Cannes seems to be heading for a familiar controversy after artistic director, Thierry Fremaux, announced this year’s official selections at Paris’ Normandie Cinema. After only one woman filmmaker – Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi – had appeared in the main competition during the last two years, there was only a marginal improvement this time around with the inclusion of Alice Rohrwacher (La Meraviglie) and previous Grand Prix and Camera d’Or winner, Naomi Kawase (Still the Water). Some of those thought likely to feature may not have completed their films, of course, but that’s not the case with the proven Jessica Hausner (‘Amour fou’), Pascale Ferran (‘Bird People’) and Keren Yedaya (‘Harcheck mi headro’), all of whom had to settle for a place in the Un Certain Regard sidebar. The same thing happened to Claire Denis’ ‘Les Salauds’ last year.
The main competition welcomes back previous Palme d’Or winners, Dardennes brothers (‘Two Days, One Night’), Mike Leigh (‘Mr. Turner’) and, with his final film, Ken Loach (‘Jimmy’s Hall’); two of French cinema’s most senior figures, Jean-Luc Godard (Goodbye to Language) and Olivier Assayas (‘Clouds of Sils Maria’); and other Cannes regulars, Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Winter Sleep), David Cronenberg (‘Maps to the Stars’), Atom Egoyan (‘The Captive’) and Bertrand Bonello (‘Saint Laurent’). None were a surprise and all made speculation lists easy.
There will be wide interest in Michel Hazanavicius’ ‘The Search’, being the follow-up to his Oscar winner and global phenomenon, ‘The Artist’. Andrei Zvyaginstev (‘Leviathan’) and Tommy Lee Jones (‘The Homesman’) are also making a second appearance in the main competition alongside Hazanavicius.
Twenty five year old, Xavier Dolan (‘Mommy’), steps up to the main competition for the first time having made earlier appearances in the Directors’ Fortnight and Un Certain Regard. Bennett Miller (‘Foxcatcher’), Abderrahmane Sissako (‘Timbuktu’) and Damian Szifron (‘Wild Tales’), together with Rohrwacher, are the other first timers.
Speculation surrounding new films from Terrence Malick and Paul Thomas Anderson was wide of the mark with both being incomplete. It always looked like headline making hype rather than a serious proposition.
There is a story brewing around Fatih Akin’s ‘The Cut’ but nobody wants to discuss it. By all accounts, the film was an official selection but didn’t feature in the announced line-up. Seemingly, it was Akin who made the move – pity.
Wim Wenders’ collaboration with Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, ‘The Salt of the Earth’, which is a surprise Croisette birth, makes an appearance in the Un Certain Regard. As does Ryan Gosling’s high profile debut film, ‘Lost River’, featuring his ‘Drive’ co-star, Christina Hendricks.
Other notable Un Certain Regard nominees include Lisandro Alonso (‘Jauja’), Mathieu Amalric (‘The Blue Room’) and Wang Chao (‘Fantasia’), all of whom have potential for upstaging those competing for the Palme d’Or.
Keenly awaited new films from David Michod (‘The Rover’) and Sergei Loznitsa (‘Maidan’) receive midnight and special screenings respectively.
Fremaux confirmed that opener, ‘Grace of Monaco’ – already announced – will be Olivier Dahan’s director’s cut. Dahan is currently embroiled – as others have been before – in a dispute with Harvey ‘Scissorhands’ Weinstein over the North American version.
‘Coming Home’, the latest drama from Chinese master, Zhang Yimou, will close the festival out of competition.
Clouds of Sils Maria
An intriguing film, which started life as a suggestion by its star, Juliette Binoche, before Cannes regular, Olivier Assayas, gave the concept a script and film form. It has an actress at the height of her powers starring in the revival of a play, which brought her fame twenty years earlier, and has a battle between a ‘younger’ and ‘middle aged’ woman with everything at stake. This time, she switches roles and plays the older woman and it is not difficult to see why Binoche would want to explore the theme’s political connotations.
