Streaming: Cannes from the comfort of your home

The festival may be holding its line against Netflix – officially, at least. But treats from the Croisette can still be enjoyed online

Another Cannes, another Netflix standoff. For the second year running, no films distributed by the streaming colossus are premiering in the festival’s official selection. While French exhibitors insist on a traditional cinema release for all premieres on the Croisette, Netflix remains unwilling to adjust its own straight-to-streaming strategy for a shot at Palme d’Or prestige. Other major festivals are making concessions to new media – notably Venice, which poached Alfonso Cuarón’s eventual awards darling Roma from the spoils of last year’s Cannes-Netflix battle – but the French remain insistent that cinema, by definition, belongs on the big screen first.

Well, mostly. Exceptions are to be found in the festival’s independently run Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week strands – which, without the media and industry glare that comes with Tarantino-level names, are a little more pragmatic and less puritan about l’esprit du cinéma. British director Babak Anvari’s Netflix-bound film Wounds has landed a slot in the Fortnight, while Critics’ Week, as in years past, throws a bone to international film fans who want to play along at home. From 23 May to 2 June, the section’s entire programme of 10 short films will be available to stream for free online, via the Festival Scope website.

As per the usual Festival Scope model, it’s a first-come-first-served system, with 500 virtual “tickets” available for each title. And like any short film selection, it’s a bit of a lucky dip, although, as they run between just 12 and 30 minutes, you can afford to go in a bit blind. (Or use the Critics’ Week jury, set to announce its award winners just before the films go online, to guide you.) Either way, you’ll be rewarded with the festival’s most diverse range of new film-making talent – it’s the one programme in Cannes where female directors outnumber male ones – from Lithuania to the Philippines to Egypt. An early tip: Chinese director Qiu Yang, who won the short Palme d’Or at Cannes two years ago for his superb A Gentle Night, returns with She Runs, a richly shot study of a teen aerobic dancer. (You can also stream A Gentle Night, a poised but calmly devastating missing-child story, on Amazon Prime.)

Watch the trailer for She Runs.

Sticking with Critics’ Week, one of the standouts of last year’s feature-length competition has just debuted on Netflix. An earthy, honestly felt youth drama pounding the meaner streets of Marseille, Jean-Bernard Marlin’s debut film Shéhérazade covers familiar territory – the pains and pressures of growing up in crime and poverty – with enough hot cultural specificity to make it fresh and urgent. The French certainly think it’s the future: Marlin, plus his swaggering non-professional stars Dylan Robert and Kenza Fortas, all won best-newcomer prizes at this year’s César awards. The film justifies their excitement.

Finally, to round out the Cannes theme, has programmed a mini-festival of 21st-century selections from the Croisette. Some are obvious: Cristian Mungiu’s incendiary, immaculate Palme d’Or champ 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (streaming from 25 May), for example, or the electric Mexi-melodrama triptych of Amores Perros (from 24 May), the first (and still the best) film by this year’s Cannes jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Some, however, have never been released in the UK before. In the case of French auteur Arnaud Desplechin’s thudding American chamber piece Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian (from 21 May), there’s a good reason for that. But actor-writer-director Valérie Donzelli’s 2011 film Declaration of War (from 23 May) deserves the overdue exposure. An emotionally intelligent tearjerker that follows a couple’s battle against their young son’s brain tumour with unexpected wit and vigour, it’s the kind of satisfying head-and-heart workout that should work even on viewers leery of the highbrow Cannes imprimatur. How did Netflix miss this one?

New to streaming & DVD this week

Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph in Wine Country.
Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph in Wine Country. Photograph: Colleen Hayes/Netflix

Wine Country
(Netflix, 15)
It’s tamer and sloppier than it should be, but Amy Poehler’s good-natured directorial debut – gathering her, Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey and other gifted funny women for a boozy Napa Valley girls’ trip, can hardly fail to be fun.

Room at the Top

(BFI, 12)
Quite the eyebrow-raiser in 1959, Jack Clayton’s influential angry-young-man drama doesn’t shock today but it does still bristle, while Laurence Harvey and an Oscar-winning Simone Signoret give it sex and fury.

At Eternity’s Gate

(Curzon Artificial Eye, 12A)

Another Vincent van Gogh biopic, this one very much filtered through Julian Schnabel’s own fine art sensibility: the mannered result isn’t for everyone, but Willem Dafoe earns his Oscar nod.

Mary Queen of Scots

(Universal, 15)

Stage director Josie Rourke tries to bring millennial-era feminism to 16th-century feminism, and doesn’t quite pull it off – it could use more of Margot Robbie’s wily, wounded Elizabeth I.


Guy Lodge

The GuardianTramp

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