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Neptune, a long-time member of the AIWC, has been a movie critic for our magazine The Courier since the early ’90s. She’s been attending the Cannes Film Festival for nearly as long. This is what she has to say about the 2016 Cannes Film Festival that ended this past weekend:

So here are the incredible numbers: the Festival has 40,000 accredited professionals working for, and running around its tightly guarded halls, its tented beaches and between the hotels, restaurants and fabled parties. Of that, some 4,500-plus are journalists, with 11,500 industry badges in the Marche du Film. And it all runs quite smoothly thanks to its director, the intrepid cinephile, Thierry Frémaux and his hugely competent team. With 21 films in the main Competition vying for the Palme d’Or, 20 in the Certain Regard section, and other sidebars such as the Semaine de la Critique and the Director’s Fortnight, plus countless special screenings, this year has been a fine cru, though there were also the duds that make you wonder how they ever got picked.

This is no doubt the biggest, richest, glitziest film festival anywhere, with countless stars showing up daily for their films and the famed mounting of the red carpet ceremony. Photographers and fans go crazy with each new arrival of celebrities such as Susan Sarandon, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, or French stars such as Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard or Vanessa Paradis. And there is always the parade of models in amazing gowns to wow the crowds, along with glossy dailies to report on every moment of the festival. Free in all the top hotels along the Croisette.

It’s a yearly circus in homage to the importance of cinema, the seventh art, as the French call it.

 As one can’t possibly cover all the sections, here are a few Competition highlights :

I, DANIEL BLAKE, England – Ken Loach ****

Here’s a wonderfully relevant, touching human and social drama, as the great Loach has so often offered us. This one, concerning an English widower who has recently had a heart attack and is looking for financial relief from the government, tells his tale with superb acting, feeling and conviction. And does it in mercifully concise time. Deserves an award, just for that!

TONI ERDMANN, Germany – Maren Ade ****

This surprising and innovative story from Germany, of a curious father/daughter relationship, has till now been the biggest hit of the festival. After years of exclusion from Cannes (except for the occasional Wim Wenders work), this German film shows there is tremendous talent, humor and deep emotions from that country. May walk away with the Palme d’Or, if there is any justice.

MADEMOISELLE (The Handmaiden), Korea – Park Chan-Wook ***

A richly aesthetic period piece from Korea, this erotic, flamboyant thriller follows the trials and tribulations of a lowly handmaiden who becomes closely involved with her princess mistress. Could one call this a feminist cry from the Far East? This intriguing, sumptuous tale of confounding betrayals could be another award-winner.

Cannes Handmaiden

PATERSON, US – Jim Jarmusch ****

This minimal Jarmusch jewel (almost a Haiku) concerns a loving couple in a drab town in New Jersey. He is a bus driver and poet, she stays home and decorates their tiny home in black and white designs and bakes cupcakes. And they are content.

Adam Driver and the exquisite Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani shine in this moody, evocative tale of mutual acceptance and a sudden loss. It’s also a fine tribute to the poet William Carlos William. Don’t miss it, especially if you’re a Jarmusch fan.

AMERICAN HONEY, US – Andrea Arnold ***

Here’s a film about the wrong side of America as it tells of poor families in Texas and beyond, and young people on the run who come together to make money by hustling magazine subscriptions in this raw, erotic road movie. Shia LeBoeuf and new-comer Sasha Lane light up this fascinating film about the craziness of youth and improbable love in the rubbles. Glowingly filmed, it is unfortunately too long, and should be cut by at least half-an-hour.

HELL OR HIGH WATER, US – David Mackenzie **** (in the Certain Regard section)

This modern cowboy thriller should have been in the main competition. How often do you root for both sides of a chase, and feel for them too? Chris Pine and Ben Foster are outlaw brothers with a mission, while the always great Jeff Bridges is the soon-retiring Texas Marshall chasing them. This lazy, down-to-earth yarn is the perfect movie – scenario, acting, pacing and its intensity of emotions. Simply brilliant!

Cannes Hell or High Water

 JULIETA, Spain – Pedro Almodovar ***1/2

“Your absence fills my whole life and destroys it” is a crucial statement in this rich family drama from the Spanish master, Almodovar. How many delightfully colorful and intense films has he made about women, whom he loves and so well understands? Look them up – you will be astounded. Lovely females of all sizes, looks and ages – no matter, he comprehends them…and tells wonderfully complicated tales about them. This one, about a mother and daughter relationship, does not disappoint, with two exquisite actresses who portray the two different ages of the mother. Will the master win an award this year?

Two exceptional Iranian films are also at Cannes in the Competition and the Certain Regard sections: Farhadi’s (A Separation) THE SALESMAN and Behzad’s VAROONEGI (INVERSION).

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