1. Beasts of the Southern Wild– No matter how skilled a filmmaker is, rarely does a movie come along that creates a cinematic world that is seething with a new kind of life, a world or vision that movies haven’t seen before. Director Benh Zeitlin, working with a do-it-yourself low budget commune of filmmaking talent and some extraordinary “non-professional” performers, does that with Beasts of the Southern Wild. The ferocious story of Hushpuppy (the amazingly talented child actress Quvenzhané Wallis) and her small, increasingly hopeless village on the other side of a Louisiana levee is filled with fantastical, visually stunning sequences as well as low budget narrative economy. It is this year’s biggest contradiction, and its biggest success.
2. Amour– Michael Haneke’s second movie in a row to win the Cannes Film Festival’s highest honor (the Palme D’or) is the director’s most empathetic and devastating work to date. As the camera lingers in the apartment of Georges and Anne (legendary French performers Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emanuelle Riva in devastatingly good form), we become privy to the elderly Parisian couple’s tender, haunting final moments together. It is a slow crawl toward death, absent plot twists or Haneke’s sadism. Watching it yields no pleasure, but everything from the incredible performances to the wonderfully precise camera movement lingers long after the movie ends.
In Another Country Directed by: Hong Sang-soo Written by: Hong Sang-soo (screenplay) Starring: Isabelle Huppert and Yu Jun-Sang
With all the serious, morbid narratives taking root of the festival imagination in places like Cannes, it’s refreshing to see an exceptional movie with a light touch and a very warm sense of humor. In Another Country, from Korean director Hong Sang-soo, is exactly that. It is the story of stories, an examination of how a narrative takes form and is altered and rearranged until it is the most effective.
A barely-seen Korean woman dictates these stories into a notepad. All of them star roughly the same cast of characters, though their roles and importance often change. Isabelle Huppert plays the main woman in all of them, always a wayward traveler in Korea looking around for a lighthouse and meaning. There is also the woman she is staying with, an attractive young lifeguard and various other acquaintances along the way.