Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Frémaux said this morning that the finishing touches on the lineup announced today were honed until about 3 AM local time. It’s not unusual for him to go down to the wire, and there will be more titles announced in the coming weeks as the 71st edition of the venerable seaside shindig approaches. But what we got today was a mixed bag of new and familiar faces with a number of tipped movies not in the preliminary cut.
The selection looks “light on paper” was a refrain I heard coming out of the press conference and throughout the day. But critics and longtime attendees cautioned there might be gems therein. For now, only the selection committee knows — though Frémaux said that none of the films they saw was completed.
Frémaux called the selection a “generational renewal.” There is a sense that some titles to be added could raise the pulse. We also hear a number of directors opted out of competition companion Un Certain Regard to look toward Directors’ Fortnight, which has been reinvigorated in recent years under exiting chief Edouard Waintrop. The Fortnight (which is not an official Cannes section) and Critics’ Week announce next week.
This morning, there also were some elephants in the room.
On the eve of the reveal today, Netflix said it had pulled its films from consideration after last year’s competition entries caused a flap within the local exhibition industry. Frémaux addressed the issue, saying it was a “shame” not to have movies backed by the streaming giant at the festival in some form but that there had been “constructive dialogue with Netflix, contrary to appearances” and that it remains “welcome in Cannes.”
Netflix’s balk at participating removed what Frémaux said was a possible competition pic and a Cannes Classics berth for the previously unfinished Orson Welles movie The Other Side of the Wind. Some have argued today that the reverse snub by Netflix took some wind out of the sails of the lineup announcement. On the whole, however, there were a number of high-profile non-Netflix films we had pegged weeks ago as not being likely to figure today.
Frémaux did appear to get in a little dig when announcing Oscar-winning Ida director Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War in competition — “a film produced by Amazon, I’d like to note,” he said.
He was queried over this being the first Cannes fest in recent memory without Harvey Weinstein. Frémaux allowed that the “earthquake” that hit back in October when allegations against the mogul and others began to pour out meant “the world will never be the same again, the Cannes Film Festival either.”
As he is every year, and particularly in this time of Time’s Up, the chief was asked about a perceived lack of women in teh selection. There are three female directors in competition, and more in Un Certain Regard with still further titles possible. Frémaux again pointed out that movies are chosen on merit and not gender.
The women who are part of the competition include Caramel helmer Nadine Labaki with Capharnaum, a film “that says things only cinema can say,” per Frémaux. Also in is the second film by Eva Husson, Girls of the Sun, a war-set drama starring Golshifteh Farahani and Emmanuelle Bercot. Husson’s debut Bang Gang played Toronto in 2015. And then there’s Alice Rohrwacher, the Italian filmmaker who won the Cannes Grand Prize with 2014’s The Wonders. She’s in with Lazzaro Felice, which stars her sister Alba alongside Sergi Lopez and Life Is Beautiful’s Nicoletta Braschi.
So where’s Claire Denis? Her High Life had been tipped, but we reported earlier that it might not be done in time. Still, Frémaux hinted there could be another title from a female helmer added in the next weeks (Japan’s Naomi Kawase was also left out of the mix for her Vision, despite expectations to the contrary).
Indeed there are a lot of names that were being tossed about pre-reveal that did not surface today — though we had reported earlier that such Cannes habitués as Jacques Audiard (The Sisters Brothers), Paolo Sorrentino (Loro) and Xavier Dolan (The Death And Life Of John F Donovan) indeed were not expected.
Pretty much everyone had a wager on Terry Gilliam’s eternity-gestating The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, but that one, Frémaux said, is tied up in a legal dispute and so is unlikely to tilt at the Palais. Another widely anticipated title — if only for the jolt it would provide — was a no-show today. Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built was considered highly likely, but he still might drive the bus to town from Copenhagen. Frémaux was asked if the movie was not included because he didn’t think it was worthy or because the Danish bad boy is still a persona non grata at the fest. He winked, “I will answer that question in a few days, I hope.”
