For 70 years, the Cannes Film Festival has been a place of filmic fantasy; at times recognised for its brilliant curation of fantastic cinema while also becoming synonymous for its racial, gender and political blindspots.
At the launch of the festival’s 2017 programme, director Thierry Fremaux nodded to the new-found need for political sentiment in the line-up, presenting a selection of films that confronted everything from animal rights to the refugee crisis, while continuing to tackle the growing disparity between male and female directors. 12 female directors appear in this year’s programme, the highest number in the festival’s history, but with only three out of the 19 films playing in competition being helmed by women there’s still an obvious improvement to be made.
Playing in competition, director Bong Joon-Ho marks his return with Okja, a bombastic action adventure film about a young girl trying to protect a giant creature from being exploited by multi-national corporations. Fremaux said the movie was “very political”, but that statement may feel a little light when compared to the strong-willed films that wear their heart-on-their-sleeve elsewhere in the programme. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel sets out to tackle climate change in the face of Trump’s ignorance to the issue, while films like Sea Sorrow, Vanessa Redgrave’s documentary about the migrant crisis, should hopefully add a dose of realism to an issue that seems so distant in the context of glamorous events like this.
To make sure you’re in the know when these films hit UK cinemas (or TV screens) later in the year, here is a countdown of some more of the features that are bound to make a splash when the festival begins on May 18th.
The last time Sofia Coppola appeared on the Cannes line-up, she came bearing The Bling Ring, a film about glitzy teenage criminals ransacking the homes of the Hollywood elite. On first inspection, her follow-up film The Beguiled looks like an ornate period drama set in a Mississippi all-girls school during the conflict of the American Civil War. But in execution, it could not be more different: dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a story that’s lathered in deceit, sexual tension and jealousy. As you might have expected, Coppola’s grabbed former collaborators Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning to head up the mainly female cast, while Colin Farrell plays the sole object of the women’s lethal lust and affection.
From The Virgin Suicides to Marie Antoinette, Coppola’s past films portray her understanding of a woman’s potent influence. The Beguiled should offer similar moments; we can already see that in the film’s trailer. As the film’s female characters sit serenely around a candle-lit dinner table, Colin Farrell’s horrified cry of “What have you done to me? You vengeful bitches!” rings out.
You may have forgotten (or have been too young to remember it), but David Lynch has brought Twin Peaks to the French Riviera before. Divisive, rowdy crowds have always been a hallmark of the Cannes Film Festival, and the series’ cinematic prequel ‘Fire Walk With Me’ was booed when it had its 1992 premiere there. It’s taken 25 years for the festival’s relationship with Twin Peaks to heal and flourish, just in time for Lynch to bless us with an exclusive screening of two episodes from the TV show’s much anticipated new series.
Of course, all of the details about the director’s return to the sleepy Washington town are being kept firmly under wraps, but even the ‘TV-auteur’ naysayers are saying this could be a monumental moment at this year’s event. Will Lynch solve any of the cliffhangers that he left his audience with, or are we destined to spend a whole new season trying to decode his marvellous, mind-bending ideas? Perhaps this early preview could help clear the air.
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER
Yorgos Lanthimos is not known for making pleasant films – and he certainly doesn’t do boring. Those who have seen his twisted back catalogue, from the strange and uncomfortable Dogtooth to his inexplicably strange love story The Lobster will know what we mean by that.
The latter was the talk of the town when it played at Cannes two years ago, so it’s no surprise that the festival has welcomed him back for his most starry affair yet: The Killing of the Sacred Deer. Serious plot details are being kept under wraps, but from what we do know, it tells the tale of Martin, a teenage boy who welcomes a talented surgeon into his dysfunctional family setting, only to have him cause a strange series of events.
Colin Farrell, who made his true arthouse comeback in The Lobster, will take centre stage alongside Nicole Kidman, while Alicia Silverstone of Clueless fame is rumoured to have a supporting role too. Taking on the role of Martin is a future Hollywood ‘it boy’ Barry Keoghan. Known for his role in Yann Demange’s ’71, he’s also set to appear in Christopher Nolan’s war drama Dunkirk this summer.
