Helen Barlow reflects on the two weeks she spent at the world’s most famous film festival


10 things we learned at the Cannes Film Festival

Helen Barlow reflects on the two weeks she spent at the world’s most famous film festival

10 things we learned at the Cannes Film Festival


Ruth Negga is having her biggest screen moment as the real life Mildred Loving alongside Joel Edgerton’s Richard in the story of a couple who helped invalidate laws prohibiting interracial marriage in a 1967 landmark US Supreme Court ruling. Negga’s radiant performance should propel the seasoned Irish actress all the way to the Oscars.

She shares a palpable chemistry with the Australian Edgerton and director Jeff Nichols says it was a masterstroke to cast non-Americans as these two people who hail from a specific area of rural Virginia (Central Point) and speak with an accent that American actors would struggle to learn. “Starting from scratch with Ruth and Joel was a good idea,” he says.


Last year it was the searing Hungarian Auschwitz drama Son of Saul that took Cannes by storm in the early days. This time around,, the German film Toni Erdmann was universally embraced with its bittersweet story of a quirky prank-prone father trying to lighten up his businesswoman daughter, wonderfully incarnated by Sandra Huller, Negga’s main rival in the Cannes best actress stakes. German writer-director Maren Ade intricately magnifies human foilbles to create an unexpected crowdpleaser.


Ken Loach is alive and kicking even if he says I, Daniel Blake is his last film. Do we believe him? The reception was strong as the director, who turns 80 on June 17, injects humour into his tragic story of working class outsiders trying to deal with the UK health system. It’s been hailed as a return to form for Loach, who also created the understated masterworks Raining Stones and Ladybird Ladybird and the Palme d’Or winner The Wind that Shakes The Barley.

Hayley Squires and Ken Loach. Pic: AP
Hayley Squires and Ken Loach. Pic: AP


The groundswell of excitement around the emergence of the final competition film, Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, based on a novel by Philippe Djian, was palpable. The Basic Instinct director teaming with Isabelle Huppert in French brought a sense of mystery to this wryly amusing movie, which focuses on a woman exacting her revenge at being raped. While the term ‘rape comedy’ might seem distasteful or shocking somehow the adventurous pair manage to pull it off.


Nicolas Winding Refn’s desire to shock in his dark satire on the fashion industry, The Neon Demon, was far less effective even if we can say it’s probably the first film with female cannibalism and necrophilia. While The Neon Demon was widely booed, the lowest critics rating in memory — and the most boos — went to Sean Penn’s The Last Face, a strangely misconceived humanitarian romance following a gorgeous aid worker (Penn’s ex Charlize Theron) and a doctor (Javier Bardem) while the local Africans suffer. Twitter erupted after the screening with critics suggesting the film cold have been a totally justified reason for Theron’s split from Penn.


Kristen Stewart’s Personal Shopper, her second film with French director Olivier Assayas, was the most divisive competition entry, receiving the booing treatment as well as five-star reviews. Stewart is now being mooted for an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of a woman summoning the ghost of her deceased twin brother and many believe that it’s only a matter of time before the talented 26-year-old, who only gets better with age, receives a golden statuette.

Kristen Stewart in Cannes. Pic: AP
Kristen Stewart in Cannes. Pic: AP


French actress and singer Soko

stuns as the freewheeling, ground-breaking Belle Epoque dancer Loïe Fuller in one of the festival’s best films, The Dancer; she looks considerably different in a military uniform as a French soldier returning from Afghanistan in The Stopover.

As well as her ghost story, Personal Shopper, Kristen Stewart stars in Woody Allen’s Café Society, transforming from a naïve Hollywood assistant in bobby sox into a Hollywood swan.

Blake Lively and Woody Allen. Pic: AP
Blake Lively and Woody Allen. Pic: AP


After Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers in Sundance, Lily-Rose Depp, the daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, holds the screen as Isadora Duncan in The Dancer.

Ruby Barnhill, the articulate cherub-like star of The BFG, clearly stole Steven Spielberg’s heart as he smiled sweetly every time she spoke when he was seated beside her in Cannes.

Viggo Mortensen adored his tribe of onscreen kids in Cannes too. In Captain Fantastic he plays a hippy dad living out in the wilderness with his kids. He fittingly had his Lord of the Rings co-star Orlando Bloom come and meet his young co-stars in Cannes.


It was quite a year for women in Cannes on screen and off.

The Kering Women in Motion talks provided a platform for some of the most articulate female stars including, Jodie Foster, Juliette Binoche, Chloe Sevigny and Thelma and Louise’s stars, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis.

On the red carpet Katy Perry (in town with her beau Orlando Bloom) stole the show, though the red carpet repeat offender Blake Lively never ceased to amaze, finally scintillating in a skintight sequined blue dress that turned her baby bump into a fashion statement.


Cannes attendance was greatly reduced this year, some say by 40%. That did not shorten the wait in queues however as security guards checked bags and confiscated all food and liquids.

In the Director’s Fortnight cinema in the bowels of the Marriott Hotel, toilets were locked during screenings. The police presence on the streets was far more significant as well this time around.

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