The analog comeback continues for cinematography, as this week’s Cannes Film Festival boasts 19 titles shot on Kodak film, with eight competing for the Palme D’Or, highlighted by Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” (Searchlight Pictures). The multi-layered ode to journalism, with an ensemble cast consisting ofTilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Timothee Chalamet, Lea Seydoux, Benicio del Toro, Elisabeth Moss, Owen Wilson, and Frances McDormand, was shot in both 35mm color and black-and-white by go-to cinematographer Robert Yeoman.
The other Palme D’Or entries shot on film include Sean Baker’s “Red Rocket” (DP Drew Daniels), Ildikó Enyedi’s “The Story of My Wife,” (DP Marcell Rév), Mia Hansen-Løve’s “Bergman Island” (DP Denis Lenoir), Juho Kuosmanen’s “Compartment No. 6” (DP Jani-Petteri Passi), Sean Penn’s “Flag Day” (DP Daniel Moder), Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World” (DP Kasper Tuxen), and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Memoria” (DP Sayombhu Mukdeeprom).
Additionally, a number of movies shot on Kodak 35mm and 16mm color or black-and-white film stock can be found elsewhere in the programming, including those under the Un Certain Regard banner: Justin Chon’s “Blue Bayou” (DPs Matthew Chuang and Ante Cheng) and Yohan Manca’s “Mes Freres Et Moi” (DP Marco Graziaplena). Directors’ Fortnight features include: Jonas Carpignano’s “A Chiara” (DP Tim Curtin), Miguel Gomes and Maureen Fazendeiro’s “The Tsugua Diaries” (DP Mário Castanheira), Pietro Marcello, Francesco Munzi, and Alice Rohrwacher’s “Futura” (DP Ilyà Sapeha), and Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir” and “The Souvenir Part II” (DP David Raedeker).
Semaine de la Critique short films shot on film include Ian Barling’s “Safe” (DP Anna Franquesa Solano) and Nicolai G.H. Johansen’s “Inherent” (DP Sebastian Bjerregaard). Directors’ Fortnight shorts include Diego Marcon’s “The Parents’ Room” (DP Pierluigi Laffi) and director/DP Peter Tscherkassky’s “Train Again.”
Recent years have seen a steady rise in nominations and recognition for productions shot on film at Cannes, moving from nine titles in 2016, 10 in 2017, 13 in 2018, and the highest previous total of 17 in 2019.
“It’s no coincidence that films shot on film get a disproportionate amount of recognition,” said Steve Bellamy, president of Kodak’s Motion Picture and Entertainment. “Film has an aesthetic and unparalleled quality that attracts the best and the significant number of productions shot on film at Cannes is an indication of the continued momentum for the medium.”
Meanwhile, Super 16mm enjoys a particular resurgence, with 10 titles choosing its distinct look, led by “Flag Day,” “Red Rocket,” and “Blue Bayou.”
“Film has a signature that is hard to replicate,” said “Flag Day” cinematographer Moder. “I think it really has a forgiveness similar to the way our mind sees things. This story [about con-artist Penn] takes place from the early ’70s til ’92. One of the first demands Sean made was it had to be on film and everyone was onboard.”
“The choice for 16mm was even better since the look is undeniably film,” continued Moder. “A lot of the references that Sean gave me were things that had this filmic look and deep blacks. Sean didn’t want me locked in a DI tent either. We had no playback. There was throwback to a classic system of making a movie on set. There was limited access to the monitors on set, it really allowed us to keep moving forward and have faith. It made for a creative and efficient workspace.”
With “Red Rocket,” about ex-porn star (Simon Rex) returning to his small town in Texas, cinematographer Daniels found 16mm tungsten film stock perfect for fluorescent lighting. “They seem to burnout and react differently, especially in the highlights,” he said. “I was in love with seeing the orange and green halation, and all of the nuances that you get in the natural colors. We would try to find locations that had as many fluorescent, sodium and mercury vapors, funky weird LEDs, lights that might be flickering, and TV screens. We tried to embrace all of that stuff, mix it in there, and see how the film stock would treat it. We were always pleasantly surprised.”
Likewise, director Chon was attracted to 16mm for “Blue Bayou” (Focus Features) as a result of its “naturalistic, visceral vibe.” He cited a passion for the films of John Cassavetes, “and how they feel so raw and real. ‘Blue Bayou’ is a story about an American family in the South. I felt it was necessary that this feel immediate and tangible,” he said.