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Looking for the Best Cannes Films? Directors’ Fortnight is a Great Place to Start

Looking for the Best Cannes Films? Directors' Fortnight is a Great Place to Start

Last week, Indiewire shared the results of our annual Cannes Critics Poll. From the two dozen ballots we received, much of the attention was directed at “Carol” and “The Lobster,” two films in competition for the festival’s major awards. As we noted then, it was a year of evenly distributed results. Without the presence of a critical and audience favorite juggernaut (a la “Blue is the Warmest Color” back in 2013), that meant that a number of films playing elsewhere at the festival had the opportunity to garner some recognition.

One such place was the Directors’ Fortnight section. Though the Fortnight has a certain level of autonomy, it’s a place where some non-traditional Cannes fare can play in conjunction with the festival (particularly documentaries, which are notoriously scarce in the official Cannes umbrella). As you’ll see below, some of the most noteworthy films to premiere in France in mid-May have ascended to the cinephile conversation at large. “Whiplash” may be an extreme outlier, but films like “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” and “National Gallery” certainly had a second wave of approval at the end of the year.

Of the 2015 premieres, all four received at least one vote for Best Film. (Miguel Gomes’ “Arabian Nights” even made the top five.) It’s early yet and some of these titles may not have the same impact away from the festival environment. But here are the upper echelon from the 2015 Directors Fortnight, as they currently stand:

Arabian Nights,” directed by Miguel Gomes — A

Dope,” directed by Rick Famuyiwa — B+

Green Room,” directed by Jeremy Saulnier — A-

In the Shadow of Women,” directed by Philippe Garrel — B+

My Golden Days,” directed by Arnaud Desplechin — A-

To put some of these films in perspective, below is a list of titles, grouped by year, that have fared well enough with critics to maintain a “B+” higher Criticwire Average. Obviously, not all of the reviews that went into the final tally came directly from Cannes, but a significant number of them did. (Indiewire first started compiling Criticwire grades at Cannes back in 2011.)

2010/2011

Le Quattro Volte,” directed by Michelangelo Frammartino — A-

Breathing (Atmen),” directed by Karl Markovics — A-

These two are the only films from the first two years of the decade’s Fortnights to exceed the “B+” threshold. However, there were a handful of other notable titles, including “Return,” which eventually nabbed star Linda Cardellini an Independent Spirit nom and “Somos lo que hay,” which went one to be remade in English as “We Are What We Are” and also played the Fortnight.

2012

Ernest and Celestine,” directed by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner — A-

Gangs of Wasseypur,” directed by Anurag Kashyap — A-

No,” directed by Pablo Larrain — A-

Room 237,” directed by Rodney Ascher — B+

“Gangs of Wasseypur” was only just released in the US earlier this year, finally rounding out the theatrical runs of this year’s four best. “Ernest and Celestine” and “No” made it to Oscar night, in the Best Animated Feature and Best Foreign Language Film categories, respectively. While “Room 237” didn’t make it quite that far, it does have the distinction of the Directors’ Fortnight film of any year to have been reviewed by the most members of the Criticwire Network (96).

2013

Blue Ruin,” directed by Jeremy Saulnier — A-

Jodorowsky’s Dune,” directed by Frank Pavich — A-

The Congress,” directed by Ari Folman — B+

The Dance of Reality,” directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky — B+

The Selfish Giant,” directed by Clio Barnard — B+

“Jodorowsky’s Dune” finished last year as the second-highest rated documentary of the year behind only “Life Itself.” Among Cannes premieres, “Blue Ruin” was bested in the top-rated ranks only by Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive.”

2014

Cold in July,” directed by Jim Mickle — B+

Gett, the Trial of Viviane Ansalem,” directed by Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz  — A-

Girlhood,” directed by Céline Sciamma — B+

The Tale of Princess Kaguya,” directed by Isao Takahata — A-

National Gallery,” directed by Frederick Wiseman — A-

Next to Her,” directed by Asaf Korman — A-

Pride,” directed by Matthew Warchus — B+

Queen and Country,” directed by John Boorman  — B+

Whiplash,” directed by Damien Chazelle — A-

Of these, “Whiplash” ascended beyond the expectations of many, landing in the Dolby Theater back in February. “Next to Her” is currently making the festival rounds (it just played at SIFF in Seattle earlier this week), but the rest of these made either last year’s Best-Reviewed list or the current one.

For the full results of our Cannes Critics Polls, see the homepage of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 editions.

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