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Best of the Decade #9

Best of the Decade #9

It’s almost astonishing now to think of the teakettle tempest that erupted when Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne were awarded the Palme d’Or for their Rosetta by David Cronenberg’s Cannes jury in 1999. That such a seemingly modest slice of peculiarly assertive social realism could triumph in a field almost exclusively reserved for art-house white elephants or Hollywood fare inflated by critical fawning was, at the very least, highly unlikely. Yet Cronenberg and company’s verdict was not simply a career-making coup for the brothers, but a rather bold recognition of those spaces going unfilled in contemporary cinema. Against the turf-staking instincts of so many of even the best filmmakers, the Dardennes had created a supple aesthetic that was wholly theirs while being eminently sharable. Their combination of formalist rigor, documentary immediacy, and social concern, if masterful, was far from novel; but the uniqueness of their work lay in something less quantifiable and categorizable. There is a pulsing life in the films that goes beyond their bobbing, neck-breathing camera, an inexorable pull towards the metaphysical while never departing from the most concrete of settings and situations. Read Andrew Tracy on The Son.

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