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The 62nd annual Cannes Film Festival wrapped Sunday night after eleven days of screening films with decidedly unsettling and disturbing thematic elements, such as self-mutilation, brutality, same-sex menages a trois, bloodthirsty children, pedophilic-tainted love, desperate suicide, government corruption, and incest… But there were also elements uncommon to the indie festival circuit.

So, before the cinematic world’s attention is turned away from Von Trier, Park and Almodovar on the Riviera back to Ferrell, Bay and Labeouf at your local multiplex, check out these reviews on the films you’ll want to find in theaters, those you’ll want to Netflix, and those you might not.

The Winners…

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Palm d’Or – The White Ribbon

What it’s about-

Shot in a luscious black and white … The White Ribbon depicts life in a small Protestant village in northern Germany just before the advent of World War I. … One day the order of things begins to unravel. First, the doctor, on horseback, is tripped up by an invisible wire and his injuries put him in the hospital for months. Then several children, including the son of the Baron and the retarded child of the doctor’s mistress, are severely beaten. Later, the Baron’s barn is set on fire. Who are the guilty ones? -Hollywood Reporter

Why you should see it-

The austerity would verge on absurdity if it weren’t for Haneke’s exquisitely taut control of every frame. For a film that burns so slow, there’s not one inch of slack…  If the tie-up isn’t perfect, White Ribbon’s made from material that haunts, grips and immerses. -TotalFilm

It’s a superb cinematic work and an appropriately serious one, given its subject matter and its intentions. -Hollywood Reporter

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Grand Prix (Runner-Up) - A Prophet

What it’s about-

The story of a gauche young inmate who rises through the criminal ranks to become a formidable player… A Prophet works both as hard-edged, painstaking detailed social realism and as a compelling genre entertainment. -ScreenDaily

Why you should see it-

I was waiting to finally discover something exceptional here at Cannes, and this it …  From Tahar Rahim’s stand out performance to Alexandre Desplat’s amazing score to Stéphane Fontaine’s wonderful cinematography, everything about Un Prophete is exceptional.  -FirstShowing

France Cannes Awards Ceremony

Prix de la mise en scène (Best Director) – Brillante Mendoza for Kinatay

What it’s about-

Peping is a freshly-married policy-academy student who helps a drug-gang acquaintance to collect outstanding payments. He only wants to help his family, but his first operation involves an unforgivingly protracted and wicked assault on a prostitute. -Telegraph

Why you should see it-

Brillante Mendoza’s new film Kinatay (which means “butchered” in Tagalog) is a nerve-shredding exploration of crime which is both repellent and grimly compelling. -ScreenDaily

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Prix du Jury (Jury Prize)Fish Tank

What it’s about-

Mia lives with her mom and younger sister and doesn’t have any friends, or at least none that she likes. When her mum brings home a new boyfriend, everything changes for her. -FirstShowing

Why you should see it-

The performances of Jarvis and Fassbender are outstanding and their chemistry fizzes — and then explodes. It is another highly intelligent, involving film from one of the most powerful voices in British cinema. -Guardian

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Prix du Jury (Jury Prize)Thirst

What it’s about-

Sang-hyeon, a well-liked priest in a small town … dies after volunteering in a project to discover a vaccine. After being brought back to life by a blood transfusion, he gradually realizes he’s been turned into a vampire, which gives him an extremely healthy sexual appetite but also requires regular doses of blood to keep his skin free of small boils. -Variety

Why you should see it-

Through it all, Park’s film never loses its big, bloody-fanged grin. Expect sex (weird), blood-drinking (through a straw), stabby-bitey violence (lots) and laughs (even more). -Little White Lies

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Prix du scénario (Best Screenplay) – Spring Fever

What it’s about-

A heterosexual man hired by a woman to spy on her husband’s homosexual liaisons becomes seduced by his subject of reconnaissance in “Spring Fever,” Lou Ye’s artistically uneven, emotionally strained but at times sullenly poetic depiction of a sexually confused love pentangle. -Hollywood Reporter

