UPDATED with more details: There were no major shockers in the lineup for the 69th Cannes Film Festival, unveiled this morning in Paris, but there were a couple of twists. Among the high-profile films that had been predicted and made it in are Steven Spielberg’s The BFG; Jodie Foster’s Money Monster and Shane Black’s The Nice Guys out of competition. In the competition are regulars Pedro Almodovar with Julieta; the Dardenne brothers with The Unknown Girl; and, now, in a hat trick, Nicolas Winding Refn with The Neon Demon — a return after 2013’s polarizing Only God Forgives and 2011’s Best Director win for Drive. Rather than the actual titles, the biggest surprises are that Amazon has an unprecedented five across the Official Selection which they are distributing domestically. And then there’s that new “experiment” which will see the Closing Night film kiboshed, said Fest chief Thierry Frémaux.
The closer instead this year will be a screening of the film crowned with the Palme d’Or the previous night. The final berth of the festival has come with what some call a “curse.” That’s perhaps a bit strong given that in years gone by, E.T. and Thelma & Louise occupied the space; and in the more modern era, Quentin Tarantino hosted a screening of A Fistful Of Dollars to wrap the proceedings of 2014. The closer, I’d argue, tends to simply be less memorable nowadays as folks pack up to head home after a long stretch on the Croisette. In fact, it’s the opening night slot that comes with tons of pressure and often results in strong reactions: Grace Of Monaco, Vatel, anyone?
Woody Allen isn’t tipped to have an issue with his opener this year. Early buzz on Café Society is that it’s a welcome throwback. But that comes with a contemporary twist given it’s the first time a film that Amazon will release domestically has been given such a stage. And the disruptive company isn’t stopping there; it’s handling four more titles revealed today (see below); a further sign of the changing landscape of the indie world.
Café Society will also bring out the glitz in what Frémaux referred to as (and made no apologies for) “a festival of stars.” The cast includes Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively and Steve Carell who are expected to walk the red carpet.
Stewart is on double duty with Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper which is in the competition. She’s on a hot streak in France where she last attended Cannes for Assayas’ Clouds Of Sils Maria and then scooped an unprecedented César Award. Memento Films International is selling Personal Shopper.
Also providing wattage will be George Clooney and Julia Roberts for Jodie Foster’s out of competition Money Monster from Sony. Unbelievably, this is Roberts’ first time in Official Selection. Shane Black’s period crime pic, The Nice Guys, from Warner will return Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling to the Palais. Spielberg’s BFG with Mark Rylance is the director’s fourth time in Official Selection since 1974. The inclusion of this family adventure fantasy dovetails nicely with that E.T. debut 34 years ago. BFG was the last film penned by E.T.‘s Melissa Mathison who passed away last year.
In the competition, Sean Penn’s Africa-set drama The Last Face, starring yet more big names — Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem — was tipped to be in, but also tipped to be out. It had even been buzzed about for the 2015 edition, but will ultimately turn up this year to mark Penn’s second time in Competition with a film he’s directed following 2001’s The Pledge.
Further hailing from the U.S., Jeff Nichols’ Competition pic from Focus, Loving, has been one of the most anticipated titles. It’s in with Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga in the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, who are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married. This one may also play the fall festivals in some capacity and has a November 4 release date. If things go well on the Croisette, expect to see Loving figure in awards season.
Jim Jarmusch has Amazon-titled Paterson in Competition starring Kylo Ren himself, Adam Driver. Frémaux commented that this one is particularly “Jarmusch-ian.” The helmer is on double duty with Gimme Danger, a Midnight Screening documentary about Iggy Pop who will be on hand, and which Amazon has domestically.
Refn’s Neon Demon, Frémaux remarked to much laughter this morning, is a “horror film about cannibalism and top models.” It’s set in a modern Los Angeles and stars Elle Fanning and Abbey Lee. Amazon has not yet dated but is giving it a three-month theatrical release ahead of streaming in what Refn has previously told me is “the best proposal” he’s ever gotten.”
Pedro Almodovar’s Competition entry, Julieta, we’ve heard is “a brilliant adaptation that let’s you know you’re in the hands of a master.” The drama is based on three short stories from Alice Munro’s book Runaway. Sony Pictures Classics has domestically but has not yet dated. Reviews are strong out of Spain where it released earlier this month.
