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CANNES

From a hilarious German comedy tipped to win the Palme d’Or top prize to the Woody Allen scandal that just wouldn’t go away, AFP rounds up the Cannes film festival: 

The hits

Among the 21 films in the running for the Palme d’Or, audiences embraced German director Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann”, a bittersweet father-daughter tale that builds to a riotous final act.

Romanian actress Ingrid Bisu poses on May 14, 2016 during a photocall for the film

Romanian actress Ingrid Bisu poses on May 14, 2016 during a photocall for the film “Toni Erdmann” at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. PHOTO | AFP

US indie hero Jim Jarmusch also scored a hit with his tender ode to the poetry of everyday life starring “Star Wars” villain Adam Driver as a bus driver with a passion for verse.

“Loving” by US director Jeff Nichols sparked early Oscar buzz with its true story of a Virginia couple who battled before the Supreme Court in 1967 for their right as a white man and an African-American woman to live together as husband and wife.

And Romania’s new wave made a strong showing too with Cristi Puiu’s “Sieranevada” and previous Cannes winner Cristian Mungiu’s “Graduation” negotiating the ethical minefields of post-communist society.

Rounding off the favourites were Asghar Farhadi’s “The Salesman”, a taut moral drama by the Iranian director of the Oscar-winning “A Separation”, and Paul Verhoeven’s rape revenge fantasy “Elle” starring Isabelle Huppert. 

US actress Sasha Lane (L) laughs with US actor Shia Labeouf as they leave the Festival Palace on May 15, 2016 after the screening of the film

US actress Sasha Lane (L) laughs with US actor Shia Labeouf as they leave the Festival Palace on May 15, 2016 after the screening of the film “American Honey” at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. PHOTO | AFP

 

The controversies

Cannes loves high-wire acts and a handful of risky films sharply divided critics.

Reviewers said British director Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey” starring Shia LaBeouf about disaffected US teens selling magazines door-to-door throbbed with youthful energy, but The Guardian said that Arnold needed “a firmer hand with the plot” of the nearly three-hour picture.

French director Olivier Assayas set off the first chorus of boos at this year’s festival with “Personal Shopper”, a supernatural drama that nevertheless drew rave reviews for its star Kristen Stewart.

And Nicolas Winding Refn, the audacious Dane behind “Drive”, left audiences slackjawed with his bloody, stylish send-up of the cutthroat fashion industry, “The Neon Demon”, a tale of cannibal fashion models set in Los Angeles. One critic shouted “Trash!” at the screen as the lights came up.

The turkey

French actress Adele Exarchopoulos (L) and South African-US actress Charlize Theron pose on May 20, 2016 before leaving the Festival Palace after the screening of the film

French actress Adele Exarchopoulos (L) and South African-US actress Charlize Theron pose on May 20, 2016 before leaving the Festival Palace after the screening of the film “The Last Face” at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. PHOTO | AFP

Sean Penn’s fifth directorial effort “The Last Face” landed with a historic thud, earning just 0.2 out of four stars in an international critics’ poll by trade magazine Screen — the worst score in the survey’s 13-year history.

The film is love story between aid workers working in West African war zones played by Javier Bardem and Penn’s ex, Charlize Theron. The Hollywood Reporter’s take — “a stunningly self-important but numbingly empty cocktail of romance and insulting refugee porn” — was one of the kinder verdicts. 

The scandal

US director Woody Allen and his wife Soon-Yi Previn pose as they arrive on May 11, 2016 for the screening of the film

US director Woody Allen and his wife Soon-Yi Previn pose as they arrive on May 11, 2016 for the screening of the film “Cafe Society” during the opening ceremony of the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. PHOTO | AFP

New York director Woody Allen opened the festival with his new movie “Cafe Society”, featuring Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg.

But before he and his stars had even walked down Cannes’ red carpet, decades-old accusations that he sexually abused his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow resurfaced in a magazine column written by her brother Ronan.

Then French actor Laurent Lafitte made a rape joke at the opening ceremony which many saw as a stab at Allen. The director insisted he was not offended and Lafitte later apologised.

But outspoken actress Susan Sarandon couldn’t resist a withering judgement when asked by AFP what she thought of Allen at a panel about women in cinema later in the week.

“I have nothing good to say about Woody Allen, so I don’t think we should go there,” she said, before repeating the allegations against him, which the director denies and which have never been proved in court. 

The fashion statements

US actress Julia Roberts arrives on May 12,

US actress Julia Roberts arrives on May 12, 2016 for the screening of the film “Money Monster” at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. / AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT

After women said they were banished from Cannes’ red carpet last year for failing to wear high heels, Hollywood took revenge in fine style.

Stewart sported blue sneakers with her Chanel frock, Julia Roberts simply went barefoot and Theron skipped the de rigueur evening gown for a Dior tuxedo with a white blouse open to her navel.

Meanwhile actor Viggo Mortensen and rocker Iggy Pop, the focus of a new documentary by Jarmusch, refused to take the Cannes rituals too seriously and gave snappers the finger at their respective photo calls.

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