It’s official: Kristen Stewart is the coolest woman in Hollywood. It only seems like yesterday she was taking on the starring role in one of the most bankable, young adult movie franchises on earth; now she’s picking up Césars (France’s equivalent of the Oscars) and being crowned ‘the Queen of Cannes’ by those her reformed harshest critics. Her chilling turn in Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper played a huge part in that, but for her 2017 return she’s going solo, moving behind the camera for the very first time.
Come Swim is Kristen’s directorial debut, and has already been met with a deluge of critics’ praise following its first screening at Sundance Film Festival back in January. Kristen has described the short film as an externalisation of her own feelings, and has built its aesthetic on the image of a man sleeping on the seabed, isolated and content.
If you’re still worried about the idea of K-Stew behind the camera, here’s another deal maker: Cannes Film Festival usually has a strict ‘world premiere’ rule that they’ve wavered to include Come Swim in its programme – not bad for an actress once feared of being typecast as Bella Swan, right?
HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES
On paper, this Elle Fanning-starring flick sounds like a strange mix of Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and Under the Skin. Set against the backdrop of a punk-infested London in the 1970s, it follows a libido-driven lad’s desperate attempts to achieve the impossible: grab the attention of a beautiful foreign exchange student at a party full of much cooler guys. But things get weird when he finally convinces the mysterious Zan to speak to him, making him realise that these girls have may have travelled much further than he first thought.
Billed as a sci-fi romantic comedy, How to Talk to Girls at Parties doesn’t seem to tick the usual boxes for films that tend to appear at the festival, which in turn makes it all the more intriguing. Nicole Kidman makes her fourth appearance on the line up here too, solidifying her status as this year’s “Queen of Cannes” before the festival has even kicked off!
Director Todd Haynes secured ‘auteur’ status when his lustrous romantic drama Carol earned rave reviews across the board after its Cannes premiere in 2015, earning Rooney Mara a ‘Best Actress’ prize in the process. Despite the fact that the film was criminally snubbed by the time awards season came around, Haynes has opted to show off his latest film at this year’s festival too.
Based on a children’s book by Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck seems like a departure from what’s expected of a filmmaker synonymous with his careful handling of mature topics. The novel weaves the stories of two deaf American children together; Ben is an orphan living in the American Midwest during the 1970s, Rose is the daughter of a Broadway star living in 1920s New York. It follows them as their life paths, separated by time and location, slowly start to cross. Blessed with a brilliant cast including Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams and with Carol collaborators like composer Carter Burwell and cinematographer-of-your-dreams Edward Lachman returning, it’s very likely that Wonderstruck could be a young adult anomaly that wins an adult audience’s hearts too.
THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES
Perhaps it’s no surprise that it has taken Noah Baumbach, the founding father of mumblecore, 22 years to bring his films to Cannes. After all, the low-key nature of his work rarely lends itself to the grandiose setting of a glittering red carpet premiere. His earlier works, Frances Ha and Mistress America, have enjoyed a more laid back audience for their first screenings, but there will be nowhere to hide if the Cannes critics aren’t fond of his Adam Sandler-starring latest.
In The Meyerowitz Stories, an estranged family come together again to celebrate the artistic achievements of their father, played by Dustin Hoffman. The plot line may not give much away, but it’s being described as a comedy drama, which suggests there’s room for some explosive performances from cast members like Ben Stiller and Emma Thompson. To further whet your arthouse appetite, American Honey’s Robbie Ryan is responsible for the cinematography, while the man behind the soundtracks of your childhood Randy ‘Toy Story’ Newman is composing the score.
Those keen to catch this shouldn’t have to wait too long to see it, either: Netflix plan to release it later in the year.
Follow Douglas Greenwood on Twitter here @douglasgrnwd