Why you should see it-

The film’s often candid sexual comings-and-goings made the group of Chinese people sitting next to me squirm. … But [director] Lou, helped by Zeng Jian’s striking camerawork, captures very well the mood of drift and fragmentation in modern-day urban China. Compelling and messy in equal measure, it’s a cine-letter to the future. -Telegraph

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Prix Un Certain Regard – Dogtooth

What it’s about-

Three indefinitely grounded siblings are stuck in an alternative universe dictated by their parents’ cruel whimsies — think an eternal Big Brother house as designed by Lars von TrierTheir father is the only one allowed to leave the isolated family abode … there are no means of communication available.  -Variety

Why you should see it-

The ingeniously constructed screenplay also shows how wrong or irrational teachings can quickly spiral out of control, with increasingly disturbing humor used at first to leaven the proceedings before making auds laugh at the painfully logical conclusions to all the preceding lies… [the] pic’s consistently troubling atmosphere is what keeps audiences hooked. -Variety

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Prix Un Certain Regard – Jury Prize – Police, Adjective

What it’s about-

Cristi is a good cop, if a bit weary … [whose] superior has him shadowing [teenager] Victor in hopes of finding out where the teen’s weed comes from, but in the course of his investigation, Cristi realizes Victor’s just a kid who occasionally lights up with some friends. -Variety

Why you should see it-

An illuminating finale with police captain Anghelache not only justifies all this careful pacing and deliberate buildup, but also rewards the viewer with one of those rare revelatory moments, exposing the full strength of what has preceded it. … Porumboiu is one of the few helmers working today who so completely understands both the power of language and the power of visuals. -Variety

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Prix Un Certain Regard – Special Jury Prize – No One Knows About Persian Cats

What it’s about-

Cats is a rendering of the true, tragic tale of two young musicians, Negar and Ashkan, who attempt to put together a rock/heavy metal band after being released from prison. They had committed the crime of playing western music in an inflexible, dogmatic Islamic society. -ScreenDaily

Why you should see it-

In the film, a love/hate letter to Tehran itself, he blends the genres of concert film, social drama, comedy, and thriller into a cohesive faux-documentary, adjusting his style to insure a snug fit. … Calm, painfully beautiful pastoral scenes appear between rapid, sometimes manic sequences—montages as gorgeous as they are critical of the status quo. -ScreenDaily

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Prix Un Certain Regard – Special Jury Prize – Father of my Children

What it’s about-

The travails of film producers – and their families – are paid tender homage in Father Of My Children, an insightful, mature and extremely accomplished second feature by French director Mia Hansen-Løve. -ScreenDaily

Why you should see it-

Inspired by the life and tragic death of revered producer Humbert Balsan, Hansen-Løve’s superbly acted drama … not only has brains to spare, and considerable savvy about the cinema business, it’s also guaranteed not to leave a dry eye in the house. -ScreenDaily

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Camera d’Or (Golden Camera – Best First Feature) - Warwick Thornton for Samson and Delilah

What it’s about-

Set in a remote desert Aboriginal community, it portrays the relationship between two teenagers: one, a brash boy who spends much of his time sniffing petrol and lost in music; the other, a girl forced to take care of her ailing grandmother. …their teasing, testy exchanges will be familiar to anyone who has ever been young and in love. -Telegraph

Why you should see it-

Are we watching a social documentary, a teen-romance, or an undercommons comedy? The answer is: all three – and then some.  … Samson and Delilah looks and sounds like no Australian film I’ve seen. Timeless and also utterly contemporary, it will leave hearts bruised, but aching with joy. -Telegraph

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Camera d’Or - Special Distinction – Scandar Copti for Ajami

What it’s about-

Working with an impressive non-pro cast, the debuting multi-hyphenate helmers, Shani (Israeli) and Copti (Palestinian), start with a revenge killing and then show the repercussions furiously fanning out, to tragic results. -Variety

Why you should see it-

The result is an amazingly authentic picture, powerfully directed and interpreted by a totally inexperienced cast …
Ajami offers a tragic portrait of life in the largely Arab city where it is impossible to live apart but hard to live together … Here, the innocents are always the victims … Expertly shot and cut to keep up the momentum throughout and appropriate use of locations, their film cleverly invites the viewer to reach conclusions which are disproven a few minutes later. -ScreenDaily

Here’s a complete list of all the Cannes 2009 prize winners

 

…Other Winners…

Some of these were entered out of competition, and the others saw Sunday pass without any festival awards (unless you’re counting distribution deals), but they all stood out as the best of the rest.

