Euronews has selected 10 films by European directors that are being presented at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival. These films, which Euronews wholeheartedly recommends, represent European cinema at its best.
La Gomera by Corneliu Porumboiu (Romania)
Pitch : Cristi, a corrupt police inspector from Bucarest working with drug traffickers, is distrusted by his bosses who wiretap him. Brought against his will by the seducing Gilda on the mysterious island of La Gomera, he musts learn Silbo, an ancient whistling language. Thanks to this secret tongue, he will be able to free a mafiosi from Romanian jail and recover millions in hidden money. But love is going to interfere with his plans... From Bucarest to the Canary Islands, Porumboiu tells the story of a policeman out of his depth, but who never loses his cool.
Corneliu Porumboiu got noticed when his first film, 12:08 East of Bucharest (A fost sau n-a fost? in Romanian) won the Caméra d'Or prize at Cannes in 2006. His talent hasn't faded since, and he is now officially running for the first time for the Palme d'Or with this brilliant and nervous thriller – an absolute must-see. With Cristi Puiu and Cristian Mungiu, Porumboiu is part of the generation of Romanian directors who have been compared to the French New Wave for the social realism of their work. But today, Porumboiu has parted with this label and developed a personal and powerful cinematographic style. He fully controls his films' narration and offers beautiful photography, from the Spanish landscapes to the Romanian interiors. His scenes and dialogue are masterfully kneaded with humour and detachment. La Gomera is a great film that overtakes the thriller genre.
Little Joe by Jessica Hauser (Austria/UK)
Alice is a single mum and a talented plant scientist who has just developed an all-new, sterile plant supposed to release a pollen that makes people happy. Before the plant is put on the market, it is to be tested... But Alice breaks the sanitary protocol by bringing a plant home and giving it to her son Joe, who calls it « Little Joe ». Soon, her son and everyone who approaches the plant experience psychological trouble...
Between science-fiction and psychological drama, Jessica Hauser's film is haunted by mystery and a sense of danger. It could be a Black Mirror episode, with its setting in a close future. Genetic manipulation and the eternal Promethean desire of man to play with forces he doesn't control are central to the plot. The film also explores the psyche of a mother who must detach from her son against her will ; a metaphor for the long-term impact of anti-depressants. Must we feel all our emotions, or be separated from them to live a better life ? « Little Joe » brings chilling answers to there questions. A troubling film that will leave no one indifferent.
Les Misérables by Ladj Ly (France)
Stéphane, from Cherbourg in northern France, joins the anti-criminality brigade (BAC) of Montfermeil, in the French department of Seine-Saint-Denis, deemed a « difficult » area. He meets his new partners, Chris and Gwada, two experienced anti-criminality officers, or « Bacqueux », and quickly discovers the tension between the various social groups of the suburbs. As his team finds itself overwhelmed during an arrest, a drone films the whole scene. Stéphane and his team started running against the clock to retrieve the footage filmed by Buzz, a youth of the area.
This film is one of the indisputable revelation of this year's Cannes Festival. With his first fiction, Ladj Ly focuses on a 'difficult' suburb of Paris, which he knows very well as he is one of the locals. The force of the film lies in Ly's refusal to take sides. On one hand, officers from the BAC brigade, tasked with law enforcement in the area ; on the other, inhabitants of the suburb, especially the youth, rebelling against authority – their parents' as much as the law's. Les Misérables is a great social film and a fascinating story, unfolding in just one day. Seconds separate laughters and tears. The tension grows crescendo until the unforgettable finale. The directing is masterful and serves the movie's implacable condemnation of violence.
Amazon has already bought the US rights.
Sorry We Missed You by Ken Loach (UK)
Ricky, Abby and their two children live in Newcastle. Abby works as a freelance aide for the elderly, working endless hours, while Ricky buys a licence to become a delivery driver. He must buy his own truck and, even as a freelancer, is subjected to his employer's exploitative tricks... Until the day when, both at work and with his family, everything gives way.
Euronews' review :
Ken Loach is back for the 14th time at Cannes, after two Palme d'Or wins – and it is once again absolutely justified. His film denounces virulently the capitalist system and the exploitation of workers that comes with the 'Uberisation' of society. Loach's film is precise and well-documented, which allows for the audience to identify with his characters, as always « working class heroes » who rise early and work until late to pay off debts and try to survive. An emotional, funny and deeply human film by Loach who, at 82, is still doing impressive work.
Dolor y Gloria (Pain and glory) by Pedro Almodovar (Spain)
Several people meet again after decades apart : some through memories, others face to face. Almodovar's own real stories come back to life onscreen : his first love and the following ones, his mother, his fascination with death, stories of actors he's worked with, Movida and Madrid in the time of drugs and travesties... but also the impossibility to set apart creation and private life, and the emptiness felt when inspiration is gone...