Bertrand Bonello’s latest film is the second Yves Saint Laurent biopic to arrive this year after Jalil Lespert received a lukewarm reception during January for his take on the fashion icon. Gaspard Ulliel plays the title role in Bonello’s version and leads a notable cast, which includes Léa Seydoux, Jérémie Renier, Brady Corbet and Louis Garrel. Screenwriter, Thomas Bidegain, who won César Awards for Jacques Audiard’s ‘A Prophet’ and ‘Rust and Bone’, provided the script.
Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Nuri Bilge Ceylan returns to the same plateau lands of his last film, ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’, with an intimate drama where a hotel owner and his sister both face separation from their partners. Ceylan teamed with his wife, Ebru, as he did with his previous two features, to write the script, and the film stars experienced Turkish actors, Haluk Bilginer and Melisa Sözen. ‘Winter Sleep’ will be Ceylan’s fifth appearance in the main completion and he has won the Grand Prix twice, best director and the FIPRESCI Prize but, so far, the Palme d’Or has proved elusive.
Maps to the Stars
Cannes favourite, David Cronenberg, makes his fifth appearance in the main competition with one of the festival’s most keenly anticipated world premieres, ‘Maps to the Stars’. It’s a satirical deconstruction of Hollywood with possible supernatural overtones and features an absurd family dynasty movie style. As with his last feature, the underrated ‘Cosmopolis’, Robert Pattinson leads a stellar cast, which this time includes Mia Wasikowska, Julianne Moore, John Cusack and Olivia Williams.
Two Days, One Night
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
A no-brainier for earlier Cannes predictions, world cinema giants and double Palme d’Or winners, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, grace the main competition for the sixth time with their latest feature, ‘Two Days, One Night’. A response to the world economic crisis at ground level, Oscar winner, Marion Cotillard (‘La Vie en Rose’), plays a desperate employee set to loose her job unless her colleagues forgo their bonuses. Sundance Selects have already acquired US distribution rights.
Twenty five year old, Xavier Dolan, is no stranger to the Croisette having made three previous appearances but this is his first in the main competition. It’s a tense domestic drama with a single mother, violent son and a mysterious woman, and Dolan has done an effective job keeping other plot details under wraps. Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon and Suzanne Clément all return from earlier Dolan pictures for starring roles.
This is an important film for Atom Egoyan with interest in the Canadian auteur starting to wane mid-career. He turns to the psychological thriller and a young girl’s abduction over a seven year period, and focuses on its multiple consequences for all parties. It won’t be a straight piece of genre filmmaking, obviously, but the jury’s out.
Goodbye To Language 3D
A cause for celebration for some and a tiresome irrelevance to others, this is a new film from one of cinema’s giants, a film provocateur par excellence – the real deal innovator – who has excited multiple contrary reactions over his fifty-year plus career; variously, the greatest filmmaker ever; never a filmmaker but an artist working with filmic material, a forerunner to the video artist; and the leading light of the French La Nouvelle Vague – along with the more conventional François Truffaut – but an incomprehensible voice thereafter. Whatever your take, Jean-Luc Godard has always engaged with language – film and beyond – and the title to his new feature ‘Goodbye To Language 3D’ is probably more informative than the official synopsis, which teases us with some ironic/sardonic word play that uses sharp insight and knowing pseudo-bollocks to describe a dysfunctional love affair and a dog.
If some films set almost impossible expectations for a filmmaker’s follow up, then, surely, Michel Hazanavicius’ spectacular one-off, ‘The Artist’, which so caught the public’s imagination worldwide, must fall into this category. Hazanavicius continues his relationship with film history, but in a very different way from his black and white silent movie, and remakes Fred Zinnemann’s 1948 war drama, ‘The Search. The original’s title referred to a mother and son searching for each other in Berlin after surviving WW2 concentration camps. In Hazanavicius’ version, starring Annette Bening and Bérénice Bejo, the action moves to war-torn Chechnya and a friendship between a NGO worker and a young boy.
Tommy Lee Jones
It’s almost ten years since Tommy Lee Jones’ acclaimed directorial debut, ‘The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada’, competed for the Palme d’Or and left the Croisette with wins for best actor and screenplay. His follow up, another Western with Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp producing, has a pioneer woman making a precarious journey during the mid-18th century in the spirit – perhaps – of Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff. Hilary Swank’s performance in the lead role is already attracting a buzz.
