Friday, 27 May 2016


Mesmerising performances from both newcomers and seasoned actresses dominate

Written by Jason Solomons
Sunshine, stars and great movies are the intoxicating ingredients of any Cannes Film Festival and this, the 69th event, which has just ended on La Croisette, had it all. Parading up the red-carpeted steps of the Palais des Festivals were George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Marion Cotillard, Robert de Niro and Jodie Foster, to name-drop but a few.

They give the festival its star wattage and headlines but there were also plenty of not-so-well-knowns stealing the show. None more so than our own Ken Loach, whose searing, wonderful I, Daniel Blake, made away with the crowning glory of the Palme d’Or – the second time Loach has won the award. Its win came as a surprise for many, but the film is a social realist masterpiece set in Newcastle, about 59-year-old carpenter Daniel Blake, trapped in the benefits system after a heart attack leaves him signed off work.

Britain’s Andrea Arnold also won a Jury Prize for American Honey, the coolest film of the festival, about a teenager who joins a gang of magazine subscription sellers on a road trip across the Midwest. Young actress Sasha Lane, the aptly named Star, is outstanding as the lead, who begins a relationship with the senior salesman (Shia LaBeouf).

Another film that will go far is director Jeff Nichols’s Loving, a beautifully downplayed film about a real-life interracial couple in 1950s Virginia (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga) who are hounded out of their home town by racists and bigoted cops, but whose appeal to let their marriage remain lawful takes them to the Supreme Court and prompts a change to the American Constitution.

There was a fabulous return-totop- form from Spain’s Pedro Almodovar with Julieta, which tells the story of a mother reflecting on her fractured relationship with her daughter. A typically Almodovarian zarzuela of mystery, tragedy, face-lifts and sexual intrigue.

It was wonderful to witness the renaissance, too, of Brazilian actress Sonia Braga. She was magnificent in Aquarius, playing a proud woman in her 60s refusing to vacate her beloved sea-front apartment, which developers want to knock down. What a creation she is: fierce, and unshakeable, and Braga tears up the screen like a movie queen.

A much younger star of the festival was Kristen Stewart in Woody Allen’s 1930’s-set Café Society, which opened proceedings and in which she played a seemingly demure studio secretary who fends off the attentions of that New Yorker Bobby Dorfman, a classic Allen character. Stewart is also in the somewhat crazy film Personal Shopper, playing an American in Paris working for a diva-ish supermodel for whom she constantly has to collect outfits from Chanel. She’s also a medium, trying to contact her deceased twin. It’s genuinely unhinged, but even when it’s preposterous, Stewart’s performance is mesmerising.

I must mention, too, the brilliant motion-capture performance given by Mark Rylance as the titular character in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG. It’s hard to tell where the CGI magic ends and the sparkling eyes and physicality of Rylance begins, and the film has all the charm, humour and wonder you’d expect, although something about it prevents it quite becoming the classic you wish it was. Maybe it’s Penelope Wilton’s Queen letting off the most almighty royal whizzpop one has ever seen – now there’s something you don’t get in Cannes every year.

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