The penultimate chunk of Cannes winners available to stream features yet another talented bunch. Of course there are many, many more great Cannes victors you can watch right now – let us know in the comments what you recommend, or perhaps what you might be looking for.
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Bérénice Bejo – 2013 Prix d’interprétation féminine
Without in any way intending to offend the beautiful Bérénice Bejo, she played it plain and simple in Asghar Farhadi‘s near flawless Le Passé. So solid and sincere is her performance here, she is unrecognizable from the (also excellent) song-and-dance turn in the silent Oscar winner The Artist. Marie-Anne is not a particularly scary woman, but those men in her life (and her kids to a large extent) are walking on thin ice – she is weighed down by bitterness, perhaps some buried guilt, not to mention the tension built from her recent and current life choices.
You watch Le Passé, though, and want the pain to end for her. For all of them. Bejo is so authentic, such a grand presence in this grounded human story, you carry empathy for her, even in her coldest moments. This is not solely her film, in the acting stakes she is surrounded by some outstanding performers, but she is the cream of the crop.
Mathieu Kassovitz – 1995 Prix de la mise en scène
Perhaps recognized primarily as a French actor, you will have seen Mathieu Kassovitz in the likes of The City of Lost Children, A Self Made Hero, Munich, and of course Amélie. But Kassovitz’s bravura achievement came in 1995, then in his mid-twenties, when he wrote and directed the brutal, brilliant La Haine (Hate), a small time crime feast trawling through the impoverished, multi-cultural French streets.
A kinetic, social drama in many respects, La Haine is not shy in throwing society’s previlent themes of race and violence at us. Kassovitz apparently started writing his screenplay on the day of a real-life shooting, adding some personal history to the mix – and the rawness shows in his directing. At the 1995 Cannes Film Festival the young filmmaker Kassovitz earned himself a standing ovation, as well as the Best Director prize. See the unforgettable movie if you haven’t already, so it can leave a lasting mark on you too.
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Wild at Heart – 1990 Palme d’Or
You could argue that David Lynch‘s magnetic Wild at Heart crams into two hours a whole array of film genres and aesthetic values. It has drama, some melodrama, but also that of dark and eerie subject matter. There’s comedy in places, heavy splashes of violence, sequences of action and fantasy. A brutally convincing story of troubled lovebirds. This is a road movie, a crime movie, a thriller-not-quite-horror. It is vividly shot, with a terrific sound design. We are also melted by a couple of music numbers. It is shocking in places, fun in others. And of course it has all out weird.
We’d be lucky enough to experience even more of this from Lynch for years to follow. When Wild at Heart screened at Cannes, the movie was not well received by all (sound familiar?). And even when it was announced as the winner of the Palme d’Or there were some boos from audience members. Violence this, and tasteless that, the jury headed by Bernardo Bertolucci had the final say with regards to unparalleled, alternative, and nifty film-making. At the end of the day maybe we’re just suckers for Elvis.
Volver – 2006 Prix d’interprétation féminine
No stranger to the Cannes Film Festival himself, last year’s jury president Pedro Almodóvar brought the magnetic Volver to the event, a consistently brilliant filmmaker, his latest venture was a chip off the old block while still appearing fresh and vibrant. Proving once again he knows how to tell stories about women better than most in the business. Almodóvar was awarded the Best Screenplay prize at the festival, deservedly so as he continues to surprise us.
Also, the jury came to the conclusion that although there was no official ensemble prize, the Best Actress award would be in fact handed to the female cast of Volver – so Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Yohana Cobo, Lola Dueñas, Chus Lampreave, and Blanca Portillo were all declared as winners. It was a fitting honor, there hasn’t been a collection of talented women performing at this level in a single motion picture for years.
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Andrey Zvyagintsev & Oleg Negin – 2014 Prix du scénario
I am not fully aware of where the balance of power lies in this industry with regards to the writers. The screenwriters. Does anyone? Those whose words on the page simply have to exist if there are to be any performers, directors, producers. That is where it all begins. Winning the Screenplay prize, there are no bones to pick from Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin‘s Leviathan, a small town drama with wide-scope issues. The acting from the main cast is so incredibly raw, you almost feel their pain. Beautifully shot too, crashing waves and rock faces ebbing around the community tension.
