Festival feelings were boosted with an outrageous horror starring Nicole Kidman, a brilliant art world wit, and a brutal challenger for Palme dOr

No visit to Cannes is complete without a trip-up to the market at the back of the Palais. Hidden from view, like a demented age-old aunt, sits the realm of zombie rabbits and erotical thrillers, a teeming tide pool of B-movie cinema. Except that this year Ive left the visit too late. When I stray down, early evening on the second Wednesday, the circus is already pulling out of township. It leaves behind a mess of abandoned stalls and plastic boxes and myriad screens broadcasting a movie called No Signal . Its lonesome in the market after the sale staff going to go, like strolling past a row of off-season beach shops, the dinghies and balls trapped behind wire mesh. Creepy, too, because on retracing my steps I find that the main exit is closed, which entails taking a circuitous route through a maze of underground walkways. Person should kill a horror flick put down in the Cannes market at the celebrations end.

Cannes develops age-old. The punters are tired. Its all they can do to keep themselves horizontal. The whisperings, meanwhile, are that this has been an uneasy publication, revealing a celebration in a fascinating state of flux. The independent film sector is in wane, subscription Tv is on the increases and the Netflix row been shown that Cannes is still procuring the best way of journeying both sides of the seesaw. Even its lavish 70th birthday galas( guests included Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Charlize Theron and Claudia Cardinale) seemed a valiant attempt to enshrine the celebrations past, perhaps as a means of safeguarding its future. Cannes will endure; its too glorious not to. Right now, though, it remains a big analog beast, toiling be adjusted to a digital planet.

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The Florida Project: a heart-stopping portrait of child poverty. Photo: Marc Schmidt

The main rivalry necessity something outrageous to vaporize it from its slough, and it comes down politenes of The Killing of a Sacred Deer , which had parts of the audience energetically booing the screen. Yorgos Lanthimoss freeze-dried avenge tale castings Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman as a moneyed married couple who find themselves targeted by a supernatural adolescent( Barry Keoghan ), while the narration slaloms from deadpan black comedy through Cape Fear -ish thrills towards a finale of such matter-of-fact horror that it can only be watched through splayed thumbs. We wouldnt want to live in Lanthimoss anaesthetised, off-centre world. But his cinemas stimulate us feel that we already do.

On balance, I preferred Sacred Deer to The Beguiled , the celebrations other Kidman-Farrell collaboration, although this too had its merits. This time around, Farrells the wounded civil campaign soldier and Kidman the fragrant headmistress of a girls seminary, folded back from the road, draped in Spanish moss. Credit to director Sofia Coppola for procuring a fresh, feminist route through Thomas Cullinans source novel. She slides Farrells devilish charmer under the sheets of his sick couch and then proceeds to( literally) cut him down to size. The schoolgirls are circling, the sexual tension is mounting. The plot plays out as a prolonged onslaught of the vapours.

Coming into the festival, pundits were merrily tipping Michael Haneke to win an unprecedented third Palme dOr. But I was unconvinced by Happy End , a cool-eyed dissection of a bourgeois French household, which felt too much a reprise of topics hes tackled with more impact before. Better by far was Ruben stlunds The Square , which sets forth as a pointed art world wit before throwing its limbs wide-ranging to include us all in the joke. Claes Bang devotes a tremendous performance as chief curator at Swedens X-Royal Museum, undone by the viral video that was intended to promote his latest exhibit. What a warm, smart-alecky, splendidly humane movie this is. Its seeming digressions arent really digressions at all, in that they all spin out of stlunds consolidating thesis on public space and personal responsibility. Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West ride shotgun as, respectively, a brittle writer who keeps a pet chimp and a preening conceptual artist whose address is interrupted by a heckler with Tourette syndrome.

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Louis Garrel as Jean-Luc Godard in Redoubtable, which strays close to Austin Powers. Photo: StudioCanal

By about the midway point, the delegates can sympathise with the plight of Wests character. The festival schedule continues transgressing their flowing, screaming for their attention, throwing in extra screenings, repeat shows; photocalls, press conferences and seminars. And where reference is heap up the steps to the cinema it is almost as if the movies go piling past in the opposite guidance, operating at us and through us; each one impossible to hang on to for long because, looking, heres another, hard at its heels.

