03/06/2013 10:34 BST | Updated 03/08/2013 06:12 BST

What We Learned at Cannes 2013

By Zachary Boren

With its particular blend of Hollywood grandiosity and French pomposity, the Cannes Film Festival remains the marquee event for cinephiles everywhere. Here's what we learned this year.

Drama is not just reserved for the screen

With predictable unpredictability, the festival's films were overshadowed by the goings on of the peaceful seaside city. This year, it was the news of a million dollar jewellery heist days before the festival's opening, and also a gunman who invaded a live TV interview with Django Unchained's Christoph Waltz (see below). These incidents, worthy of the silver screen, were lapped up by the industry press. With the money, celebrity and fantasy that the festival brings, it's no wonder that the city of Cannes has upped the ante.

Lars von Trier was not missed

Cannes' favourite son, Danish director Lars von Trier, did not make his comeback at this year's festival. Unceremoniously thrown out at the 2011 edition for expressing sympathy for Adolf Hitler, cinema's firestarter is not banned for life as was once reported, rather he just missed the submission deadline. Though Nymphomaniac, his new movie, certainly would have caused a stir, perhaps there was already enough controversy to go around.


Nobody knows what pornography is

See, Lars, Cannes knows how to be provocative without you. In von Trier's absence, the French festival revisited its ongoing discussion about art and pornography. 10 years ago, The Brown Bunny was the talk of the town for its final scene, in which actress Chloe Sevigny gives a real blowjob to actor/director Vincent Gallo. This year, Palm d'Or winner Blue Is The Warmest Colour was the cause of controversy. The lesbian-love film was adapted from a graphic novel of the same name, and the story's original author has compared the film version to porn. "A brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn, and [made] me feel very ill at ease," the graphic novelist said about the film's graphic sex scenes.

Actors really want to be directors

The move from acting to directing is made often by Hollywood stars, and with varying degrees of success. At Cannes 2013, bohemian superstar James Franco premiered his directorial debut As I Lay Dying, adapted from the William Faulkner novel. The response was luke-warm, but the actor-turned-performance artist-turned author-turned director has done enough to suggest he's got chops. And what to make of the news out of Cannes that Neo himself will be directing a kung-fu film? It seems as though the festival's self-congratulatory bubble is the perfect place for coddled actors to find the courage to step behind the camera.


There are plenty of good films coming this year

Sometimes it's easy to forget that the real purpose of Cannes is identifying the year's best films. Forget the controversy and offscreen drama - the festival still shapes the course of cinema for most of the coming year. And with crappy blockbusters hitting our screens week after week, it's a relief to know that there's quality on the way. Perhaps these are deserving of their own top five list, so here goes: The aforementioned Blue Is The Warmest Colour; the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis; the new Refn/Gosling collaboration Only God Forgives; Chinese arthouse film A Touch Of Sin; and Nebraska, Alexander Payne's latest cinematic road-trip.