Unveiling what he categorized a “romantic and political” Official Selection this morning, Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Frémaux offered up a roster of titles from veterans of the Riviera as well as first-timers, and a handful of so-called graduates from parallel sections to the main Competition.
Overall, there’s been mostly positive reaction to the selection revealed Wednesday that brings back such noted filmmakers as Terrence Malick, Ken Loach, the Dardenne brothers and Pedro Almodovar. As for the lesser-known names, hopes are high new discoveries will be made. One of the most notable takeaways from today’s lineup is the improved, if not yet equal, number of films directed by women. The festival has consistently come under fire for under-representation and last year pledged to do better.
As expected, feature films from the streamers are sitting this one out, something that Cannes addressed this morning, and while Hollywood glamour is slightly light, there are a good deal of U.S. filmmakers in the mix.
Largely, there were few surprises this morning. But unanswered questions remain. Frémaux typically unveils further titles as the fest draws closer, and one he has high hopes for is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood which the director is sprinting to finish, Frémaux said.
The past few years have seen increasing challenges for Cannes. Partly that’s down to the fest’s position on the calendar as U.S. titles look to the fall awards-season launch pads. Frémaux was quick to recall, however, the success of last year’s Cannes premiere BlackKklansman, which went on to Oscar glory. He noted that of the films that are not so high profile, “Cannes is like a library. There are films on the top shelf, and then works on lower shelves that we have to seek out.”
The top-shelf titles we had expected include Paramount’s Rocketman, the Dexter Fletcher-helmed musical fantasy Elton John biopic which premieres out of competition May 16. Frémaux gave a shout-out to Paramount boss Jim Gianopulos, for “always being faithful to the festival.” The exec was atop Fox back when Moulin Rouge debuted in 2001 on one of Cannes’ most memorable opening nights, Frémaux noted. Does this portend a blow-out bash for Rocketman? Frémaux did note that a piano will be waiting in the Lumière theater’s wings should John decide to tickle the ivories.
Earlier, on May 14, Jim Jarmusch’s zombie horror comedy The Dead Don’t Die, from Focus, will bring star power to the red carpet with Bill Murray, Chloe Sevigny, Adam Driver and Tilda Swinton. The film is among those vying for the Palme d’Or. Also in Competition from established Cannes filmmakers are Malick’s A Hidden Life, which Frémaux said “is not a war film” before admonishing, “Don’t ask me if Malick will be there.”
Almodovar will return to the red carpet with the Antonio Banderas- and Penelope Cruz-starrer Pain & Glory (Sony Pictures Classics). The Spanish master has never taken a Palme d’Or and will be vying with two-time winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the Belgian brothers who will be in town with Young Ahmed, about a teenager who hatches a plot to kill his teacher after embracing an extremist interpretation of the Quran. Another double-winner, Loach, returns with Sorry We Missed You. Frémaux quipped, “I don’t have a better definition than to say this Ken Loach is Ken Loach-ian.”
Further returning to the Competition is Canada’s Xavier Dolan with drama Matthias & Maxime, starring the director and his go-to leading lady Anne Dorval. The outspoken, prolific and just-turned-30 Dolan last took home a major prize in Cannes with It’s Only the End of the World, a film that was nevertheless not a hit with critics. Korean master Bong Joon-ho, whose Okja was one of the movies to kick off the Croisette/Netflix controversy a few years back, is in the race with Parasite from Neon. And Italian veteran Marco Bellocchio will be on hand with mafia biopic Il Traditore. France’s Arnaud Desplechin is back too, this time with crime drama Oh Mercy! starring Léa Seydoux.
The four female filmmakers in competition include Girlhood’s Céline Sciamma who moves up from Un Certain Regard and Directors’ Fortnight with Portrait of a Lady on Fire; sophomore feature director Justine Triet with comedy-drama Sibyl; Austria’s Jessica Hausner with sci-fi drama Little Joe featuring Ben Whishaw; and noted short-film director Mati Diop, whose first acting turn was in Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum, with migration drama Atlantique.
Making his first appearance in Cannes, New Yorker Ira Sachs has Frankie. The drama stars Isabelle Huppert, Marisa Tomei, Brendan Gleeson and Greg Kinnear. This marks a return to the fest for Huppert and producer Said Ben Said, who previously rocked the Croisette with Paul Verhoeven’s Elle. Teaming with Kleber Mendonca Filho, Juliano Dornelles is also a Competition newcomer with sci-fi mystery Nighthawk.
Confirmed filmmakers rounding out the Competition are Elia Suleiman with It Must Be Heaven; Corneliu Porumboiu and The Whistlers; and Black Coal Thin Ice’s Yinan Diao with The Wild Goose Lake. The only first-time filmmaker in Competition is Ladj Ly with Les Misérables.
Notable names to keep an eye on in the Un Certain Regard section include Bruno Dumont with Joan of Arc; Christophe Honoré with Chambre 212 and the Martin Scorsese-exec produced Port Authority, a love story set in New York’s kiki ballroom scene, from Danielle Lessovitz.
Along with Rocketman, the Out of Competition section is notable for Claude Lelouch’s Les Plus Belles Années D’Une Vie, the director’s follow-up to his classic A Man and a Woman. The film will be dedicated to late producer Samuel Hadida. Nicolas Winding Refn, as Deadline previously reported, will be on hand for his Amazon series Too Old to Die Young. Oddly, but in keeping with Refn’s style, episodes four and five are the ones screening. The director will also give a masterclass during the fest. And, Oscar winning documentary maker Asif Kapadia’s Maradona, a look at the Neopolitan years of footballer Diego Maradona, also has a slot.
Some of the anticipated titles that did not appear on the list today include Ari Aster’s Midsommar, Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, Atom Egoyan’s Guest of Honour and The True History of the Kelly Gang from Justin Kurzel. Will they be among the upcoming additions? Frémaux said he would not address films he did not announce, although he did allow that last year’s Palme d’Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda was not ready with his latest, The Truth.
Following on from the press screening shift last year, there will be further changes made, Frémaux said. Films in the 7 PM red carpet slot will now be shown to the press at 5 PM in the Debussy theater. Reviews, however, will be embargoed until after the credits roll on the main screening. Morning screenings will also be reinstated, but only for a limited number of journalists, while the 10 PM Competition titles will have simultaneous press screenings.
The Cannes Film Festival runs May 14-25.
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