BPM is an urgent report of late-8 0s Aids activism; Rodin an inert tombstone to the celebrated French sculptor. Noah Baumbachs The Meyerowitz Stories tells a lovely, scratchy New York family story that still instead belies its small-screen Netflix pedigree, while Robert Pattinson jetted in to promote his role as a bankrobber in the Safdie brothers buzzing, boisterous Good Time . I was also impressed by Fatih Akins < em> In the Fade , even though the plot is a little stock and overheated. Diane Kruger plays the bereaved wife and mother, chasing neo-Nazis all the way from the courthouse to the beaches of Greece.

Back in 1968, this celebration was effectively shut down by director Jean-Luc Godard, determined to show solidarity with the French objectors. Now that nugget of Cannes history has been unearthed, after a fashion, in Michel Hazanaviciuss Redoubtable , which stars Louis Garrel as the cantankerous new waver and British actor Stacy Martin as his hapless teenage bride. Hazanaviciuss tale is perfectly diverting and played with verve. But it strays close to Austin Powers in the way it reframes 60 s radicalism as a series of pop art gestures. Outside the Palais, on ritzy Rue dAntibes, is a high-end shop that calls itself Mai 68. This, I suspect, is the filmic equivalent.

Does the Cannes lineup need shaking up? Security has been tightened; there was a one-minute stillnes for the bomb victims in Manchester. And yet this new closed-door policy seems to have been extended to the main rivalry as well, shutting out some of the more obviously raucous competitors. Further up the Croisette, for example, the competitive directors fortnight sidebar finds space for The Florida Project a heart-stopping portrait of child poverty, evocatively played out around Orlandos flophouse motels. No doubt thats the ideal launchpad for Sean Bakers terrific little movie. But some fresh blood in rivalry would not go amiss.

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US director Abel Ferrara becomes his camera on the paparazzi. Photo: Loic Venance/ AFP/ Getty Images

Under my balcony, an American humankind is hoarsely venting his hysterium. Hes railing about this; hes railing about that. The rant goes on for a full five minutes before I realise that the figure below is actually Abel Ferrara, the disreputable ruler of the New York indie scene, one of the last boys standing as the event winds down. Hes remonstrating with another man, who might be his assistant or just some unlucky passer-by. This is fucking bullshit! Ferrara yells. I was having a ball and then this fucking happens! If he doesnt pipe down, security will come get him. Hes raging , noisily, against the dying of the light.

Tips for the Palme dOr? Who the inferno can say for sure? The judges huddle behind closed doors. The Square , Sacred Deer or Andrey Zvyagintsevs Loveless , which I wrote about last week, would all stimulate worthy wins. Alternatively, the award could go to A Gentle Creature , the most bold and brutal movie in rivalry; a jagged, roiling prison town nightmare. Over a punishing two-and-a-half hour spell, director Sergei Loznitsa charts the journey of impassive Alyonka( Vasikina Makovtseva ), who wants to deliver a care package to her husband in jail. Along the route, she determines herself thwarted by bureaucracy, menaced by the police and manhandled by the drunks inside the towns hellish brothel. The depict is savage, intense, with a top note of surrealism; Kafkas greatest hittings, as sung by Tom Waits. With exquisite cruelty, the organisers fell A Gentle Creature right near the conclusion of its celebration, as a little treat for the exhausted punters. All around the cinema, Im aware of the viewers passing out in their seats and then snoring like buzzsaws. This movie is too much to endure; its knocking them out one by one.

About two hours in, Alyonka takes encompas in the waiting area of the local station, where the benches are lined with snoozing drifters. There, our heroine is approached by one of her fellow plaintiffs, a crazed Miss Havisham type, who warns that whatever she does, she must not close her eyes. The lady mentions: Dont fall asleep here or youll get carried off.

This, it strikes me, is a fine cautionary message for the dog days of Cannes, when the true believers risk nodding off at the wheel and the event is left facing an uncertain tomorrow. Wake up, stay alert, this celebrations not quite finished yet. If we fall asleep here, then well get carried off.

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