The 66th annual Cannes Film Festival concluded this week and it wiped the floor with the Oscars. Unlike the Academy Awards which only recognize mediocre American commercial cinema, the Cannes fest unearths some of the best films of the year from around the world. Let’s take a look at the 15 most exciting films that debuted at Cannes 2013.
Only God Forgives reunites director Nicholas Winding Refn, his Drive star Ryan Gosling and his Menthol Noir lighting and camerawork for a beautifully violent revenge thriller set in Thailand. Refn succeeded in creating a richer canvas for his style and scored a masterstroke by casting Kristin Scott Thomas as a terrifying mob boss.
Lunch Box, India’s entry, is a constantly charming and winningly offbeat film about a man and a woman who communicate via notes placed in a tiffin box. The film, directed by first timer Ritesh Batra exudes superb performances from Irrfan and Nimrat Kaur, and even has a delightful Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a supporting role. Dabba won the Critics Week Viewers’ Choice award and became the first Indian film in 14 years to bag a trophy at Cannes.
The Congress, Ari Folman’s follow up to the devastating Waltz with Bashir has been described as an exhilarating and mesmerizing drama that combines live action with animation. Robin Wright stars as herself in a dystopian sci fi story that explores the themes of intellectual copyright and internet freedom.
The Coens won the Grand Prix for their latest movie Inside Llewyn Davis, a film described by critic Peter Bradshaw as a clean, hard crack – the sound of the Coens hitting one out of the park.
The Dutch thriller Borgman, one of the most bizarre entries at the festival combines the eerie cult themes and atmosphere of Kill List and the icy, unsettling home invasion horrors of Funny Games.
Jim Jarmusch makes a grand comeback with Only lovers left alive, a story of two centuries old vampires Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) who are depressed with the modern world and its cold indifference and cynicism.
After the disappointment of This must be the place director Paolo Sorrentino returns to form with The Great Beauty, a movie that has been compared to Fellini’s classic La Dolce Vita and described as the film equivalent of a magnificent banquet composed of 78 sweet courses.
Heli, a Mexican drama by Amat Escalante is a difficult watch, nihilistic to the core as it chronicles corrupted innocence in the story of an 18-year-old living with his wife, his child, his father and his 12-year-old sister.
In Nebraska Alexander Payne attempts yet another road movie after the excellent About Schmidt and the even better Sideways. This time he follows an aging, alcoholic father making a road trip with his estranged son to claim a million-dollar sweepstakes prize. Bruce Dern, who plays the dad won the Best Actor prize at Cannes.
Roman Polanski follows up last year’s superb Carnage with Venus in Fur, a sharp and dark story of a filmmaker who is in a hurry to return home to his fiancé but is manipulated by an actress to do a reading just because her name is the same as the character in the script.
Steven Soderbergh’s allegedly final movie Behind the Candelabra is a glorious goodbye from the filmmaker. The Liberace biopic did not get a theatrical release as it was rejected by Hollywood studios for being ‘too gay’. The studios missed the bus as HBO scored record breaking viewership during its premier. The film is a hilarious, campy, dark dramedy with terrific lead performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.
Lost in Translation director Sofia Coppola casts Emma Watson in The Bling Ring as a crazy teenager who jams with her friends to burgle celebrities’ houses for fun. It's the second film this year after Antiviral that delves in the modern sickness that is celebrity obsession.
Chinese arthouse filmmaker Jia Zhang’s A Touch of Sin is ambitious, ultra-violent and the most significant film of the year – it’s a pessimistic tirade against China and throws the spotlight on issues the Chinese government wouldn’t be too happy to advertise to the world.
After delivering four masterpieces in a row, the latest being the Oscar winning A Separation ,director Asghar Farhadi is back with The Past, shooting for the first time outside his native Iran. Like his other films The Past is a complex relationship drama, with a psychological angle to boot. Its star Berenice Bejo (who was last seen in The Artist) won the Best Actress trophy at the fest.
(First published in DNA)