The Surprises & Notable Absences Of The 2013 Cannes Line-Up

The Surprises & Notable Absences Of The 2013 Cannes Line-Up
The Surprises & Notable Absences Of The 2013 Cannes Line-Up

So the 2013 Cannes lineup has finally been unveiled and as usual, there were a fair few surprise inclusions, a fair few snubby exclusions/category decisions, and some mildly oh!-inducing title changes. The majority of our firm predictions made it in (the Coens, Soderbergh, Farhadi, Sorrentino, Gray, Refn, Denis, Coppola among others) but sometimes into surprising sections, while a couple of films we had down as possibilities or longer shots paid off. So now that we know the lineup from G (‘Gatsby‘ — opening film) to Z (“Zulu” — closing film) — and it’s a fairly U.S.-friendly list for Jury President Steven Spielberg to preside over — lets dive right in and talk about the more eyebrow-raising moments from this morning’s announcement.

Surprise inclusions — Competition
The Official Selection lineup boasted a few films that were not on our radar (or flying a bit below it), including “Un Chateau in Italie” by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, “La Vie D’Adele” (formerly known as “Blue Is The Warmest Color”) by Abdellatif Kechiche, “Tain Zhu Ding” by Jia Zhangke, “Grisgris” by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun and “Heli” by Amat Escalante. And so it should be — Cannes should be a place of discovery. But some others we were aware of were also included, like:

Alexander Payne‘s film is not a huge surprise, as we had heard earlier in the month that Artistic Director Thierry Fremaux was “courting” Payne, but we’re delighted to have it confirmed, as chatter around the film’s inclusion increased in the past few weeks. It will be Payne’s second time walking the red carpet in the south of France, and will be a nice launch pad for the black-and-white road trip tale, led by the unlikely duo of Will Forte and Bruce Dern. (Guys, MacGruber is at Cannes).

Venus in Fur
We had Roman Polanski‘s “Venus in Fur” down as a long shot, but there it is in the Official Selection, meaning it was turned around remarkably quickly after wrapping earlier this year. It will be Polanski’s third time in Cannes Competition, after “The Tenant” and “The Pianist,” for the latter of which, of course, he won. ‘Venus’ details an actress (Emmanuelle Seigner, Polanski’s wife) trying to convince a director (the let’s-face-it-quite-Polanski-esque Mathieu Amalric) that she’s perfect for a particular role. So no real-life parallels there then. And speaking of real life and Polanski, his previously unreleased documentary “Weekend of a Champion,” which is about racing legend Jackie Stewart and has the unlikely figure of Brett Ratner to thank for it seeing the light of day, will also be getting a special screening. So, basically, Polanski’s much more involved in this Cannes than we had thought likely.

And also…
Soshite Chichi Ni Naru” by Kore-eda Hirokazu is a Competition inclusion we should have been more alert to, especially since we appreciated the hell out of Kore-eda’s last film, “I Wish.” “Wara No Tate” we didn’t call either, perhaps on the foot of “Lesson of the Evilwhich we hated, but you can never count Takashi Miike out. Then we were happy to see “Michael Kolhaas” make the cut, as it stars two of our favorite actors in Bruno Ganz and Mads Mikkelsen, and we hadn’t heard too much about it since reporting on that casting a couple of years ago.

Surprises in other categories

As I Lay Dying” – Un Certain Regard
James Franco‘s next directorial outing, in which he also stars, gets an Un Certain Regard showing, which we didn’t see coming, possibly because we’re suffering a bit from Franco festival blindness, having had him wallpapered all over our Berlin, Sundance and Rome experiences. And perhaps that’s unfair, as this film certainly sounds miles away from the art-project/self-examination/experimental vibe of some his other recent efforts in being an adaptation of the William Faulkner novel of the same name, loaded with a strong and surprising cast in Franco, Danny McBride, Logan Marshall-Green, Richard Jenkins and Tim Blake Nelson.

Muhammed Ali’s Greatest Fight” – Special Screening
This TV movie, directed by Stephen Frears, is getting a special screening, and we have to say it’s kind of come out of nowhere, for us at least. (Obviously, we reported on it, but we never thought it would show up here). And yet it boasts a terrific cast in Christopher Plummer, Ed Begley Jr., Frank Langella, Danny Glover, Bob Balaban and Benjamin Walker, and utterly riveting subject matter — it’s about the high-level fallout visited on Ali after his refusal to fight in the Vietnam war. So, yes, it’s one we’re now suddenly looking forward to, thank you, Cannes Selection Committee!

Max Rose” – Special Screening
This is another special screening that we hadn’t heard too much about, however, it’s showing as a tribute to its star, Jerry Lewis. Which, well, the French do love their Jerry Lewis, right? But Daniel Noah‘s film boasts an interesting premise, about a man who discovers that his 65-year-long marriage may have been based on a lie, and a solid cast (Lewis, Kerry Bishe, Dean Stockwell, Fred Willard, Ileana Douglas, Claire Bloom, Kevin Pollack) so we’re at the very least intrigued.

Category Decisions, Title Changes & More
Of course we, like everyone else, had Claire Denis‘s “The Bastards” down as a lock, but it is a surprise that it went into the Un Certain Regard section rather than the main competition. In fact, it’s kind of a snub, so more on this below. And while we’d have bet the farm that Soderbergh‘s “Behind the Candelabra” was going to feature somewhere, a competition slot is a slight, but pleasant, surprise as Out of Competition would have seemed in advance maybe more likely.

