The Film Experience List Challenge: Cannes

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I’m going to Cannes this week.

It’s been a dream of mine. I’m fucking excited. I have nothing showing there (as I’d hope to one day have), but I am going to be networking like crazy and shoving my business card in everyone’s face and it will be the greatest feeling in the world to come straight out of college graduation with the opportunity to THE world’s film festival is positively overwhelming to me.

‘Course I just keep it together in front of my friends and colleagues, but like a 16-year-old girl, I’m using this post to let out my feelings.

Anyway, The Film Experience put out a challenge to have a Top Ten list based on what are the winners of the Palme D’or, the highest honor at the Cannes Film Festival. And so, I ideally I present my Ten Favorite winners of the award with some Honorable Mentions

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10) The Wages of Fear (1953/dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot/France & Italy)
Clouzot is no stranger to gripping tension, Diaboliques proved that in spades, but La Salaire de la Peur drags you against your will in a very terrifying manner without being a horror film and really is the thrill ride at its most potent. It’s suspenseful, shocking and original – just waiting to explode.

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9) The Conversation (1974/dir. Francis Ford Coppola/USA)
The 70s were the true harbingers of paranoia, breathing in that deadly feeling of dread and dishonesty like a blessed oxygen. Coppola wanted to make you think that it was all in your head and Coppola did it magnificently – his control over the situation and perception tricks us into thinking we’re truly seeing what we want to see rather than we’re meant to see. Nevermind Gene Hackman giving his greatest most reservedly charged performance of his whole career.

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8) Barton Fink (1991/dir. Joel & Ethan Coen/USA)

The Coen brothers’ most frustratingly abstract picture is also their most thematic fleshed-out magnum opus. Their uncertainty expressed through their frustrations and writer’s block, their fullest characterizations lie in this film. And it looks great too, but man, does this movie ever make me not want to make movies (and makes me want to make movies at the same time).

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7) The Piano (1993/dir. Jane Campion/New Zealand)
It is an unfortunate rarity of cinema to be granted such a very complex and hypnotic character study but this film works from one of the finest leading female performances I have ever seen and how unassuming it is of its metaphors – which are there nonetheless.
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6) The White Ribbon (2009/dir. Michael Haneke/Germany)
I’m not too much of a fan personally of overly moralistic works, but sometimes they portray themselves in a style that is impossible to ignore. Das Weiss Band is most certainly one of them with brilliant black-and-white photography, but also with its completely sobering and un-righteous tone feeling more observational than most movies trying to pass off a message. It’s a dark and cruel picture, but it earned its right to be cruel.
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5) The Leopard (1963/dir. Luchino Visconti/Italy)
An escapist and attractive look at the bourgeois pretending they are not declining, even though they know they are a dying breed, it’s a great indulgence for me to participate in watching this movie without outright.
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4) Kagemusha (1980/dir. Akira Kurosawa/Japan)
I can’t lie: I am on the road to devaluing Akira Kurosawa. It had been the case ever since I got myself more involved with the films of Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi and Shion Sono and realized in those artists a true glance at Japanese culture while Kurosawa, a still-Master filmmaker, is merely a guy like me: A non-American who wants to make American films.
But that doesn’t make him any less of a filmmaker, it just says more about my tastes.
And Kagemusha is immune to this criticism. It’s neither Westernized nor Japanese, but the strokes of paintings in the beautifully contructed nightmare sets and the true struggle displayed of pretending to be a man for the sake of his own country is totally from the soul of Akira Kurosawa, devoid of nation.
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3) Apocalypse Now (1979/dir. Francis Ford Coppola/USA)
This is a masterpiece of fucking disaster. It’s got a charm in being a bombastic loud mess of a film that adds to the film’s personality and character – particularly when the film deals with madness, it only makes sense that the film itself is a mad bark by a madman. It’s hallucinatory, nihilistic and megalomaniacal, all the things a growing boy needs to be told you’re fucking crazy.
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2) The Third Man (1949/dir. Carol Reed/USA)
It’s a very very pessimistic worldview that is treated with too much fun to be taken too soberly, but the consequences are still there. Largely anchored by the gravitas of Orson Welles’ presence in the movie (at least that was so when I saw it back in high school), every single scene is unforgettable with its jampacked composition in each shot, its snappy dialogue and its mysterious allure to the fate of the one Harry Lime.
And it’s one of my favorite screenplays ever written.
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1) Taxi Driver (1976/dir. Martin Scorsese/USA)
The end-all, be-all of the character study as De Niro completely demolishes all other performances done with his absolutely lived-in Travis Bickle; the frustrations and fears of the denizens of American society finally given a voice through the typing of Paul Schrader and the zeitgeist of a generation captured and locked forever in the mohawked stature of the man by Martin Scorsese’s subjective lens.
This is the reason movies are made exactly.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in chronological order)

