Every year at Cannes there are films that divide - sometimes they are winners of the Palme d'Or, such as Lars Von Trier's Dancer in the Dark, Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 (though the objections to Moore's Palme d'Or were mainly political). This year such films appear to be Andrei Zviagintsev's The Banishment, for which Konstantin Lavronenko won the Best Actor prize and Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light, which shared the Jury Prize. Zviagintsev's previous film, The Return, won the Golden Lion at Venice in 2003 and was a superb, tightly-marshalled tale of the mysterious return after years away of a brooding, sadistic father and its effects on his two sons. The Banishment, however resulted in huge walk-outs among critics; such a divisive film can only be worth seeing. Reygadas' last two films Japón and Batalla en el cielo similarly provoked mixed reactions, not least because of their graphic sex scenes and the extreme violence of the latter. I liked both films, with some reservations, and his latest, a slow, difficult examination of Mennonite farmers in Northern Mexico, looks like it might appeal to me too.
Many critics have spoken of the general quality of films being higher than usual, and one would expect it to be better than last year, which returned very few memorable movies. Gus Van Sant received a special prize for his latest film Paranoid Park and the Grand Prix - the runner-up prize that has been scornfully received over the years by many people such as Krysztof Kieslowski, Von Trier and Michael Haneke - went to Japanese director Naomi Kawase, whose films have been enjoying critical acclaim in France for a number of years but is largely unknown in the English-speaking world. There was also a warm welcome for Garage, the latest collaboration between Lenny Abrahamson and Mark O'Halloran, following the wonderful Adam & Paul. A bleak tale set in the West of Ireland, it stars Pat Short in an unusually straight role, for which he has got good reviews. Short's latest show Killinascully is hugely successful but, from what I hear, dire stuff but it is worth remembering the glory days of d'Unbelievables and his and John Kenny's turns in Father Ted. It is top-class culchie humour, a note-perfect portrayal of the language and mannerisms of small-town Ireland. Like much of the best Irish comedy, it probably wouldn't travel very well. But enjoy it all the same. 'You might as well make tay for them'. Classic.