“It’s been a very intense few weeks and months,” said Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Frémaux as he unveiled the lion’s share of the Official Selection for the 70th anniversary edition this morning in Paris. Explaining why there had been so little revealed ahead of today, Frémaux said many films “arrived very late” and noted the festival has set a bar that is “not negligible” which made his team’s search “longer and more stressful.” However, response to today’s lineup (see full list here) has been widely positive, particularly for a roster that shows the festival is keen to remain contemporary despite its advancing age.
It’s notable there are no major Hollywood studio movies in the lineup unveiled today, and while Frémaux will add more titles in the coming weeks, a sign of the times is certainly the increased presence of the streaming giants. (That doesn’t mean star-wattage will be dimmed. Nicole Kidman, for one, turns up in four selection titles.)
Last year, Amazon stormed the Croisette with an unprecedented five titles across the Official Selection. The streaming service is back for the 70th anniversary edition with Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck and Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, but it’s Netflix that made new history today with its first two movies ever selected. Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected), which the company acquired earlier this week in a world rights deal, is in. So is Bong Joon-ho’s Tilda Swinton-starrer Okja.
Frémaux addressed the inclusion of Netflix saying, “I won’t play the innocent. There are two new operators. Amazon and Netflix are new for filmmakers, producers and for the festivals.” It’s particularly interesting that the two films are premiering at the altar of French cinema since they will bypass theatrical here. Both have a theatrical component domestically. (We understand that Netflix’s War Machine, which many had speculated would land a slot, was not submitted to the festival.)
Frémaux told the press corps, “Cannes is a laboratory… these are cinematic films. Even TV series today use the classic art of cinema.”
And indeed, TV series are making their first major appearance at this festival, slotted into the 70th Anniversary Events program. David Lynch’s Twin Peaks will screen. It had been believed there would be no public viewing before its Showtime premiere on May 21, and that may still be the case as a screening date in Cannes has not yet been confirmed (the festival runs until May 28 and works which have debuted in their home territory are eligible here under official rules).
Also from the small screen, Jane Campion’s Top Of The Lake: China Girl, will have a two-hour screening. Both Lynch and Campion are fest regulars and Palme d’Or winners (Campion remains the only woman ever to have scooped the prize). Lynch’s 1992 feature Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, a prequel to the original series, premiered in Cannes. Frémaux said today of their inclusion, “This is a way to provide an update on filmmakers who are dear to us.” While this is a big showcase, he has programmed made-for-television fare before including Steven Soderbergh’s HBO movie Behind The Candelabra and Olivier Assayas’ Carlos.
Further pressing towards the future, there’s a new work by Alejandro G Inarritu. Virtually Present, Physically Invisible is a 6.5-minute VR installation shot by regular collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki and exploring the human condition of immigrants and refugees. (The refugee crisis is a recurring theme for a lot of the titles announced today.) From Legendary Entertainment, Inarritu’s experimental experience, which allows individuals to walk in a vast space and thoroughly live a fragment of the refugees’ personal journeys, is the first VR installation to be in Official Selection in Cannes.
More traditionally, the Competition lineup this year includes several folks who’ve been here before. Among them Haynes with Wonderstruck, which is set in 1927 and 1977, and stars Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams. He was last on the Croisette with the lauded Carol in 2015. Sofia Coppola is also making a return to Competition after 2006’s Marie Antoinette (her Bling Ring was in Un Certain Regard in 2013). Her sexy drama The Beguiled (Focus), is based on the novel A Painted Devil by Thomas Cullinan. It stars Kirsten Dunst who led Marie Antoinette, as well as Elle Fanning returning after last year’s Competition title The Neon Demon, and Kidman who has lots going on in the South of France next month.
Along with The Beguiled, Kidman will be seen in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing Of A Sacred Deer (A24) in Competition (this is the director’s follow-up to The Lobster two years ago); the Top Of The Lake series; and John Cameron Mitchell’s Out Of Competition pic How To Talk To Girls At Parties (A24) which also stars Fanning.
