2018 Cannes Film Festival Recap & Reviews

  • Publish Date: May 19, 2018
  • Comments: ↓ 4 user comments

Not such a bad year after all

Cannes 2018The 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival began with another Netflix controversy, as the upstart studio pulled its films (including Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma and Orson Welles’ recently completed final feature, The Other Side of the Wind) from the competition in response to Cannes banning any film that does not get a theatrical release in France. In the end, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings admitted, “We got into a bigger situation with Cannes than we meant to,” and the streaming service picked up two award winners–Happy as Lazzaro and Girl.

The specter of Harvey Weinstein haunted the festival (until he was banished by Asia Argento's speech at the closing ceremony), and, once again, articles questioned Cannes’ relevance. But early fears of a weak crop of films proved unfounded. Four titles left the Croisette with Metascores in the 90s—Cold War, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Wild Pear Tree and Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters—with Burning missing out by just one point. We’ll see how those scores hold up as the year progresses and the films are reviewed elsewhere, but, for now, it's better than the 2017 festival, when only three films scored that highly.

Even though Cannes veteran Hirokazu Kore-eda left with this year's top prize and Spike Lee took home second place (a deserving win but also a good make-up after the director was ignored in 1989 for Do the Right Thing), the strong slate was buoyed by new blood and (a few) more women directors. True, only three of the 21 films in competition (and another eight of 18 in the Un Certain Regard section) were directed by women, but two of those women, Nadine Labaki (Capernaum) and Alice Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro), are taking home the Jury Prize and best screenplay award, respectively.

Below, find out what critics are saying about all of this year's notable festival debuts, including films that screened out of competition or as part of the parallel Directors' Fortnight and International Critics' Week programs. (Note that Solo: A Star Wars Story is not included since it has since been screened and reviewed outside of the festival.) We begin with the big award winners.

Major award winners

Palme d'Or (1st place):
Drama | Japan | Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda

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2017 The Square 73
2016 I, Daniel Blake 77
2015 Dheepan 76
2014 Winter Sleep 87
2013 Blue Is the Warmest Color 88
Recent Palme d'Or winners

It's another peak for a director who already has many of them. At the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Japanese writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda won the Jury Prize for Like Father, Like Son. In 2015, Our Little Sister played in competition. This year he took home his first ever Palme d'Or.

Shoplifters is a return to the family-centered drama of those earlier films after a dip into genre with The Third Murder. Following a poor family that relies on petty crime to make ends meet, the film explores the meaning of kin, resulting in what CineVue’s John Bleasdale calls “one of his best works of recent years” and a “near-perfect film.” Indiewire’s David Ehrlich claims it’s “miraculous” and “among the very best of the writer-director’s delicate, deceptive, and profoundly moving dramas about the forces that hold a family together.” The film will be released in the U.S. by Magnolia.

Grand Prix (2nd place):
Drama/Comedy/Thriller | USA | Directed by Spike Lee

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2017 BPM (Beats Per Minute) 84
2016 It’s Only the End of the World 48
2015 Son of Saul 89
2014 The Wonders 76
2013 Inside Llewyn Davis 92
Recent Grand Prix winners

Produced by Jordan Peele, Spike Lee’s new joint tells the true story of Ron Stallworth (played by Denzel Washington’s son John David Washington), who, as the only black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department in the early 1970s, infiltrated the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. When his interactions with the Klan go beyond phone calls, Ron teams up with his colleague, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), to take down the hate group. Vulture’s Emily Yoshida believes it’s one of Lee’s “most flat-out entertaining films in years, and also one of his most uncompromising.” David Ehrlich of Indiewire claims it’s a “wildly uneven but consistently entertaining night at the movies,” and Screen Daily’s Tim Grierson agrees: “Led by strong performances from John David Washington and Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman is sobering, darkly funny, uneven and impossible to ignore.”

Jury Prize (3rd place):
Capernaum (Capharnaüm)
Drama | Lebanon | Directed by Nadine Labaki

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2017 Loveless 86
2016 American Honey 79
2015 The Lobster 81
2014 (tie) Goodbye to Language 75
  (tie) Mommy 74
2013 Like Father, Like Son 73
Recent Jury Prize winners

Actor-writer-director Nadine Labaki’s third film, following Where Do We Go Now? and Caramel, is “a big leap forward in ambition and craft” but also a “social-issue sadness pile that confuses nonstop hardship for drama, begging for our tears at every moment,” writes A.A. Dowd of the A.V. Club, who, despite this opinion, still expected the film to win the Palme d’Or. (It settled for third place instead.)

