Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thoughts on the Cannes Lineup

So today, we got the official lineup for the Cannes Film Festival – 19 films in the Official lineup. They could add others – they have done it before, and 19-21 films is usually the lineup – before the festival, but for now here is what is going to compete. So below, are my thoughts on what is a lineup full of old talent and new faces. And at the bottom are my 100% reliable predictions on who will win (last year I did nail by Director and Screenplay predictions – or at least half of the latter since two films split it).
In Competition
Pain and Glory -  Pedro Almodovar – Spanish auteur Almodovar is back in competition again (it’s the sixth time), and even if in general his career hasn’t been as great in recent years as in the past, there is always a chance at a comeback. This one stars Almodovar favorites Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, and is the story of a film director – so perhaps it’s navel gazing, or perhaps it will be the next 8 ½, who knows? If it is a comeback, Almodovar could easily be in play for awards – he has won Best Director and Best Screenplay at the festival, but nothing more.
The Traitor -  Marco Bellocchio – Italian auteur Bellocchio is back in competition for the 7th time – the first all the way back in 1980. He turns 80 later this year, and has quite a fine track record dating back to his brilliant debut Fists in the Pocket back in 1965. This is a mob story set in 1980s Sicily starring Pierfrancesco Favino. Again, since Bellocchio has been in Cannes so many times, but never won anything, if this is a comeback film for him, he could be a player for awards.

