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As this year’s Cannes Film Festival gets under way this week, those of us who have only ever been to watch from afar with envy at myriad exciting new films that will be offered to the world at its most prestigious event for serious movie lovers will have to console ourselves with the fact that perhaps, if we’re incredibly lucky, a few of them may eventually make their way to our screens and streaming platforms.

For now, though, here is a selection of some ghosts from Cannes’ glorious past to help remind you that — even in this age of AI, CGI and writers’ strikes — there are still plenty of cinematic marvels from festivals past to help you through the increasingly chilly and barren-of-decent-choices, cinematic landscape of the present.


Memoria —

Winner of the festival’s coveted Palme d’Or in 2010 for his ethereal reincarnation drama Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul has long been a celebrated favourite of Cannes. This 2021 drama, which debuted in competition at the festival, will be available on from May 20 and stars veteran arthouse darling Tilda Swinton in Apichatpong’s first foray into English language filmmaking.

Swinton plays Jessica, a Scottish expat living in Colombia who is awoken early morning by a loud boom that leads to her being unable to sleep. As she becomes increasingly troubled by the source of the sound, which she comes to be convinced only she can hear, she embarks on a journey that begins with an attempt to try to rationally unpack the mystery — even enlisting the help of a sound engineer to help replicate it — she finds herself walking a more mystical path towards a frightening final realisation.

Jessica’s search for the source of the mysterious sound becomes the impetus for a broader question about our ability to adequately understand the behaviour of the material world and the possibilities of unexplained other factors beyond our rational understanding that may play a role in shaping it. That’s a theme that Apichatpong has long been fascinated with and one which he explores with his distinctive lyrical visual poetry that conveys a sense of seeing the familiar with fresh, new eyes.


Sweetie —

Before she became the first female director to win the Palme d’Or for The Piano in 1993 and then went on to become only the third women to win a Best Director Oscar for Power of the Dog in 2021 — New Zealand born Jane Campion announced herself as a new cinematic talent to watch with her debut feature Sweetie.

A dark comedy about a dysfunctional Australian family — the tumultuous relationship between its two daughters; the pressures they face and the dark, tragic currents that run beneath the surface of their apparently ordinary, if somewhat left-of-centre, suburban existence.

Displaying a preternatural ability to use the camera in innovative and emotionally effective ways and effortlessly switch tones between black comedy and bleak drama that would become a feature of her future work, Campion also pulls off the difficult trick of making us both laugh at the dysfunctional characters while also sharing their sense of absurd humour at the chaos that’s erupting around them. The result is a film that’s both familiar in its setting and situation, but also deeply strange and surreal in the way it’s visually executed.

By the time things end badly the overall experience has been one of distinct weirdness emphasised by images that, though anchored in reality, appear strangely out of place and otherworldly in Campion’s very adept hands.


The Wonders —

Italian director Alice Rohrwacher won the Grand Prize of the Jury at the 2014 festival for this charming and affecting coming-of-age tale that documents a swiftly vanishing way of life in the rural beauty of Tuscany.

Centred on a family of beekeepers who have lived their simple and happy lives in the picturesque Tuscan mountains for generations, it’s a gently observed drama that observes what happens when the family’s life is disrupted by the twin intrusions of a troubled teenage boy and their daughter’s determination that they be the subject of a new reality TV show.

Rohrwacher’s particular skill is for capturing the quiet intimate private lives of the family, meandering between characters and within the landscape, while never losing sight of the threatening metaphorical clouds that are gathering around them.

It’s a patient series of observations that narratively and tonally mimics the small repetitive, but necessary, rhythms of farm life. Told in a series of episodic vignettes, it’s a quietly revealing, beautiful and slowly emotionally impactful examination of ordinary people and the small but sometimes precipitous challenges they face in trying to ensure their  survival.

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