Cannes is still the biggest name in the world of cinema when it comes to film festivals. Since 1946, this invitation-only festival (that means press, industry and celebrities but no public) has been held every May and has retained its title as the most prestigious event in film not called the Oscars (and even then, there are plenty of people who think Cannes is far more important). It’s the epitome of glamour, snobbery, star f*cking and general adoration for the medium of cinema.
Winning the Palme d’Or is considered the ultimate dream for many directors, a sign that they are a true artist. Of course, the festival is not without its opposition or controversy. Only one woman has ever won the Palme D’Or (that would be Jane Campion) and films directed by women remain sorely outnumbered by the dudes in the main competition. Thierry Frémaux, the festival’s head honcho, has been accused of sucking up to his favourites while ignoring more interesting or worthy film-makers, and then there’s the small matter of Netflix being banned from competition. The issue brought up all manner of opinions about the industry and film festivals’ roles in promoting it (although French law played more of a hand in the Cannes decision than Frémaux), with some considering this a sign of Cannes’s wavering influence.
Of course, getting into competition is still immensely difficult and a real honour, so like all good film fans, I got up and raring to go to watch the live announcement. Turns out I remember a bit more of my high school French than I thought I did. Hey, I had to find out what we were sending honourary Overlord Caspar to see!
All the way up. As high as she could go.— Festival de Cannes (@Festival_Cannes) April 15, 2019
Agnès Varda will be the inspirational guiding light of this 72nd edition of the Festival!
La Pointe courte © 1994 Agnès Varda and her children - Montage & design : Flore Maquin.
More info: https://t.co/RoyeCYyM7m
#Cannes2019 #AgnesVarda pic.twitter.com/aW4YKmo3Ct
Before the announcement, there were plenty of big names floating around as potential entrants for the main competition, a lot of whom were major American names (last year, the festival was mostly American free, which led a lot of people to write it off as a bad year, which was obviously silly). Tarantino was expected and Greta Gerwig was rumoured for a while but both were absent. Fremaux announced that there would be 13 women directors in the Official Selection, which is a big step forward but still a huge step away from gender parity. Four women in competition is an improvement from the past few years, which is also incredibly sad. The festival will open with Jim Jarmusch’s zombie film The Dead Don’t Die, which will also play in competition.
(All blurbs are from IMDb unless stated otherwise.)
The Dead Don’t Die - Jim Jarmusch
The peaceful town of Centerville finds itself battling a zombie horde as the dead start rising from their graves.
Pain and Glory - Pedro Almodovar
A film director reflects on the choices he’s made in life as past and present come crashing down around him.
The Traitor - Marco Bellocchio
The real life of Tommaso Buscetta the so called “boss of the two worlds”, first mafia informant in Sicily 1980’s.
The Wild Goose Lake - Diao Yinan
He … the leader of a dangerous bikers gang. She … a prostitute willing to give everything to get her freedom back. They meet each other while he’s on the run, escaping the bloody gang war that shakes his entourage. Both in a dead end, they get along and understand each other. Together, they are willing to play one last time, and gamble their destiny. A train station in South China. Death around the corner. Let the manhunt begin… (Blurb from Screen Anarchy)
Parasite - Bong Joon-ho
All unemployed, Ki-taek’s family takes peculiar interest in the Parks for their livelihood until they get entangled in an unexpected incident.
Young Ahmed - The Dardenne Brothers
A Belgian teenager hatches a plot to kill his teacher after embracing an extremist interpretation of the Quran.
Oh Mercy! - Arnaud Desplechin
A police chief in northern France tries to solve a case where an old woman was brutally murdered.
Atlantique - Mati Diop
(Couldn’t find a blurb - sorry!)
Matthias and Maxime - Xavier Dolan
(Couldn’t find a blurb but it’s written by, directed by, produced by and starring Xavier Dolan so I do not care).
Little Joe - Jessica Hausner
A genetically engineered plant scatters its seeds and seems to cause uncanny changes on living creatures. The afflicted appear strange, as if they were replaced - especially for those, who are close to them. Or is it all just imagination?
Sorry We Missed You - Ken Loach
A hard-up delivery driver and his wife struggle to get by in modern-day England.
Les Miserables - Ladj Ly
With a gun at his belt and a truncheon in his hand, Pento has just joined the Seine-Saint-Denis anti-crime brigade. With his teammates, he develops specific methods.
A Hidden Life - Terrence Malick
The Austrian Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector, refuses to fight for the Nazis in World War II.
Bacurau - Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles
(Couldn’t find a blurb but apparently Udo Kier is in it!)
The Whistlers - Corneliu Porumboiu
Treason, comic twists and a femme fatale abound in this film noir crime story from Romanian new wave master Corneliu Porumboiu. (Blurb from Mk2 Films.)
Frankie - Ira Sachs
Three generations grappling with a life-changing experience during one day of a vacation in Sintra, Portugal, a historic town known for its dense gardens and fairy-tale villas and palaces.
Portrait of the Young Lady on Fire - Céline Sciamma
On an isolated island in Bretagne at the end of the eighteenth century, a female painter is obliged to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman.
It Must Be Heaven - Elia Suleiman
Filmmaker Elia Suleiman travels to different cities and finds unexpected parallels to his homeland of Palestine.
Sibyl - Justine Triet
A jaded psychotherapist returns to her first passion of becoming a writer.
Films playing out of competition include: The Elton John biopic Rocketman; two episode of Nicolas Winding-Refn’s Amazon series Too Old to Die Young (starring Miles Teller); Asif Kapadia’s newest documentary Maradona, following his Oscar winner Amy; and The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil by Korean director Lee Won-Tae. Werner Herzog will return with a new documentary. Abel Ferrara reunites with Willem Dafoe for a film called Tommaso. Bruno Dumont’s Joan of Arc movie will be there too.
There is still time for movies to be added to competition, so we very well could see Little Women or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood join the line-up. Half the fun of Cannes is seeing what gets shoved in at the last minute and then goes on to dominate the festival. It’s a strong line-up as it stands, at least. Women film-makers are a teeny bit more present, and there are a lot of Cannes favourites here. The Jury President this year is Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.