Hollywood Stardom Will Dominate the Headlines
Going in, “Money Monster” looks like the perfect Cannes red carpet studio entry, popcorn entertainment strong enough to please festival gala audiences with some major movie stars who’ll put in junket time for a European market launch, but without the heft to play as an auteur competition film.
That said, Cannes perennial Foster (“Taxi Driver,” “Bugsy Malone,” “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” “The Beaver”) is due for a comeback as she directs old pals Clooney and Roberts in a high-stakes financial world thriller. The materials promise a solid mainstream entertainment with populist anti-Wall Street appeal. Clooney plays a glib financial TV guru held hostage by an angry victim of his bad advice (Jack O’Connell), who fits him with a bomb vest as punishment. Roberts as Clooney’s producer beams the story live as everyone scrambles to come out of the crisis intact. Foster, Clooney and Roberts could all use a smart commercial hit right now. So could Sony.
And so could Mel Gibson, who last came to Cannes in Foster’s “The Beaver,” which also screened out of competition. The public may not be ready to embrace him with “Blood Father,” a French action-thriller from Jean-François Richet (he directed the remake of “Assault on Precinct 13”). But if the film is good enough, it’ll be his biggest platform in years.
While he’s no Gibson, Nicolas Cage hasn’t exactly been considered at the top of his game in recent years. With “Dog Eat Dog,” the closing night selection of Directors’ Fortnight, he re-teams with director Paul Schrader in a tough, edgy crime thriller that co-stars Willem Dafoe. Cage last paired with Schrader for “Dying of the Light,” which was recut without the filmmaker’s permission; whether or not “Dog Eat Dog” is a smash hit, it will certainly provide the Oscar-winning star with another chance to earn back some acting cred.
Sean Penn has also been under fire of late — for his divisive Rolling Stone profile of Mexican crime lord El Chapo. Cannes provides Penn with the opportunity to remind people that he makes movies, too. The former jury member and frequent red carpet walker returns to the directing chair after nine years for his fifth feature “The Last Face.” His first film “The Indian Runner” played Directors’ 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 the only U.S. acquisition title in the official competition.
Also in the midnight section, “The Nice Guys” finds writer-director Shane Black returning to Cannes for the first time since his 2005 debut “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” The new movie, starring bumbling investigator Ryan Gosling and hit man Russell Crowe, finds Black going back to dark comedic noir territory after his “Iron Man 3” detour — and both leads jockeying for prominent irreverent roles. It’s a nice alternative to superhero mayhem for Warner Bros., which found massive commercial success “Batman v Superman,” but less critical support. “The Nice Guys” is a bid for both.
But no American actor shows greater potential for Cannes love than Kristen Stewart, who last came to the festival in Olivier Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria,” which eventually won her a Cesar award. (She also was well-received at Cannes for her performance in “On the Road.”) She’s back with Assayas’ followup, the Paris-set English language supernatural drama “Personal Shopper.” But even before that premieres, K-Stew will bask in the red carpet glow on opening night as part of the ensemble of Woody Allen’s “Café Society,” where she appears opposite Jesse Eisenberg. Entering a rite of passage followed by many actors over the decades, Stewart joins the Allen stable right on schedule, as her prestige value keeps gaining momentum.
The Usual Cannes Auteurs Won’t Disappoint
Word is that the revered Manhattan auteur’s opener — and his twelfth movie to screen at Cannes — the $30 million period piece ”Cafe Society” (which Lionsgate will release in theaters), is in the “Midnight in Paris” realm, with strong performances from Blake Lively, Steve Carell, Stewart and Eisenberg, who seems a good fit as Allen’s young alter-ego.
Deep-pocketed Amazon plunked down $20 million for the movie, rather than Allen’s usual (and still-friendly) distributor Sony Pictures Classics. Amazon is taking the movie out theatrically via Lionsgate, so it needs to play for worldwide critics. Cannes will show us if the awards-friendly date July 15 release has the right elements to be an Oscar contender.
Critics are eagerly anticipating two Jim Jarmusch entries, “Paterson” starring Adam Driver as a bus driver/poet, marking Jarmusch’s return to the competition after “Only Lovers Left Alive” in 2013, and Iggy pop documentary “Gimme Danger,” as well as Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden” and Nicolas Winding Refn’s great-looking horror flick “Neon Demon,” starring Elle Fanning as a young woman trying to make her way in seedy Los Angeles. Keanu Reeves, Jena Malone and Alessandro Nivola co-star.
With his fourth Cannes outing, we can expect Refn to offer more of his trademark outrageousness, as he did with his last competition entry set in Bangkok’s underworld, “Only God Forgives,” starring his “Drive” leading man Ryan Gosling. This time Refn returns to Los Angeles, working his disturbing magic inside the LA fashion world. Will this grab moviegoers and send them to theaters? That’s part of the Amazon experiment.
This year festival director Thierry Fremaux did not book as many French auteurs as last. One Cannes perennial is Assayas, whose “Personal Shopper” is said to be reminiscent of classic Dario Argento horror films. Like “Neon Demon,” the film follows a character into the darker realms of the fashion world, with ghost elements.
Another competition regular is Pedro Almodovar, whose “Julieta” has already played well in Spain and has been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics. Almodovar won best director for 1999’s “All About My Mother” and opened the festival with Gael Garcia Bernal vehicle “Bad Education,” but has yet to win the Palme d’Or. This time he’s back in “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” mode, adapting the stories of Alice Munro. This could be it, or he may wind up one of many Cannes auteurs in the hunt for Oscar contention. That’s an award he’s won.
But no director casts a larger shadow, in Cannes or anywhere else, than Steven Spielberg. He presided over the 2013 Cannes jury; “The BFG” (which Disney will release on July 1) is his 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. The material suggests the kind of cookie-cutter mixture of awe-inspiring fantasy and special effects work that Spielberg does in his sleep.
Film Festival Favorites Will Go Big-Time
These include Maren Ade whose 2009 “Everyone Else” won critical acclaim for its blisteringly authentic portrait of a relationship on the brink of collapse. Ade’s narrative effort showed her penchant for developing intimate moments out of a story involving two close-knit characters; “Toni Erdman” aims to do that as well: The film co-stars Peter Simonischek as a father attempting to reconcile with his estranged daughter, played by Sandra Huller. One source working on the film says “every moment is bittersweet joy.” Expect Simonischek and Huller to be serious contenders for acting prizes from this year’s jury, headed by George Miller.
Another filmmaker who has received plenty of support at festivals, without much traction beyond them: Kleber Mendonça Filho, the Brazilian film critic-turned-director whose “Neighboring Sounds” was the country’s Oscar submission in 2013. Mendonça Filho’s delicate approach to capturing the subtle undercurrents of Brazilian society could very well find a broader set of supporters with competition entry “Aquarius,” which features Sonia Braga as an alienated woman who may or may not possess the ability to travel through time.
That Women Question Will Come Up a Lot
Of course, Cannes is no stranger to questions surrounding its old-fashioned emphasis on white male filmmakers, and though Fremaux has claimed this year that the shortage is merely a reflection of the broader film industry, that’s hardly enough to suppress complains of a more inclusive program — especially because there are plenty of other women directors found beyond the main competition, including five in the Un Certain Regard lineup.
One of the most intriguing among these titles is “The Stopover,” the second feature from sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin (previously at Cannes’ Critics Week section with “17 Girls”). The film, which co-stars Greek actress Ariane Labed (“The Lobster”), focuses on a pair of French soldiers in Aghanistan, which ensures its topicality.
But no filmmaker does a better job of grappling with modern anxieties than Laura Poitras, whose “Citizenfour” followup “Risk” premieres in Directors’ Fortnight. The documentary is focused on Julian Assange, but reportedly goes far beyond the Wikileaks founder’s personal legacy to offer a broader exploration of what it means to push boundaries in the information age.
Is it fair to group these filmmakers by their gender, rather than the films they’ve made? Probably not, but that problem should be addressed once they premiere and give us many other things to talk about.
The Weinstein Company Will Fight For Headlines
It’s not a huge year for specialty distributors at the festival, which is partly why Amazon has been able to generate so much attention for its big haul, even though IFC Films has just as many titles in the competition. But one relative newcomer stands to benefit especially well from Cannes exposure: Bleecker Street, which is riding high on box office receipts for the drone thriller “Eye in the Sky,” brings its Sundance hit “Captain Fantastic” to Un Certain Regard. As it gears up for a summer release, this platform for the Viggo Mortensen vehicle — in which the actor plays a family man returning to civilization after living in the woods — will likely give it a healthy boost.
The Best Movies Won’t Be in Competition
Down the road at Directors’ Fortnight, Dane DeHaan seems to have found a positively quirky vehicle with “Two Lovers and a Bear,” which finds him opposite Tatiana Maslany in a romance set the North Pole. A gentler effort from Canada’s Kim Nguyen (“War Witch”), this may be one of the quieter crowdpleasers at the festival this time around.
But the real breakout at the Fortnight might be the festival’s oldest entrant. 87-year-old Alejandro Jodorowsky returns to Cannes after his initial comeback with “The Dance of Reality,” offering another surreal look back at his youth: “Endless Poetry” explores his artistic coming-of-age in the 1940’s, when he discovered theater and cinema. And word on the street is that it’s the filmmaker’s best work in years, which means audiences will have the chance to discover Jodorowsky’s appeal all over again. Only at Cannes do great filmmakers from so many generations generate an equal amount of buzz.