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CATCHING UP WITH CANNES

The 2011 Palm d’Or Winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival is

The Tree Of Life by Director Terrance Malick, which was recently

released on DVD. Check out these past Best Film winners. Some you

may have seen, but others you may not have heard of and are well

worth a screening.

 2010 – UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES

In a spirit haunted primordial jungle a man is quietly dying. This is minimalist,

ritualized cinema in its purest form from Thailand’s critically acclaimed  director

Apitchatpong Weerasethakul. An avant-garde mood-piece, Uncle Boonmee may

not be for general audiences, but for those willing to immerse themselves in the

experience it can be a rewarding one. Boonmee’s final days are spent with his

sister and a nurse and their various supernatural guests. As death approaches,

past lives, human, animal or other appear ever shifting and interconnected. All

modern works are built on ancient ones, all new things have within them older

forms and so it is with this gentle, meditative film.

 2009 – THE WHITE RIBBON

Austrian director Michael Haneke’s mysterious, cerebral exploration of the nature

of terrorism and its effect on human societies and psychology. Prior to the outbreak

of World War I  a series of inexplicably violent incidents take place in a small German village

unsettling the occupants. Like all Haneke films, things never get neatly tied up, but its

ambiguous vagueness is part of the lesson. We may never know the origins of senseless

acts of violence, but its destructive effects can have lasting consequences. Another plus, the

Oscar nominated black & white cinematography.

2008 – THE CLASS

Real life teacher and novelist Francois Begaudeau plays a version of himself in French director

Laurent Cantet’s documentary-like look at a year in a classroom of racially mixed 14 and 15

year olds. Coming from a tough Parisian neighborhood the kids both challenge and inspire

their teacher, who sometimes succeeds and sometimes fails to get through to his students.

With this film Cantet has created the single most realistic take on teacher-student relations

ever committed to film.

 2007 – 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS

From one of the architects of the Romanian new wave, director Cristian Mungiu, comes this

powerful drama about a woman who helps her friend arrange an illegal abortion in 1980’s

Romania. A simple, minimalist approach to story perfectly compliments the extraordinary

hand-held camera work, laying bare the hypocrisy of an oppressive and dangerous communist

regime.

 2006 – THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY

British director Ken Loach’s politically controversial film about Irish Republican conflict in

early 20th century Ireland and the 2 brothers who are torn apart by the anti-British rebellion.

Loach shows the great brutality of a civil war that sets nation against nation and brother

against brother. Accused of being IRA propaganda the film is actually an historically

accurate account of that particular conflict, not an indictment of British power.

 2005 – L’ENFANT

The Dardenne brothers won their 2nd Palm d’Or for this story of Bruno, a young petty thief in

an east Belgium steel town who lives off his girlfriend’s welfare and impulsively spends whatever

he steals. After the birth of their son, Bruno sells the baby on the black market without his

girlfriends knowledge. There’s lots of restless movement in this film, but very little talk. The issues

this film provokes are explored sympathetically, yet with a merciless realism. Adulthood, morality,

love, romance, fatherhood, and survival are all examined here. Actor Jeremie Regnier as Bruno is

the real child, the boy who has not grown up and who must face life as it is in order to become a man.

 2004 – FAHRENHEIT 9/11

One of the rare instances of a documentary winning the “Best Film” award at Cannes and

certainly the most well known of this group of films. Also the winner of the Best Documentary

Academy Award, Michael Moore’s politically blistering take on what happened to the United

States after Sept. 11th ; and how the Bush administration used that tragic day to push forward

its’ agenda for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 2003 – ELEPHANT

Rather than tell a conventional story, director Gus Van Sant gives “Elephant” the look and

feel of a documentary. Here is a film in which style becomes substance, where the meaning

lies in the form and shape of the film itself. Set in a sterile suburban high school, it recounts

a typical day for the school – typical, that is, until it ends in a Columbine type massacre. The

slow, deliberate, understated style is mesmerizing, lulling the viewer into the daily repetitions

of high school soon to be shattered by inexplicable, unpredictable violence. This is that special

cinematic experience that becomes more meaningful upon repeated viewings.

 2002 – THE PIANIST

Besides winning the Palm d’Or , director Roman Polanski won the Oscar for Best Director and

Adrien Brody won Best Actor for this true story of a Polish, Jewish musician struggling to

survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto. It may be the most conventional, Hollywood

type film of the bunch, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful. Brody’s sympathetic, heart-

breaking performance infuses the film with a haunting kind of sorrow that is often conveyed

without words. Polanski’s The Pianist definitely takes its place among the best Holocaust

films ever made.

2001 – THE SON’S ROOM

Italian director Nanni Moretti wrote, directed and stars in this tragic family drama. Best known

for comedy, Moretti here uses his light Italian touch to achieve a real emotional authenticity. He

manages to avoid cliché and sentimentality while deftly exploring the many paths that grief can

take on its way to acceptance. A young son dies and a father, mother, and sister are affected in

very different ways, but in the midst of this turmoil, a secret of their son’s life is revealed in a

way they never anticipated.

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