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ken loach cannes

Five things the Cannes 2016 jury got wrong (and one thing they got right)

The prizes have been dished out at the Cannes Film Festival – but have the best films won? We’re not convinced

By Dave Calhoun
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Yesterday, the jury of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival awarded Ken Loach’s ‘I, Daniel Blake’ its top prize, the Palme d’Or. That was a bold, brilliant choice: Loach’s film, about two people screwed by the British benefits system, is angry, timely and moving. It’s perhaps the 79-year-old filmmaker’s best film since 2006’s ‘The Wind that Shakes the Barley’, for which he also won the Palme. But elsewhere the prizes were a shock, with some strange omissions and odd inclusions. Here’s where the jury, headed by ‘Mad Max’ director George Miller and including actors Kirsten Dunst, Donald Sutherland and Mads Mikkelsen, went wrong.

RECOMMENDED: Check out our alternative Cannes 2016 awards

Toni Erdmann

1. Where was the award for Maren Ade’s hilarious, original ‘Toni Erdmann’?

Three-hour German comedy ‘Toni Erdmann’ was the smash hit of the festival. It’s the funny and poignant story of a thirtysomething professional woman who’s lost sight of the pleasures of life. Enter her practical-joking, scruffy but similarly lost dad. He comes to visit her at work in Bucharest and refuses to leave. The film is hilarious, but also has a lot to say about the modern world and how it shapes us. There are eight prizes available at Cannes, for 21 competing films. It’s hard to understand how Miller’s jury decided that ‘Toni Erdmann’ was worthy of none of those eight prizes.

Read our review of ‘Toni Erdmann’

The Salesman - Forushande

2. Why two prizes for Asghar Farhadi’s ‘The Salesman’?

This Iranian drama from the director of the Oscar-winning ‘A Separation’ is the story of a couple whose marriage is challenged by an incident that happens when they’re both at a fragile point in their lives (they’re also both performing in a production of Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’). It's inquiring and intelligent, if leaning towards the schematic and melodramatic. But was ‘The Salesman’ worthy of both the best screenplay and best actor prize at Cannes? Especially at the expense of more deserving films – of which there were many. This this was the best Cannes competition line-up since 2002. These two prizes for one not particularly stand-out film left most critics scratching their heads.

Read our review of ‘The Salesman’

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2016 cannes film festival, only end of the world

3. Xavier Dolan? Really?

The Grand Prix is the festival’s second prize, one away from the biggie, the Palme d’Or. That must mean that French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan’s ‘It’s Only the End of the World’ – a film which many agreed was a hysterical, one-note, screaming headache – had some fans around the jury table. It’s Dolan’s sixth feature (he’s still only 27) and his first to feature big stars: Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux, Gaspard Ulliel. It turns grotesquery into an art form as it gives us the worst family reunion imaginable with barely any room to breathe. It’s absolutely not the disaster some were calling it – you have to admire how Dolan lands on a single tone and perspective and sticks rigidly to it from beginning to end. But was it the second-best film in the line-up? Not by at least ten other films.

Read our review of ‘It's Only the End of the World’

ma' rosa

4. Why did Jaclyn Jose win Best Actress for ‘Ma’ Rosa’?

This was a terrific year for actresses in Cannes, with many female performances dominating post-screening chats. Best of them included Sonia Braga's soulful, determined older woman in Brazil’s ‘Aquarius’; Isabelle Huppert in Paul Verhoeven’s rape-revenge thriller ‘Elle’; Adèle Haenel in the Dardenne brothers’ ‘The Unknown Girl’; Sandra Hüller in ‘Toni Erdmann’; Ruth Negga in ‘Loving’. Yet the prize for best actress went to ‘Ma’ Rosa’, a short, sharp portrait of poverty and depravity from the prolific Filipino director Brillante Mendoza. If anything, this film was very much an ensemble piece, not a film of single towering performances – and it was received with a shrug by critics. Might this have been a case of a handful of vocal fans of the film on the jury being placated with a conciliatory acting prize?

Read our review of ‘Ma Rosa’

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016 cannes film festival, american honey

5. Did ‘American Honey’ deserve to win the Jury prize more than ‘Graduation’?

Britain’s Andrea Arnold won the festival’s third award, the Jury Prize, for her freewheeling, occasionally brilliant, often-indulgent American road movie ‘American Honey’ (she won the same prize with ‘Fish Tank’ and ‘Red Road’). And yet perhaps the festival’s strongest film was ‘Graduation’ from Romania’s Cristian Mungiu, who won the Palme d’Or in 2007 for ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days’. Yet Mungiu had to make do with sharing the directing prize with Olivier Assayas for his Paris-set ghost story ‘Personal Shopper’ starring Kristen Stewart (a deserving nod, admittedly). From where we’re sitting, ‘Graduation’ could easily have won the Palme d’Or itself, so why give it this flawed half-prize? Meanwhile, 'American Honey' has one big strength on its side: a film-stealing performance from newcomer Sasha Lane, a 20 year old who Arnold reportedly found on a beach just weeks before filming started. That's probably the most exciting prize of all.

Read our review of ‘American Honey’

Cannes 2016 – the big reviews

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