The set-up of the film—12-year-old Zain sues his parents for being born—turned some critics off, but The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw sees a “much angrier, tougher – and sometimes funnier – film than you might imagine from its cloying opening premise.” Writing for The Telegraph, Robbie Collin calls the film “sensational,” and defends it’s methods: “Some audience members at Cannes found its unstinting earnestness, big emotions and political charge too much.... But for me, it is the only possible approach Labaki could have taken, and the result is a film that already feels like a landmark.”

Winner, Un Certain Regard section:
Border (Gräns)
Thriller/Fantasy | Sweden/Denmark | Directed by Ali Abbasi

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Danish-Iranian director Ali Abbasi’s follow-up to Shelley is an adaptation of a novella by Let The Right One In author John Ajvide Lindqvist. A love story between Tina, a customs agent with an extraordinary sense of smell, and Vore, who introduces her to her true self, the film is “mesmerising in its initial oddness and develops into a complex, richly satisfying piece of storytelling in which all the seemingly jagged, awkward edges eventually fit smoothly together,” according to Allan Hunter of Screen Daily. CineVue’s Rory O’Connor also praises the film as a “piece of modern gothic, a far out midnight movie which delivers on the WTF-ery while maintaining a surprisingly big and generous heart.” Neon will release the film in the United States, though a date hasn't been set.

More awards

Other major award winners at this year's festival include:

  • Best director: Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
  • Caméra d’Or * (for best first feature): Lukas Dhont, Girl
  • Best screenplay: (tie) Alice Rohrwacher, Happy as Lazzaro and Jafar Panahi, 3 Faces
  • Best actor: Marcello Fonte, Dogman
  • Best actress: Samal Yeslyamova, Ayka

* awarded by a different jury led by director Ursula Meier; films screening in any of the various sections are eligible

Un Certain Regard

In addition to giving the top prize to Border (see above), the Benicio Del Toro-led UCR jury awarded Sergei Loznitsa best director honors for Donbass. The award for best performance went to Victor Polster for Lukas Dhont’s debut feature Girl. Those films are detailed below. In addition, best screenplay went to Meryem Benm'Barek-Aloisi for her debut feature Sofia, the story of a 20-year-old girl in Casablanca who gives birth to a baby out of wedlock. And a Special Jury Prize was given to The Dead and the Others, an experimental docudrama on the Kraho people of northeastern Brazil directed by Joao Salaviza and Renee Nader Messora.

Directors' Fortnight

Gaspar Noé’s Climax (detailed below) was the big winner at the Directors' Fortnight, taking home the Art Cinema Award, and Lucia’s Grace, directed by Gianni Zanasi and starring Alba Rohrwacher as a single working mother struggling to find balance in her life, won the Europa Cinemas Label Award for the section’s best European film. The SACD Award for best French-language film went to Pierre Salvadori’s The Trouble with You, a screwball comedy starring Adele Haenel, Audrey Tautou, and Damien Bonnard.

Critics' Week and others

The International Critics' Week sidebar awarded Diamantino, directed by Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt, its top award, and Benedikt Erlingsson’s Woman at War, picked up for distribution in the U.S. by Magnolia, won the SACD prize. Lastly, this year’s Palm Dog went to really the only film it could go to: Matteo Garrone's Dogman and Joy the Chihuahua, a surprising upset winner over Jack the Great Dane.

Other highlights

3 Faces
Drama | Iran | Directed by Jafar Panahi

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Since being banned from filmmaking in 2010 and barred from leaving Iran, Jafar Panahi has produced three highly regarded works: This Is Not a Film, Closed Curtain, and Taxi. His fourth film under his 20-year ban is “an artful, surprising and thrillingly intelligent story about a few women trying to make a difference, forging bonds of solidarity in quiet defiance of the repressive, small-minded men in their rural village,” writes L.A. Times critic Justin Chang, who also finds “its insights casually profound.” As in previous films, Panahi plays himself, and he’s joined by actress Behnaz Jafari as they seek to solve the mystery of a young girl’s video. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw deems 3 Faces “minor, but still rewarding,” while A.A. Dowd of the AV Club believes it’s a “lovely film, which fights for the liberation of multiple parties, the maker and his subjects.” Panahi also tied for the festival's best screenplay award.

