Highlights from a lackluster lineup
The 75th version of the Cannes Film Festival announced this year's awards on Saturday following its first "normal" event since the arrival of COVID-19—held in person and on its usual schedule.
But while the logistics of the festival were unexceptional, many of the films were too—a development that itself was rather unusual, as The Croisette typically hosts the premieres of some of the year's best films. Despite submissions from accomplished directors including George Miller, Cristian Mungiu, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Ethan Coen, David Cronenberg, Claire Denis, James Grey, Chan-wook Park, Mia Hansen-Løve, Ruben Östlund, and the Dardenne brothers, critics found few films to love at Cannes 75, and high scores were rare.
The Vincent Lindon-led jury (which also included Asghar Farhadi, Noomi Rapace, Rebecca Hall, and Jeff Nichols, among others) still had to pick a winner from the main competition, and their selection (Östlund's Triangle of Sadness, giving the Swedish director his second Palme d'Or trophy) is one of the lowest-scoring Palme d'Or winners of the past three decades. (You'd have to go back to 2000 to find a Cannes winner with a lower score.)
So which films at Cannes 75 managed to impress reviewers at least a little? Below, find out what critics have been saying about all of this year's notable Cannes debuts (including out-of-competition premieres as well as titles screening at parallel festivals Directors' Fortnight and Critics' Week), divided into three categories—great, good, and everything else—based on the critical consensus. (Note that several films debuting at Cannes or one of the parallel competitions—most notably, Top Gun: Maverick and Men—actually wound up screening for critics prior to the festival and are excluded.) First, however, here's a closer look at this year's award winners.
Major award winners
Palme d'Or (1st place):
Triangle of Sadness
Drama | Sweden | Directed by Ruben Östlund
Acquired by Neon at the festival for an eventual theatrical release (date tbd)
|2016||I, Daniel Blake||77|
After winning the Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard with Force Majeure, and the Palme d’Or with The Square in 2017, writer-director Ruben Östlund returned to Cannes with this glib or biting (depending on the critic) three-part satire of the uber-rich that introduces viewers to a fashion model couple, follows them onto a mega-yacht (where Woody Harrelson plays the Marx-spouting captain) and then to an island where they are shipwrecked with a Russian oligarch, a British arms dealer and the crew. Though it resulted in Östlund's second straight Cannes win, the film didn't quite win over every critic. For THR critic David Rooney, it’s a “disappointingly blunt satire of class and status ... self-indulgent in its extended running time and far too amused with its easy digs at wealth and privilege.” The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw is on the same page: “Strident, derivative and dismayingly deficient in genuine laughs. ... This is another of those films which are intent on telling you what you already know, and not deploying much in the way of comedy or originality to do it.”
But CineVue's John Bleasdale disagrees, writing, “Östlund has created a full-throated, roaring comedy of hate against the upper-classes. It is cynical, nihilistic and has no issue about punching down.” Robbie Collin of The Telegraph adds, “The points of Östlund’s Triangle are far from subtle. Vanity is toxic; fortunes corrupt; everyone loves to see an Instagrammer getting their comeuppance. But across its well-earned two-and-a-half-hour running time, epic schadenfreude keeps edging into genuine sympathy, and we feel just sorry enough for these awful people for the next humiliation to sting just as hard.”
Grand Prix (2nd place) (2-way tie):
Drama | Belgium/France/Netherlands | Directed by Lukas Dhont
Acquired by A24 at the festival for an eventual theatrical release (date tbd)
|2021||(tie) Compartment No. 6
|(tie) A Hero||82|
|2017||BPM (Beats Per Minute)||84|
|2016||It’s Only the End of the World||48|
Lukas Dhont’s debut feature, Girl, won the Camera d’Or (Best First Feature) at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. That film’s release was mired in controversy over its portrayal of a young trans woman by a cisgender boy and its shocking ending. His latest, the heart-wrenching story of the dissolution of a friendship between two 13-year-old boys, Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele), impressed all but two of our critics (and, obviously, the Cannes jury). IndieWire's David Ehrlich and Variety's Peter Debruge both sense an immaturity in the 31-year-old director’s work. For Ehrlich, “Close takes the easy way out” and “finds its sensitive — if sometimes borderline sadistic — young filmmaker defaulting to universal pain whenever he fears that more personal feelings may be too poignantly ethereal to see on camera.”
Praise for the film comes from The Playlist's Gregory Ellwood, who believes Dhont “has pulled off something miraculous with his sophomore effort,” and Robbie Collin of The Telegraph, who believes “Dhont’s control of tone throughout is flawless,” resulting in a “great film about friendship, but perhaps an even greater one about being alone.” Writing for Screen Daily, Wendy Ide adds, “The combination of knock out performances, in particular from newcomer Eden Dambrine as Léo, and direction of uncommon sensitivity from Dhont makes for a picture which is intimate in scope but which packs a considerable emotional wallop.”
Grand Prix (2nd place) (2-way tie):
Stars at Noon
Drama/Thriller | France | Directed by Claire Denis
Will be released in theaters by A24 (date tbd)
The critically acclaimed French writer-director Claire Denis adapts Denis Johnson’s 1986 novel for what potentially could be her first yellow Metascore since 2001’s Trouble Every Day. But the mixed reception from critics didn't deter the Cannes jury from awarding Stars at Noon the Grand Prix.
Moving the setting of the movie from the Nicaraguan Revolution of 1984 to present-day Nicaragua (COVID masks and all), Denis casts Margaret Qualley as a failed journalist surviving by sleeping with various military and government officials and Joe Alwyn (her third choice for the role after Robert Pattinson and Taron Egerton had to drop out) as a mysterious operative. For some critics, this is where the problems begin. THR's David Rooney describes the film as “almost perversely lacking in dramatic texture or momentum” with “unpersuasive performances from chemistry-deficient leads Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn.” Writing for The Playlist, Charles Bramesco declares Qualley “criminally miscast” and the film a “meandering footrace through a politicized purgatory marred by compromise at every phase of its production, it’s a rare misfire from one of our most accomplished living auteurs, excusable only on merit of her past successes.”
Among the supporters of the film, The Telegraph's Robbie Collin thinks “Denis has crafted a film that syncs your heartbeat to its own intoxicating rhythms: a full-body immersion in uneasy pleasures.” And in his review for TheWrap, Ben Croll sees “two films in one. There’s the paranoid thriller and the dreamlike dirge; a steamy drama and its feminist reappraisal; the work of a master with the promise of new kinks to iron out and maybe greater heights to which to soar.” Giving the highest rating to the film so far, IndieWire's David Ehrlich argues “There’s nothing ‘same old same old’ about Claire Denis riffing on The Year of Living Dangerously. Even if politically tinged exotic romances hadn’t been so hard to find during all the years since, this sordid tale of beautiful people on the brink of self-destruction would still continue to stand out for the dissonant energies, sensual rhythms, and prickly encounters that shape Denis’ search for mutual aid in a mercenary world.”
