I can’t say confidently that Cannes’ 60th anni edition was a banner year, as many have. But it did serve up some breathtaking cinematic moments. And when I say moments, I mean it: There were a number of films whose full 2-hour running times left me ultimately bored or annoyed, but within that two-hour-plus span, I was stunned by what I saw. The best example of this was “Silent Light,” Mexican director Carlos Reygadas’ Dreyer-esque spiritual journey, which begins with one of the most awesome images I’ve ever seen put to film. So does the single shot make up for the frustrating whole? Kind of.
Bela Tarr’s “The Man From London” ultimately left me cold, as well, but there’s one miserablist, absurdist sequence in a butcher shop that still gets under my skin several days later. I could pick amazing instances from other films that I think essentially don’t work (the subversive locations of Olivier Assayas’s “Boarding Gate”; the flying nuns in Harmony Korine’s “Mister Lonely”), and for those moments and sequences, I am glad to have these films.
On the other hand, Lee Chang-dong’s “Secret Sunshine” is probably the most consummate achievement in this year’s competition, with cast, script and direction all working together to create a poignant study of loss. Of the roughly 20 films I saw, it was probably the most perfect. But I don’t know if it was my favorite.
I will have to see this year’s sharp-edged, absorbing Palm d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days” again. It was the first film I saw the morning after flying in from an overnight international flight, and while I thought it was one of the best films at the festival (see my first indieWIRE dispatch for more), I also had to pull at my eyes to keep them focused.
I would have thought I could come up with a neat, easy-to-read top ten list of my Cannes viewing, but it’s impossible for me to rank films like “Silent Light,” “Mister Lonely,” or “Ploy,” Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Directors Fortnight entry, with its dreamy, greenish millieu, hermetic spaces and somnolent storyline. So I guess I’ll just have to list my (mostly) unequivocal favorites, those films that I’d recommend to friends and family once they hit theaters stateside. Here, in rough order of preference:
“4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days”
“A Mighty Heart”
“No Country for Old Men”
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”