Sorry, Oscars: For decades, the Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival has been the ultimate source of anticipation by movie lovers worldwide. No festival on Earth has commanded the same blend of cinephilia and red carpet glamour, as films from some of the most revered directors working today announce their arrival in front of the world’s most discerning audience.
But will that audience show up for the 2021 edition, which has been pushed from its usual May dates to early July? After last year’s festival was canceled due to the pandemic and Cannes could only announce an amorphous list of films, the plan for this year’s edition remains an open question. Though the festival is messaging a full-steam-ahead approach, France remains on lockdown and it’s unclear whether the situation will improve enough for a traditional festival gathering.
Needless to say, the global film industry is keen on getting back into the swing of things with Cannes for one big reason: There are a lot of promising movies in the mix. Throughout the year, IndieWire keeps tabs on many of these titles as our own anticipation to see them grows.
That’s especially true this time around, as this year’s Cannes hopefuls include 2020 films still looking for a big-screen premiere in addition to others that were finished during the pandemic. They range from A-list auteurs to promising newcomers tackling a range of subjects from around the world. And even if they don’t wind up on the Croisette, the festival calendar keeps turning this year, with Cannes followed by Locarno, Karlovy Vary, and Venice in quick succession. That means no matter where these films premiere, this list provides a sneak peek at a promising future. No matter what happens to the state of the industry, the cinema is very much alive in 2021.
The Cannes Film Festival will announce its Official Selection on May 28. The festival is scheduled to run July 6 – 17.
Christian Blauvelt, David Ehrlich, Kate Erbland, Ryan Lattanzio, Zack Sharf, and Anne Thompson contributed to this list.
“A Hero” (Asghar Farhadi)
Iranian master Asghar Farhadi makes taut, subtle dramas about broken families and dark secrets bubbling to the surface. His pair of Oscar-winning efforts, “A Separation” and “The Salesman,” proved that his storytelling strengths could translate into long-term success as both movies bagged him the Best International Film Oscar. The latter premiered at Cannes and secured distribution with Amazon Studios — which also snatched up Farhadi’s most recent effort, “A Hero,” and plans to release it this fall as yet another awards contender.
The plot of the movie is under wraps, but the project marks the filmmaker’s return to Iran after his Spanish-language drama “Everybody Knows” opened Cannes in 2018 and went on to gross $20 million worldwide. “Everybody Knows” was a fascinating look at Farhadi’s sensibilities translating to a different culture, but as he remains his country’s preeminent storyteller, “A Hero” will be a welcome return to his home turf. —EK
“After Yang” (Kogonada)
Video essayist Kogonada impressed the entire industry with his remarkable feature directorial debut “Columbus,” and now he’s got the support of A24 for his second feature “After Yang.” Based on author Alexander Weinstein’s “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” Kogonada’s latest takes place in a world where robots serve as live-in babysitters and follows a father and his daughter as they attempt to save their unresponsive robot.
“After Yang” reunites Kogonada with his “Columbus” breakout star Haley Lu Richardson, plus an ensemble that includes Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min, Sarita Choudhury, Clifton Collins Jr., and Brett Dier. The movie was shot in summer 2019, but any chance for a festival 2020 debut was axed because of the pandemic. Will A24 choose Cannes to unveil the project? The studio launched the Safdie brothers’ “Good Time” in competition at the 2017 festival to great success. Here’s hoping “After Yang” makes the cut. —ZS
“Ahed’s Knee” (Nadav Lapid)
It would be an understatement to say that Nadav Lapid (“Policeman,” “The Kindergarten Teacher”) has never made an uninteresting film, but there was no way of adequately preparing for his 2019 Berlin-winner “Synonyms,” a sui generis work of tormented genius about the violence of an Israeli expat trying to replace one national identity with another. Whatever Lapid made next would be an event worthy of premiering on the film world’s glitziest stage, and so a Cannes bow would seem in the cards for “Ahed’s Knee.”
Continuing Lapid’s career-long fascination with the impossible knot that ties a person to their country, “Ahed’s Knee” tells the story of a renowned Israeli filmmaker who travels to a screening of his new film in a remote village. So far, so Hong Sang-soo. But things escalate quickly from there, as the protagonist becomes involved in “a bitter, relentless battle to save his country’s freedom of speech and free-falling democracy.” We wouldn’t expect anything less from Lapid. —DE
“Belle” (Mamoru Hosoda)
Mamoru Hosoda, the Oscar-nominated director of “Mirai,” is no stranger to films that tackle society’s often quite dangerous attachment to technology through his stunning animated fables. “Belle,” which looks to offer a very new spin on the Beauty and the Beast mythos, seems poised to marry those sensibilities into an animated outing that looks stunning.