Jury Prize (3rd place) (2-way tie):
Drama | Poland/Italy | Directed by Jerzy Skolimowski
|2021||(tie) Ahed's Knee||80|
|(tie) Les Misérables||78|
A reimagining of Robert Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar by 84-year-old Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski is a “delicate, difficult” and “sorrowful, often brilliant” tale, according to Manhola Dargis of the NY Times, who warns, “The movie is visually exquisite and dark, but it’s tough going. It’s best seen with other people. It left me shattered, and while I wasn’t sitting with anyone I know, I was still grateful that I wasn’t alone when I watched it.” Skolimowski’s first feature since 2015’s 11 Minutes follows the journey of EO (an onomatopoeia similar to the beloved Eeyore), who is played by six donkeys (Hola, Tako, Marietta, Ettore, Rocco and Mela), from lowly but loved circus animal through various meetings with a range of humans. Writing for The Playlist, Rory O’Connor find Skolimowski’s approach to the story “formally audacious,” resulting in a “joyful, experimental, and strangely moving piece of filmmaking that doesn’t always take itself seriously—yet it is nothing if not sincere.” David Katz of The Film Stage believes “it isn’t as good,” as Bresson’s masterpiece, “but it’s different, and a companion piece that flatters both that film and itself.” And IndieWire's Adam Solomons argues, “In Bresson’s version, it’s the humans around the donkey who are the true center of the story. Not so in EO. This is Donkeyvision, and we’re better off for it.”
Jury Prize (3rd place) (2-way tie):
The Eight Mountains (Le otto montagne)
Drama | Italy/Belgium/France | Directed by Charlotte Vandermeersch and Felix Van Groeningen
Felix Van Groeningen (Beautiful Boy, The Broken Circle Breakdown) and his partner, Charlotte Vandermeersch, adapt Italian author Paolo Cognetti’s award-winning 2016 novel about the decades-long friendship formed in the Italian Alps between Pietro and Bruno (played in adulthood by real-life friends Luca Marinelli and Alessandro Borghi). THR's David Rooney thinks it’s a “pleasurable enough watch,” that “lacks weight” and “conflict, plus a narrative drive that fully liberates the story from the page.” LA Times critic Justin Chang is more positive on this “rare movie that understands how tied we are to the physical and psychological spaces of childhood, how our families and the traditions they raised us with can be both nurturing and limiting.” Peter Bradshaw expresses similar feelings in his review for The Guardian, calling it a “deeply intelligent meditation on our capacity for love, and how it is shaped by the arbitrary, irreversible experiences of childhood, and by our relationship with the landscape,” and adding even more praise, “This is a movie with air in its lungs and love in its heart. It is spacious and unhurried in its devotion to beauty and to what it means to be human.”
Winner, Un Certain Regard section:
The Worst Ones (Les Pires)
Drama | France | Directed by Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret
Filmmaking duo Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret use their backgrounds as former child actor casting directors and coaches for their film-within-a-film about the perils of casting non-professional actors. The duo's vast experience came in handy when casting the four lead protagonists—Ryan (Timéo Mahault), Lily (Mallory Wanecque), Jessy (Loic Pech) and Maylis (Melina Vanderplancke)—and Screen Daily's Lee Marshall thinks the main joy of their film is “seeing just how brilliantly these four kids can act.” Otherwise, this “sensitive, sometimes affecting but ultimately inconclusive debut feature” is trying to be “both a kind of documentary about its own making and a drama about a guy making another film. Unfortunately, the two don’t mesh.”
Other major award winners at this year's festival include:
- Best director: Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave
- Caméra d’Or * (for best first feature): Riley Keough & Gina Gammell, War Pony
- Best screenplay: Tarik Saleh, Boy From Heaven
- Best actor: Song Kang-ho, Broker
- Best actress: Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Holy Spider
Un Certain Regard
Selected by a separate jury (whose members included Debra Granik, Valeria Golino, and Édgar Ramírez, among others), the Un Certain Regard section was topped by The Worst Ones (see above). The second-place Jury Prize went to Joyland, which also had the distinction of being the first Pakisatani film to screen in any competition at Cannes. Corsage star Vicky Krieps and Harka's Adam Bessa shared the section's best actor honors, while Alexandru Belc (Metronom) was named best director.
The independent parallel competition is technically non-competitive, but two awards are given out nevertheless. The main prize for best European film went to Mia Hansen-Løve’s latest, One Fine Morning, while the SACD prize for best French-language film was awarded to Thomas Salvador's The Mountain.
Critics' Week and others
Another parallel competition, Critics Week is open to first- and second-time directors. Winning this year's competition was the Colombian drama La Jauria from first-time feature director Andres Ramirez Pulido. In the Cinéfondation, another competition for emerging filmmakers, Italy's Valerio Ferrara took the top prize for A Conspiracy Man. And everyone's favorite prize—the Palm Dog, going to the goodest boy (or girl) to appear in any Cannes film—was nabbed by the standard poodle Britney, star of War Pony.
More Cannes standouts
Drama | UK/USA | Directed by Charlotte Wells
Acquired by A24 at the festival for an eventual theatrical release (date tbd)
One of the best-reviewed films in Cannes played in the Critics’ Week sidebar and was subsequently bought by A24. Scottish writer-director Charlotte Wells’ debut feature is a “frankly astonishing work which will leave a lasting impression,” according to Cinevue's John Bleasdale, who finds the lead performances by Paul Mescal (Normal People) and newcomer Frankie Corio to be “extraordinary,” capturing a “naturalism which is utterly convincing.” Mescal plays a divorced dad who takes Sophie (Corio), his 11-year-old daughter, on holiday to a Turkish seaside resort. Told in flashback from Sophie’s remembrances 20 years later, the film “is the rare father-and-child drama that leaves you wondering who the dad will grow up to be,” featuring a “spellbinding duet by Mescal and Frankie Corio,” writes Sheri Linden of THR.
The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw praises Wells’ direction: “With remarkable confidence, she just lets her movie unspool naturally, like a haunting and deceptively simple short story. The details accumulate; the images reverberate; the unshowy gentleness of the central relationship inexorably deepens in importance.” And Screen Daily critic Fionnuala Hallign agrees, “While attention, fairly, will go to the work’s visual and tonal acuity, Wells’ measured but relentless probing, her careful peeling away of the layers of this intimate piece, mark her out as one of the most promising new voices in British cinema in recent years.”
