• From left: 'Toni Edrmann', 'Elle' and 'Aquarius' are all contenders for the 2016 Palme d'Or. (Cannes)Source: Cannes
There's good money on a female director taking out the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival tonight.
22 May 2016 - 3:13 PM  UPDATED 22 May 2016 - 3:30 PM

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL: We are getting to the pointy end of the Cannes Film Festival, with president George Miller and his jury set to announce the winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or tonight. 

The critical favourite to take out the shiny prize is Toni Erdmann, a German comedy/drama whose three-hour running time feels a lot more brisk. It’s a story of a mutually depressive father/daughter who try to conceal their foibles from each other and it had a cinema of crusty critics in stitches. Though I didn't find it as uproariously funny as a lot of those seated around me, it does have some giggles to be had.

Cannes is unlike any other festival in many ways but it’s also like every other festival in the fact that comedies don’t tend to win the big awards. However, if it does take out the top prize tonight, Toni Erdmann would also have the distinction of being the second Palme d’Or in the festival’s history to be awarded to a female director. Many of us are tipping Maron Ade to be the name that joins Jane Campion on the lonely list of female Palme d’Or winning directors. Wouldn’t it be something if our own Dr George was the one to boost the lady names on the festival’s record books? 

(N.B. Though let’s not forget Steven Spielberg’s jury in 2013 elected to give the Blue is the Warmest Colour Palme to actresses Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos, as well as the film’s director Abdellatif Kechiche. There’s apparently an obscure post-1991 rule, not always observed, that prohibits the jury from assigning multiple awards for the same film, and Spielberg said the actresses were fundamental collaborators who deserved equal recognition with Kechiche).

A late contender is Dutch provocateur Paul Verhoeven, who breaks all the established rules of the way rape is depicted on screen with Elle - and manages to get away with it. His partner in crime is the ever-game Isabelle Huppert, whose portrayal of a sexual assault victim is unconventional and oddly comic, and references her iconic role as a masochist in Haneke’s The Piano Teacher

I’m also tipping a prize for Brazillian beauty Aquarius, from Kleber Mendonca Filho. It’s an elegant love letter to Brazil’s rich history with a timely and fiercely critical plot about corruption and malfeasance. It features a mighty performance from Sonia Braga as the lone holdout in a beachfront apartment building, standing firm against buyout bids and dirty tricks from developers. If the film itself doesn’t take the Palme, Sonia Braga has to win Best Actress. Lucky Sydneysiders will be able to see the film when it screens at the Sydney Film Festival in a couple of weeks. 

The Palme d’Or ceremony gets underway at 7.30pm French time and we’ll have full coverage of the results here, along with statements from the jury and reactions from the winners.

Here's a quick rundown of all of the contenders

AMERICAN HONEY  (Andrea Arnold)

Brit director Andrea Arnold immersed herself in ‘Murica’s heartland to make this mood piece about a rambling road trip of free spirits. It features a great supporting performance from Shia Lebeouf and shoots sex scenes with a female gaze, but its 2hr20 running time feels longer, and Arnold overmilks her ‘moth to a flame’ metaphors.


AQUARIUS (Kleber Mendonca Filho)

A sumptuous celebration of music and memory with a knockout performance from Sonia Braga as a cancer survivor who sees through the charm offensive launched by a smiling property developer. This metaphor of broken Brazil is a wonder. Go on, Dr George. Give it the Palme.

Tip: Palme d’Or / Best Actress


ELLE (Paul Verhoeven)

It’s an unsettling rape revenge dark (so dark) comedy that flies in the face of outrage culture. It’s going to win something. Take your pick.

Tip: Palme d’Or / Grand Prix / Best Actress 



Marion Cotillard gives a nuanced performance as a sexually-charged woman born ahead of her time, in Nicole Garcia’s adaptation of a short novella. The film is empathic to Gabrielle (Cotillard)’s search for release but is let down by a ropey ending. 


GRADUATION / 'BACALAUREAT' (Christian Mungiu) 

He's already got a Palme d'Or on the shelf but Mungiu may be a surprise recipient of another with this gripping take on generational vice in Romania, from the perspective of a well-connected doctor trying to weasel favours for his daughter. 

Tip: Screenplay / Palme d'Or 



Ken Loach’s last film is one of his best. A gravely ill man is rejected by the social safety net but doesn’t go down without a fight.

Tip: Best Director / Jury Prize / Best Actor

I, Daniel Blake review: Ken Loach in top form with story of state-sanctioned cruelty (Cannes)
Ken Loach's final film is designed to leave a lump in your throat and a fire in your belly.


