The latest edition of the Cannes Film Festival has come to a close, but many of its highlights are already on track to reach more audiences. While not every festival favorite has the resources of, say, Cannes favorite “Mad Max: Fury Road,” several other festival favorites were lucky enough to secure distribution.
These include Palme d’Or winner “Dheepan,” which was set up with IFC Films ahead of the festival, as was A24’s Amy Winehouse documentary “Amy.” Critical favorite “Son of Saul” found a supportive home at Sony Pictures Classics, which also snatched up Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s gentle drama “Our Little Sister.” IFC also bought the French thriller “Disorder.” Even some of the more esoteric options landed future theatrical bookings: Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s cryptic “Cemetery of Splendour” went to Strand Releasing, while newcomer Alchemy nabbed Yorgos Lanthimos’ dystopian romance “The Lobster” and Gaspar Noé’s sexually explicit 3D drama “Love.” Kino Lorber nabbed two more competition films, the naturalistic drama “The Measure of a Man” and Jia Jhangke’s ambitious portrait of China’s past, present and future, “Mountains May Depart.”
All in all, it was a healthy year for buyers, and anyone eagerly following this year’s highlights from afar has plenty to anticipate. Still, a number of strong offerings from the program remain in distribution limbo — proof that no matter how many great movies may get a chance to find the audiences they deserve, there’s always more waiting in the wings for further discovery. Here’s hoping some of the buyers out there take a chance on these worthy offerings.
It’s no easy feat to squeeze a three-part, six-hour opus into a crammed film festival schedule. But Cannes attendees who managed to catch Portuguese director Miguel Gomes’ sprawling, experimental look at modern Portugal through the lens of a classic fairy tale were not disappointed.
“If the movie’s cumbersome running time appears intimidating, its episodic nature makes it easily digestible, and here at the Cannes Film Festival it has been presented on three separate days — a fine way to experience it,” wrote Adam Cook in his Indiewire review. “‘Arabian Nights’ moves freely and spontaneously from one story to the next, combining humor and lyricism into a continually subtle package…Gomes takes the viewer on a journey through Portugal’s present, whether in the nooks and crannies of the suburbs, the countryside, a protest in the city, or into the crowd of a heavy metal concert.”
While the project certainly presents a unique release challenge, it isn’t unprecedented for a lengthy, multi-part effort of this nature to receive a unique distribution strategy — think of Steven Soderbergh’s “Che” or Olivier Assayas’ “Carlos,” which both clock in at nearly six hours and received innovative releases from IFC Films — and the interest in Gomes’ work is already high enough to suggest it could blossom into one of the more intriguing cinematic experiences of the year.
Sales Contact: The Match Factory
Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier is now 2-2 at the Cannes’ Directors Fortnight, where he returned for the second time with a well-received genre offering. In 2013, his intense revenge-thriller “Blue Ruin” was the discovery of the section; this time, he returned with higher expectations for his bigger-budgeted “Green Room,” the bloody chronicle of a punk rock band facing off against lunatic neo-Nazis, and did not disappointment.
“This isn’t simply some pastiche drawn from different movies to yield a collage of references, but rather very much its own film, and a remarkable one at that,” wrote Jason Gorber in his Indiewire review. “The film’s siege motif is constructed in a puzzle-like way, with the various pieces and machinations of attacker and defender swapping back-and-forth throughout. Despite the complexity of the altercations, the work never loses sight of the key components of narrative.”
With its rock ‘n’ roll attitude and meaty genre hooks — not to mention a hip cast that finds meth lord Patrick Stewart facing off against hard-rocking Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots — “Green Room” is well-positioned to bring Saulnier’s gritty style to a bigger audience.
Sales Contact: WestEnd Films
While the migrant crisis plaguing Europe may dominate headlines, it hardly personalizes the details of the situation: thousands of impoverished Europeans struggling to advance toward better lives across the sea, surviving dangerous ocean conditions and dicey career prospects even if they do make it to the other side. American director Jonas Carpignano’s tender, devastating first feature “Mediterranea” digs into that perspective with moving results, as it follows a pair of young adult friends on their trepidatious journey from Burkina Faso to Italy, where they wind up at odds with the dream life they envisioned.
