Full of booing critics, shouting photographers and interminable standing ovations, the Cannes Film Festival is a non-stop cacophony broken only by the two (or three) -hour reprieve between a movie’s opening and closing credits.
And at this year’s 69th Cannes, many of the most memorable films have made silence a virtue. Quietude isn’t just omnipresent on-screen, it is, itself, a treasured, sought-after escape. Stillness is the rage.
Jim Jarmusch, long a purveyor of patience, called his ”Paterson” – in which Adam Driver plays a bus-driving New Jersey poet – ”an antidote to drama, action, excitement.” The film is full of listening and contemplation amid the day-to-day of an average, but still wondrous week.
Jeff Nichols, whose ”Loving” (due out in November) tells of unassuming civil rights heroes, said he hopes it’s ”the quiet film of the year.” His tale of Richard and Mildred Loving, a Virginia couple arrested in 1957 and ordered out of the state, avoids familiar emotional swells to instead accumulate its understated power through time.
Michael Dudok de Wit’s ”Red Turtle,” from Japan’s anime leader, Studio Ghibli, is hypnotic is its near-wordlessness meditation. It’s a magical fable in which a shipwrecked man ruminates on life from a tropical island.
Andrea Arnold’s burning road trip adventure ”American Honey,” featuring breakout star Sasha Lane and a career-best Shia LaBeouf, is stuffed with a blaring soundtrack and the abandon of youth. But the most telling moment in the film – in which a van of poor teenagers blaze across the Midwest – is a dream of peacefulness while bathing in a lake.
Like ”American Honey,” Matt Ross’ ”Captain Fantastic” (out July 8), with Viggo Mortensen as a father raising six children in the Pacific Northwest wilderness, has much to say about contemporary American culture. Its final, silent moment, too, is pregnant with a question: Can our much-distracted lives be calmer?
These five films have been among the best of Cannes, and surely tap into a deep and pervasive anxiety. (It’s a subject also considered explicitly in a film not at Cannes. The documentary ”In Pursuit of Silence” details how silence has become a precious, evaporating resource.)
There were, of course, other, louder films that stood out in the din of Cannes, too.
Pablo Larrain’s ”Neruda” sounds like a traditional historical biopic. It’s about the great Chilean poet-senator Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) in the late `40s, when he was sent into hiding by a government he derided. This backdrop is part of the film, but it more properly takes place in the romantic world of film noir and the elevated realm of myth. A detective (Gael Garcia Bernal) hunts Neruda, but their dance may only be a figment of Neruda’s own creation.
In ”Hell or High Water,” Scottish director David Mackenzie’s follow-up to his furious prison drama ”Starred Up,” two brothers (Chris Pine, Ben Foster) rampage through rural Texas banks on a well-meaning mission. A retiring policeman (Jeff Bridges) tracks them. The set-up is familiar but the execution is dead-on and the cast is stellar. It’s a comic, modern-day Western where the banks are the bad guys.
Nothing has captured the romance of the movies quite like ”Cinema Travelers,” a documentary about India’s traveling cinemas that bring films to remote villages in teeming seasonal carnivals. It’s a grubby business made possible by ancient, perpetually repaired projectors and reels shipped at the last minute. Yet even here, as directors Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya show, digital projectors are changing decades-old traditions. Something beautiful is lost, but the cinema carries on.