Disturbing 'provocateur' movies at Cannes

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated May 28, 2009 at 12:39 AM EDT

Troubled times mean troubled movies, and this year's 62nd Cannes film festival saw a slate of disturbing and thought-provoking movies screened on the Riviera.

The festival sees itself as mirroring the world. "Cannes," said its director Thierry Fremaux at the opening, "aims to unveil what is happening around us."

Only a couple of light-hearted films had made it into the small group of 20 movies competing for the coveted Palme d'Or.

There was Ken Loach's hilarious "Looking for Eric" starring football legend Eric Cantona, and Ang Lee's light take on the 1969 hippie fest "Taking Woodstock."

Quentin Tarantino's Jewish Nazi-killers in "Inglourious Basterds" too came marching Tarantino-esque with lots of snappy dialogue, extreme violence and quirky humour.

But at the close of the 12-day fest on Sunday, the Cannes jury held back prizes for any of the light wattage movies offered by hot directors.

"The festival," said The Times in London, was "a triumph of substance over Hollywood glamour."

The New York Times wrote "Violence reaps rewards at Cannes."

The Palme d'Or trophy instead went to a haunting black-and-white movie flashback to a German village on the eve of World War I, Austrian director Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon."

A chilling and provocative indictment of the Protestant psyche, it was seen by many as a parable on the roots of Nazi savagery.

The rise of facism was also the theme of Italian Marco Bellochio's dark movie "Vincere" about the spurned wife and bastard son of dictator Benito Mussolini -- both of whom wind up forcefully jailed in mental asylums.

The runner-up for the top trophy, French director Jacques Audiard's "A Prophet", was a powerfully tense prison drama chronicling a six-year jail sentence that turns into an education in crime.

War and prison aside, the gore quotient at Cannes 2009 ran super high.

"Cannes' red carpet is blood-soaked", said the Hollywood Reporter.

Asia splashed with dark violent blood-spattered visions that ranged from a father out for blood in a Johnny To movie to the excruciatingly slow real-time hacking into pieces of a woman and the piecemeal disposal of her bodyparts in "Kinatay" from Filipino film-maker Brillante Mendoza.

Cult Korean director Park Chan-wook dished up a blood-curdling movie 10 years in the making, "Thirst", about a do-good priest turned vampire and his lusting affair with a friend's wife.

Savage sex scenes, both heterosexual and homosexual, peppered the film festival, which wound up offering its Best Actress gong to Charlotte Gainsbourg, star of the event's most controversial movie, Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist".

A thriller on love and madness, it opened with a slow-motion close-up of sexual penetration, escalated into drama and violence, and climaxed with an excruciating shot of Gainsbourg slicing off her clitoris with rusty scissors.

And one of the last films to screen caused further scandal.

French director Gaspar Noe -- who sparked walk-outs in Cannes with an excruciating rape scene in his last film "Irreversible" -- featured a graphic stomach-turning abortion in "Enter The Void", along with more sex including a shot taken from inside a giant penis.

"It's been a strong in-your-face year for forceful film-making," said Screen International. "The films which haven't slapped the viewer into submission have come off looking quaintly old-fashioned."

Cannes' jury president Isabelle Huppert praised the Palme d'Or winner Michael Haneke, saying his work was extraordinary and went "so far into the human soul." Speaking at a press conference after the award ceremony, the nine members of the jury talked about their choices, and how they worked together. Duration: 01:03




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