As Sundance and Berlin recede into the distance, the next festival juggernaut is revving its engines on the horizon. The 2017 edition of Cannes is shaping up to provide its usual cocktail of white-hot star power and genuflection at the altar of art cinema. Also as usual: the manoeuvrings, offers, counter-offers and general jostling that goes into assembling the festival’s line-up, which covers the Competition, the Un Certain Regard subsection (“Worth a Look”), and Out of Competition screenings. (That’s not even counting the parallel selections for the Directors Fortnight and Critics Week line-ups, both separately organised events.)
The opening film – a much prized slot – would normally have been announced by now, but the delay suggests there may have been problems locking it down. Of course, by the time it has finished Cannes will no doubt have anointed some hitherto unheard-of directors and/or films; but it also has a tradition of standing by a select group of heavyweight auteurs whose films, should they be ready in time, are virtually guaranteed inclusion. Having scanned the international production calendar, here’s our best guess of the runners and riders for this year’s festival, which runs from 17–28 May.
After a couple of years of bad press and protest, Cannes is desperate to correct its male bias: hence the zero likelihood of letting the new one from Sofia Coppola get away (though her only competition film to date is 2006’s Marie Antoinette). The Beguiled is her first feature since 2013’s The Bling Ring, and is an adaptation of Thomas Cullinan’s American civil war-set novel about an injured soldier imprisoned in a girls’ school. (It was filmed once before, by Don Siegel in 1971.) With a very Cannes cast – Colin Farrell is the soldier, Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst alongside – this is sure to make a big splash on the red carpet.
Like a Georgian monarch, Michael Haneke appears to have a permanent reservation on his own royal box at Cannes. And having won the Palme d’Or with his last two films, The White Ribbon and Amour, his latest, described as “a snapshot from the life of a bourgeois European family during the refugee crisis”, will be first on the Cannes selectors’ list. It stars Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant (both from Amour) as well as Mathieu Kassovitz. You wouldn’t get long odds against Haneke becoming the first three-time Palme winner.
After the meteoric success of his 2011 The Artist, which used a competition slot as a springboard for major Oscar impact, Michel Hazanavicius was swiftly anointed as the new roi of French cinema. It hasn’t been absolutely plain sailing since – the underwhelming Chechnya war drama The Search failed to set anyone’s pulse racing – but his new one, a tricksy-looking biopic of Jean-Luc Godard, adapted from a biography by his second wife Anne Wiazemsky, and starring Cannes favourite Louis Garrel, offers a triple dose of national cinematic pride. The word was Redoubtable was due to slot in to the statement-making opening gala position; in past years an announcement would have been made by now, which suggests there’s been some backstage shenanigans. But it will be a major jaw-dropper if this doesn’t show up somewhere in the festival.
After his rapturously received 50s-set romance Carol, Todd Haynes is heading back into the recent past for his follow-up, an adaptation of Brian Selznick’s children’s book. Wonderstruck focuses on two different children in two different years, 1927 and 1977, both of whom attempt to run away from home. The 1927 scenes are reported to be shot as a silent film featuring deaf performers, in a typically Haynesian mixture of formally daring yet empathetic film-making.
The terrifically taut Animal Kingdom set David Michôd up as a director to watch in 2010, but the Australian’s career since then has faltered somewhat, with his only output in that time being the underwhelming Robert Pattinson thriller The Rover. War Machine looks as if it might put him back on track, though. A satirical comedy about the war in Afghanistan, it stars Brad Pitt as a cocky commanding general, and is released by Netflix around the time the festival ends.
Described as a “supernatural thriller about a young woman who falls in love and discovers that she has terrifying and inexplicable powers”, Thelma is Joachim Trier’s first film since Louder Than Bombs saw him into the Cannes competition in 2015, and set him up as a made man on the Croisette. Thelma is set in Norway, has a somewhat less starry cast than Bombs, and has racked up a string of overseas sales already. It’s being pointed at a Halloween release in Trier’s home country, which may or may not change if Cannes takes it.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Everyone and their nan had Yorgos Lanthimos’s absurdist comedy The Lobster down to win the Palme back in 2015, only for Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan to snaffle up the prize at the last moment. The Greek director had to console himself with the jury prize instead. He’s something of a Cannes regular, and should be back for another stab at the top gong this year with a drama based on a Euripides tragedy, which reunites him with Lobster star Colin Farrell and also features Nicole Kidman and Alicia Silverstone.
Wild Pear Tree
Nuri Bilge Ceylan is one of the grand masters of world cinema, and a multiple prizewinner at Cannes: grand jury prizes for Uzak (Distant) and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, best director for Three Monkeys, the Palme d’Or itself for Winter Sleep; it’s safe to say the hotel room is already booked. Wild Pear Tree looks as if it’s a companion piece to Winter Sleep: a frustrated writer returns to his home village, but debts incurred by his father seem to scupper his dream of being published.
News of any new work from British director Clio Barnard should cause the ears of cineastes to prick up, and her third film looks likely to plough the same fertile socio-realist terrain of 2013’s The Selfish Giant. Set again in Yorkshire, it tells the story of Alice, played by The Affair’s Ruth Wilson, who returns to claim ownership of her family farm following the death of her father, but finds opposition from a long-lost brother. Expect another Loachian exploration of class tensions and social decay.
Michel Franco acquired his Cannes competition bones with Chronic, the sombre, terminal-illness study starring Tim Roth, which won him the best screenwriter award at the 2015 festival. So there’s every reason to think the Mexican director will be back with his new one, April’s Daughter, which appears to revolve around the reunion of an erratic mother and her two offspring, one of whom is heavily pregnant. Emma Suárez, who is having bit of a career revival after starring in Almodovar’s Julieta, plays April.
