Netflix and chill? Not in Cannes
The 70th Cannes Film Festival began with a controversy over Netflix's inclusion in the competition (Netflix debuted both The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) and Okja this year) and the resulting rule that the streaming giant would be barred from future festivals unless their films received a theatrical release in France. Stars, directors, executives, theater owners and festival organizers all weighed in, but with Netflix not going away, it will be an evolving story for years to come.
Opinions were also quite varied about the actual films screening at Cannes this year. Only one title left the festival with a Metascore in the 90s: Agnes Varda and JR’s documentary Faces Places (Visages Villages). In the end, the jury spread the awards around and gave Nicole Kidman, who had three films and a TV miniseries (The Beguiled, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, and Top of the Lake: China Girl) at Cannes this year, a special 70th Anniversary Prize.
Overall, reviewers felt that this year’s slate of films was weaker than those of the previous two years. But the jury, led by filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, pleased most critics with their choices (especially after last year's jury awarded the Grand Prix to Xavier Dolan’s middling Its Only the End of the World). The Square’s Palme d'Or victory was a more popular choice amongst critics than 2016’s I, Daniel Blake or 2015’s Dheepan, but some critics were less forgiving of its overstuffed and shapeless nature than others. The only film to take away two awards (Best Screenplay and Best Actor) was Lynne Ramsay’s fourth film, You Were Never Really Here, a bleak 85-minute contemporary noir that had the best Metascore of any competition title other than the Jury Prize winner, Loveless. Amazon Studios will be releasing You Were Never Really Here in theaters, and maybe Netflix will follow their distribution model in the future. Then again, probably not.
The award winners
Palme d'Or (1st place):
Drama | Sweden/Germany/France/Denmark | Directed by Ruben Östlund
|2016||I, Daniel Blake||77|
|2013||Blue Is the Warmest Color||88|
Writer-director Ruben Östlund’s latest “doesn’t have the pure weapon-like clarity” of his 2014 Un Certain Regard Jury Prize winner Force Majeure, but “it sets out to make your jaw drop. And it succeeds,” according to The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. Rory O’Connor of The Film Stage agrees that while it’s “not as slick and streamlined a film as Force Majeure it still hunts for that same meaty psychological game,” resulting in an “acerbic, sphincter-tightening dark comedy that works as a sort of drawn-out spiritual castration for its über chic Stockholm art curator protagonist.”
Grand Prix (2nd place):
120 Beats Per Minute (BPM)
Drama | France | Directed by Robin Campillo
|2016||It’s Only the End of the World||48|
|2015||Son of Saul||89|
|2013||Inside Llewyn Davis||92|
Picked as the favorite to take home the Palme d'Or by many critics attending the festival, BPM settled for second place at the 70th Cannes. Writer-director Robin Campillo’s follow-up to Eastern Boys centers on ACT UP AIDS activists in Paris in the early 1990s as they fight against the indifference of their government. It’s a "sexy, insightful, profoundly humane film,” writes Variety’s Guy Lodge, that focuses on the growing relationship between two members of the group, the outspoken Sean and newcomer Nathan. In his 5-star review, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praises the film’s ability to combine “elegy, tragedy, urgency and a defiant euphoria.”
Jury Prize (3rd place):
Drama | Russia/France/Belgium/Germany | Directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev
|2014||(tie) Goodbye to Language||75|
|2013||Like Father, Like Son||73|
|2012||The Angel's Share||66|
After winning Best Screenplay for Leviathan in 2014, writer-director Andrei Zvyagintsev returned to the Cannes competition with a story that draws parallels between a divorcing couple’s neglect for their 12-year-old child and the corruption infecting Russia. The New York Times’s Manohla Dargis claims it’s a “vision of breathtaking, casual cruelty that inexorably shifts from the personal into an indictment of a soul-sick country,” and Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian believes the film has a “hypnotic intensity and unbearable ambiguity.”