Still the Water
Naomi Kawase, who was on Steven Spielberg’s jury last year, returns with her latest feature, ‘Still the Water’, ahead of its domestic release in Japan next month. The film’s title alludes to a dead body floating on the sea, which a teenage boy discovers on Amami-Oshima island during the full-moon of traditional August dances. It’s a philosophical coming of age/mystery drama with the teenage boy investigating the death with his girlfriend and explores some of the filmmaker’s dominant themes in a new context. Kawase’s four previous appearances on the Croisette, including three in the main competition, has seen her win the Camera d’Or and the Grand Prix for ‘Suzaku’ and the ‘The Mourning Forest’ respectively.
Mike Leigh takes a break from the filmmaker’s stylised contemporary dramas – often mistaken for British realism – and returns to the 19th century costume spectacle of his popular Gilbert and Sullivan semi-biopic, ‘Topsy-Turvy’. This time, Leigh turns his attention to one of the Romantic period’s giants, JMW Turner, and focuses on tensions between his art and character/persona but it’s not known whether this includes the ‘pornographic’ drawings that Ruskin destroyed. Leigh regular, Timothy Spall, plays the title role.
Every good thing must end and Ken Loach’s return to the Croisette closes a remarkable era with ‘Jimmy Hall’ being the renowned British filmmaker’s final narrative film. After a fifty year career, marked by a ruthlessly independent spirit as much as his undoubted high quality, it seems appropriate that he should finish with a biopic of Jimmy Gralton, who was unfairly deported from Ireland for sticking to his guns. Loach has competed for the Palme d’Or eleven times before and won it with another Irish set feature, ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’.
With both of Miller’s previous narrative films, ‘Capote’ and ‘Moneyball’ receiving best film Oscar nominations, he will be on the award season trail again with his latest, ‘Foxcatcher’, which marks his first appearance on the Croisette and departs from his previous same month Toronto launch/US release formula. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo play Mark and David Schultz respectively in a dramatisation of the latter’s tragic murder after both brothers won an Olympic wrestling gold medal during the same year. It will not arrive in North American theatres until November 14 for obvious reasons.
Alice Rohrwacher is the sole Italian representative in this year’s main competition and, along with Naomi Kawase, one of only two women. Her third feature, ‘Le Meraviglie’, starring Monica Bellucci and the director’s sister, Alba, best known for ‘I Am Love’, has a young criminal on a rehab programme coming into contact with a rural family that has lost its way. The film is the follow-up to Rohrwacher’s ‘Heavenly Body’, which premiered at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight three years ago.
Important Sub-Saharan filmmaker, Abderrahmane Sissako, makes his first appearance in the main competition with his fifth feature, ‘Timbuktu’, but there are no other Africans in the line-up. A shocking real-life incident in Northern Mali two years ago inspired the film when Islamists stoned an unmarried young couple to death in front of a blood thirsty crowd for committing a crime against ‘divine law’. Sissako has made two appearances in the Un Certain Regard programme and picked up the FIPRESCI Prize for ‘Waiting for Happiness’ (‘Heremakono’).
Damian Szifron’s fourth film, ‘Wild Tales’ (‘Retratos salvajes’), was this year’s surprise inclusion and becomes the first Argentinian feature to appear in the main competition for six years. It’s an episodic set piece comedy and, perhaps Pedro Almodovar’s presence as co-producer, may provide a clue as to the film’s tone. Ricardo Darín, best known for his performance in Juan José Campanella’s best foreign language Oscar winner, ‘The Secret in Their Eyes’, leads the cast.
The latest film from the enigmatic Russian filmmaker, Andrei Zvyaginstev, is a contemporary re-telling of ‘Job’ in a setting with serious social problems near to the White Sea. His previous feature, ‘Elena’, caused controversy on the Croisette when it appeared in the Un Certain Regard rather than the main competition but it went on to win a Special Jury Prize. Zvyaginstev shot to prominence when his debut film, ‘The Return’, won the Golden Lion at Venice and his follow up, ‘The Banishment’ competed for the Palme d’Or.
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