Drama | Austria/Luxembourg/Germany/France | Directed by Marie Kreutzer
Austrian writer-director Marie Kreutzer’s follow-up to the well-regarded The Ground Beneath My Feet is an unconventional biopic of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps, who won Best Performance in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival). Earning comparisons to Spencer, The Favourite, and Marie Antoinette, this “deeply sympathetic portrait of Elisabeth,” as described by Nicolas Barber in TheWrap, focuses on the period around her 40th birthday in 1877. Writing for Screen Daily, Wendy Ide praises Krieps, who “is terrific in a role which depicts Elisabeth as both a victim of her gilded cage circumstances and a chain-smoking self-absorbed uber-bitch.” Variety's Jessica Kiang calls it a “witty subversion of biopic and costume-drama clichés,” and Time Out critic Anna Smith claims “Kreutzer has her own style of revisionist feminist history, and aided by Krieps’s bold and brilliant turn, it’s riveting stuff.”
Decision to Leave (Haeojil Gyeolsim)
Drama/Thriller | South Korea | Directed by Chan-wook Park
Acquired by MUBI just prior to the start of the festival; theatrical release expected this fall
Six years after The Handmaiden premiered at Cannes, Park Chan-wook returned to the main competition with this Hitchcockian romantic thriller about the mysterious relationship between a detective (Park Hae-il) and the widow (Tang Wei) of the dead man whose murder he’s investigating. “It’s a gorgeously and grippingly made picture and Tang Wei is magnificent,” according to The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, who effuses more about Wei, “She is effortlessly charismatic and (that overworked word) mesmeric; sexual but reserved, strong, capable, intimidatingly smart but bearing a poignant and unacknowledged emotional wound. And the intelligence and live-wire energy she brings to her relationship with the film’s leading man, Park Hae-il, is a marvel.” The Telegraph's Tim Robey believes the “shot-making is sensational, and the film knows it; the camera does things you’ve never seen before,” and the “plotting is dizzyingly complicated.” In his review for the BBC, Nicolas Barber also praises the film’s formal elements, “The investigation is exquisitely constructed, with a stream of revelations, some pulse-pounding action and continuous glimmers of wry humour. It's also a model of elegance and restraint,” but he does admit, “if it isn't quite as entertaining as his best films, it still beats the best films of most other directors.”
Comedy | USA | Directed by Owen Kline
Will be released in theaters by A24 (date tbd)
Screening in the Directors' Fortnight parallel competition, the feature directorial debut from former child actor Owen Kline (The Squid and the Whale)—whose parents are actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates and who counts the Safdie brothers (producers on this film) among his mentors—is a coming-of-age comedy centering on a teenage cartoonist (Daniel Zolghardi) who refuses as his parents insist he go to college, instead opting to move away from comfortable suburbia to take a low-level job to inspire his work. Plenty of bleakly funny twists and turns follow, and the result—likened by multiple critics to a '90s indie comedy—is "a genuinely bizarre, startling, freewheelingly lo-fi and funny indie picture with the refreshing bad-taste impact of Todd Solondz or Robert Crumb," writes Peter Bradshaw in a glowing review for The Guardian. At The Playlist, Charles Bramesco is a bit less enamored, though he sees potential in the young director. He calls the film "consistently funny yet narratively undercooked," but is frustrated that "his debut ends so abruptly as to feel incomplete, excusing itself before anything can be done with its hard-won insights." Total Film's Neil Smith has a similar take, finding portions of Pages to seem "rough and unfinished" but also admiring how the film " has an unpredictability that keeps you on your toes and a bitter pathos that gives every laugh (of which there are many) a note of tragic despair."
Godland (Vanskabte Land)
Drama | Denmark/Iceland/France/Sweden | Directed by Hlynur Palmason
Icelandic writer-director Hlynur Pálmason’s third feature, following Winter Brothers and A White, White Day, takes inspiration from photographs of Iceland’s southeastern coast taken by a Danish priest in the late 1800s. Following Lucas, a pretentious and unsympathetic Danish priest called to build a church in an unforgiving region of Iceland, this is a “striking” and “accomplished, ambitious work which has a Herzogian fascination with vast, unforgiving landscapes, hubris and madness,” writes Wendy Ide of Screen Daily. For LA Times critic Justin Chang, it’s an “outstanding” and “masterful” drama “mysteriously absent from the main competition.” And THR's David Rooney is also impressed: “Pálmason’s control over this challenging material never falters throughout the film’s epic length,” resulting in a “highly original work that goes beyond its theological aspects to explore more universal questions of mankind and our evanescent place in the world.”
TV/Drama | France/USA | Directed by Olivier Assayas
Miniseries debuts June 6 on HBO and HBO Max
The 1996 Cannes Film Festival saw the world premiere of the film Irma Vep by French filmmaker Olivier Assayas—the fifth of what would eventually be 18 titles involving Assayas in some capacity to screen at the festival. (He also served on the Cannes jury in 2011 for good measure.) This year, Cannes was treated to a remake of that film—by Assayas himself—though not as a feature but as a TV miniseries, produced by A24 and headed to HBO in a few weeks. Alicia Vikander stars (in a role analogous to the one portrayed in the original film by Maggie Cheung) as a disillusioned American actress who heads to Paris to star in a remake of the French silent film Les Vampires. But things get complicated on the problem-plagued set when the lines between her character and her real self begin to blur. The international cast also includes Tom Sturridge, Byron Bowers, Carrie Brownstein, Adira Arjona, Fala Chen, and Vincent Macaigne, while Assayas regular Kristen Stewart also makes an appearance.
Critics saw the first three (of eight) episodes at Cannes and have good things to report. Screen Daily's Jonathan Romney admits that the series may be a "super-niche proposition of most appeal to hardcore cinephile viewers" but finds it "cannily crafted, enjoyable" and "more overtly comic" than the original—even comparing it to Netflix's French comedy series Call My Agent. The Hollywood Reporter TV critic Dan Fienberg makes that same comparison (and another to HBO's Barry) and notes that Irma Vep may be "too meta" for some, but that the "loose and intellecutally loopy" series should appeal to fans of Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria. The Playlist's Rodrigo Perez agrees that the remake is even more meta than the original film ("this version is arguably intertextuality on steroids"), ultimately ending his "A–" review by declaring the series a "sometimes campy, sometimes vampy, sometimes meta-intellectual exercise that manages to be both fascinating and thrilling."
Drama | Iran | Directed by Saeed Roustayi
This sprawling family saga from Iranian filmmaker Saeed Roustayi, whose previous film, the wellregarded Just 6.5, has sadly gone unreleased in the States, looks at how Leila (Taraneh Alidoosti of Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, About Elly, and Fireworks Wednesday) tries, against all odds (and family members), to improve her family’s financial prospects. For Screen Daily's Lisa Nesselson, this “visually and thematically ambitious follow-up” to Just 6.5 is “gripping entertainment,” and in his review for THR, Jordan Mintzer proclaims Roustayi to be a “masterly, if aggressively unwieldy, filmmaker whose voice is clearly one to be reckoned with.” Variety's Peter Debruge is impressed by how Roustaee “constructs scenes with a bustling documentary energy, studiously avoiding melodramic tropes, even when they might serve to make the narrative more engaging, less unwieldy or simply easier to digest overall.” And Jihane Bousfiha believes the “true star” is the screenplay, “brimming with humanity, depth, and humor that makes for a genuinely emotional portrait of an imperfect family, even if it walks the fine line of being a typical melodrama.”
