25 May 2018.
So what was the culmination of the 71st edition of this grandest of all film festivals?
I would say the satisfying ‘Palmares’ (awards) handed out by the high-caliber jury headed by the elegant and talented Australian actress, Cate Blanchett. It was indeed a competent jury, since four of its members were among the finest directors in the world: American Ava Duvernay who directed the award-winning ‘Selma’ about Martin Luther King; Frenchman Robert Guediguian, who makes films about the struggles of the working class in Marseille; Denis Villeneuve of Canada, whose ‘Sicario’ was a revelation; and Russia’s renowned Andrey Zvyagintsev, director of such masterpieces as ‘The Return’ and ‘Loveless’. If such directors don’t know a gem when they see it, then who would?
Their jury of nine (also including Lea Seydoux and Kristen Stewart) managed to pick out the best in the Competition, awarding the Palme d’Or to Kore-Eda Hirokazu’s tender Japanese film SHOPLIFTERS, about a loving, unusual family.
The Jury Prize was awarded to Lebanon’s Nadine Labeki for CAPHARNAUM, her touching and pertinent film about a an imprisoned 12 year-old boy who sues his parents for having given him birth. It was Labeki’s homage to the downtrodden of the world. I would have given her film the Palme d’Or, for its artistic quality, its moral importance, and to finally have a female director win after Jane Campion’s Palme for THE PIANO in 1993.
The Grand Prize went to American Spike Lee’s bombastic BLACKKKLANSMAN, which was timely, political and bitterly funny.
The Best Director award went to Poland’s Pawel Pawlikowski for his stylish black & white film COLD WAR.
The Best Screenplay went exequo to Iranian Jafar Panahi’s complex yet simple THREE FACES and Italy’s HAPPY AS LAZZARO.
Best of all was the Actor Award that went to Marcello Fonte, a homely little Italian comedian who broke everyone’s heart in Matteo Garrone’s mesmerising DOGMAN.
And the Actress Award was given to Samal Yesyamova of Russia/Kazakhstan for AYKA, a film about mother love. A puzzling special Palme d’Or also went to Jean-Luc Godard’s THE IMAGE BOOK – on that one, I abstain.
The closing ceremony ended with the Jury, the presenters and the winners going out to the top of the red-carpeted steps to listen to a short concert by Sting.
It was a rewarding finale to a well-balanced list of films chosen by the ever-present film enthusiast Thierry Frémaux, the artistic director of the Festival. And this was only the 21-film Competition. There was also the 18-film Certain Regard section whose jury headed by the affable, award-winning actor Benicio del Toro gave the Swedish/Iranian film BORDERS their top prize. In that ceremony, Frémaux brought all the Festival’s controllers on to the stage to thank them for their fortnight’s hard work keeping all the spectators in line. It’s an annual ritual and typical of the man’s openness.
There were also other sidebars such as Semaine de la Critique and the Director’s Fortnight, with another long list of films from around the world. Plus various special screenings such as Wim Wenders’ superb documentary POPE FRANCIS – A MAN OF HIS WORD, and a smattering of out-of-competition films such as a remake of FAHRENHEIT 451 and WHITNEY, a documentary about Whitney Houston.
It was truly film heaven. And this year the best ones did win, for a change.
This week’s highly recommended film:
LA REVOLUTION SILENCIEUSE (Das Schweigende Klassenzimmer) **** (vo German)
A typical group of high school students who love to dance, flirt with their girlfriends and enjoy their families, decide at some point to show their solidarity with the Hungarian revolt against the Soviets by observing two minutes of silence in their classroom. That small gesture balloons into all sorts of repercussions, provoking top-notch government officials and the ire and worries of their parents.
For this is the stern East Germany of 1956, and these young people seem caught between a hated Nazi past and a tightly controlled Communist present.
Based on true events that happened some five years before the Berlin Wall went up, this brilliant film by Lars Kraume, director of the fascinating ‘The State Against Fritz Bauer’, is a moving and thrilling testament to a moment in history that changed all of their lives. Do not miss this beautifully-acted film that is both factual and somewhat reminiscent of ‘The Dead Poet’s Society’.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.
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