Festival de Cannes 70: Elephant, 2003

A sunny shout-out to 70 winners at the Cannes Film Festival to celebrate the 70th event which is just around the corner – in no particular order.

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With Gus Van Sant you never really know what you are going to get. He has hit indie heights in the early days, competed strongly at the Academy awards, but also for some reason remade a classic horror that ought never to have been touched. A huge blip. However, with his 2003 film Elephant, Van Sant has crafted a small wonder. Utilizing non-actors to depict a grounded, untainted Columbine-esque high school shooting drama, the filmmaker has aligned a fresh, unflinching style of craft without glorifying the violence or disrespecting events of a very similar nature. Elephant is a movie in which its young characters meet up, stroll around, get on with their day, without any knowledge of what is coming – for some. The school halls are seemingly vacant, as the narrative shifts back and forth without disruption, Van Sant leaves many of his frames wide up, much like our own building anticipation. And beneath the ensuing menace there’s also a raw, refined portrayal of teenage lives – three girls self-vomit in unison; there’s a declared first kiss for both parties; and likely the most poignant moment of the entire movie, a boy cries, getting a kiss on the cheek rather than judgement. Elephant won the Palme d’Or and the Best Director prize that year.

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