See Joaquin Phoenix, Nicole Kidman and more talented artists in these 5 standout movies from the 70th Cannes Film Festival.
Cannes Film Festival 2017 has arrived, and with it, all the biggest and the brightest stars this side of Mars. This invitation-only event draws the world’s celebrities and filmmakers down its red carpet, under the lights of the paparazzi, to partake in the glitziest of the film festivals on the circuit.
It’s not all just champagne and Lars von Trier making Hitler jokes, mind you. As Kristin Scott Thomas once said, “The Cannes Film Festival is about big-budget films but also remarkable films made in different political regimes by filmmakers with little resources.” Cannes is known for hosting some of the most anticipated blockbusters while also playing midwife to some of the most esoteric, challenging and downright controversial movies to grace theaters in the proceeding months. And now, even our Netflix addictions are being primed as a new selection of the festival is catering to television shows. David Lynch’s much anticipated Twin Peaks reboot is getting its first preview, and Okja, starring Tilda Swinton, is competing in the main competition before it is distributed by Netflix later this year.
The festival is split across various categories and programs, but the centerpiece is the short list of movies competing for the festival’s main prize for best director, the Palme d’Or. Last year British filmmaker Ken Loach won the award for his social realist drama set in the north of England, I, Daniel Blake (2016), which explores questions of community and the dehumanizing bureaucracy of Britain’s shrinking welfare system. This year Spanish screenwriter and director Pedro Almodovar will be president of the main jury, and the opening and closing ceremonies will be hosted by Italian actress Monica Bellucci. The other categories and prizes are as follows: the Prix Un Certain Regard for young talent and innovative works, the Cinéfondation and Short Films selection for shorts and student films, the International Critics’ Week spotlighting new talents, and a host of out-of-competition screenings. Among these is a sequel to Al Gore’s climate change documentary, An Inconvenient Truth (2006), called An Inconvenient Sequel. Running alongside the premieres are exhibitions, master classes by industry professionals and the famous Marché du Film, the biggest movie sales floor in the world.
Here are the highlights of the 70th Cannes Film Festival:
1. Happy End by Michael Haneke (France, Germany, Austria)
Fantine Harduin, Michael Haneke, Jean-Louis Trintignant on the set of ‘Happy End.’ Sony Pictures Classics
Michael Haneke is a bit of a Cannes Film Festival legend. He has won the Palme d’Or twice in the last 10 years for Amour (2012) and The White Ribbon (2009). One of his earlier feature films, Funny Games (1997), was also nominated for the prize, and 2001’s psychosexual drama The Piano Teacher won the second most prestigious award, the Grand Prix. Haneke’s movies are known for their violent, psychological subject matter and for raising philosophical questions about the nature of abuse, both interpersonal and self-inflicted. Each year, the festival’s board of directors orient the selection around a particular theme, and this year they seem to have chosen to focus on the timely question of immigration. This carries across a wide number of the works being shown at Cannes, and Haneke’s film fits well within the category. It dramatizes the experiences of a family living on the French coast (home to the now-defunct camp known as the Calais Jungle) set against the backdrop of the ongoing European refugee crisis. It stars Amour cast members Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant, alongside Mathieu Kassovitz. This will be Haneke’s third shot at winning the golden palm. Expect dark humor and difficult questions.
2. Sea Sorrow by Vanessa Redgrave (U.K.)
British director Vanessa Redgrave (Blow-Up 1966, Deep Impact 1998, Call the Midwife 2012-17) continues this theme in her out-of-competition work, Sea Sorrow. Apparently it was inspired by the famous photograph of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who was found washed up on a beach in Turkey after having drowned trying to cross into Europe. Ralph Fiennes and Emma Thompson star in the work, which focuses on the experiences of people who’ve volunteered to help refugees and the obstacles they face. Redgrave is known for her activism outside of film and for being outspoken against injustices in the developing world caused by Western countries. This contribution to the festival will no doubt build upon her concern for these kinds of global issues, so we can hope for something thought-provoking.
3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer by Yorgos Lanthimos (Ireland, U.K., U.S.)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an offering by another Cannes veteran, Yorgos Lanthimos, whose movie The Lobster (2015) won the Jury Prize and Dogtooth (2009) took home the Prix Un Certain Regard. This year is Lanthimos’ chance to take home gold, and if The Lobster is anything to go by, he stands an excellent chance. The story follows a surgeon’s unsuccessful attempt to integrate a sinister teenage boy into his family, leading to unexpected and extreme results. Colin Farrell plays the role of the surgeon, with Nicole Kidman portraying his wife. This psychological thriller will be but one of Kidman’s appearances this year at Cannes Film Festival as the actress also stars in the new Sofia Coppola movie, The Beguiled (look out for this one, too!). This is Lanthimos’s fourth time collaborating with cowriter Efthymis Filippou, so we should expect their signature weirdnesses to resurface.
4. Loveless by Andrey Zvyagintsev (Russia)
Leviathan (2014), the last feature film by Andrey Zvyagintsev (The Banishment 2007, The Return 2002), was met with equal praise and criticism. Its austere and bleak presentation of contemporary life in remote Russia was questioned by the country’s Minister of Culture, who, having seen it, was inspired to consider censoring movies that “defiled” the country’s heritage from that point on. If this is anything to go by, Loveless, Zvyagintsev’s current project, will likely be both controversial and well received by its Cannes audience. As it is competing in the main selection, this could be the first time a Russian director has won the Palme d’Or since Mikail Kalatozov’s The Cranes are Flying (1958), when the country was still the Soviet Union. All we know so far by way of plot is that we follow the events surrounding the disappearance of a child who runs away after his parents have been arguing over their divorce. If Mikhail Krichman, Zvyagintsev’s longtime collaborator, is on the camera again, expect stunning photography.
5. You Were Never Really Here by Lynne Ramsay (U.K., U.S., France)
Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin 2011, Morvern Callar 2002, Ratcatcher 1999) brings us an adaptation of Jonathan Ames’ novel of the same name, You Were Never Really Here. In a narrative reminiscent of Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), the movie stars Joaquin Phoenix as a war veteran who attempts to rescue a teenage girl from a sex trafficking ring only for it to backfire. Ramsay and Ames wrote the screenplay together, and filming began in August 2016. Her previous works deal with loneliness and isolation in somber, reflective tones, and likely this current work will approach its subject in a similar fashion. This will be Phoenix’s second shot at starring in a Palme d’Or-awarded movie, with 2013’s The Immigrant losing to Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) by Abdellatif Kechiche. Expect to be moved and shocked by one of Hollywood’s enigmatic actors.
These are just a few suggestions to pique your interest. There are many, many excellent movies ahead. Post a comment on our Facebook page with the films you’re most excited to follow or with any Cannes Film Festival developments for fellow readers!