With the 69th Cannes Film Festival in full force and this years Official Selection nominees presumably experiencing motion sickness at the pace of it all, there is no better time to take our foot off the accelerator and look at some of the best past Palme d’Or Winners…
All That Jazz – Bob Fosse, 1980
Bob Fosse’s intoxicating, hate-fuelled semi-autobiography, All That Jazz, explores Fosse’s view of himself…and the portrayal isn’t a kind one. Hedonistic, narrow-minded and cruel, Roy Schneider plays Joe Gideon, a classic Broadway director, complete with womanizing ways and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Oscillating from one dream-like fantasy to the next, the audience is at once confused and certain about where they are in time, be it a memory or the current moment. In any case, All That Jazz takes the audience on a ride, reaching deep into the soul of an imperfect man in the lead up to his death. The light and flirtatious banter between Joe and the Angel of Death (played by a young Jessica Lange) is likely reminiscent of the way Fosse himself danced with death (which came only seven years later). The final number, ‘Bye Bye Life’ purges oneself of the fear associated with death and obliterates the guilt of not living up to your loved ones expectations. It is the ultimate celebration of life in all its gross, messy, fucked up ways. The urge to go on living is tangible and the song celebrates the hardest challenge anyone could have – and that is life itself. For all it’s splendour, it is clear that All That Jazz is about life and love. The search to find it and the challenge to keep it once it arrives.
Paris, Texas – Wim Wenders, 1984
There is not a more intimate and gentle portrayal of the search for family and truth than in Wim Wenders’ 1984 flick, Paris, Texas. The hyper realistic sound scape, paired with the wide, desolate American landscape, is at the same time seductive and haunting. We follow Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) and the son he abandoned four years earlier as they search for their lost wife and mother.
Soaked in melancholy and tenderness, loss accumulates like dust and soon we are covered. And when, finally, they find Anne (Nastassja Kinski) working at a peep show, Travis stares at her through the one way mirror, and recounts their love story. He sees her, maybe for the first time, when she can’t see him at all.
Dancer In The Dark – Lars Von Trier, 2000
When Dancer In The Dark premiered at Cannes in 2000 it was met with boos from half the crowd. However, the polarizing nature of this film doesn’t take away from the fact that Dancer In The Dark is a visceral experience, ripping your heart out and sewing it together again as Von Trier sees fit. Bjork’s performance as Selma, a Czech immigrant working in a factory to care for her son whilst losing her sight, is the kind of naturalistic performance only produced by non-actors and probably works, on some level, due to the audience’s love for Bjork. The Icelandic icon’s transcendent voice fills your ears during the fantasy-like dance numbers as she loses her sight. Dancer In The Dark is filled with the tragedy and cruelty reminiscent of Von Triers’ other films, though when coupled with song and dance numbers, is even more assaulting on our emotions. Selma, when appearing in court faced with murder charges, playfully notes that “in a musical, nothing dreadful ever happens” and it is clear that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
However, the question as to who will take out this years Palme d’Or remains, and with nominees like Xavier Dolan’s Juste La Fin Du Monde (It’s Only The End Of The World), Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, and Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, it is truly anyones game…But no matter who takes home this years Palme d’Or, the true test of any film is that of time and if any of this years nominees can stay in the hearts and minds of their viewers, they too have won.