Cannes 2016 roundup: what should win?

With the latter half of this year’s competition as discouraging as the first week was inspiring, Germany’s Maren Ade seems as deserving an awards candidate for her delightful comedy Toni Erdmann as the eminently qualified likes of Olivier Assayas, Jim Jarmusch, Kleber Mendoça Filho and Cristian Mungiu.

Nick James
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Disappointing: Salesman (Le Client), the new film from Asghar Farhadi, director of 2011’s highly esteemed A Separation

Disappointing: Salesman (Le Client), the new film from Asghar Farhadi, director of 2011’s highly esteemed A Separation

You could say I fell for it. On Monday I wrote that 2016 could be one of the greatest Cannes editions ever. The lineup was pretty impressive anyway, but as the week progressed, it dramatically tailed off. The Dardenne brothers, Cristian Mungiu and Brillante Mendoza all held their own with solid, estimable films – respectively, The Unknown Girl, Graduation and Ma’Rosa (Graduation could even win the Palme) – and if Almodóvar’s Alice Munro mashup Julieta underwhelmed it was because it seemed passionless and academic, not because it was badly made or conceived.

But then came a clutch of duds. Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World is a quite breathtakingly clunky adaptation of a stage play by Jean-Luc Lagarce in which Dolan encourages his cast to explode as if to the back row of a theatre while the camera catches them in constant close-ups.

Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World: ‘breathtakingly clunky’ 

Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World: ‘breathtakingly clunky’ 

Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon is at least meticulously gorgeous to look at, yet boasts a children’s picture-book plot and all the suspense of a public waiting room. The less said about Sean Penn’s Doctors Without Borders love story The Last Face the better, and once we’d seen Asghar Farhadi’s extremely disappointing Salesman, we knew for sure that we’d witnessed the most front-loaded Cannes seen for decades.

Which means that the candidates for prizes haven’t changed much since the weekend. I expect Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius and Graduation all to pick up something. I’d love it if Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson and/or Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper won something but think it unlikely. It would seem moot, to most people, if Ken Loach were to win again, but you never know. My fingers are crossed most firmly for Ade, the talent that rocked this festival the hardest.

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