Cannes 2011: The Line-Up
Posted on Thursday April 14, 2011, 13:14 by Damon Wise in Cannes Film Festival
Though several have yet to be confirmed, the core titles of the 64th Cannes film festival were announced today in Paris. After all the speculation of recent weeks, the list is missing a few buzz titles (David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, Walter Salles' On The Road, Bruce Robinson's The Rum Diary, Wong Kar-Wei's The Grandmasters, Alexander Payne's The Descendants), but it certainly feels like a more satisfying and thoughtful selection than last year's. Yet again, American cinema is keeping a low profile, competition-wise, but then so is Asian cinema, although that may change slightly in the weeks before the event's May 11 opening.
As previously announced, the festival will open with backpacking Manhattanite Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris, with Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Marion Cotillard. Even by Allen's usual standards, this boasts an eclectic cast, with an appearance by France's First Lady, Carla Bruni, that will surely guarantee the premiere full media saturation at home. Also bringing the paparazzi to Cannes is the latest Jack Sparrow adventure Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, directed by Rob Marshall. And after making a decent impression at SXSW, Jodie Foster's The Beaver (one of a record four films directed by women this year), will also be representing the US. But, surprisingly, these films are not being joined in Out Of Competition slots by Terrence Malick's Tree Of Life. Though the film is still slated for a May 4 release in the UK, Malick has allowed his film to compete, returning to the festival for the first time since Days Of Heaven came in 1979.
So what will Malick be up against? Well, it's an open field, and there are four Palme D'Or winners (well, technically five) to contend with. Lars Von Trier offers his dark romantic sci-fi opus Melancholia, the Dardenne brothers unveil their Boy With A Bike, Turkey's Nuri Cilge Ceylan has Once Upon A Time In Anatolia and Nanni Moretti is coming with Habemus Papam (We Have A Pope). Another heavyweight, and a director who has yet to take the Palme D'Or home after three times in competition, is Pedro Almodovar, who, after weeks of prevaricating, has decided to submit his thriller The Skin I Live In, twist ending and all.
Still, it's not all about the traditional favourites at Cannes, and there are also other prizes to be won, including awards for acting and direction that can sometimes kickstart a whole Oscar campaign. In this category we look to Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. Both actors are on a career high right now, and Refn has yet to make a bad movie, so this kinetic action thriller, based on James Sallis's novel about a stuntman on the run from the mob, is one to look out for. Likewise, the only British entrant in the competition is not to be taken underestimated either. Also based on a book, We Need To Talk About Kevin, directed by Lynne Ramsay and adapted from Lionel Shriver's novel, has been getting fantastic word of mouth, not least for performances by Tilda Swinton and John C Reilly as the parents of a dysfunctional teenager. Any wins for this film will be embarrassing for the government; like Tom Hooper's Oscar-grabbing King's Speech, Ramsay's BBC-financed film was also midwived by the late UK Film Council.
But it wouldn't be Cannes without a scandal, and which film will fill the slot previously taken by Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny and Gasper Noe's Irreversible? Empire's money is on Julia Leigh's Sleeping Beauty, an Australian erotic drama about a woman who falls into a narcoleptic form of prostitution. Also heading for controversy is Paulo Sorrentino's This Must Be The Place, starring Sean Penn (pictured) as a gothic rocker who turns Nazi hunter to avenge his father. It doesn't sound too far out, but the images of Penn in frightwig and make up must be seen to be believed... (*Update! We've just heard that Takashi Miike's Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai will be presented in 3D, making it the first film ever actually to compete in the format. Given the Ichi The Killer's propensity for sex, violence and gore, this one could be a lot of fun, unless the upcoming 13 Assassins really is evidence of a new maturity.)
Missing from this main selection is Gus Van Sant's funeral-home romance Restless, starring Alice In Wonderland's Mia Wasikowska, which instead opens Un Certain Regard. Unusually, this second strand is positively stuffed with directors who have previously made the main competition: Bruno Dumont (Hors Satan); Robert Guediguian (The Snows Of Kilimanjaro); Hong Sangsoo (The Day He Arrives); Kim Ki-Duk (Arirang) and Eric Khoo (Tatsumi). For now, much of the rest of the UCR list is something of a mystery, although Empire can vouch for the excellence of Sean Durkin's cult drama Martha Marcy May Marlene, a hit at Sundance, and is looking forward to Where Do We Go Now? by Lebanon's Nadine Labaki, writer, star and director of 2007 Cannes hit Caramel.
The Midnight Screenings – Peter Chan's Wu Xia and Everardo Gout's Days Of Grace, starring Eva Longoria – are an unknown quantity too. Gout's film, a multi-stranded crime drama from Mexico, bodes well because Cannes has a good track record of launching such films (City Of God and Babel debuted here). But the main festival doesn't really have much of a handle on cult films, so we must wait now to see what Directors Fortnight and Critics Week (which platformed The Blair Witch Project and Amores Perros respectively) decide to schedule; hopefully there'll be some leftfield genre titles and perhaps more intimate titles from big-name directors. But even at this stage, Cannes looks like being a rock-solid festival, and a confident return to form after last year's untypical blip.