From the UK, Andrea Arnold also marks a return to the Palias with American Honey starring Shia LaBeouf. A24 has it Stateside and Protagonist is selling international. Arnold has previously won two Jury Prizes in Cannes for 2006’s Red Road and 2009’s Fish Tank. She’s joined by two other female directors in Competition. From Germany, Maren Ade is in with Toni Erdmann. This is the first German film in Competition in quite a while. Also up is Nicole Garcia’s French romantic drama Mal De Pierres (From The Land Of The Moon) with Marion Cotillard. Sundance Selects has in the U.S. and Studiocanal has it internationally.
Cotillard will also be in town for Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only The End Of The World. This is the Canadian wunderkind’s second film to ascend the main red carpet after he shared the 2014 Jury Prize for Mommy with none other than Jean-Luc Godard. Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassell also star in the story of a terminally ill writer who returns home to tell his family he’s dying. The real question is when do we stop calling the Québecois helmer a “wunderkind.” At 27, he’s now had five films across various sections in Cannes. Maybe when he turns 30? Seville has sales.
Among other so-called “usual suspects” are Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne with The Unknown Girl about a doctor trying to uncover the identity of a dead patient. The Dardennes have had six previous films in Competition and won the Palme d’Or twice. A third would set a record.
The Belgian brothers’ Les Films Du Fleuve produced Cristian Mungiu’s Family Photos from Romania which Wild Bunch has. He’s another returnee to Competition after 2012’s Beyond The Hills which won the Best Screenplay prize, and 2007’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks And Two Days. That film, which scooped the Palme d’Or, remains one of the biggest-ever oversights of the Foreign Language Oscar category for which it was not even shortlisted.
A filmmaker with even more movies in the main competition than the Dardennes, Ken Loach, is back despite declaring he’d made his last film. Drama I, Daniel Blake marks his 13th shot at the Palme d’Or (and is also with Wild Bunch). He previously won with 2006’s The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
Mungiu’s countryman, Cristi Puiu, has the hotly-tipped Wild Bunch drama Sieranevada in his first shot at Competition. He’s previously been seen in Un Certain Regard where he won the main prize with 2005’s The Death Of Mr Lazarescu.
Also graduating from UCR is Alain Guiraudie with Staying Vertical. The French helmer made one of the more memorable UCR winners, Stranger By The Lake, in 2013. Joining him from the French contingent is Bruno Dumont’s Ma Loute (Slack Bay) with Fabrice Luchini and Juliette Binoche in a period comedy set on the Channel Coast. This has a lot of heat on it and is handled by Memento.
Paul Verhoeven is not a name often associated with Cannes, although he was actually in competition with 1992’s Basic Instinct. He now makes his second appearance with thriller Elle starring the Queen of Cannes, Isabelle Huppert.
From Korean master, and Oldboy helmer, Park Chan-wook, The Handmaiden marks his third time in Competition. This is also a hotly-anticipated title that’s a modernized version of Sarah Waters’s novel, Fingersmith. Another Amazon pic.
Filipino director Brillante Mendoza also returns to Competition with drama Ma’Rosa. A first-timer in Competition, Brazil’s Filho Kleber-Mendonça is bringing Aquarius, a drama that stars Sonia Braga and is handled by France’s SBS International.
In total this year, there were 1,869 features screened and whittled down to a current 49 across the Official Selection. Frémaux noted, “Whoever on this planet has made a film over one hour can send it and it will be seen. Of all the ones we saw, not all of them were great, but we saw them all.” The committee was still watching movies through yesterday and only had the final lineup closed at 2AM — another reason to remember that it ain’t over til it’s over. The films hail from 28 countries with seven first features in the bunch. Interestingly, they are all in Un Certain Regard. Last year, in a rare turn, Frémaux put first-timer Laszlo Nemes in Competition and he walked away with the Grand Prize and later the Oscar for Son Of Saul.
Missing from today’s announcement among films which had been buzzed were Terrence Malick’s documentary Voyage Of Time, Tran Anh Hung’s Eternity and Amat Escalante’s The Untamed. Frémaux noted the latter was not ready. However, there are still possibly additions to come over the next few weeks with the jury to be set likely next week. George Miller is president. Also to come are the lineups for Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week early next week. The festival runs May 11-21. Check here for the full list of films announced today.