The story itself is inch-perfectly executed. A steady pace is given to the air of doom facing the protagonist’s struggle to hold onto his home and land, not to mention his disintegrating wife, troublesome son, and who he thought was a loyal old friend. Zvyagintsev’s screenplay does not waste a single word either, so tight is the narrative it is a candle that burns slowly right in front of you. A candle that burns right down to the core, with hardly any whiff of a happy ending, leaving only an appropriately powerful and bleak closure. References to Leviathan as a masterpiece are not, then, unfounded.
Blowup – 1966 Palme d’Or
Based somewhat on London photographer David Bailey, Blowup is English language film territory for Michelangelo Antonioni, after coming oh so close with his native Italian films in Cannes. The photographer (a splendid David Hemmings) is charismatic, ambitious and haphazard. He becomes the focus of attention when he is confronted by the woman he photographed in public canoodling with a man. His photos taken there reveal much more than that.
And Antonioni’s attention-grabbing film has further depth still, when the incredible sequence of revelation through photographs changes the pace and your own captivation. A crime scene emerges through the photographer’s gradual scrutiny of the shots. You are reminded of Rear Window, when James Stewart is seeing horror in real-time in front of his eyes. You think of that photo enhancing scene in Blade Runner, made fifteen years later. And why do you think psychedelic and the mod parts of Austin Powers are so familiar? Then comes the final moments of Blowup, which really challenge your perceptions of existence and illusion.
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Juliette Binoche – 2010 Prix d’interprétation féminine
Abbas Kiarostami’s writing for Certified Copy is immaculate (again), crafting a scenario between two people and turning it on its head for the audience to bemuse over. Smart, free-flowing in its development and dialogue, the tension in the conversations is impossible not to enjoy.
So, I am lost for words for the most part when I watch Juliette Binoche, one of the greatest actresses in history goes without saying, but with Kiarostami’s extraordinary movie I was left wondering where she pulls out that kind of performance. Whatever it is putting her character on a knife-edge, the reality of her own weighted circumstances or the clandestine charade before us, Binoche inhabits the character and every last drop of her emotions.
Paris, Texas – 1984 Palme d’Or
How great to see two of the New German Cinema generation of directors (Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog) in attendance in competition at Cannes. It was Wenders who triumphed with the Palme d’Or this time around, with a story on the shoulders of the terrific Harry Dean Stanton‘s Travis. A remarkable, timeless motion picture. I mean, what is not to like? L.M. Kit Carson and Sam Shepard’s raw and thoughtful script, Ry Cooder’s enigmatic Texan score, or the vast cinematography of Robby Müller.
It also has, for me, one of the most uniquely heart-tugging scenes captured on film. Ever. When Travis tells Jane (the luminous Nastassja Kinski) his story from the other side of a one-way mirror, and she begins to realize who it really is she listening to. My goodness, every time I re-watch the movie I get a build-up of all manner of emotions just knowing that moving sequence is yet to come. Paris, Texas also scooped the FIPRESCI Prize, as well as the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the great festival.
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Polisse – 2011 Prix du Jury
Polisse starts as it means to go on, an unflinching depiction of a police department’s handling of their child protection duties. A touchy subject at the best of times, female filmmaker Maïwenn wastes no time with the grim, upsetting nature of the crimes against children, but she also manages to create a human clique with the crime officials. People who laugh, socialize, as well as having to cope with the trauma of their jobs. And being human, of course, there’s bound to be high tension and cracks emerging.
It’s a well-made drama, packed with varying tones of expression, subject matter, changes of pace, and does not hold back in finishing on a shocker rather than a flourish. But that’s reality unfortunately. The film took the Jury Prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
Elephant – 2003 Palme d’Or
With Gus Van Sant you never really know what you are going to get. He has hit indie heights in the early days, competed strongly at the Academy awards, but also for some reason remade a classic horror that ought never to have been touched. A huge blip. However, with his 2003 film Elephant, Van Sant has crafted a small wonder. Utilizing non-actors to depict a grounded, untainted Columbine-esque high school shooting drama, the filmmaker has aligned a fresh, unflinching style of craft without glorifying the violence or disrespecting events of a very similar nature.
Elephant is a movie in which its young characters meet up, stroll around, get on with their day, without any knowledge of what is coming – for some. The school halls are seemingly vacant, as the narrative shifts back and forth without disruption, Van Sant leaves many of his frames wide up, much like our own building anticipation. And beneath the ensuing menace there’s also a raw, refined portrayal of teenage lives – three girls self-vomit in unison; there’s a declared first kiss for both parties; and likely the most poignant moment of the entire movie, a boy cries, getting a kiss on the cheek rather than judgement. Elephant won the Palme d’Or and the Best Director prize that year.
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