Drama | Iceland | Directed by Joe Penna

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Brazilian director and YouTube star Joe Penna’s debut feature stars Mads Mikkelsen as a man stranded in the Arctic. Earning comparisons to All Is Lost due to its minimal dialogue and story of survival against brutal elements, Arctic is anchored by Mikkelsen’s “muscular performance,” according to Joe Walsh of CineVue. Indiewire’s David Ehrlich finds the film “more lucid than 127 Hours and more dynamic than All Is Lost (admittedly a low bar to clear),” and Gwilym Mumford of The Guardian claims it’s a “gripping and efficient addition to the rugged survivalist thriller genre.”

Ash Is Purest White
Drama | China/France | Directed by Zhang Ke Jia

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After winning best screenplay for A Touch of Sin in 2013 and competing with the critically praised Mountains May Depart, writer-director Jia Zhangke returned to Cannes with an epic tale of love between a gangster (Liao Fan of Black Coal, Thin Ice) and his girl (Jia’s wife and muse Zhao Tao) set against a swiftly changing 21st century China. Justin Chang of the L.A. Times believes Jia’s latest is “fierce, gripping, emotionally generous and surprisingly funny” and “feels like a summation of those two most recent pictures, even as it braids together settings and story elements from Jia's earlier films.” In his B+ review for the AV Club, A.A. Dowd writes, “Zhao holds it together through the sheer range of her performance, reverse-engineering an emotional continuity—an arc, even—that connects characters and past work she’s delivered for Jia. If the Cannes jury needs help selecting a Best Actress winner, they could start by penciling in this career summation.”

Birds of Passage (Pájaros de verano)
Drama | Colombia/Denmark | Directed by Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego

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After earning an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film for Embrace of the Serpent, director Ciro Guerra returned to the Director’s Fortnight with this story of an indigenous Wayuu family caught up in the Colombian drug trade. Set in the 1970s and co-directed by Cristina Gallego (a producer on Serpent), this “superbly crafted” film is both “ethnographic chronicle and art-house thriller,” according to Jordan Mintzer of THR. Calling it a “fascinatingly layered study in dueling tribal codes,” the L.A. Times’ Justin Chang writes, “In favoring an indigenous perspective, grounding its crime-thriller tropes in the rich soil of native tradition, the movie achieves a lyrical power and moral clarity all its own.”

Drama | Korea | Directed by Chang-dong Lee

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After winning best screenplay at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival for Poetry, filmmaker Lee Chang-dong returned with his latest, a loose adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning.” A mysterious tale of love and class, the critically lauded film revolves around a love triangle between deliveryman Jongsu (Ah-in Yoo), Haemi (Jong-seo Jun), a local girl he falls for, and Ben (Steven Yeun), the man she brings back home with her after a trip to Africa. Rory O’Connor of The Film Stage believes it “proves a rather gripping ride, even if the director arguably pours a little too much filler into the story’s more mysterious cracks.” Indiewire’s Eric Kohn finds it to be a “dark and often gripping look at the soul-searing plight of an alienated young man.” And critic Todd McCarthy praises the film in THR, writing, “Intelligence and subtle storytelling smarts are in evidence throughout Burning, which gratifyingly pays off the viewer’s investment of time.”

Drama/Horror/Musical | France | Directed by Gaspar Noé

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A major improvement over his last film, Love, Gaspar Noé’s latest cinematic experiment is supposedly based on a true story about a dance troupe whose rehearsal after-party descended into madness after someone spiked the drinks with LSD. In Noé’s version, it’s a drug-laden sangria that causes trouble for Sofia Boutella and the rest of the dancers. Indiewire’s Eric Kohn believes Climax might be Noé’s “best movie yet,” and Vulture’s Emily Yoshida agrees, claiming it’s “the best Noé has been in ages, and perhaps the most humane film he’s ever done.” Martyn Conterio of CineVue calls it “freaky, experimental, sometimes hilarious and unnervingly intense,” and Giovanni Marchini Camia of The Film Stage describes it as a “gloriously stupid, aesthetically enrapturing indulgence.”

Cold War
Drama | Poland/UK/France | Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

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Writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning Ida is a love story inspired by his parents, and it earned him an award for best director at this year's festival. Taking place in 1950s Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia, and Paris, and shot in Academy ratio black and white, the well-reviewed film follows two mismatched musicians, Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Zula (Joanna Kulig) through their up-and-down romance. Writing for the A.V. Club, A.A. Dowd describes Cold War as a “haunted postwar epic in miniature, like a novel written with the careful, precise economy of a short story.”The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw calls it a “mysterious, musically glorious and visually ravishing film,” and Alissa Wilkinson of Vox writes, “Cold War is a gorgeous, unyielding heartbreaker. A romance and a tragedy stretching across decades, it’s rich and allusive, a movie that promises to take its audience seriously and then delivers on that promise.”

Drama | Italy/France | Directed by Matteo Garrone

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This tale of a dog groomer (a much praised Marcello Fonte, winner of the festival's top acting award) entwined in a dangerous relationship with a violent, former boxer returns director Matteo Garrone (Tale of Tales) to the mob world of his international breakout, the Grand Prix-winning Gomorrah (a feat he repeated in 2012 with Reality). Inspired by a true case, Garrone’s latest is merely “involving and well made, rather than something flat-out great and essential” and “too humble and small-scale to be a serious Palme d’Or contender,” according to CineVue’s Martyn Conterio. For Indiewire’s David Ehrlich, the “brute force strength” of Garrone’s direction is still present, but it’s at the service of a “dull parable.” However, Lee Marshall of Screen Daily writes, “If narrative cinema is all about the harnessing of character and atmosphere in the service of a strong story, then Matteo Garrone’s follow-up to his 2015 Tale of Tales succeeds on every level.”

Drama | Germany/Ukraine/France/Netherlands/Romania | Directed by Sergei Loznitsa

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Director Sergei Loznitsa returned to Cannes just a year after having A Gentle Creature play in competition. His new film, screening in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival, combines his skills at narrative and documentary filmmaking to create a brutal mockumentary of loosely connected vignettes about the propaganda- and conflict-riddled Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. Comparing this work to Loznitsa’s last Cannes entry, TheWrap’s Ben Croll believes it’s a “more challenging, perhaps less fully rounded work, but it remains the uncompromised vision of a high-level international auteur.” Justin Chang of the L.A. Times calls it a “blast of pure, unfiltered rage aimed in Russia's general direction,” made more powerful by Loznitsa’s technique of using long takes that speak to the director’s “persistence of vision,” which results in an “astonishing technical and choreographic achievement,” as well as a “powerfully moral one.”

Drama | Belgium/Netherlands | Directed by Lukas Dhont

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Lukas Dhont’s Camera d'Or-winning debut feature is, according to CineVue’s Joseph Walsh, a “sympathetic and emotionally rich portrait” of Laura, a 15-year-old girl, born in the body of a boy, who dreams of becoming a ballerina. The lead role is played with impressive emotional and physical openness by cisgender actor Victor Polster, an issue acknowledged by critics, but one that for most did not diminish the power of the filmmaking. Peter Debruge of Variety calls it a “deeply humane first feature,” and The Playlist’s Jordan Ruimy writes, “With empathy and tenderness, Dhont takes us through Lara’s bittersweet awakening and the film is illuminated by her tenacity, her courage, and her grace.”

Happy as Lazzaro
Drama | Italy/Switzerland/France/Germany | Directed by Alice Rohrwacher

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After winning the Grand Prix for The Wonders at the 2014 festival, writer-director Alice Rohrwacher returned to Cannes this year and tied for the festival's best screenplay honors with a “fully formed expression of her virtuosic talents,” according to Rory O’Connor of The Film Stage. A film praised by Variety’s Guy Lodge as her “most richly strange feature yet” and a “willfully, gorgeously out-of-time work, one that tangles past and present with critical concern for the future,” her third feature is a fable that follows the eponymous peasant on a fantastical journey. New York Times critic Manohla Dargis writes, “With a sensitive touch that makes every face, tree and ray of light come alive, Ms. Rohrwacher creates a textured, vibrant portrait of a lost world that is at once emotionally sustaining and grossly exploitative.”

The Image Book (Le livre d'image)
Experimental | Switzerland | Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

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After being one of a number of directors who succeeded in shutting down the festival 50 years ago, Jean-Luc Godard returned to Cannes with with his latest film, a montage of pre-existing footage edited together with an eclectic soundtrack including commentary by the director. The A.V. Club’s A.A. Dowd claims the film makes Goodbye to Language (his 2014 Jury Prize winner) “look as clear-cut as Breathless.” And for John Bleasdale of CineVue, the film provoked very little “beyond irritation.” On the other hand, The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw finds the film “rich, disturbing and strange,” and writing for Time, Stephanie Zacharek sums up the thoughts of many critics, “Disjointed and direct, exhilarating and soporific, cerebral and squirrelly: The Image Book is lots of contradictory things at once.” Despite that somewhat mixed reaction from critics, the festival jury awarded Godard with a Special Palme d’Or for what Cate Blanchett described as “continually striving to define and redefine what cinema can be.”