  • Brief Encounter (1945/dir. David Lean/UK) – The captures of post-war casual affairs and the complete emotional turn regarding it, the manipulation of David Lean is too impressive not to remark on it.
  • The Lost Weekend (1945/dir. Billy Wilder/USA) – What the fuck is the deal with Cannes giving that many Palme D’ors that year? But this harrowing-still tale of addiction and submission to a demon is a total sweep to me for that, namely thanks to a no-holds-barred display by leading actor Ray Milland.
  • Marty (1955/dir. Delbert Mann/USA) – For being one of the sweetest and simplest tales of romanticism ever put on screen without losing its honesty in its ending and happy-go-lucky performance by the late great Ernest Borgnine.
  • The Cranes Are Flying (1957/dir. Mikhail Kalatozov/USSR) – For striking images of brilliant black-and-white cinematography that can take a soul entirely by storm.
  • Blowup (1966/dir. Michelangelo Antonioni/Italy) – Basically The Conversation in hipper form and taking place in a more naive time.
  • The Tin Drum (1979/dir. Volker Schlondorff/Germany) – Cacophonous and jarring to me, I give huge props to a film that will stand tall to change the world with a scream and a bang on a drum.
  • Wild at Heart (1990/dir. David Lynch/USA) – It’s weird as shit, but it’s just as crazy as love makes you. The heart and spirit of a true romance is completely captured in this film like no other, so why hate on it like the critics do?
  • Pulp Fiction (1994/dir. Quentin Tarantino/USA) – C’mon, it’s just a really fucking cool movie. It’s got style, it’s got pizazz, it’s a movie for the cool guys to feel cool watching.
  • Taste of Cherry (1997/dir. Abbas Kiarostami/Iran) – Very brilliantly moving commentary on death and waiting on life to turn itself around, but with a stillness to it that can be frustrating for many viewers.
  • The Pianist (2002/dir. Roman Polanski/France & Poland) – The morality behind Polanski behind, this film is extremely empathetic and a lot more harrowing knowing that the conditions portrayed are personally memories of Polanski’s childhood.
  • Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004/dir. Michael Moore/USA) – Do I think this movie is better than Oldboy? Come on, son. No. Just no. But it’s still, thanks largely to its editing, a shockingly brilliant display of evidence (although it’s heavily inaccurate and people should recognize that) and it incites discussion – that is a testament to the power of cinema and how manipulative and presentational it can be in its content and context. Also, I honestly think Moore is funny. I don’t watch it for its politics, I watch it for its cinematic impact.
  • The Tree of Life (2011/dir. Terrence Malick/USA) – Just for proving that an ambitious passion project is not completely impossible; for completely holding me overwhelmed by its sheer scale.
  • Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013/dir. Abdellatif Kechiche/France) – For Lea Seydoux, a performance attractive to anyone with a pulse watching the film, and Adele Exarchopoulos, a candid and manipulated but real portrayal, able to help make the film tolerable even through its self-indulgence.
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