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The 69th Cannes Film Festival was a strange menagerie of beasts. Front-loaded with perhaps too many of Thierry Frémaux’s usual suspects – Woody Allen, Ken Loach, the Dardenne brothers, Pedro Almodóvar – their contributions were often simply whelming: not over, not under, just there. Even some of the younger directors in competition are now becoming seasoned regulars. Nicolas Winding Refn showed his third film in a row in Cannes and Xavier Dolan returned once again having done his Jury service last year and sharing a Jury Prize with Jean-Luc Godard the year before.
The darling of the critics this year was arguably German comedy Toni Erdmann, which received a rapturous welcome upon its initial press screening. Those of us who saw it the next day weren’t quite as bowled over by Maren Ade’s film, about a dad who likes dressing up like Ken Dodd to the mortification of his businesswoman daughter. Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson and Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden were also widely applauded, whereas Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper and Paul Verhoeven’s daring Elle split the critics dramatically. Likewise, Nicolas Winding Refn’s beautiful but brutal The Neon Demon drew fairly wide-ranging reactions which no doubt delighted the impish Dane.
In the end the coveted Palme d’Or went to veteran British director Ken Loach for his excoriating denouncement of 21st century Tory rule, I, Daniel Blake. Loach has been a staple of the festival and this was his second Palme d’Or following his triumph with 2006’s The Wind which Shakes the Barley. Fellow Brit Andrea Arnold picked up the Jury Prize for American Honey and Xavier Dolan received the Grand Prix for It’s Only the End of the World. Other gongs went to Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman – both for its lead actor Shahab Hosseini and its screenplay – and to Olivier Assayas and Christian Mungiu, who shared the Best Director prize for Personal Shopper and Graduation respectively.
In the Un Certain Regard section, The Happiest Day in the Life of Ollie Maki deservedly picked up the main prize. This black and white boxing drama/love story is like a Finnish Rocky, with all the sweetness of the original Stallone character brought to the fore. Captain Fantastic also picked up a award, but Hirokazu Kore-eda’s deep comedy of a failing family, After the Storm, and David Mackenzie’s exhilarating cops and robbers thriller Hell or High Water both failed to garner recognition. In the other sidebars some of the most interesting films in the whole of Cannes received premieres. Pablo Larrain went from strength to strength with period piece Neruda and debut feature Raw created a lot of buzz with its tale of a vegetarian veterinary student who goes feral after eating meat during a student hazing ritual.
Best Short Film: Timecode
Caméra d’Or (Best First Feature): Divines
Honorary Palme d’Or: Jean-Pierre Léaud
Best Actor: Shahab Hosseini, The Salesman
Jury Prize: Andrea Arnold, American Honey
Best Screenplay: Asghar Fahardi, The Salesman
Best Actress: Jaclyn Jose, Ma Rosa
Best Director: Graduation / Personal Shopper (tie)
Grand Prix: It’s Only the End of the World
Palme d’Or: I, Daniel Blake
The 69th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 11-22 May 2016. Follow our coverage here.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty