On my way in from the Nice Airport today the driver flatly predicted this would be a Cannes Film Festival without rain and that, just like today, the sun would be shining non-stop on this most famous of film festivals. The reason he said it is because for the last several years Cannes has been plaugued with rainstorms literally raining on this parade of the best in world cinema. Last year’s opening night for The Great Gatsby was a virtual flood as partygoers tried to avoid the drips in the tent Warner Bros erected and had to hightail it over deep puddles of water just to get inside. I for one hope this driver is right and the festival that started 67 years ago as a valentine to cinema, sun and glamour can retain that reputation. Time will tell on that, but what is the forecast for the movies themselves, and the market they inspire? So far there is no consensus on whether this will be a Cannes to remember or one that brings in enthusiastic buyers. But there are so many titles I want to see — spread over the various competitions associated with Cannes — that it is already becoming a Solomon’s Choice in terms of picking and choosing.
Grace Of Monaco is opening the fest Wednesday night and it is already bathed in controversy between a version opening in France vs. one The Weinstein Company planned to open for American audiences. The version being shown on opening night is said to be somewhere in between the original darker cut of director Olivier Dahan’s and the more accessible path reportedly preferred by Harvey Weinstein. It’s still not clear what will happen to the film starting Nicole Kidman as iconic film star-turned-Princess Grace Kelly in terms of a U.S. release as Weinstein Co still has not officially announced plans. But I am told Harvey Weinstein will not be arriving in Cannes until after the official opening anyway, so any awkward moments on the red carpet look like they will be avoided. But Monaco’s Royal Family has also been very vocal about its opinions on the film (although it’s not quite clear if they have seen it) and have publicly denounced it. Nevertheless it could be an interesting start to the festival that promises a little something for everyone. It will be Kidman’s third Cannes in a row having been here for two films, The Paperboy and Hemingway & Gellhorn in 2012; as a juror last year; and now opening the fest.
Related: Hot Trailer: ‘Grace Of Monaco’
Speaking of jurors, already there’s talk that the jury of the official competition, led by Oscar- and Palme d’Or-winning director Jane Campion, could be angling to make this year’s Palme d’Or winner one that was directed by a woman, which would be interesting since Campion is the only female director to ever have won (for 1993’s The Piano). Campion has also indicated she is actually embarrassed to be the only female Palme d’Or-winning director. Last year Blue Is The Warmest Color co-stars Adele Exarchopolous and Lea Seydoux shared the Palme with their male director Abdellatif Kechiche, but that was an unprecedented move from the jury headed by Steven Spielberg. This is, at all other times, purely an award for a director. And if the buzz is true that it is time again for a woman to win then watch out for Italian Alice Rohrwacher’s Le Meraviglie screening Sunday, or Japanese helmer Naomi Kawase’s Futatsume No Mado screening on Tuesday. They are the only two female directors repped in this year’s official competition. Kawase even seems to be running for the prize, giving a quote recently to Agence France-Presse. “There is no doubt this is my masterpiece, ” she is quoted as saying, and goes on to tout her previous wins here. “After the Camera D’or and the Grand Prix , there is nothing I want more than the Palme d’Or. I have my eyes on nothing else.” Well alright then. Game on. And at least one journalist has already proclaimed Rohwacher’s film a “front runner” sight unseen by most. I wouldn’t mind seeing that. I thought Italy got robbed last year when Paolo Sorrentino’s true masterpiece, The Great Beauty, went home prizeless. This could make up for that slight in a way I guess. Sorrentino did get a nice consolation prize when Beauty deservedly took home the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
But juries are notoriously slippery when it comes to predicting what they will do. We will have to wait and see which way the wind blows. Certainly this year’s lineup including legendary directors and Cannes regulars like Ken Loach delivering what he says is his last film, Jimmy’s Hall; the iconic and cantankerous Jean Luc-Godard with his latest, Goodbye To Language (and in 3D no less!); and former winners Mike Leigh (Secrets And Lies), who will get things rolling Thursday night with Mr. Turner in the official competition of 18 eligible movies fighting for the Palme; along with two-time winners and Cannes faves Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne with their latest, Deux Jours, Une Nuit, which is said to have an exemplary performance from Marion Cotillard who may have an Oscar but has never won at Cannes. Two other Oscar winners, Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) with his update of the 1948 Montgomery Clift film The Search, and Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada) are in the running again for the Palme d’Or. Jones is a former Best Actor winner here and Hazanavicius’ Artist star Dujardin took the same prize but his director was overlooked at the 2011 Cannes.
Other hot names in the competition are David Cronenberg for Maps To The Stars which I hear is a wild ride with a terrific Julianne Moore performance, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher with a must-see Steve Carell turn, and Atom Egoyan’s thriller Captives. Egoyan, Cronenberg and Mommy’s Xavier Dolan make this a particularly big year for the Canadians. The final night of completion on May 23 offers the intriguing double feature Olivier Assayas’ Sils Maria and Russian Andre Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan. But as announced today there will be no new offering for the closing-night feature, but rather a digitized restoration of Sergio Leone’s A Fistful Of Dollars starring Clint Eastwood. This was a movie never deemed great enough 50 years ago to play Cannes but now it’s a cult legend. Quentin Tarantino will introduce it. It’s odd though since Leone’s memory was already being feted with a Cinema De La Plage screening Saturday of the real Leone Spaghetti Western treasure, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.
There’s lots more going on in other competitions including Un Certain Regard which boasts Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River (filmed under the more intriguing title, How To Catch A Monster). Directors’ Fortnight boasts several promising titles including Sundance winner Whiplash and John Boorman’s Queen And Country both on Tuesday, making that JW Marriott location the place to be that day. And Critics Week has some interesting entries including It Follows, David Robert Mitchell’s impressive first film since The Myth Of The American Sleepover played the same venue several years ago, so “it follows” the same path. And Friday night’s out-of-competition world premiere of How To Train Your Dragon 2 promises to add some fun away from all the uber-serious offerings on display.
I’m really looking forward to Wednesday’s two hour Master Class with Cannes legend Sophia Loren, who is also being honored Tuesday night with a 50th anniversary showing of Marriage Italian Style co-starring this year’s Cannes poster boy Marcello Mastroianni. That will be preceded by her latest, a 25-minute short, Voce Umana, directed by son Edoardo Ponti. Now that’s old-style, true Cannes glamour.
One disturbing trend among many of the Cannes competition titles this year is their length. Five of the 18 titles are knocking on two and a half hours. And then there’s Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s appropriately titled Winter Sleep. At 3 hours and 16 minutes it’s the longest sit at the Palais Grand Theatre Lumiere. Ceylan has won big here with many of his other glacially paced films in the past so some think he’s due for a Palme d’Or and if prizes are based on running time he’s got it in the bag. Cannes programming honcho Thierry Fremaux promised to schedule it early in the fest for bleary-eyed critics who might still be fresh. The press screening is Friday at 3 PM — by the way the exact same start time as Deadline’s first-ever Cannes party (across from the Martinez) which is scheduled to go from 3-6 PM. As always this festival to end all festivals offers lots of choices.