Last Updated: May 20, 2009By

By ALI NADERZAD I, like a lot of journalists, am unsure as to who will go home with the gold. Is there a clear winner? It’s either going to be Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds or Von Trier’s Antichrist, or the Palme could go to a French man for the second time in a row, ie., for A Prophet by Jacques Audiard. But I feel that the politics in which A Prophet wades in are a little too closely related to those of last year’s winner. There might be too many similarities between Entre Les Murs and A Prophet, and in more ways than you might initially presume, since one is set in a classroom and the other is set in a jail. But certainly A Prophet deserves the highest of accolades and the vox populi has already spoken on that particular matter.

What makes a good film? I ran into an old friend on the Croisette and she had spoken of a film’s ability to educate, to bring something to the table. Yes, that’s something, but I suppose it’s one element of a film among many others. Films can thrill, cinema can take you places, rather like traveling, films even make some of us want to get politically involved, take up a cause. I think that a good film moves in, as into us, inhabiting our personal space and tends to hold the lease on us awhile, and sometimes for the rest of our life. Which films have you seen which continue to live within you for some time afterward? If this were one of the criteria for which to judge the top film, I would say Lars Von Trier’s horror film Antichrist is the winner. Those glistening and brilliant Dod Mantle images combined with Von Trier’s screenplay work have haunted me ever since the screening. The sheer originality of the esthetic, the shock of the images, Charlotte Gainsbourg’s screams in those sinister woods–some of my journalist friends have remarked that this film is akin to mental masturbation for a self-adulating Von Trier who has too high an opinion of himself anyway. I think they are probably right. But think of the gift that this movie brings to the world. Von Trier and his team have given us the pleasure that we all seek, l’art a l’etat pure.

Please note that Quentin Tarantino has quietly and determinedly been working on Inglourious Basterds for an entire decade. He’s been retooling the script, changing chapters around and furtively sharing chapters with associates and would-be cast. This is a long-term project and it shows. I don’t know that IB could have been this good if preparations had been in haste. A project with this much maturation with a director of Quentin’s caliber at the helm could only have been very good, and the film is great. Quentin has achieved second best of his career right after Pulp Fiction, which won the Palme D’or. So both contenders for the Palme have already won in the past. Where does this leave the rest of the slate of films at Cannes this year? Some of you reading might be wondering why I’m ignoring Campion, Arnold or Loach and I’m not. I’m merely saying what I think are the two strongest contenders. And granted, I have not seen the Haneke, Gilliam or the Tsai Ming-Liang, and I am very much looking forward to the latter (and have been for quite some time).

And yet I want Lars Von Trier to win. I also like Charlotte Gainsbourg a lot and would want her to be a part of the glory of winning the Palme.

The festival will be winding down in three days, and by Monday I will be on my flight back to New York. This year’s slate has been a little on the weak side but I still can’t wait to see who will win. My money’s on Antichrist. Maybe I will be right about it this year. (pictured: press conference for Antichrist, L-R Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lars Von Trier, Willem Dafoe)