The incomparable “Festival de Cannes” is done for another year. And what a year itâ€™s been. The Official Selection was extraordinary, with legendary filmmakers and their latest works turning up on the Croisette.
The jury was headed by “Mad Max” helmer, Dr. George Miller. The mild-mannered Aussie director and his selected jurors (including Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Paradis, Donald Sutherland) became the source of controversy, thanks to the prizes they awarded on closing night. Critics were in open revolt on Twitter, when Ken Loach won his second Palme dâ€™Or for “I, Daniel Blake.” Other prizes ranged from wacky to downright odd.
But whatâ€™s done is done and there are lots of things to be cheerful about. In particular the amount of brilliant films screened.
Top: Pioneer dancer Loie Fuller was a symbol of France’s belle Ă©poque.
Chiara Mastroianni in Sandrine Kiberlain’s “Smile” (French title: Bonne Figure).
Sandrine Kiberlainâ€™s excellent short film played in the Semaine de la Critique sidebar. Starring Chiara Mastroianni as an actress attending an awards ceremony, the play between star persona and the real person behind the makeup is deftly handled. It starts off funnyâ€”an actress is made to wear a tight-fitting haute couture dressâ€”and ends up melancholic. The stylish but suffocating dress having become a metaphor for the price of stardom.
“Personal Shopper” is the second collaboration between Kristen Stewart and director Assayas.
Kristen Stewart is fast becoming one of the great actors of her generation. In Olivier Assayasâ€™s award-winning ghost story (it shared Best Director with Cristian Mungiuâ€™s â€śGraduationâ€ť), Stewart plays a psychic living in Paris. In between her day job as an assistant to a media celebrity, she tries to commune with the departed. Assayasâ€™s strange tale of the material and immaterial world is by turns very silly and very spooky.
“The Dancer” is the film debut of StĂ©phanie di Giusto.
StĂ©phanie di Giustoâ€™s melodrama is focused on the early years of experimental dancer Loie Fuller and her pioneering use of stage lighting. From the American prairie to the bright lights of Paris, Miss Fuller (played by StĂ©phanie Sokolinski aka Soko) crosses the ocean to achieve her ambitions. The dance sequences are absolutely extraordinary and Soko is excellent as Fuller, an artist who suffered physically and mentally in order to fulfill her vision.
Peter Simonichek as his alter-ego “Toni Erdmann” in Maren Ade’s new film.
Blasting away the myth Germans canâ€™t do funny, critics were united in admiration for Maren Adeâ€™s epic comedy-drama. â€śToni Erdmannâ€ť sees a distant father (Peter Simonichek) reconnecting with his miserable but financially successful daughter (Sandra HĂĽller). â€śToni Erdmannâ€ť is nearly three hours long and not a single scene flags. That Adeâ€™s film failed to win any sort of prize will surely go down as one of the mysteries of life.
“The Handmaiden” is based on Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel “Fingersmith.”
Park Chan-wookâ€™s new film is a deliciously dark tale set in 1930s colonial Korea. A thief posing as a house servant is in cahoots with a thief posing as a Japanese count and art teacher. Together, they plan on stealing a boat load of money from a reclusive and gullible heiress. But things donâ€™t go exactly to plan! A story full of hairpin twists and turns accompanied by scorching-hot sex scenes; “The Handmaiden” is a genre gem.
Isabelle Huppert gets her “Dirty Harry” moment in Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle.”
Isabelle Huppert is god-level, in Paul Verhoevenâ€™s batshit crazy mystery thriller. Make no mistake, the Dutchmanâ€™s latest is bound to kick up controversy left, right and centre, but his sensibility has always been intelligent as well as satirical and sensationalist. A woman with a terrible past (her dad was a serial killer) is raped in her home and enters into a transgressive game with her attacker. The film is bananas, but executed with such mesmerising craft and panache.
Persecuted by the state for loving each other, Jeff Nichols’ “Loving” is an exceptional film.
Richard and Mildred Loving were arrested for being married. In racially segregated America, their union was deemed morally and legally wrong. Jeff Nicholsâ€™s beautifully understated drama skips over the clichĂ©s of the courtroom drama to focus almost entirely on two people in love and their unwillingness to bow to social prejudice. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga are tremendous in the lead roles.
The poems used in “Paterson” were written by American poet Ron Padgett.
Paterson is a bus driver and secret poet living in Paterson, New Jersey. Jim Jarmuschâ€™s portrait of an artist as a blue collar worker is a typically deadpan affair. The film is not interested in grand statements or one that particularly makes an ordeal out of the manâ€™s humdrum existence. Adam Driver (Kylo Ren from â€śStar Wars: The Force Awakensâ€ť) headlines, but itâ€™s Palm Dog winner Nellie, as naughty Marvin the bulldog, who steals the show. “Paterson” is for keeps.
Beauty is destructive in the latest master work from Nicolas Winding Refn.
The Neon Demon
Nicolas Winding Refnâ€™s horror film is a love letter to Italian horror and tackles the theme of societyâ€™s obsession with beauty. Elle Fanning might be dominating the ad campaigns and publicity stills, but â€śThe Neon Demonâ€ť belongs to Jena Malone. As makeup artist Ruby, Malone goes to some incredibly dark places. Vampirism, cannibal, necrophiliaâ€”Refn throws it up all on the big screen in garish colours fit for a Mario Bava movie.
“American Honey” won Andrea Arnold her third Jury prize at Cannes.
Winner of this yearâ€™s Jury prize, Andrea Arnoldâ€™s â€śAmerican Honeyâ€ť is a masterpiece. Sasha Lane is Star, a young woman in poverty who meets a group selling magazine subscriptions by hook or by crook. Mostly, itâ€™s crook. So begins her journey across the Mid-West and her first taste of absolute freedom. The soundtrack is stellar, Robbie Ryanâ€™s cinematography is seriously gorgeous and the 4:3 aspect ratio and filming actors up close lends the entire trip an immersive, intimate feel.
All images courtesy of Cannes press library, Â© respective film studios.