So we now know most of the Cannes Official Selection (May 13-24), which is broken down into the opening night entry, plus 18 Competition titles so far competing for the Palme d’Or and other prizes (director Thierry Frémaux will choose up to 20, he said at the Thursday press conference, below, if you want to practice your French); 14 films thus far are slotted for Un Certain Regard, which has its own less prestigious competition with high-profile opening and closing night slots. More will be also added.
Listening to Frémaux and Cannes president Pierre Lescure, several things were clear.
1. Women and newcomers are in this year. The festival seeks credit for including women in the Official Selection, two in the Competition and four in Un Certain Regard. The opening night film “La Tete haute” from Emmanuelle Bercot is the second opener from a woman director, although the festival press office was too quick to claim it as the first. One of the competition filmmakers is a first-timer, with three in Un Certain Regard. And Lescure made much of the festival sidebar “Women in Motion” which aims to brings together top female film professionals to share insights and knowledge and discuss the state of women in the industry.
2. Woody Allen won’t compete. Frémaux tries to talk Woody Allen–on the phone–into being the competition every time, and fails. Thus “Irrational Man” starring Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone is out of competition.
3. Cannes is protecting first-time actor-directors like Natalie Portman by screening her Israeli drama “A Tale of Love and Darkness”) out of competition, so that the film will not be as harshly judged as were Un Certain Regard entries from Ryan Gosling and James Franco. Portman leads an Israeli cast in a Jerusalem period drama based on the Amos Oz autobiography.
4. Animation still doesn’t rate. They weren’t willing to accord Competition slots to two animated features being shown Out of Competition, “The Little Prince” and Pixar’s “Inside Out,” marking the return of Pete Docter, whose film “Up” opened the festival in 2009.
5. No documentaries in Competition. Cannes has been slow to warm up to documentaries (Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” made the Competition cut). Davis Guggenheim played Cannes with out-of-Competition “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006 but no sign of his Fox Searchlight doc “He Named Me Malala” (word is Participant Media and Fox Searchlight deemed Cannes too early). Frémaux did describe the Un Certain Regard selection from Italian-American Roberto Minervini’s “The Other Side” as a docu/fiction hybrid. Asif Kapadia’s documentary “Amy” about the British singer Amy Winehouse, is screening out of competition accompanied by a major concert with world class musicians. And “Oka,” directed by Cannes habitue Souleymane Cisse, is also out of competition.
6. Cannes likes Harvey Weinstein. Both Competition entries “Carol” and “Macbeth” are from perennial Cannes supplier The Weinstein Co. and can be considered early entries in this year’s Oscar race. Until the Cannes press hordes get hold of them.
7. Cannes likes Wild Bunch. The powerful film producer and sales company has four pics playing in competition: Jacques Audiard’s “Dheepan,” Hou Hsiao-hsien’s “The Assassin,” Valerie Donzelli’s “Marguerite and Julien” and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Our Little Sister.”
8. Cannes likes stars. Among the vedettes who will walk up the tapis rose are: Josh Brolin, Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Harvey Keitel, Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Michael Fassbender, Salma Hayek and Shu Qi.
9. It’s a family affair. While Herve’s portrait of Ingrid Bergman looks down on the festival from posters plastered everywhere, her daughter Isabella Rossellini will be constantly reminded of her mother as she performs her duties as the president of the Un Certain Regard jury. There’s also a tribute planned to her mother with a screening of the Stig Bjorkman documentary “Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words.”
10. Nobody wanted George Miller’s “Mad Max” sequel “Fury Road” for opening night, “not for them or us,” said Frémaux.
The often more adventurous and avant-garde Director’s Fortnight and Critics’ Week programs tend to play more edgy fare and take chances on not-yet-proven talent. That may yet include rising director Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation,” which was acquired by Netflix. Cannes apparently did not recognize the “True Detective” filmmaker as an auteur for this violent African drama starring Idris Elba as an African warlord. Netflix outbid Focus Features with a reported astronomical $12 million offer for world rights, and is seeking a theatrical distributor in order to mount an Oscar bid. Cannes needs to catch up with the new world order and not follow the Academy’s myopia about considering only movies that are theatrically released. The filmmakers knew they might be sacrificing a Cannes slot by accepting Netflix’s offer. There are other festivals down the road.
Potential Sundance candidates for sidebars include James Ponsoldt’s “The End of the Tour” and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s audience and jury winner “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”
Clearly, Frémaux has his hands full trying to juggle the politics of Cannes–he wriggled with discomfort when challenged about the lack of Spanish-language, UK and certain French titles in the selection, reminding that there are more decisions to be made, and some films simply weren’t ready.
