Cannes 2016: Top 16 Films of Interest

by keithsim | last updated - 23 May 2016

Full disclosure: One of my roles is as the Amazon Studios liaison and there are several in the following list including The Neon Demon and Cafe Society.

That's because they, along with quite a number of Cannes's 2016 programming, both in and out of competition, are full of delicious possibilities.

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1. The Neon Demon (2016)

R | 118 min | Horror, Thriller

6.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
51 Metascore

When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn | Stars: Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Karl Glusman

Votes: 52,130 | Gross: $1.33M

"You'll love it," I was told today by someone in the know who'd seen Refn's most recent already, "because you love movies."

Even without the giddy, "it's wild as *beep*" comments I've been hearing I'd be in just because it's Nicolas Winding Refn. Still bruised from the reaction to Only God Forgives (#9 on my top 10 of 2013) it's said he comes back with a gorgeous, insane film. That's why it's helping to wrap up the festival and is at the head of my list.

2. Blood Father (2016)

R | 88 min | Action, Crime, Drama

6.4
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66 Metascore

An ex-con reunites with his estranged wayward 17-year old daughter to protect her from drug dealers who are trying to kill her.

Director: Jean-François Richet | Stars: Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna, Michael Parks

Votes: 41,340

Richet directed Mesrine Part 1 and Part 2, both fine examples of above-genre work. He's the kind of director who could take what sounds like exploitation schlock and turn it into something interesting.

And, as Gibson has proved in The Beaver et al., he can act.

3. Café Society (2016)

PG-13 | 96 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

6.7
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64 Metascore

In the 1930s, a Bronx native moves to Hollywood and falls in love with a young woman who is seeing a married man.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively

Votes: 47,171 | Gross: $11.08M

The last time Allen took on Tinseltown was the...was the...oh, shoot, yeah, it was Hollywood Ending (one has to assume that Tiffany Amber Thiesen is still suffering PTSD from that flick). BUT, the time before that, when Allen tackled the Golden Era of Hollywood and the transporting magic of film, it was The Purple Rose of Cairo, which was a gem of a film. Typical, eclectic, extraordinary cast rally for Allen. The preview we watched at CinemaCon, with Eisenberg and Anna Camp, was very funny and very Woody Allen. Fingers crossed.

4. Forushande (2016)

PG-13 | 124 min | Drama, Thriller

8.0
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85 Metascore

While both participating in a production of "Death of a Salesman," a teacher's wife is assaulted in her new home, which leaves him determined to find the perpetrator over his wife's traumatized objections.

Director: Asghar Farhadi | Stars: Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini, Mina Sadati, Babak Karimi

Votes: 24,266 | Gross: $3.40M

If Farhadi's name doesn't immediately leap out to you you must have missed A Separation and The Past. Few directors understand the makeup of the human heart and fragile, ever-changing nature of relationships the way that Farhadi does. Though I'm leery of him tackling Arthur Miller's great play (or even riffing on it), he's the one who could make it seem fresh.

5. Elle (I) (2016)

R | 130 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

7.2
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89 Metascore

A successful businesswoman gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her.

Director: Paul Verhoeven | Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling

Votes: 37,028

Okay, okay, I'm as guilty as anyone for missing Verhoeven's last film (Tricked) and I'm excited he's in Cannes. Combining his pragmatic ruthlessness with Huppert's seems pure genius. She can transit from the meanest aunt you never knew to a calculating lover and over to a broken, bitter woman with just a glance. It's a fearsome pairing.

6. Loving (2016)

PG-13 | 123 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

7.0
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79 Metascore

The story of Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple whose arrest for interracial marriage in 1960s Virginia began a legal battle that would end with the Supreme Court's historic 1967 decision.

Director: Jeff Nichols | Stars: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Will Dalton, Dean Mumford

Votes: 18,287 | Gross: $7.70M

Director Jeff Nichols seems poised to finally transcend the art-house circuit with Loving. Midnight Special didn't do, nor did Mud, nor did Take Shelter . But this true story seems to play to all of his strengths and none of his weaknesses (third acts). Plus everyone has been waiting for Joel Edgerton to finally become a household name. This might be it. P.S. Are the rumors true about Ruth Negga's equally stirring breakthrough performance?

7. Hell or High Water (II) (2016)

R | 102 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

7.7
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88 Metascore

A divorced father and his ex-con older brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family's ranch in West Texas.

Director: David Mackenzie | Stars: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham

Votes: 120,308 | Gross: $26.86M

Director Mackenzie has made some uncompromising, some could say bleak, films in the past. Young Adam combined some very graphic sex with some very graphic cruelty. Perfect Sense created a devastating view of a world where each one of the five senses is removed during a plague that destroys mankind. Both are examples of his commitment to story damn the commercial outlook. This is a terrific cast and he should capitalize on it.

