The world's most prestigious, chaotic and beloved film festival has just got underway and features the cream of the crop of international cinema, the kind of films that get critics talking and top end of year Best Of lists.
The lineup this year is as eclectic as ever, as interesting for what didn't make the list as what did.
Cannes is comprised of several different divisions – the Official Selection (AKA the absolute gold standard), Un Certain Regard (a generally less prestigious – though still beloved – section that often features its own crop of great films), and several out of competition and special screenings.
Cannes is no stranger to both controversy and exciting selections, and this year is no different. There are so many eye-catching treats in the lineup that it can feel overwhelming, so here are a few of the top films from the Official Selection to keep an eye out for this year.
Our Cannes Film Festival Top 5(ish) Picks
5. Girls of the Sun
The second feature for French filmmaker Eva Husson after her acclaimed exploration of teenage sexuality Bang Gang stars Golshifteh Farahani as the commander of a Kurdish female battalion known as 'The Girls of the Sun', who mount an attempt to retake their town from extremists. Husson is an extremely promising talent, and Farahani (Paterson) has been consistently excellent in her work elsewhere. Inspired by real events, this may be one of the most timely releases of the year.
4. Cold War
Pawlikowski's Polish drama Ida, about a young nun discovering her identity in the aftermath of World War 2 and the holocaust, is quietly one of the best films of the decade. Expect another impeccably shot, powerful drama in Cold War, which we've been told 'depicts an impossible love story in impossible times'.
3. Burning / Ash is the Purest White
There are a number of films from various parts of Asia screening at this year's festival, but two of the most interesting are these – the first, Burning, from reclusive filmmaker Lee Chang-Dong, is his first since 2011. An adaptation of a Haruki Murakami short story starring the wonderful Steven Yuen (The Walking Dead), this should be a moving, atmospheric experience. Meanwhile, Jia Zhangke has proven to be something of a favourite on the festival circuit, with his A Touch of Sin winning plaudits back in 2013. This one sounds like a long one – at 150 minutes – but Zhangke's work is never short of engrossing, and this one seems to have a gangster-genre bent to it, which should be interesting.
2. BlacKkKlansman/Under Silver Lake
Representing the United States this year are two very different, but equally promising features – one from an established legend, the other from an up and coming auteur. BlacKkKlansman is sure to be another conversation-starting provocation from the mastermind behind Do the Right Thing, 25th Hour and Malcolm X. Produced by Jordan Peele (Get Out), the film tells the bizarre true story of an African American detective (played by John David Washington – son of Denzel) who successfully infiltrated the Colorado chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the '70s. Considering the current climate in the States, this is sure to be on people's minds long before it lands on our shores. Meanwhile, Under Silver Lake is David Robert Mitchell's follow-up to stunning art-horror It Follows, one of the best chillers of the decade. Under Silver Lake is a sun-tinged, LA-set neo-noir about a loner (Andrew Garfield) who investigates the disappearance of his beautiful neighbour (Riley Keough). The trailer for this one promised something in the vein of Inherent Vice, Donnie Darko and Southland Tales, so expect a thorny, labyrinthine mind-bender.
Other directors are sure to make a splash in the Official Selection this year, including Nuri Bilge Ceylan (whose The Wild Pear Tree is the follow-up to his divisive Palme D'Or winner Winter Sleep) and Asghar Farhadi (A Separation), but our pick for the number one can't-miss Cannes film is 3 Faces, the drama from Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi. The director, currently under house arrest in Iran for his politically motivated films doesn't let that stop him, resulting in under-cover classics like This Is Not A Film (shot on an iPhone in his house) and Taxi. Panahi is a true filmmaker through and through, refusing to let even the Iranian government stop him from making his art, and if that isn't the true spirit of Cannes I don't know what is.
Best of the rest...
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote and The House that Jack Built
Screening Out of Competition to close the festival is the legendarily 'cursed' magnum opus of Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam (12 Monkeys, Brazil). The almost twenty-year journey to get this film to the screen, overcoming unbelievable odds, is worth the price of admission alone (assuming you can stomach some of Gilliam's less respectable comments of late). Also Out of Competition, controversial filmmaker Lars Von Trier returns to Cannes several years after he was banned for comments sympathizing with Nazis. Hot off the wave of abuse accusations that allegedly took place on the set of his film Dancer in the Dark, Von Trier returns with The House that Jack Built, a sprawling serial killer story starring Matt Dillon and Uma Thurman. Von Trier has always been an acquired taste, and undoubtedly manyvwill find his presence and film a bad look for the festival – though there are those who champion his work nevertheless.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (dir. Ron Howard)
Also screening out of competition, the Star Wars prequel focusing on the travails of a young Han Solo (Alden Eihrenreich) has, like Rogue One before it, been waylaid by some behind-the-scenes drama. The latest trailer was the most promising glimpse we've seen so far of the Ron Howard-helmed film, which at least promises a lot of Chewbacca action (and a wonderfully caped Donald Glover as Lando).
Of all the Un Certain Rgard films screening this year, Rafiki (or 'Friend') looks to be the standout. Already banned in its home-country of Kenya, the film is an LGBT-love story set to break all sorts of barriers and tell a story about one of the most underseen communities in all of cinema. Director Wanuri Kahiu has staunchly refused to edit her film, and is sure to rise to the forefront of black women filmmakers.
Birds of Passage
Described as something like an indigenous The Godfather, Birds of Passage is the latest from the team that brought the excellent Embrace of the Serpent to screens a while back. The story of a family that gets drawn into the international drug trade in the 70s sounds super intense and looks to be a fascinatingly sprawling crime epic.
The Image Book
Lastly, it wouldn't be Cannes without the presence of perhaps the most beloved of all French filmmakers, Jean Luc-Godard. The New Wave legend returns to Cannes Official Selection after his video essay Goodbye to Language blew viewers' minds back in 2014. Expect another creatively dazzling, if potentially impenetrable film essay from one of the icons of experimental cinema.