Because They Cannes, Cannes, Cannes

Analysing 2017’s official lineup

Cannes official poster. Image from here.

The lineup for the world’s most prestigious film festival, and what I affectionately call the International Oscars, Cannes 2017 was released today by their director Thierry Frémaux. As usual with Cannes, glitz comes with outrage. This year’s announcement was preceded by a relatively minor social media kerfuffle — people were up in arms about what they considered to be excessive re-touching of actor Claudia Cardinale’s waist and thighs on the official poster for the festival when it was unveiled. Something similar happened two years previously when a memo advising all female invitees to wear heels on the red carpet was leaked to the press causing quite a furore. These events, combined with the lack of female representation in the official competition, has led some to diagnose Cannes with a woman problem. And insofar as the movie industry, and Hollywood, as a whole all suffer from lack of diverse representation then yes, of course it does. From the outside (I’ve never been to Cannes) the festival always seems curiously bifurcated. These serious works of cinematic art, often about disenfranchised and unseen lives, screened with elaborate red carpet premieres where supermodels and actors parade around in dresses and jewels worth more than most people’s properties. It’s an odd mix but then one must never discount the power of critical adulation for film stars. Although watch out, the Croisette is notoriously prickly — it can both anoint and mock you. Let’s have a look at this year’s official competition contenders (not including Un Certain Regard).

120 Battements Par Minute, Robin Campillo (120 Beats Per Minute)
Screenwriter turned director Campillo’s film is about a group of ACT UP gay rights activists in the 1990s before the advent of the game-changing AIDS/HIV cocktail which has transformed the disease into a manageable, albeit chronic condition. Campillo’s screenwriting credits include the Palme D’Or winning Entre Les Murs (The Class) which, from memory, is an explosively brilliant film set in a classroom for difficult children in Paris. Here’s hoping this will be another stellar addition to LGBTQ cinema after Moonlight.

The Beguiled. Image from here.

The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola
Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst lead the way with Colin Farrell in support in Coppola’s historical film based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan. Here are the cast looking suitably Southern Gothic chic. Set in all-girls boarding school, I wouldn’t bet against Coppola recapturing some of the icky magic of The Virgin Suicides.

Geu-Hu, Hong Sang-soo (The Day After)
There’s precious little information out there about this film. Sang-soo is a South Korean filmmaker with whose work I am unfamiliar but who is a regular on the art-house festival circuit. He won the Prix Un Certain Regard in 2010 for Hahaha and makes intimate, domestic dramas about human lives. Interestingly, The New Yorker’s Richard Brody wrote a piece on a Sang-soo retrospective from last year and calls him one of the finest filmmakers in the world, despite his work being little-seen. Well, I shall look forward to watching his films. That’s the fantastic thing about Cannes — it’s a house of wonderful discovery.

A Gentle Creature, Sergei Loznitsa
Ukranian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa is probably best-known for his documentary, Maidan, which charted the popular uprisings in Ukraine from 2013/14. However, he’s also an acclaimed dramatic filmmaker. His new film is inspired by a short story of the same name by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which worked pretty well for Richard Ayoade’s The Double. The story concerns a woman whose parcel to her incarcerated husband comes back marked ‘return to sender’ thus beginning what sounds like a gruelling journey to the prison in search of answers. I am suitably intrigued on this one.

Still from A Gentle Creature. Image from here.

Good Time, Josh and Benny Safdie
American independent filmmaking brothers Josh and Benny Safdie have relatively few credits to their name but this film has been snapped up for distribution by A24, the indie powerhouse behind last year’s breakout hit (and Best Picture Oscar Winner) Moonlight. Reports tell us this is a grindhouse caper starring Robert Pattinson as a bank robber. I don’t know much about the Safdie brothers but Pattinson has been making really interesting film choices the last few years. He was scene-stealing in Brady Corbet’s disturbingly brilliant and slightly frustrating The Childhood of a Leader. This could be one of the breakout hits from the festival.

Happy End, Michael Haneke
ENTER MAIN PLAYER. It’s the return of the two-time Palme D’Or winning veritable Daddio of international cinema. The man who makes bleak look easy. YES Haneke is finally back with a new film starring the incomparable Isabelle Huppert and legendary Jean-Louis Trintignant. It has been too, too long since Amour, without doubt one of the greatest films of the 21st century. This new film follows a bourgeois French family set against the rising refugee crisis. I’ve no idea what to expect except BRILLIANCE.

