‘Toni Erdmann’ Tops Female-Dominated Sight & Sound Critics’ Poll

'Toni Erdmann' Named 2016's Best Film
Courtesy of Cannes

Four distaff directors place in the top 10, while U.S. critics' favorite 'Moonlight' takes second place

Critics may have been aghast when “Toni Erdmann” was blanked by the Cannes Film Festival jury in May, but they came to the rescue of Maren Ade’s film as it topped U.K. film magazine Sight & Sound’s prestigious annual critics’ poll. The poignant German-Austrian dramedy about a dysfunctional father-daughter relationship was named the year’s best film in a survey of over 150 international film journalists, beating Barry Jenkins’s tender gay coming-of-age tale “Moonlight” into second place. Paul Verhoeven’s incendiary comeback feature “Elle,” a rape-revenge thriller with a feminist twist, took the bronze.

This honor is likely to be one of many in the coming weeks for “Toni Erdmann,” Germany’s official submission for the best foreign language film Oscar — and seen as a potential frontrunner for that award. It nabbed the foreign-language prize in the New York Film Critics’ Circle voting earlier today, and leads all nominees for next week’s European Film Awards.

It was a banner year for female filmmakers in the poll, with Ade one of three women to place in the top five: American writer-director Kelly Reichardt took fourth place for her character-driven triptych “Certain Women,” followed by Britain’s Andrea Arnold and her sprawling Midwestern youth odyssey “American Honey.” A fourth female helmer, France’s Mia Hansen-Løve, cracked the top ten with her wry post-divorce drama “Things to Come” — after “Elle,” the second Isabelle Huppert vehicle on the list.

“I am delighted that our poll recognises the talent of women directors at the top of the art form,” stated Sight & Sound editor Nick James. “This follows closely on from Sight & Sound’s Female Gaze issue which shone a light on overlooked female filmmakers, and it is encouraging to think that such neglect will soon be a thing of the past. I send my congratulations to Maren Ade, Kelly Reichardt and Andrea Arnold, but also to Barry Jenkins, for his deeply moving, trail-blazing second feature and to Paul Verhoeven, who has made a powerful and subversive woman-centric film.”

Also included in the top 10 were Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake” (which beat “Erdmann,” “Elle” and “American Honey” to the Palme d’Or at Cannes), Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea,” Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” and Albert Serra’s “The Death of Louis XIV.”

Last year’s winner was Hou Hsiao-hsien’s meditative martial-arts tale “The Assassin,” followed by “Carol” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

This year’s full Sight & Sound top 20 is as follows:

1. “Toni Erdmann” (Maren Ade)
2. “Moonlight” (Barry Jenkins)
3. “Elle” (Paul Verhoeven)
4. “Certain Women” (Kelly Reichardt)
5. “American Honey” (Andrea Arnold)
6. “I, Daniel Blake” (Ken Loach)
7. “Manchester by the Sea” (Kenneth Lonergan)
8. “Things to Come” (Mia Hansen-Løve)
9. “Paterson” (Jim Jarmusch)
10. “The Death of Louis XIV” (Albert Serra)
11. “Personal Shopper” (Olivier Assayas)
=11. “Sieranevada” (Cristi Puiu)
13. “Fire At Sea” (Gianfranco Rosi)
=13. “Nocturama” (Bertrand Bonello)
=13. “Julieta” (Pedro Almodóvar)
16. “La La Land” (Damien Chazelle)
=16. “Cameraperson” (Kirsten Johnson)
18. “Love & Friendship” (Whit Stillman)
19. “Aquarius” (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
=19. “Victoria” (Sebastian Schipper)

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