Fresh and hot out of the bake, Cannes just announced the Official Selection for this year’s edition. I won’t lie when I say that I’ve been anticipating this day for weeks now, and I’m about 75% happy with the lineup. There are household names, there are more Women’s titles, just as Thierry Fremaux promises, but whether they’re justified themselves to be there or not, is entirely different matter (which I will discuss it later). This gonna be Silver Moon’s first current Preview for Cannes, where I list all the films in the Main Competition, along with my own expectation. Let’s briefly run each of them down
Why 2016 Cannes, you ask? Well, it was the year where I last attended to Cannes, so this year I’ll get a chance to see these directors and their works again. When you think about it though, Cannes is a big boys’ playground so we’re bound to get familiar names over and over again, and 3-year gap is a right time for filmmakers to throw up their new works. This year we have a whooping 6 directors that return from 2016.
First, the winner of the Palme d’Or that year, Ken Loach, comes back once again for his latest work, Sorry We Missed You, another social realist drama about working class dissatisfaction about “a hard-up delivery driver and his wife struggle to get by in modern-day England”. With the same writer, it promises to be in the same vein of I, Daniel Blake (a film that I found very solid but in no way it’s THE top pick of that year).
And the film that will open Festival, Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die is one of my top anticipation from this lineup. His dry humor, attention to details, plus the fact that this is a cross-genre flick with all-star ensemble cast (Bill Murray? Hell yeah) make it a near-miss title (his 2016’s Paterson is amongst my favorite of that year)
Also a winner of Grand Prix prize of 2016, a talented Xavier Dolan also has new feature ready for Cannes this year, Matthias & Maxime, which promises to be a return to low-budget, personal indie drama that makes him a household name after the misfires that are It’s Only the End of the World (I’m in opinion of regarding it highly despite all the negative responses) and his English-debut The Death & Life of John F. Donovan. It’s on my top priority for sure
After a minor failure that was The Unknown Girl (a film where I think it doesn’t land the ending like their previous works), kitchen-sink specialists the Dardenne brothers with another hard-hitting drama, The Young Ahmed, about “A Belgian teenager hatches a plot to kill his teacher after embracing an extremist interpretation of the Quran”. If there’s anything we can be sure about, the Dardenne brothers won’t go easy on the audience, ever.
Cannes’ favorite auteur Pedro Almodovar is also back with another feature, this time an answer to Fellini’s works, centered on a film director reflects on the choices he’s made in life with actresses and friends around him, Pain and Glory. While personally I would prefer his women-centric works, this already screened in its home country with rave reviews. Almodovar is overdue for the top prize so hopefully this one can be his ticket.
Finally, Brazilian critic-turned-director Kleber Mendonça Filho returns for an ambitious film called Nighthawk. The film is about a Western-inspired narrative set a few years in the future about a documentary filmmaker traveling through Brazil’s region. His previous Aquarius was one of the highlights for me, but it sounds like a tricky premise so I hope he can pull this off.
Masters and Newcommers
Long-awaited Terrance Malick finally gets out of his post-production process for a new film, initially named as Radegund, A Hidden Life marks his return to Croisette after his Palme d’Or The Tree of Life way back in 2011. As with Wong Kar Wai, his editing, not screenwriting, that creates a rhythm for his films so I expect this Cannes premiere will be his deadline to get the project done, considering how it has been in editing room for more than 2 years now.
Italian master Marco Bellocchio brings to Cannes his newest feature, a biopic film about the life of Mafia pentito Tommaso Buscetta, who is known as the first Mafia informant. It pains me to say that I have never watched any of his film before, and the biopic subject doesn’t really interest me much. I expect this to be a straight-forward and stylish crime film that Italian cinema has been known for.
Cannes also welcomes back their home-grown favorite, Arnaud Desplechin for his new feature, Oh Mercy! that will star Léa Seydoux as lead. His last two features didn’t make it to the Main Competition, however. The festival disappointingly left his My Golden Days into sidebar in 2015, while Ishmael’s Ghost opened the festival in 2017 to mixed reception. This film is described as a hard-boiled detective story with a police chief in northern France tries to solve a case where an old woman was brutally murdered.
Finally, a Palestinian film director Elia Suleiman, who is known for absurd comedy with socio-political edge and his charisma on screen, is back with another film that fits right into his caliber. It Must Be Heaven stars him as a lead, who escapes Palestine only to realize that he can never leave the country behind.
