Best of Cannes Film
The annual Cannes International Film Festival brings the world’s cineastes to Southern France. For decades, some of the most extraordinary films ever made have debuted on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, with the glitz and glamour often contrasting films that can be far bleaker or melancholic than the resplendent surroundings.
By Jason Gorber
While many international festivals have been quite vocal for the need for greater representation from a wider range, Cannes has steadfastly suggested it’s a celebration of cinema, not identity. While this is certainly debatable, given some of the risible films that did make it into competition, it does somewhat obviate claims about additional considerations, making the celebration of certain works free from some of the otherwise metatextual considerations.
Here are three remarkable films that emerged from the festival, showcasing some of the immense talent to come out of such an event.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
A perfect film to fit the surreal and seductive allure of the Croissette, Céline Sciamma’s sumptuous story about a painter falling in love with her subject was awarded best screenplay and the Queer Palm (the first film directed by a woman to win the latter). Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is tasked to paint a reticent Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) in order to provide a potential husband with the image of the woman he’s to wed. Instead, the two strike up a close connection, eschewing convention and propriety as their love draws them near. The story could easily descend into melodrama or more maudlin period drama silliness, yet Sciamma guides her fantastic cast with a steady hand, using moments of quiet intimacy and intense introspection to keep the film from falling into farce. There’s an electric mood at play, as perfectly drawn as the portrait being commissioned.
Mati Diop’s debut film earned her the prestigious Grand Prix, immediately solidifying the reputation of this French filmmaker with Senegalese roots. Her film is a dreamlike tale of love, loss, and hardship, using horror film elements and a dream-like setting to evoke a deeply unsettling story of modern-day Dakar. Sumptuously shot against the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the story of a young woman who has lost her lover during a refugee voyage to Europe evokes both social drama and the more heighted emotions of a gothic romance. Part ghostly tale, part drama, the film is realized with a documentary-like precision mixed with more lyrical elements, crafting an enticing hybrid that drew much applause during its debut. A strange, unsettling work, Diop’s film is a perfect calling card for what promises to be an immense filmography to come.
Screened as part of the Un Certain Regard sidebar, Annie Silverstein’s film follows a young girl with a troubled family situation, finding herself drawn to the world of her neighbour, an African American rodeo worker who helps protect bullfighters from harm. Shot with a hazy, humid palate, the film drips of an Americana often overlooked, highlighting communities and situations a far cry from the stereotypical. Silverstein’s keen eye for detail elevates the film tremendously, and she’s able to capture the quiet conversations and bursts of action with equal flair. It’s an emotionally engaging yet raw portrayal, always focused on the believable connection between mentor and mentee, with all the challenges that implies. A tale of race, class, ambition, and struggle, this film, told with a delicate hand, is truly commendable.