5. Blue is the Warmest Color
Director Abdellatif Kechiche scooped the Palme D’Or last Sunday for his exquisitely assembled, sublimely acted three-hour drama Blue is the Warmest Color. A potent meditation on young love and how feelings evolve over time, it is nevertheless a powerful statement that the Cannes Jury opted to co-award the Palme to leads Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos, an unprecedented move that is a testament to their part in forging the film.
Sure to be a tough sell with distributors in spite of the critical rapture surrounding it, Blue features graphic lesbian sex scenes between the two actresses that are guaranteed to cause quite a stir (though will likely be cut down before US audiences get a hold of them). However, this is far from salacious exploitation; while sexy, the film is a deeply-felt exploration of the forces impressing upon and forging our romantic relationships, one that never opts for the easy answer.
4. Like Father, Like Son
I Wish director Kore-ada Hirokazu crafts a riveting drama about two family units about to come apart at the seams as the parents discover that each has been raising the wrong child. Easily avoiding earnestness and reforming as a deeply affecting, stingingly funny examination of nature vs. nurture, Like Father, Like Son has the potential to be a breakout art-house hit, and puts itself in good stead for a Best Foreign Film Academy Award nomination.
If the dichotomy of comparing an upper class family with a working class one seems a little trite, this is a film with far more on its mind than that. Though light is made of the class differences, the film focuses its energy on two extremely spirited child performances, and an emotionally resonant through-point that makes up for its predictability with a load of heart.
3. Seduced and Abandoned
James Toback and Alec Baldwin explore in punishing detail the will-power and strength of stomach needed to get a film financed in this day and age. Though most of the film unfolds during last year’s Cannes Film Festival, this is far from a worship exercise, instead using the world’s largest film market to explore the beguiling nature of film selling.
The duo’s hilarious back-and-forth banter is itself worth seeing, but the probing interviews with the likes of Coppola, Scorsese, Bertolucci and Ryan Gosling seal the deal. With unexpected riffs on why we make and watch movies, this is an achingly human, superbly-shaped documentary film.
2. Only Lovers Left Alive
As materially strange as one would expect a vampire film from Jim Jarmusch to be, Only Lovers Left Alive tells the tale of an ennui-laden vampire, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) who reunites with his vampire wife Eve (Tilda Swinton), yet when her sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) comes to visit, their lives are thrown into disarray.
Beautifully filmed as one would expect, the film is a winner largely because of Jarmusch’s pithy script, which ably integrates these centuries-old character into the contemporary milieu of Detroit. Unexpectedly, it’s also a laugh riot, delivering some of the year’s heartiest laughs amid its dark backdrop, which are sure to go down a treat with the filmmaker’s fans. Even with a lackadaisical pace, it’s the sterling performances that really see it through; the trio of Hiddleston, Swinton and Wasikowska don’t falter for even a moment. What a rebuke to Twilight this is.
Easily the best film I saw at Cannes, it has regrettably garnered little fanfare so far despite debuting in the Un Certain Regard banner. Actress-turned-director Valeria Golino has nevertheless crafted an unsung gem, a haunting, riveting masterpiece in its own right that asks tough questions about our attitudes towards both terminal illness and depression.
Irene (Jasmine Trinca) helps terminally ill people die for a living, though when she finds out one of her patients is in fact just chronically depressed, she has to confront the nature of her line of work. Though unpleasant material, Golino shoots it through with plenty of dark wit, and most importantly, a wealth of heart and humanism that drives this character piece forward, right to its bittersweet conclusion. In a just world, Trinca would become a star in lieu, and Golino’s name would be one to watch.