And he tried to explain that yes, English has become the world language for cinema, hence Italian directors Paolo Sorrentino and Matteo Garrone shooting with English-speakers. (Hopefully they will be better than Sorrentino’s last English-language misfire “This Must Be the Place,” starring Sean Penn.) Frémaux used the word “auteur” and “loyalty” a lot in his discussion of how the programmers make their decisions, rounding up many of the usual suspects, listed below. Five American directors are in overall lineup, though only two are returning to the Competition: Todd Haynes with “Carol” and Gus Van Sant with “The Sea of Trees.”
French Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet,” “Rust and Bone”) is back with “Dheepan,” a drama about Tamil refugees in Paris (IFC Sundance Selects).
Italy’s Matteo Garrone (“Gomorrah”) has moved to English with historical fantasy “The Tale of Tales,” starring Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly, Vincent Cassel and Toby Jones.
American Todd Haynes (“Velvet Goldmine”) is finally ready to screen his Patricia Highsmith adaptation “Carol,” starring Cate Blanchett (“I’m Not There”) and Rooney Mara.
Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda (2013 Jury Prize for “Like Father, Like Son”) has family drama “Our Little Sister.”
Taiwan’s Hou Hsiao-hsien’s China-financed period epic “The Assassin” is finally ready after decades of stop-and-go development and production–and marks his seventh Competition contender.
China’s Jia Zhang-Ke (“A Touch of Sin”) returns with “Mountains May Depart.”
French director-actress Maïwenn follows 2011’s “Polisse” with “Mon Roi,” starring Vincent Cassel and Louis Garrel.
Italian Nanni Moretti‘s “Mia Madre” stars Moretti, John Turturro, and frequent collaborator Margherita Bay. This is his sixth Competition title. He is in the rarified club of directors who have won the Palme d’Or twice.
Italy’s Paolo Sorrentino (Oscar-winner “The Great Beauty”) goes English again with “The Early Years,” starring Michael Caine as an orchestra conductor considering coming out of retirement, with Rachel Weisz, Harvey Keitel, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda.
America’s Gus Van Sant (Palme d’Or-winner “Elephant,” “Last Days,” “Paranoid Park”) directs Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe as two depressed men in “Sea of Trees.”
Newcomers to the Competition include:
French Stephane Brize (“Mademoiselle Chambon”), who has been in the selection but not the Competition before, beats out serious French competition with “A Simple Man,” with Vincent Lindon.
French actress-director Valerie Donzelli was in Critic’s Week with “Declaration of War.” Making the competition grade is incest-themed drama “Marguerite and Julien.”
Hungarian short filmmaker Laszlo Nemes makes his feature debut with holocaust drama “Son of Saul.” He was an assistant to Bela Tarr. “He asks the question of how to represent humanity,” said Fremaux.
Australian Justin Kurzel‘s “MacBeth,” starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. “The Snowtown Murders” won Critics’ Week in 2011. (The Weinstein Co.)
Greece’s Yorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth,” Un Certain Regard) makes his English-language debut with “The Lobster,” starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, and Léa Seydoux. Fremaux calls the film’s innovative reinvention of narrative “fascinating” and “the most original and mysterious of the Competition,” adding, “We celebrate auteurs who do something different.”
Norway’s Joachim Trier hit “Oslo August 31st” played Un Certain Regard, and he moves up to the Competition with New York drama “Louder than Bombs,” starring Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle Huppert, David Strathairn, Gabriel Byrne and Amy Ryan. (Producers Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa are marking their third competition, following Steven Soderbergh’s “King of the Hill” and Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska.”)
Canadian Denis Villeneuve‘s Mexican cartel drama “Sicario” (Lionsgate, September) starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro and Jon Bernthal is getting strong advance buzz. 1996’s “Cosmos” played outside Competition while in 1998 “Un 32 Aout Sur Terre” played Un Certain Regard.
And yes, les freres Coens will be heading a jury of 9, not ten–they are two votes, after all. (Check out their short “World Cinema” starring Josh Brolin and Grant Heslov, from the collection of Cannes auteurs “Chacun Un Cinema” that was screened during the press conference, below.)
Other notable omissions from Competition veterans include (assuming they were ready):
Spain’s Alejandro Amenabar (“2009’s “Agora”) has directed crime mystery “Regression,” starring Emma Watson, Ethan Hawke and David Thewlis.
Italy’s veteran Marco Bellocchio (“Vincere”), with six Competition titles behind him, has a new film, “L’Ultimo Vampirothe.”