Xavier Dolan’s overwrought saga about a dying man’s detachment from his family doesn’t connect with the audience and worse, includes a dodgy performance from Marion Cotillard.

Review: Xavier Dolan's 'It's Only the End of the World' is not very good
The French-Canadian wunderkind hits a snag with a film that features a rare poor performance from Marion Cotillard.

JULIETA (Pedro Almodovar)

Pedro Almodovar stays in his lane without accelerating with this tale of an estranged mother attempting to reconcile with her daughter. High drama, low impact.


LOVING (Jeff Nichols)

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton play Mildred and John Loving, whose marriage sparked a landmark civil rights ruling from the Supreme Court to overturn all race-based marriage restrictions in the United States. Likely to figure in the Academy Awards race of 2016/17, Nichols’ film takes more of a timeline approach rather than fostering intimacy between us and the Lovings. Negga’s sad eyes do the bulk of the heavy lifting.


MA ROSA (Brilliante Mendoza)

A family of small time drug dealers are hustled by corrupt police in Brilliante Mendoza's return to Cannes competition with another gritty story about metro Manila. A solid plot brings sleazy police business into sharp focus.


NEON DEMON (Nicolas Winding Refn)

Anyone with the surname Winding Refn will tell you that Neon Demon is ‘a new form of cinema’ that deserves the Palme d’Or. I’m not convinced. It's a fashion spread with a soundtrack, in the best and worst ways. 

Cannes: Face to face with the 'Neon Demon'
The psycho supermodels of 'Neon Demon' had nothing on those baying for blood when it screened last night.

PATERSON (Jim Jarmusch)

Everyone is a creative spirit in Jim Jarmusch's charmingly cheeky celebration the poetry of everyday life. Adam Driver is a poet penning sonnets to his beloved as he drives the streets of Paterson each day. She bakes cupcakes and this is the movie equivalent of one.

Tip: Screenplay (at a pinch) 


PERSONAL SHOPPER (Olivier Assayas)

A perfectly creepy supernatural story plays out in the world of high fashion, with a great central performance from Kristen Stewart as a grief-struck twin pining for her missing half, and fearing she’s being stalked by a ghost.

Personal Shopper review: Leave the boos to the ghosts (Cannes)
Kristen Stewart is a rare medium in unfairly panned ghost drama.

SIERANEVADA (Christi Puiu)

One of the dark mysteries of Cannes is why the schedulers always put the three-hour existential Romanian dramas late on the first day, when jet lag is at its peak. I missed this, sorry.


SLACK BAY / ‘MA LOUTE’ (Bruno Dumont)

Pretentious nouveau riche tourists are gobbled up by the locals, in this pratfall-laden cannibalistic comedy you didn’t know you wanted (and I’m still not sure I did).



This cradle-to-grave consideration of sex and parenting from the director of Stranger By The Lake, gave the early risers at the 8.30am press screening a wide-eyed anatomy lesson. There's graphic sex and childbirth in extreme close-up in the story of a procrastinating screenwriter who roams the landscape for inspiration and fathers a child with a shepherd. Wolves are a metaphor for sex, and unconventional euthanasia methods are employed to the soundtrack by Pink Floyd. Darkly funny, deeply weird. 



This three-hour German comedy (don’t say it) about our adult relationships with our parents is the revelation of the festival. 

Tip: Palme d’Or / Best Director / Grand Prix


THE HANDMAIDEN (Park Chan-wook)

A lush, lesbian bodice ripper from the Korean master working back in the revenge game, and back in his native language. It's savage, naughty fun.

Tip: Jury Prize 

Review: The Handmaiden: The Korean gothic lesbian revenge thriller that’s captivated Cannes
Park Chan-Wook's 'The Handmaiden' takes a 2002 historical crime novel set in Victorian England and places it in 1930s Korea under Japanese colonialism.


Sean Penn’s story of two aid workers in love doesn’t do itself any favours by equating their romantic pain with the trauma of huddled masses in a civil war.


THE SALESMAN (Asghar Farhadi)

An Iranian acting couple has their apartment come under threat in a domestic drama full of allegories and more than a passing nod to Death of a Salesman.


THE UNKNOWN GIRL (The Dardennes Bros)

The Belgian brothers offer up a procedural about a doctor-detective plagued by guilt when a woman who sought her assistance ends up dead. Less remarkable than their previous films, but still engrossing.



Read our full coverage of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival