Let’s be honest, we were a bit sceptical about this year’s Cannes programme. There were fewer big name arthouse directors than usual, no new films by favourites like Michael Haneke or Carlos Reygadas and a sudden slew of English language debuts by foreign directors. But despite some rocky moments, it turned out to be a very good year with a healthy list of favourites from the LIFF team including many of the eventual prizewinners and some below the radar surprises. A few are already set for UK release, many others we hope to bring to Leeds in November.
Arabian Nights I, II & III (As Mil e Uma Noites)
Dir. Miguel Gomes, Portugal/France/Germany/Switzerland (no UK distributor)
From the Portuguese director of Our Beloved Month of August and Tabu (both screened at LIFF26), Miguel Gomes’ powerful, poetic, and often playful anti-austerity trilogy Arabian Nights was a unique and timely experience in Cannes, one we hope can be shared by UK audiences without a long wait.
The Assassin (Nie yin niang)
Dir. Hsiao-Hsien Hou, Taiwan/China/Hong Kong/France (no UK distributor)
A mysterious and beautiful “Wuxia” martial arts period drama with masterful cinematography, production and sound design.
Dir. Todd Haynes, UK/USA, (UK Distributor Studio Canal release date TBC)
An exquisitely cinematic melodrama starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as lovers in 50s New York, an emotional rollercoaster with pinpoint period detail, it should have won the Palme.
Cemetery of Splendour (Rak ti Khon Kaen)
Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand, UK, Germany, France, Malaysia (no UK distributor)
Another gently enigmatic and wholly original magical-realist film fable from the director of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, winner of the Palme d’Or in 2010.
Dir. Jacques Audiard, France (no UK distributor)
Arguably not the right selection for the Palme d’Or, Dheepan is still an excellent film following a Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger’s immigration to a lawless French tower block, part social realism and part dark, expressionistic thriller.
Embrace of the Serpent (El Abrazo de la Serpiente)
Dir. Ciro Guerra, Colombia/Venezuela/Argentina (no UK distributor)
An unexpected treat from Colombian director Ciro Guerra, a hallucinatory adventure film about an Amazonian shaman and his relationship with two generations of western scientists in search of a sacred healing plant.
Dir. Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen, USA (UK Distributor Disney, release 24th July)
Receiving a huge cheer at its world premiere in Cannes, Pixar’s latest original family animation portrays an 11-year-old girl’s emotional upheaval to delightful effect, with Joy, Sadness & co. competing for control of their host in an inventive and hilarious caper (don’t miss the end credits!).
Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece/UK/Ireland/Netherlands/France (UK Distributor Picturehouse, release 16th October)
The Greek “weird wave” director of Dogtooth and Alps makes his English language debut with this eccentric relationship satire full of bizarre invention and absurdist humour.
The Measure of a Man (La loi du marché)
Dir. Stéphane Brize, France (no UK distributor)
Veteran French actor Vincent Lindon won a well-deserved Best Actor award at Cannes for his role as an unemployed factory worker with a small family who experiences frustration and humiliation – in a series of extended, sometimes painfully-funny scenes – as he attempts to find a new job.
Dir. Jonas Carpignano, Germany/USA/UK/Italy/France (no UK distributor)
A gripping and timely migration drama about the struggles of two brothers who travel from Burkina Faso to a small town in Southern Italy, based on real events in the run up to a riot against police brutality.
Dir. Nanni Moretti, Italy (UK Distributor Curzon, release 18th September)
After We Have a Pope (LIFF25), Nanni Moretti takes an autobiographical turn with a comedy drama about the making of a political film whose director is facing the loss of her mother while trying to deal with her unpredictable, scene-stalling lead actor, wonderfully played by John Turturro.
My Golden Years (Trois Souvenire de ma Jeunesse)
Dir. Arnaud Desplechin, France (no UK distributor)
Cannes is never short of coming-of-age dramas and My Golden Years isn’t an original take on them, but Arnaud Desplechin’s vibrant chronicle of French youth in the ’70s and ‘80s is so well crafted and features such great performances from the ensemble of young actors that the film is a joy to watch.
Dir. Ida Panahandeh, Iran (no UK distributor)
Starring Sareh Bayat from A Separation in another terrific performance, Nahid is a similarly compelling Iranian family drama with a complex moral dilemma at its heart.
Paulina (La Patota)
Dir. Santiago Mitra, Argentina / France (no UK distributor)
Winner of the Critics’ Week Grand Prix, Santiago Mitre’s uncompromising Argentinian drama Paulina explores the aftermath of the rape ordeal of the daughter of a leading politician as she fights to take back control of her life from her father, her boyfriend, and ultimately her attacker.
Dir. Denis Villeneuve, USA (UK distributor Lionsgate, release 25th September)
An efficiently tense thriller following an idealistic FBI agent’s entanglement with covert actions against the Mexican drug trade with great performances from Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and the best role in years for Benicio del Toro.
Son of Saul (Saul fia)
Dir. László Nemes, Hungary (UK distributor Curzon, release date TBC)
A jawdropping feature debut from Hungarian director László Nemes, Son of Saul tells a difficult story set in Auschwitz with incredible intensity and narrative originality following the one last desperate moral act of a Hungarian Sonderkommando, forced to clean up the aftermath of the gas chambers.
The Treasure (Comoara)
Dir. Corneliu Porumboiu, France/Romania (no UK distributor)
Corneliu “12.08 East of Bucharest” Porumboiu’s latest is a satirical treasure hunt drama featuring two hard up neighbours in search of a relative’s wartime booty featuring understated performances and deadpan humour.