It’s but a week and a day until the Manolos take to the red carpet for the opening of the most glamorous summer event of the cinema year, the Cannes Film Festival. By coincidence, it’s also just a week and a day until the beginning of the sweaty, arduous, expensive, poorly nourished, constantly dehydrated, distinctly unglamorous queuing marathon that is the completely separate and unrelated Cannes Film Festival (For Critics). But for all its discomforts and inconveniences, when you get a lineup like this year, we wouldn’t have it any other way, except maybe to wish that the sandwich place nearest the Debussy line was just a bit more generous with the fillings.
Anyway, though it’s perhaps lighter than in previous years on flashy big-name Hollywood titles and family animations (whither “How To Train Your Dragon 2“?), it’s a selection absolutely teeming with arthouse heavy-hitters, both in Competition and outside. Continuing a theme from the last few years, the Directors’ Fortnight (Quinzaine des Realisateurs) sidebar looks exceptionally strong, while any year in which two-time previous winner Michael Haneke has a film to bring automatically gets marked “major,” even if it didn’t have Isabelle Huppert in it.
Other trends and themes you might notice going through the titles below are: Nicole Kidman, who has four Cannes 2017 projects, all of which are on this list and one of which is a six-hour miniseries, so we’ll be seeing her when we close our eyes at night. There’s also the first appearances by Netflix in the forms of Bong Joon-ho‘s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach‘s “The Meyerowitz Stories,” which, despite protests from French exhibitors, would appear to be ushering in a new age of cooperation between the festival and the streaming giant. It’s also an interesting flashback to 2014 when 2017 alumni Naomi Kawase, Michel Hazanavicius, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Ruben Östlund, Kornél Mundruczó, Sergei Loznitsa, Bruno Dumont and Mathieu Amalric all had films that played. Here are the 20 films that we’re most looking forward to.
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Synopsis: An embittered separating couple attempt to reunite to find their missing child.
What You Need to Know: “Loveless,” a title that could be a neat summation of the prevailing mood, if not the stories, of almost all of Russian master Zvyagintsev’s previous films, set a sales record in Berlin, despite no one having seen a frame of it yet. Such is the international reputation of his uncompromising, forbiddingly intelligent filmmaking. His career has been a stellar upward trajectory, starting with the “The Return” in 2003, which picked up the Grand Prix in Venice, and on through “The Banishment,” which played in Cannes and won Best Actor, through “Elena,” which won the Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section, and most recently to 2014’s “Leviathan,” which won the Best Screenplay in Cannes and picked up a Foreign Film Oscar nomination. Perhaps the natural heir to countryman Andrei Tarkovsky, Zvyaginstev’s excoriating, incisive style has become more precise with each film, and with “Loveless” apparently retaining his focus on crumbling family dynamics (often used as a metaphor for Russian social ills), we fully expect that to continue.
Director: Todd Haynes
Synopsis: In 1927, a young deaf girl plots an escape to meet her actress idol, while 50 years later, a young boy runs away to New York to find his father and encounters the deaf girl as an older woman.
What You Need To Know: It feels like less than two years ago that Haynes brought the wonderful “Carol” to Cannes, maybe because the film still glows so lustrously bright in our minds. “Wonderstruck” will mark Haynes’ fourth Cannes title — “Safe” played in Directors’ Fortnight and “Velvet Goldmine” snagged a Competition slot — but it feels closest in spirit to “Carol” in being based on a celebrated book (by Brian Selznick, who also wrote the novel on which “Hugo“ was based), having a period setting and featuring a pair of our favorite actresses at its heart. This time Haynes reteams with collaborator Julianne Moore (“Far From Heaven,” “Safe”) and with Michelle Williams (“I’m Not There” h/t @PrfessorSock), and if that weren’t enough, it also sounds like there will be an experimental edge: half the film will be delivered as a silent movie, as both a very Haynes-ian homage to film history and also an emulation of the experience of its lead character, played by newcomer deaf actress Millicent Simmonds.
“The Day After”/“Claire’s Camera”
Director: Hong Sang-soo
Synopsis: In “The Day After,” a married man who was in love with an ex-employee hires a new staff member to replace her, but when his wife finds a love note, she mistakes the new employee for his old lover. In “Claire’s Camera,” in Cannes a French teacher with a Polaroid camera and a mysterious ability to transform the objects she sees meets and befriends a Korean woman who has recently been fired.
What You Need to Know: It was borderline inconceivable that Korean auteur Hong’s “Claire’s Camera,” which stars Isabelle Huppert and was shot during the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, would not be invited to this year’s festival. But the unusual thing is that it’s going to be a Special Screening, while another Hong, “The Day After,” will play in the main competition. And these two will actually bring Hong’s 2017 tally to three, with his absolutely stunning “On the Beach At Night Alone” having already played in Berlin. More good news is that both his Cannes titles co-star his ‘Beach’ lead Kim Min-hee, who picked up an immensely well-deserved Best Actress Silver Bear in Berlin and who has become a shining muse to Hong during the most productive period the always prolific, completely singular filmmaker has ever experienced.
“The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected)”
Director: Noah Baumbach
Synopsis: A comic intergenerational tale of adult siblings contending with the long shadow their strong-willed father has cast over their lives.
What You Need to Know: Of all the titles called out during the Cannes lineup announcement, this may have been the one that caught us most off-guard: word had been quiet on Baumbach’s next film, and even had we known it was nearing completion, the director’s lack of Cannes track record (his only other Cannes credit is co-screenwriter on, um, “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted“) would have put it at an outside bet. Also, it stars Adam Sandler. But, to be fair, this family dramedy should mine his underused “Punch-Drunk Love” abilities rather than his “Grown Ups” shtick, and amongst an ensemble that includes Dustin Hoffman as the paterfamilias, Ben Stiller and Elizabeth Marvel as the other siblings, as well as an immensity of supporting talent including Emma Thompson, Grace Van Patten, Adam Driver, Candice Bergen, Judd Hirsch and Rebecca Miller, we’re looking forward to having something nice to say about him for once. Baumbach’s been on a run of form lately, and while this feels a little broader in scope than his Greta Gerwig collaborations, we’re optimistic it’ll bring a dose of offbeat, bittersweet comedy (scored by Randy Newman and shot by Robbie Ryan!) to a Cannes lineup that looks largely serious and dramatic otherwise.
Director: Jung Byung-gil
Synopsis: A female assassin trained in China comes to South Korea and tries to keep her identity secret, but two mysterious men in her orbit force her to confront the mysteries of the past.
What You Need to Know: Korea continues to dominate the genre sections of most major film festivals, and Cannes is no exception: two of the three Midnight Screenings go to Korean films, and both are from directors we’re eager to become acquainted with. Indeed, we could have chosen either from this slot, but Jung Byng-gil’s “The Villainess,” with its female lead, sounds just slightly more unusual than Byun Sung-hyun‘s “The Merciless” (two hoodlums with nothing to lose), though the loglines for these films are almost always misleading. “The Villainess” also stars Kim Ok-vin, who appeared in 2017 Cannes juror Park Chan-wook‘s “Thirst,” and director Jung’s previous “Confessions Of Murder” is an enjoyably convoluted serial-killer-procedural-meets-revenge-movie, so we have high hopes this will prove to be this year’s “The Wailing,” “Train To Busan” or “A Hard Day.”