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Cannes 2012: Top 10

Cannes 2012: Top 10

Top 10 films from this year's festival

The Sunday Times Culture blog

May 2012

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Unpalatable subject matter is red rag to the bull for Michael Haneke, whose profound, austere study of one old couple’s physical and emotional descent flies above anything else in Competition. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva are superb as the suffering octogenarians, the latter felled by a stroke, while Haneke does something rather strange for him: he shows compassion.

It split the vote but those who fell for Rust and Bone’s manipulative sentimentality (and shall forever be known as whale-blubbers) ended up in puddles. Marion Cotillard’s killer-whale trainer loses two legs and the will to live after a tragic orca run-in; Matthias Schoenaerts’s sex-mad thug with a son helps her get back on her, er, feet again. A grungified Cotillard reigns supreme; Jacques Audiard’s improbable love story shatters and inspires.

The Chilean Mad Men? That was the verdict on this third and final part of Pablo Lorrain’s ‘Pinochet trilogy’ (following Tony Manero and Post Mortem). NO focuses on an incredible moment in Chile’s history, when General Augusto Pinochet put his dictatorial rule to a referendum – and lost. Gael Garcia Bernal shines as the advertising hotshot who leads the sunny, jingly ‘No’ (to Pinochet) campaign.

The utter bonkersness of Leos Carax’s surreal vision was greeted by cheers and jeers on the Croisette. Count us in the former camp. Ferried around in a white stretch limo, Denis Lavant performs an all-the-world’s-a-stage theatrical mission for an unseen (unseeing?) audience. Motion-capture sex, crooning Kylie, goblin abduction and a household of chimps. To see is to believe.

Thomas Vinterberg takes the delicate subject matter of a kindergarten teacher (Mads Mikkelsen) arbitrarily accused of child sexual abuse and deftly turns it into modern-day Danish Crucible. If there are a few credibility issues along the way in how rapidly and viciously Mikkelsen’s community turn against him, the fish-lipped actor keeps the narrative compulsive with his powerful turn as a man unable to defend himself.

This Sundance debutante met a rousing reception on the Cote d’Azur. A lyrical, otherworldly drama that follows six-year-old Hushpuppy (newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis), a dirt-poor girl from the bayou, as she faces up to apocalyptic weather and prehistoric creatures while trying to save her ailing father. Terrence Malick meets Where the Wild Things Are, according to one critic. An apt description.

This year’s Artist-style breakout? That's what Harvey Weinstein intends. He wasted no time pinning down the rights to Wayne Blair’s 1968-set Australian comedy about an Aboriginal girl group who find fame singing for American troops in Vietnam. An overt crowd-pleaser with catchy tunes and a message – Harvey knows a hit when he sees one.

This British horror-comedy, written by and starring Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, channels Mike Leigh and The League of Gentlemen into a riotously macabre tale of caravanning and serial killing along quaint tourist destinations like the Crich Tramway Museum. Packed with quotable lines – “Mint me!” – and also winner of this year’s Cannes Palme Dog, which director Ben Wheatley turned up to collect on behalf of the cute terrier who plays the film’s dual canine roles of Poppy and Banjo.

We’re still buzzing about Andrew Dominik’s captivatingly scuzzy adaptation of Cogan’s Trade, in which Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Scoot McNairy (Monsters) and Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom) combine for criminal encounters of the cutthroat kind. Violent and vivid, with smart, zesty dialogue and anti-capitalist posturings that led the LA Times to dub it the first post-Occupy film.

Nice to see that old revolutionary Ken Loach showing off his lighter side with this whisky heist comedy, about a loser lad stuck on a road to nowhere – or a trip back to the slammer at least – until his nose for Scottish whisky sets him on the right track (albeit one that involves thieving). Steal from the rich to help the poor: Loach had to get his message in somewhere.

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