and white cinematography, gifts us story-telling that is never ever laborious or unappealing in its duration. A real gem indeed. A masterpiece you might say.
Jean Dujardin – 2011 Prix d’interprétation masculine
Not only was there a heavy revival of the silent cinema days with Michael Hazanavicius’ The Artist, but Cannes was also crammed with some fascinating male leads who did not predominantly rely on the spoken word to be compelling. Ryan Gosling (Drive), Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life), and even Ezra Miller (We Need To Talk About Kevin) are three such popular examples.
Eventually going all the way to the Oscar Best Actor award (unlucky Mr Clooney) Jean Dujardin not only has the chiseled looks of an old-time movie star, his performance captured the eccentricities of that classic days of silent cinema, delivering heavy emotion and comedy in equal bursts of success.
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Paul Thomas Anderson – 2002 Prix de la mise en scène
Hooray for Cannes once again for acknowledging one of the finest, and most talented directors of today’s generation, but also rewarding one of his most under-rated works. Punch-Drunk Love is a love story more than anything else, but is smeared with Paul Thomas Anderson‘s signature ingredients. The characters are likable oddballs, especially Barry played by Adam Sandler – acting, really acting.
Anderson shoots with vigor and energy, his camera pulls back and forth as effectively as it did in Magnolia – only on a much smaller story-scale. His arsenal as a film-maker is full to the brim with expertise, he makes movies like he has been doing it since the seventies. Punch-Drunk Love is a much better film-watching experience now (and earns its place in Anderson’s consistently brilliant filmography) knowing what he has since achieved with the likes of There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice and The Phantom Thread.
The Sweet Hereafter – 1997 Grand Prix
The Sweet Hereafter grabbing the Grand Prize of the Jury (second place) still seems like a small defeat somehow, even given the terrific films in competition in 1997. The Ice Storm, Taste of Cherry, The Eel, L.A. Confidential, Nil by Mouth, Welcome to Sarajevo etc. Exquisitely made, Atom Egoyan hits all the right notes here, a penetrating and beautiful film about the sadness that engulfs a small town.
Egoyan actually pushed aside a project to make this, and his passion and care shows in the poignant, melancholic results. A deft touch for the human heart without resorting to sentimentality. As subtle and brilliant as the movie itself, Ian Holm plays a character with his own family troubles, not finding himself part of the community who have suffered an unimaginable loss. The rest of the cast shine so naturally, Sarah Polley stands out as a girl unable to conceal the truth amidst the dark. Painfully beautiful.
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