What captured our attention at Cannes

From a father abandoning his family in an avalanche to STD-ridden teenagers being stalked by something horrific – here's a look at the best bits at Cannes

Arts+Culture Top Ten
The Tribe
The Tribe

So many unforgettable moments sprinkled the 67th Cannes film festival, probably the best lineup since 2011. Unlike last year when Abdellatif Kechiche’s erotically charged Blue is the Warmest Colour became 2013's tentpole, this year the different sections offered a varied and well-balanced selection.

However, there were plenty of standouts that made us forgive the embarrassing moments, namely Nicole Kidman’s failed attempt to give substance to Olivier Dahan’s horrible biopic Grace de Monaco (the opening film of the festival). Among the standouts: a fully clothed Channing Tatum embodying disturbing masculinity in Bennett Miller’s wrestling movie Foxcatcher, young French actress Anaïs Demoustier turning into a sparrow in Pascale Ferran’s murakamian Bird People, Julianne Moore as a has–been Hollywood starlet in Maps to the Stars, and young offender Antoine-Olivier Pilon literally opening the screen in Dolan’s Mommy. Here we chart the best 10 films that this year really captured our attention.

The Kindergarten Teacher

Watching Nadav Lapid’s films will improve your understanding of the world in the most powerful and beautiful way. The Kindergarten Teacher follows Nira (Sarit Larry), a kindergarten teacher who realises that one of her precocious 5-year-old pupils, Yoav (Avi Shnaidman), spontaneously invents incredible poems, which he dictates to his nanny. The kid talks like someone who’s already seen too much beauty and Nira worries about his future, but also about the continuity of his work, in a world and in a country that despises poetry. For the second time after the critically acclaimed debut The Policeman, a strong female character goes to war against what Israeli society became: “a narcissistic and hyper materialistic society,” Lapid tells us. His cinema is violently realistic, but equally idealistic. The Kindergarten Teacher reminds us the subversive power of cinema and poetry, true instruments of revolution.

Part of the Critics' Week category

The Kindergarten Teacher
The Kindergarten Teacher

Maps to the Stars

Julianne Moore won the Best Actress award (like, duh). Seeing her throw extraordinary tantrums, farting while chatting with her young assistant Mia Wasikowska or offering Rob Pattinson a quickie at the back of his limo was one of the most pleasurable events of this festival. Her performance as Havana Segrand, an actress in her fifties who refuses to be buried in Hollywood, is never-to-be-forgotten. There was Gloria Swanson in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. Now there’s Julianne Moore in Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars

From his native Canada, Cronenberg only shot five days in LA, a performance in itself. “Nobody makes films in Hollywood anymore”, he laughs. “I really had fun depicting this place as a consanguineous nightmare.” No surprise: the script, written by Bruce Wagner, is terribly Bret Easton Ellis-like. Gripping until the end, carried by Howard Shore dark rock and Paul Eluard’s gorgeous poem Liberty, Maps to the Stars is a flamboyant, sensual and cruel tragicomedy.

Part of the Official Competition category

It Follows

Watch your back! After his bittersweet debut The Myth of the American Sleepover, American director David Robert Mitchell returns with a terrifying coming-of-age-story, where a group of teens in the Michigan suburbs are followed by creepy ominous figures after having contracted a STD. To get rid of this curse, the only solution is to have sex with someone else and to run very fast.

“I realised horror films are the best place to experiment cinema ideas, but also with the viewers feelings”, Mitchell explained us, citing Nosferatu, Bride of Frankenstein and Creature from the Black Lagoon as his horror inspirations. Not only was It Follows the best North American film of the festival, but it just solidified the cult status of the young director.

Part of the Critics' Week category

It Follows
It Follows

Mommy

Speaking of precocious geniuses, Xavier Dolan, 25, didn’t disappoint with his first entry to the Official Competition. Mommy is an explosive love story between a dauntless mom and his untameable son. Anne Dorval is amazing playing Diane "Die" Després, who, newly widowed, gains custody of her teenage son Steve (sublime Antoine-Olivier Pilon). With only five films under his belt, Dolan has managed to redefine the boundaries of marginality. He’s now courted by the industries greats, starting with Jessica Chastain teasing him on Twitter suggesting she would perfectly fit in his next movie.

