Thursday, May 10, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks - Cannes Favorites

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through The Shelves. Join in the fun by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!

Ah, France! I've never been, but my Dad was a French teacher for many years, so I grew up learning the language. Somewhere along the way, the country kind of took on a mythic quality for me. And when I started becoming a cinephile, well, it became very near the center of the universe! The Cannes Film Festival, held every year in May in the south of France, is the most prestigious film festival in the world, and the Golden Palm (or Palme d'or) the most prestigious prize. Not that the various festival juries are completely infallible, but looking at a list of Palme d'or winners is to look at a list of some of the greatest films of all time. Hell, even looking at a list of films that have played in competition for the Palme is pretty damn impressive! So it's REALLY HARD to pick only three favorites out of the bunch. But that is the assignment, and complete it I shall!

Marty (Delbert Mann, 1955) Yes, the very first film to win the Palme d'Or (prior to this the festival's top prize was the far more unwieldy Grand Prix du Festival International du Film) is also one of my favorites. Marty is a wonderfully humanist portrait of a middle-aged single man who falls in love with a mousy schoolteacher one night. That's it. That's the whole thing. But Paddy Chayefsky's beautiful script gets at that feeling we've all had when you've resigned yourself to never being truly happy for a hundred different reasons, and puts it into the persons of Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair, looking decidedly far from the movie star glamour we're used to seeing on screen. It's a touching tale of two lost souls improbably finding each other, even when they thought they would never find anyone, small-scale and quiet, but all the more impactful for that. Marty is also one of only two films to win the top prize at both Cannes and the Oscars, and the only one to win the Palme and the Best Picture Oscar (The Lost Weekend won before Cannes changed its top prize to the Palme).

All That Jazz (Bob Fosse, 1979) Three musicals have won the Palme d'Or, and they couldn't possibly be more different from each other (the other two are the candy-colored melodrama The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and the realist tragedy Dancer in the Dark). They're all visionary works, but for my money this is the most visionary of them all. The crowning achievement of the legendary Bob Fosse's career, All That Jazz takes a kaleidoscopic look at what it's like to be a super-talented, egotistical, drug-addicted artist. Roy Scheider gives a searing performance as the Fosse character (named Joe Gideon), and Fosse surrounds him with some of the most brilliant dance numbers ever set on film. All That Jazz is, simply put, a marvel - it should be too much, but that turns out to be just the right amount.

Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012) Love. What does that word mean? At what point does love go from being selfless to selfish? These are the questions at the heart of Haneke's unsparing Amour, one of the most grueling films I've ever seen. But there is so much truth in this film. Hard, brutal truth, to be sure, but truth. You can only feel for Georges and Anne as she suffers one stroke, and then another, and then basically starts dying in painfully slow motion in front of him. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva are so in touch with their characters that it never feels as though we are watching actors playing parts, but instead watching these people actually go through these horrible things. I've never been so emotionally wrecked by a movie as this, and that's why I love it so. We need films like this, to see humanity in all its beauty and pain, to understand every horrible decision that we may eventually have to make, to prepare ourselves for the end, because it comes for all of us.


  1. We match! I picked Marty as well and finally saw this film about a year ago. I still have to see All That Jazz which is a thinly veiled look at Bob Fosse. I love Bob Fosse from his work as an actor/dancer to his actual films. You can not help but see the Fosse moves. I walkways felt bad that Roy Schneider did not get the accolades he deserved when he passed away. I would love to see Amour but I have to be in the right mood plus I hope I can get it abt the video store near me

    1. It's true about Fosse and Roy Scheider. He really should have won the Oscar that year.

  2. I need to watch your first two picks. I hated Amour with a passion lol.

    I have a fascination with France too. I've only been in Paris for one day, but I'd love to go back.

    1. I can understand hating Amour - it is NOT an easy film to watch! It's almost too real.

      Marty is SO sweet, and All That Jazz is so incredibly energetic.

  3. Marty is a lovely little film though I think a Palme d'Or and an Oscar are overdoing it. Still top flight performances and a nice message.

    I don't love All That Jazz as much as you but it has many great points.

    I've only seen bits of Amour, enough to know the performances are excellent but not enough to really feel like I've gotten the whole story.

    Firstly you must get to France one day! Paris is bustling, joyous and chaotic but unique. One word of advice...make sure to get to The Louvre at least a half hour before opening (earlier if possible) or you will wait FOREVER to get in. Also make a beeline for the Mona Lisa, it will be the only time to get a good look at it without having to queue. The south of France is beautiful, relaxed and lovely.

    I don't pay much attention when Cannes is going on but I will take the fact that it won there into consideration when deciding to watch a film. Loved these three.

    Union Pacific (1939)-As the Union Pacific Railroad stretches westward across the wilderness toward California corrupt banker Asa Barrows (Henry Kolker) hopes to profit from obstructing it. Troubleshooter Jeff Butler (Joel McCrea) has his hands full fighting Barrows' agent, gambler Sid Campeau (Brian Donlevy) and his partner Dick Allen (Robert Preston) who was Jeff's war buddy and rival suitor for engineer's daughter Molly Monahan (Barbara Stanwyck). Rivalries escalate until a fateful showdown set piece. Big rollicking Cecil B. DeMille directed adventure was the winner of the first Palme D’Or.

    Rome Open City (1945)-In Nazi occupied Rome regulations have been somewhat relaxed so the inhabitants can move freely during daylight but danger still lurks everywhere as food is rationed, curfews enforced and resistance fighters rigorously hunted. This focuses on the search for one freedom fighter and the people working to help him. Directed by Roberto Rossellini with a fierce lead performance from Anna Magnani this was the leader in the birth of the neo-realism movement. It won the Grand Prize of the Cannes Film Festival in 1946.

    Cranes Are Flying (1957)-In Moscow as the winds of World War II approach young lovers Veronika (Tatyana Samoylova) and Boris (Aleksey Batalov) watch the cranes fly overhead and promise to rendezvous before Boris leaves to fight. Boris misses the meeting and is off to the front lines, while Veronika waits patiently, sending letters faithfully. After her house is bombed, Veronika moves in with Boris' family and seeming safety. But Boris’s cousin Mark has darker intentions and as the war rages sorrow spreads in all directions. Winner of the 1958 Cannes Grand Prize.

    1. I agree that the Palme d'Or AND the Oscar seem like a lot for such a small film as Marty. I think back in the day it felt more new and different?

      Amour is a hell of a tough sit, but VERY worth it. Just expect to be devastated.

      I haven't seen ANY of your picks this week! But I've heard wonderful things about Cranes Are Flying, and Rome Open City has been on my list for a while. I've never heard of Union Pacific before this week, but now I need to see it.

      And I will DEFINITELY get to France someday. Even if it kills me!

  4. I've seen all of these films. All amazing films as I'm currently in my Cannes marathon at this point. Here's a list of all the Palme d'Or winners that I've seen so far...

  5. My mother is French and I don't even speak the language lol

    Anyway, Amour is the only I've seen and I loved it

  6. Have not seen of your picks. Amour just seems so sad, probably not something I want to see.