The 70th Cannes Film Festival started today, and one of this year’s presidents Uma Thurman said something remarkable at Les Fantomes d’Ismael’s red carpet when she was asked about how she felt when she received the invitation, responding that Cannes was a place that hasn’t let cinema die. Since we won’t be able to watch any of the movies in the competition so soon, I’ve decided to talk about my 10 favorite Palme d’Or winners to check out during this festival season, if you haven’t already. So here they are!
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) by Cristian Mungiu
Being definitely on my Top 50 favorite films ever, this Romanian drama is probably one of the best films that have ever won a Palm d’Or. The competition wasn’t too strong in 2007, but the film’s realistic rawness and the provocative subject is still something that keeps growing stronger each day, making 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days an extremely important film from the 21st Century. The movie deals with a pregnant woman who seeks a doctor to get an abortion with a friend during the last days of communism in Romania, where abortion was illegal. After the planning of the meeting goes wrong, the woman and her friend have to make an extremely crucial decision that challenges the concepts of ethics. Being Cristian Mungiu debut as a film director, the artists tells this story in an extremely realistic way with long shots and is not afraid of showing what is not politically correct.
Dancer In the Dark (2000) by Lars Von Trier
Probably the most famous film by Lars Von Trier (if not Dogville), Dancer In the Dark not only won Palm d’Or in 2000’s Cannes Film Festival, but also gave the prize of the best actress to Bjork, who at the time criticized Von Trier’s hardness on her. Nevertheless, Dancer In The Dark is still an extremely important and powerful musical about a poor single mother who has an irreversible disease that will make her blind. Her kindness and dreamer personality are taken for granted by the people of the village where she lives, resulting in a shocking and revolting end.
The Pianist (2002) by Roman Polanski
It’s interesting how some movies are not often mentioned within cinephile circuits, but I must admit The Pianist is probably one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen and definitely one of the best movies about the Second World War and the prosecution of Jews. Yes, it’s super dramatic but never less powerful, and Adrien Brody gives the performance of his career, even though Cannes Film Festival gave the prize to Oliver Gourmet, which was also a great film with a great acting, but nothing compared to this one. The proportion of this film is huge, and Roman Polaski shows everything in the most impeccable direction, transforming The Pianist into a definitive must watch!
Paris, Texas (1984) by Wim Wenders
Comparing to the movies I said so far, Paris, Texas doesn’t have a strong story as the other ones, but it’s format and Wim Wenders’ mise en scene in this feature is something that can strike you forever. Existing in a universe of memories, Paris, Texas tells the story of a man who comes back to his family years after he left them for no apparent reason. The search for a greater meaning in life and the ghost of our decisions are themes explored in this almost-road-movie in an extremely poetic style, making Wender’s movie not only a Palm d’Or winner but also one of the most important movies ever made. Also, I really need to revisit this one because it’s been a while since I first watched it.
The Tree of Life (2011) by Terrence Malick
Nobody seems to remember that Tree of Life won Palme d’Or back in 2011. Maybe it was because Lars Von Trier was banned from the festival after saying he sympathized with Nazis? Rumor has it that Melancholia was a great potential winner, but the festival decided to give the biggest prize to The Tree of Life since Von Trier had become persona non grata. One way or another, 2011 competition was strong and The Tree of Life is still one of the most beautiful movies ever made. After spending more than 10 years without making a film, Terrence Malick comes back with a powerful and poetic movie about the relationship between a little kid and his father, nature, and God in the 50s.
The Child (2005) by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Cannes Film Festival always loved the Dardenne brothers and for a good reason! They are the one of the few Post New Wave filmmakers that use its realism and rawness to talk about social and political causes such as immigration, ethics, capitalism and governor laws. In 2005, the festival finally gave the Palme d’Or for the Austrian brothers for The Child, a beautiful film that talks about a penniless couple that has a child. Doing anything for money, the man decides to sell their baby without the consent of his wife, resulting in an interesting, tense and surprising drama about relationship.
The Piano (1992) by Jane Campion
Being the only movie of this list that was directed by a woman, The Piano seems to have been forgotten through time. If you watch it nowadays, however, you will ask yourself why since it’s such an intriguing and mysterious film. I don’t know why but it reminds me a lot of Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves – which by the way, is a movie that I can totally see him directing. The film tells the story of a mute pianist and her daughter who travels to New Zealand so she can get married to a man she has been sold to. Even though the pianist doesn’t want to sleep with him, the man uses her piano that has been abandoned on a beach as a trait to have carnal relationships with her.
Amour (2012) by Michael Haneke
Having won a Palm d’Or two times (and competing for his third this year) and being my favorite director, Michael Haneke had to be on this list. Even though this is not my favorite film from the director, Amour is a film festival winner par excellence. Starring Emmanuelle Riva, the incredible actress who died the beginning of this year and was also in Hiroshima Mon Amour, the film tells the story of an old couple who faces the degradation of death in an old age when the woman suffers a stroke and her husband needs to take care of her. More than that, Michael Haneke portraits this story is a very emotionless way, almost sync, making Amour a love story that celebrates life but in a very horrific and brutal way.
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) by Abdellatif Kechiche
Some people say Blue Is the Warmest Color is just a three-hour lesbian relationship film with fifteen-minute explicit sex scenes. Fortunately, is much more than that! First, this is probably the coolest Palm d’Or winner just for being a “three hour lesbian relationship film with fifteen minutes explicit sex scene”; second, Abdellatif Kechiche takes his time to tell a tale of desire, love and sexuality without boundaries and he tries to find the human element in every single scene of the movie, which most of them are composed with the beautiful face of Adèle Exarchopoulos, who takes over the frame, the story and the whole film. Also, Blue Is the Warmest Color represents the year of 2013 extremely well, since it was a very transgressive year in the GLBT community.
I, Daniel Blake (2016) by Ken Loach
2016 was a fantastic year for Cannes Film Festival, with It’s Only the End of the World, Aquarius, Elle, Personal Shopper, American Honey, The Apartment, The Handmaiden, etc. Any movie could have won, but they decided to give the biggest prize to I, Daniel Blake, which even though it’s not the best movie of the year, it’s still a film that is worth checking it out, especially because it was the last winner of the Palme d’Or. More than that, the film talks about the involvement of the government in our modern society and the gaps of generations by telling the story of a 59-year-old man who gets his welfare denied after being unable to work after having a heart attack. When he applies for an appeal process, the man realizes things won’t be easy as it seems.