Documentary/Music | USA | Directed by Brett Morgen
Will be released in theaters and IMAX by Neon in September (date tbd)
Jane and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck director Brett Morgen attempts to reveal the ever-elusive David Bowie with this unconventional documentary produced with the support of Bowie’s estate and the massive archive that comes with it. For most critics it works, but for longtime Bowie fan David Rooney of THR, the film “feels distancing, its embellishments too often superfluous,” resulting in a “shapeless and baggy” film that is “short on insight, and ends up feeling more enervating than enlightening.” On the other side of the ledger, The Telegraph's Tim Robey believes it’s a “wildly creative tribute,” with insights coming from “stellar mash-ups of sound and vision,” setting a “sky-high bar as cinematic fan-service, and it leaves you buzzing.” For IndieWire, Siddhant Adlakha declares it a musical documentary “more ambitious than anything you’re likely to witness for quite some time.” And Time Out's Phil de Semlyen thinks this “magnificently mind-bending film” is “almost as extraordinary as the man himself.”
More Than Ever (Plus Que Jamais)
Drama | France/Germany/Luxembourg/Norway | Directed by Emily Atef
Vicky Krieps and the late Gaspard Ulliel star in this meditation on illness and death from director and co-writer (with Lars Hubrich) Emily Atef. Krieps’ Hélène is terminally ill with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Her husband, Ulliel’s Mathieu, wants her to get a lung transplant, even though the odds of success are low. Hélène chooses instead to go to Norway. IndieWire's Steph Greene applauds Krieps’ performance, “With trademark stoicism and inscrutable poise, Krieps gives a performance that never tries to extract easy pity from the viewer or reach for low-hanging fruit.” Screen Daily critic Nikki Baughan believes Krieps and Ulliel give “superb turns” in this “frank, sensitive drama” that “persuades, rather than forces, its audience to stare death in the face, and proves surprisingly life affirming in the process.” Writing for the The Playlist, Jihane Bousfiha emphasizes that while the film “spends much of its time concerned with Hélène’s way of dealing with her illness, the film is a love story at heart.”
One Fine Morning (Un beau matin)
Drama | France | Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve
After Bergman Island played in the Cannes competition last year, writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve (Things to Come, Eden) shifted over to the Directors’ Fortnight where her latest, the story of a single mother (Léa Seydoux) trying to balance her father’s progressing dementia and a complicated new love affair, won the Best European Film Prize. Taking inspiration from her own life, Hansen-Løve “returns to French, and to form, in this gently moving reflection on parenting one’s children and parents at once,” writes Variety critic Peter Debruge, adding “One Fine Morning accrues subtle power through repetition, as characters put themselves through the same banal ordeals again and again hoping for different outcomes.” For Rory O’Connor of The Film Stage, Hansen-Løve “delivers her finest in years by doing what she’s always done best: a humanistic story of when to love and when to let go.” And in Jon Frosch’s review for THR, this “quietly miraculous” film is the result of an “immensely satisfying collaboration that finds both auteur and star further solidifying their spots among the greats of their respective fields.” The last word (for now) goes to Anna Bogutskaya, who writes for Time Out, “It explores love, both romantic and familial, with no trace of drama or sappiness, and without ever feeling slight. It’s a balm of a film and another glorious showcase for the director’s light touch when dealing with complicated emotions.”
Drama/Comedy | USA | Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Kelly Reichardt’s first film in the main competition at Cannes comes on the heels of First Cow, the best-reviewed work of her career. Reuniting writer Jonathan Raymond and actress Michelle Williams, who collaborated on Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, Reichardt’s contemporary tale follows a ceramicist (Williams) as she prepares for a show and attempts to balance her creative life with the demands of her family (Judd Hirsch, Maryann Plunkett, John Magaro), her inattentive landlord (Hong Chau), who also happens to be a rising artist, and an injured pigeon. Set at the Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland, Reichardt’s latest didn’t fully connect with every critic. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw finds it a “bit studied and passionless,” at times, but admits “there is sympathy and charm and food for thought.” And in her review for Time Out, Anna Smith notes that seeing Reichardt “commit more fully to her lighter side is both refreshing and slightly frustrating.” Initially declaring "There are no bad parts, and yet even the best ones are barely there,” IndieWire's David Ehrlich comes around in the end, “As with Lizzy’s sculptures, which go into the kiln all mottled and damp but come out glistening with new layers of color, Showing Up is transformed by its finishing touches.”
Champions of the film include The Telegraph's Tim Robey, who believes it’s a “funny and delicate study of art, depression, and creative rivalry,” and Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist, who deems the “guileless, subtle, and unpretentious" film "one of Reichardt’s most playful, warm, sweet, and funny works.” For Screen Daily's Tim Grierson it’s “beautifully crafted, a modest gem that grows in impact the more one examines it." And THR critic David Rooney writes, “Showing Up is a hand-crafted wonder, rich in tiny details that sneak up on you to provide intimate access to another Northwestern woman far more reticent than transparent.”
Sick of Myself (Syk Pike)
Comedy | Norway/Sweden | Directed by Kristoffer Borgli
An extremely toxic relationship is at the center of Kristoffer Borgli’s dark comedy. When Signe’s (Kristine Kujath Thorp) artist boyfriend, Thomas (Eirik Sæther), has some success, her desire to grab the spotlight back leads her to a drastic decision with some Russian rash-causing pills. As Signe’s behavior escalates, the casting of Thorp really pays off according to Screen Daily's Amber Wilkinson: “She pitches her character so that, despite her generally awful behaviour, there’s a sort of quiet desperation to what Signe’s doing.” Kevin Jagernauth of The Playlist believes the “pleasure in watching Sick of Myself is that it can bounce from a fun, meta cameo by ‘Worst’ heartthrob Anders Danielsen Lie to moments of near body-horror to stingingly witty exchanges without missing a beat.” And THR's Angie Han finds yet another aspect to rave about: “The sly pleasure of Sick of Myself is that Signe’s narcissism differs from the rest of ours more in degree than kind. Her impulses are as uproarious as they are repulsive not because they’re so hard to understand, but because on some level, we can understand them all too well.”
Other notable films (good, but not quite great)
Drama | USA | Directed by James Gray
Will be released in theaters by Focus Features (date tbd but likely this fall)
For his fifth film to play in competition at Cannes (following The Yards, We Own the Night, Two Lovers, and The Immigrant), writer-director James Gray mines his own childhood to tell the story of Paul Graff (Banks Repeta) growing up in Queens in 1980 and the dissolution of his friendship with Johnny Davis (Jaylin Webb), a Black kid he meets on the first day of 6th grade. Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong play Paul’s mother and father, and Anthony Hopkins is the grandfather who understands him. Earning comparisons to other recent childhood reflections like Belfast, The Hand of God, and Roma, Armageddon Time is a “coming-of-age story in which the young protagonist’s maturation comes at an unbearably high price, at the intersection of privilege and guilt; it’s both a horror story and a tale of a debt that can never be paid,” writes Richard Brody of The New Yorker.
