The Croisette is teeming, the red carpet has been unrolled, and the ticket system is up the spout. In other words, Cannes is back. After the Covid-inflected – if not infected – July 2021 version, there is a sense of renewal as the film industry bounces back with the blockbuster delights of Top Gun: Maverick and a familiar roster of auteur talent. But as to who is going to be the stand out, it’s unnervingly unpredictable. Here are some of the likelier suspects to keep an eye on.
Is there a Cannes-ier director than David Cronenberg? Once more in competition, his Crimes of the Future feels like a return to his old squelching stomping ground of body horror, perhaps inspired by his son Brandon’s superb Possessor. It stars Viggo Mortenson, Kristen Stewart and Léa Seydoux, and just from the trailer promises the kind of divisive delights to get the festival buzzing.
And yet the new abnormal has left its traces everywhere. Note the opening film: Michel Hazanavicus hastily changed his film’s name from Z Comme Zombi to The Final Cut (or Coupez! in the original French). The name change came at the request of Ukrainian authorities as the letter Z has been co-opted by Russian propagandists to express support for their invasion. This remake of Shinichirou Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead stars Berenice Bejo and Romain Duris and promises some good genre fun that has nothing to do with the ongoing war in Ukraine but such is the world we now live in.
More directly relevant is the film Mariupol 2 which is showing following the death of the Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius. The film has been cut together by Hanna Bilobrova – Kvedaravicius’ fiancée and the co-director. Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa’s The Natural History of Destruction receives a special screening while in Un Certain Regard hosts Maksim Nakonechnyi’s Butterfly Vision, which tells the story of a female Ukrainian soldier dealing with trauma of her capture and rape. Russian dissident director Kirill Serebrennikov features in the competition with Tchaikovsky’s Wife, but the festival has come under fire for refusing to accredit Russian journalists from pro-Putin publications and has refused also to allow the attendance of an official Russian delegation. Roman Abramovich’s involvement in the financing of the film has been questioned as well.
The actual lineup is stuffed full of familiar faces and auteurs of proven record. The Dardennes, Cristian Mungui, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Claire Denis, Kelly Reichardt, James Gray and Ruben Östlund all have films in competition. Arnaud Desplechin gets his usual slot. There’s something almost overbearingly solid about the lineup. These are great established filmmakers with Palme d’Ors galore, but it’s always the film you weren’t expecting that blows you away. Maybe it will be Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave, a crime mystery from the Oldboy director. Or Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, which is showing out of competition and promises a suitably flamboyant portrait of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Similarly, Ethan Coen has a documentary on the life of rebel rocker Jerry Lee Lewis.
George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing has the air of something a little left-field from the veteran. Idris Elba plays a genie who grants Tilda Swinton’s lonely academic three wishes in exchange for his freedom. Based on an AS Byatt short story, Miller describes it as his anti-Mad Max, even as filming revs up on Furiosa, his Fury Road prequel.
There’s an Iranian serial killer movie with the intriguing title of Holy Spider, directed by Border’s Ali Abbasi. Vicky Krieps plays Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Marie Kreutzer’s Corsage, a postmodern take on the period drama with what promises to be a sumptuously acerbic performance from Krieps. And Quentin Dupieux – the genius director of Deerskin and Mandibles – returns with Smoking Causes Coughing, a suitably crazy comedy about an anti-smoking group.
The 75th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 17-28 May. Follow our coverage here.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty