Every year, the Cannes Film Festival hosts the largest gathering of cinephiles in the world, and its program is scrutinized down to every last detail. While Cannes has contended with many changes over the decades, it remains one of the few A-list festivals to offer splashy red carpet premieres for a range of international cinema, but its coveted Official Competition slots only tell part of the story.
A handful of major directors will compete for the Palme d’Or, but other titles will wind up generating heat throughout the Official Selection, Directors’ Fortnight, and Critics’ Week. Assessing the potential films that will make the cut at Cannes takes a little educated guesswork, some well-placed sources, and a little wishful thinking, but it’s also a welcome excuse to explore some of the potential films that could make a lot of noise in the months ahead.
In that regard, 2019 has a lot of potential: Last year’s version of this list had 37 titles on it, and this time, we’ve upgraded to 50 that stand a real shot at making the cut at Cannes.
But we’ve also been careful about avoiding any films we don’t expect to surface on the Croisette. These include James Gray’s effects-heavy “Ad Astra,” which is reportedly so unfinished that it will likely wind up on the fall circuit, as will “Against All Enemies,” which stars Kristen Stewart as Jean Seberg.
Netflix remains a no-go at Cannes, in part due to its complicated relationship with the festival, but also because many of its most anticipated titles — Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” Noah Baumbach’s untitled Adam Driver vehicle, and the Safdie brothers’ “Uncut Gems” among them — won’t be ready in time. A24 is said to be holding Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” followup “Midsommar” for another launch date, while “Wendy,” Benh Zeitlin’s long-awaited sophomore effort following “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” is still not quite ready for a premiere. Alas.
With all that in mind, here’s our wish list. The Cannes Film Festival will announce its lineup in mid-April, and it runs May 14 – May 25. —Eric Kohn
Director: Roy Andersson
Cast: Lesley Leichtweis Bernardi, Ania Nova, Martin Serner
Singular Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson hasn’t made a new feature since 2014’s transcendent “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” but he appears to have used the interim to craft another unique film. Even its beefy official synopsis doesn’t let on much about its actual content — sample lines include, “we are guided through the world by the soft voice of a woman,” “moments in which human cruelty is shown in all its banality,” “the preciousness and beauty of our existence” — but that seems par for the course for the relentlessly original Andersson. Whatever it is, we’d like to see it ASAP. —KE
Director: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
The Dardenne brothers may be coming off the first semi-failure of their career (2016’s “The Unknown Girl” being one of their only films not to be received with some kind of critical rapture), but the Belgian duo are veritable legends of the Croisette, and it would be absurd to think of the two-time Palme d’Or winners premiering their latest work anywhere else. Given what little we know about “Ahmed,” it sure doesn’t sound like the Dardennes are playing it safe. Presumably shot with the filmmakers’ usual eye towards social realism, the drama tells the story of a Belgian teen who decides to murder his school teacher after embracing a radical interpretation of the Koran. The Dardennes have never been shy about their working class politics, but this is a can of worms they’ve never opened before; the premise alone is likely enough to make “Ahmed” their most controversial film to date. —DE
Director: Malgorzata Szumowska
Cast: Andrzej Chyra, Izabela Kuna, Krzysztof Czeczot
One of the most prominent Polish filmmakers working today, Malgorzata Szumowska’s political and surrealist films are marked by absurdist humor rooted in the Polish and Czech New Wave. Her latest is reportedly the first Polish-Moroccan co-production in history, which returned Szumowska to her student roots, working with a shoestring budget of 300,000 euro (roughly 340,000 dollars). Speaking to Variety about the project last year, the director said that “it’s only about women. I promise it’s very cool.” Her last three features — “Mug,” “Body” and “In the Name of” — all premiered at the Berlinale, winning various awards. However, the timing of “All Inclusive,” currently in post-production, make it a good pick for Cannes, especially given the industry-wide criticism of the French festival’s dearth of women filmmakers. —JD
“A Sun That Never Sets”
