The Best of Cannes 2023
A 2023 edition that was packed and sold as the most massive one since the pandemic -which it was, due to the insane amount of people it somehow did not feel as filled with timeless classics as the 2022 edition was, but that could be just the misperception derived from 2022 being the first Cannes attendance. Yet, 2022 had films such as Decision to Leave, Godland, even Triangle of Sadness, despite not making it to the personal top 9, felt more elevated as a work of cinematic art. This year however also sees the return of several estabilished filmmakers with small, intimate works that often surpassed most of the other entries.
Much like last year, once again the Palme d'Or was far from my favourite films of the festival. As a personal tendency, I ended up longing for the least gloomy, less dark works of the festival (something unexpected, just check the Top 2022 to perceive that I often prefer the darker films).
9. IF ONLY I COULD HIBERNATE, dir. Zorjargal Purevdash
The first mongolian film at Cannes (presented in Un Certain Regard) really ended up being one of the most enjoyable views: an optimistic, maybe a bit naive, tale of a teenager from a poor district of Ulan Bator where people live in Yurts who tries to break out of poverty by obtaining a scholarship. The premise could have made for an extremely tragic film, yet it manages to be heartwarming and reassuring. Perhaps knowing that director Zorjargal Purevdash went through a similar experience to the protagonist gives it an extra point for the true story content. If only I could Hubernate makes for a perfect pairing with the other mongolian film that is getting international recognition, The Sales Girl, also a coming-of-age but that follows a girl from a middle class (living in an apartment, perceived as the opposite of the yurts in this film).
8. COBWEB, dir. Kim Jee-woon
For a genre filmmaker like Kim Jee-woon who directed films like I Saw the Devil or The Good, The Bad and the Weird, Cobweb stands out perhaps as his most arthouse attempt, if it's a term we can use. Song Kang-Ho stars as a troubled and tormented horror movie director from the '70s that has a sudden inspiration to change entirely the ending of his latest film - but the censorship denies him the reshoots, thus sparking a series of subterfuges that remind of the comedy of errors. The brilliance lies in the metacinematic/metanarrative nature of the film, as the overdramatised tone of the film that is being made slowly translated to the film crew's interactions itself. A scene that depicts the behind-the-scenes of a long take is perhaps one of the most exciting scenes about filmmaking depicted on the screen in a fiction movie. Cobweb was presented out of competition.
7. LOS COLONOS, dir. Felipe Galvez
A weird blend between spaghetti-western and Godland, the film addresses the ethnic cleansing occured in Patagonia in the early 1900s. Through a strange trio - a native indio, a british ex-officer, a gunslinger from Texas - it presents the complex reality of colonialism. What prevents it from being listed as the best of the festival is the apparent inconsistency between the first and second half of the film and the lack of characterisation for the indio protagonist. It is nonetheless one of the films with most character, with the most accomplishment at the Festival, featuring some truly stunning imagery, being in no way compromising and afraid of showing the gruesome aspect of colonialism in an age that, to the public eye, saw the times of the massacres far behind.
6. THE ZONE OF INTEREST, dir. Jonathan Glazer
It is extremely hard to discuss this film without spoiling it. Saying that it is the symmetric opposite of Son of Saul might already be too much, getting into any details about the plot would only ruin the experience. Lauded as the best film of Cannes by most critics, it does have a few flaws: its experimental nature is very on surface, not as trip-inducing as Glazer's Under the skin was. It is a disturbing film, indeed, but could have been much more disturbing. That said, it is a unique work of art, much higher than the standards of most competition films in Cannes, perhaps a film that requires multiple rewatches to be fully appreciated.
5. RAPITO, dir. Marco Bellocchio
Following Il Traditore and Esterno Notte, Bellocchio is amidst the most exciting period in his career. With a film that was originally set to be directed by Steven Spielberg with Mark Rylance, Bellocchio reinstates the formal and casting ensemble choices from Esterno Notte in another historic thriller that exposes yet another dark page of italian history in his own idiosyncratic style. Rapito makes us only hope to see more from Bellocchio soon, as despite his age he keeps proving that he is fresh and still a most capable auteur.
4. FALLEN LEAVES, dir. Aki Kaurismaki
Probably the most tender and wholesome love story seen on screen at least in the last decade but perhaps since more, Kaurismaki's signature dry comedy, the usual heightened sociocritical subtext somehow become warm and not tedious as they were in other recent works by him. A short, sweet viewing, it is a romantic comedy for cinephiles but for casual moviegoers alike, most unusual to the genre, apparently most close to what were Kaurismaki's first films. It's one of the most simple yet for that same reason, perfect films in the main selection of Cannes.
3. GRACE, dir. Ilya Povolotsky
A debut film that truly feels timeless, partly a road movie and partly a coming-of-age that follows a daughter and a father on their nomadic life between the Caucasus and the northen coasts of the russian tundra. Beautifully shot on film, it reaches the heights of Sokurov and Tarkovsky, with a sense of suspended time that makes the purest, arthouse russian cinema unique. It can be accosted to the numerous films made by Sokurov's alumni form the Kabardino-Balcarian region of the caucasus, such as Kantemir Balagov, Kira Kovalenko, etc.
2. PERFECT DAYS, dir. Wim Wenders
Ultimately Wenders' Japanese film left the biggest impression, perhaps for personal reasons: the quiet life of a middle-aged toilet cleaner in Tokyo conveys both a peaceful sense to long for and a deep melancholy that cannot be underplayed. A film that builds on silence, music (the title is itself a musical reference to "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed), that does not feel the slightest like an european film translocated to Japan but instead a Japanese film to its core, despite the german director. People who experienced solitude will relate most to this film that perfectly represents the mixture of serenity and loneliness intrinsic to such a lifestyle.
1. KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON, dir. Martin Scorsese
Scorsese at its finest, closer in style to Goodfellas than Shutter Island, but nonetheless intriguing. It leaves the viewer guessing mostly about the motivations of the characters, thus Leonardo Di Caprio delivers a very outstanding performance with unique nuances, but Lily Gladstone manages to steal the show with a simple glance whenever she is on screen. A beautifully shot gran cinematic piece that surpasses The Irishman and is on pair with Scorsese's best films, that blends well together his characteristic style with this true story, bringing some subtle but significant innovations to the genre.