Pola X – All About My Mother – La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil – Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai – L'Humanité – The Blair Witch Project – The Straight Story

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Jurors: David Cronenberg (president), Dominique Blanc, Doris Dörrie, Jeff Goldblum, Barbara Hendricks, Holly Hunter, George Miller, Maurizio Nichetti, Yasmina Reza, André Téchiné
 

 
Palme d'Or:Rosetta, Belgium, dirs. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Grand Jury Prize:L'Humanité, dir. Bruno Dumont
Jury Prize:The Letter, dir. Manoel de Oliveira
Best Director:All About My Mother, Pedro Almodóvar
Best Actress:L'Humanité, Séverine Caneele
Rosetta, Émilie Dequenne
Best Actor:L'Humanité, Emmanuel Schotté
Best Screenplay:Moloch, Yuriy Arabov and Marina Koreneva
Technical Grand Prize: The Emperor and the Assassin, Tu Juhua, production design
FIPRESCI/International
    Critics Prize:
New Dawn, dir. Emilie Deleuze
Prize of the Ecumenical Jury:All About My Mother, dir. Pedro Almodóvar
Camera d'Or (first feature): Throne of Death, dir. Murali Nair



Competition Films I Have Seen:
 
Ranked in Order of Preference
 
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (USA, dir. Jim Jarmusch) - From a singular figure, extrapolates a moving, poetic rewrite of nation, genre, race, and world.

The Straight Story (USA, dir. David Lynch) - Each dimension of film craft offers careful, perfect pressure to enable the clarity and facets of this diamond.

Rosetta (Belgium, dirs. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) - Executes tense, documentary-realist portrait of a drowning girl with such consistency it once looked easy to me. It's not.

Pola X (France, dir. Leos Carax) - Mad, extravagant, unsettling. Even dangling threads and rough edges serve its projects. A great portrait of ego in tumult.

All About My Mother (Spain, dir. Pedro Almodóvar) - Reflection, outreach, repetition, and change make grief easier but also harder. Intricate, earnest, luminous.

Time Regained (France, dir. Raul Ruiz) - Inspired series of tactics for adapting Proust—no mean feat! Richer dialogue with its source than with its viewers?

Kadosh (Israel, dir. Amos Gitai) - For an essentially diagrammatic tale, hewing close to expectation, this is disarmingly forceful, compassionate, and tough.

Wonderland (UK, dir. Michael Winterbottom) - McKee's tops but everyone, center to edges, is good in Winterbottom's lo-fi, endearing echo of Hannah and Her Sisters.

L'Humanité (France, dir. Bruno Dumont) - A series of propositions that Dumont nails to the door of Cinema. Uneven in taste and persuasive power, but formidable.

The Emperor and the Assassin (China, dir. Chen Kaige) - O-P-U-L-E-N-CE! Visually dazzling and character-rich historical epic. Not all new, but invigorating.

The Letter (Portugal, dir. Manoel de Oliveira) - Strange, spare story, blending cultural and literary conventions of 17th-century source with modern idioms and affects.

Limbo (USA, dir. John Sayles) - Two superb central performances, an involving communal portrait, and Wexler's textured lensing make up for other weaknesses.

Cradle Will Rock (USA, dir. Tim Robbins) - Bouncy Federal Theatre Project epic summons more oomph as it goes but takes fewer risks than art it commemorates.

The Nanny (Italy, dir. Marco Bellocchio) - Drama of domestic tension and gendered jealousy pointedly doesn't go where you guess. Some roles can shift; others can't.

Moloch (Russia, dir. Aleksandr Sokurov) - Gnomic even by Sokurov's standards. Hard to know why you'd take this path into depicting Hitler, but evocative and original.

Love Will Tear Us Apart (Hong Kong, dir. Nelson Yu Lik-Wai) - Unhappy, and barely together. Evokes malaise and marginality in post-Handover Hong Kong in familiar terms.

Kikujiro (Japan, dir. Takeshi Kitano) - I get Kitano wanting to show new colors. But these? Benigniesque fable, tougher in spots and with blessedly lower stakes.

No One Writes to the Colonel (Mexico, dir. Arturo Ripstein) - Capably mounted adaptation of García Márquez novella. Involving, but missing some imaginative layers.

