Grading the Cannes Competition

By Patrick Z. McGavin

This year’s Cannes Film festival, the 19th I’ve covered and written about, showcased a strong competition. The trajectory was like a bottle rocket, blasting off with superb work by Abderrahmane Sissako (Timbuktu), Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner) and Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Winter Sleep), flattening out with an uneven stretch before picking up and soaring with strong new works by Andrey Zvyagintsev (Leviathan) and French master Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria).

Curatorially, the main competition was tighter than normal (with just 18 films). Only seven of those are given what I consider mixed or negative grades. Yet, it always takes time to really fully assess the impact, range and originality of each competition. Last year’s competition, for instance, now that enough time has passed, seems infinitely stronger than it did on initial responses.

What follows are my personal rankings, with corresponding grades, of the 18 films in the competition.

1. Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey): A+

2. Adieu au langage (Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland): A

3. Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, France): A

4. Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia): A-

5. Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh, UK): A-

6. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, Mali): A-

7. Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg, Canada): A-

8. Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium): B+

9. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, USA): B

10. The Wonders (Alice Rohrwacher, Italy): B

11. Mommy (Xavier Dolan, Canada): B

12. Saint Laurent (Bertrand Bonello, France): B-

13. Wild Tales (Damian Szifron, Argentina): B-

14. The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones, USA): C+

15. Jimmy’s Hall (Ken Loach, UK): C

16. The Captive (Atom Egoyan, Canda): C-

17. Still the Water (Naomi Kawase, Japan): C-

18. The Search (Michel Hazanavicius, France): D

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