Part of the Official Competition category

Mommy
Mommy

Le Meraviglie

Artistic director Thierry Fremaux took the risk of presenting a second feature in this year’s competition, furthermore directed by a woman, 32-year-old Italian Alice Rohrwacher. A bold choice that Jane Campion’s jury dared to reward. Le Meraviglie (The Wonders) received the Grand Prix, the most important award after the Palme d’or. The story follows Gelsomina, living with her three younger sisters in Umbria, in the secluded and natural paradise her father built in order to protect them from “the end of the world”, which can easily be understood as the Berlusconian Italy. We understand that dreams of escape have been germinating in Gelsomina’s mind as she’s slowly turning into a young woman, but the transition fastens with the arrival in the village of Martin, a troubled, near-mute German boy and Milly Catena (Monica Bellucci), a voluptuous TV host who tries to involve the family in a TV competition, Village Wonders. Le Meraviglie is a marvellous, realistic but hopeful tale that echoes Campion’s short films and her 1989 first feature, Sweetie.

Part of the Official Competition category

Le Meraviglie
Le Meraviglie

Saint Laurent

Director Bonello, used to exposing women’s body (see House of Tolerance) rather than concealing them, now dresses them up in Saint Laurent, his impressive sixth movie, strangely left empty-handed by the jury. Saint Laurent is definitely more than a fictionalisation of the life of the man who liberated the female figure. This visually avant-garde portrait of an artist is set in the 70s an era of debauchery and decadent bourgeoisie. Gaspard Ulliel is phenomenal, embodying a steely determination, while an excellent Jérémie Renier applies thrilling masculinity as Pierre Bergé unfaithful lover.

Part of the Official Competition category

Turist

You can always count on Swedish badass Ruben Östlund to bring some evil spirit to the stiffest of gatherings. Turist takes place in the Alpine resort of Les Arcs, where a perfect Swedish family that came to “finally spend time together” almost end up buried under an avalanche. Instead of playing the hero, daddy abandons his wife and two kids. Once safe, he goes back to lunch to finish his entrecote. "In situations of life or death, when the very survival of an individual is at stake, it seems that men are more likely to escape and save their own life than women, which is involved frequently in divorce,” Östlund explained to us even before his movie was finished. “This gave me the curiosity to talk about the received concept that a man is supposed to be the protector of his wife and family, and that social code expecting men not to retreat in the face of danger." Östlund irresistibly plays with the codes of disaster movies to question our preconceived ideas of masculinity.

Part of the Un Certain Regard category

Turist
Turist

The Tribe

The winner of the Critic’s Week competition is an unexpected movie shot solely in sign language by Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy. We follow Sergey’s (Grigoriy Fesenko) first steps into a boarding school for the deaf, dominated by a gang of hooligan youngsters specialised in trafficking prostitutes. Slaboshpytskiy proves that cinema can be a language in itself. His film may not use words, but it’s not silent at all. On the contrary, it’s a terribly loquacious pamphlet on the inability of Ukraine to take care of his youth. The Tribe is thus far the strongest cinematic experience of the year.

Part of the Critics' Week category

The Tribe
The Tribe

Mercuriales

Somewhere between Chris Marker and Jean-Luc Godard stands Virgil Vernier, the uncategorisable French director who mixes documentary, narrative and cinema-verité techniques in this hybrid feature, a wandering with two young receptionists (non-professional actress Ana Neborac and Philippine Stindel) in the the working-class Paris suburb of Bagnolet, under the shadow of two ramshackle steel-and-glass skyscrapers called the Mercuriales. As a master of poetic digressions, Vernier invents a very personal yet cinematic prose.

Part of the Acid category

Mercuriales
Mercuriales

Goodbye to Language

Over 50 years after his feature-length debut Breathless, Godard, 83, taught the Croisette a lesson of boldness and freedom in under 70 minutes. And in 3D. It would be an insult to the man to try to synopsise its wonderful visuals, so let’s just say it involves a couple and a dog. It would be more useful to depict the goose bumps that won 2300 spectators at the premiere: a cocktail of nonsense, pure beauty, bursts of humour and an unpredictable soundtrack to hide a disenchanted goodbye to our civilisation. Adieu au langage (Goodbye to language) received the Jury Prize, ex-aequo with Dolan’s Mommy.

Part of the Official Competition category

The Best of the Rest

Sils Maria, a bergmanian immersion in the psyche of an 40-year-old actress (Juliette Binoche) facing the ghosts of her glorious past, by Olivier Assayas. (Competition)

Timbuktu, by Abderrahmane Sissako, a dazzling portrait of a Tuareg family peacefully trying to oppose fundamentalism that invades the nearby city. (Competition)

Les Combattants, Thomas Cailley’s first film that won the Director's fortnight award, a smart and funny love story with a possible end of the world in the background. (Director’s fortnight)

Still the water, Naomi Kawase’s mystical and aquatic portrait of a young couple first confronted with death. (Competition)

Winter Sleep, by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, that won the Palme d’or, is an impressive character study and a Chekhovian meditation on a marital crisis between a retired actor and his young wife. (Competition)

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