8½ Women (UK, dir. Peter Greenaway) - Nerviest thread about father-son erotics gets most sidelined by disorganized series of fetishes, provocations. Odd mess.

Our Happy Lives (France, dir. Jacques Maillot) - Recursive soap opera tracks shifts and conflicts among loose web of Parisians. By no means bad—but up for a Palme?

Felicia's Journey (Canada, dir. Atom Egoyan) - Vainly seeks a language, aesthetic, or arc to unpack an encounter between ill-matched, unpersuasive characters.

Awaiting First Screening
 
Tales of Kish (Iran, dirs. Abolfazl Jalili, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and Naser Taghvai) - No longer available for screening



Sidebar Selections I Have Seen:
 
Ranked in Order of Preference
 
La Petite vendeuse de soleil (Senegal/France, dir. Djibril Diop Mambéty) - Crafty, disarmingly sweet Dakar-set miniature about one of movies' most resilient young heroines.

The Blair Witch Project (Directors' Fortnight: USA, dirs. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez) - Ingenious repurposing of humble tools and low-cost production to generate terrors both modern and primal.

Summer of Sam (Directors' Fortnight: USA, dir. Spike Lee) - In all senses, so much blood pumping in this dark, vibrant film. Exquisitely shot and full of curious interests.

Ratcatcher (Un Certain Regard: UK, dir. Lynne Ramsay) - Sustains a rich tradition of class-conscious British realism while expanding its poetic ambitions. Intimidating craft.

Charisma (Directors' Fortnight: Japan, dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa) - Tale of a defrocked cop wends unpredictably into a fight among cryptic factions for control over nature. Defiantly weird!

Vānaprastham: The Last Dance (Un Certain Regard: India, dir. Shaji N. Karun) - Unusually ambitious life of an artist. Refuses typical arcs or templates, keeping several complicated issues in play.

So Close to Paradise (Un Certain Regard: China, dir. Wang Xiaoshuai) - Artfully compressed neo-noir resonates also as era-specific comment on Chinese urbanization and global flows.

Genesis (Un Certain Regard: Mali/France, dir. Cheick Oumar Sissoko) - Compact yet complex restaging of Biblical lore as an intrafamilial, inter-tribal rivalry. Subtle ironies, colorful scenes.

The War Zone (Directors' Fortnight: UK, dir. Tim Roth) - Smart, persuasive performances and exquisite light and camerawork distinguish tale that might have felt sensational.

The Other (Un Certain Regard: Egypt, dir. Youssef Chahine) - Kilometers over the top, but uses brash melodrama to make complex economic and structural arguments hot to the touch.

The Limey (Out of Competition: USA, dir. Steven Soderbergh) - Implacable vengefulness, ornate construction, epochal lament. They dont always coalesce, but boy are they audacious.

Le Franc (Directors' Fortnight: Senegal/France, dir. Djibril Diop Mambéty) - Wry but still bitter satire of coerced precarity is less supple than other Mambéty films but scores its political points.

Sicilia! (Un Certain Regard: France, dirs. Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub) - It's not just that you can't go home again. Home was always full of grim histories, cross purposes, and unasked questions.

South [Sud] (Directors' Fortnight: USA, dir. Chantal Akerman) - Snapshot of a Texas town in the wake of antiblack violence. More elegant in form than rich with insight, but a valuable record.

The Virgin Suicides (Directors' Fortnight: USA, dir. Sofia Coppola) - Familiar arc, and stunted—mostly by design. Works best in evoking teenage yearning, torpor, and hormonal rush.

Strange Fits of Passion (Critics' Week: Australia, dir. Elise McCredie) - Funny, typically off-kilter Aussie comedy about sexual initiation. Mostly manages a late, darker swerve.

Harem Suare (Un Certain Regard: Turkey/Italy, dir. Ferzan Ozpetek) - In some ways an extreme if attractive case of Orientalism run amok, but imposes useful meta-frames around those issues.

Judy Berlin (Un Certain Regard: USA, dir. Eric Mendelsohn) - Appealingly odd, well-acted indie about small-town life as out-of-body experience. Director surrogate is weakest spot.

My Best Fiend (Out of Competition: Germany, dir. Werner Herzog) - Good, if never quite great, on Kinski, on key films, and on the tempestuous world of movie sets. Blurriest on Herzog?