The Wild Goose Lake -  Diao Yinan – The Chinese director behind the fairly good crime drama Black Coal, Thin Ice makes his first trip to the Official competition at Cannes, with what is purportedly another crime drama – although details are thin. Ash is Purest White breakout Fan Liao is apparently the lead. My guess is that unless this is shockingly brilliant, it’s not a prize contender – but does the fact that he’s a newcomer to the lineup mean this could be that good?
Parasite -  Bong Joon-ho – Bigtime Korean Auteur Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Mother, Snowpierecer) returns to the official lineup for the second time in a row following Okja in 2017. Bong is one of the great genre filmmaker – hell, one of the great filmmaker’s period – working right now, so this makes this one of my most anticipated films of the festival, even if I’m still not sure what it’s about – other than it’s about an unemployed family, and parks.
Young Ahmed -  Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne – The Dardennes are among the only filmmakers to win multiple Palmes (for Rosetta and L’Enfant), and they’ve been here seven times before this. This time, they may be courting controversy a little – with the story of a Muslim teenager who hatches a plot to kill his teacher after embracing extremism. The Dardennes are perhaps looking to comeback a little from the “disappointing” The Unknown Girl (which is still very good – just not great) – so we shall see. 
Oh Mercy! -  Arnaud Desplechin –  Another returning oft-auteur – this is French director Arnaud Desplechin’s sixth time in competition. This is a more of a genre film than we are used to seeing from him – it is a movie about a cop investigating the murder of an old woman. Among the cast is the great Lea Seydoux. As someone who loved Kings & Queens and A Christmas Tale – but has either been underwhelmed (Jimmy P.) or not been given a real chance to see (My Golden Days, Ismael’s Ghosts) his work since, I want to see this one.
Atlantique -  Mati Diop – Actress/writer/director Mati Diop has been building an interesting career for a while, and her feature debut is coming in straight into competition. Perhaps it’s because she is French, and they always like a number of French films, perhaps it’s because they wanted to expand the number of female directed films in competition (they have 4 this year – okay, but not great) – or perhaps it’s because she made a great film (given the interesting work she has done, I really hope for that). I know nothing of this one other than that, but I’m looking forward to see what she’s done
Matthias and Maxime -  Xavier Dolan – The bloom is off the rose for Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan – whose last two films were not well received (even if It’s Only the End of the World still ending up winning the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes a few years back) – his latest, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan – hasn’t even opened yet, but the reviews out of TIFF last fall were brutal. Still, he is a multiple Cannes Prize winner in his young career, so we’ll see if this is a return to form for Dolan – who is starring again, but also the great Anne Dorval, so there’s that
Little Joe -  Jessica Hausner – Three of Jessica Hausner’s other films all made the Un Certain Regard Lineup, and finally hits the big time with Little Joe – which is a sci-fi film, that kind of sounds like a Body Snatchers type story. She also has a large cast, the biggest name being Ben Whishaw – but also includes Emily Beecham, Leanne Best and Lindsay Duncan among other. This sounds interesting.
The Dead Don’t Die -  Jim Jarmusch – American indie legend Jarmusch is back in competition for the eighth time since the 1980s, with his zombie comedy with undeniably the biggest cast of the festival. As someone who thinks Jarmusch is doing perhaps the best work of his career of late (Only Lovers Left Alive and Paterson are two of my absolute favorites of his) – this certainly looks like a change of pace, and hugely entertaining. It also seems odd for Cannes, but who cares.
Sorry We Missed You -  Ken Loach – Another two-time Palme winner (The Wind That Shakes the Barely, I, Daniel Blake), Loach is back in competition for the 13th (!) time (I don’t know if that’s a record, but it has to be at least close). Of course, it’s written by Paul Laverty, and is a social justice film about a struggling British working class family. That may sound dismissive – and it is (a little) – but Loach, now over 80, keeps churning out at least good films, so sure.
Les Miserables -  Ladj Ly – Another first time French filmmaker in the lineup – Ladj Ly turns his 2017 prize winner short film of the same name into a feature – about policing in the Paris suburbs. As with Diop, there’s no way of knowing why Ly’s film was selected – whether because it’s French, or perhaps because it’s great – but this certainly a wildcard.
A Hidden Life -  Terrence Malick – Malick is back in competition for the first time since he won the Palme for The Tree of Life in 2011 (and third time overall) – and apparently A Hidden Life is a return to some kind of narrative filmmaking – something he has increasingly moved away from in his last four films. This film is a WWII film about a conscientious objector who won’t fight for the Nazis. He’ll be played by August Diehl – and the supporting cast includes Matthias Schoenarts, Michael Nyqvist, Jurgen Prochnow, the late Bruno Ganz and Franz Rogowski. As interest as I am in many of the films in competition, this is the one I want to see the most.
Bacurau -  Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles – Brazillian director Kleber Mendonça Filho – of the wonderful Neighboring Sounds and Aquarius, teams up with Juliano Dornelles – for this film – which is apparently a Mystery/Sci-Fi/Western film starring the wonderful Sonia Braga and the wonderfully weird Udo Kier. It may not be my most anticipated, but it’s one of the ones I’m most curious about.
The Whistlers -  Corneliu Porumboiu – Romanian director Porumboiu makes his (surprising) Main Competition debut with The Whistlers – which is apparently a comedy, which is surprising given that its stars Vlad Ivanov, who is usually so evil. His best film is still probably Police, Adjective – so he’s always worth a look.
Frankie -  Ira Sachs – Ira Sachs always makes interesting films – Little Men, Love is Strange, Keep the Lights On, Forty Shades of Blue among them. Here, he has a great cast – Marisa Tomei, Brandon Gleason, Isabelle Huppert, Greg Kinnear, Jeremie Renier- a multigenerational drama set in Portugal. I am very interested in this one.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire -  Céline Sciamma – French filmmaker Sciamma finally gets upgraded to the main competition following films like Water Lilies, Tomboy and Girlhood. This is an historical drama about a female painter on an isolated island painting a wedding portrait of a younger woman, Starring Valeria Golino and Adele Haenel. I am interested in this one.
It Must Be Heaven -  Elia Suleiman – Palestinian filmmaker Suleiman is back in competition for the third time, this time as he travels to different cities to draw parallels to his home country. I never know what to make of Suleiman, so it could be interesting.
Sibyl -  Justine Triet – Another young French filmmaker entering the lineup – with this film about a psychotherapist who tries to become a writer. It stars Adele Exarchopolous (who I have wanted to see more often), Sandra Huller, Virginie Efira and Gaspard Ulliel. It’s hard to know what to expect – but I like that cast.
And now, my patented predictions of who is going to win, sight unseen. I am always spot on with these predictions, so take it to the bank, that these will be your winners from the Alejandro Gonzaelez Innaritu headed jury.
Palme d'Or: Bacurau -  Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles – It would be too easy to pick one of the giants to win the top prize this year, so I’ll go with this film, which sounds really interested, from a filmmaker I love, with an interesting cast. Mark it down, this is your winner.
Grand Prize of the Jury: A Hidden Life – Terrence Malick – It’s always hard to pick prior Palme winners to win something other than the Palme again – it can feel like a step down – and yet I also think that Malick going epic again, and in competition, will warrant something – so here it is.
Jury Prize: Little Joe – Jessica Hausner – Call this one a feeling more than anything else, this one often goes to someone who perhaps hasn’t been in the lineup before, making a film they quite like.
Best Director: Joon-ho Bong for Parasite – Again, I just think he’s due for some recognition at the festival, and so here it is.
Best Actor: Pierfrancesco Favino for The Traitor – Favino has been around for a long time now, in both Italian and international films – so why not?
Best Actress: Valeria Golino, Portrait of a Lady on Fire – I wouldn’t be shocked if this turns out to be a two-hander if the leads split this – but if not, go with Golino.
Best Screenplay: Frankie – Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias – Sachs films are almost always well-written, and with this cast, it could make it sound even better.

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