Other winners in the main competition this year include:
- Caméra d’Or (for best first feature): Léonor Serraille, Montparnasse Bienvenue (Jeune Femme)
- Best actor: Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here
- Best actress: Diane Kruger, In the Fade
- Best screenplay: (tie) Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou, The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here
- Best director: Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled
Outside the main competition, Mohammad Rasoulof’s follow-up to Manuscripts Don’t Burn, A Man of Integrity, won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the Festival. Best Director there went to Taylor Sheridan for Wind River, which premiered at Sundance in January (and thus isn't listed below) and will hit U.S. theaters August 4th, and Michel Franco won the Jury Prize for April’s Daughter. A special award for Best Poetic Narrative went to Mathieu Amalric’s meta-biopic of French singer Barbara, starring Jeanne Balibar.
The Critic’s Week sidebar awarded Emmanuel Gras’ documentary Makala with the Nespresso Grand Prize, and Gabriel and the Mountain, directed by Fellipe Barbosa (Casa Grande), won the France 4 Visionary Award for best first or second feature. The Directors’ Fortnight Art Cinema Award went to The Rider (detailed below) and Mediterranea director Jonas Carpignano’s A Ciambra won the Europa Cinemas Label Award. Finally, this year’s Palm Dog (presented for the best canine performance) went to Bruno, a standard poodle from Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories. He's a very good boy.
Other notable films premiering at Cannes
Titles that previously debuted at another festival are not included here.
Experimental | Iran/France | Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
The late Abbas Kiarostami’s final film is a “major work, and particularly indispensable to fans yearning to spend another two hours with a master who was taken too soon,” writes The Playlist’s Bradley Warren. The film consists of 24 four-and-a-half minute shorts based around the fixed frame of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “The Hunters In The Snow” and 23 of Kiarostami’s own photographs. Within each short, the frame comes to life through animation, the computer effects adding animals or snow as music and other sounds bring even more life to the still images. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman believes “Kiarostami isn’t just making hypnotic images; he’s communing with the audience (as he always did).”
Drama | Mexico | Directed by Michel Franco
Writer-director Michel Franco’s follow-up to his 2015 Cannes best screenplay winner, Chronic, is his “finest directorial work yet,” according to Jordan Ruimy of The Film Stage. The drama begins when absentee mother April (Julieta’s Emma Suarez) pushes her way into the lives of her two daughters, pregnant Valeria and her half-sister Clara. But as the actions taken by the characters become less believable, THR’s Boyd van Hoeij feels “all the illuminating mise-en-scene and framing in the world can't compensate for a screenplay that has some focus issues.”
Based on a True Story
Drama/Thriller | France/Poland/Belgium | Directed by Roman Polanski
The latest from Roman Polanski, a psychological thriller adapted with Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria) from Delphine de Vigan’s novel and starring Eva Green and Emmanuelle Seigner as rival writers, divided critics. Screen Daily’s Jonathan Romney believes it’s a “teasing, tricksy, hugely entertaining, in some ways old-fashioned divertissement,” but Nikola Grozdanovic of The Playlist claims it’s “one of the director’s worst films, if not the worst.”
Before We Vanish
Sci-fi/Drama | Japan | Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s diverse filmography (Creepy, Tokyo Sonata, Pulse) gets another strange addition with this alien invasion movie adapted from a play by Tomohiro Maekawa. Following three aliens as they scout humanity by taking over the bodies of an estranged husband, a violent young girl, and a young man who enlists a journalist as his guide, the film failed to impress THR’s Stephen Dalton, who notes, “Kurosawa's lackadaisical direction does not help, deflating any suspense and stretching audience patience with his snoozy pacing and baggy running time.” However, while Rory O’Connor of The Film Stage admits the film is a “sort of skittish and overlong, albeit pleasantly existential oddity,” it’s still an “alien-invasion B-movie packed with A-grade ideas and craft.”
