With the announcement this week of the jury of 2014, Cannes has finally revealed the bulk of its line-up for this year’s festival (although there will undoubtedly be a few last minute additions), including the Official Selection, Director’s Fortnight, Out of Competition, Critic’s Week, Un Certain Regard, Special Screenings and Midnight Screenings. For independent filmmakers, cinephiles, film journalists and critics, Cannes is like the post-Oscar hit after a month of going cold turkey. With over sixty films screening at the festival, not to mention the huge slate of market screenings that will be taking place simultaneously, there’s plenty to be talking about and this year’s choices are as eclectic as ever.
The Official Line-up features a lot of familiar names to any cinephile – David Cronenberg, Jean-Luc Godard, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Michel Hazanavicius, the Dardenne Brothers, Tommy Lee Jones and Bennett Miller will all be competing for the Palme d’Or. More to the point, those less familiar names are still old hands at Cannes. Filmmakers such as Xavier Dolan, Andrei Zvyagintsev, Olivier Assayas, Naomi Kawase and Alice Rohrwacher, have all previously screened in the competition itself, or sections such as Critic’s Week, Un Certain Regard and the Director’s Fortnight Sidebar. The only entrants in competition not to have previously screened at Cannes are Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), and Damian Szifron (Wild Tales). Cannes’ Official Selection is a hard scene to crack and this year’s collection proves that you’re less likely to see the sort of wunderkind breakthrough debut in Cannes’ main competition than you would at other festivals. For directorial debuts, it’s best to look to the Director’s Fortnight, which features first time outings from Asaf Forman, Daniel Wolfe, and Thomas Cailley.
In a marked improvement from 2012 and 2013, this year’s competition lineup includes two female directors – Alice Rohrwacher (Le Meraviglie) and Naomi Kawase (Still the Water). Some correlation has been suggested between this increase and the jury President for 2014, Jane Campion. While the jury has little to do with the selection of the films themselves, Campion is the first and only female director thus far to win the coveted Palme D’Or (The Piano, 1993). The jury itself is an even male-female split, including director Sofia Coppola, actress Carole Bouquet, actress Leila Hatami and actress Jeon Do-yeon alongside actor Willem Dafoe, actor Gael Garcia Bernal, director Nicolas Winding Refn and director Jia Zhangke.
Overall there are 15 female directors in this year’s official selection, out of 49 films, mostly to be found in Un Certain Regard. So while there’s greater female representation this year, it’s nevertheless lacking from the festival’s main stage, instead relegated to side bars such as Director’s Fortnight and Un Certain Regard.
A Canadian-Heavy Year
Cannes typically features a French-heavy line-up – somewhat unsurprisingly. This also extends to a generally European-dominated selection. This year however there are an unusually large number of Canadian entries – Dolan’s Mommy, Atom Egoyan’s Captive, and Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars. Kawase’s Still the Water is the only Asian representative and Australian entries are entirely lacking – although special mention goes to David Michod’s sophomore film The Rover, which is featured in the Midnight Screenings section (Robert Pattinson, in his continuing efforts to throw off his Twilight reputation, stars opposite Guy Pearce in the post-apocalyptic outback thriller and also in Cronenberg’s Hollyweird film). Abderrahmane Sissako is the only African entrant, although his film Timbuktu is a French production. In the festival’s other sections, things get a little more diverse. Un Certain Regard and Director’s Fortnight feature films from Israel, Australia, China, South Korea along with the usual line-up of French, Italian and Belgian offerings.
It’s hard to talk about this year’s line-up, or for that matter any festival line-up, without starting to sound like an Olympics commentator pitting nation against nation. With a large number of international co-production deals starting to take effect, it’s likely that in the next few years we’ll see a greater range of countries attending the festival. For now, Cannes remains a European stronghold, with a penchant for North American titles. This itself can only be seen as reflective of production and distribution patterns worldwide, and in the same vein, is set to change in the very near future.
