I know, I know. I’ve become a retrospective blogger. Consider it postmodern. Then it would be a good thing. To do justice to my life-changing experience at the Cannes Film Festival, though, I’d like to tell you all about the five best movies I saw while I was there. Some may never make it stateside, but I certainly hope they do—for the sake of American filmgoers and American cinema as a whole. Some will get wide releases, most will be limited, and some may go straight to DVD. Regardless, look out for them. And try to pick them up.
Out of the 24 movies I saw, most were relatively good. My five best, though, stood far above the rest. They are the kind of films that reminded me why film is such a beautiful and important medium. They also reminded me why I should be so grateful to have experienced Cannes. Here goes nothing:
I mentioned my experience at the “Biutiful” premiere in my previous blog. I don’t mean to gloat, but it rocked my shit. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu has created another beautiful and enigmatic piece of art with this film—I stand by this opinion despite its mixed critical response at the festival. Contrary to everything written about it on the internet, “Biutiful” has nothing to do with a drug dealer confiding in his best friend who is a cop. It is instead a tale of a black market sort of criminal, Uxbal (Javier Bardem), who comes to grips with his sins and tries to redeem himself before terminal illness takes his life. The film is relentlessly tragic and emotionally exhausting, but in the best and realest way. Iñárritu exhibits masterful visual trickery and subtleties that enliven the subject matter at hand. It’s the kind of thought-provoking and explorative film I can watch again and again, always discovering something new from it. Bardem received Cannes’ best actor award for his role, and deservedly so. He brought palpable realism to Uxbal’s character and made him someone easy to champion regardless of his flaws. If “Biutiful” gets a wide enough US release, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bardem get awards buzz for this. Bold, perhaps, but he deserves it.
2. Blue Valentine
Thankfully, “Blue Valentine” has already been guaranteed a US release. It’ll hit theaters at the end of December, so see it, damn it! The film stars Ryan Gosling (swoon) and Michelle Williams as a couple whose marriage is on the brink of failure. But it’s not another simple failed marriage film. Director Derek Cianfrance plays with the temporal and visual structures of the film to create a beautiful juxtaposition between the couple’s early love and their later marital disdain as they venture in the present to salvage their marriage at a cheap themed sex suite. You’ll come to find that there’s more at stake than the couple’s love and that their relationship isn’t as simple as it initially seems. “Blue Valentine” is quirky, comical, sad, and vivid throughout. It has a cult classic potential. It might just become the next “Garden State.” Here’s the first clip I could find online:
3. Inside Job
My gut feeling is that, while it’s being distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, “Inside Job” will never see a wide US release. I hope I’m wrong, but I know it will do well in DVD sales nonetheless. I went to the premiere of this film as well, and director Charles Ferguson mentioned that his team had struggled to create a final cut in time for the festival. To me, though, “Inside Job” seemed meticulously constructed. It’s the first time I’ve seen something trying to explain our nation’s financial crisis that entertained me and actually made sense. It’s refreshing to see an eye-opening, informative and most importantly apolitical thesis on the causes and effects of the recession. “Inside Job” should do well if for no reason other than because the American people deserve to hear what Ferguson has to say.
4. Exit through the Gift Shop
Like “Blue Valentine,” “Exit through the Gift Shop” premiered first at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It’s already gotten a great deal of media buzz for that reason and because it’s so damn good. The film is also considered a documentary, but it’s been speculated that it may be part- or all-farce. Behind the wheel of “Exit through the Gift Shop” is the anonymous British street artist Banksy, who helps tell the story of Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman who filmed him and other artists in work. After Banksy advised Guetta to try street art himself, Guetta transformed into the slightly insane and hardly-artist Mr. Brainwash. Whether or not you know anything about Banksy or the street art movement, “Exit through the Gift Shop” has charming and intriguing appeal. Here be the trailer:
5. Of Gods and Men
“Of Gods and Men,” a French film starring Lambert Wilson, won the Grand Prize (2nd place) at Cannes. It is based on the true story of a group of monks in the 1990s whose community was threatened by Algerian terrorists. It becomes a question of staying or going and one of keeping faith. While “Of Gods and Men” at times moves painstakingly slowly, the moments of absolute visual excellence make it a true work of art. It’s not a religious or a political film—it’s simply a film about internal conflict, and a beautiful one at that. Because it earned so much success and critical praise at Cannes, I’m sure “Of Gods and Men” will hit the art house circuit and come to Ciné or somewhere in Atlanta eventually. It may end up being France’s submission for best foreign film during awards season as well.
This might not interest you now, but just wait until all these movies are beloved by the American people. I know my shit. Thank me later.