The Beguiled Watch trailer
Drama/Western | USA | Directed by Sofia Coppola
Writer-director Sofia Coppola’s first feature film since 2013’s The Bling Ring is a remake of Don Siegel’s 1971 western that starred Clint Eastwood as an injured Union soldier who finds refuge and then trouble at a girls boarding school in Louisiana. Also based on Thomas Cullinan’s novel, Coppola’s version stars Colin Farrell as the soldier who has eyes for Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning. Screen Daily’s Tim Grierson believes the result is “supremely immersive and thought-provoking,” and Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian claims it’s “a tremendously watchable movie, a drama-thriller with subtle touches of noir and black comedy.” But THR’s Todd McCarthy prefers the original film, finding this one to be “a respectable but pallid redo.” The Beguiled opens in a few theaters on June 23rd before expanding wider the following week.
Blade of the Immortal (Mugen no Juunin)
Action/Drama | Japan | Directed by Takashi Miike
Takashi Miike’s 100th film is another violent offering from the director of 13 Assassins. An adaptation of Hiroaki Samura’s manga series, the film stars Takuya Kimura as a swordsman with Wolverine’s healing powers. Indiewire’s Ben Croll praises the film’s “great action and idiosyncratic antagonists,” but finds the 140-minute film “altogether too much.” However, Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian advises, “If you are going to see one outlandish and occasionally nauseating bloodbath samurai pic this year, this is the one.”
Drama | South Korea | Directed by Sang-soo Hong
In one of his two films playing at Cannes (this one as a special screening), writer-director Hong Sang-soo reunites with his In Another Country star, Isabelle Huppert, and pairs her with the star of his last four films, Kim Min-hee. Filmed last year at Cannes when Huppert was there for Elle and Kim for The Handmaiden, Claire's Camera, according to THR’s Deborah Young, “could be dismissed as a Rohmer-esque, just-for-fun amusement, which may be enough incentive for Huppert and Hong fans, were it not for a deeper reflection on the purpose of cinema running just below the surface.”
The Day After (Geu-hu)
Drama | South Korea | Directed by Sang-soo Hong
Hong Sang-soo’s competition title failed to impress critics as much as his special screening film, Claire’s Camera (above). After winning best actress earlier this year in Berlin for Hong’s On the Beach at Night Alone, Kim Min-hee is once again “brilliant as Areum, the film’s anchor and most conscious character,” according to The Playlist’s Nikola Grozdanovic. She’s an innocent caught between her cheating boss and his wife in what Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian describes as “an amusing, if disconcertingly undeveloped sketch or cine-short-story about infidelity.”
Faces Places (Visages Villages)
Documentary | France | Directed by Agnès Varda and JR
Earning the best Metascore at the festival (and winning the Golden Eye for best documentary among all official festival selections), this documentary by director Agnes Varda (The Beaches of Agnes, The Gleaners & I) and photo-muralist JR is “magnificently moving, funny, life-affirming, and altogether wonderful,” according to Indiewire’s David Ehrlich. As the two artists roam the French countryside in JR’s photographic van taking pictures of working-class locals, the “collaborative energy between the two makes for an endlessly charming documentary, as Faces Places manages to look forwards and backwards with touching insight,” writes Bradley Warren of The Playlist.
Documentary | USA | Directed by Tony Zierra
This documentary by Tony Zierra profiles Leon Vitali, who, after playing Lord Bullingdon in Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, became the director’s right-hand man until Kubrick’s death in 1999. The Guardian’s Gwilym Mumford claims it’s a “revealing and stirring celebration of one of cinema’s unacknowledged heroes,” but Tim Grierson of Screen Daily believes “Zierra allows his documentary to get lost amidst the anecdotes.”
The Florida Project
Drama | USA | Directed by Sean Baker
After shooting the critically acclaimed Tangerine with an iPhone, writer-director Sean Baker switched to 35mm for this portrait of a six-year-old girl, her friends, and her mother living at a motel in the shadow of Disney World. Vulture’s Emily Yoshida claims it’s a “near-perfect film, and a heightening in every way of everything that was great about Baker’s last movie.” Likewise, Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian believes Baker “has catapulted himself into a whole new league” with this “manic, high-energy and ultimately heartbreaking social drama.” A24 acquired the film late this week for a low-seven-figure price, though a release date has not yet been announced.