British Terence Davies (“The Long Day Closes,” “The Neon Bible”) stars Peter Mullen in literary adaptation “Sunset Song.”
France’s Arnaud Desplechin (“A Christmas Tale”) is back in France with “Three Memories of Childhood,” starring his usual alter-ego, Mathieu Amalric.
British Stephen Frears (“Prick Up Your Ears,” “The Van”) centers “Icon” on a journalist’s quest to expose cyclist Lance Armstrong (Ben Foster)’s use of performance-enhancers. Lee Pace, Dustin Hoffman and Ben Foster star.
Israel’s Amos Gitai (“Free Zone”) has been in Competition four times; “Le dernier jour de Rabin” is a dramatization of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
South Korea’s Im Sang-soo (“The Housemaid,” “The Taste of Money”) directed contemporary anti-corruption thriller “My Friendly Villains.”
Japan’s Naomi Kawase (“Still the Water”) has been in Competition four times; “Sweet Red Bean Paste” should have been a strong contender.
France’s Abdellatif Kechiche follows up 2013 Palme d’Or-winner “Blue is the Warmest Color” with Gerard Depardieu vehicle “La Blessure.”
America’s Terrence Malick (“Palme d’Or winner “The Tree of Life”) finished up “Knight of Cups” in time for Berlin, so the odds were slim that “Weightless,” also starring Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett, would be ready for Cannes.
America’s Jeff Nichols (“Mud”) directed sci-fi John Carpenter homage “Midnight Special” (Warner Bros.), starring Michael Shannon, Kristen Dunst, Adam Driver and Joel Edgerton.
France’s Gaspar Noé (“Irreversible”) is back with very erotic “Love.”
France’s Jean-Paul Rappeneau, 82 (“Cyrano de Bergerac”) directs “Belles Familles,” starring Mathieu Amalric.
Poland’s Jerzy Skolimowski (“Torrents of Spring”), who hasn’t had a film in Competition since 1989, is finishing “11 Minutes.”
Hong Kong’s Johnnie To has created a musical of Noel Coward’s “Design for Living” starring Chow Yun Fat and Sylvia Chang.
Argentinian Pablo Trapero ( 2008’s “Lion’s Den”) directs 80s true story “The Clan,” starring Argentinean Guillermo Francella as the head of a wealthy and murderous Buenos Aires family. His last three films were slotted in Un Certain Regard.
Belgian Jaco van Dormael (“The Eighth Day”) has a new film, “The Brand New Testament,” a religious satire starring Benoit Poelvoorde as God, who tips plans of the apocalypse to his daughter (Yolande Moreau); Catherine Deneuve also stars.
Netherlands’ Alex van Warmerdam (“Borgman”) has crime drama “Schneider vs. Bax.”
Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the Palme D’or with “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.” His next: “Love in Khon Kaen.”
Also left out among would-be contenders for the Official Selection (assuming they were ready):
American Scott Cooper‘s Whitey Bulger biopic “Black Mass” stars Johnny Depp, Dakota Johnson and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Mexican Michel Franco‘s “Chronic” (Wild Bunch), his first English-language effort, stars the Un Certain Regard jury president Tim Roth who awarded “After Lucia” the top prize in 2012. Franco’s “Daniel and Ana” played Directors’ Fortnight in 2009.
Italy’s Luca Guadagnino (“I Am Love”) reteams with Tilda Swinton in erotic drama “A Bigger Splash,” but has never played Cannes. Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes, and Matthias Schoenaerts costar.
France’s Lucile Hadzhihalilovic (2004’s “Innocence”) delivers her sophomore film, sci-fi fantasy “Evolution” (Wild Bunch), about boys subjected to medical experiments.
American Angelina Jolie‘s France-set romantic comedy “By the Sea” reunites Jolie and husband Brad Pitt in front of the camera for the first time since “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.”
French Guillaume Nicloux‘s “The Valley of Love” stars Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert.
French Elie Wajeman‘s follow-up to her 2012 Director’s Fortnight debut film “Aliyah” is 19th century policier “Les Anarchistes” (Wild Bunch), starring Tahar Rahim (“A Prophet,” “The Past”) and Adele Exarchopoulos (“Blue Is the Warmest Color”).
British Ben Wheatley has yet to play in Competition. (Delightfully nasty comedy “Sightseers” was in the Fortnight.) It looks like his edgy J.G. Ballard adaptation starring Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons, “High-Rise,” will have to settle for a sidebar.
Here’s the rest of the lineup: