It’s a wrap on the 67th annual Cannes Film Festival as the jury awarded the Palme d’Or to Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Winter Sleep.” Variety’s chief film critics also weighed in on the five pictures that left the strongest impressions.
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Post-screening conversations will focus on the exceedingly strange reality rupture that occurs at the midway point, but Pascale Ferran’s beguiling two-hander is far more than the sum of its peculiarities. Wry, observant and endlessly empathetic, this wondrous film effortlessly locates the magical in the mundane.
It takes only a split second to reveal the ugly truth, but a near-eternity to grapple with the implications in Ruben Ostlund’s scalding study of a family on the ski vacation from hell. A ruthless, confrontational and delectably entertaining dissection of the modern male ego.
— Justin Chang
The avalanche certainly gets your attention, but it’s the resulting fissures in a catalog-perfect Swedish couple’s relationship that stick with you in Ruben Ostlund’s precisely orchestrated psycho-drama. Challenge me to predict one film from an unspectacular lineup that we’ll still be talking about in 10 years, and this would be it.
After “Capote” and “Moneyball,” Bennett Miller hits it out of the park for the third time in a row with this taut, trenchant and brilliantly acted psychological thriller — another ripped-from-the-headlines parable of American ambition, this time taken to its darkest possible extremes.
— Justin Chang
An ostensible true-crime procedural, Bennett Miller’s impeccably acted and directed three-hander gradually evolves into a major study of American power, privilege and masculine identity, cut from the same unsparing cloth as “Greed,” “Citizen Kane” and “There Will Be Blood.”
In what sometimes felt more like the Canine Film Festival, no dog movie proved more thrilling or audacious than Kornel Mundruczo’s return-of-the-repressed fable in which man’s best friend suddenly becomes his worst enemy. Politically charged and technically astounding, it’s a Disney live-action special with the bracingly dark soul of an exploitation cheapie.
Earning every millisecond of its 196-minute running time, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Palme d’Or winner finds the Turkish master at his most Bergman-esque, turning his actors’ faces into landscapes no less magnificent or expressive than the wild Anatolian terrain.
— Justin Chang
Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan surpassed himself with a deserving Palme d’Or winner that was anything but a snooze. Drawing on a dense inventory of literary and cinematic reference points, “Winter Sleep” crafts a sprawling multi-character tragedy that feels at once modern and timeless.
The great Australian Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil co-wrote and stars as a dispossessed tribal man in this haunting drama from director Rolf de Heer. Though there is a story, the movie draws much of its power from poetic closeups of its star’s magnificently weathered face, as expressive as that of the great silent screen stars.
A typically dense, boldly experimental collage film (of sounds, images and ideas) from Jean-Luc Godard, “Goodbye” felt at once like a farewell and a renewal, and (per jury president Jane Campion) the freest film in Cannes. The only film of the festival I made a point to see twice.
Filming on the ground in the thick of the recent Ukrainian Revolution, director Sergei Loznitsa eschewed the usual handheld aesthetics of such documentaries in favor of breathtakingly composed master shots. The results achieve a unique contrapuntal tension between the rigid borders of the frame and the frequent chaos erupting within them.
— Scott Foundas
“Clouds of Sils Maria”
It was another banner year for female performances following 2013’s “Blue Is the Warmest Color” win, with stellar roles for Hilary Swank, Julianne Moore, Marion Cotillard and the entire “Girlhood” gang. But it was the original “Blue” star, Juliette Binoche, who really heated things up with co-star Kristen Stewart in Olivier Assayas’ brave study of actorly insecurity.
If I wanted to look clever, I’d tell you my favorite movie at Cannes was a turgid 3½-hour Turkish drama, but the truth is, I dozed through much of “Winter’s Sleep.” Honestly, the film that thrilled me most was a Hollywood cartoon — as deserving a sequel as “Toy Story 2.”
At Sundance, the movies tend to run about 90 minutes. In Cannes, audiences buckle up for longer, denser cinematic experiences, the heftiest of which was Russian helmer Andrey Zvyagintsev’s look at all that’s wrong with Russia through the prism of an unlucky family man. (“Foxcatcher” subjected America to similar scrutiny.)
Hands down, the best film in Cannes this year was “Pulp Fiction,” which celebrated its 20th anniversary with a beachside screening. Had Tarantino been president of the jury, surely he would’ve awarded the Palme to Damian Szifron’s cracked debut, featuring six slick, darkly comic riffs on his favorite subject: revenge.