As for titles, “Fruitvale” changed its name to “Fruitvale Station” earlier in the week, but nevertheless its Un Certain Regard inclusion was a boon to U.S. representation, especially for a first-time feature director.
And Playlist fave James Gray‘s “Lowlife,” which got its predicted, expected and anticipated in competition slot, is now called “The Immigrant,” in what we’re guessing is now the final name. (It was briefly titled “Nightingale” last year).

Notable absences

Under The Skin
Okay, so what is the official deal with Jonathan Glazer’s long, long awaited third feature? Filming began in the fall of 2011, reshoots took place in the fall of 2012, and we’ll allow VFX work also caused some delays, but seriously, what else is now holding up the movie? We remain ever optimistic that the film is something completely unexpected and original, particularly following his one-two punch of “Sexy Beast” and “Birth.” Perhaps Glazer will return to Venice instead (where “Birth” premiered) to finally let us see Scarlett Johansson as a sexy, man-eating alien? Either way, it’s becoming unbearable waiting for this one.

The news broke sadly yesterday that “Snowpiercer” will not be coming to Cannes, as apparently director Bong Joon-Ho is still working on post-production (the movie wrapped last July), and won’t have it ready in time. And we are sad that the wait is going to be longer for this one, as these are possibly the only character posters we’ve ever seen that have actually increased our excitement for a film. Stranger, though, is that as the Twitch article mentions, if it’s going to make its Summer 2013 mooted release, then there aren’t really any more major festivals between now and then. Depending on how vital they feel a festival premiere is to the film’s future, there’s therefore a sliver of hope that it may be a late, late addition to the Cannes line-up, but ultimately, looking forward to it though we are, we’d prefer to wait for a version Bong is wholly happy with, than get a rushed edition sooner.

Only Lovers Left Alive
A long-time presence on the Croisette with a Palme d’Or (the short “Cigarettes & Coffee III”), a Grand Prix (“Broken Flowers”), a Golden Camera (“Stranger Than Paradise”) and Best Artistic Contribution (“Mystery Train”) for his efforts, everyone figured Jim Jarmusch’s awesome-sounding vampire flick “Only Lovers Left Alive” was one of the dead locks for Cannes. We were wrong. Alas, we’ll have to wait to see Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as centuries-old bloodsucking lovers. Bummer. But Jarmusch being Jarmusch, there are no shortage of festivals coming up this year that will be eager to welcome him with open arms.

Tom A La Ferme
Did his very public disappointment last year over “Laurence Anyways” only making Un Certain Regard and not the main Competition come back to bite Xavier Dolan in the ass? Or are Cannes and the filmmaker simply taking a break after his first three movies — including “I Killed My Mother” and “Heartbeats” — all made it to the south of France? Or maybe his latest, “Tom A La Ferme,” just isn’t ready yet. Either way, the bold young Canadian filmmaker won’t be flying to France this year. Dolan is shifting gears a bit — his latest is a thriller about a gay man who meets the family of his deceased lover, who didn’t know his sexual orientation — and we’re excited to see how his bold style adapts to a different kind of genre. Like many in this section, we expect him at one of the other high-profile fests this year.

The Congress
Another movie that seems to have been in production forever — early footage was first shown way back in 2010 — our anticipated return of “Waltz With Bashir” director Ari Folman to the south of France is not to be. Too bad because his latest, based on a sci-fi short story by Stanislaw Lem (“Solaris“) tells the meta-story of an out-of-work actress who allows a major studio to scan her image and likeness and use it as they see fit, essentially making her irrelevant and unhireable for any future projects. Mixing live-action and animation, with a big-name cast that includes Robin Wright, Danny Huston, Paul Giamatti and Kodi Smit-McPhee, this sounds fantastically ambitious, but we’ll have to pause on being dazzled for the moment.

Female directors
One of the overarching narratives to emerge so far (in the couple of hours since the press conference, that is) has been about the underrepresentation of women in the main competition, with only one making it in (which is one better than last year, but nowhere near the high of 2011’s four). The imbalance is made all the more apparent by the fact that two of the highest-profile female directors in Claire Denis and Sofia Coppola, both Cannes alumnae, have had new films accepted, but in the Un Certain Regard sidebar. We can kind of understand it with Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” which does look a bit frothy for the competition (not that frothiness always excludes), but Denis’ film ending up here is a bit of a shock, and can’t help but feel like a demotion. We very much hope it’s not pointed, and we certainly don’t want to advocate tokenism, but in a year when Jane Campion is heading the short film and Cinefondation jury, and with much talk about the strong showing from female directors at this year’s Sundance, we’d have hoped for a bit more of an uptick.

Last thoughts
One more we figured as a lock — Steven McQueen‘s “Twelve Years A Slave” — won’t be here either. Recently stamped with a December 27th release, speculation in the past few weeks suggested it would make a fall festival premiere instead, and that seems to be the case.

But all in all, there are some delightful surprises, and some dubious disappointments here, to be sure. But of course, there is still a small chance of some of the excluded films getting a look in, as late additions, or in other areas of the competition for which the program has not yet been announced. For example, we really thought David Lowery‘s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” would show up somewhere today, but it may turn up as part of Critics’ Week or Directors’ Fortnight. 

So what do you think of the lineup so far? We have to say, inevitable absences aside, we’re pretty excited for what’s on offer come May. We’ll be bringing you coverage of the Cannes festival for its duration (May 15th to 26th), and before then you can expect more announcements and news as we get closer. There’s plenty of time still for a couple more of the kind of surprises that Cannes does so well. Share your thoughts on this year’s lineup below. — Jessica Kiang & Kevin Jagernauth

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