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It’s an Amazon World at Cannes, With Five Selection Titles

It's an Amazon World at Cannes, With Five Selection Titles

As expected, the Cannes lineup includes five films from Amazon Studios. When Hollywood scion Roy Price (son of Frank), hired producer Ted Hope and distributor Bob Berney, it was clear that Price wanted bona fide film veterans with indie film pedigrees. Both have been in the Oscar sweepstakes, and boast deep relationships with filmmakers. 

That’s why they were able to scoop up Woody Allen’s latest, $30-million period romp “Cafe Society,” which opens the festival — making a deal worth some $20 million that Allen’s usual distributor Sony Pictures Classics could not match. Allen is an out-of-competition Cannes regular (11 films, including “Irrational Man” and “Midnight in Paris”). His latest stars Steve Carell and Blake Lively and reunites Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg. Amazon hs yet to name their theatrical partner.

Amazon also boasts Cannes auteur regulars Jim Jarmusch (“Only Lovers Left Alive”) and Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive,” “Only God Forgives”). Jarmusch’s “Paterson” stars Adam Driver as a bus driver/poet. (Jarmusch has two films in Cannes; his Iggy Pop doc “Gimme Danger,” also an Amazon release, will screen out-of-competition at midnight.) 

And Winding Refn’s L.A.-set “Neon Demon,” starring Elle Fanning and Keanu Reeves, was described by Cannes director Thierry Fremaux at the press conference as a cannibal horror film set in the fashion world. Also from Amazon is competition title “The Handmaid,” a period romantic crime thriller directed by ex-jury member Park Chan-Wook. The South Korean filmmaker returns to Cannes for the first time since his Grand Prix-winning “Thirst” in 2009.

And there’s more to come as Amazon goes into the awards season, as they picked up the Sundance hit from Kenneth Lonergan,”Manchester by the Sea,” slated for a later November release with partner Roadside Attractions. Amazon makes its first presentation at CinemaCon Thursday, introducing its upcoming slate and wooing exhibitors with its theater-friendly approach. 

Another rising indie, A24, which took doc “Amy” from Cannes to the Oscars last year, also landed in competition with ex-Cannes jury member Andrea Arnold’s passion project “American Honey.” Her first film set in the U.S. is focused on a peripatetic group of young magazine sellers, played by Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, and Riley Keough.

It’s one of three films directed by women (15%) in the Competition lineup. (Thats not a record: in 2011 there were four.) Veteran French actress-director Nicole Garcia and German Cannes first-timer Maren Ade also landed coveted slots. Cannes director Thierry Fremaux often — it seems, reflexively — has sent women directors to Un Certain Regard. Not this time. Scrutiny on this matter has been enhanced. 

Also returning to the competition is Cannes ex-jury president Sean Penn with his fifth feature and first in nine years, “The Last Face,” starring Adam Driver. His first film “The Indian Runner” played Director’s Fortnight in 1991. Charlize Theron leads an international cast as a humanitarian aid exec who meets doctor Javier Bardem. Backed by Bill Pohlad’s River Road, this is an acquisition title.

Joining him is fellow American Jeff Nichols with racial drama “Loving” (Focus Features, November) starring “Midnight Special” leads Joel Edgerton and Michael Shannon plus Ruth Negga, which Focus Features’ new management team acquired out of Berlin. Nichols’ 2012 offering “Mud” was a Palme d’Or contender and his breakthrough feature “Take Shelter” screened in Critics Week the year before.

Cannes always strikes a balance of art and commerce, world-class filmmakers (mostly male) and red carpet allure. As expected, Cannes regular Jodie Foster’s financial thriller “Money Monster” (Sony), starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts, made the out-of-competition Cannes lineup, along with ex-Jury chief Steven Spielberg’s Roald Dahl fantasy “The BFG” (Disney, July 1), the director’s fourth film to debut Cannes, following screenplay-winner “Sugarland Express,” “E.T.,” and “The Color Purple.” Based on the Roald Dahl children’s classic, “The BFG” brings back Oscar-winner Mark Rylance as the titular soft-hearted giant who befriends a young girl; Rebecca Hall co-stars.

Also out of competition is Shane Black’s raucous 70s comedy “The Nice Guys” (Warner Bros., May 20) starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as bumbling detectives. Black unveiled his 2005 debut feature “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” out of competition at Cannes. These movies offer a red-carpet boost for the festival, as well as welcome press attention for their European marketing launch.

This year Fremaux settled for only three French entries — the politics of inclusion are always intense — plus the expected slots for French-language dramas from Montreal filmmaker Xavier Dolan (“It’s Only the End of the World” is the only Canadian competition entry; it stars Léa Seydoux, Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel) and Belgium’s two-time Palme d’Or-winners Jean and Luc Dardennes (“The Unknown Girl”).

