6 new arthouse movies you need to watch

Underground gems like 'Corsage', 'The Five Devils' and 'Return to Seoul' are fresh off the Cannes Croisette.

by Jenna Mahale and Douglas Greenwood
07 June 2022, 11:00am

Scarlet (2022)

We’ve all heard the headlines from this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The 75th edition of the prestigious competition played host to Ruben Ostlünd’s riotous Palme d’Or winner Triangle of Sadness, a movie that earned a seven-minute standing ovation from its premiere audience; David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future arrived to further panic attacks and walk-outs as well as high critical acclaim; according to one report, there may even be the first cinematic K-Stew and R-Patz link-up since Twilight on the horizon, courtesy of the body horror king himself. Annie Hathaway killed the red carpet. Jeremy Strong was there, too.

But what of the lesser known highlights? Some of the shiniest gems of Cannes’ world-spanning selection are more lowkey productions, with smaller names attached. Here is an essential list of the ones to watch — six arthouse deep cuts from this year’s festival offering.

1. Corsage, Marie Kreutzer

Just as the uptight strings are loosening in the world of corsetry, so too are they in period dramas. Marie Kreutzer’s buzzy take on the story of a 19th century Austrian Empress, played by a career-best Vicky Krieps (of Phantom Thread fame), envisions a woman living firmly against the rules of the establishment. Fine dining is interrupted by the empress being doused in dark chocolate sauce; charity visits to hospitals go awry when she gets into bed with patients. An undeniably successful successor to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, Corsage is a dark comedy with impeccable taste.

2. De Humani Corporis Fabrica, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel

Cannes is no stranger to shocking cinema: it is, after all, where Lars von Trier opted to premiere some of his most jaw-dropping projects. But there were quick exits, with audience members clambering over each other, in the first screening of De Humani Corporis Fabrica, the documentary by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel. Set in Paris hospitals, it gives us an incisive (sorry) look at the kind of surgical procedures we usually shy away from: C-sections, vitrectomies (that’s eye surgery), spinal-straightening procedures. It’s gruesome, yes, but strangely hypnotic, helping us understand exactly what goes on within our blood and guts.

3. The Five Devils, Léa Mysius

If you’re in the market for something both spooky and gay, give The Five Devils a try. The new film from celebrated filmmaker Léa Mysius, it tells the story of a woman, played by Adele Exarchopoulos, reckoning with the return of an old friend to her small mountain hometown in France. We never quite know what drew them apart in the first place; the person with the answers her daughter, who has a nose for scents and the supernatural ability to transport herself to the past by smelling them.

still from return to seoul

4. Return to Seoul, Davy Chou

From Cambodian-French filmmaker Davy Chou, Return to Seoul (originally Retour à Séoul) follows the story of a young woman named Freddie (Ji-Min Park) who was taken in and raised by a French couple as Frédérique Benoît. Now a vivacious, hard-drinking 25-year-old, Freddie decides to explore her Korean roots in an impromptu trip to her birthplace. In a deeply-felt reckoning with her past, Freddie comes up against cultural obstacles and language barriers, like the one separating her and her biological father (Oh Kwang-Rok), but it’s an immigrant narrative with enough humour and anger imbued throughout that it never feels maudlin.

5. Rodeo, Lola Quivoron

Premiering as part of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard strand—which The New York Times describes as a “low-key mirror image of the main competition” — Rodeo scooped up the coveted Coup de Coeur prize, despite the film only being director Lola Quivoron’s feature debut. Julie Ledru is Julia, a scrappy survivor type estranged from her family, who yearns for escape – specifically in the form of a fully tanked-up dirt bike. The world she is pulled into as a result of her thirst for the open road is often harsh but also plainly enchanting, and very visually enthralling.

6. Scarlet, Pietro Marcello

The Martin Eden director goes hard on whimsy in this off-kilter coming-of-age fairytale, featuring Louis Garrel, his aviator moustache, and newcomer Juliette Jouan. Also titled L’Envol, the film begins in rural France with a wartorn widower craftsman named Raphaël, grappling with the prospect of raising his daughter, Juliette. Mystical happenings emerge from the bucolic setting as Juliette gets older, she becomes more of a caretaker for her father, and a hot pilot named Jean (Louis Garrel) rocks up in his plane; local drama ensues, people sing beautiful French songs and bathe sensually in a lake. It’s a great Disney movie for the Curzon crowd.

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Cannes Film Festival