Films we really were surprised to not hear called out today also include Mike Leigh’s Peterloo from Amazon and Cannes discovery Laszlo Nemes’ Sunset. Amazon’s Cold War marks the first time Cannes has put a Polish movie in competition since 1994’s Three Colors: Red by Krzysztof Kieslowski.
There are two U.S. pics in the mix, which are creating a phenomenon that sees Topher Grace emerge as this year’s Nicole Kidman. Spike Lee is making a return to competition after 1991’s Jungle Fever with Blumhouse/Focus’ BlacKkKlansman, the story of an African-American police officer who successfully infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan and became the head of the local chapter. John David Washington, Adam Driver, Grace and Corey Hopkins star.
And, A24’s Under The Silver Lake brings David Robert Mitchell into the competition after two turns in the Fortnight. The trailer for this fever-dream thriller dropped to positive response a few weeks ago. Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough and Grace star in the story of a man searching for the truth behind the mysterious crimes, murders and disappearances in his LA neighborhood.
The other titles that are in the mix include Jean-Luc Godard’s The Image Book (which sales company Wild Bunch describes as “nothing but silence, nothing but a revolutionary song, a story in five chapters like the five fingers of a hand”). Frémaux said he asked the 87-year-old New Wave maestro if he would accept to be in competition and he responded simply, “As you wish.” This fest marks 50 years since Godard had a hand in curtailing the event during a period of great civil unrest in France.
Among other French folks are Stéphane Brizé returning with At War. This is a trip back to the competition after 2015’s The Measure of a Man, which won Vincent Lindon the Best Actor prize. This year’s social drama also stars Lindon. Also flying the bleu, blanc, rouge is Christophe Honoré with Sorry Angel, a love story that moves him up to competition for the first time.
With its political hat on, Cannes has invited both Iran’s Jafar Panahi and Russia’s Kirill Serebrennikov to the event with Three Faces and Summer, respectively. Both of the men are under house arrest in their respective countries while Panahi lives under a 20-year ban from making movies which he manages to get around. Cannes has never shied away from controversial filmmakers, but this year is taking things a step further by appealing to local governments to grant travel exceptions so they may attend the premieres.
Also returning to Cannes is Italian helmer Matteo Garrone with Dogman, which brings a little British to the section via producer Jeremy Thomas. An urban Western set in the 1980s, it centers on a druggy homicidal dog groomer.
First-time feature helmer AB Shawky is in competition right off the bat with Yomeddine, his story of a Coptic leper and his orphaned apprentice who leave the confines of their colony to embark on a journey across Egypt and search for what is left of their families. It’s rare that novices immediately get into the competition — Laszlo Nemes is a recent example.
The lineup has a big Asian presence with Japanese veteran Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, about a family of petty thieves that takes in an orphaned girl; Korea’s Lee Chang-dong with Burning, about a mysterious incident befalling two young men and a young woman and starring Okja’s Steven Yeun; and Chinese master Zhangke Jia’s violent love story Ash Is Purest White. Japanese filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi is a Cannes first-timer with Asako I & II. His previous film, Happy Hour, was a prizewinner in Locarno and ran 317 minutes.
Outside the main competition, there are interesting offerings. Joe Penna’s Mads Mikkelsen-starrer Arctic and Yoon Jong-Bing’s Train to Busan-esque Gonjak are Midnight Screenings. Frémaux said there would be more added under the heading. In Special Screenings, Wim Wenders’ documentary Pope Francis – A Man of His Word from Focus will play on Sunday, Frémaux said, though it was unclear if he was joking. And for the die-hards, there’s Wang Bing’s Dead Souls at a thrifty 8 hours and 15 minutes.
For the moment the fest is still deciding on a closing-night film. Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows, starring Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, is the opener, Everything kicks off on May 8.