At The Film Stage, David Katz of believes it’s a “quietly seething work, funnier and lighter than anything Gray has made to date, but undergirded with mournful tragedy.” And The Playlist's Rodrigo Perez adds, “Layered in its preoccupations—about class, the fallacy of the American Dream, and the struggle to sustain its illusion— it’s also a ruthlessly self-examining look at privilege, what it engenders, what it unbearably excludes, and its bruising costs.” While Fred Trump and Donald Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump (played by Jessica Chastain) appear, John Bleasdale of Cinevue claims it’s “rare that a period film can feel so powerfully timely,” and EW's Joshua Rothkopf calls this “nuanced exploration of situational ethics tinged with guilt” a “small, near-perfect New York story.”
Boy From Heaven (Walad Min al Janna)
Drama/Thriller | Sweden/France/Finland/Denmark | Directed by Tarik Saleh
After his international breakout The Nile Hilton Incident, writer-director Tarik Saleh has gone on to direct episodes of Westworld and Ray Donovan, the recent Chris Pine thriller The Contractor, and now his first competition film, which earned Saleh the festival's screenplay award. Boy From Heaven is what THR critic Jordan Mintzer describes as a “compelling if somewhat conventional thriller in a highly unconventional setting.” That place is Cairo’s Al-Azhar University and mosque, a place of power and learning for Sunni Islam, where Adam, a fisherman’s son, gets embroiled with Egypt’s religious and political elite as they conspire to replace the recently deceased Grand Iman. Writing for Screen Daily, Wendy Ide calls it an “ambitiously complex story of religious espionage,” and Luke Hicks of The Film Stage finds it, despite some “pacing issues,” a mostly “engaging, well-performed drama that offers a fascinating peek into an institution matched in significance only by the Vatican itself.” Giving the film an A at the The Playlist, Jihane Bousfiha praises this exploration of the “complicated and corrupt relationship between religion and politics” for its ability to be a “gripping thriller about espionage” as well as a “coming-of-age story for Adam.”
Drama | South Korea | Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Acquired by Neon just prior to the start of the festival; release date tbd
After winning the Palme d’Or in 2018 for Shoplifters, Japanese writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda made a film in France (The Truth) and now one in Korea. Broker stars Parasite's Song Kang Ho (named best actor at the festival) as a struggling Busan laundromat owner who turns to being a baby broker to pay his debt to local gangsters. He and his partner take babies from a church baby box (a place where a mother can surrender her baby for adoption) and try to sell the baby to a suitable family. When one of the mothers returns and the cops start following them, their lives get complicated. For The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, it’s a “rare miss for Kore-eda,” and Tim Robey of The Telegraph agrees, calling it a “rare dud” from the director, adding, “Anaemic and maudlin by turns, this may be the Cannes competition’s biggest disappointment.” But these were the outliers; most reviewers had a positive take on the film. BBC critic Nicolas Barber believes it’s “one of the year's most delightful films,” and The Playlist's Iana Murray finds it “absorbing and heartwarming.” And in her A- review for IndieWire, Ella Kemp writes, “It’s one of the master’s most transparent and — when it comes to confrontations about what parents, and specifically women, can or should do for themselves and for the babies they are forever bound to — brave films of his career.”
Crimes of the Future (2022) Watch trailer
Sci-fi/Drama/Horror | Canada/Greece | Directed by David Cronenberg
Will be released in theaters by Neon in LA/NY on June 3 and in more cities on June 10
David Cronenberg’s first feature since the 2014 Cannes competitor Maps to the Stars is set in a future where the human body undergoes new transformations and mutations. Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) is a performance artist whose show involves his partner, Caprice (Léa Seydoux), surgically removing the new organs his body creates. Kristin Stewart plays an investigator from the National Organ Registry who is obsessed with the couple and declares “surgery is the new sex.” EW's Leah Greenblatt feels it plays “like a Cronenberg Greatest Hits, at least aesthetically; so loaded does it come with his signature themes and gooey, seemingly hand-crafted contours.” And in his review for the BBC, Nicolas Barber agrees, “Echoes of Scanners, Videodrome, Crash and Existenz can be heard everywhere. Even the title is one that Cronenberg has used before, for a film he made in 1970. The director, now 79, is playing his greatest hits.” IndieWire's David Ehrlich acknowledges it’s “Cronenberg to the core” but is more positive overall: "This hazy and weirdly hopeful meditation on the macro-relationship between organic life and synthetic matter ties into his more wholly satisfying gross-out classics because of how it pushes beyond them.” LA Times critic Justin Chang finds it “as wildly deranged as it is beautifully controlled,” and adds, “If Crimes of the Future is a slasher movie of sorts, it’s one in which every cut has elegance and purpose, and every spurt of blood delivers an intellectual payload.”
Horror | UK | Directed by Mark Jenkin
Acquired by Neon just prior to the festival for an eventual theatrical release (date tbd)
Cornish writer-director Mark Jenkin’s follow-up to his critically acclaimed Bait is a meditation on grief that unfolds on an island in the Celtic Sea where the life of its sole resident (Mary Woodvine), a wildlife volunteer observing flowers, takes a strange turn. For Variety critic Jessica Kiang, “the defiantly creaky early-cinema techniques are extremely cool to look at (and listen to, given Jenkin’s brooding, evocative soundscapes), but feel thematically lost at sea,” compared to his previous film. Writing for IndieWire, Leila Latif admits that “Jenkin’s film is hypnotic and strikingly realized,” but “in the final half hour it runs out of tricks.” The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw finds Jenkin’s style “so unusual, so unadorned, it feels almost like a manuscript culture of cinema. There is real artistry in it.” And Jack King agrees in his A- review for The Playlist: “The witchy atmosphere Jenkin conjures is spine-tinglingly devilish, the poetic manifestation of the subject’s deep grief, ever-ambiguous and frosty, taking on the aching melancholy of loss.”
The Five Devils (Les Cinq Diables)
Drama | France | Directed by Léa Mysius
Writer-director Léa Mysius’s follow-up to her 2017 debut, Ava, is best described as a “multiracial, bisexual, small-town love triangle meets the mind of M. Night Shyamalan,” according to Jordan Mintzer of THR, who also labels it “overambitious.” This story of a mother (Adèle Exarchopoulos), her biracial daughter (Sally Dramé) whose super-smell abilities also include visions of her mother’s past, and the aunt who re-enters and upsets their life might have a lot going on, but for IndieWire's Sophie Monks Kaufman that’s a feature, not a bug, “Some viewers may be frustrated by the opaque way all threads are resolved. To the end, Mysius retains the sense of her film being a glistening and mysterious object, you can watch but can’t touch. Yet this intact mystery flows from themes too vast to ever be rendered fully transparent: young girls are prescient and love is fate.” Adding to the praise, The Playlist's Elena Lazic believes this “formally rigorous or cohesive” sophomore feature “captivates from its very first seconds.”
