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TOP TEN: Cannes Festival Favourites

With Cannes starting to kick its publicity machine into overdrive, we are getting nostalgic. So many wonderful films and filmmakers have graced the Croisette: the late, great Bresson; the uncompromising Haneke; the iconoclastic Bergman, all of them hoping to be met with a grateful (and graceful) audience. Cannes has the ability to elevate a film to astronomical levels of positive recognition, or to pulverise a Producer’s hopes in a cavalcade of derisive French-accented jeering. This month, we pay tribute to ten films which truly moved their Cannes audiences—whether they garnered an award or not.

10. SAMSON & DELILAH

Warwick Thornton became the name on everyone’s lips after his stunning debut feature amazed and delighted the Cannes jury. SAMSON & DELILAH is now available on Blu Ray and it looks fantastic, so for all you techno-heads who’ve joined the Blu Ray revolution, go buy S&D BD from your friendly neighbourhood retailer…

9. BRINK OF LIFE

Ingmar Bergman’s unrelenting drama BRINK OF LIFE centres on the stories of three pregnant women from different walks of life who have been thrown together in one hospital room. Gripping, realistic and minimalist, Bergman’s drama garnered the Best Director award and the Best Actress gong, which was awarded to all four of the female leads.

8. ELEPHANT

Gus van Sant’s film, based on the massacres at Columbine High School, is a masterclass in subtle, non-intrusive filmmaking – ironic, really, considering the film’s graphic and dramatic narrative. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2003 Cannes festival, ELEPHANT introduced us to the talents of John Robinson, who was similarly impressive in his minor role in WENDY AND LUCY.

7. VIRIDIANA

Luis Buñuel’s masterpiece VIRIDIANA was the deserved winner of the Palme d’Or back in 1961, but it was not so well-received in other European countries. Its divisive anti-religion narrative was denounced by the Vatican and Franco’s Spain banned the film, thus making it one of the most controversial films of the 20th century.

6. WALTZ WITH BASHIR

WALTZ WITH BASHIR was one of the “it” films of Cannes 2008, impressing audiences and critics alike with its innovative style and mode of storytelling. But in spite of the buzz surrounding the film, it failed to garner any awards at the festival, with 2008 Jury President Sean Penn stating that he was sure the film would find an audience with or without a Cannes prize. WALTZ did manage to win the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.

5. WAKE IN FRIGHT

In 1971, Canadian director Ted Kotcheff rocked up to the Croisette with a little-known Aussie film called WAKE IN FRIGHT. Based on the 1961 novel by Kenneth Cook, Kotcheff’s film was audacious, fresh and dark, and the Cannes audience—which included a young unknown director called Marty Scorsese—loved its daring. Fast forward to 2009 (more than three decades of searching for masters and painstaking digital restoration) and WAKE IN FRIGHT is once again screening at Cannes—it’s the little Aussie film that could.

4. THE LEOPARD

Luchino Visconti’s spectacular epic THE LEOPARD not only won the Palme d’Or back in 1963, but its star—the debonair Alain Delon—won our hearts with his sexy smoulder and ruler-straight moustache. There

3. A MAN ESCAPED

A MAN ESCAPED is a masterful exercise in building nail-biting tension. In spite of having a title which is possibly the biggest spoiler in the history of cinema, Bresson’s near-silent opus leaves audience members perched on the edges of their seats. He was duly rewarded for his efforts, receiving Cannes’ Best Director award in 1957.

2. HIDDEN

2005’s Cannes Film Festival awarded many highly deserving films. From the Palme d’Or-winning Dardennes brothers drama THE CHILD to the THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA (which won the Best Screenplay award) and Jim Jarmusch’s Grand Prix for BROKEN FLOWERS, it’s clear that Cannes 2005 was a banner year. But one little film towered over these films: Haneke’s enigmatic HIDDEN won the Best Director award, the FIPRESCI Critics’ Prize and the Ecumenical Prize of the Jury. Not too shabby.

1. CHACUN SON CINÉMA

This may be deemed a controversial choice for the number 1 spot, but what makes CHACUN such a delight is that it features shorts from so many Cannes-favourite filmmakers. From the brothers Coens to the frères Dardennes; from Loach to Lynch; from Salles to Van Sant, this portmanteau (made to celebrate the festival’s 60th anniversary) allows the viewer to view the styles and works of 33 world-renowned filmmakers, each of whom have made a 3-minute short. What’s beautiful about this is that should one like, say, Abbas Kiarostami’s short, one could then seek out his feature-length films—it’s the perfect way to preview!

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