Armchair Vacation Cannes Edition: Five Films To Watch At Home This Weekend (April 19-21)

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The Cannes lineup has been revealed, and with it, comes one of the most exciting lineups of directors and projects that the Croisette has seen in quite some time. While names like James Gray, Roman Polanski and even Alexander Payne may be making the headlines, there are a ton of directors with names both well known and unknown rounding out this year’s Cannes slate. And thankfully, those who may not know any of the names on this list, the various streaming services have made catching up with these directors and their canons as easy as pressing a button on a remote or a click of a mouse.

Here are five films from five directors found on this year’s Cannes lineup:

5. Nicolas Winding Refn / Valhalla Rising (Netflix)

Yes, there may very well be only a handful of directors on this list that are better known (one of them being my number one choice, but more on that in a minute), but as far as films go, this is one of the least talked about on this list. The film director Refn made directly before his beloved hit Drive, Valhalla Rising may very well prove to be both Refn’s most challenging picture, as well as his most breathtaking and startlingly crafted. Blending Malickian theology with Kubrickian brood, this is truly unlike anything Refn had made prior, or has made since. A tale of Viking fighter who sparks a relationship with a boy, only to find themselves the ire of an oncoming attack, the film is arguably more style than substance, but as with most films from the two inspirations mentioned, the film lives and breathes as a piece of both mood and a theological debate. It’s simply a great motion picture from a director who truly (except for Drive, as I would argue) doesn’t know how to make anything other than deeply interesting bits of drama.

His latest, Only God Forgives, debuts In Competition at Cannes this year.

4. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun / A Screaming Man (Netflix)

Making a triumphant return to Cannes after a 2010 Jury Prize victory for this very film, Haroun will be hitting the Croisette again for a film entitled Grisgris, and if this film is any sign, attendees will be in line for something truly great. I myself haven’t seen the other two films in this alleged trilogy (Abouna and Daratt), but A Screaming Man is absolutely superb. Following the story of a man who must hand over his job to his son, the picture is set against war in modern day Chad, and is a deeply intimate drama and character study about not only a father-son relationship, but about one man coming to terms with his place in a changing world. It’s truly a superb drama that is not only a Cannes winner, but is a rather intriguing introduction to beloved foreign filmmaker.

3. Francois Ozon / Swimming Pool (Netflix)

With his last film, In The House, making its way to theaters starting Friday, director Francois Ozon will be returning to Cannes with his new picture, Jeune Et Jolie, and while he may not be the most well known French filmmaker on the planet, he may be one of the most exciting. His most well known film is likely one of three that he currently has available on Netflix, and Swimming Pool also has the distinction of being one of his strongest. Following the story of a crime novelist on vacation, the film is beautifully crafted and features some rather solid performances from the likes of Charlotte Ramplingn and Charles Dance. Inherently about interpersonal relationships, the film touches on many of the subjects found within Ozon’s work ranging from films like Hideaway or his aforementioned gem, In The House. He’s a great filmmaker who will likely go down as one of this generation’s great French auteurs.

2. Alex Van Warmerdam / The Last Days Of Emma Blank (Netflix)

Of all the names aboard the Cannes 2013 lineup, one of the least known prospects is director Alex Van Warmerdam. Only having heard his name in passing while reading things like Sight And Sound and Film Comment, I had actually never seen a film of his until his new film, Borgman, was revealed as part of the In Competition lineup for Cannes. However, thankfully Netflix has a bevy of the director’s films, and the first one I had the chance to view was a rather winning dead pan comedy. Entitled The Last Days Of Emma Blank, the film is a truly dry, but deeply hilarious look at a growingly troubled group of people under the control of one madam. As surreal and dry as early Czech New Wave pictures, the film isn’t high on the gut busting chuckles, but the picture does make good on its promise of being an absurd comedy set around a gorgeous manner and those who fill it. Based on a stage play, the film feels very much like an ensemble performance piece, and allows for each thespian to make good on their roles. One of the more intriguing names on this list of films and directors, this is one hell of an introduction to a rather interesting Dutch filmmaker.

1. Steven Soderbergh / Bubble  (Netflix)

As his career allegedly comes to an end with the debut of his new, Cannes bound, biopic Behind The Candelabra, director Steven Soderbergh has become one of the film world’s most talked about auteurs. With an uncanny ability to jump from big budget studio blockbuster like his Ocean’s trilogy to small, no budget pictures like the impossibly great Girlfriend Experience, the director has become truly unlike any of his peers, while also creating an aesthetic completely his own. And no picture may show that definitive aesthetic quite like his unsung picture, Bubble. A thriller at heart, the film features a great cast of non-actors giving superb performances, all in the body of a completely spare and vital thriller that is rarely given its proper place among Soderbergh’s great films. I myself have been a rather vocal supporter of the picture, even positing that it should have a position among the Criterion Collection, so you know I’m a fan. However, most haven’t given this picture a shot, and hopefully, with his career coming to an alleged end, that will be changing.