Kaizokuban Bootleg Film (Un Certain Regard: Japan, dir. Masahiro Kobayashi) - Title winks at quick-and-dirty genre homage and at male identities as crap dubs of lost, mythic originals.

The Winslow Boy (Un Certain Regard: UK/USA, dir. David Mamet) - Odd, negative-space courtroom drama where you never see the trial everyone's on about. Part enigmatic, part inert.

EDtv (Out of Competition: USA, dir. Ron Howard) - Some threads and potentials under-exploited but the cast sells this curious time capsule. Howard's touch refreshingly light.

The Five Senses (Directors' Fortnight: Canada, dir. Jeremy Podeswa) - Both script and emphatically "sensory" images can overstretch. Still, has its fingers on some interesting pulses.

An Ideal Husband (Closing Night/Out of Competition: UK, dir. Oliver Parker) - Not especially ambitious cinema, but a fleetly paced, deftly performed staging that doesn't gum up Wilde's play.

Entrapment (Special Screenings: USA, dir. Jon Amiel) - Far from novel but manages to sneak up on you; the set-pieces and the bond between the leads keep improving as it goes.

The Last September (Directors' Fortnight: UK/Ireland, dir. Deborah Warner) - Never yields promised historical insights, but works okay as well-shot, vaguely political sex/love/family melo.

Fever (Directors' Fortnight: USA/UK, dir. Alex Winter) - Bill & Ted's Alex Winter directs E.T.'s Henry Thomas in aspiring midnight movie. Shows early promise, but plot's a dead end.

Siam Sunset (Critics' Week: Australia, dir. John Polson) - Bright Australian comedy of reinvention and discovery, in the face of life's many accidents. Makes no claims to depth.

The Barber of Siberia (Opening Night/Out of Competition: Russia/France/Italy/Czech Republic, dir. Nikita Mikhalkov) - Formally and tonally chaotic; not the epic vision intended. Odd energy, growing sadness do get interesting.

Away with Words (Un Certain Regard: Hong Kong/Japan, dir. Christopher Doyle) - Doyle directs with raffish undiscipline of a gallerist dying to print a zine, a painter scratching on stall walls.

Hold Back the Night (Critics' Week: UK, dir. Philip Davis) - Some potent photography and mood-building in this strange, erratic tale of eco-activism and perverse yearning.

Dogma (Out of Competition: USA, dir. Kevin Smith) - Credit to the huge leap in Smith's ambitions, but his techniques and sensibilities remain too immature to hit these targets.

East Is East (Directors' Fortnight: UK, dir. Damien O'Donnell) - Direction never adequate to conflicts and characters. Story and racial/gender politics grow ever worse. End is horror.

Agnes Browne (Directors' Fortnight: USA/Ireland, dir. Anjelica Huston) - This mirror has one face. Everyone around Agnes loves her—but why? Simplistic in the extreme, expectant of adoration.

The Shade (Un Certain Regard: USA, dir. Raphaël Nadjari) - So desultory with motive, scenario, and character, it feels like reels are missing. Rudimentary style. Actors look lost.



Sidebar Films I'm Curious to See:
Listed alphabetically; more on this year's lineup here (opens in a new window)
 
Un Certain Regard: New Dawn, France, dir. Emilie Deleuze
The Nuptials of God, Portugal, dir. João César Monteiro
Throne of Death, UK/India, dir. Murali Nair
Directors' Fortnight: À mort la mort!, France, dir. Romain Goupil
Le Bleu des villes, France, dir. Stéphane Brizé
The Cup, Bhutan, dir. Khyentse Norbu
Enthusiasm, Chile/Spain/France, dir. Ricardo Larraín
Haut les cœurs!, France, dir. Sólveig Anspach
M/Other, Japan, dir. Nobuhiro Suwa
Paths in the Night, Germany, dir. Andreas Kleinert
Critics' Week: Belo Odelo, Yugoslavia, dir. Lazar Ristovski
Flowers from Another World, Spain, dir. Icíar Bollaín
On Board [Gemide], Turkey, dir. Serdar Akar
Out of Competition: Farewell, Home Sweet Home!, France, dir. Otar Iosseliani

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