Streaming Spotlight: Palm Springs critical winners

As this year's festival begins, we select past critics' winners you can watch at home

by Amber Wilkinson

Some of this year's FIPRESCI contenders in Palm Springs, clockwise from top right: Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, Fallen Leaves, The Zone Of Interest and Anatomy Of A Fall
Some of this year's FIPRESCI contenders in Palm Springs, clockwise from top right: Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, Fallen Leaves, The Zone Of Interest and Anatomy Of A Fall

The new year is upon us and with it a fresh set of festivals are also beginning. First in the year is Palm Springs, which serves as a celebration of the old as well as a welcoming of the new. Among key awards at the festival every year are those given out by a FIPRESCI jury of international critics, who take a look at all the international films that have been submitted for the coming Oscar, often picking a different choice to that later selected by the Academy. Acting and script awards are also given. Films in the running this year, including The Zone Of Interest, Anatomy Of A Fall, Fallen Leaves and Smoke Sauna Sisterhood. To mark the start of this year's festival, which runs until January 15, here's seven of the previous FIPRESCI winners to catch up with from home.

Alcarràs, streaming on MUBI

Alcarràs Photo: Courtesy of London Film Festival
Carla Simón’s Golden Bear winner is built upon family and the little incidents that play out in most clans as much as it is driven by the wider plot. She follows the Solé family over one last peach tree harvest season as they face the land they have worked on for years being converted into solar panel fields. A truly inter-generational tale, Simón has as much time for the kids who are clambering about the place as she does their hard-working parents and the grandfather who is facing the grim realisation that the deal he struck with the landowner is not worth what he thought. Simón’s film, which won the FIPRESCI screenplay award at Palm Springs last year, is both an elegy to a way of life that is gradually being lost and a celebration of the way families fit together snuggly, no matter how unlikely it might seem that they will.

Toni Erdmann, MUBI, Chili and other platforms

Sandra Hüller in Toni Erdmann
Sandra Hüller in Toni Erdmann
Sandra Hüller is back in the awards frame this year for her roles in courtroom drama Anatomy Of A Fall and Martin Amis adaptation The Zone Of Interest. In Maren Ade’s comedy drama - which took home the FIPRESCI international prize at Palm Springs in 2017 - she gets to show her aptitude for comedy. She plays a workaholic This whose wisecracking dad (Peter Schimonischek) infiltrates her life of his under the guise of an absurdist alter ego. There's a shaggy dog story element to this lengthy film that's rooted in the often unpalatable truths of modern Europe (as Ade puts it: "I was interested in giving the work environment enough space") - but the filmmaker also nails the back and forth of family emotions, complete with all its love and frustrations. Both actors shine in roles that require them to display vulnerability and whip smart comic timing.

The Wound, BFI Player, Amazon and other platforms

Nakhane Touré in The Wound
Nakhane Touré in The Wound Photo: Urucu Media
John Trengrove’s impressive debut feature sees sexual repression rise to the surface as a young man prepares for a traditional Ukwaluka coming-of-age circumcision ritual. More than a straightforward coming-of-age tale, this becomes an interrogation of masculinity as the self-confidence of gay young initiate Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini) threatens the sense of identity of the closeted Xolani (Nakhane Touré, who won the FIPRESCI acting prize in 2018 for his nuanced performance), who has been assigned to help the young man go through the ritual. Trengrove gradually ratchets the tension to breaking point while balancing the scrutiny of the clash between tradition and the modern world with the personal tale of growing conflict between the two men. Read our interview with Trengrove.

Titane, All4, Apple TV, Google Play and other platforms

Agathe Rousselle in Titane
Agathe Rousselle in Titane Photo: Unifrance/Carole Bethuel
Agathe Rousselle won the Best Actress award at Palm Springs in 2022 and she positively bristles with energy as Alexia, a young woman with titanium plates in her head as a result of an accident as a child, who is a car enthusiast in ways that will not be making their way onto Top Gear any time soon. Pushed to the edge by a fan, carnage ensues and she finds herself on the run. All of this is served up at blistering pace and with a good dose of body horror by French filmmaker Julia Ducournau as Alexia decides to pose as the long-lost son of a fireman (a beefed up Vincent Lindon nailing it as usual), which brings an unexpected emotional note to the rest of the film. A spiky but mesmerising fable that hits top gear early and does not stop.

The Turin Horse, Apple TV, Amazon, Curzon and other platforms

The Turin Horse
The Turin Horse
Bela Tarr’s beautiful and bleak drama is an existential consideration of humanity, that takes us into the crumbling universe of Ohlsdorfer (Janos Derzsi) and his daughter (Erika Bok). Tarr lets us follow their daily grind, with the absence of action part of the point in a film that could be a non-comedic partner to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot. The significance of a horse takes centrestage as Tarr invites us to consider how redundant wordy philosophy is when you are just trying to scratch an existence. A film of textures and vivid visuals that requires, and richly rewards, patient viewers and which rode off with the award in Palm Springs in 2011. Read our interview with Tarr.

Rams, Amazon Prime, Now TV and other platforms

Rams winners Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theodór Júlíusson
Rams winners Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theodór Júlíusson
In 2016, the Palm Spring FIPRESCI jury deservedly shared the actor honours between Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theodór Júlíusson for Iceland-set ink-black tragicomedy Rams. They play a pair of feuding brothers, who have been at silent loggerheads for four decades. When their flocks are threatened by a deadly disease the scene is set for additional conflict. Grímur Hákonarson has a real eye for the finer points of farming life as well as a good ear for dry comedy but this is also a deeply humanistic portrait that goes in unexpected directions. The film was later remade in English, with Sam Neill and Michael Caton but the original is the best. Read our interview with Hákonarson and our chat with Atli Örvarsson about the film's score.

Shoplifters, Apple TV, Chili and other platforms

Shoplifters Photo: Fuji Television Network/Gaga Corporation/AOI Pro Inc All rights reserved
Hirokazu Kore-eda lost out in the Oscar race to Roma but his Palme d'Or winning tale was a winner with the Palm Springs critics in 2019. The story hinges on a family of crooks who take in - or, perhaps more accurately, steal - a young girl they find on the street. Kore-eda's regular themes concerning family and connection are all in evidence here as he gradually lets the emotional eddies build from the humourous eccentricity of this clan, taking his time to explore the lives of the members of the family before moving the action into unexpected territory that, as always with Kore-eda packs a hefty emotional punch.

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