Cannes Talking Points At Half-Way: ‘Corsage’ & ‘Aftersun’ Prove That Women Directors Continue To Shine, While In The Market There Are Record Asking Prices & Russian Distributor Boycotts

Corsage, Aftersun
Corsage, Aftersun Cannes Film Festival

Here are some of the key talking points from the Cannes Film Festival and market at half-way.

First of all, how about that weather. The general feeling is that it’s great to be back en masse at a sunny, in-person, A-list festival with the spectre of Covid greatly diminished, at least.

At dinner last night, it was noted to me by a seasoned critic that the small number of widely loved films to date (it’s still early) has meant that industry and media are talking more about issues than the movies themselves. Between Russia-Ukraine, ticketing concerns, the censorship question, Rithy Panh’s jury exit, a red carpet protest etc, there have been plenty of talking points away from the lineup.

The films themselves have generally had a mixed response. Perhaps the most liked film in Competition so far has been James Gray’s emotional Armageddon Time. As expected, Top Gun was a great get by the festival and the fly-by was memorable.

Two of the movies to really stand out to date have been Corsage and Aftersun, the former in Un Certain Regard, the latter in Critics’ Week. Both are directed by women: Marie Kreutzer and Charlotte Wells, respectively. Both are being fought over for domestic.

In Corsage, Vicky Krieps plays Empress Elizabeth of Austria who is idolized for her beauty and renowned for inspiring fashion trends. Meanwhile, Francesca Corio and Paul Mescal lead Aftersun, in which a young woman reflects on the shared joy and private melancholy of a holiday she took with her father twenty years earlier.

As Anne Thompson pointed out yesterday for Indiewire, it’s a shame that at least the former isn’t in Competition. Women filmmakers took home a bunch of the festival’s big prizes last year, including the Palme d’Or. Sadly, this year, three of the five female-directed films in Competition don’t come until the very end of the festival. It remains an up-hill struggle in many ways. As a Swedish Film Institute report highlighted yesterday, the average female-led fiction feature spends more than one year longer in development than projects by male filmmakers.

In the market, we’ve broken the two big deals so far. Netflix dusted off its recent woes to land Emily Blunt package Pain Hustlers and Apple has just swooped on the Jessie Buckley-Riz Ahmed drama Fingernails.

Generally there has been optimism about the briskness of business. The market isn’t all the way back but there were more packages announced than ever before going into the market and there will be a good deal of action.

One talking point has been the approach to Russian buyers. Despite bullishness from state-backed Russian buyer Central Partnership in a trade this morning, we’ve been hearing the opposite from sellers. We understand multiple big U.S. sellers are refusing to sell to Russian distributors, a bunch of European sellers have told us they’re not seeking out Russian buyers and we know that at least one national film sales body agreed pre-market that its members wouldn’t sell to Russians. That said, there are multiple Russian buyers at the market, and some are certainly acquiring films. Boycotts are always thorny issues.

Theatrical remains a conundrum for most. The good news is the pandemic is receding and there are some big movies coming up to help get people back in the theaters. But everyone remains concerned about the low cinema occupancy in Europe and elsewhere. In major markets like Italy, France, Spain, Germany, cinema attendance is still way down. When Searchlight announced their splashy acquisition for Amy Adams project Nightbitch and said it is going through Hulu, I looked at a colleague and said ‘how times change’. It’s a brave new world out there.

Some sellers might have got a little too excited about the return to in-person events in a post-pandemic context. We’ve heard that some asking prices are generating incredulity. Lionsgate’s Hunger Games prequel had a record Germany ask of close to $30M, we understand. The Dirty Dancing reboot was also pricey, in the teens. Both are likely to come down. We’ve heard about some big asks on smaller arthouse movies too. A movie like Triangle Of Sadness has some big numbers for international markets. But we also know there’s strong interest.

More as we have it.

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