A Gentle Creature
Drama | France/Germany/Netherlands/Lithuania | Directed by Sergei Loznitsa
My Joy, In the Fog and Maidan director Sergei Loznitsa’s brutal look at Russian bureaucracy through the trials of a single woman attempting to deliver a package to her incarcerated husband “ultimately stands as a devilishly symphonic piece of art that transcends cinema and politics to nestle itself in the back of your mind forever,” writes Nikola Grozdanovic of The Playlist. But a late shift to dream logic undermines the film’s power for some critics. One of those is The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, who cautions that “opinion may divide as to whether its expressionist element works. Yet there is no doubt as to its power, and its severity.”
Drama | USA | Directed by Ben Safdie and Joshua Safdie
Heaven Knows What directors Josh and Benny Safdie’s first Cannes competition title follows a small-time hood played by Robert Pattinson through a desperate night as he tries to save his learning-disabled brother after a botched bank robbery. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw claims it’s a “sombre, downbeat movie whose initial thrills give way to sadness,” but Jessica Kiang of The Playlist believes (like many critics) that Pattinson is “terrific,” and that the film (which opens in theaters on August 11) is a “feat of sonic, visual and narrative engineering that confirms the Safdies’ arrival.”
Drama | France/Germany/Austria | Directed by Michael Haneke
Michael Haneke’s last two films to play in competition at Cannes, Amour and The White Ribbon, won the Palme d’Or, so anticipation was high for his latest, a look at the pathological sickness of a bourgeois family in Calais. But despite its strong cast and Haneke’s typical precision, critics were disappointed by the film’s reliance on themes the director has already investigated, with A.A. Dowd of the A.V. Club describing it as a “kind of greatest-hits collection.” The N.Y. Times’ Manohla Dargis echoes that sentiment in her Cannes wrap-up, writing, “Mr. Haneke’s greatness as a filmmaker is never in question during this immaculately directed work, but his emphasis again on surveillance culture, class pathology and anomie feels more ritualistic than inspired.” The L.A. Times’ Justin Chang admits that the film “verges on self-parody,” but also finds it “glib, impossible, queasily hilarious and thoroughly terrifying.” Lastly, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian is fine with Haneke sticking with his preoccupations because the film is “as stark, brilliant and unforgiving as a halogen light.”
How to Talk to Girls at Parties
Sci-fi/Rom-com | UK | Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Director John Cameron Mitchell's fourth film is also worst film according to a majority of critics. A loose adaptation of a Neil Gaiman short story, Parties takes viewers to the 1977 punk scene in Croydon, where Alex Sharp’s Enn falls for Elle Fanning’s Zan. Unfortunately for Enn, Zan is an alien, and she only has 48 hours to spend with him. In his "B–" review, Indiewire’s Eric Kohn finds positives in the way Mitchell channels the “communal intimacy of Shortbus and the riotous musicality of Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” but John Bleasdale of CineVue believes a better title for the film might have been "How Not to Make a Film about Punk in 70s Croydon.”
In the Fade
Drama | Germany | Directed by Fatih Akin
After the critical success of Head On, The Edge of Heaven (Best Screenplay at Cannes in 2007), and Soul Kitchen, director Fatih Akin failed to impress with 2014's The Cut. Unfortunately, his new film appears to be no better. In the Fade, which was scored by Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, stars Diane Kruger as a woman who seeks justice and then revenge when her husband and child are killed in a bomb attack. Both The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw and The Playlist’s Nikola Grozdanovic compare the result to a TV movie. But Deborah Young of THR believes Akin “bounces back and bounces high with an edge-of-seat thriller,” and Kruger “delivers a career-high performance.”
