Besides the Oscars, the Cannes lineup announcement probably most feels like Christmastime for cinephiles everywhere. When festival director Thierry Frémaux finally reveals (usually at a painfully deliberate pace) the names of his guests at the most A-list of all festivals, you get – in one go – a pretty solid idea of what the best of world cinema has to offer for the rest of the year. Naturally it’s a moment as fraught with suspense as it is genuinely exciting. And so, before we learn who made the cut at #Cannes71 on April 12, let’s indulge in a little game of predictions/wishful thinking.
The most common criticism thrown at Cannes is that they keep inviting the same people over and over again. But see it from another angle, if you’ve got such established master storytellers as Britain’s Mike Leigh, Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan or Iran’s Asghar Farhadi submitting their latest work to premiere at your party, can you blame them for taking the offer? The latter’s psychological thriller EVERYBODY KNOWS, headlined by the Oscar-winning couple Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, has been revealed as the opener of this year’s festivities. Considering the pedigree (Farhadi himself being a two-time Oscar winner for A SEPARATION and THE SALESMAN) and star power involved, this is hardly surprising. No eyebrows will be raised either if Leigh’s retelling of the 1819 massacre in Manchester with PETERLOO or Ceylan’s no doubt meditative/provocative drama THE WILD PEAR TREE, follow-up to his Palme d’Or winner WINTER SLEEP, gets called.
Three recent Oscar foreign language film winners are also expected to figure in this year’s lineup: Polish helmer of the lovely IDA, Pawel Pawlikowski, with the 50’s-set romance COLD WAR; Hungarian director László Nemes, whose debut feature SON OF SAUL had the rare distinction of making Cannes competition, even winning the Grand Prix in 2015, with pre-WWI drama SUNSET; and Italian director Paolo Sorrentino of THE GREAT BEAUTY fame, with the two-part biopic LORO about the country’s controversial former leader Silvio Berlusconi.
Other Cannes regulars that seem primed for a return to the Croisette include Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas with his (probably/hopefully very weird) exposé on contemporary couplehood WHERE LIFE IS BORN; the last American Palme d’Or winner Terrence Malick with the German-language WWII drama RADEGUND; Japanese veteran director Hirokazu Koreeda who, after trying his hand at mystery with THE THIRD MURDER, returned to his trademark genre of family drama with SHOPLIFTERS; and Chinese filmmaker Zhangke Jia with a decade-spanning romance ASH IS PUREST WHITE. Add to that roster two mystery-dramas BURNING by Korean auteur Chang-dong Lee’s and LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT by young Chinese auteur Gan Bi, both getting strong advance buzz, and the often underrepresented Asian cinema is looking at a potentially significant bump this time around.
As for French-language cinema, there is as always such a wealth of options one can’t possibly know which would strike Frémaux’s fancy, but by all accounts the historic epic ONE NATION, ONE KING by Pierre Schoeller, set during the French Revolution and featuring an all-star cast, will be there. It is also hard to imagine Olivier Assayas missing out with the Juliette Binoche starrer NON FICTION or that they’d pass up Godard’s latest experimental documentary THE PICTURE BOOK.
If something doesn’t feel right about the candidates listed above – yes, that’s a whole lot of men. Cannes has never been known for its friendliness towards female filmmakers but in the year of #MeToo and #TimesUp, it would look particularly bad if things don’t improve in this regard. So expect Italian writer/director and recent Grand Prix winner Alice Rohrwacher to return for her time-travelling tale LAZZARO FELICE. French veteran filmmaker Claire Denis is also widely tipped to be in competition with the English-language sci-fi drama HIGH LIFE starring Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche. Also led by Pattinson (who’s slowly but surely becoming a Cannes mainstay), the 80’s-set romance THE SOUVENIR: PART 1 by British helmer Joanna Hogg appears to be another strong contender. Meanwhile, Japanese director Naomi Kawase’s VISION may complete the Binoche triple bill this year.
Two blacklisted directors who would not be able to attend the premieres of their own movies, Iran’s Jafar Panahi and Russia’s Kirill Serebrennikov, might be celebrated for their biographical new films THREE FACES and LETO, respectively. Ukrainian maestro Sergey Loznitsa, who was just in competition last year with A GENTLE CREATURE, might turn up again with DONBASS. Ditto Austrian director Markus Schleinzer, who cracked Cannes competition with his debut feature MICHAEL eight years ago, with ANGELO. Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, the Columbian director duo of the Oscar-nominated EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT, could graduate from the sidebars with BIRDS OF PASSAGE.