Euronews' review :
This a film summing up Almodovar's life and work. Looking back on 50 years of creation and passion for cinema, for his heroines (especially those with tragic destinies, from Marylin to Natalie Wood) as well as his desire for men. There is no glory without shadow, without physical and psychological pain, the great Pedro seems to say. His universe, well-known to cinema lovers – there are no surprises here : an ambiance straight from the 1980s, his favourite actors such as Penelope Cruz in the rôle of a loving and loved mother, and Antonio Banderas as the director's alter ego.
Le Daim by Quentin Dupieux (France)
Georges, 44, leaves suburbia and his whole life behind him. He buys the suede jacket he always dreamt about, an expensive purchase in which he sinks his savings, and that quickly becomes an obsession. Possession, fetichism and jealousy lead him head first into a troubling frenzy, just as a young woman shows interest in Georges and acts as his guardian angel. But hell looms close...
Euronews' review :
Quentin Dupieux' work is so singular that it is already becoming cult. This film, like the previous ones, is an alien from the director's unlimited and unbridled imagination. But behind the madness of his cinema and the absurdity of his scenarios, Dupieux is firmly in control and is closer than ever to being called the European David Lynch. His films share the absurd humour popularised in the UK by the Monty Python and in France by the Nuls. Quentin Dupieux is unique, and we hope he remains that way.
Oleg by Juris Kursietis (Latvia)
Oleg is a Latvian worker who leaves for Belgium for a better life. Employed in a meat factory, he is wrongly accused of a fault and loses his job. A Polish acquaintance offers help and introduces him to Andrzej, who reveals himself to be a crook. Oleg is struck in a helpless spiral, with little hope to get out in one piece.
Oleg feels like a punch in the face. Screened at the Quinzaine des réalisateurs, it has revealed an unknown director from Latvia. Without any spcial effect and a camera at arms' length, Juris Kursietis sets off with Oleg in his journey of clandestinity, in a situation getting darker by the minute. This is cinema as direct as it is effective in putting the audience in the hero's shoes. With enormous empathy and little dialogue, the director manages to keep viewers on the edge of their seat the whole time.
The Young Ahmed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (Belgium)
Ahmed, 13, is going through puberty. His life and world view are about to change as he meets an imam who introduces him to a rigorist vision of Islam. His ideals of purity come crashing down as he faces the contradictions of his society. His close ones start worrying when he changes his daily habits. Torn apart between his instrumentalised faith and his youthful desire, Ahmed has big choices to make.
Euronews' review :
The Dardenne brothers, like Ken Loach – who could be their third, British brother, such their work is similar – are running for a possible third Palme d'Or with this film about childhood. More than a film about radical Islam, the brothers hammer home that their film is about youth, education and free will. It is a film that doesn't offer judgements but shows social determinism, the importance of family and of the social (and religious) context which can lead an individual to lose touch with his humanity. Yet another great option for the Palme d'Or.
Portrait of the young woman on fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu) by Céline Sciamma (France)
1770. Marianne is a painter and must paint the portrait of Héloïse, a young woman who has just left the convent to go back to her mother's Breton island before being wed, a fate she refuses. Marianne has to paint her in secret, and introduces herself as her maid. She looks at her, admires her, and they slowly grow close.
Euronew's review :
Céline Sciamma isn't a newcomer : the 40-year-old director has become an unmissable figure in French and European cinema. It's her first film running for a Palme d'Or. Her cinema is always feminine and often feminist. In this film she directs her favourite actress, who is also her partner off-screen, Adèle Haenel, whose name is buzzing on Cannes' Croisette for a prize, too. The love between the two women has never been filmed as well as in this Portrait, a subtle, delicate and troubling work.
Il Traditore (The traitor) by Marco Bellocchio (Italy)
Early 1980s. Various godfathers of the Sicilian mafia are at war. Buscetta, a member of Casa Nostra, flees Italy for Brazil. Arrested and extradited, he realises that all his close ones are being threatened or murdered. He then decides to become the first repentant of the mafia, by confiding to the judge Falcone.
Euronews' review :
At almost 80, Marco Bellocchio is a monument of Italian cinema. He is director who tells stories of revolt and transgression. His films were trailblazers for student movements in the late 1960s, and he caused scandal in 1986 with his adaptation of The Devil in the Flesh and its explicit sexual scenes. In The Traitor, he looks at a difficult topic of contemporary Italy, painting the portrait of the first Italian mafioso to redeem himself, making sure to stir up yet another hornet's nest...