Drama | France | Directed by Arnaud Desplechin
The latest from Arnaud Desplechin stars his usual stand-in, Mathieu Amalric, as a filmmaker whose relationship with an astrophysicist (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is interrupted by the return of his wife (Marion Cotillard), who had been presumed dead for 20 years. That’s just the beginning of the plot for this opening film of the 70th Cannes Film Festival, and the screening left critics divided. The Film Stage’s Giovanni Marchini Camia believes “the film’s sheer scope and ambition, as well as the panache of its execution, render it intoxicating and immensely fun to get lost in.” But Justin Chang of the L.A. Times finds it “a busy, convulsive and fragmentary piece of work, with strange plot turns and dazzling formal gimmicks...coming at you every minute. But then the thing derails and becomes, shall we say, the wrong kind of mess.”
Drama/Sci-fi | Hungary/Germany | Directed by Kornél Mundruczó
Director Kornél Mundruczó’s follow-up to his Un Certain Regard winner White God proved to be an unwieldy combination of action-thriller and political/religious allegory. Drawing superficial comparisons to Children of Men, the film follows Aryan, a young Syrian immigrant as he’s shot crossing the border but miraculously lives and gains the ability to levitate. The L.A. Times’ Justin Chang calls it a “virtuosic muddle of a thriller” and an “earnest religious parable, executed with a leadenness that can feel at odds with Aryan’s gravity-defying new abilities.”
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Drama/Thriller/Horror | Ireland/UK | Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos
After receiving the Jury Prize in 2014 for The Lobster, writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos returned to Cannes with his latest absurdist take on the human condition. Focusing on a surgeon (Colin Farrell) who must make a unthinkable choice concerning his family, the film “closes its grip on our fears by infinitesimal degrees, demonstrating that bone-deep, tightly clamped anxiety can be scarier than screaming terror,” writes David Rooney of THR. In his "B+" review, Indiewire’s David Ehrlich claims it’s “Lanthimos’ most scattered and sedate film, but it’s his scariest as well.” The film will reach North American theaters on November 3rd.
Drama/Thriller | France | Directed by François Ozon
After the premiere of François Ozon’s Palme d’Or contender, word of the film’s first explicit image and cut spread quickly. Coming off the period melodrama of Frantz, “Ozon has made a deliciously twisted erotic thriller,” writes Peter Debruge of Variety. But this tale of a young woman (Marine Vacth of Ozon’s Young & Beautiful) who falls in love with her psychoanalyst (who happens to have a twin brother who is also a therapist) is, in the opinion of The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, a “wildly dated-looking and derivative film, a quaint adventure in fantasised naughtiness.”
Let the Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur)
Drama | France | Directed by Claire Denis
The latest from Claire Denis shared the SACD Award for best French film at the Director’s Fortnight with Philippe Garrel’s Lover for a Day. Written by Denis with novelist Christine Angot and inspired by Roland Barthes’ Fragments: A Lover’s Discourse, Juliette Binoche stars as an artist, mother, and divorcée looking for love but unable to find a compatible match. A disappointment for some critics, the film nonetheless has its defenders. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw believes it’s an “elegant, eccentric relationship comedy of ideas, highly rarefied and possessed of an almost inscrutable sophistication.” Similarly, Guy Lodge of Variety praises Binoche’s “complex, quietly symphonic work.”
Lover for a Day (L'Amant d'un jour)
Drama | France | Directed by Philippe Garrel
The last part of a black and white trilogy that began with Jealousy and continued with In the Shadow of Women, the latest from director Philippe Garrel is another humane look at the relationships between men and women. Gilles is a philosophy professor whose daughter, Jeanne (played by the director’s daughter Esther Garrel), comes home after a bad break up only to discover that her father’s girlfriend (Louise Chevillotte) is the same age as her. The constantly shifting dynamics between the three results in a “casual, bittersweet, and intoxicating study of relationships in flux” and a “work of rare clarity by a director whose experience shows,” writes Ed Frankel of The Film Stage.
Drama/Thriller | South Korea | Directed by Sung-hyun Byun
Drawing comparisons to The Departed and its Asian inspiration, Infernal Affairs, this Korean crime thriller from director Byun Sung-hyun stars Korean heartthrob Yim Si-wan as an ambitious young inmate who connects with a career gangster who plans to rise up the ranks of the local criminal organization. The Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman claims it’s “so busy being unpredictable it forgets to be interesting,” but Screen Daily’s Jason Bechervaise finds it “accomplished and well-structured.”
