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The Conversation: Five Most Anticipated Titles of Cannes 2016

Judging by the lineup of auteurs competing in the main competition at Cannes 2016, thus far it’s already promising to be a stellar festival, rivaling the memories of recent potent programs from 2009 and 2012. Whereas the 2015 program was a bit heavy on English language films (and shadowed by a baffling calculation as concerns awards), French films (including co-productions and affiliations), are in abundance. Also, an unprecedented number of queer filmmakers (Dolan, Guiraudie, Almodovar) along with three women directors (Garcia, Arnold, Ade) marks 2016 as one of the most daringly diverse in recent memory, with Maren Ade marking the first German filmmaker to appear in the competition lineup since Wim Wenders in 2008. As always, there will be discoveries and disappointments, but overall, it’s an exciting line-up on paper.

Due to the generous selections in the main competition, I am including several honorable mentions from the sidebars worthy of excitement:

Special Screenings/Out of Competition/Critics’ Week
Securing an out of competition slot is the latest thriller from South Korea’s Na Hong-jin, Gokseong. In a Special Screening is Spanish filmmaker Albert Serra’s latest, Last Days of Louis XIV, while Critics’ Week has Julie Ducournau’s intriguing debut Grave (aka Raw), and the latest feature from Italy’s Alessandro Comodin, Happy Days Will Come Again.

Un Certain Regard:
Hirokazu Koreeda got snagged in UCR this year with After the Storm, which should certainly have the interests of completists, and the program also hosts the lone Russian entry, The Student from Kiril Serebrennikov. But the latest film from the Coulin Sisters, The Stopover, should be of interest as well as Apprentice, what’s been described as a violent thriller from South Korea’s Boo Junfeng. Given the quality of David Mackenzie’s work (such as Asylum, Perfect Sense, or Starred Up) there’s a certain interest for his Hell or High Water.

Directors’ Fortnight:
Competing for a glorified program of his own, Edouard Waintrop continues to snag some coups otherwise predicted for the main competition, opening this year with Marco Bellocchio’s Sweet Dreams. Berenice Bejo headlines the film, along with Joachim Lafosse’s L’economie du Couple, also in the Quinzaine des Realisateurs. Expectations are also high for Paolo Virzi’s latest, Like Crazy, while not to be missed are Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Endless Poetry and fellow Chilean Pablo Larrain’s Neruda. The program also includes the first woman Afghan director Shahrbanoo Sadat with Wolf and Sheep.

But to be honest, my five most anticipated titles are:

5. Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper


Assayas has long been a favorite of mine, perhaps first with his superb 1996 homage Irma Vep. But I tend to greatly enjoy his underrated, offbeat forays into genre, like 2001’s Demonlover. His 2014 Clouds of Sils Maria was an unexpected wonder featuring Binoche and Kristen Stewart, so expectations are high for his second collaboration with the American star, a ghost story set in the underworld Parisian fashion scene.

4. Alain Guiraudie’s Rester Vertical


Details are slim on the latest from Alain Guiraudie, who had a breakthrough with his excellent 2013 film Stranger By the Lake, premiering in Un Certain Regard. He’s been invited to the main stage this year, and one would expect something unpredictable.

3. Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius


Brazilian filmmaker Kleber Mendonca Filho broke out on the festival circuit with 2012 debut Neighboring Sounds (review), a forerunner from a new talented crop brewing out of South America. His latest features the elegant Sonia Braga and promises to be an inspired sci-fi tinged tale with social subtexts.

2. Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann


If you haven’t seen Maren Ade’s 2009 sophomore film Everyone Else, stop what you’re doing and seek it out (her 2003 debut The Forest for the Trees is quite good, as well). After years in development, this massively ambitious project which portends to be about a father attempting to reconnect with his daughter, was the best surprise in the 2016 crop due to the difficulty of either women or German directors landing in the main competition.

1. Paul Verhoeven’s Elle


Paul Verhoeven is back with his first feature in a decade and adapting from a novel by Philippe Djian, the guy who wrote Betty Blue? And it stars Isabelle Huppert as a woman who stalks the man who raped her? A delicious pairing of auteur and star marks Elle as one of my most anticipated projects of the year, and it is Verhoeven’s first time at Cannes since 1992’s Basic Instinct. Huppert is a Cannes fixture, and incomplete the years seem where she doesn’t appear somewhere in the main competition or the official program. She’s one of four women ever to win Best Actress twice at the festival (the others being Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave, and Barbara Hershey). 2016 promises to be a stiff year for Best Actress contenders, but highlighted among them is Huppert.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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