Bright Star
An exquisite piece of film-making about the doomed romance between the poet John Keats and his neighbour Fanny Brawne. …a period film and a biopic that thankfully never feels a typical example of either genre. …It is not premature to predict that Bright Star will match any film entered for the Palme d’Or this year for sheer beauty.  -Telegraph

Broken Embraces
Pedro Almodóvar reunites with Penélope Cruz for a sensuous film-within-a-film that is a moviegoer’s delight …  After the film is over, its images and characters may well vanish into the air leaving little or no residue in your memory, yet I defy anybody to watch it without a tingle of pure moviegoing pleasure. -Guardian

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky
At the intersection of art and culture and of style and genius, Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky met and loved each other for a few madly passionate seasons before going separate ways to become legends of Western society. …There are so many guilty pleasures here that it’s amazing the film is as good as it is. The passions feel real, the roles are fully inhabited and the art speaks for itself. -Hollywood Reporter

Drag Me to Hell
I haven’t sweated, squirmed and yelped so much in a theater since the Dawn of the Dead remake, but that’s the equivalent of a standing ovation in horror-movie terms.  Get ready to cover your eyes (and your poor defenseless mouth) during this delightfully terrifying treat. -MSNBC

Looking For Eric
The term “crowd-pleaser” is not often attached to the work of Ken Loach, the British Palme d’Or-winning director of films of social realism, but his latest Festival de Cannes Competition entry, Looking for Eric, is exactly that.  At the press screening, there was laughter throughout, frequent clapping and sustained applause at the end. -Hollywood Reporter

Mother
Filled with the elegant compositions and mood-drenched cinematography… Mother is a largely satisfying film which marks the director out as South Korea’s most versatile young auteur. -ScreenDaily

Tales From the Golden Age
Sarcastically titled, it’s a portmanteau film made by five Romanian directors, the best known of whom is Cristian Mungiu who won the 2006 Palme d’Or… Most of these films are very funny, and all of them are sharp-eyed and hugely revealing. This is the rare portmanteau that’s more than the sum of its parts. -Telegraph

Up
Any of the assembled critics who thought the choice was a bit gimmicky or a sop to the Hollywood studios will surely have changed their tune: it’s utterly delightful, certain to appeal to audiences young, old and all points in between. -Telegraph

…and Other

Despite high expectations – whether asked for or not – these features from name directors failed to impress.

Antichrist – Lars Von Trier
Some von Trier fans will welcome his return to the elaborate visual invention he abandoned with the founding of Dogme.  But in the wider world, Antichrist will prove too loopy and coarse for art-house audiences. -ScreenDaily

Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – Terry Gilliam
Imaginarium
, featuring Heath Ledger’s poignant final bow, is just too madly self-indulgent … The film’s convoluted curlicues are tiring, insisting too loudly on how “imaginative” everything is. And when it descends into the real world the film can frankly be a bit ho-hum. -Guardian

Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino
There are some nice-ish performances but everything is just so boring. [Tarantino] should perhaps go back to making cheerfully inventive outrageous films like Kill Bill. Because Kill Adolf hasn’t worked out. -Guardian

Taking Woodstock – Ang Lee
It’s a low-wattage film about a high-wattage event. Which is somewhat disappointing, though you do get a thoughtful, playful, often amusing film about what happened backstage at one of the ’60s’ great happenings. -Hollywood Reporter

The Thorn in the Heart- Michele Gondry
The title raises expectations of angst a-plenty, but the tone throughout is one of warm regard; you could make a documentary about some random octogenarian plucked off the street and have a good shot at stumbling onto a more eventful and interesting life. -AV Club

So what films are you going to see?
Written by Bryan Carberry