The 7 Best Films We Saw at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, And Where You Can See them Soon

From Tarantino's Hollywood to Palme d'Or winner Parasite and the black-and-white horrors of The Lighthouse.

by | May 30, 2019 | Comments

(Photo by Courtesy the Cannes Film Festival)
The crowds have bid ‘au revoir’ to the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival, where films about inequality and injustice, as well as some avant-garde horror, riveted audiences. This year’s jury, led by Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu, bestowed the golden laurels of the Palme d’Or (the festival’s top prize) on Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or win for his twisty social satire follows Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s 2018 win for Shoplifters, making him the third Asian director to take home the top prize and the first Korean filmmaker. The runner-up prize, the Grand Prix, also made history when actress-turned-director Mati Diop won for her debut film Atlantique, becoming the first Black female director to be awarded a competition prize. (It was a second coup for Diop, who made history when she became the first Black female director to be selected in competition).

Elsewhere, our rumored next Batman, Robert Pattinson, continued his run of stellar indie performances and sparked early Oscar talk for his turn alongside co-star Willem Dafoe in the black-and-white horror tale, The Lighthouse. It was one of several films that critics are betting will make a deep run this awards season, along with Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, Rocketman, and Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, for which Antonio Banderas was named best actor.

Here are the seven buzziest films we saw at Cannes 2019; you’ll definitely want to check them out when they reach theaters near you or land on streaming.

Atlantics (2019) 95% 

(Photo by Courtesy the Cannes Film Festival)

Cannes 2019 saw four films in the competition from female filmmakers and three took home prizes; the most prestigious prize went to Mati Diop for Atlantique. A haunting ghost story about the disappearance of exploited construction workers at a Dakar high-rise sets the stage for the tale of two star-crossed lovers. A Black Romeo and Juliet, Ada and Souleimen plan to run away together, but the high-rise builder is refusing to pay the crew over three months of backpay; forced to find work elsewhere, Souleimen and the others set sail for Spain, but their ship capsizes. The young men proceed to bend the laws of death, trying to reunite with their lady loves.

When can you see it? Acquired by Netflix, the film is expected for release globally sometime later this year.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood (2019) 85% 

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
(Photo by Columbia Pictures)

Quentin Tarantino’s latest adventure came up short on major prizes at the festival, but that has not put even the slightest damper on the director’s long-term awards hopes. Tarantino is poised for accolades alongside his two male leads – Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio – especially for the dynamic script, which provides an alternate history of the Manson Family murders. There was some controversy about the role of Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie, and the character’s lack of dialogue – and that may catch up with the filmmaker as awards season kicks into gear. As with Inglourious Basterds after its Cannes premiere in 2009, the word is Tarantino wants to recut Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. Will this rumored new cut have more for dialogue for Robbie? We shall wait and see.

When can you see it? Sony has Once Upon a Time in Hollywood set for a July 26 release; expect it to do well at the box office as an alternative bit of original programming in a summer laden with superheroes and sequels.

Bacarau (2019)

(Photo by Courtesy the Cannes Film Festival)

A skillfully shot genre flick, this gory The Raid-meets-Seven Samurai mashup set in rural Brazil lit up the early days of the festival. The film tied Les Miserables, the French dramatization of the 2005 Paris riots, for the third-place Jury Prize. Part modern western and part political statement, Bacarau throws social commentary and deadpan humor into a no-holds-barred action blender and turns everything up to full blast. A film built for midnight drive-ins, it has the chops to be a Train To Busan-style cult hit.

When Can You See It? SBS Distribution and Vitrine Filmes are handling the French and Brazilian distribution but no word yet on the North American rights.

Parasite (Gisaengchung) (2019) 99%

(Photo by Courtesy Cannes Film Festival)

For the second year in a row – and only the third time for the festival – an Asian director took home the Palme d’Or. We think Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho could not be a more worthy winner. Critics raved about this story of two families who reflect the evils of wealth, inequality, and class discrimination. A hilarious farce that also works as a thought-provoking drama, Parasite follows in Joon-ho’s tradition of setting class dissections in the most unlikely of places. A. A Dowd of the AV Club wrote that the film “shifts tonal gears in total service of its class politics, infecting the film’s breezy dark-comedy with notes of rage and melancholy.”

When can you see it? NEON acquired the North American rights for Parasite before release; following the Palme d’Or and rave reviews, they’ve announced the film will open in New York and Los Angeles on October 11, presumably before it expands to more theaters on a later date.

The Lighthouse (2019) 95%

The Lighthouse
(Photo by Courtesy the Cannes Film Festival)

The Witch writer-director Robert Eggers has proven he’s just getting started with his peculiar brand of horror. The Lighthouse, which won the Cannes Critics Award, was one of the best-reviewed films of the festival. Those lucky enough to catch a screening have dubbed the story of two men trapped in a 1800s lighthouse a gothic horror masterpiece. Utilizing 1940s camera techniques – it’s shot in black-and-white on 35mm film – the atmospheric thriller could be a dark horse awards contender, and co-stars Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are getting early Oscar whispers. The two worked through grueling conditions on the film, something that worked for Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. 

When can you see it? Produced and distributed by A24, The Lighthouse will hit U.S. theaters soon but no word yet on the date. 

Rocketman (2019) 89%

Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody seem to destined for comparison: They’re both the stories of flamboyant, hard-partying, larger-than-life ’70s rock icons who struggled with their sexuality. They even shared a manager – and the films kind of share a director: Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher was tapped to finish and edit Bohemian Rhapsody after original director Bryan Singer was unceremoniously fired. However, after Rocketman‘s Cannes premiere, we can confirm that the two films could not be more different. A musical theater adaptation of Elton John’s life, Rocketman is a wholly unique cinema experience. Taron Egerton disappears into the role of John for this psychedelic fantasy version of the singer’s early career and his struggles with depression and addiction. After Rami Malek walked away with the Oscar in 2018 for his lip-sync take on Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, it will be hard to argue that Egerton is any less deserving of a nomination given that he sings and dances throughout the entire runtime.

When can we see it? Rocketman hits theaters May 31.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu) (2019) 98%

A Portrait of a Lady on Fire
(Photo by Courtesy the Cannes Film Festival)

Céline Sciamma was awarded best screenplay for period lesbian love story Portrait of A Lady on Fire; but for much of the festival many pundits thought she was about to become the first female director since Jane Campion to win the Palme d’Or. A film that many are calling an LBGTQ version of The Piano, or a lesbian Call Me By Your Name, Portrait of A Lady on Fire is a taut love story between a painter and her subject, two women desperately in love but living on borrowed time. The film is an awards-season threat for production design, cinematography, and acting prizes for the leads Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel.

When can you see it? NEON acquired the North American rights to A Portrait of Lady on Fire and has scheduled it for release on December 6.

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