What are the best films out of this year's Cannes Film Festival? Which ones should you be taking an interest in? What are the priorities? After 12 days at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, after 28 screenings, it's time to present my 2016 list of my Top 7 Favorite Films. I love Cannes and this year it was a particularly fantastic year of films, with so many that will stick with me well beyond the festival. Many of these will be well received outside of the festival, too. Jim Jarmusch's Paterson is already one of my all-time favorites, seriously, it's a perfect film and I went to see it twice because I'm so in love with it. There are many others worth checking out, and this is my final recap of the festival (with a full list of all the films I saw at the end).
Cannes once again makes a political statement - as they did with Dheepan last year and Winter Sleep (from Turkey) the year before. Winners of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival awards, including the coveted Palme d'Or, were revealed at a glamorous ceremony in Cannes featuring Donald Sutherland and George Miller. The big winner is Ken Loach for his film I, Daniel Blake, about an aging man in the UK who struggles to get welfare because of a very broken system. This is the second Palme d'Or for Ken Loach, who won for The Wind That Shakes the Barley in 2006; he has also received four other awards in Cannes previously. A few of my other favorites, including The Red Turtle and Captain Fantastic, also won awards this year. See below.
When covering film festivals in the press, most reports are about the many films (with hundreds of reviews published daily) or the celebrities on the red carpet or the business deals being made in the market. Rarely is there any discussion about the people who attend the festival, the die-hard cinephiles from all over who spend two weeks in the South of France watching films. Whenever I'm asked to describe the Cannes Film Festival, there's always one thought that comes to mind first - it's the most well known film festival in the entire world. Sundance draws mostly American crowds, with some international coverage. But Cannes is the place where the world comes together to experience cinema history. I'm inspired by the way this unites us.
Anyone who isn't familiar with this filmmaker yet needs to start watching his films. Asghar Farhadi is an Iranian filmmaker with quite a few films on his filmography already, including most recently A Separation (which won the Academy Award in 2011) and The Past. Farhadi returns to the Cannes Film Festival with his latest film, titled The Salesman (originally titled Forushande), and while it doesn't top A Separation it's a very solid morality tale that deals with the issue of revenge and fear. The first film that comes to mind that handles this topic similarly is The Revenant, another story of revenge where the lesson is that revenge is an empty pursuit that doesn't provide satisfaction, only more pain or suffering. A lesson learned the hard way.
This film is going to piss off some people, and I love it even more because of that. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn returns to the Cannes Film Festival again after his previous film, Only God Forgives, was panned by critics in 2013. His latest, titled The Neon Demon, was booed at the press premiere yet again - but I'm on the opposite side as all of those people. This film admittedly doesn't have much of a real story to follow, but it does have oh so much more to offer. The Neon Demon is a totally wicked, totally messed up, neon-drenched study on vanity/narcissism featuring one hell of an exhilarating synth score. It's subversive and Refn knows it, so much so that he's almost laughing at the audience (and the people who hate his films).
What a magnificent one-of-a-kind animated film. The Red Turtle is animated film from director Michael Dudok de Wit, produced by the legendary Studio Ghibli with Isao Takahata involved as an artistic consultant, even though the animation was finished in France. The film is about a man who washes up on a desert island after a destructive storm, and every time he attempts to build a bamboo raft and escape, a red turtle appears out of nowhere and demolishes it. He finally gives up and accepts his fate and explores the island. The film is very simple and tells an inspiring story without any dialogue, only a few shouts of "hey" and other noises, but that's it. It's so simple yet so beautiful; I honestly was moved to tears by a few scenes.
With the conversion to digital cinema nearly complete worldwide, will 35mm still live on somewhere? This documentary is proof that yes, a love for film and 35mm projection will live on forever, even in the most remote places in the world where it's hard to even get electricity. The Cinema Travelers is a documentary made by directors Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya and it profiles a traveling cinema in India, which shows up in desolate places of the country with very basic projection rigs to show classic films to swarms of people. It is absolutely wonderful to discover, capturing so spectacularly the joy and wonder that movies bring to people of all ages. It evokes the same emotions as Cinema Paradiso, but this is all real life.
Not even snozzcumbers can fix this film. Why did it feel so bland and so pointless? It's hard to make sense of it. Steven Spielberg's latest film, an adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic book The BFG, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Oddly, it seems very out of place here. It's definitely a kids movie, to a fault, as it's the kind of kids movie that you can't really enjoy unless you're younger than 16 years old. And that's not the case for most kids movies (see: Pixar). Spielberg does his best to bring stunning visuals and great performances to the film, but it lacks that magic touch of his previous work, and seriously lacks an actual story. There's a young girl, a friendly giant, lots of snozzcumbers, the Queen of England, but not much else.
This is the story of the Lovings, Richard and Mildred Loving. This isn't the story of how they met and fell in love, but this is the true story of how they changed America forever by staying true to their love. Loving is the latest film from the immensely talented filmmaker Jeff Nichols, who also made the film Midnight Special released this year, too. Joel Edgerton stars as Richard Loving, a mumbling hard-working family man, and Ruth Negga plays his wife Mildred, a soft spoken and resilient woman. The two were married in the 1950s and lived in Virginia, and at the time were arrested for simply being an interracial married couple. Their appeal eventually made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where they rejected this racism and won.
I'm floating. I'm so in love with this film. I'm just going to say it - Paterson is a perfect film. There isn't a single thing I would change. Every scene, every moment, every line - it's perfection. Paterson is the latest film from Jim Jarmusch, a veteran filmmaker who has spent many years making all kinds of different films. This time he tells a very personal story of a poet, played by Adam Driver, who is actually a humble bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. The name and location is significant because a couple of legendary poets also spent time in Paterson. The film reminded me of Inside Llewyn Davis (Cannes 2013), about the way great talent often stays hidden, yet if that film was near perfect - this one is its totally perfect counterpart.
What a film. It's not often that a film running a lengthy 2 hours and 42 minutes is easy to sit through, but in this case I'm happy to report I was caught up in this story all the way to the end. American Honey is the latest feature from British filmmaker Andrea Arnold (of Fish Tank, Red Road previously). This time she heads to America to profile a group of wild, carefree youngsters selling magazines while driving around the mid-west in a van. As boring as that might sound, it's actually an incredible look at the life of these kids and it exquisitely captures a side of Americana that we rarely see shown in this way. This way meaning - shown in a positive light, shown in a way where even though their lifestyle is pretty shitty (they often steal and live together in motel rooms), they seem to be living that glorious life that many are seeking but can't truly find.
The opening film in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival is an intense, riveting feature called Clash (also known as Eshtebak in Egyptian) and it's outstanding. Clash is set entirely inside the back of a police paddywagon in Egypt in 2013, during the second half of their revolution. It begins when two journalists are grabbed during protests, their cameras and IDs confiscated, and thrown into the back of this truck. The impressive handheld camerawork often focuses on all the action outside as much as what's happening inside. While the entire film is confined to this one location, it feels like director Mohamed Diab is showing so much more of the Egyptian revolution, and we get to learn more as more detainees are added.