From 'American Honey' to 'Risk': Ten most intriguing films from Cannes 2016

Mihir Fadnavis

May,24 2016 11:47 03 IST

Now that the celebrities have made the news with their strange lipsticks and bizarre gowns, it’s time to talk about the real stuff from Cannes 2016 – the films. As is the case every year, the Cannes favourite filmmakers failed to live up to the hype, but a whole bunch of unexpected gems showed up.

Here are ten of the most intriguing films from this year’s fest:

The Wailing

Dir: Na Hong-Jin

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Youtube screen grab from the film's trailer.

The Korean filmmaker behind the classics The Chaser and The Yellow Sea made a raging return to form with The Wailing, a horror thriller that’s been hailed by some reviews as a masterpiece. The story chronicles a sleepy little village that undergoes a frightening series of events after a mysterious stranger shows up. Keeping with the filmmaker’s style there’s plenty of suspense and gore to look forward to.

Peshmerga

Dir: Bernard-Henri Lévy

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Still from Peshmerga. Image from Facebook.

The title of the film refers to the Kurdish military force deployed to protect Northern Iraq against terrorist organizations like the ISIS. This documentary film follows the squad along enemy lines and captures some terrifying battle footage along the way. Much like last year’s Cartel Land, the film dares to give you a bird’s eye view of a war that can never end.

American Honey

Dir: Andrea Arnold

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Still from 'American Honey'. Image from Facebook.

After Fish Tank and the gorgeous Wuthering Heights director Arnold makes a grand return with American Honey, described by critics as a sprawling portrait of young outcasts. The film follows newcomer Sasha Lane who plays a soft-spoken Texas girl trying to deal with her broken home and her abusive father, until she escapes with a minivan group led by Shia LeBouef which sells magazines to fund their petrol and food. By the looks of it the film is a strange combination of Bonnie and Clyde and Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers.

Aquarius

Dir: Kleber Mendonça Filho

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The Brazilian film Aquarius has been hailed as a richly detailed character study of a female retired music critic. The dilemma she faces is unexpected – the lovely seaside building that she lives in is bought by a corporation that plans to replace the quaint residence with an awful corporate office like monstrosity. It’s a kind of a problem that resonates with most viewers, and would be fascinating to see what film critic turned acclaimed filmmaker Mendoca Filho does with the plot.

Toni Erdmann

Dir: Maren Ade

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Youtube screen grab from the trailer.

The German film made a big splash at Cannes, to the point of astonishing the critics when it didn’t win any awards. The story follows a German music teacher who loves to play bourgeois pranks and his last student stops attending his class. He then visits his daughter whose career-oriented behavior takes a major hit due to his eccentricities. The film has pretty much the best recipe - an outrageous comedy that slowly descends into unexpectedly dark territory.

After The Storm

Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda

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Youtube screen grab from the trailer.

Like Father Like Son filmmaker Kore-eda returns with another film with similar themes of isolation in the Japanese society. The film follows a writer struggling to live up to the success of his first novel and dealing with vices such as gambling and ego. While researching his next book he begins to spy on his ex wife who is now seeing another man. Reality hits him when he discovers that their son, in the custody of his mother is perfectly happy without him. The film has received glowing reviews, and one hopes it shows up at Indian film festivals.

Sieranevada

Dir: Cristian Puiu

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Image from Facebook.

The reviews of Romanian filmmaker Puiu’s film are evenly good but the setting itself is fascinating. The film takes place almost entirely in an apartment getting ready for a funeral. Guaranteeing a claustrophobic watch, the cameras follow different people from the family in the house trying to deal with a family member’s death in their own way, revealing things that should only be kept unsaid.

Graduation

Dir: Criatian Mungiu

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Youtube screen grab.

The other acclaimed Romanian film at Cannes, Graduation puts 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days director Mungiu back to his roots – in the underbelly of Cluj. The film follows a surgeon who for some reason is a target by unknown pranksters, and whose daughter is mugged and assaulted on her way to her exams. With handheld cameras, bleak blue tones, and the exploration of graas roots corruption, Mungiu’s latest has been heralded as a return to form for a filmmaker whose previous film Beyond the Hills was criticized for being too self indulgent.

Elle

Dir: Paul Verhoeven

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Youtube screen grab.

The filmmaker behind some of the most nihilistic films of all time like Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers returns after years with Elle, another nasty takedown of the society we live in. This time the story follows a rich video game honcho named Michelle (Isabelle Huppert) who is attacked by a masked man at her Parisian home. Like all Verhoeven’s previous films, Elle packs presents a bus load of moral dilemmas with a satirical bite and a layer of icily dark entertainment full of sex, violence and, in this case, video games.

Risk

Dir: Laura Poitras

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Image from Facebook.

Citizenfour helmer Poitras returns with a sort of a sequel, where we once again follow the life of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. While the previous film was more about what happened when Wikileaks first made headlines, this one is more a portrait of Assange himself, delving into the complex and often self contradictory nature of the man. It’s an important film, given how Wikileaks sets a precedent for society to rise up against murky government schemes while the face of the revolt is such a fragmented personality.

The Neon Demon

Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn

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Image from Facebook.

The best thing about Refn’s films is that they always polarize the viewers. There’s no middle ground in his films – either you love them or hate them. The Neon Demon follows a similar pattern as half the reviews called it a classic while the other half couldn’t stomach its audacity. The film follows a new girl in the fashion industry and discovering that you have to eat your way through to become famous. If you’re familiar with Refn’s films, you can expect the eating part to be quite literal.

Honorable Mentions:

The Handmaiden by Park Chan Wook, which received mixed reviews but praise for its cinematography, sets and lesbian sex.

It’s only the End of the World by Xavier Dolans, who won the grand prize but was also embroiled in a controversial twitter fight after he couldn’t take criticism from those who didn’t like the film.

I Daniel Blake by Ken Loach, which won the Palm d’Or and follows an ailing carpenter’s struggle against a broken health care system.