Drama | Russia | Directed by Kirill Serebrennikov

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The new film from Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov, currently under house arrest on what many believe are trumped-up charges of corruption, is much looser and more ephemeral than his last film, the tightly focused study of fanaticism, The Student. Taking place over one summer in 1980s Leningrad, Leto is an unconventional biopic of Kino lead singer and songwriter Viktor Tsoi, based on his friendship with Mike Naumenko. Alissa Wilkinson of Vox thinks it “loses steam by the end but is still universally relatable,” but TheWrap’s Steve Pond believes like “rock ‘n’ roll itself, Leto aims to be great and doesn’t worry about being messy.”

Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Drama | China/France | Directed by Gan Bi

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This excellent second feature (which has nothing to do with the Eugene O’Neil play of the same title) from Chinese director Bi Gan (Kaili Blues) is “swooningly beautiful and technically staggering,” according to Justin Chang of the L.A. Times. The latter describes a single shot in the film as a “55-minute tour de force of sustained mobile camerawork to rival such one-take wonders as Russian Ark — and in 3-D, to boot. It’s like a Max Ophüls movie on crack, and the most magical piece of cinema I’ve seen in Cannes in many a year.” Writing for the The Playlist, Jordan Ruimy claims it’s a “mezmerizing, mysterious film, an indisputably great one.” And THR’s Jordan Mintzer praises Bi’s filmmaking as “bold and rare.”

Drama | France | Directed by Camille Vidal-Naquet

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Camille Vidal-Naquet’s debut feature follows Leo (Félix Maritaud, winner of the Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award in the Critic’s Week sidebar), a 22-year-old gay hustler in the city of Strasbourg. Screen Daily’s Lisa Nesselson thinks the film offers an “incredibly frank and involving immersive portrait impressively anchored by an in-every-frame performance from Félix Maritaud. And, writing for Vanity Fair, Richard Lawson admits it’s not a “comforting film by any means,” but it “achieves a sort of grace, in moments of sweetness and stillness, when the fullness of Leo’s being—be it ravaged and weary—is palpable and, finally, undeniable.”

Sorry Angel (Plaire, aimer et courir vite)
Drama | France | Directed by Christophe Honoré

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The latest film from Christophe Honoré (In Paris, Love Songs, Beloved) is a gay love story set in 1993 Paris. L.A. Times critic Justin Chang calls it a “superbly acted romance” between Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps), a 40-year-old writer with AIDS, and Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), a 22-year-old student. Some critics seem to like the film more than others. Bilge Ebiri of The Village Voice believes the “main relationship between Jacques and Arthur feels curiously inert,” and The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw finds “something disconcertingly passionless and anaemic” in the film. But Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair thinks Sorry Angel is a “stunningly, but subtly, mounted film—assured, assertive, but unfussy,” and THR’s Jon Frosch declares it to be “radiant and wrenching.”

Treat Me Like Fire (Joueurs)
Drama | France | Directed by Marie Monge

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Marie Monge’s debut feature is a love story set in Paris’ underground gambling scene starring Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) and Stacy Martin (Nymphomaniac). Rahim plays Abel, an addict and swindler who leads Martin’s Ella down the wrong path. The critical reaction ranged from mixed to positive. Screen Daily’s Tim Grierson believes Rahim and Martin have “electric chemistry,” but the film “can’t quite sell us on the characters’ reckless leap into oblivion.” However, in her review for Variety, Jessica Kiang writes, “Treat Me Like Fire is an engrossing and compelling tale about the dice-roll of female transformation, as well as a sexy little torch song for Paris by night, and for the men who make us into the women we are.

Documentary/Music | UK | Directed by Kevin Macdonald

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The latest documentary from director Kevin Macdonald is, like his Marley and Senna, another look at a star who died too young—in this case, singer Whitney Houston. So far, critics seem to prefer Macdonald's film to another recent documentary on the same topic, 2017’s Whitney: Can I Be Me. THR’s David Rooney believes Whitney is a “haunting, richly contextualized documentary portrait,” and Owen Gleiberman of Variety writes, “The film captures the quality that made Whitney Houston magical, but more than that it puts together the warring sides of her soul.”

The Wild Pear Tree (Ahlat Ağacı)
Drama | Turkey (+ 7 others) | Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

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After winning the Palme d’Or in 2014 for Winter Sleep, Nuri Bilge Ceylan returned to Cannes with another long, dense, dialogue-heavy film, and it's currently the highest-scoring film to come out of this year's festival. Charting the return of Sinan, a recent college graduate with dreams of being a writer, to his hometown and his father’s debts, the film is “another towering cinematic experience,” according to Martyn Conterio of CineVue. The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin find it “sensual and lyrical, tremendously well acted, heavy in visual and verbal metaphor, and so ablaze with pastoral beauty that the hillsides and forests seem to glow with their own amber light,” and Eric Kohn of Indiewire agrees, claiming the film “maintains a visual sophistication unparalleled in international cinema.”

Woman at War (Kona fer í stríð)
Comedy/Drama | Iceland/France/Ukraine | Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson

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Benedikt Erlingsson’s follow-up to Of Horses and Men is “another skillfully crafted, surreally told tale of man and nature — or in this case, woman and autre — but one with more emotional depth and sharper political undertones” than his previous film, according to Jordan Mintzer of THR. The hard-to-characterize film (which blends comedy, musical, political drama and more) follows Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, in a highly praised performance) as she battles the local aluminum industry in order to protect her beloved Icelandic Highlands. The result is offbeat and stylized—among other things, the film's score is performed on screen— but Variety’s Jay Weissberg thinks it’s a “gloriously Icelandic (for lack of a better adjective), near-perfect follow-up to Of Horses and Men.”

The World Is Yours (Le Monde est à toi)
Comedy | France | Directed by Romain Gavras

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Romain Gavras’ follow-up to Our Day Will Come is an action comedy that “zips along with all the bright, bouncy energy of a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon,” according to Stephen Dalton of THR. Set in the world of French gangsters, the film follows François (Karim Leklou) as he tries to make a deal in Spain to earn back all of his hard-earned money that his mother (Isabelle Adjani) has gambled away. Nothing goes as planned for François, resulting in a film that Indiewire’s David Ehrlich describes as “Sexy Beast, Spring Breakers, and Little Miss Sunshine all blended together and served with a lad-rock swagger; it’s the best movie that Guy Ritchie never made.”

The disappointments

The Angel
Drama | Argentina/Spain | Directed by Luis Ortega

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Based on the true story of Carlos Robledo Puch, the longest-serving prisoner in the history of Argentina, Luis Ortega’s latest feature is a “stylish period piece boasting solid performances, colorful visuals and a terrific vintage soundtrack,” according to Stephen Dalton of THR, though the critic also finds the film more "shiny" than "probing." Taking place in 1971 Buenos Aires, the film is “compelling in the moment, but seems irresponsible with any afterthought,” writes Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson, though he finds star Lorenzo Ferro “beguiling” in his debut. While the film leaves out some of Puch’s more brutal crimes, Allan Hunter of Screen Daily believes Ortega and Ferro have made a “brash, vibrant, Scorsese-flavoured true crime drama.”

Angel Face (Gueule d'ange)
Drama | France | Directed by Vanessa Filho

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Vanessa Filho’s debut feature about the fraught relationship between 8-year-old Elli (Ayline Aksoy-Etaix) and her hot-mess of a mother, Marlène (Marion Cotillard) has major problems despite the best efforts of the newcomer in the tile role. David Ehrlich of Indiewire claims Cotillard can’t even save an uninteresting character in what amounts to a “trite story” and a “tedious melodrama.” Several critics have commented about how much better The Florida Project handled similar material. For example, Variety’s Peter Debruge writes, “Not many are likely to mistake what Marion Cotillard does in Angel Face for great acting, as the glamorous French star gives a performance so phony it feels like a Saturday Night Live parody of a white-trash trainwreck, downright pathetic in its attempt to achieve what came so naturally to relative amateur Bria Vinaite in last year’s The Florida Project.”

Asako I & II
Drama | Japan/France | Directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi

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Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's follow-up to the five-hour Happy Hour is “less ambitious and lacks the raw honesty or spellbinding intensity of that film,” according to Maggie Lee of Variety. Based on Tomoka Shibasaki’s 2010 novel, the film chronicles Asako’s relationship with the free-spirited Baku and the dependable Ryohei, who happens to look just like Baku. Screen Daily’s Jonathan Romney finds it to be a “coolly-executed but emotionally numb exercise.” But A.A. Dowd of the A.V. Club believes the film “ultimately works as a mellow date movie with some big insights about relationships—accessible and artful, a combination that should be more common, honestly.”

