Highlights, scandals and a turkey: Cannes festival roundup

Sean Penn, Jean Reno, Adele Exarchopoulos, Hopper Penn, Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem attend 'The Last Face' Premiere during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival. (Photo: Getty Images)
Sean Penn, Jean Reno, Adele Exarchopoulos, Hopper Penn, Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem attend 'The Last Face' Premiere during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival. (Photo: Getty Images)

France - From a hilarious German comedy tipped to win the Palme d'Or top prize to the Woody Allen scandal that just wouldn't go away, AFP rounds up the Cannes film festival:

The hits

Among the 21 films in the running for the Palme d'Or, audiences embraced German director Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann, a bittersweet father-daughter tale that builds to a riotous final act.

US indie hero Jim Jarmusch also scored a hit with his tender ode to the poetry of everyday life starring Star Wars villain Adam Driver as a bus driver with a passion for verse.

Loving by US director Jeff Nichols sparked early Oscar buzz with its true story of a Virginia couple who battled before the Supreme Court in 1967 for their right as a white man and an African-American woman to live together as husband and wife.

And Romania's new wave made a strong showing too with Cristi Puiu's Sieranevada and previous Cannes winner Cristian Mungiu's Graduation negotiating the ethical minefields of post-communist society.

Rounding off the favourites were Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman, a taut moral drama by the Iranian director of the Oscar-winning A Separation, and Paul Verhoeven's rape revenge fantasy Elle starring Isabelle Huppert.

The controversies

Cannes loves high-wire acts and a handful of risky films sharply divided critics.

Reviewers said British director Andrea Arnold's American Honey starring Shia LaBeouf about disaffected US teens selling magazines door-to-door throbbed with youthful energy, but The Guardian said that Arnold needed "a firmer hand with the plot" of the nearly three-hour picture.

French director Olivier Assayas set off the first chorus of boos at this year's festival with Personal Shopper, a supernatural drama that nevertheless drew rave reviews for its star Kristen Stewart.

And Nicolas Winding Refn, the audacious Dane behind Drive, left audiences slackjawed with his bloody, stylish send-up of the cutthroat fashion industry, The Neon Demon, a tale of cannibal fashion models set in Los Angeles. One critic shouted "Trash!" at the screen as the lights came up.

The turkey

Sean Penn's fifth directorial effort The Last Face landed with a historic thud, earning just 0.2 out of four stars in an international critics' poll by trade magazine Screen - the worst score in the survey's 13-year history.

The film is love story between aid workers working in West African war zones played by Javier Bardem and Penn's ex, Charlize Theron. The Hollywood Reporter's take - "a stunningly self-important but numbingly empty cocktail of romance and insulting refugee porn" - was one of the kinder verdicts.

The scandal

New York director Woody Allen opened the festival with his new movie Cafe Society, featuring Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg.

But before he and his stars had even walked down Cannes' red carpet, decades-old accusations that he sexually abused his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow resurfaced in a magazine column written by her brother Ronan.

Then French actor Laurent Lafitte made a rape joke at the opening ceremony which many saw as a stab at Allen. The director insisted he was not offended and Lafitte later apologised.

But outspoken actress Susan Sarandon couldn't resist a withering judgement when asked by AFP what she thought of Allen at a panel about women in cinema later in the week.

"I have nothing good to say about Woody Allen, so I don't think we should go there," she said, before repeating the allegations against him, which the director denies and which have never been proved in court.

The fashion statements

After women said they were banished from Cannes' red carpet last year for failing to wear high heels, Hollywood took revenge in fine style.

Kristen Stewart sported blue sneakers with her Chanel frock, Julia Roberts simply went barefoot and Charlie Theron skipped the de rigueur evening gown for a Dior tuxedo with a white blouse open to her navel.

Meanwhile actor Viggo Mortensen and rocker Iggy Pop, the focus of a new documentary by Jarmusch, refused to take the Cannes rituals too seriously and gave snappers the finger at their respective photo calls.

Here are the winners from the 2016 Cannes film festival, as chosen by a jury led by Australian director and Mad Max creator George Miller:

Palme d'Or: "I, Daniel Blake"

British Director Ken Loach won over the jury with his moving tale of a carpenter (Dave Johns) who suffers repeated humiliations as he seeks welfare benefits after having a heart attack.

Grand Prix: "It's Only The End of The World"

Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan's film was booed by some critics but the jury felt it deserved second place in Cannes for his fraught family drama.

It is the latest in a string of Cannes honours for the 27-year-old director who won the third-placed Jury Prize in 2014 for Mommy.

Jury Prize: "American Honey"

Britain's Andrea Arnold came in third with American Honey, starring Shia LaBeouf as the leader of a group of disaffected US teens selling magazines door-to-door.

A throbbing soundtrack accompanies the youths on their slow-paced road trip, with plenty of marijuana smoking, drinking and falling in love.

Best actor: Shahab Hosseini in "The Salesman"

The Iranian actor won for his role as a man struggling to come to terms with an attack on his wife in their home.

He sets out on a revenge mission while she tries to regain the upper hand and deal with the assault in her own manner.

Best actress: Jaclyn Jose in "Ma' Rosa"

Philippine soap star Jaclyn Jose won best actress for her mesmerising performance as a mother forced to sell drugs to survive before falling prey to corrupt police.

Best director: Cristian Mungiu and Olivier Assayas

The best director award was shared between Romania's Cristian Mungiu and France's Olivier Assayas.

Mungiu shines a light on the post-communist social rot in his homeland in Graduation, about a father trying to ensure his daughter can escape Romania's corruption with a scholarship to a British university.

Assayas won for Personal Shopper starring Kristen Stewart, a movie that is an audacious mix of ghost story, murder mystery and existential drama. Critics, however, booed it.

Best screenplay: Asghar Farhadi

The Iranian director, who won an Oscar in 2012 for A Separation, won best screenplay for The Salesman.

(Photos: Getty Images)