Spain auteur Pedro Almodovar’s adaptation of several Alice Munro short stories, “Julieta” (Sony Pictures Classics), is in the competition, while Albert Serra’s “La mort de Louis XI” is an out-of-competition entry. Almodovar came to Cannes with 1999’s “All About My Mother,” which earned him best director at the fest, as well as 2004’s festival opener “Bad Education” and the 2009 Palme d’Or contender “Broken Embraces.” 

Dutch octogenarian director Paul Verhoeven’s acquisition title “Elle” is in competition, starring Cannes red carpet regular Isabelle Huppert as a woman recovering from a home invasion. It’s his first film in French.

Among the Cannes no-shows possibly heading for Venice this year — either because they are not finished or not wanted — are Terrence Malick’s long-awaited “The Voyage of Time” (Broad Green), “Oppenheimer Strategies,” directed by Joseph Cedar and starring Richard Gere, “The Secret Scripture,” directed by Jim Sheridan, “The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez,” directed by Wim Wenders, Tom Ford’s latest “Nocturnal Animals” (Focus Features), Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” (Open Road FIlms, September 16), which pushed back its summer opening date, as well as the Damien Chazelle musical “La La Land” (Lionsgate, December 16), Lucretia Martel’s “Zama,” Michael Almereyda’s “Marjorie Prime” (starring John Hamm), Clint Eastwood’s heroic true story “Sully” (Warner Bros., starring Tom Hanks) and “The Light Between Oceans,” directed by Derek Cianfrance and starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz (DreamWorks/Disney, September 2). And Warren Beatty and distributor Fox plan to unveil his long-awaited Howard Hughes biopic with a new title this fall. 

Making the “Beasts of the Southern Wild” trajectory from Sundance to Cannes to the fall festivals is Matt Ross’s “Captain Fantastic” (Bleecker Street), starring Viggo Mortensen, in Un Certain Regard, while rookie actor-turned-director Nate Parker’s lauded “Birth of a Nation “(Fox Searchlight, October 7) looks like it will wait for the fall festivals. 

Who will be relegated to the sidebars of Critics’ Week and The Quinzaine? Left out of the Official Selection so far are Chilean Cannes regular Pablo Larrain (“No”) and his film about Pablo Neruda, starring Gabriel Garcia Bernal, plus films from Tran Anh Hung, Marco Bellocchio, Ben Wheatley, Adam Leon, James Ponsoldt, and Amat Escalante. 

Official Selection for the 69th Cannes International Film Festival
Opening Film: Cafe Society, director: Woody Allen (out of competition)
American Honey, director: Andrea Arnold
Aquarius, director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Daniel Blake, director: Ken Loach
Elle, director: Paul Verhoven
Family Photos, director: Cristian Mungiu
From the Land of the Moon, director: Nicole Garcia
Gimme Danger, director: Jim Jarmusch (out of competition)
Goksung, director: Na Hong-Jin (out of competition)
It’s Only the End of the World, director: Xavier Dolan
Julieta, director: Pedro Almodovar
Loving, director: Jeff Nichols
Ma Rosa, director: Brillante Mendoza
Money Monster, director: Jodie Foster (out of competition)
Paterson, director: Jim Jarmusch
Personal Shopper, director: Olivier Assayas
Sieranevada, director: Cristi Puiu
Slack Bay, director: Bruno Dumond
Staying Vertical, director: Alain Guiraudie
The BFG, director: Stephen Spielberg (out of competition)
The Handmaid, director: Park Chan Wook
The Last Face, director: Sean Penn
The Neon Demon, director: Nicholas Winding Refn
The Nice Guys, director: Shane Black (out of competition)
The Unknown Girl, directors: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Toni Erdmann, director: Maren Ade
Un Certain Regard 
Apprentice, director: Junfeng Boo
After The Storm, director: Hirokazu Kore-Eda
Beyond the Mountains and Hills, director: Eran Kolirin
Captain Fantastic, director: Matt Ross
Clash, director: Mohamed Diab
Dogs, director: Bogdan Mirica
Francisco Sanctis’s Long Night, directors: Francisco Marquez, Andrea Testa
Harmonium, director: Koji Fukada
Inversion, director: Behnam Behzadi
Pericle Il Nero, director: Stefano Mordini
Personal Affairs, director: Maha Haj
Red Turtle, director: Michael Dudok de Wit
The Dancer, director: Stéphanie di Giusto
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, director: Juho Kuosmanen
The Stopover, directors: Delphine Coulin, Muriel Coulin
The Student, director: Kirill Serebrennikov
The Transfiguration, director: Michael O’Shea
Special Screenings (out of competition)
Exil, director: Rithy Panh
Hissein Habre, a Chadian Tragedy, director: Mahamet-Saleh Haroun
The Cancer, director: Paul Vecchiali
The Last Days of Louis XIV, director: Albert Serra
The Last Resort, directors: Thanos Anastopoulos, Davide del Dega

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