Per Variety, which offered up a first look at the film’s trailer earlier this year, the film “follows Suzu, a 17-year-old high school student living in a rural village with her father. For years she has only been a shadow of herself. One day, she enters ‘U,’ a virtual world of 5 billion members on the Internet. There, she is not Suzu anymore but Belle, a world-famous singer. She soon meets with a mysterious creature. Together, they embark on a journey of adventures, challenges and love, in their quest of becoming who they truly are.” The film is Hosoda’s ninth effort, and should it bow at Cannes, would return the filmmaker to a festival that launched “Mirai” before it earned an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination, as well as winning the Annie Award for best independent animated feature. —KE
“Benedetta” (Paul Verhoeven)
This sure-to-controversial sexy nun movie was set to debut in Competition in Cannes 2020, but the Dutch auteur’s follow-up to psycho-thriller “Elle,” which scored a 2017 Best Actress Oscar nomination for Isabelle Huppert, was held back due to the pandemic until Cannes 2021. Adapted from Judith C. Brown’s 1986 non-fiction book “Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy,” the movie stars Belgian actress Virginie Efira (“Elle”) in the title role of a novice who is subject to religious and erotic visions. She joins a 17th-century Italian convent, where she falls in love with another woman (Daphne Patakia). The convent abbess (Charlotte Rampling) and Vatican ambassador The Nuncio (Lambert Wilson) are forced to deal with the problem.
Verhoeven developed the script with Jean-Claude Carriere, followed by Gerard Soeteman, and finally, “Elle” writer David Birke, who rejoins the key “Elle” team: producer Saïd Ben Saïd, composer Anne Dudley, and editor Job ter Burg, and kept the set under wraps. While both “Basic Instinct” and “Elle” played in Competition at Cannes, Verhoeven has yet to win an award there; when the film was initially slated for Cannes 2020, festival director Thierry Fremaux called it “an erotic and mischievous, also political, vision of the Middle Ages in a grandiose production.” —AT
“Blonde” (Andrew Dominik)
Andrew Dominik hasn’t had a new narrative feature in nine years, since 2012’s underrated, underseen “Killing Them Softly.” In between, he made the poignant Nick Cave documentary, 2016’s “One More Time with Feeling.” But his latest should cause a big stir: an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, “Blonde,” a fictional retelling of the life of Marilyn Monroe, that’s also the biggest star vehicle yet for electrifying “Knives Out” breakout Ana de Armas.
The Cuban actress plays the one-time Norma Jean as she interacts with fictionalized versions of the men in Monroe’s life: there’s “The Athlete,” Bobby Cannavale obviously playing a version of Joe DiMaggio, Adrien Brody as “The Playwright” (Arthur Miller, of course), and “The President.” Playing JFK is Caspar Phillipson, who’s making a career out of his striking resemblance to the murdered president — he previously played Kennedy for all of 10 minutes in 2016’s “Jackie.” In Dominik’s hands, “Blonde” should be a fiercely intellectual reverie about what it means you no longer control your own image. —CB
“The Box” (Lorenzo Vigas)
Venezuelan director Lorenzo Vigas’ 2015 debut “From Afar” won the Gold Lion at Venice that year and wound up as his country’s Oscar submission. The movie’s gritty and tragic study of a young gang member who forms a surprising relationship with older man brought was one of the most eye-opening dramas to come out of Latin American cinema in some time. Now comes “The Box,” which promises another unpredictable look at intergenerational conflict.
The story revolves around a Mexican teen who travels to recover the ashes of his late father in the northern part of the country, only to encounter a man who resembles the dead man — raising questions about whether the teen’s parents actually died in the first place. Vigas has said that the enigmatic project has been designed to explore themes of Latin American identity against the backdrop of its struggles with colonialism and violence, with the setting taking place in a region where over 20,000 women have disappeared in recent years. With those obviously heavy themes in play, expect “The Box” to generate a lot of discussion. —EK
“Chocobar” (Lucrecia Martel)
Expect any outing from Argentine director Lucrecia Martel to be a major international cinema event. Twice nominated for the Palme d’Or, the director of beloved arthouse titles like “The Holy Girl,” “The Headless Woman,” and “Zama” turns to her country’s own history, and to documentary, with “Chocobar.” It centers on the murder of indigenous activist Javier Chocobar (killed in 2009) and the brutal removal of his community from their ancestral land in Argentina. His death was widely shared on YouTube, and here serves as an entry point into a deeper exploration of the erasure of indigenous communities in Latin America. —RL
“Cow” (Andrea Arnold)
The Cannes Film Festival is more or less a second home for Andrea Arnold. After winning the Oscar for Best Live Action Short with “Wasp,” Arnold brought her Dogme 95-inspired feature debut “Red Road” to the 2006 Cannes Film Fetival and won the Jury Prize. Two more Cannes Jury Prize awards have followed: “Fish Tank” at the 2009 festival and “American Honey” at the 2016 festival. Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights” adaptation is her only feature not to debut at Cannes (it chose a Venice Film Festival birth instead and won Robbie Ryan a cinematography prize), so it stands with good reason that her upcoming new movie “Cow” will set its sights on Cannes, where it’s rumored to be heading to Directors’ Fortnight.