8. Personal Shopper (2016)

R | 105 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

6.2
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77 Metascore

A personal shopper in Paris refuses to leave the city until she makes contact with her twin brother who previously died there. Her life becomes more complicated when a mysterious person contacts her via text message.

Director: Olivier Assayas | Stars: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, Anders Danielsen Lie

Votes: 12,264 | Gross: $1.31M

Part of the allure of Assayas is you never know what you're going to get next. Last year his Clouds of Sils Marie earned his star here, Stewart, the first acting Cesar (France's Oscars) to go to an American. Ever. His taking on a supernatural angle only adds to the intrigue.

9. It's Only the End of the World (2016)

97 min | Drama

7.0
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48 Metascore

Louis (Gaspard Ulliel), a terminally ill writer, returns home after a long absence to tell his family that he is dying.

Director: Xavier Dolan | Stars: Nathalie Baye, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux

Votes: 11,346

97 minutes. He kept this to 97 minutes. See, Dolan is known for stretching and stretching a film. Laurence Anyways was 2 hours, 48 minutes. Mommy was 2 hours, 19 minutes. Okay, Tom at the Farm was 1 hour, 42 minutes but that doesn't bolster my point. Regardless of length he always brings a Fellini-esque beauty to all of his films.

10. The Transfiguration (2016)

97 min | Drama, Horror

6.2
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64 Metascore

When troubled teen Milo, who has a fascination with vampire lore, meets the equally alienated Sophie, the two form a bond that begins to blur Milo's fantasy into reality.

Director: Michael O'Shea | Stars: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Jelly Bean, Phyillicia Bishop

Votes: 368 | Gross: $0.02M

Is it okay to admit interest in a film solely because of a poster? This Nosferatu-invoking one-sheet has me curious, not to mention the general buzz heard around the film. A vampire film in Un Certain Regard???

11. The BFG (2016)

PG | 117 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

6.4
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66 Metascore

An orphan little girl befriends a benevolent giant who takes her to Giant Country, where they attempt to stop the man-eating giants that are invading the human world.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement

Votes: 52,603 | Gross: $55.47M

Does the orphanage scene in the trailer remind me of Hook? Of course it does. Did I get a bit of uncanny valley vertigo looking at Mark Rylance's gentle giant? Sure. But it's Spielberg. And Roald Dahl. Also the last writing credit for the late Melissa Mathison.

12. Julieta (2016)

R | 99 min | Drama, Romance

7.1
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73 Metascore

After a casual encounter, a brokenhearted woman decides to confront her life and the most important events about her stranded daughter.

Director: Pedro Almodóvar | Stars: Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta

Votes: 17,495 | Gross: $1.49M

Mother-daughter relationships are to Almodovar what the frontier was to John Ford. Reading the plot outline recalls some of his best work like Volver and All About My Mother.

13. Bacalaureat (2016)

R | 128 min | Crime, Drama

7.5
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84 Metascore

A film about compromises and the implications of the parent's role.

Director: Cristian Mungiu | Stars: Adrian Titieni, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Lia Bugnar, Malina Manovici

Votes: 6,104 | Gross: $0.18M

Mungui is one of those directors who seems to have a lifetime membership to the Cannes In Competition list. It's not unwarranted. He's directed such Cannes favorites such as 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days and Beyond the Hills.

14. Hands of Stone (2016)

R | 111 min | Action, Biography, Drama

6.6
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54 Metascore

The legendary Roberto Duran and his equally legendary trainer Ray Arcel change each other's lives.

Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz | Stars: Edgar Ramírez, Usher Raymond, Robert De Niro, Rubén Blades

Votes: 9,357 | Gross: $4.71M

Sure, the honoring of this film, along with Robert De Niro, feels like a reason to get the great actor back in the Palais des Festivals. Can you blame them though? And the story about the famous pugilist, the toughest of the tough, who threw in the towel against Sugar Ray Leonard with the infamous, "No mas No mas" begs to be told.

15. Risk (I) (2016)

92 min | Documentary

6.4
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72 Metascore

The story of WikiLeak's editor-in-chief Julian Assange as seen by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras.

Director: Laura Poitras | Stars: Julian Assange, Sarah Harrison, Jacob Appelbaum, Joseph Farrell

Votes: 427 | Gross: $0.20M

Her last doc won Best Documentary at the Oscars and gutsy director Poitras now tackles the controversial Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. The film is in Directors’ Fortnight.

16. La tortue rouge (2016)

PG | 80 min | Animation, Fantasy

7.6
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86 Metascore

A man is shipwrecked on a deserted island and encounters a red turtle, which changes his life.

Director: Michael Dudok de Wit | Stars: Emmanuel Garijo, Tom Hudson, Baptiste Goy, Axel Devillers

Votes: 13,080 | Gross: $0.92M

A Studio Ghibli film about a castaway? I bumped the list to 16 titles to accommodate including it.