At War (En guerre)
Drama | France | Directed by Stéphane Brizé

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At the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, Stéphane Brizé directed Vincent Lindon to a best actor win for The Measure of a Man. They returned to Cannes this year with this intense drama about a labor dispute. Lindon, plays the leader of a 1100 employee strike, and it’s “another sterling performance,” according to Martyn Conterio of CineVue. Similarly, Variety’s Jessica Kiang believes “Lindon adds another rivetingly real characterization to his muscular everyman repertoire.” But while Lindon shines, the film around him is earning mixed reviews. Indiewire’s Eric Kohn calls it a “middling social justice drama,” though Lisa Nesselson of Screen Daily believes it’s a “story worth telling, well told.”

Everybody Knows
Drama | France/Spain/Italy | Directed by Asghar Farhadi

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The latest from writer-director Asghar Farhadi opened the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, but it was a disappointment from a director who has consistently impressed critics and jurors, and who was only two years removed from winning best screenplay for The Salesman at Cannes in 2016. Starring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, Farhadi’s latest pivots on a disappearance (in this case a kidnapping) much like his 2009 film About Elly, but CineVue’s Joe Walsh believes it “lacks the subtlety of his early work, yet he still shows he has the ability to deliver devastating blows that leave you stunned.” Writing for the L.A. Times, Justin Chang finds it “absorbing enough but lacking in any real sense of revelation.” And Manohla Dargis of The N.Y. Times claims Farhadi’s script is “far too busy — the movie is crammed with characters and underexplored themes, including class tensions, nativism and ugly attitudes toward migrant workers — but he’s exceptionally deft at mining the spaces that open up between people, particularly during a crisis.”

Girls of the Sun (Les filles du soleil)
Drama | France | Directed by Eva Husson

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Writer-director Eva Husson changes things up from her last feature, Bang Gang, with this story of an all-female battalion (led by Golshifteh Farahani) in Kurdistan and the journalist (Emmanuelle Bercot) who embeds with them to witness the liberation of their hometown from ISIS. Variety’s Jay Weissberg claims it’s a “pedantically commonplace drama,” and even the talented Farahani and Bercot “can’t do anything with lines or situations so lacking in nuance.” However, Martyn Conterio of CineVue finds the story (based on real events) “horrifyingly captivating,” and Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gives this “heartfelt, forthright and muscular” film four out of five stars, praising its “powerful, forceful story.”

The House That Jack Built
Drama/Thriller | Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany | Directed by Lars von Trier

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Returning to Cannes seven years after being banned for ill-advised comments about how he’s a “Nazi” and “understands Hitler,” Lars von Trier did what Lars von Trier does—provoke. His latest stars Matt Dillon as Jack, a serial killer in von Trier’s version of 1970s America. Built around five killings (of a claimed 60), the film plays out as a dialogue between Jack and Verge (Bruno Ganz) about art, violence, music, and architecture, which in the end is really an assessment of von Trier and his career. It's also incredibly violent, with much of that violence aimed at women and children (and one unlucky duck). That might explain why a reported 100 moviegoers walked out in the middle of the screening.

As expected, critics split on this one. Giving the film four out of four stars, Slant’s Sam C. Mac claims it “already feels like von Trier’s greatest film to date,” while Eric Kohn of Indiewire thinks it’s “possibly brilliant.” Landing somewhere in the middle are Screen Daily’s Tim Grierson, who finds it “fascinating, confounding, decidedly mixed,” and Variety’s Owen Gleiberman, who believes it’s “halfway between a subversive good movie and a stunt.”

Decidedly negative on the film is The Playlist’s Jessica Kiang, who describes the structure as a “kind of Human Centipede ass-to-mouth concertina of gruesome misogyny and utter tedium.” Also not a fan is Justin Chang of the L.A. Times, who writes about this “hectoring, masturbatory slog” of a movie, “Lars von Trier is a stupid, arrogant troll and, when the mood strikes him, a reasonably talented filmmaker. But there are only a few moments in The House That Jack Built in which his stupidity doesn't entirely overwhelm and negate his talent.”

Knife + Heart (Un couteau dans le coeur)
Thriller | France/Mexico/Switzerland | Directed by Yann Gonzalez

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Yann Gonzalez’s second feature stars Vanessa Paradis as Anne, a gay porn producer who tries to win back her lover (and editor) by shooting her most amazing film yet. Unfortunately, one of the actors is murdered, and Anne gets caught up in the investigation. Set in 1979 Paris, the film received decent, though somewhat underwhelming reviews. Gonzalez (the brother of M83’s Anthony Gonzalez, who provides the score) has directed the “most legitimately underground of the main competition selections, though certainly not the worst or the least interesting,” according to A.A. Dowd of A.V. Club. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw thinks Gonzalez “has a feel for the exoticism and occult lure and lore of this world. But it is trying very hard for something more, some enigma that exists above and beyond it all.” And CineVue’s Martyn Conterio believes the “strongly presented and intriguing first half gives away to a peculiarly disjointed second.”