“Cow” is Arnold’s first documentary feature and follows the daily lives of two cows. Given the director’s affinity for nature-related visual metaphors throughout her films, it was only a matter of time before she made a movie about animals and the natural world. —ZS
“Deception” (Arnaud Desplechin)
Arnaud Desplechin and Philip Roth might seem like an unlikely match, but the French director of “A Christmas Tale” and “My Golden Days” has been harboring an adoration for the master novelist for many years. And while cinematic adaptations of Roth have been mixed (see “American Pastoral,” “The Human Stain”), the recent HBO miniseries from David Simon, “The Plot Against America,” demonstrated that it’s possible to capture the Pulitzer winner’s literary voice.
Desplechin, joined by a cast including Léa Seydoux, Denis Podalydès, and Emmanuelle Devos, has opted to tackle Roth’s 1990 novel “Deception,” about a revealing conversation between adulterous lovers. That certainly sounds like an haute French affair, and a fitting choice for Desplechin, who’s expressed a desire to adapt the novel for nearly a decade. —RL
“Decision to Leave” (Park Chan-wook)
The South Korean thriller master could return for his first feature in five years. That last film, “The Handmaiden,” competed for the Palme d’Or but lost to Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake.” But the intervening years have been kind: “The Handmaiden” has become one of Park’s most beloved movies, and he followed it up with a foray into television with “The Little Drummer Girl,” a John le Carré adaptation for AMC and the BBC starring Florence Pugh, Michael Shannon, and Alexander Skarsgård.
Little is known about “Decision to Leave” other than that it stars Park Hye-il (“The Host” and “Memories of Murder”) as a detective investigating a murder who finds himself in love with a mysterious widow (Tang Wei): the crime’s number one suspect. Production started near the end of October 2020, which means it should be ready for the delayed festival. —CB
“De Son Vivant” (Emmanuel Bercot)
Filmmaker and actress Emmanuelle Bercot’s season-spanning “De Son Vivant” shot nearly two years ago, making headlines when star Catherine Deneuve suffered a stroke literally mid-shot. Luckily, that scene was taking place at a hospital outside Paris, so the French icon was swiftly given medical care. “De Son Vivant” itself revolves around a medical crisis, namely in that Deneuve’s character’s son (played by “The Piano Teacher” Cannes winner Benoît Magimel) has been diagnosed with cancer. The film then charts the currents unfolding between them, and their doctor (Gabriel Sara) and nurse (Cécile de France) across a single year.
Bercot has been kicking projects around the Cannes Film Festival for more than 20 years, winning best Actress in 2015 for “Mon Roi.” Expect her to show up (and likely to bring Deneuve’s star power with her) on the Croisette. —RL
“Fire” (Claire Denis)
Claire Denis goes back to basics after her ambitious space odyssey “High Life” with “Fire,” which reunites the director with Juliette Binoche. The cast also includes Vincent Lindon (a Cannes Best Actor winner in 2015 for his performance in “The Measure of a Man”), Grégoire Colin, and “Atlantics” director Mati Diop. “Fire” stars Binoche as a woman caught between her long-time partner and his best friend, who just happens to be her former boyfriend.
Despite being one of France’s greatest living directors, Denis does not have as robust of a history with Cannes as one might imagine. Her 1988 feature directorial debut “Chocolat” is her only Palme d’Or contender, although 2008’s “35 Shots of Rum” and the Vincent London-starring thriller “Bastards” were screened in the Un Certain Regard section. Whatever section “Fire” turns up in, it’s a new Claire Denis movie and thus an event unto itself. —ZS
“The French Dispatch” (Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson has used the Berlin International Film Festival to launch his last two feature films, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Isle of Dogs,” but 2020 was supposed to mark the auteur’s big return to Cannes with his new project, “The French Dispatch.” Anderson was last at Cannes with “Moonrise Kingdom,” which world premiered on the opening night of the 2012 event. Searchlight’s July release date for “The French Dispatch” positioned Cannes as the perfect destination for a world premiere.
That would still be true one year later: For a festival that loves stars, it would not have gotten better than the red carpet for “The French Dispatch”: Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Timothee Chalamet, Lea Seydoux, Benicio del Toro, Elisabeth Moss, Owen Wilson, Frances McDormand, and more. “The French Dispatch” has been on hold for a year as its distributor waits for the ideal moment to release it in theaters, and the Cannes fixation on the big-screen experience would provide an ideal moment to unleash it on the world. —ZS
“Hatching” (Hannah Bergholm)
After it was snatched up by IFC Midnight after a bidding war out of the virtual Cannes market last year, this intriguing genre effort sounds exactly like the kind oddball offering to show up in the festival’s midnight section. “Hatching” is a Finnish horror movie about a 12-year-old gymnast, Tinja, whose mom propagandizes their seemingly perfect domestic life to the world via her blog. But when TInja discovers a strange egg, she holds onto it and protects it until it can hatch. When it does, the result is shocking.
“Hatching” could appeal to fans of the Swedish monster movie, “Border” — which won the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes in 2018 — but with an extra dose of commentary of the social media curation of one’s lives so many of us engage in. —CB
“The Hill Where the Lionesses Roar” (Luàna Bajrami)
While much of the praise surrounding “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” centered on the performances from Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami held her own as the movie’s supportive maid, and won the “Most Promising Actress” prize from 2020 Césars. The 19-year-old performer from Kosovo may be a rising star in front of the camera, but she’s already on a promising filmmaking path of her own, having wrapped her directorial debut last year.
“The Hill Where the Lionesses Roar” screened only a few minutes for industry attendees at the Les Arcs Film Festival in December 2019 and won an audience engagement prize there. The movie follows three teen women who decide to break the monotony of their daily routines by plotting a heist. Before you can say “The Bling Ring,” well, yes: Some who have seen it are already making the comparison. But with such a young director behind the camera, if “The Hill Where the Lionesses Roar” really delivers on its potential, its festival positioning could turn Bajrami into the big breakout of the year, whenever it gets out there. —EK
“The Hole” (Michelangelo Frammartino)
Back in 2010, Italian director Michelangelo Frammartino’s “Le Quattro Volte” (“The Four Times”) was one of the great discoveries of Cannes, the dialogue-free journey of a soul traveling the space and time, from an old man to a goat to wisps of smoke in the sky. That dazzling blend of cosmic themes and stunning visuals announced the arrival of a major cinematic talent, but a decade has gone by, and Frammartino has yet to deliver his follow-up. The time has arrived for an update, as “The Hole” (“Il Buco,” in Italian”) is expected to finally make its festival premiere this year.
Unsurprisingly, the project is said to take place against another striking backdrop — the Birfuto Abyss, one of the deepest caves in the world. The story follows a team of young explorers discover uncharted terrain against the backdrop of Italy’s rush to modernize in 1961. However Frammartino sorts through that blend of earthy setting and historical sophistication, it will almost certainly yield a big screen mystery worth the immersive experience of a big screen. —EK
“Lamb” (Valdimar Jóhannsson)
Buzz has been building around Valdimar Jóhannsson’s feature directorial debut “Lamb” ever since the title quickly sold its distribution rights around Europe last summer. Jóhannsson hails from Iceland and has lots of ties to Hollywood working in the crew on tentpoles such as “Oblivion,” “Prometheus,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” among others. For “Lamb,” Jóhannsson directs Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snaer Gudnason in the story of a couple living on a remote farm who decide to keep a mysterious newborn who shows up on their land one day. The decision leads to the couple’s downfall.
All other details about the story are remaining under wraps, although the script was written by the acclaimed Icelandic poet and novelist Sjón. The name might sound familiar to cinephiles, as he’s the co-writer of Robert Eggers’ next film, “The Northman.” Sjón also wrote lyrics to the songs features in Lars von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark,” which won both the Palme d’Or and the Best Actress prize for Björk at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. —ZS
“Lingui” (Mahamat Saleh-Haroun)
Chadian director Saleh-Haroun has been a regular at Cannes since 201’s devastating drama “A Screaming Man,” which he followed up with 2013’s “Grisgris.” The director’s latest effort follows a young Muslim woman whose teen daughter is pregnant and hopes to get an abortion. Only one problem: Abortion is both illegal and considered taboo in Chad, which means the two women must navigate a dangerous and judgmental community as they work through their conundrum. With a premise that calls to mind “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days,” Saleh-Haroun’s new drama sounds like yet another socially-conscious thriller from one of Africa’s greatest working filmmakers. —EK
“Memoria” (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Thai auteur Weerasethakul has been a Cannes regular ever since “Uncle Boonmee Who Could Recall His Past Lives” won the Palme d’Or in 2010, but “Memoria” marks the first time he’s worked outside his own country. That itself is an exciting shift, given that Weerasethakul has been the foremost cinematic chronicler of his country’s mythological and historical identity. This time, he ventures to Colombia to explore the experiences of a nomadic woman (Swinton) suffering from exploding head syndrome, which causes her to hear loud noises that don’t exist. The filmmaker has described the movie as another dreamlike descent into a lyrical world just a few degrees removed from the real one, while still immersed in real places and people.
Weerasethakul’s movies are usually an acquired taste, but those willing to open themselves up to his singular vision are rewarded with truly unexpected ways of experiencing the modern world. Acquired during post-production by Neon as the U.S. distributed reaped the box office rewards of “Parasite,” the movie could be the latest to find support from the latest company to figure out how to push non-English cinema into the mainstream. With Swinton at its center, “Memoria” could be Weerasethakul’s ticket to a larger audience, at least relative to the festival bubble that has celebrated him for years. —EK
“Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon” (Ana Lily Amirpour)
Ana Lily Amirpour is never a director to overlook. She smashed the conventions of both vampire movies and spaghetti Westerns with 2014’s “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” and did it again with the post-apocalyptic shoot-em-up “The Bad Batch,” the Iranian-American director’s 2017 English-language debut. With “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon,” Amirpour has lined up her biggest cast yet, including Kate Hudson, Craig Robinson, and Korean actress Jun Jong-Seo, the breakout supporting star of 2018’s Cannes sensation “Burning.”
With another original script from Amirpour, this time using the fantasy and adventure genres as her springboard, “Mona Lisa” turns on a young girl with magical and potentially volatile powers. After breaking out of a mental asylum, she sets out to make it on her own in New Orleans, where the film was shot on location and is, of course, every filmmaker’s playground for all things magical. Amirpour has yet to bring a film to Cannes, and with increased pressure on the festival to make room for women directors, especially diverse ones, um, hello, there’s a visionary one right here. —RL
Two years after bowing her sophomore feature “Girls of the Sun” in competition, French filmmaker Eva Husson may be preparing for a return, care of her third feature, a big screen adaptation of Graham Swift’s slim novel “Mothering Sunday.” While the basic plot of Swift’s well-received 2016 book might sound familiar-ish — it follows a young maid in post-World War I England who is engaged with a long-time affair with a local nobleman, which is about to end — Swift’s story unfolds into a rich, time-spanning drama that’s equally concerned with the single day of its title and everything that comes after.
Husson, armed with a script by Alice Birch (who most recently adapted Sally Rooney’s “Normal People” for the small screen), has assembled an enviable cast: Odessa Young (hot off another literary-minded feature in “Shirley”) plays the maid Jane, with Josh O’Connor on deck as her long-time lover. Colin Firth, Olivia Colman, and Ṣọpẹ́ Dirisu co-star. The film completed production in November, and while in normal years, that might prohibit a May bow on the Croisette, with the festival pushed back to July, it’s possible Husson’s appealing-sounding film will make the cut. We’re certainly hoping it does. —KE
“Onoda — 10,000 Nights in the Jungle” (Arthur Harari)
French director Harari’s first film, 2016 crime drama “Dark Inclusion,” received several nominations at the Cesar Awards and won Most Promising Actor for Niels Schneider. This time he’s turning his attention to a completely different portrait of violent obsession. “Onoda” is the story of Hiroo Onoda, one of the last Japanese World War II holdouts to surrender. A second lieutenant in the Imperial army, he hid in the woods of the Philippines’ Lubang Island for nearly three decades after Japan capitulated to the Allies and carried out his own one-man war, murdering 30 Filipino farmers in robbery attempts over the years.
When his commanding officer finally journeyed to Lubang in 1974 and relieved, Onoda finally surrendered, after which he became a media sensation in Japan and eventually a patron saint of the Japanese far-right before dying in 2014. Yuya Endo, Yuya Matsuura, and Shinsuke Kato star in the multinational production. —CB
“Paris, 13th District” (Jacques Audiard)
One of France’s most prominent filmmakers, Jacques Audiard took a brief detour to the U.S. for 2018’s “The Sisters Brothers” and now it seems he’s dragged a bit of America back to his home turf. The black-and-white “Paris, 13th District” adapts several short stories by graphic novelist Adrian Tomine through a distinctly Parisian lens.
The last time Audiard went to Cannes — with 2015’s “Dheepan” — he won the Palme d’Or, and while he’s said before that he might not want to return to Official Competition, this is exactly the sort of super-sized French arthouse undertaking to change that. The screenplay, co-written by Celine Sciamma and rising filmmaker Léa Mysius (“Ava”), follows a quartet of young friends and occasional lovers through a series of overlapping dramas that capture modern youth culture in all its vibrant contradictions. Already snapped up for U.S. distribution by IFC Films (which also released “Dheepan”), Audiard’s latest sounds like a welcome paean to active social lives just when people are starting to remember what that’s like. —EK
“Petrov’s Flu” (Kirill Serebrennikov)
Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov couldn’t attend the Cannes premiere of his last feature, “Leto,” because he was under house arrest on dubious charges from the government. Fortunately, he was productive during that time, emerging from a very different kind of quarantine with a new screenplay. Now, “Petrov’s Flu” is ready for its Cannes premiere — and possibly even its director.
The movie adapts Alexey Salnikov’s acclaimed novel about a dysfunctional family stuck together when they all catch the same nasty bug. From the husband who imagines life as a comic strip to his knife-wielding wife, “Petrov’s Flu” promises a strange and shocking look at post-Soviet Russia while also touching on broader themes of seclusion sure to resonate in these pandemic times. —EK
“Pig” (Michael Sarnoski)
Nicolas Cage is so prolific these days that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of whether he’s made another ludicrous B-movie or something more original. “Pig” appears to fall into the latter track. The movie, from first-time director Michael Sarnoski, stars Cage as an Oregon mushroom forager whose treasured truffle-sniffing pig is kidnapped. The thriller co-stars “Hereditary” breakout Alex Wolff and was recently acquired for U.S. distribution by Neon, which last came to Cannes with no less than Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite.”
While it’s hard to tell if “Pig” will touch on the same kind of lonely, wistful personality types captured in last year’s “The Truffle Hunters” (which happened to be a Cannes 2020 selection), the subject matter holds plenty of intrigue — and Cage remains one of the most unpredictable American performers today, so fingers crossed that the Cannes buzz on this curio is real. —EK
“The Power of the Dog” (Jane Campion)
As one of only a handful of female filmmakers to be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, Jane Campion is part of a rarefied club wherever she goes, and that designation carries over to Cannes, where she is also one of the few female filmmakers who has repeatedly (even consistently) showed her work at the festival. From her early shorts to her Palme d’Or-winning “The Piano” and her recent series “Top of the Lake,” there always seems to be room for the lauded British filmmaker on the Croisette. While her latest film, an adaptation of the Thomas Savage novel of the same name, sounds like an obvious fit for the festival based on pedigree alone, there’s one tiny problem: it’s a Netflix film.
Here’s hoping Cannes and the streaming giant iron out their differences or at least bend a few rules — Cannes now requires set theatrical plans from its competition slate, and Netflix has avoided festivals in recent months — so that Campion might continue her streak at the festival. The film features real-life couple Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst in a domestic drama set in 1920s Montana that centers around two brothers whose relationship is upended by a woman and other new arrivals on their ranch. The all-star cast also includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Thomasin McKenzie, Frances Conroy, Adam Beach, Keith Carradine, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. —KE
“Reflection” (Valentyn Vasyanovych)
Ukranian filmmaker Valentyn Vasyanovych has yet to screen any of his features on the Croisette — his early documentary work has recently transformed into hard-edged narrative dramas — but he’s no stranger to Cannes: he served as the DP on Critics’ Week winner “The Tribe” back in 2014.
Following his well-received “Atlantis” — a Venice premiere that also screened at TIFF, Tokyo, New Directors/New Films, and many more, and was entered as Ukraine’s official selection for the 2021 Academy Awards — Vasyanovych has readied another drama about the after-effects of war, though one that sounds a touch more grounded than his 2025-set and post-apocalyptic-themed “Atlantis.” “Reflection” follows a doctor who attempts to rebuild his life and his relationships with his ex-wife and daughter after being held hostage in Eastern Ukraine. —KE
“Soggy Bottom” (Paul Thomas Anderson)
The writer-director returns to the 70s milieu of “Inherent Vice” with this drama about a high school student, played by Cooper Hoffman (the son of frequent Anderson star Philip Seymour Hoffman), who wants to become an actor and meets a film director and producer (Bradley Cooper) and a local politician (Benny Safdie). Principal photography began in Encino, California in August 2020 and wrapped in November. Cannes showed Anderson’s first feature, originally titled “Sydney” (“Hard Eight”) in 1996, followed in 2002 by Adam Sandler vehicle “Punch-Drunk Love” in Competition, which tied for Best Director. —AT
“The Souvenir: Part II” (Joanna Hogg)
A magnificent self-portrait of her formative years as a 25-year-old film student in 1980s London, Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir” premiered at Sundance in 2019 and — on the strength of Honor Swinton Byrne’s stunning turn as Hogg’s young proxy, and Tom Burke’s dying animal of a performance as her heroin-addicted boyfriend — quickly earned the British auteur the attention she’s deserved for so long. Hogg didn’t waste any time striking while the iron was hot, and started rolling cameras on the sequel less than six months after the original first screened.
While Robert Pattinson won’t be in “The Souvenir Part II” as originally reported (he had a scheduling conflict with “The Batman”), Joe Alwyn and Harris Dickinson should make fine replacements as Swinton Byrne’s new love interests as her character graduates from school and starts a burgeoning career behind the camera. The shoot wrapped so long ago that Hogg has already made another film in the interim — a ghost story with Tilda Swinton called “The Eternal Daughter” — and a Cannes berth would certainly be a suitable way of showing that the world has finally caught up with her talent. —DE
“Titane” (Julia Ducournau)
Julia Ducournau emerged from the viscera-spewing body horrors of 2016’s “Raw,” which used a cannibal narrative as an allegory for a young woman’s sexual awakening, as one of France’s finest genre filmmakers of this moment. Now, she’s poised to return to the Croisette (where she last earned a FIPRESCI prize for “Raw”) with “Titane,” dreaming on an even bigger canvas this time thanks to the backing of distributor Neon, which plans to release the film stateside in 2021.
And the eerie premise promises heady (if so far ambiguous) thrills: “A young man with a bruised face is picked up by airport customs officers. He claims to be Adrien Legrand, who disappeared as a child ten years ago. For Adrien’s father Vincent, a long nightmare has finally come to its end, and he takes the young man home. At the same time, a series of gruesome murders is ravaging the area.” The film stars rising actress Agathe Russell and French favorite Vincent Landon, who won a Cannes prize in 2015 for his performance in “Measure of a Man.” —ZS
“The Tragedy of Macbeth” (Joel Coen)
Frances McDormand could be heading for a fourth Oscar as scheming Lady MacBeth in her husband Joel’s first solo outing without Ethan as a director; here he’s putting his stamp on Shakespeare’s gory Scottish play. That includes shooting it in black-and-white, Coen’s return to that format after “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” Denzel Washington, no stranger to Shakespeare (“Much Ado About Nothing”), takes on power-monger Lord Macbeth, with Brendan Gleeson as fierce King Duncan. Filming began on Los Angeles sound stages in February, 2020, shut down on March 26 die to the pandemic, and finished up in July. (Frequent Coen brothers producer Scott Rudin was removed from the production in April, in the wake of workplace abuse accusations.) Carter Burwell is back as composer.
The Coens haven’t done badly, debuting nine films at Cannes: they won the Palme d’Or for “Barton Fink,” three Best Screenplay awards, and the Grand Prix for “Inside Llewen Davis.” Joel’s return would not be a surprise. —AT
“Tre Piani” (Nanni Moretti)
Italian director Nanni Moretti is hardly a stranger to Cannes. His kitchen-sink drama “The Son’s Room” picked up the Palme d’Or in 2001, and he served as president of the jury in 2012, the year that Michael Haneke’s “Amour” took home the top prize before going on to earn five Academy Award nominations. His next film, “Tre Piani,” is Moretti’s first adaptation of another source material, lifting from an Israeli book by Eshkol Nevo. Moretti relocates the setting from Tel Aviv to Italy, telling the story of three families in different apartments in the same condominium, all of whom are suffering crises that include child abuse, loneliness, and ruminations on a haunted past.
Filming took place in 2019, with the cast including Margherita Buy, Riccardo Scamarcio, Alba Rohrwacher, and Moretti himself, so this one looks ready to go for the 2020 festival circuit. Rohrwacher is one of international cinema’s most talented actors, most recently stealing the show in her sister’s film “Happy as Lazzaro,” and wowing as a moody muse in Luca Guadagnino’s short “The Staggering Girl,” making this appointment viewing for cinephiles. Moretti’s more recent films, from 2015’s “My Mother” to 2011’s “We Have a Pope,” bring humor to serious subject matter, often bringing a much needed lightness to a Croisette lined with heavy, heavy movies. —RL
“Triangle of Sadness” (Ruben Ostlund)
Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund dominated the Cannes Film Festival with his last two features: “Force Majeure” (winner of the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2014 festival) and “The Square” (winner of the Palme d’Or in competition at the 2017 festival). Now Ostlund is in the running to return to competition in 2021 with “Triangle of Sadness,” a black comedy starring Woody Harrelson, Harris Dickinson, and Zlatko Burić. Just as the filmmaker eviscerated the art world in “The Squad,” so too will he fire an arrow at the elitist one percent in “Triangle of Sadness.”
The film centers on a celebrity fashion couple (Dickinson and Charlbi Dean) who become stranded on a desert island with a group of billionaires after their yacht sinks. Included among the group is the Marxist captain (Harrelson) and a cleaning lady who is the only one on the island who knows how to cook. Should Ostlund be invited back to competition, expect “Triangle of Sadness” to be one of the more talked-about Palme d’Or contenders in 2021. —ZS
Untitled Rihanna Documentary (Peter Berg)
Two prominent documentaries about beloved singers made their debut at Cannes in recent years: Asif Kapadia’s “Amy,” about Amy Winehouse, and Kevin Macdonald’s “Whitney,” about Whitney Houston. Joining their ranks could be Berg’s deep-dive look at Rihanna.
The director and pop star had already worked together on “Battleship” and he spent years collecting 1,200 hours of footage of her as she navigated global superstardom and produced a string of critically acclaimed albums. The documentary is supposed to range from the exultant to the terrifying: Berg told THR he even caught the terrifying aftermath of the truck attack in Nice, which occurred outside the pop star’s hotel, when a murderous driver barreled his massive vehicle into a crowd, killing bystanders. Cannes could be a great launchpad for the doc, but it already has a home: Amazon paid $25 million for it in December 2019. —CB
“The Velvet Underground” (Todd Haynes)
The prospect of a Todd Haynes documentary about The Velvet Underground is one of those ideas that feels so natural you almost have to remind yourself that it doesn’t already exist (“Velvet Goldmine” isn’t far off, but that film embraces fiction to become a trip all its own). Nevertheless, the legendary rock band is a natural subject for Haynes’ first documentary.