No other movie at this year’s Cannes Film Festival hits such a profoundly topical note, though Carpignano’s story — which unfolds with a mixture of French and Italian — never overstates its representational value. Instead, it renders a global crisis in strikingly intimate terms, at a time when public interest couldn’t be higher. Read the full review here.
NDM Fiorella Moretti
Argentine director Santiago Mitre’s first feature, “The Student,” was a sleeper hit on the festival circuit that showcased the filmmaker’s original voice in tackling the intermingling of personal and ideological sensibilities among socially conscious members of society. His follow-up, Critics Week winner “Paulina,” follows suit in more strikingly intimate terms. While “The Student” followed the developing rebellious sensibilities on a college campus during a period of political upheaval, “Paulina” focuses more specifically on the plight of its young heroine, the daughter of a successful judge, who assigns herself to a teaching gig in a low income town despite more lucrative possibilities at her disposal.
Within short order, she’s subjected to the physical abuse and shocking violence troubling the region, and faced with a personal decision that further complicates her valiant commitment. Littered with sophisticated conversations surrounding the intermingling of personal desire and social advocacy, “Paulina” owes much to leading woman Dolores Fonzi in the title role, as she wields her fierce gaze to stare down the various male figures — her demanding father and boyfriend chief among them — who try to tell her what to do.
Paulina’s radical decision to confront the horrific forces in the disenfranchised community where she takes root, rather than pushing them to the side, creates a bracing source of suspense that transforms the movie from pure character study to major conversation piece on activism, gender discrimination, and a grab bag of other tantalizing themes. That conversation should continue with audiences around the world.
Sales Contact: Versatile
Italian director Matteo Garrone’s wacky compendium of fairy tales wasn’t exactly a popular favorite in this year’s Cannes competition, but this alternately silly and entrancing adaptation of Giambattista Basile’s Neapolitan stories provides a welcome gothic antidote to more stately treatments of similar material.
Garrone’s bizarre narrative incorporates four overlapping stories in a kingdom filled with the usual ensemble of mythological beasts, magical powers and royal schemes. While every sequence goes to certain outrageous extremes — plot twists include the consumption of a giant sea monster’s heart and the nurturing of a dog-sized flea — Garrone cuts between them with a fluid approach that successfully conveys the perception of a self-defined world.
Eschewing narration or title cards, the filmmaker plunges into a series of mysterious events while developing the sense that they all feed into one big, twisted universe. Genre fans are likely to appreciate this kooky shakeup to a traditional formula, while Garrone’s allegorical take on social hierarchies — explored in nuanced ways with “Reality,” it takes on more flamboyant qualities here — deserves a second look. Read the full review here.
Sales Contact: Hanway Films
It’s hard to imagine a big distributor taking a risk on a slow-burn effort from the Romanian New Wave, but a company experienced with some of the better films hailing from that tradition — “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” and “14:08 East of Bucharest” chief among them — should seriously consider this surprisingly warmhearted effort from Corneliu Porumboiu, whose “Police, Adjective” was a previous Cannes favorite. His latest movie finds a good-natured blue collar worker invested in the peculiar effort to help his neighbor find buried treasure beneath an old family property.
From the makings of a deadpan comedy, in which the high pitch wail of a metal detector becomes a hilarious audio motif worthy of Jacques Tati, “The Treasure” transforms into a bizarre thriller about Romanian bureaucracy — not unlike the ending of Porumboiu brilliant “Police, Adjective,” where the conclusion revolved around a superior officer forcing his employee to look up several words in a dictionary. In the case of “The Treasure,” Costi and his neighbor are warned of state regulations that force them to report any riches they find. Whether or not they discover anything of value, it’s bound to be subjected to the same drab rules that dictate their current, uninspired working class routine. Porumboiu manages to deliver this heady thesis with a disarmingly slight touch, something we’ve never quite seen in other movies of its ilk. “The Treasure” may not be a major work from Porumboiu or his filmmaking tradition, but it proves that even cerebral formalism has its soft side, and to that end may open up the style to a bigger audience. Read the full review here.
Sales Contact: Wild Bunch