Drama/Thriller | Denmark/Germany/Sweden/France | Directed by Ali Abbasi
Acquired by Utopia at the festival for an eventual theatrical release (date tbd)
In 2018, writer-director Ali Abbasi won best film in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival for Border. This year graduated to the main competition with this story set in his native Iran and based on the serial killer Saeed Hanaei (played by Mehdi Bajestani), who killed 16 sex workers between 2000-01 in the holy city of Mashhad. Abbasi fictionalizes his account by introducing a female journalist (Zar Amir Ebrahimi, the festival's best actress winner) who investigates the murders. “It’s far from subtle filmmaking, but Holy Spider is equal parts gripping and disturbing, and not always for the squeamish,: according to Jordan Mintzer of THR, who adds, “Abbasi transforms the controversial case into both a violent, catch-the-killer thriller and a critique of his homeland’s punishing theocratical system, where women seem to always be guilty of something, even when they’re the victims of cold-blooded murder.” Writing for The Film Stage, David Katz believes Abbasi gets caught between “the social righteousness dictates of the ‘message movie’ and pure amorality of what, disturbingly so, often makes for great genre cinema.” But Screen Daily's Fionnuala Halligan claims it’s “undeniably arresting,” and Telegraph critic Tim Robey thinks Holy Spider to be “profoundly compelling, expertly made, and quite intentionally horrifying.” Utopia picked it up for US distribution.
Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind
Documentary/Music | USA | Directed by Ethan Coen
Will be released in theaters by A24 (date tbd)
We are beginning to get a bitter glimpse of the varied interests of the Coen brothers when they aren't working together. Joel Coen's recent solo debut film, The Tragedy of Macbeth, was a stylized take on a Shakespeare classic—perhaps not so different from your typical Coen brothers film. But brother Ethan's first solo outing—which debuted out of competition at Cannes—is something quite different: a relatively straightforward music documentary. Tracing the career of one of rock n' roll's originators solely through archival performance footage and clips of old TV interviews with Lewis, Trouble in Mind is "a witty and affectionate if rather slight archive documentary," writes The Telegraph's Robbie Collin. Variety critic Owen Gleiberman admits that Coen's old-clips-and-nothing-else approach could read as "easy" or "lazy," but he enjoys that the director allows the performance clips to play on for longer than others might, with the result being that "'Trouble in Mind' plays like an undiluted shot of rock ‘n’ roll moonshine joy." But other critics warn that the director's approach prevents the film from exploring the numerous controversies that plagued Lewis throughout his life, leaving the film wildly incomplete by design. And The Playlist's Jason Bailey is left puzzled by a too-slight film that "feels like a movie anyone could’ve made," lacking the distinctiveness of Coen's past work.
Mother and Son (Un petit frère)
Drama | France | Directed by Léonor Serraille
In 2017, writer-director Léonor Serraille won the Camera d’Or for Jeune Femme. This year, she’s in the main competition with this chronicle of 20 years in the life of Rose (Annabelle Lengronne, in a highly-praised performance) and her sons Ernest and Jean, immigrants from the Ivory Coast who moved to Paris in the 1980s. For THR's Lovia Gyarkye, “Mother and Son contains moving strokes, but struggles to make a lasting emotional dent.” But Variety's Guy Lodge find this “delicate but wrenching second feature” to be an “unsentimental but stoically anguished portrait,” and Robbie Collin of The Telegraph believes it’s a film that “feels like a jewellery box of telling moments: there is precious stuff here, and real sparkle too.”
Drama | Italy/France | Directed by Mario Martone
Italian director Mario Martone’s last film to play in competition at Cannes was 1995’s Troubling Love (L’amore molesto). He returns to the competition and to Naples with this adaptation (co-written with his wife, Ippolita Di Majo) of Ermanno Rea’s 2016 novel about Felice (The Traitor's Pierfrancesco Favino) returning to his hometown after 40 years and encountering his childhood best friend. Thanks to a “formidable cast, assured direction and skillful camerawork,” Love Gyarkye of THR finds it to be a “surprisingly absorbing film.” IndieWire critic Leila Latif believes Mantone and Favino shine when the film “shifts from contemplative drama to full-blown suspenseful thriller.” And The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw claims it’s a “strong, deeply felt, valuable movie, one tremendously shot by Martone, and terrifically acted by Favino.”
Pacifiction [aka Tourment sur les îles]
Drama/Thriller | France/Spain/Germany/Portugal | Directed by Albert Serra
After three period dramas (Story of My Death, The Death of Louis XIV, Liberté), Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra moved his particular brand of cinema to contemporary times and earned his first main competition slot with this mysterious mood piece about a French government official (Benoît Magimel) in Tahiti. Screen Daily's Lee Marshall finds it “provocatively long yet strangely captivating,” a film that rewards “resilient audiences” with a “truly original cinematic experience." And Variety critic Guy Lodge believes this “unhurried, 164-minute tropical tour that is sort of about nothing and everything at once” has something for even the “more bemused viewers caught in its tide.” But for Rory O’Connor of The Film Stage it’s the “sensation” of the festival, “the closest the selection has come to delivering a masterpiece. ... Serra’s vision ultimately is as beguiling as it is boundless, and strangely romantic. There are things being said here about Europe, about loneliness, about our fragile planet, but grasping it all might not be the point. Serra is an incredible filmmaker and this is his most wildly expressive project yet.”
Paris Memories (Revoir Paris)
Drama | France | Directed by Alice Winocour
The latest from Disorder and Proxima director Alice Winocour chronicles the healing of Mia (Virginie Efira) after she survives a terrorist attack on a restaurant in Paris. Inspired by the Bataclan concert hall attack which her brother survived, Winocour has created a “moving healing journey, but one that feels almost too smooth, a best-case scenario with few bumps in the road and, more significantly, very few surprises,” writes Elena Lazic for The Playlist. But Variety's Guy Lodge is more positive: “It’s a modest film with a heart very much on its torn sleeve, given force and ballast by another fine dramatic turn from the hard-working Virginie Efira.”