The Meyerowitz Stories
Comedy | USA | Directed by Noah Baumbach
Noah Baumbach’s first film to play in competition at Cannes comes on the heels of the critically successful Mistress America and While We’re Young, and, once again, the writer-director earned very good reviews. This story of an estranged family’s reunion focuses on the relationship between Dustin Hoffman’s artist father and his sons, half-brothers played by Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler.
The praise for Sandler’s performance was unanimous as Indiewire’s David Ehrlich notes, “It remains hugely frustrating how great Adam Sandler can be when he’s not making Adam Sandler movies.” Although she liked the film less than her counterpart (giving it a B- instead of a B+), Jessica Kiang of The Playlist concurred with Ehrlich, “Inasmuch as the film has a revelation, it is Sandler, though we’ve always known he can act, which is why it is so irritating that he so often chooses not to.” The Netflix film is expected to screen in at least a few theaters prior to (or concurrent with) its streaming debut later this year.
Sci-fi/Drama | USA/South Korea | Directed by Joon-ho Bong
The first screening for Netflix’s controversial Cannes competition entry, Bong Joon Ho’s Okja, did not go off without a hitch. The theater mis-framed the movie resulting in the top part of the image being cut off and causing a delay as the film was restarted. Luckily, Netflix did get some good news (beyond the support of jury member Will Smith and director Bong Joon Ho) once reviews were published. The film is a “gorgeously realized popcorn movie of the most satisfying, comforting, restorative kind,” according to The Playlist’s Jessica Kiang, and John Bleassdale of CineVue believes “Okja is exuberant and wild filmmaking.” The film debuts on the streaming service on June 28th.
Documentary | USA/Germany/France | Directed by Eugene Jarecki
Eugene Jarecki’s follow-up to The House I Live In is a sprawling road-trip documentary that draws parallels between the rise and fall of Elvis and the corruption of the American Dream. For THR’s Leslie Felperin, the film is Jarecki’s “most broadly appealing” but “arguably his messiest and least intellectually satisfying work.” Alissa Wilkinson of Vox believes it’s “half great, half undisciplined, with a too-pat conclusion that probably should have left some strings untied,” but Sarah Ward of Screen Daily find it to be an “engaging, informative and impassioned journey.”
Drama | Japan/France | Directed by Naomi Kawase
Naomi Kawase’s fifth film to play in official competition at Cannes (she last competed in 2014 with Still the Water) focuses on the relationship between a photographer (Masatoshi Nagase) who is losing his sight and a woman (Misaki Ayame) who writes audio descriptions for films. It’s “as luminous a piece of filmmaking as Kawase’s previous work, but it also contains much less substance than its gleaming sheen suggests,” writes THR’s Clarence Tsui.
Drama | France | Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
Michel Hazanavicius earned great reviews for The Artist when it premiered at Cannes in 2011, but his 2014 competition title, The Search, bombed with critics and never received a U.S. release. His latest falls somewhere in the middle. Louis Garrel stars as Jean-Luc Godard in this adaptation of actress Anne Wiazemsky’s memoir, Un An Apres (One Year Later), about the dissolution of her marriage to the director. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw believes it’s a “reasonably funny, moderately interesting movie, wearing its sprightly colourful pastiche like dry-cleaned retro couture.” Screen Daily’s Jonathan Romney likes it even more, concluding, “It’s a dazzlingly executed, hugely enjoyable act of stylistic homage, but also the poignant story of a dysfunctional marriage and an insightful recreation of a critical and contradiction-ridden period of modern French history.”
Drama | USA | Directed by Chloé Zhao
Chinese-American filmmaker Chloé Zhao’s follow-up to Songs My Brothers Taught Me won the top award at the Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight. The film follows a young cowboy on the Pine Ridge Reservation as he struggles to come to terms with not being able to ride after a horse crushes his skull. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw believes it’s a “very impressive, very accomplished film,” and Todd McCarthy of THR claims it’s a “beautiful, honest account of a tough way of life, one that produces and requires a strong sense of identity and values.”
