- By Charles Ealy Special to the American-Statesman
The annual celebration of high-art aesthetics, Hollywood glamour and commercial vulgarism resumes May 17 with the kickoff of the Cannes Film Festival in the south of France. And since it’s the 70th anniversary, the organizers have made sure we have plenty to debate, anticipate and snicker about.
Cannes always has its snickering moments, especially with the absurdist goings-on along the Croisette, the main boulevard along the coast, where chiseled men and curvy women strut their stuff in the street while wearing little to nothing and Louis XIV-style mimes hustle for change by getting their white cats to do tricks.
But there’s always some snickering inside the theaters, too, as was evident when Vincent Gallo premiered his ridiculous “The Brown Bunny” in 2003, and when Gus Van Sant debuted his sappy “The Sea of Trees,” starring Austin’s Matthew McConaughey, in 2015.
It’s too early to predict this year’s top snickers, but there’s already plenty to anticipate and debate.
First up is what Vanity Fair is calling the “Kidmanaissance!” That’s right, actress Nicole Kidman has four projects premiering at this year’s festival.
Along with Colin Farrell and Alicia Silverstone, Kidman stars in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” and not much is known about the project other than it takes place at a medical convention banquet. But it’s from Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed the absurdist “The Lobster” and the very disturbing “Dogtooth.”
Kidman also teams up with Farrell again in “The Beguiled,” a Southern gothic tale about a Civil War soldier who is taken in by a group of sheltered Southern women, including Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. Things get a bit crazy. It’s directed by Sofia Coppola.
John Cameron Mitchell of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” directs Kidman and Fanning in “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” based on the Neil Gaiman story. The science-fiction tale focuses on a young woman who’s touring the galaxy and breaks away from her group to visit the dangerous London suburb of Croydon.
And Kidman will also be in Cannes to promote the second season of the TV series “Top of the Lake,” directed by New Zealand’s Jane Campion.
While Kidman will be busy, she’s not necessarily the buzziest celebrity in Cannes this year.
Director Roman Polanksi, who’s still trying to get permission to come back to the States after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old about 40 years ago, will bring his latest movie to the Riviera: “Based on a True Story.” It’s a thriller about a writer and an admirer who becomes obsessive. It stars Eva Green, Emmanuelle Seigner and Vincent Perez.
U.S. director David Lynch, who was once a regular in Cannes, will return to the festival with the first two episodes of his revived TV series “Twin Peaks,” which will debut in the States on Showtime on May 21. He’s reuniting much of the original cast, with a few additions, including Laura Dern, Naomi Watts and Jennifer Jason Leigh. If that doesn’t the get attention of the paparazzi, nothing will.
Joaquin Phoenix stars in director Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here.” Phoenix plays a war veteran who tries to save a girl from a sex-trafficking ring, but things go very wrong. Ramsay, who’s from Scotland, is best known for “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and “Morvern Callar.”
Julianne Moore returns to the festival with one of her favorite directors, Todd Haynes, for “Wonderstruck.” It’s based on the book by Brian Selznick and co-stars Michelle Williams and Amy Hargreaves.
Other big names in Cannes for the 70th anniversary are Adam Sandler, starring in Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories,” and Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal in Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja.”
Since France is just coming off a bitterly contested election, it’s probably not surprising that politics will play a big role this year. And, no, the political debate isn’t about U.S. President Donald Trump, although there will be a bit of that, for sure. Instead, it focuses on the current refugee and immigration crisis facing Europe and other nations.
In what is sure to be one of the most interesting political movies, Isabelle Huppert will star in director Michael Haneke’s “Happy End.” And if you’re familiar with the German director, you know that he doesn’t make feel-good, happy films. His latest deals with the migrant crisis, but not from the inside. Rather, he turns his sharply critical eye to family members who want to shield their eyes from what’s going on even though they live near a refugee camp.
Vanessa Redgrave, who rarely turns away from a political dust-up, premieres her new documentary, “Sea Sorrow,” which focuses on people who are trying to help refugees in Europe. She has said she began working on the film after seeing the famous photo of a dead Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach in 2015.
“Jupiter’s Moon,” from Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo, will take an allegorical look at the migrant situation through the fictional eyes of a migrant who discovers he can levitate. Arthouse lovers will remember Mundruczo as the man behind 2014’s “White God,” which dealt with a revolt by mistreated dogs on the streets of Budapest.
Then there’s “Out,” from Slovakia’s Gyorgy Kristof. It deals with migrant workers in Europe and their plight by focusing on a 50-something worker who leaves home to work on a ship-building project in Latvia but faces a series of setbacks.
Alejandro G. Inarritu, who directed the Oscar-winning “The Revenant,” will debut a virtual reality film/installation titled “Carne y Arena,” photographed by Emmanuel Lubezki. The short, which translates to “Virtually Present, Physically Invisible,” explores the experiences of refugees and seeks to blur the lines between subject and bystander. But it’s not about the European crisis. Rather, it focuses on Central American refugees and their trips through Mexico to the United States.
It wouldn’t be Cannes without an environmental movie. This year, it’s “An Inconvenient Sequel,” directed by Bonni Cohen and John Shenk. It’s the follow-up to 2006’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” the Al Gore documentary that helped bring the issue of climate change to the forefront of political discussions.
One of this year’s possibly biggest movies isn’t even playing in competition for the Palme d’Or. It’s called “Wind River,” directed by Taylor Sheridan, the screenwriter for 2016’s “Hell or High Water,” which also didn’t play in competition but ended up with several Oscar nominations. It’s about an FBI investigation into a murder on Native American land and stars Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner.
And there will be plenty of art films. This year’s entries include “Le Redoubtable,” directed by Michel Hazanavicius (“The Artist”); “Loveless,” by Andrey Avyagintsev (“Leviathan”); “In the Fade,” by Fatih Akin; “Good Time,” by Benny and Josh Safdie; “L’amant Double,” by Francois Ozon; “A Gentle Creature,” by Sergei Loznitsa; “Hikari (Radiance),” by Naomi Kawase; “Geu-Hu (The Day After),” by Hong Sangsoo; and “120 Battlements Par Minute,” by Robin Campillo.
As usual, some of these films won’t ever debut in the United States. Then again, that’s why Cannes is important to lovers of film.