10 things to note about the Cannes official selection


Expect VR, immigration, Michael Haneke’s potential record… and lots of Nicole Kidman

Donald Clarke

Thierry Frémaux, director of the Cannes Film Festival, has delivered his annual address before announcing the programme for the 70th edition. As expected, there was at least one mention of Donald Trump (boo!) and some allusion to diversity issues (half-hearted hurrah). Such are the times we live in that online pundits had predicted much of the competition. Everyone had regarded Michael Haneke, Yorgos Lanthimos and Sofia Coppola as dead certs. Those naps proved to be on the money, but there were some surprises and a few talking points. Here’s what we should be pondering in the next month. Events kick off on April 17th (a little later than usual).

  1. No Hollywood studio pictures

Overlooked in the rush to assess the arthouse meat, this huge irregularity now causes heads to be belatedly scratched, never mind the race for the Palme d’Or. In recent years, such pictures as Inside Out, The BFG and Mad Max: Fury Road premiered at Cannes out of competition. I would expect one such release – maybe Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit – to be added later. Could they spring Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk? Less likely, I fear.

  1. It’s all about Kidman

Pay attention. Nicole Kidman appears four times. She is in The Beguiled with Colin Farrell and Elle Fanning. She and Farrell are also in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. She and Fanning appear out of competition in How to Talk to Girls at Parties. She can also be seen in special screenings of episodes from Jane Campion’s TV series Top of the Lake. Nobody is sure if this is a record or not.

  1. Television, VR and streaming have arrived

Frémaux played down the appearance of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Campion’s Top of the Lake at Cannes. Both directors are Palme d’Or winner and thus old pals. Netflix (less friendly to theatrical distribution than rivals Amazon) finally arrives in the competition with Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). How they will accommodate Alejandro González Iñárritu’s virtual reality project CARNE y ARENA remains to be seen. They’ll need a lot of headsets.

  1. There is a properly Irish film in competition

Film is a complicated business (and I stress the word “business”). Surely, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, which won the Palme d’Or in 2006, is the most Irish film in recent competitions. Maybe. Maybe not. Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer – though directed by a Greek person – was developed and financed by Element Pictures in Dublin. And it’s got Barry Keoghan and Colin Farrell in it.

  1. There are three women in contention

But didn’t Frémaux say something about 12 woman directors in the official selection? Yes, but that seems to include Kristen Stewart’s short. It certainly includes Vanessa Redgrave’s belated debut Sea Sorrow. The three features that have made it into the fight for the Palme d’Or are all from Cannes veterans: Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here and Naomi Kawase’s Radiance. It’s been worse.

  1. Immigration a theme in election month

This year’s Cannes will take place shortly after a French presidential election in which immigration has been a source of contention. That topic will be much reflected in the programme. Redgrave’s Sea Sorrow, Kornél Mundruczó’s Jupiter’s Moon, Michael Haneke’s Happy End and Iñárritu’s virtual reality project CARNE y ARENA all deal with migration. It looks as if Cannes will be very much at the heart of the debate. On which topic…

He would become the first film-maker to triumph on three occasions

  1. Haneke to break record?

Whether Marine Le Pen wins or not, Michael Haneke’s Happy End – set among a middle-class family weathering the migrant crisis in Calais – is sure to generate much interest. Were the Austrian to win the Palme d’Or he would become the first film-maker to triumph on three occasions. (And he would have done so for three consecutive films.) There is probably no film-maker Cannes would prefer to break the record.

  1. Godard is (sort of) in competition

Cannes made Michel Hazanavicius’s name internationally when it belatedly snuck The Artist – later an Oscar winner – into competition six years ago. The organisers stayed loyal by accepting the awful (and unreleased here) The Search in 2014. Now, his already contentious Redoubtable, starring Louis Garrel as Jean-Luc Godard, competes for the Palme. JLG has already called it “a stupid, stupid idea”. Most thought it would be politely shuffled out of competition.

  1. The Safdie brothers make it into competition

There is usually something that nobody saw coming. Joshua and Benny Safdie have slowly been establishing a strong reputation over the last few years. Their debut The Pleasure of Being Robbed was in Directors’ Fortnight here a decade ago. Heaven Knows What played well to the festival crowd, but few were the pundits who thought Good Time, a crime drama starring Robert Pattinson, would be in competition. Sounds as if it might be something special.

  1. Think you know the opener? Guess again?

There gave been a few years when the opening film has been clear from months out. The Great Gatsby seemed likely the moment its late May slot was confirmed for 2013. So it proved. But usually the organisers surprise. The Beguiled was the favourite with most Cannes watchers. Frémaux sideswiped with Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismael’s Ghosts, a drama starring Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Maybe, a belated apology for rejecting the same director’s My Golden Years from the official selection a few years ago?



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