In the Fade, Fatih Akin
Another new filmmaker to me, Akin is from Germany and has previously made a series of critically-acclaimed films in what he calls his ‘Love, Death and Devil’ trilogy, one of which The Edge of Heaven won the screenplay award at Cannes 2007. In the Fade is a revenge story set around a bomb explosion in a Turkish-German neighbourhood in Hamburg. Glitzy news here is that it stars Diane Kruger in her first wholly German-language role (despite being German!)

First still from Jupiter’s Moon. Image from here.

Jupiter’s Moon, Kornél Mundruczó
The new film from the Hungarian filmmaker who won the Prix Un Certain Regard in 2014 for White God. He’s graduated up the ranks since then with this film about a refugee who develops an extraordinary power after being shot down whilst illegally crossing a border. Oddly I feel I can see a parallel between that premise and White God — both seem to fit into traditional narratives (superhero for Jupiter’s Moon and underdog rising up in White God) but with a central surreal twist.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Yorgos Lanthimos
Probably the most eagerly-awaited of the films on the list with the exception of the Haneke after Lanthimos scored a breakout hit with his subversive and restrained The Lobster. His new film stars Colin Farrell (marvellously blimp-like in the aforementioned Lobster) and Nicole Kidman making her second appearance in the competition lineup. Here’s hoping she banishes the horror of Grace of Monaco from 2014. Scan plot detail so far but yeah, excited about this one.

Le Redoutable, Michel Hazanavicius (The Formidable)
Ok so there’s already a teaser trailer available for this one and let me tell you it is PEAK French. The absolute apex of Gallic sensibility. I mean what else is a biopic of enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard going to be? I’m not making predictions at this stage because why would I be so foolish however, I will say that this is either going to be brilliant or awful. Tout ou rien folks, tout ou rien.

Loveless, Andrey Zvyagintsev
So this is my other most eagerly anticipated film in this year’s competition. I absolutely loved Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan which won the screenplay prize at Cannes 2014. This follow-up looks brutal but beautiful, the story of the struggles of a loveless family. The Russian state stopped funding his films after Leviathan so supporting Loveless feels like a bit of a middle finger up to Putin and his cultural cronies. I expect this to be fantastic.

Still from Loveless. Image from here.

The Meyerowitz Stories, Noah Baumbach
This is interesting, a Baumbach at Cannes. The marmite filmmaker has, I think, made some rather stunning films – Greenberg which most people hate and Frances Ha which most people like. The exciting thing about the new film is that Baumbach is working once again with Ben Stiller, in whom he brings out the best (along with his cinematic brother, Wes Anderson), Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and Adam Sandler. Twitter is awash with comments about the incongruity of Sandler being in a Cannes competition film — all we say to that of course is BUT HAVE YOU SEEN PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE?

Okja, Bong Joon-ho
The second South Korean in the lineup is cult master Bong Joon-ho whose film The Host is on a lot of people’s favourite movie list of recent years, including Quentin Tarantino. This looks very intriguing I must say. A young girl risks her life to stop a powerful corporation from kidnapping her best friend — an animal called Okja. It has an impressive cross-cultural cast including Tilda Swinton and Ahn Seo-hyun. Also, this one’s got a deal with Netflix so I’ll actually be able to see it very soon after the competition wraps up.

Radiance, Naomi Kawase
Kawase is a Japanese film director with whom I am not familiar but great to see another female filmmaker in the competition. She’s been at Cannes before with Still the Water in the main competition in 2014 and Sweet Bean in Un Certain Regard 2015. The story concerns a writer of film voiceovers who meets a visually impaired photographer. Very interested to discover Kawase’s work. This sounds really beautiful.

Wonderstruck, Todd Haynes

It will be great to welcome an important voice in filmmaking to Cannes this year in the form of American Haynes. Coming off the back off the critical, if not necessarily commercial or awards, success of the sublime Carol I’m excited to see this new one. Based on the novel by Brian Selznick and starring Julianne Moore (yes!) and Michelle Williams (double yes!) it concerns a young girl who runs away from home to get a glimpse of her idol. I’m not familiar with the book but it’s described as a 600 page young adult novel. Bring it.

And finally You Were Never Really Here, Lynne Ramsay

Based on the novel by Jonathan Ames and starring the man, the myth Joaquin Phoenix this looks really fantastic. Ramsay is a singular filmmaker with an exquisite eye for visual detail and a strong empathy for her outlier protagonists. It’s been a long six years since Ramsay’s last full-length feature, the red-drenched and incredible We Need to Talk About Kevin. The plot concerns a man’s fumbled attempts to rescue a young girl from a sex trafficking ring. I’m very excited to see the explosive talents of Phoenix and Ramsay collide here. Could be special.