Two-time Palme d’Or winner Michael Haneke returns with Happy End, a drama set against the background of the refugee crisis and starring Isabelle Huppert. She’s also in Hong Sang-soo’s Claire’s Camera which is running as a Special Screening. Hong is pulling double duty, too, with Competition title The Day After.
The Artist helmer Michel Hazanavicius will return to the main stage with Le Redoubtable, a romantic drama based on the real-life love story of Jean-Luc Godard and Anne Wiazemsky. Further returning is François Ozon with Hitchcockian thriller L’Amant Double starring Jacqueline Bisset and Marine Vacht who broke out in the director’s 2013 Competition title Young & Beautiful. And, Russia’s Andrey Zvyagintsev, whose 2014 Competition title Leviathan went on to an Oscar nomination, is in with Loveless.
Two female directors mark a return as well, Japan’s Naomi Kawase with Radiance and the UK’s Ramsay with You Were Never Really Here, about a war veteran’s attempt to save a young girl from a sex trafficking ring which goes horribly wrong, and starring Joaquin Phoenix. In total, there are 12 female helmers in Official Selection, up from nine last year.
This is a first time in Competition for Benny and Josh Safdie who will escort crime drama Good Time (A24) to the Palais alongside stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Robert Pattinson.
It’s also the first time for Baumbach. The Meyerowitz Stories, stars Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel, Grace Van Patten and Emma Thompson, and is the inter-generational tale of adult siblings contending with the influence of their aging father. Sandler may not seem like a typical Cannes presence, but in fact one of his most memorable performances debuted on the Croisette. That was in 2002 with Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love.
Over in Un Certain Regard, notable titles are Mathieu Amalric’s opening film Barbara, a biography of the singer with Jeanne Balibar. Laurent Cantet’s L’Atélier also has a berth. He won the Palme d’Or with The Class in 2008, returning the statue to France after a long dry spell. And, Taylor Sheridan’s feature directing debut Wind River (TWC) nabbed the UCR slot that’s often reserved for a Sundance breakout.
In the Special Screenings section are a handful of documentaries including Vanessa Redgrave’s Sea Sorrow and Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s An Inconvenient Sequel.
In other 70th Anniversary Events are the last film from Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami, 24 Frames, and Cannes It Girl Kristen Stewart’s first short film as director, Come Swim.
Although he saved it for last during his announcement, the first thing many people have been wondering was what the hell would open the proceedings. Frémaux has made an interesting choice with Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismael’s Ghosts a French drama starring Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Louis Garrell and Mathieu Amalric. There was no shortage of eyebrow raising when two years ago, veteran helmer Desplechin’s My Golden Days landed in Directors’ Fortnight rather than the main Competition.
There will be more titles announced in the coming weeks as is Frémaux’s habit. He cheekily said this morning, “we’ll do some retouching” to which fest President Pierre Lescure responded laughing, “Oh, no, not us.” The joke was in reference to a mini-controversy recently spurred on by the airbrushing of Claudia Cardinale’s figure on the official poster.
Lescure also addressed the elephant in the room that will be the result of the French presidential elections 10 days before the festival starts. “It will be a tense moment,” Lescure said of the aftermath of the run-off between the presumed final two candidates, Emmanuel Macron and the far right’s Marine Le Pen (who represents France’s version of Donald Trump and hence is not popular with the filmmaking community). He added, “As every day brings a new movement from Donald Trump, we hope North Korea won’t encumber the 70th festival which we want to be stable and festive.” Lescure added, “We intend for this festival to be a parentheses and a time to breathe that allows us to only talk about cinema and how that is reflected in the rest of the world.”
The inevitable question of security was also touched upon. With France still on high alert following several terrorist attacks in the past few years, Lescure said measures would be at a “maximum” but provide “a minimum of inconvenience” for festival attendees.