From North America, David Robert Mitchell’s neo noir UNDER THE SILVER LAKE starring Andrew Garfield and Harmony Korine’s insane-looking THE BEACH BUM with Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron seem to be the strongest candidates. Two high-profile English-language films from Danish auteurs, the serial killer drama THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT by Lars von Trier starring Matt Dillon and Uma Thurman, and the historic disaster pic KURSK by Thomas Vinterberg starring Colin Firth and Léa Seydoux, are also likely to be in the mix. Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s long-gestating THE DEATH AND LIFE OF JOHN F. DONOVAN would normally be considered a shoo-in but word is the film won’t be ready in time.
Other Cannes-friendly titles that might not make the deadline include Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón’s first Mexican film in 17 years ROMA, Palme d’Or winner Jacques Audiard’s English-language debut THE SISTERS BROTHERS starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Joaquin Phoenix, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME’s Italian helmer Luca Guadagnino’s SUSPIRIA remake starring Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton, and Julian Schnabel’s Van Gogh biopic AT ETERNITY’S GATE with Willem Dafoe as the tortured Dutch artist. Then there’s Terry Gilliam’s 20-years-in-the-making THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE, which apparently is finished but just got hit by another lawsuit and won’t be able to premiere at Cannes, and of course Woody Allen’s A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK, which, ready or not, probably wouldn’t be the most popular choice right now.
If festival organizers really want to make a statement by further levelling the significant gender inequality of their selection, we might see French writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve (Berlinale winner of THINGS TO COME) making her Cannes competition debut with MAYA, Australian helmer of THE BABADOOK Jennifer Kent landing a slot with THE NIGHTINGALE, Icelandic director Kristín Jóhannesdóttir’s first feature in 26 years ALMA starring the late great Emmanuelle Riva, or Karyn Kusama’s follow-up to THE INVITATION, the Nicole Kidman starrer DESTROYER.
And Why Not
The out-of-competition and midnight screenings at Cannes last year were a lot quieter than usual. Things could change this time around. Ron Howard’s SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY will screen ahead of its stateside premiere (no, we don’t want to picture the queue for that screening). Other Hollywood blockbusters tipped for possible OOC play in Cannes include Brad Bird’s THE INCREDIBLES 2 and Gary Ross’ OCEAN’S 8 starring Jury President Cate Blanchett. Suppose Brian De Palma’s Copenhagen-set police thriller DOMINO doesn’t end up in competition, an OOC or midnight slot would also seem likely. Ditto SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO, whose predecessor competed for the Palme d’Or in 2015. Argentinian provocateur Gaspar Noé is no stranger to midnight screenings, and if he can deliver his latest (probably drugs-and-sex filled) drama PSYCHÉ in time, it could mean another night of mass orgy at the Parlais. Also expected to be risqué and boundary-pushing is French director Yann Gonzalez’s KNIFE + HEART, a thriller set in the world of 70’s gay porn starring Vanessa Paradis. Little is known about Neil Jordan’s return to feature filmmaking THE WIDOW, except it’s a very dark story and stars Isabelle Huppert as the titular widow. Obviously we’re sold right there and hope to see it in a month’s time. There’s also Peter Strickland’s follow-up to THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY, a ghost story centered around a haunted dress IN FABRIC, and Lenny Abrahamson’s gothic tale THE LITTLE STRANGER headlined by Charlotte Rampling and Domhnall Gleeson.
As the fall Venice-Telluride-Toronto festival route has proved to be more fruitful in terms of launching Oscar campaigns, these presumed Oscar contenders are not expected to make a showing at Cannes:
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (Barry Jenkins)
FIRST MAN (Damien Chazelle)
BEAUTIFUL BOY (Felix Van Groeningen)
THE FAVOURITE (Yorgos Lanthimos)
WIDOWS (Steve McQueen)
A STAR IS BORN (Bradley Cooper)
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (Josie Rourke)
BOY ERASED (Joel Edgerton)
But who knows? Whether any of these speculations, rumors, theories and wishes will pan out we’ll learn in less than a week’s time.