This year’s Cannes Film Festival in was one of the most competitive, with several films receiving standing ovations along the way. The powerful Swedish film, The Square, directed by Ruben Ostlund, scooped the coveted Palme d’Or and was the final film to be shown bringing the 70th Film Festival to a close on 28 May.

Three modern R’s, Russia and the ruin of the middle class

There were three official themes in this year’s festival – the Three modern R’s – refugees, Russia and the ruin of the middle class – but these were eclipsed by the unofficial theme of terrorism which begun in the early days of the festival when an unaccompanied bag was found in an auditorium causing a major security alert. in a country still grieving over last July’s events in Nice just along the coast and culminating in news of the horrific terrorist events at a pop concert in Manchester which left 22 people dead – many of them children and young people.

The mood of the Film Festival was changed by the events in Manchester and everyone taking part offered their sympathy to the British participants in Cannes. The Festival’s Director, Thierry Frémaux made a powerful speech from the stage of the Palais urging everyone to stay strong and leading the one minute silence.

19 films were competing in this year’s Film Festival The panel of judges was chaired by Spanish Film Director Pedro Almodovar. The Square was not considered to be the favourite for the Palme d’Or. The film by Swedish Director, Ruben Öslund, was two years in the making and is a satirical look at the contemporary art world. Christian, a gallery owner is preparing a large exhibition but his private life begins to get in the way. François Ozon’s entry L’Aimant Double interestingly, also takes the world of art as its subject!

There was a clutch of films with the first of the three modern ‘R’s – Refugees; Happy End by Michael Haneke is set in Calais and looks at the desperation of the refugees trying to reach a new life in Britain. The film is interwoven with the third ‘R’ – the ruin of the middle class as it contrasts the life of a middle class family living in the heart of Calais. Vanessa Redgrave’s Sea Sorrow is a strong but almost documentary look at the same subject and includes interviews about the psychological impact on refugees. A third film in the Festival, Carne y Arena directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu is a powerful drama about immigrants trying to cross the US Mexican border and their detention by a group of trigger happy cops.

The most unusual of the films tackling refugees was definitely Serbian, Kornél Mundruezo’s Jupiter Moon which tells the story of a Syrian refugee who is trying to cross from Serbia into Hungary and gets shot – this proves to be a life-changing moment as he doesn’t die but finds he is able to fly…

 

And what about Russian cinema ?

Russia ( the second of the modern ‘R’s) was the subject of two films. Andrei Zvyagintav’s black drama Loveless was presented with the Jury Prize and looks at young and ambitious Russian yuppies and their desire for a richer better life, whilst SergeiLoznitsa’s A Gentle Creature follows the emotional search by a woman to find out about the truth about her husband’s detention in prison. There is the same tangible theme running through both – the hardness and sometimes cruelty that seems to permeate Russian society from the top down.

British filmmaker Lynne Ramsey’s You Were Never Really Here took both best screenplay and best actor awards (Joaquin Phoenix). This powerful story tells of attempts to rescue a young girl from a paedophile ring. Fellow Brit, Rory Stewart was given Best short film for Wild Horses. Another entry that proved popular was Ion Robson’s Okja – the story of a very large but friendly pig!

70th Anniversary Award

Best Director was awarded to American screenwriter, producer and actress Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled which tells the story of an soldier injured in the American Civil War who is taken in by a girls boarding school. It is 50 years since a woman last won this award. Nicole Kidman plays the Headmistress in the film and she was presented with a special award – the 70th Anniversary Award – as she had three of her films plus one TV series competing in the 2017 festival. .

 

Chrissie Stephen

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