Once upon a time in Cannes...

A rambling Turkish philosophical thriller led the field, says Jonathan Romney

The Cannes Film Festival closes tonight, and it has been an especially strong year. Even so, it's taken till this final weekend for critics to start muttering the M-word – "masterpiece". The longest, and arguably the slowest, film in the competition, the Turkish entry Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, is also the most substantial offering here, and a definite front-runner for the Palme d'Or.

The latest from Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the film recounts a shambling police investigation, with the first hour cloaked in darkness and the crime scene reached only 90mins in – raising some sarcastic cheers. But this complex, beautifully crafted film has it all – laced with black humour, it's a character piece, a landscape study, a police procedural thriller and a philosophical contemplation.

Films that UK audiences can expect to see soon include Drive, a slick and bloody thriller that delighted genre buffs here: it stars Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. It's a safe bet that Woody Allen's fantasy Midnight in Paris will be an upmarket hit.

Another treat was This Must be the Place, an outré offering from Italy's Paolo Sorrentino. It features a wildly eccentric performance from Sean Penn – made up to resemble Robert Smith of The Cure – as a retired rock star chasing a Nazi war criminal. The film crackles with style and invention.

The festival ends this evening with the family saga Les Bien-Aimés, starring Catherine Deneuve. Other favourites for the Palme d'Or include The Skin I Live In by Pedro Almodóvar.

So who really triumphed? Sean Penn finally proved that he had a sense of humour by going Goth. The Artist's double act, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Béjo, now look poised to go international. Kirsten Dunst's lead in Melancholia showed that she's not just Hollywood's perennial girl next door. The director Jafar Panahi, outlawed by the Iranian government, had his new film, a video diary of life under house arrest, smuggled out of Iran in a cake.

And what of the losers? Mel Gibson incurred a storm of boos for failing to sign autographs. While the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, was mercilessly impersonated in Denis Podalydès' satirical biopic The Conquest.

'Melancholia' – Lars von Trier

The now disgraced Dane started his film with seven minutes of undiluted dream beauty – and the end of the world, which proved he meant business. Otherwise, in his follow-up to the art shocker 'Antichrist', Von Trier reined himself in and made a surprisingly suggestive film that was the closest he's come to a Bergman-style statement.

'This Must Be the Place' – Paolo Sorrentino

Italy's most eccentric director – the man behind the grotesques of 'Il Divo' – brought us a bizarre US-set road movie that was the competition's most inventive and eccentric offering, bar none. Sean Penn donned pancake and lip gloss to play a jaded rock star on the trail of a Nazi war criminal.

'The Kid with the Bike' – Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

Two-time winners of the Palme d'Or, the Belgian realist masters the Dardenne brothers returned in beautifully understated form with a relatively feel-good story about a lonely 12-year-old boy looking for a parent – and a bike. A modern Oliver Twist, featuring terrific performances from Euro-screen queen Cécile de France and galvanising newcomer Thomas Doret.

'Le Havre' – Aki Kaurismäki

Finland's king of poker-face comedy, Aki Kaurismäki, returned with an old-fashioned tale of a shoeshine man and a young African immigrant. Sweet-natured, and intensely sophisticated under its cod-naïve façade, this tribute to the French cinema tradition was also the most political film in competition, and a heart-melting pleasure.

'We Need to Talk about Kevin' – Lynne Ramsay

A no-holds-barred comeback from the British talent Lynne Ramsay, with a powerfully imagistic reading of Lionel Shriver's bestseller about a woman and her violently delinquent son. Tilda Swinton was on wired form, and the leitmotif of blazing red was guaranteed to rattle jaded nerves.

'Once Upon a Time in Anatolia' – Nuri Bilge Ceylan

This lengthy crime drama is the definite slow-burner of the competition, with its share of head-scratching moments. But Ceylan's austerely no-frills work is also the most serious and intellectually stimulating entry in contention, and shows why the Turkish director is increasingly talked about in the same breath as Bergman and Tarkovsky.

'Snowtown' – Justin Kurzel

This highly accomplished, massively disturbing drama was the feel-bad succès de scandale of the Critics' Week sidebar. The fictionalised story of a notorious Australian serial-killer case, 'Snowtown' was anything but a pleasant experience, but it was certainly an arresting one – an authentic snapshot of earthly hell at the bottom of the social ladder.

'Michel Petrucciani' – Michael Radford

The British director Radford – 1984, Il Postino – turned to documentary with this riveting portrait of a French jazz great. Born with brittle bone disease, and raised on Bill Evans and Duke Ellington, the 3ft-tall pianist Petrucciani forged himself a phenomenal transatlantic career, and had a pretty wild life, too. Radford's film celebrates him with revealing interviews and blazing performances.

'The Artist' – Michel Hazanavicius

Some critics frowned at such a joyously silly film being in the competition, but this French-made silent spoof was a superbly inventive tribute to Hollywood's golden years. The French box-office king Jean Dujardin is a hoot, and the film will do great things for its zippy ingénue Bérénice Béjo. Expect a popular hit along the lines of "Belleville Rendezvous".

'The Skin I'm In' – Pedro Almodóvar

The latest mind-bending narrative by the man from La Mancha, and his loopiest for some time. Antonio Banderas played a sinister plastic surgeon in a film packing more narrative twists than anything else here. Some reviews have already spilled the beans about its outrageous central twist, so try not to read too much before the UK release in August: its perversity is worth the wait.

Duds and disappointments...

'Restless' – Gus van Sant

After reinventing himself as an art-house master with the Palme d'Or winner 'Elephant', US indie grandee Van Sant gave us this incomparably twee youth romance with Mia Wasikowska as the most hygienically fragrant terminal patient since la dame aux camélias.

'Poliss' – Maïwenn

A sometimes punchy docu-drama about the Paris police's child protection unit, Maïwenn's competition entry could have been a contender. But the director-actor blew her chances by putting herself in the film as a lovelorn photographer – an outrageously distracting display of vanity that blew the film's credibility to smithereens.

'Hara-Kiri' – Takashi Miike

They should have handed out hara-kiri swords instead of 3-D glasses at this stately snorer. The erstwhile shock-jock director went for a decorous costume tragedy that chloroformed at least one critic.

'House of Tolerance' – Bertrand Bonello

This was another opiated snoozer – a creepily nostalgic portrait of life inside a fin de siècle brothel. This exceedingly arch offering was a solemn stew of underwear and ennui, spiked with poker-faced lines such as, "This room smells of champagne and sperm".

'The Tree of Life' – Terrence Malick

The rarest bird among American cineastes, Malick returned with a film about life, the universe and making peace with your dad. It was unmistakably a riveting watch, with the director letting loose his wilder visionary aspirations. But, albeit ambitious and sometimes beautiful, it was too humourlessly religiose to pass muster as a credible cinematic statement.

Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on