Drama | France | Directed by Jacques Doillon
Looking for the biggest disappointment of the festival? Jacques Doillon’s biopic of sculptor Auguste Rodin received the worst reviews of any competition title. Not even 2015’s Best Actor winner for The Measure of a Man, Vincent Lindon, could save what The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw calls an “excruciatingly bad film.” Jordan Mintzer of THR concurs, claiming the film “feels as stiff and lifeless as an old slab of marble,” and is “a lumbering affair that never builds into a gripping, let alone complex, portrait of the man or his time.”
Top of the Lake: China Girl
TV/Drama | Australia | Directed by Jane Campion and Ariel Kleiman
The rare TV series to get a Cannes premiere (episodes of David Lynch's revived Twin Peaks also screened at Cannes this week, though only after they aired on Showtime), China Girl serves as the follow-up to Jane Campion's acclaimed 2013 miniseries. Star Elisabeth Moss returns—joined by Nicole Kidman and Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie—for a new mystery that takes place in the much more urban setting of Sydney, Australia, where the body of an Asian girl washes up on the beach.
Critics are greatly impressed by the episodes screened in France. Indiewire's David Ehrlich feels that this "extraordinary work" is "an even more nuanced, more primal, and more entertaining beast than the first season (or just about anything else that’s ever aired on television)." THR's Todd McCarthy, similarly, praises the "sharp writing, superior cast, evocative locations, seductively seamy subject matter and delicious performances," while Matt Hoffman at Little White Lies calls it "a shattering piece of storytelling" and The Guardian's Gwilym Mumford concludes that "it remains a treasure." The Playlist's Jessica Kiang appears to be the sole reviewer lacking enthusiasm for China Girl; she finds it "classy" but "missing a crucial element." The miniseries is expected to air in the U.S. in September on the Sundance Channel.
Drama/Family | USA | Directed by Todd Haynes
Critics are split on Todd Haynes' follow-up to Carol, Metacritic’s highest-scoring movie of 2015. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw was “disappointmentstruck and even rather boredomstruck” by this “self-conscious and twee YA fantasy” based on Brian Selznick’s acclaimed novel. However, the story of Ben (Oakes Fegley of Pete’s Dragon) and Rose (newcomer Millicent Simmonds), two children exploring New York City 50 years apart, impressed Manohla Dargis of The New York Times, who writes, “With extraordinary control, Mr. Haynes fluidly toggles between time periods — shifting from glorious Expressionistic color for the 1970s and richly textured black-and-white for the 1920s — holding you rapt with a tricky puzzle of a story that doesn’t wholly reveal itself until tears are filling your eyes.” The film will debut in limited release on October 20th before expanding nationwide sometime in November.
You Were Never Really Here
Drama/Thriller | UK | Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Writer-director Lynne Ramsay’s fourth film since Ratcatcher’s debut at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival stars Joaquin Phoenix (who was named the festival's best actor) as an ex-FBI enforcer who specializes in finding young girls kidnapped into sex slavery. An adaptation of Jonathan Ames' novella, the film was worked on up until the last minute and screened without end credits. But it nevertheless delighted many critics, especially Jessica Kiang of The Playlist who calls it a “film of prismatic brilliance” and “filmmaking of the purest, most inventive and energizing kind,” and wraps up her review with the question, “Can Lynne Ramsay please direct all movies, forever?” Joining her in praising the film, The Telegraph’s Tim Robey writes, “It is hard, harrowing, not-for-the-faint-of-heart stuff. But the immensity of Ramsay’s film lies in the scalpel surgery of her image-making, distilling and triple-distilling the stuff she shot to make every second count.” Amazon outbid A24 for rights for the film last year (spending a reported $3.5 million in the process), and plans to give it a theatrical release.
Check out our previous film festival coverage for a recap of 2017's other major festivals.