After 73 films in Cannes (and you wonder why I haven't been blogging), it was hard to choose just 5 or 10 favorites. So here it is, my Top 20 from Cannes.
1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - Easily the most affecting, creatively constructed and masterfully executed with amazing performances. I'll never cease to be amazed how these last few Romanian films manage to integrate the themes into the plot flawlessly.
2. Secret Sunshine - Stirring and deceptively simple, this Korean masterpiece reminds us once again to look at Lee Chang-Dong. Every few years he pops up and blows everyone else away. And this is no exception. And the performance is worthy of winning every award in the world.
3. No Country For Old Men - The triumphant return of the Coen Brothers is more than just a good film for them, it's a work of art. Maybe not a masterpiece, but still amazingly, plotted, paced and directed.
4. A Mighty Heart - Michael Winterbottom does 24 proves to be the most fruitful true story I've seen in the last few years. Simply rivetting.
5. Mister Lonely - Harmony Korine's most narrative film is at once disturbing, hilarious and touching. I think long after the festival, it is the film that will stay with me the most, burning images into my mind.
6. Love Songs - Christophe Honore's new work has come up against a lot of criticism and, admittedly, my lack of internet access in Cannes prohibited me from readiny much of it, but just through conversation with journalists, the main argument seems to be, "The music is terrible." First of all, what kind of an argument is that? That's just one aspect of the movie. It is HARDLY an opera. Secondly, this is forgetting the spot-on characterizations and Garrel's fantastic performance. In my opinion, the movie is as charming as ever and I went in with just as much skepticism as anyone. And, the music isn't THAT bad. Just because you want something closer to Demy that Jesus Christ Superstar in style doesn't make it unlistenable. No one is criticizing the monotone nature of Opera Jawa, and that is all the way through.
7. Night Train - One of the most accomplished Un Certain Reguard films, Night Train is incredibly compelling. Also, who knew video could look this good?
8. Dai Nipponjin - Easily the best genre film of the festival (unless you count No Country For Old Men), this indescribable visionary work is so committed to it's style, it becomes hard to watch at times. However, the rest is simply incredible and, on the whole absolutely admirable.
9. U2 3D - Mark Pellington turns a simple concert movie into a masterpiece. If you ever get the chance, run don't walk. I can't wait for the 90 minute cut.
10. Paranoid Park - While I'm not having the same love affair with the film that everyone else is, I do like it quite a bit and I think it creates an unparralled tone.
11. The Mourning Forest - In many respects worthy of the Grand Prix, I would say Mourning Forest is one of the most perfectly realized films in the festival. Though I liked other competition pieces better, I am 110% behind this intriguing character study.
12. Control - Anton Corbijn's directorial debut is tight, lush and well-played. More than I ever could have asked for the director of the Red Hot Chili Pepper's Give It Away video.
13. Terror's Advocate - Not the greatest filmmaking ever or anything, but the material (which I suppose includes the superb collection job) is not to be triffled with. Absolutely fascinating. A must-see.
14. Silent Light - Reygadas, clearly a master filmmaker working on a higher level than most of his peers, produces his best work yet. Clearly a masterpiece. Though, I do want to take a moment to point out the existence of a few pretentious details that sets the film back a little bit on my list. For example, the film is clearly the story of Mexican cowboys, but it is in German, why? Even Reygadas admits it was because he heard the language and it sounded so beautiful to him. Give me a break. Nonetheless, the film is pretty fantastic and owes a lot to Dreyer's Ordet, not such a bad thing.
15. Tehilim - Easily the most misunderstood film in Cannes, Tehilim has been widely criticized for going nowhere in its third act. That's because the film is not the simple mystery it appears to be and has some very powerful things to say about the nature of religion in modern Isreal. In its own country, I imagine it's poignant and timely. Meanwhile, we can sit around and bitch that it doesn't satisfy our American sensibilites while we curiously praise Reygadas to the skies.
16. Go Go Tales - Who new that injecting a warm heart into Abel Ferrara was the trick? What a beautifully seedy patch of sunshine.
17. Chop Shop - A solid piece of neo-realism from a director that who will continue to get better the more he pushes himself.
18. Persepolis - Despite offering not much past the comic book, I still can't argue about the impeccable construction of the source material and seeing it come to life will only expand its audience.
19. Alexandra - Though it might not be as good as The Sun, Alexandra has an amazing complexity of thought lacking in a lot of even the slowest, most pretentious films being made these days.
20. The Edge of Heaven - Was Fatih Akin's latest film a let down? Sure. One can not be expected to keep the energy of Head On up forever. However, his latest effort is a pretty great character drama that I predict has some serious festival legs.
Honorable Mention: La France, Pleasure Factory
I encourage any other industry follk to make lists as well. If you send them to me, I will post them here.