AppleTV+ is set to release it this summer, and Haynes’ stated hopes for a festival bow make it easy to deduce that the director is eying a return to the Croisette, where he’s been a regular fixture for a long time. Taking permission from the fact that there’s precious little footage of Lou Reed and co. performing on stage, Haynes’ project promises to go in a more intriguing direction, as he’s leaned on Andy Warhol’s experimental films and rare tapes of the band’s most intimate moments of artistic creation to assemble cinema’s definitive portrait of these New York icons. —DE
“The Way of the Wind” (Terrence Malick)
Terrence Malick’s searching 2019 epic “A Hidden Life,” about Austrian pacifist Franz Jägerstätter during World War II, marked a new creative high point for a director sorely in need of a breakthrough after a string of thudding films like “Song to Song” and “Knight of Cups” failed to click with audiences (though they certainly have their defenders). Will Malick’s biblical drama “The Way of the Wind,” about the life of Jesus Christ as told in discrete passages, maintain that altitude? The cast is certainly stacked, though given Malick’s reputation, who knows who will actually wind up in the movie, or with a significant amount of screen time.
“Son of Saul” star Géza Röhrig, playing Jesus, is joined by Mark Rylance as Satan, Matthias Schoenaerts as Saint Peterr, plus Ben Kingsley, Joseph Fiennes, and Douglas Booth. The film shot on digital in 2019, which means Malick has had plenty of time to tinker with the edit. Expect the Palme d’Or winner for “The Tree of Life” to make a splash in Cannes, even if he most certainly won’t be showing up in person. —RL
Between the premiere of “Import/Export” in 2007 and the release of his documentary “Safari” in 2016, Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl was the hot new European provocateur on the block. If some critics felt like the films of his “Paradise” trilogy resulted in diminishing returns, their stone-faced severity nevertheless positioned Seidl as the something akin to the next Michael Haneke. But Seidl has gone quiet in recent years, toiling away on what sounds like it could be his magnum opus.
A three-hour epic about two brothers who return to their childhood home in Lower Austria to bury their mother, only to bring some unknown darkness back with them to their separate lives in Romania and Rimini, “Böse Spiele” (“Wicked Games”) has supposedly been sitting in the can and waiting to see the light of day since 2018. Seidl hasn’t debuted a film on the Croisette since “Paradise: Love” in 2012, but if his latest manages to live up to its sweeping ambition, it’s a good bet that Cannes will want to swoop in there before Venice gets the chance. —DE
“Where Is Anne Frank” (Ari Folman)
Israeli director Ari Folman emerged as one of the most exciting voices in contemporary animation with his 2008 Cannes entry “Waltz With Bashir,” an innovative rotoscoped documentary about the 1982 Lebanon invasion that pushed the animated form in an exciting new direction. He followed that up with the daring 2013 Directors’ Fortnight opener “The Congress,” a blend of animation and live action so tapped into the scary potential of modern technology it has now looks downright prophetic.
Years have passed — in the interim, Folman created “En Terapia,” the Israeli series that inspired HBO’s “In Therapy” — but fans of his last two features have been keen on seeing what else he can do with his distinctive style. For his latest project, Folman has tackled one of the most widely known literary figures of the 20th century by giving her a whole new platform. “Where Is Anne Frank” reportedly pulls from the teen diarist’s archives to deliver a whole new adaptation of her tragic coming-of-age story.
The story reportedly unfolds from the perspective of Frank’s imaginary friend Kitty, who becomes more real as Frank addresses her through her diary entries. That magical approach stands a good chance at resurrecting the face that helped humanize the trauma of the Holocaust, and in time, as the number of living Holocaust survivors continues to dwindle. There’s nothing conventional about Folman’s techniques to date, which means that this version of “Anne Frank” is poised to make the material resonant in a whole new light, whenever it gets out there. —EK
“The Worst Person in the World” (Joaquim Trier)
Fifteen years after Joachim Trier kicked off his “Oslo” trilogy with “Reprise” in 2006, the Norwegian filmmaker is set to finish it off with “The Worst Person in the World,” a film that’s, funnily enough, all about love. The dramedy follows Trier’s 2011 Cannes debut “Oslo August 31st” in the loosely arranged trilogy, and again follows characters on the edge of some sort of breakthrough (or maybe even a breakdown).
Per a first look from Variety, “The plot revolves around Julie, who is turning 30 and sees her life as an existential mess. Several of her talents have gone to waste and her older boyfriend, Aksel, a successful graphic novelist, is pushing for them to settle down. One night, she gatecrashes a party and meets the young and charming Eivind. Before long, she has broken up with Aksel and thrown herself into yet another new relationship, hoping for a new perspective on her life. However, she soon comes to realize that some life choices are already behind her.”
The cast includes Renate Reinsve (“Oslo August 31st”), Anders Danielsen Lie (“Oslo August 31st,” “Reprise,” “Personal Shopper”), and Herbert Nordrum (“Beforeigners”). Overall, it sounds like a lighter touch for Trier, who recently turned his attentions to the English-language family drama “Louder Than Bombs” and the dark thriller “Thelma,” though its position as part of his name-making trilogy promises more of the probing character work Trier is so skilled at making. —KE