Gregg Araki's <i>Kaboom</i>
Gregg Araki's <i>Kaboom</i>

Cannes 2010: The Highlights

It’s been over a week since the 63rd Cannes Film Festival came to a close giving us ample time to reflect back on this year’s true winners (and losers)
Feature by Gail Tolley.
Published 07 June 2010

The surreal world of Cannes now seems like a distant memory and despite critics bemoaning the low standard of films in this year's programme there was in fact plenty of sterling filmmaking to be discovered.

Without doubt one of the most enjoyable films was Gregg Araki’s drug and sex fuelled hipster flick Kaboom. A sharply written and completely irreverent work filled with beautiful people and quotable one-liners. Araki made his name in the nineties as a key voice as part of the Queer New Wave and his latest film is a return to the style of his earlier works – inspired by a meeting with B-movie director John Waters.

On the arthouse side Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmen Who Can Recall His Past Lives, was a worthy winner of the Palme D’Or. The surreal tale of a dying man who is visited by various spirits and creatures is memorable for its dreamy and mystical atmosphere. It also contains one of the most bizarre ‘sex’ scenes ever, between a girl and a catfish. You’ll have to wait for the film’s release to make some sense out of that.

The prize for the most inappropriate red carpet appearance goes to Cheryl Cole who was asked to appear at the festival and could only make one night which was for Rachid Boucahareb’s controversial film Outside The Law, about the Algerian fight for independence. Cole would probably not have known about the furore surrounding the film as she didn’t stay to watch it.

If there was any trend that could be observed this year it was for films which were almost completely indecipherable for their audience. Showing in competition was Ukranian film My Joy which had most of the audience completely baffled. The story of a truck driver who finds himself in a backwater Russian village which he can’t seem to escape from not only jumped between time periods but succeeded in featuring numerous characters who looked remarkably similar and seemed to all blur into one. Rebecca H (Return to the Dogs) by American director Lodge Kerrigan (who also directed Keane) was even more puzzling. A meditation on performance, the film appeared to be about an actress, yet as the film progressed, which scenes were ‘performed’ and which weren’t were entwined to create a narrative that may or may not have actually happened.

At the other end of the spectrum was Stephen Frears’ Tamara Drewe. It had the audience in stitches which was probably less to do with the film's quality and more to do with the fact that those watching it had, up to that point, been subjected to around 6 days of morning to noon hardcore arthouse fare. Frears’ latest is based on a graphic novel of the same name and is a rather silly story of love and scandal in an English village. Think Midsommer Murders with more sex and you’re on the right path. It’s out in UK cinemas in September.

Last but not least there needs to be some mention for the most despised film of the festival. Among the British press at least it seems to have been the Channel 4 funded teen film Chatroom. It stars Aaron Johnson and several other young British actors (most of whom have stepped straight off the set of Skins) and attempts to explore the dark side of the web. It’s watchable enough and there’s an effective realisation of the online world but other than that it doesn’t have much going for it. The whole premise, that the internet is a world full of bullying and suicide seems rather dated and difficult to believe; at times it almost seems like some sort of educational video or devised performance for a school assembly. Yet Johnson is a charismatic lead and there’s high chance it will appeal to teens more than it did to the cynical press in Cannes who occasionally give the impression that they're looking for something to sink their teeth into.