Isabelle Huppert might the calling card for Ira Sachs to finally have his film on the Red Carpet. But don’t let that fact alone fools you. Frankie depicts a story of three generations grappling with a life-changing experience during one day of a vacation in Sintra, Portugal. It’s surprising (to even myself) that while I know about his reputation for almost a decade, I’ve never watched any of his film before. This international product might be just the ticket for me to explore his works.
Speaking of international production, Caméra d’Or Corneliu Porumboiu finally breaks out to the Big Boys Club with his French-backed The Whistlers, about a police officer comes to the Spanish island of La Gomera to learn the language of El Silbo and to free Zsolt, a controversial businessman arrested in Bucharest. He’s capable of making an absurd social commentary comedy so I hope this one will bring the same tone.
Cannes’ selection also includes two debuts this year, one of them is Les Misérables directed by Ladj Ly. A rather unexpected choice, since I bet no one has heard of it until the announcement. Noted that this isn’t an adaptation to that classic source, but rather inspired by the riots of 2005 in the Paris suburbs. The film revolves around three members of an anti-crime brigade who are overrun while trying to make an arrest.
Asian Films and Women’s Directors
Personally, Asian and Women’s cinema are my jam so this selection attracts me the most.
Diao Yi’nan’s previous Black Coal, Thin Ice is a total delight: it’s a stylish neo-noir with some impressive cinematography and performances from its leads. That is why I have high expectation to his latest, The Wild Goose Lake, a film about a drama about the relationship between the leader of a biker gang and woman he meets seeking freedom. I’m all in for another stylish mood piece.
One of my favorite Korean director, Bong Joon-ho, makes his way to land his second MC’s slot with Parasyte. Little is known about its plot, but it plays for the film’s benefit since Bong has a knack for mixing different genres within his film into something completely unique. Needless to say I’m highly expect anything that comes out from his hands.
While there are a whopping 4 female-directing films in the mix (in which indiewire actually complains about the lack of female representation. What the heck?), I’m afraid for the total opposite. If you look back to previous Cannes’ years, usually one (or more) film directed by women are amongst the worst of The MC’s selection. The reason? For me it is because Cannes is more interested to fill up the quota, rather than pick ones that are truly good (hence 2018’s edition is a step to the right direction since these 3 films were great). And in my humble opinion, it’s more of an insult to include films that are a total embarrassing than omit them altogether. This year, all 4 films directed by women are from Europe, and 3 out of them are from homegrown France.
It’s a long way coming for Jessica Hausner to finally land her first MC slot after 3 previous Un Certain Regard. Moreover, her English debut Little Joe promises to be a thought-provoking ride with sci-fi and psychological twist. The plot entails “ A genetically engineered plant scatters its seeds and seems to cause uncanny changes on living creatures.” My excitement is high.
Female-centric director Céline Sciamma is another director to look out for. Her previous three features have a female’s experience focus, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire bounds to be the same, in period piece, about a female painter is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman, which prove to be her first and last taste of freedom.
Can’t say I’m familiar with Justine Triet, but her latest film Sibyl creates some buzz around during the selection process, so I figure at least it can serve as a good introduction to her style. The film is about A jaded psychotherapist returns to her first passion of becoming a writer.
Last but not least, a Senegalese actress-turned-director Mati Diop (who starred in movies like 35 Rums, Simon Killer) makes her first feature named Atlantique. The story is about a 16-year-old Senegalese beautician whose life begins to unravel when she’s forced to marry a man after her boyfriend goes missing.
Un Certain Regards and Omissions
This is where my remaining 25% gone down the drain when I look at the list of films missed out the Official slot. The Un Certain Regard selection doesn’t offer much except for Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont), Room 212 (Christophe Honoré) and The Swallows of Kabul by female co-directors Zabou Breitman, Eléa Gobé Mévellec, which is said to be a mixture of live action and animation.
There are three films that I kicked myself for missing out of the list. Most obvious is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon the Time in Hollywood (ahhhhh), Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness (well. It’s a shame. One of my anticipated title of the year actually), and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria that stars Tilda Swinton. These films offer unique cinematic voice that it’s a shame for whatever reason they end up outside the list. Well, nothing is set in stone yet. There will be addition titles announced in later days, and in few days the sidebar Directors’ Fortnight will announce their lineups, so the fun won’t end now. I’m intending to watch all them when I attend the Festival and try my best to review them as well. I’ll make a brief post on the top 10 films I’m most anticipated once all the lists are out. For now, enjoy the line-ups.