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
Adventure/Sci-fi | Spain/France/Belgium/Portugal | Directed by Terry Gilliam

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Rare is the movie that is preceded by its own making-of documentary ... by a full 15 years. More than 25 years in the making all told, Terry Gilliam’s riff on Miguel de Cervantes‘ Don Quixote survived one more lawsuit to finally premiere at Cannes, where its reception was mixed at best. While 2002’s Lost in La Mancha chronicled the disastrous 2000 attempt to get the film made, the planned sequel documentary will have to settle for the satisfaction of completion instead of critical triumph.

Adam Driver leads the cast as Toby, an advertising director who seeks inspiration in the small village in which he once shot a student film. There he finds the Spanish shoe-maker who played Don Quixote in the film. Mistaking Toby for Sancho Panza, the two men flee the town on an adventure THR’s David Rooney describes as a “tiresome succession of unfunny slapstick clashes and dramatic arcs that go nowhere.” Peter Debruge of Variety also finds it to be a “lumbering, confused, and cacophonous mess,” but, while acknowledging that it’s almost impossible to divorce the film from its production woes, Indiewire’s Eric Kohn writes, “It’s sloppy and amateurish in parts, but always reaching for something, often resulting in a fascinating half-formed beast working through a lot of baggage: a vanity project about the nature of vanity, centered around one of literature’s most famous examples, in the context of the most famous vanity projects of all time coming to fruition. The whole thing is very Gilliamesque.”

Drama | Kenya/South Africa/France/Netherlands/Germany | Directed by Wanuri Kahiu

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Banned in its native country before its premiere at Cannes, Kenyan writer-director Wanuri Kahiu’s sophomore feature is a love story between Kena and Ziki, two women from rival political families. Based on the short story Jambala Tree by Monica Arac de Nyeko, the first Kenyan film to play the festival is “just good enough to give its modest intentions a historic purpose, bringing fresh context to an old formula while hitting the expected emotional beats,” according to Eric Kohn of Indiewire. In fact, critics seem to want to like the movie more than they actually do. THR's David Rooney bemoans a lack of "narrative complexity," but while CineVue’s Joseph Walsh admits that the film “may have its flaws,” he adds that there is “no denying the power and passion poured into the project. It would take a callous heart not to fall for the charms of the leads, and the urgency of the story.”

Under the Silver Lake
Drama/Comedy/Thriller | USA | Directed by David Robert Mitchell

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Coming off the success of the horror film It Follows, writer-director David Robert Mitchell shifts into noir with his latest feature, but the results appear to be much less favorable. Andrew Garfield stars as Sam, who becomes an amateur sleuth when a mysterious woman (Riley Keough) he meets one night at his apartment complex disappears. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw dismisses the result as “catastrophically boring, callow and indulgent,” and David Rooney of THR believes the “more Mitchell elucidates his flagrantly complicated plot, the less interesting it becomes.” However, Giovanni Marchini Camia of The Film Stage thinks the “plot’s construction might be derivative, but its serpentine execution is flawless.” And Screen Daily’s Tim Grierson writes, “Mitchell’s dexterity at balancing romance, comedy and thrills — as well as exploring the poetic metaphors below the surface — consistently rewards the viewer’s patience.”

Adventure/Drama/Comedy | Egypt | Directed by A.B. Shawky

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Following Beshay, a man cured of leprosy, and Obama, an orphan, as they journey across Egypt in search of Beshay’s parents, writer-director A.B. Shawky’s debut feature is dividing critics, except for the praise given to Rady Gamal and Ahmed Abdelhafiz in the lead roles. A.A. Dowd of the A.V. Club finds the movie “aggressively maudlin,” but admits that if there’s “any power to this manipulative movie, it lies in quiet dignity of its lead performance, delivered by a nonprofessional actor from an actual leper colony.” Finding it “deeply engaging and often funny” is CineVue’s John Bleasdale, while Tim Grierson of Screen Daily believes this “muted, emotionally precise road movie” makes up in “grace what it lacks in urgency.”


Comments (4)

  • eli_fjr  


  • Fakhar  

    really liked

  • Fakhar  

    awsome very interesting keep up good work

  • Pavlin  

    Cool work, thanks

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