Drama | Romania | Directed by Cristian Mungiu
Romanian writer-director Cristian Mungiu’s last three films to play in the main competition have won the Palme d’Or (2007’s 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days), Best Screenplay (2012’s Beyond the Hills ), and Best Director (2016’s Graduation), but his new film, an examination of xenophobia based on a 2020 event in the village of Ditrău, didn’t earn the universal acclaim of those previous works. Titled after the Romanian acronym for an MRI, the film follows Matthias as he returns to his village from Germany after quitting his job, cares for his ailing father (who requires a brain scan), and tries to strike up a relationship with an old flame and reconnect with his son, who has recently been scared silent by something in the woods. Screen Daily's Lee Marshall believes for the first time “Mungiu has created a baggy film whose story and message don’t always mesh,” but is "never less than an absorbing watch.” Writing for Variety, Jessica Kiang finds this “complex film” featuring a “showstopping” 17-minute unbroken shot to be a “slow-motion snapshot of a deeply riven community flying apart in all directions, as though some bomb, detonated years or perhaps even centuries ago, has never stopped exploding.” IndieWire's David Ehrlich also believes it’s a success: “Pulling harder and harder at the tension between complex socioeconomic forces and the simple human emotions they inspire, R.M.N. masterfully spins an all too familiar migration narrative into an atavistic passion play about the antagonistic effects of globalization on the European Union.”
Tori and Lokita
Drama | France/Belgium | Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
The success of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne at Cannes cannot be overstated. They have won two Palmes d’Or (Rosetta in 1999 and L'Enfant (The Child) in 2005), best screenplay in 2008 (Lorna's Silence), the Grand Prix in 2011 (The Kid with a Bike), and best direction in 2019 (Young Ahmed). But their latest, the story of African immigrants—16-year-old Lokita (Joely Mbundu) and 11-year-old Tori (Pablo Schils)—struggling to survive in Belgium, divided critics. CineVue's John Bleasdale finds the ending “so manipulative and cynical as to be actually enraging,” and Iana Murray of The Playlist finds the film “exploitative” instead of “empathetic.” But supporters of the film include Manohla Dargis of The New York Times, who believes it’s the “Dardennes’ strongest, most dramatically persuasive film in years, and also their most piercingly sad,” and Variety critic Owen Gleiberman, who proclaims the Dardennes "back in form.” Screen Daily's Jonathan Romney also strongly endorses the film, concluding, “Moving, politically committed and with an absolute ring of hard-researched reality, this is at the very least their finest since 2011’s The Kid With The Bike, and arguably one of their very best.”
Drama | USA | Directed by Gina Gammell and Riley Keough
More observational than plot-driven, the directorial debut from actress Riley Keough and fellow first-timer Gina Gammell tells the interlocking stories of two Lakota boys who grow up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The two directors also co-wrote the script with a pair of Lakota men, Bill Reddy and Franklin Sioux Bob, whom Keough met while filming American Honey in the area, and their cast features mostly first-time actors. Together, they've made a "terrific debut feature," writes The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. That thought is echoed not just by the Cannes jury (who gave the Gammell and Keough the Camera d'Or for best first film) but also by IGN's Ryan Leston, who adds, "War Pony is a rare breed – a native story told by an outsider seeking to uplift the community rather than exploit it." And Slashfilm's Rafael Motamayor compares War Pony to the work of Sean Baker and feels that what the movie lacks in plot it makes up for with "a whole lot of authenticity and empathy." (Variety's Peter Debruge finds a different filmmaker comparison: Larry Clark.) But The Playlist's Gregory Ellwood thinks that splitting the screen time between two mostly separate stories does neither one any favors, cautioning, "[I]t’s a disjointed narrative that sadly overstays its welcome."
Brother and Sister (Frère et soeur)
Drama | France | Directed by Arnaud Desplechin
Since 1992 French writer-director Arnaud Desplechin has had six films play in competition (The Sentinel, My Sex Life... or How I Got Into an Argument, Esther Kahn, A Christmas Tale, Jimmy P., and Oh Mercy!), but has yet to win an award. His latest, the story of warring siblings (Melvil Poupaud and Marion Cotillard) forced to be back together as their parents are dying, doesn’t look like it will change that, but the film does have some admirers. THR critic Sheri Linden believes there “isn’t a predictable moment” in this “masterfully told tale” that finds Cotillard and Poupaud inhabiting their roles with “bracing fearlessness.” David Katz of The Film Stage feels it’s a “reminder of how few filmmakers contain his sensitivity, originality, and literary gifts,” and Screen Daily's Lisa Nesselson thinks, “Acting is rarely better than what this sterling cast . . . brings to a layered tale of compound emotional crises.”
Less enamored, The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw finds Brother and Sister “exasperatingly nonsensical and humourless: it is full of grand gestures, gigantically self-important acting, big scenes (though often bafflingly truncated), big emotions and smirkingly knowing dialogue. Yet I admit there is technique and gusto to the way it is put together.” Looking over Desplechin’s career in his review for Indiewire, Ben Croll concludes, “Like a musician returning to an earlier songbook with a downbeat timbre and a paired down set of instruments, Brother and Sister feels, for good or ill, like Desplechin Unplugged.”
Elvis Watch trailer
Drama/Music | Australia | Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Will be released in theaters by Warner Bros. on June 24
Critics split on almost every element of Baz Luhrmann’s maximalist take on the life of Elvis Aaron Presley (Austin Butler), except maybe the one thing that surprised everyone—Tom Hanks’ bizarre performance as the swindling svengali Colonel Tom Parker. THR's David Rooney believes it’s Hanks’ “least appealing performance of his career,” which is seconded in David Ehrlich’s pan of the movie in IndieWire, calling “Luhrmann’s Colonel Parker . . . possibly the most insufferable movie character ever conceived” and Hanks’ accent “Kentucky Fried Goldmember.” LA Times critic Justin Chang also devoted some words to Hanks’ performance in his more positive but far from glowing review of the film, “Ordinarily I like it when Hanks cuts against the good-guy grain, but his work here is hammy, grating and unmodulated to a fault, accomplished with a combo of fat suit, prosthetic jowls and over-the-top accent that makes Colin Farrell’s Penguin and Stellan Skarsgard’s Baron Von Harkonnen look positively restrained.”
NY Times critic Manohla Dargis describes the film overall as a “hyperventilated, fitfully entertaining and thoroughly deranged highlight reel of the life and times of Elvis Presley,” claiming “Butler’s performance gains in power as Elvis ages,” but it’s undermined by Luhrmann who “never allows a single scene or song to play out without somehow fussing with it — cutting into it, tarting it up, turning the camera this way and that, pushing in and out — a frustrating, at times maddening habit that means he’s forever drawing attention to him him him and away from Butler.” For others, Luhrmann’s style is more feature than bug, resulting in his best movie since Moulin Rouge! (sorry Australia and The Great Gatsby). Writing for Little White Lies, Anna Bogutskaya focuses her praise on Butler, “Tensing, thrusting, dripping with sweat and the promise of a good time after the curtain falls, Butler gets the moves, the voice and, most importantly, Elvis’ charisma down. Whatever flaws the film has, Butler’s Elvis is mesmeric.” Time Out's Phil de Semlyen thinks this “furiously entertaining, mile-a-minute Elvis biopic” is Luhrmann’s “best film for 20 years.” Ending on a high note, EW's Joshua Rothkopf claims this “dazzling, splatter-paint evocation of the myth and the man, does a mighty job of bringing us closer to what that revolutionary moment must have felt like,” and “for a filmmaker sometimes criticized for skimming the surface, Luhrmann uses the material to go as deep as he does wide.”
