Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cannes Festival Line-Up

The Cannes Film Festival announced the 19 films that will be competing for the Palme D’Or this year. Like every year, the Competition lineup has a number of past prize winners, auteurs and highly anticipated films – and some ones no one saw coming. Plus, you know that of the 19 films here, many will end up being among the most talked about films of the year. One thing I do find slightly disappointing is only one female director made the official lineup. And it's not like they didn't have options - both Sofia Coppola and Claire Denis have film in the Un Certain Regard section. Oh, well. Let’s have a look at what is up for the prize.

1.       A Chateau in Italy by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi
This is one I never saw coming – but perhaps I should have, since her last film did win a Special Prize in the Un Certain Regard competition at Cannes – meaning she may be reading for a promotion. Interestingly, she is the sister-in-law of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The bares bones site on IMDB offers little other than “A family is forced to sell their Italian home” – and the cast list including Bruni-Tedeschi herself alongside Phillipe Garrell and Of Gods and Men director Xavier Beauvois – so one assumes it is a part French-part Italian movie. With so many other, bigger names directors in the competition this year, it may be hard for her to break through.

2.       Inside Llewyn Davis by Ethan and Joel Coen
The Coen’s are Cannes regular – but their last three films opted instead for fall festivals (or in the case of True Grit, no festivals) instead of Cannes. They are favorites their though – the Cannes juries have embraced them more readily than many in American have. Their latest is a 1960s, New York set look at the folk scene featuring Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman and Oscar Issac in the title role among many, many others. Oh, and it’s in black and white. This is probably my most anticipated film of the year, so even if I have to wait until the fall to see it, at least we’ll have some reviews before too long.

3.       Michael Kohlhaas by Arnaud Des Pallieres
I’ll admit, I’ve never heard of Arnaud Des Pallieres before, and nothing in his filmography even rings the tiniest bell. But you know that Cannes always includes a Franch film like this – and it sounds interesting. According to IMDB, “Set in 16th century France, a well-to-do horse merchant raises an army and ransacks towns after suffering an injustice.” The film features the great Mads Mikkelson and the greater Bruno Ganz, alongside Denis Lavant and Sergei Lopez. That cast is amazing. Let’s hope the movie is too.

4.       Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian) by Arnaud Desplechin
It has been five long years since Desplechin’s last film – the masterful A Christmas Tale – and so this film immediately becomes one of my most anticipated for the rest of the year (please don’t hold it over for 2014 North American release!). There is no plot synopsis on IMDB, so I guess we’ll have to figure it out from the very strange title. But it does star Benicio Del Toro and Matheis Almarac, just in case you needed more a reason to get excited about this one.

5.       Heli by Amat Escalante
The Mexican director of Los Bastardos (which I remember seeing on the shelves back in the days when their were such things as videostores, but I never actually rented), returns with his third film. Like Bruni-Tedeschi, his last film won a prize in the Un Certain Regarde section, so he was due a promotion I guess. IMDB doesn’t even have a page up for this film yet, but from little I have gleamed, it seems like a violent film set in the Mexican slums.

6.       The Past by Asghar Farhadi
The Past will likely be one of the more anticipated films at Cannes this year, as it is Farhadi’s follow-up to his hugely acclaimed film A Separation – which won the Foreign Language Film Oscar, and made countless top 10 lists a couple of years back. This time, he’s outside Iran and in France – working with actors like Berenice Bejo (The Artist) and Tahr Rahim (A Prophet). IMDB has no plot synopsis, but it hardly matters. This will be a must see.

7.       The Immigrant by James Gray
I guess the title of this has changed from Lowlife. James Gray makes his follow-up to the critically acclaimed Two Lovers – the film best known to American audiences because it was while promoting it that Joaquin Phoenix seemingly went nuts. But, as with all Gray films, Phoenix is back – this time alongside Jeremy Renner and Marion Cottillard – who appears to have the title role as “An innocent immigrant woman is tricked into a life of burlesque and vaudeville until a dazzling magician tries to save her and reunite her with her sister who is being held in the confines of Ellis Island.” (according to IMDB). Sounds interesting.

8.       Grigris by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
This is Haroun’s follow-up to his 2010 Jury Prize winning film A Screaming Man – and beyond that, I have no idea, because there is no page on IMDB, and I cannot find anything else out about the film. I like A Screaming Man – but didn’t love it.

9.       A Touch of Sin by Jia Zhangke
Hugely acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke (Platform, Still Life) returns – and other than that, I have nothing for you, since IMDB doesn’t even have a page listed for him yet. Strangely, he has never won a prize at Cannes – will this year change that?

10.   Like Father, Like Son by Kore-Eda Hirokazu
Disappointingly, this is not a remake of the Dudley Moore-Kirk Cameron classic body switching comedy from the 1980s (I kid of course). Instead, this sounds like a really interesting film, about a man who finds out his son was switched at birth with another boy – and now has to choose between his biological son, and the one he has raised. Kore-Eda is always interesting (I need to see more of his work), and considering who the head of the jury is, who obviously has his own daddy issues, I think this could be the favorite to win the top prize.

11.   The Life of Adele by Abdellatif Kechiche
Kechiche had a critical hit a few years ago with The Secret of the Grain (2007) – but his follow-up film, Black Venus (2010) never really played outside the festival circuit, and got extremely mixed reviews.  I can’t tell you what the film is about, but I can tell you it has Lea Seydoux in it – best known for Farewell My Queen and Midnight in Paris. Other than that, I don’t have any info on this one.

12.   Shield of Straw by Takashi Miike
It used to be a new film by Takashi Miike meant something totally batshit crazy. And while I admire those bygone days, I don’t mind his recent foray into more mainstream fare. This one seems like the later, as it is a crime thriller about a man who kills the granddaughter of a powerful man, who offers 1 billion yen to anyone who can kill him. Sounds fun to me.

13.   Young and Pretty by Francois Ozon
You’re never quite sure what to expect from an Ozon film, as he hopes genres, and yet almost all of the films I have seen (and I need to see more) are interesting. This one has a simple description – a portrait of a 17 year old girl, in 4 seasons, 4 songs. Could be simple bliss or just too simplistic. No way of knowing yet.

14.   Nebraska by Alexander Payne
It took Alexander Payne 8 years to follow-up Sideways, but now only two to follow-up The Descendants. This certainly sounds like a smaller film – Bruce Dern plays a father who travels from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son – Will Forte – to claim a million dollar prize. The supporting cast includes Bob Odenkirk and Stacy Keach. Anyhing by Payne is going to get attention.

15.   Venus in Fur by Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski returns to adapting a play to follow-up Carnage, which I quite enjoyed, but was a disappointment to many. This one stars Emmanuelle Segnier as an actress who tries to convince a director – Mathieu Almarac – that she is perfect for an upcoming role. Anything by Polanski is a must see.

16.   Behind the Candelabra by Steven Soderbergh
Apparently Steven Soderbergh’s last film – we’ll see this one before the rest as it airs on HBO in May. It stars Michael Douglas as Liberace, and Matt Damon as his younger lover. With Soderbergh, you know it’s a must see – and the fact that its playing on HBO has more to do with content than quality – at least according to Soderbergh.

17.   The Great Beauty by Paolo Sorrentino
One of Italy’s most acclaimed directors working today, and a Cannes regular, Sorrentino returns after This Must Be the Place was mainly considered a disappointment (but what a wonderfully strange disappointment) which followed up a Jury Prize win for Il Divo. He returns to Italy this time for the story of a “an aging writer who bitterly recalls his passionate youth”. That could mean almost anything if you think about it. Looking forward to this one.

18.   Borgman by Alex van Warmerdam
This is a Dutch film by a filmmaker I am unfamiliar with, featuring a cast of people I am unfamiliar with, and with no synopsis at IMDB, so you guess is as good as mine.

19.   Only God Forgives by Nicolas Winding Refn
Aside from the Coens, my most anticipated film in competiton this year. Nicolas Winding Refn’s last film was the brilliant Drive, and he reteams with Ryan Gosling to make this apparently very violent film, about drug smuggler convinced by his mother (Kristen Scott Thomas) to find and kill the murderer of his brother. Cannot wait for this one.

Winner Predictions (Just For Fun)
Remember, Steven Spielberg is the Head of the Jury this year, probably meaning we’ll see some more mainstream films than normal take the prizes this year.

Palme D’Or: Like Father, Like Son
Grand Jury Prize: The Past
Jury Prize: Only God Forgives
Director: Arnaud Desplechin, Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian)
Actor: Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Actress: Emmanuelle Segnier, Venus in Fur
Screenplay: Inside Daisy Llewyn

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