Before the Cannes Film Festival announcements this morning we knew that Jim Jarmusch’s horror comedy The Dead Don’t Die would open the festival and that the Elton John biopic Rocketman would be part of the programme. There were doubts whether Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood would be ready, and likewise James Gray’s sci-fi pic Ad Astra. Both are not ready says Cannes director Thierry Fremaux, though he has seen “most of” Tarantino’s film and wishes it the best.
“It’s a pity. The film was prematurely announced and all the media were running after the story giving a lot appetite for his ninth movie. We hoped we would have good news that the film would be present but they didn’t make the selection deadline. He works in 35mm so the post-production is longer and he is still in the editing room. So I’m wishing him to do a good movie and what I’ve seen is fantastic. Taking time to make a good movie is what’s important.”
How Ad Astra could be unfinished given it’s May release date is anyone’s guess.
“Observers thought it would be ready but that is not the case,” Fremaux says. He did note that new additions could be made to the programme but these two movies have virtually been ruled out. Also not ready is last year’s Palme d’Or winner Hirokazu
Kore-eda’s highly anticipated French film, The Truth, which marks the first pairing of Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche (as mother and daughter) and Fremaux intimated that the film would screen in the autumn festivals.
Many were hoping that the Cannes programme would be more Hollywood-oriented this year, but that is not the case. American filmmakers, including Terrence Malick, Abel Ferrara and Ira Sachs will however present their latest efforts. Malick makes a Cannes return following his 2011 Palme d’Or win (for The Tree of Life) with his long-gestating World War Two drama A Hidden Life about the Austrian anti-Nazi conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter. “Don’t ask me if he will be there” chuckles Fremaux of the reclusive American. Ferrara’s Tomasso again stars his usual actor Willem Dafoe. “It’s not a documentary film, it’s a realistic film,” says Fremaux, while Sachs makes his first film outside of the US with Frankie, a Portugal-set family vacation drama starring Isabelle Huppert, Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei and Greg Kinnear. Mobile Homes director Danielle Lessovitz will present the Martin Scorsese-produced Port Authority.
Currently there are 19 films in the Competition, 15 entries in Un Certain Regard with other films screening Out of Competition and in the Special Screenings category. The Competition jury will be led by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu but the other jurors are still to be announced. The programme of the indie-oriented Director’s Fortnight will be announced on Tuesday and the arthouse Critics Week will be revealed tomorrow. Agnes Varda figures on the official poster as a tribute to the French filmmaker who died in March.
Most notable in the competition are Cannes regulars—and there are only four films by women. Pedro Almodovar returns with Pain and Glory, his loosely autobiographical story of an aging filmmaker played by Antonio Banderas; Italian filmmaker Marco Bellochio brings his latest The Traitor and Bong Joon-ho, last seen in Cannes 2017 with Netflix’s Okja, will present Parasite. South Korea is a country that is prolific and produces “flamboyant cinema”, says Fremaux who has also included a Korean film Lee Won-Tae’s The Gangster, The Cop and The Devil as the sole film in the Midnight section. Two-time Palme d’Or winners the Dardennes bring their latest The Young Ahmed. Ken Loach, who likewise won the festival’s top prize twice, will premiere Sorry We Missed You a collaboration between and his regular producer Rebecca O’Brien and writer Paul Laverty. Fremaux describes the story of a delivery driver trying to get by in contemporary England as “very Loachian”. Another Croisette regular Xavier Dolan directs his latest Quebecois film Matthias & Maxime a partly biographical drama where he stars alongside his mother, Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner “we’ve followed her since her first film,” notes Fremaux—will present the sci-fi drama Little Joe about genetic manipulation. Amy director Asif Kapadia will unfurl his documentary about footballer Diego Maradona Out of Competition, where Nicolas Winding Refn will premiere his television series Too Old to Die Young – North of Hollywood, West of Hell. “He will show episodes 4 and 5, don’t ask me why!” explains Fremaux. Werner Herzog has Family Romance LLC in the Special Screenings programme.
As usual the French are out in force. Five French films screen in the competition: Arnaud Desplechin’s Oh Mercy starring Lea Seydoux; Celine Sciamma’s 18th Century lesbian romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire, starring Adele Haenel; Sibyl directed by Justine Triet and starring Virginie Efira; Ladj Ly’s banlieue (suburban) drama, Les Miserables; Elia Suleiman’s co-production It Must Be Heaven. Out of Competition is Claude Lelouch’s Les Plus Belles Années starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Anouk Aimee and Monica Bellucci, while Un Certain Regard includes Bruno Dumont’s Jeanne about Joan of Arc and Christophe Honore’s Chambre 212 set on the eve of the French Revolution.
As for the Netflix, Fremaux said the Festival was encouraged by Steven Spielberg, Jean-Luc Godard and theatre owners to continue with their policy of not welcoming Netflix films into the competition if they will not screen their films in French theatres. Though he notes how the streaming giant had no films ready this year in any case. Cannes President Pierre Lescure says Netflix is facing stiff competition from Amazon and other emerging streaming services citing Apple and Disney. “There is an evolution of new players on the block… Everything will change in the four or five years to come.”