Dozens of new films from the recent Cannes Film Festival will receive attention and acclaim at film festivals, and ultimately in distribution, around the world after launching earlier this month. In a final festival dispatch from France, indieWIRE offers a subjective hotlist of 10 films worth watching from this year’s event. We invite indieWIRE readers to consider our favorites and offer, in the comments section at the end of the article, their own tips on other Cannes festival films worth watching.
“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” directed by Cristian Mungiu (Romania)
The 60th Festival de Cannes Palme d’Or winner. Set during the final days of communism, two students, Otilia and Gabita share a room in a hall of residence in the Romanian capital, Bucharest. Gabita is pregnant, and the girls arrange to meet a Mr. Bebe in a cheap hotel in order to perform an illegal abortion. But Mr. Bebe refuses monetary compensation and demands to be paid in kind. Calling the film, “this year’s competition discovery,” Anthony Kaufman called the film in indieWIRE, “A haunting portrait of Romania and the lies and cruelties that make humanity go round.” The Cannes winner was picked up during the festival by IFC First Take for U.S. distribution.
“Paranoid Park,” directed by Gus Van Sant (United States)
Van Sant won a special 60th anniversary prize for his film about teenage skateboarder, Alex, who accidentally kills a security guard in the vicinity of Paranoid Park, Portland, Oregon’s tough street park. He decides to say nothing… in indieWIRE, Anthony Kaufman calls the film (which is being acquired by IFC), “a visual – and aural – feast, with lush cinematography by Christopher Doyle and loopy, evocative sound design from Gus Van Sant regular Leslie Schatz. Van Sant returns to the teenage milieu of ‘Elephant’ with a simple story about a young skateboarder who is involved in a gruesome murder. Despite what it sounds like, Van Sant’s film is significantly different from the work of Larry Clark (“Bully,” “Wassup Rockers”). Instead of hanging out with skater-punks verite-style, we get a highly subjective experience of a young man’s guilty conscience.”
“A Mighty Heart,” directed by Michael Winterbottom (U.K.)
Starring Angelina Jolie, the film is the true story of murdered Wall Street Journalist Daniel Pearl who was taken hostage in Pakistan while pursuing a story on al Queda. The turn of events is told through the experience of Pearl’s wife, Mariane, who was in the country’s largest city, Karachi, and remained at the center of the tense and extensive search for her husband, which attracted a worldwide media frenzy. The film, executive-produced by Brad Pitt, is based on Mariane’ Pearl’s memoir of the same title. Paramount Vantage is releasing the film Stateside. Anthony Kaufman wrote about the movie in indieWIRE, “In a festival that has felt surprisingly withdrawn from world politics, Michael Winterbottom’s gripping thriller ‘A Mighty Heart’ feels like a refreshing blast from the real world.”
“Secret Sunshine,” directed by Lee Chang-dong (S. Korea)
Sin-ae moves with her son Jun to Miryang, the town where her dead husband was born. As she attempts to come “into her own,” and establish a new life, another tragic event overturns her life. The film’s cast member Do-Yeon Jeon won the best actress prize for her role in the feature. Writing about the film in indieWIRE, Anthony Kaufman said, “‘Secret Sunshine’ is not an uber-arty film — like some of the competition’s more pretentious standouts — but in its own sharp, sensitive and fully naturalistic mode, it expresses profound human truths in a fully realized way that has been rare at this year’s festival.”
“No Country for Old Men,” directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (United States)
Llewelyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by bodyguards of dead men and a load of heron along with two million dollars stashed in the back. Moss takes the loot and unexpectedly sets off a chain catastrophic reactions that not even the law can contain. As Moss tries to evade his pursuers, in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives, the film “strips down” the classic American crime drama.
“Mister Lonely,” directed by Harmony Korine (United States)
The film centers on a Michael Jackson impersonator who lives in Paris performing on the streets for a living. During a performance in a retirement home, Michael falls for a Marilyn Monroe look-alike who suggests he move to a commune of impersonators in the Highlands of Scotland.
“Persepolis,” directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (Iran, France)
The animated film won a Jury Prize at the Festival de Cannes and based on the book series of the same name. Set during the fall of the Shah and the rise of the Islamic Republic in Iran, the film is based on Marjane, who dreams of being a revolutionary. As the capital, Tehran, is being bombarded during the Iran-Iraq war, life’s daily deprivations become more severe everyday. As her environment becomes increasingly dangerous, Marjane’s increasing rebelliousness becomes a serious problem. Her parents decide to send her to Austria for her own protection where she experiences another kind of revolution… adolescence. Freedom, hormones, exile and loneliness intermingle with her new life as a foreigner and pose a whole new set of challenges. Writing in indieWIRE, Anthony Kaufman called the movie, “A sweet and touching film that also deserves praise for its be
“The Band’s Visit,” directed by Eran Kolirin (Israel)
This first feature, starring Sasson Gabai (“Made in Israel” and “Aviva Ahuvati”) and three-time Best Actress winner at the Israeli Academy Awards, Ronit Elkabetz (“Sh’Chur,” “Hatuna Meuheret,” and “Ve’Lakhta Lehe Isha”) is the story of an Egyptian Police band that loses their way while traveling to Israel to perform at an Arab cultural center. Calling the film an “adorably funny Israeli underdog,” Eric Kohn called it in indieWIRE, “An English-language comedy that balances small scale vignettes with overarching sentimentalism.”
“Import/Export,” directed by Ulrich Seidl (Austria)
The intercut story of a Ukrainian nurse and a Viennese security guard, Seidl’s new film is described by Anthony Kaufman in indieWIRE as his most tender movie. “On a purely visual level, ‘Import/Export’ enthralls, thanks to the strong, symmetrical compositions of cinematographers Ed Lachman and Wolfgang Thaler and an array of provocative locations (namely a trashed “gypsy” slum of Socialist-style high-rises).
“Les Chansons d’Amour,” directed by Christophe Honore (France)
A sexy competition entry from a young French filmmaker, Honore’s latest is a modern musical looking at the lives and loves of a group of young Parisians. A collaboration between Honore and musician Alex Beaupain, the film features Beaupain’s songs sung by actors Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroianni, Clothide Hesme, and Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet.
And a few more TFF films worth checking out: Michael Moore‘s “Sicko,” Ramin Bahrani‘s “Chop Shop,” Tom Kalin‘s “Savage Grace,” and Celine Sciamma‘s “Water Lillies“.
[Anthony Kaufman, Eric Kohn and Michael Lerman contributed to this article.]
Complete coverage from the 2007 Festival de Cannes is available anytime in indieWIRE’s special section.