What won: “Close” and “Stars at Noon” (tie)
Quite the study in contrasts here: one of the festival’s best-received entries and one of its most derided. The former was “Close,” Lukas Dhont’s artful tearjerker about a warm friendship between two young boys who fall victim, in different ways, to society’s homophobic, hyper-masculine norms. Premiered to much acclaim and many sniffles near the end of the festival, the movie (which A24 acquired for release) left me in misty-eyed admiration, if also suspicious of certain narrative choices that seem less restrained than evasive. Still, there’s no denying Dhont’s command of his craft or his extraordinary skill with actors.
Far worse received was “Stars at Noon,” a fascinating misfire from the brilliant Claire Denis, whose work (“Beau Travail,” “White Material,” too many others) means so much to me that I couldn’t help but thrill to the sight of her taking the stage. Starring a fully committed Margaret Qualley and a stiff Joe Alwyn as two outsiders caught up in the tumult of Nicaraguan political unrest, this present-day-set adaptation of Denis Johnson’s novel has frenzied sex and humid atmospherics to burn (plus a typically sensual score by Tindersticks), but the overriding sense of futility doesn’t belong to the characters alone. A24 will be releasing the movie in U.S. theaters.
What should’ve won: “R.M.N.”
The great Romanian director Cristian Mungiu (“Beyond the Hills,” “Graduation”) has been a consistent Cannes prize winner — until this year, when his “R.M.N.” left the festival empty-handed. That’s a shame, as it strikes me as Mungiu’s strongest work since his 2007 Palme winner, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.” Set in a frosty Transylvanian village with its already transparent racism laid hideously bare by the arrival of Sri Lankan migrant workers, the movie morphs, with slow-building tension and extraordinary camerawork, into a panoramic indictment of small-town sin that feels as broadly recognizable in its implications as it is specific in its particulars. IFC Films acquired the movie shortly before its Cannes premiere.
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