In the balance
Based on a True Story
Given that he is currently embroiled in a court hearing over the rape allegations that have plagued him for the past four decades, you might surmise that Roman Polanski would be too preoccupied to bring his new work to the Croisette. But Variety reports that Based on a True Story is finished, and given Polanski’s strong past relationship with the festival, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him premiere it there. A psychological thriller adapted from a French novel about a writer who has to deal with an obsessive admirer, it stars Eva Green and Emmanuelle Seigner.
Image et Parole
It would be a self-reflexive coup to have the new movie from Jean-Luc Godard in the same festival as Michel Hazanavicius’ biopic of the director. And though Cannes has provided a regular berth for JLG, the director’s gnomic approach to pre-publicity means it’s hard to work out if it will be ready in time. Image et Parole (Image and Speech) looks to be a typically scattergun affair, with those in the know saying it will be a wide-ranging meditation on the Arab world. Its sales agent has said it would not be ready for Cannes – but things may have progressed since.
Another Netflix-backed effort, this time from cult Korean director Bong Joon-ho. Okja matches Bong’s last film, the underrated “class warfare on a train” thriller Snowpiercer, in the eye-grabbing synopsis stakes: it’s about a young girl’s attempts to stop a multinational corporation from kidnapping her best friend – a giant animal named Okja. You suspect that Cannes might be a little resistant of Netflix, given the streaming service’s antagonistic relationship with the cinema industry, but that may well be tempered by the festival’s love of east Asian directors and a red-carpet-worthy cast including Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Lily Collins.
In the Fade
Turkish-German auteur Fatih Akin has been relatively low-profile of late, with a series of documentaries and local-interest features dominating his output (Armenian-genocide drama The Cut from 2014 being a notable exception). That may change with this one, a thriller set in Hamburg in which Diane Kruger plays a woman out for revenge after a bomb blast kills her family. Kruger, of course, is a red-carpet favourite, so her participation in the film could tip the balance.
Lean on Pete
Given that his last film, the gorgeous, devastating 45 Years, topped the Hlcarpenter.com’s best of 2015 poll, it’s fair to say there’s more than a little anticipation in these parts over Andrew Haigh’s next one, an adaptation of Willy Vlautin’s story of a boy and his racehorse. You would expect that Cannes might feel the same, given that Haigh’s understated arthouse style is very much in the festival’s wheelhouse. Yet, he hasn’t debuted any of his films there, opting instead to take Weekend and 45 Years to SXSW and Berlin respectively. Might this be a chance for Cannes to get in on the act?
The prolific output of New German Cinema titan Wim Wenders can be variable, as evidenced by 2015’s 3D hodgepodge Every Thing Will Be Fine, and it’s arguable that these days his best work is being done in the documentary medium (see Pina, The Salt of the Earth). Still, this drama, adapted from JM Ledgard’s novel about a spy who recalls a past relationship while he’s held captive by al-Qaida, intrigues in both its subject matter and cast – it stars James McAvoy, Charlotte Rampling and the ascendant Alicia Vikander, AKA the new Lara Croft. While Submergence is widely expected to premiere at an autumn festival, you wouldn’t put it past Cannes regular Wenders to head to the Croisette instead.
If there’s a Woody Allen film in the ether, you can guarantee Cannes will strain heaven and Earth to put it on. Fourteen of Allen’s films have screened on the Riviera, even if the last one – Café Society – turned into bit of an ordeal after his estranged son, Ronan Farrow, chose the moment to attack him. The new one, fully funded by Amazon, is set in and around Coney Island’s famous Ferris wheel in the 1950s – recalling the inspired Annie Hall gag that Allen’s character, Alvy, grew up in a house under the resort’s rollercoaster. With Kate Winslet, Juno Temple and Justin Timberlake on board, Allen is clearly still able to attract major cast; but it just may not make the deadline.
Alexander Payne’s modus operandi tends to be wry, small-scale comedy-drama. His new film is small-scale in a different sense – it’s a sci-fi comedy about a man (Matt Damon) who decides to shrink himself. An intriguing outlier of a premise for Payne, and one you suspect that Cannes would love to get its hands on. The problem? It’s not released until December, suggesting that it would be more likely to premiere at a later festival. That said, his last film, 2013’s Nebraska, made its bow at that year’s festival before being released much later in the year, so there’s a small chance Downsizing might follow suit.
With five films completed so far this decade, Terrence Malick’s previously snail-like production pace has jolted into fast-forward. Having just debuted Song to Song in SXSW, the whispers are that he might have his next one ready to go this year. Filming of Radegund, a biopic of Austrian conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter, who was executed in 1943, was reported to have begun last year, so it’s theoretically possible that it could materialise on the Croisette. But Malick is a law unto himself, and even with his recent burst of speed it seems pretty optimistic Cannes will be able to grab this.
A TV show at Cannes? You’d imagine the festival’s organisers would sooner give Michael Bay the Palme D’or. But if they were going to make an exception, it might be for the sainted David Lynch. His Twin Peaks revival premieres on Showtime a few days into the festival, so an out-of-competition slot would be nicely timed, and could work well as a curtain raiser for the international TV festival the city is launching in 2018. On the other hand, the Twin Peaks film prequel, Fire Walk With Me, was loudly booed at the festival in 1992, so Lynch might determine that Cannes-goers aren’t really coffee and pie types.