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Throughout its 70 year history, the Cannes Film Festival has been at the forefront of game-changing cinema. New directorial voices and international film movements have all used the festival as a launch pad to global recognition. If a film or artist has shaped cinema over the last seven decades, chances are they’ve been the toast of Cannes at least once. Many of these historic Cannes titles are streaming exclusively on FilmStruck, and we gathered up 10 of our favorites you need to watch below.
“Rome, Open City”
The first Cannes Film Festival was originally set for September 1939, but World War II caused a seven-year delay. When it kicked off properly in 1946, Italian neorealism was on the rise and ready to capture the world’s attention, which is exactly what happened with Roberto Rossellini’s “Rome, Open City.” Filmed on location in post-WWII Italy, the drama about Resistance fighters and their loved ones struggling against Nazi occupation was one of 11 films to earn the festival’s Grand Prize (the equivalent of today’s Palme d’Or). It also explored the country’s antagonistic relationship with Germany in a way few Italian war films ever had. You can watch “Rome, Open City” on FilmStruck here.
“And God Created Woman”
Roger Vadim’s French drama “And God Created Woman” sent shockwaves through the industry after it premiered at Cannes in 1956. Not only did it skyrocket the career of Brigitte Bardot, turning her into an overnight sensation, but it proved the festival would always be a safe place for exploring themes of female liberation. The erotic story of an 18-year-old in a love triangle with two brothers pushed major boundaries and was both condemned and heavily edited upon its U.S. release. But at Cannes it was allowed to screen uncensored, and the festival was all the better for it. You can watch “And God Created Woman” on FilmStruck here.
“Le Beau Serge” and “The 400 Blows”
Thirteen years after Roberto Rossellini brought Italian neorealism to Cannes, Claude Chabrol and François Truffaut would introduce the French New Wave to the world stage with back-to-back festival game-changers. The former’s “Le Beau Serge” came first in 1958, followed by the latter’s “The 400 Blows” in 1959, both of which showcased the personal intimacy and intensity of the growing film movement. “The 400 Blows” was especially well-recieved, with Truffaut winning the festival’s Best Director prize just a year after being banned from Cannes due to his critical remarks about French cinema. You can watch “Le Beau Serge” on FilmStruck here, and “The 400 Blows” here.
“Hiroshima Mon Amour”
The same year “The 400 Blows” caused a stir at Cannes and legitimized the French New Wave on the international circuit, Alain Resnais delivered another landmark entry in the movement with “Hiroshima Mon Amour.” The drama, about the love affair between a French actress and a Japanese architect, won the International Critics’ Prize and dazzled Cannes with its intricate flashback structure. Resnais turned a relatively straightforward story about a passionate romance into a complicated meditation on time, war and memory. More than “Serge” and “Blows,” the narrative structure confirmed just how innovative and original the French New Wave could be. You can watch “Hiroshima Mon Amour” on FilmStruck here.
“Taste of Cherry”
When Abbas Kiarostami took home the Palme d’Or in 1997 for “Taste of Cherry,” it was a watershed moment for the Cannes Film Festival. The movie was the first Iranian film to earn top honors at the festival, and its victory was a crowning achievement for cinema’s multiculturalist boom throughout the 1990s. The decade also saw China (“Farewell My Concubine”) and New Zealand (“The Piano”) winning the Palme for the first time, and it showed Cannes’ hunger for discovering cinema beyond Europe and America. You can watch “Taste of Cherry” on FilmStruck here.
“Blue is the Warmest Color”
Tradition reigns supreme at the Cannes Film Festival, especially when it comes to giving out awards. For 66 years, the Palme d’Or had been awarded solely to the director of the winning film, but Steven Spielberg’s Competition Jury made an unprecedented move in 2013 with “Blue is the Warmest Color.” Not only was director Abdellatif Kechiche given the Palme d’Or, but so were actresses Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. The decision was unanimous for the jury and put “Blue is the Warmest Color” in the Cannes history book. It’s still the only film in the festival’s history to have its actresses win the Palme d’Or. You can watch “Blue is the Warmest Color” on FilmStruck here.
“Happy Together” and “In the Mood for Love”
Wong Kar-wai made Hong Kong a major player at the Cannes Film Festival at the turn of the century with back-to-back triumphs “Happy Together” and “In the Mood for Love.” The former earned him the Best Director prize in 1997, marking the first time Hong Kong had won the honor, while the latter took home the Technical Grand Prize and Best Actor for Tony Leung. These two movies gained Wong Kar-wai international recognition and made Cannes a major showcase for Hong Kong New Wave cinema. You can watch “In the Mood for Love” on FilmStruck here.
“Days of Heaven”
Cannes has always reflected the cinema of the time (see Neorealism in the late 1940s and French New Wave in the late 1960s), so it only makes sense the festival was dominated by New Hollywood in the 1970s. The United States won five Palme d’Or winners that decade, including “MASH,” “Taxi Driver” and “Apocalypse Now,” and Terrence Malick became the first American filmmaker since Jules Dassin in 1955 to win Best Director. That prize was awarded for “Days of Heaven” in 1978, and it capped off a game-changing decade for America on the Croisette. You can watch “Days of Heaven” on FilmStruck here.