Editor's note: Tom Charity is a freelance movie critic for CNN Digital.
When Werner Herzog calls your documentary surreal, you know you’re on to something.
But Herzog doesn’t stop there: Of Joshua Oppenheimer's "The Act of Killing," Herzog marvels, “I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal and frightening in at least a decade.” The film is, he declares, “unprecedented in the history of cinema.”
And Herzog is not alone. The master American non-fiction filmmaker Errol Morris calls it “Amazing… unlike anything else I have seen." Like Herzog, Morris signed on as an executive producer to help director Oppenheimer get it out into the world.
The Cannes Film Festival is a wrap, and its highest accolade, the Palme d’Or, was granted to Michael Haneke’s “Amour” on Sunday.
This was Haneke's second time winning the Palme, just three years after his success with “The White Ribbon." Sunday's honor makes him only the sixth filmmaker to have triumphed twice in the festival’s 65-year history. (Other repeat winners include Francis Coppola and the Dardennes brothers.)
Haneke's “Amour” is a tender, compassionate film about an elderly married couple – played by veteran French actors Jean Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva – confronting the impact of terminal illness.
There were two big American gangster films competing for the Palme d’Or this year and both were directed by Australians.
John Hillcoat’s “Lawless” is the more conventional of the two, a Prohibition saga about Virginia bootleggers feuding with corrupt local law officials led by Guy Pearce’s snobby sadist.
Despite a heavyweight cast including Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain and Gary Oldman, a screenplay by singer/novelist Nick Cave and a careful balance of romance and extreme violence, “Lawless” mostly fails to make its proud country bootleggers seem fresh or interesting. The movie also lacks the uncompromising edge that made Hillcoat’s previous efforts, “The Road” and “The Proposition” so memorable.
American movies don’t always dominate the conversation at Cannes, considering it's considered the last refuge of art house cinema and a proud bastion of internationalism (often with a French colonial accent).
But Stateside cinema is in full force at this year’s festival. Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” served as curtain raiser, and “Madagascar 3” (of all things) kept the red carpet humming Thursday on day two of the event.
There are no less than six U.S. movies in the 22-strong competition section, including:
Cannes turns 65 this year – the age of retirement for many, though not in France (President Sarkozy upped it to 62, before he was promptly retired by the voters this month).
The grande dame of film festivals has plenty of life in her yet, with the paparazzi still having to wear tuxedos on the red carpet and a seemingly reinvigorated market, if the number of attendees and films is anything to go by.
Perhaps to prove the point, Jane Fonda wowed the crowds on Wednesday's opening night in a stunning Versace gown, and at 72 brought much needed sophisticated glamour to the event.
Two years ago, the hottest ticket at the Toronto International Film Festival was Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” - which broke in Toronto days after its buzz-building premiere at Telluride - and went on to take the world by storm.
And while there isn’t much outward similarity between “Slumdog” and Boyle's current offering, “127 Hours," who wouldn’t want to see the movie that had Telluride’s emergency services scrambling not once, but twice, as sensitive audience members fainted left, right and center?
This film – as you have probably already heard – is the true life tale of climber Aron Ralston, who sawed off his own arm with a multi-tool after a freak run-in with a boulder. The Toronto press was out in full force for this one.
Our daily cheat-sheet for breaking celebrity news, Hollywood buzz and your pop-culture obsessions.
Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.
Join 7,773 other followers