Cannes Competition Heavy On Euro Helmers, English-Lingo; Additions Coming – Analysis

fremaux lescure cannes lineup revealThe Official Selection lineup for the 68th Cannes Film Festival is only 90% complete as it was announced this morning in Paris, but it’s already full of a number of films that had been expected, along with strong representations for international directors — several of whom are working in English. Fest chief Thierry Frémaux is notorious for adding titles after the first unveiling and said he expects to have the full roster next week after a bottleneck hit in March as the selection team waded through some 1,854 submissions. Joel and Ethan Coen are co-presidents of the jury this year with seven other members of the panel also to be announced. The red carpet rolls out on May 13, but a word to those strolling up the steps: Be swift with your selfies as loitering will be limited.

After Emmanuelle Bercot’s La Tête Haute raises the Cannes curtain out of competition on May 13, Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron will roar into town with Warner Bros’ Mad Max: Fury Road, also out of competition. This section is where most of the studio power lies, with Woody Allen’s Irrational Man lined up from Sony Pictures Classics; Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out from Pete Docter (his Up opened the fest in 2009); and Mark Osborne’s The Little Prince from Paramount. That one is especially close to Frémaux’s heart as it’s based on the classic book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who’s also a native of Lyon.

Among the higher-profile Competition inclusions are two for domestic distributor The Weinstein Co and with backing from the UK’s Film4: Todd Haynes’ Carol, based on the Patricial Highsmith novel and starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara; and Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth with Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender in the Australian director’s first time in Competition.

Also bringing star power, Matthew McConaughey and Gus Van Sant will trek back to the Croisette with Sea Of Trees after tubthumping their existential drama to buyers on the beachfront last year. Frémaux is understood to have seen the film only last week. It marks a return to Competition for Van Sant since 2007’s Paranoid Park.

Canadian helmer Denis Villeneuve has graduated to the Competition with Sicario, a drug-trafficking drama that stars Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. Greece’s Yorgos Lanthimos is another newcomer to the Competition after his Dogtooth took the Un Certain Regard prize in 2009 and scored an Oscar nomination. His The Lobster was a long-rumored title that fits in Competition, even if Frémaux joked today that it’s one of those movies where “we don’t understand everything.” Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, Olivia Colman and John C Reilly star in the unconventional love story that’s set in a dystopian future where finding a partner is a matter of life and death. Film4 also backed The Lobster, one of four films it has in Competition, none of which, interestingly, has a British director.

There are three Italians in the mix in what is expected to be a strong year. Paolo Sorrentino is back with the English-language Youth starring Michael Caine, Paul Dano, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Wesiz and Jane Fonda (always a welcome red carpet presence). Sorrentino’s 2013 love letter to Rome, The Great Beauty, left the Croisette empty-handed but picked up an Oscar the following year. Before Great Beauty, he was in Cannes with This Must Be The Place, starring Sean Penn. Penn had been tipped to bring his The Last Face to the Riviera this year, but the Africa-set drama was not amongst the titles read out today. (Also missing the cut today were Gaspar Noé’s Love, Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts Of No Nation, Arnaud Desplechin’s Three Memories Of Childhood and Guilllaume Nicloux’s Valley Of Love.)

"Amour" Premiere - 65th Annual Cannes Film FestivalReality and Gomorra helmer Matteo Garrone is back in Competition after winning the Grand Jury prize with each of those previous films. He’s also hitting the Palais with an English-language title: The Tale Of Tales, a fantasy which stars Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, John C Reilly and Toby Jones. Rounding out the trio of Italians is Nanni Moretti, a decorated habitué without whom Frémaux says, “Cannes wouldn’t be Cannes.” In Mia Madre, Moretti reteams with frequent collaborator Margherita Buy who stars as a director struggling on a film and dealing with an ailing mother.

Italy was flying the tricolori today with #Cannes2015 trending on Twitter, the three directors names leading the news crawl on Rai News 24 and industry body ANICA releasing a glowing statement. The Italian films selected in Cannes (including Roberto Minervini’s The Other Side in UCR), “are proof of the maturation of an industry that is once again in the international spotlight thanks to strong export of films and TV series,” the group said.

France is also very well represented with an unusual four titles in Competition. Frémaux traditionally keeps it down to three in the section, but noted this was a particularly strong year. Jacques Audiard is back with Dheepan (working title), the story of a Sri Lankan Tamil warrior who flees to France and works as a caretaker outside Paris. This is the Rust And Bone director’s fourth time in Competition — Sundance Selects already has domestic. Also returning to Competition is one-named helmer and former Jury Prize winner Maïwenn with romantic drama Mon Roi starring Vincent Cassel, Louis Garrel and Opening Night director Bercot. She is one of two female helmers in Competition during a year where the festival is putting a big emphasis on the ladies.

Moving up from Critics’ Week is Valérie Donzelli with Marguerite Et Julien, a film that was initially earmarked to be directed by François Truffaut in the ’70s. It tells the story of royal siblings who were executed in 1603 for adultery and incest.

Another first-time French director in Competition, Stéphane Brizé, is perhaps best known for 2005’s Not Here To Be Loved. His La Loi Du Marché stars Vincent Lindon as a man facing a moral dilemma in his new job as a supermarket security guard.

From Norway, Joachim Trier makes his English-language debut and his first appearance in Competition with Louder Than Bombs. Gabriel Byrne stars with Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Ryan, David Strathairn and Isabelle Huppert in the story that picks up with a father and his sons three years after the death of their wife and mother.

Hungarian Holocaust drama Son Of Saul brings Laszlo Nemes to Competition for the first time and is expected to stir debate.

Rounding out the proceedings thus far are three Asian masters. Hou Hsiao Hsien is returning to Competition after a long absence with The Assassin while 2013 Cannes Screenplay winner for A Touch Of Sin, Zhang-Ke Jia, is in with Mountains May Depart and Hirokazu Kore-eda is back with Our Little Sister. His Like Father Like Son was the Jury Prize winner in 2013 and then was conspicuously not chosen as Japan’s Oscar entry.

In a departure, there are few familiar names amongst the Un Certain Regard lineup — in part, Frémaux said, because the festival has come under scrutiny before for loading actors-turned-directors into the section. That’s why Natalie Portman’s helming debut, A Tale Of Love And Darkness, will be screening out of competition, he said.

Critics’ Week and Directors’ Fortnight will be announced early next week. Cannes runs May 13-24.

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