DreamWorks at Cannes
How To Train Your Dragon 2 will be premiering out of competition at Cannes, which can’t help but feel like an odd combination. It is not, however, the first – other DreamsWorks Animations such as Shrek, Shrek 2 and Kung Fu Panda have been known to premier at Cannes. While screening How To Train Your Dragon 2 could be seen as an inclusive effort towards the studios, many of whom will be buying and distributing films both in and out of competition, it can’t help but look incongruous next to its fellow out of competition title, Coming Home (Zhang Yimou’s relationship drama set in the Chinese Cultural Revolution). Either way, you do have to wonder what sort of deal Jeffrey Katzenberg has going with Cannes, and whether less well funded films without the marketing and distribution power of a studio behind them might benefit more from the festival slot.
Films to Follow
Lost River, Ryan Gosling, Un Certain Regard
Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River is on the path to become a Cannes darling. While the actor himself is a familiar face at Cannes – Drive premiered at Cannes in 2011, and both Only God Forgives and Blue Valentine screened at the festival – the film itself was sold at Cannes last year, at that time titled How To Catch A Monster. The film stars Christina Hendricks, Eva Mendes, Saorise Ronan and Matt Smith in a modern magical-realist fantasy-drama. Lost River is an excellent example of the potentially cyclical nature of Cannes – the sale of the film at last year’s festival was heavily covered by industry press, and Gosling certainly doesn’t stand to lose anything by its audience’s familiarity with the title, and himself.
Silvered Water, Mohammed Oussama and Wiam Bedirxan, Special Screening
This documentary explores modern day violence in Syria, featuring contributions filmed by activists in Homs. Director Oussama is himself Syrian, currently exiled in Paris. This title could make an sharp counterpoint to the usual glamour of a festival that has chosen to open with Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco.
Mommy, Dolan, Official Selection
Dolan is an interesting filmmaker to follow. The youngest filmmaker in this year’s competition at 25 years old, he’s nevertheless not a new face at Cannes – his 2009 debut I Killed My Mother was a multiple award winner in the Critic’s Week sidebar for that year, and he featured in Un Certain Regard for his films Heartbeats and Laurence Anyways. He’s also been making waves recently on the festival circuit with Tom at the Farm, which screened last year at the Venice, Toronto and London film festivals and will be screening here in this year’s Sydney Film Festival.
Whiplash, Chazelle, Director’s Fortnight
The winner of the Sundance audience and jury prizes, Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash seems to be following in the footsteps of a recent Sundance-Cannes crossover, Beasts of the Southern Wild. It’s around about this time of year that you hear the first murmurings of “Oscars?”, and Chazelle’s film about a jazz drummer and his mentor, starring Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons, could be one of the early picks. This could also be another case of audience/industry familiarity – Chazelle’s script featured on the 2012 Black List, and Chazelle’s short film of that script premiered at Sundance 2013.
The Homesman, Lee Jones, Official Selection
The Homesman is Tommy Lee Jones second directorial effort: a western drama starring Lee Jones, Hilary Swan, Hailee Steinfeld and Meryl Streep. His directorial debut, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, is a solid testament to his abilities and potential as a director. It will be interesting to see what he can the second time around – there’s no great difference in budget or star power between the two, but The Homesman‘s period stylings should make a nice contrast to the sparse aesthetic of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.
An End to Language, Godard, Official Selection
This is Godard’s first entirely 3D effort, following his short The Three Disasters in last year’s 3X3D collaboration with Peter Greenaway and Edgar Pera, which also premiered at Cannes. If you thought this meant Godard was selling out to mainstream trends, fear not. Just take a look at his “synopsis” below.
The idea is simple:
A married woman and a single man meet.
They love, they argue, fists fly.
A dog strays between town and country.
The seasons pass.
The man and woman meet again.
The dog finds itself between them.
The other is in one,
the one is in the other
and they are three.
The former husband shatters everything.
A second film begins:
the same as the first,
and yet not.
From the human race we pass to metaphor.
This ends in barking
and a baby’s cries.
In the meantime, we will have seen
people talking of the demise of the dollar,
of truth in mathematics
and of the death of a robin.
The full line-up for the Official Selection can be found here
The full line-up for Director’s Fortnight can be found here