Director: Oliver Laxe
Cast: Shakib Ben Omar
French-Spanish director Laxe returns to his ancestral home for a film set in the farmland of Galicia, Spain. The film, which will be a mix of professional (Shakib Ben Omar) and first-time performers, is about a pyromaniac who is released from prison and returns to his mother in a tiny mountain village. The film is described as being about fire, “the ultimate force of nature, at once alluring and frightening, deadly, and with a rare and untamed beauty.” It is Laxe’s third feature and his second fiction film, following “Mimosas,” which played in Cannes’ 2016 Critic’s Week where it won the Nespresso Grand Prize. —CO
Director: Kantemir Balagov
The cast for the sophomore effort from 27-year-old Russian filmmaker Balagov hasn’t even been released yet, but that won’t stop anyone who saw his 2017 debut, “Closeness,” from being excited about this follow-up. That first film won the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes. This one is about two female soldiers who served the motherland during World War II returning to their homes in Leningrad, which had been encircled and under siege by Nazi forces for over 900 days yet never fell. —CB
“The Dead Don’t Die”
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Chloe Sevigny, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray
Jarmusch has been one of the most dependable American filmmakers of the past 30 years, who applies his distinctive brand of deadpan storytelling and funky attitude to a range of characters both real and imagined. Last at Cannes with “Paterson,” his offbeat look at a Jersey poet, Jarmusch is poised to return to his zanier, genre-inflected mode with this zombie survival movie. On paper, the story suggests an expansion of the supernatural backdrop that made his bloody comedy “Only Lovers Left Alive” such an appealing twist on a familiar trope. The zombie movie has been done and redone so many times that it feels like old news, but Jarmusch is such a singular storyteller that there’s no question he has found his own unique way in. This one sounds like a lock for Official Competition. —EK
Director: Tim Mielants
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Hannah Hoekstra, Kevin Janssens
British director Tim Mielants makes the jump from a wide range of directing gigs (“Peaky Blinders,” “The Terror”) for this promising debut, which stars the ever-reliable Clement as an idiosyncratic man who works at his father’s campsite and goes into a panic when his hammer goes missing. Then his father dies, and poor Patrick is forced to reckon with his purpose in the small world he has taken for granted for so long, while the campers doubt whether he can fill his old man’s shoes. This oddball premise suggests the makings of a whimsical, bittersweet character study sure to please fans of Clement from “Flight of the Conchords” while establishing Mielants as a director to watch. Expect it to surface at Directors Fortnight or Critics’ Week. —EK
Director: Agnes Kocsis
Hungarian filmmaker Kocsis’ previous two films both made Cannes debuts: “Fresh Air” played in competition at the 2006 Critics’ Week, while “Adrienn Pál” won the FIPRESCI Prize in the Un Certain Regard selection in 2010. Kocsis is said to be keeping details about her third film, which she also wrote, under wraps, offering only this intriguing description: “It is about a woman in her late thirties who is allergic to everything; therefore, she lives in total isolation.” The film stars celebrated Croatian actress Lana Baric and Belgium’s Daan Stuyven, who is better known for his career as a musician. –CO
Director: Pablo Larrain
Cast: Mariana Di Girolamo, Gael García Bernal, Paola Giannini, Santiago Cabrera
It’s been three years since Natalie Portman was robbed of the Oscar for her performance in Pablo Larraín’s deconstructed Jacqueline Kennedy biopic “Jackie,” the same year another film of his, “Neruda,” was the Chilean submission for Best Foreign Language Film. While Larraín’s upcoming 9/11 drama “The True American” was pushed into 2019, filming on “Ema” wrapped last August, giving him ample opportunity to finish in time for Cannes. Shot in Chile, “Ema” reunites the director with his “Neruda” actor, Gael García Bernal, who plays opposite newcomer Mariana Di Girolamo. Bernal plays a choreographer at a local dance company, while Di Girolamo — in her feature debut — plays his wife, a schoolteacher. Speaking to IndieWire last year, Larraín described the movie as a family melodrama in which characters use dance to express themselves. The original story was co-written by “Neruda” screenwriter Guillermo Calderon and New York-based playwright Alejandro Moreno. —JD
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