Final Cut (Coupez!)
Comedy | France | Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
Screening out of competition as the festival's opening night gala (after a last-minute decision to skip this year's Sundance, where it was first scheduled), Coupez! is a zombie comedy—or, more accurately, a comedy about the making of a low-budget zombie movie that is interrupted by the arrival of actual zombies—from The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius (and his first Cannes film in five years). If that brief description sounds familiar, it is because the French-language film is a remake of the 2017 Japanese cult hit One Cut of the Dead by Shin'ichirô Ueda. Naturally, critics can't resist comparing the two films, and they appear to have a strong preference for Ueda's vision. At IndieWire, David Ehrlich finds it "strange that Hazanavicius’ version lacks the same pulse as Ueda’s original" given that it is basically a shot-for-shot remake (and warns that the result is "very seldom funny"), while Slashfilm's Rafael Motamayor concludes, "[O]utside of the French market, it is hard to recommend this movie to anyone." But many critics enjoy Hazanavicius's remake nevertheless. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw deems it relatively unsophisticated but also "likeable and goofy." THR critic Jordan Mintzer agrees, arguing, "It’s not profound stuff, more like enjoyable fluff that has true crowdpleasing potential." And The Wrap's Steve Pond calls it "the most entertaining Cannes opening-night film in a very long time."
Forever Young [aka The Almond Tree] (Les Amandiers)
Drama/Comedy | France | Directed by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi
The Souvenir, it's not. The second feature directed by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi to screen in the main competition at Cannes—she has also appeared in numerous other Cannes films as an actress—failed to connect with critics much like her first, 2013's A Castle in Italy. Her new film is an '80s-set coming-of-age dramedy following a group of young actor/comedians who have just been admitted to the prestigious French theater school of the title, Les Amandiers, led, as in real life, by Patrice Chéreau (played here by Louis Garrel, who also brought his own film, The Innocent, to Cannes this year). Bruni Tedeschi knows the environment well—she was herself a student there, and a character in the film is loosely modeled after her—but the result is "epically tiresome," according to The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, who is far from alone in being exasperated by Amandiers. The Wrap's Nicholas Barber wonders why a semiautobiographical film would have such "vague, generic characters and incidents," while Variety's Jessica Kiang questions why anyone outside of this "rarefied world" should care about seeing it on screen, dismissing the film overall as "histrionic" and a "trifle." Some critics find things to like, including IndieWire's Ben Croll, who calls it the director's "strongest work to date," though even he notes that the film somehow "offers little insight into the artistic process." Screen Daily's Wendy Ide also thinks it a career high for the director and sees a "scattershot" film that benefits from "a barrelling, pinballing energy," though, again, she notes that some viewers may find it "draining."
Drama/Thriller/Action | South Korea | Directed by Lee Jung-Jae
The feature directorial debut from Squid Game star Lee Jung-Jae, 1980s-set spy thriller Hunt debuted at Cannes as an out-of-competition midnight screening just weeks ahead of what will likely be Lee's first career Emmy nomination. He also stars in the film as a South Korean intelligence agent who is tasked with uncovering a North Korean mole within his agency. Also given the same assignment is the head of a rival division (played by Jung Woo-sung), pitting the two departments against each other. But as the parallel investigations proceed, the men learn that the life of the South Korean president may be in danger. Most critics find the result overly convoluted in its plotting (and a bit overlong) but saved in part by its action sequences. One of those is Screen Daily's Tim Grierson, who concludes, "Lee has such a firm grasp on the material — and such an eye for dynamic staging — that one forgives the brief lapses into heavy exposition." Variety's Peter Debruge also finds Lee "surprisingly adept behind the camera, especially when it comes to staging high-intensity shootouts" and likens Hunt to the American TV series 24. At The Wrap, Steve Pond sees a "sleek and serious" film but warns, especially for those unfamiliar with Korean politics, "it can get downright impenetrable." And THR critic David Rooney bemoans an "increasingly frustrating movie" that "requires tighter narrative control" than what Lee provides.
Tchaikovsky's Wife (Zhena Chaikovskogo)
Drama | Russia/France/Switzerland | Directed by Kirill Serebrennikov
Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov's third straight film to screen in competition at Cannes (following Leto and Petrov's Flu) is also the first one he has been able to present in person on The Croisette. Prior years saw him held prisoner in his native country (which he has now fled) on trumped-up charges. (While Serebrennikov's anti-Putin sentiment is not in doubt, his film still attracted some controversy at the festival for being partially funded by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.) But his heavily stylized portrait of Antonina Miliukova (a widely praised Alyona Mikhailova), the complicated and estranged wife of famed (and gay) composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, whose marriage has been well-chronicled elsewhere, also collected some criticism on artistic grounds. Hollywood Reporter critic Jordan Mintzer labels the nearly two-and-a-half-hour film "sprawling and exhausting" (and a surprising disappointment in the music department), while The Playlist's Jihane Bousfiha bemoans "an incredibly slow start" to a film that eventually picks up but "never manages to escape its repetitiveness." Screen Daily's Jonathan Romney similarly sees "a leadenly brooding prestige monument" that is enlivened only by a few "arrestingly stylised dramatic moments" and Mikhailova's "mesmerisingly intense" performance.
Three Thousand Years of Longing Watch trailer
Drama/Fantasy | Australia | Directed by George Miller
Will be released in theaters by UA on August 31 (wider September 2)
Director George Miller’s first film since 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road is an adaptation (co-written with Augusta Gore) of A.S. Byatt’s short story "The Djinn In The Nightingale’s Eye." But the stellar reviews of that prior film eluded Miller when Longing premiered out of competition in Cannes. (Don't worry; he spent most of his downtime in Cannes working on Fury Road's sequel.)
Starring Tilda Swinton as a scholar of “narratology” and Idris Elba as the djinn who offers her three wishes after she releases him from a glass bottle, this “episodic, intermittently engaging saga frustrates more than it enchants,” according to Tim Grierson of Screen Daily, and Total Film's Jordan Farley agrees, writing, “George Miller combines myth, magic, and romance to mixed effect in a visually dazzling adult fairytale.” More positive on the film overall is Charles Bramesco, who writes in The Playlist, “The cumulative merits on display in Miller’s museum of amazement, from the whiz-bang recreations of freakified old-world grandeur to the humbler miracles shared between two wayward souls, we hang on every word of the narration — as sure a sign of a well-spun yarn as any.” Also praising Miller is IndieWire critic David Ehrlich: “George Miller could find more cinema in a single hotel minibar than some contemporary directors could squeeze out of an entire galaxy far, far away, and he manages to do exactly that without unbalancing the delicate soul of the intimate two-hander he wields here.”
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