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Cannes 2015 Breakdown

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It’s time.

Time to see what’s going down on the Croisette this year.

Time to see what might the big names going into awards season.

Time to talk about Cannes, which is kicking off in two weeks’ time.

In Competition:

  • Opening Film (out of competition)La Tête Haute (Standing Tall) – Emmanuelle Bercot

According to Variety, this “follows the experience of a juvenile delinquent named Malony from ages 6 to 18, with (Catherine) Deneuve playing a judge trying to intervene”. Not the freshest premise, but the presence of Deneuve is intriguing. Bercot’s resume doesn’t seem to have a real breakout success, although a couple of her films look moderately interesting. I can’t get terribly excited for this, but who knows, it might be all right.

  • Dheepan (apparently a temporary title) – Jacques Audiard

From the IMDb: “the story of a Sri Lankan Tamil warrior who flees to France and ends up working as a caretaker outside Paris.” Now that’s at least an interesting premise, though there are a lot of unanswered questions–when does it take place, for one, and what tone is it going for, for another. I’ve never seen an Audiard film (I want to see A Prophet; I kind of want to see Rust & Bone), but his reputation is just strong enough to where I’m at least tentatively hopeful this could be worthwhile.

  • La Loi Du Marché (The Measure of a Man) – Stéphane Brizé

Translated (poorly) from the French: “After several months of unemployment, Thierry, 51, accepts a new job in a supermarket. Work to which he can not give up…but can we accept everything to keep his job?” Here’s a trailer (effectively sans subtitles):

Vincent Lindon looks like he’s doing a pretty good job. Otherwise…meh. The kind of film I doubt anyone will remember once the festival is over. I also don’t know Brizé or his films, so I’m going to guess this will go nowhere. I guess Best Actor isn’t out of the question, but that’s about it.

  • Marguerite et Julien – Valérie Donzelli

Now, Donzelli I know. Her Declaration of War was one of my Best Picture nominees in 2011. And her first film, The Queen of Hearts, was quite charming as well. So I’m already interested to see what we’ve got here. CinEuropa says:

Written by the director together with Jérémie Elkaïm, and based on the work by Jean Gruault, the story revolves around Julien and Marguerite de Ravalet, the son and daughter of the Lord of Tourlaville, who have had great affection for one another since they were children. But as they grow up, their tender love turns into an all-consuming passion. Their affair completely outrages society, which then hunts them down. Unable to fight against their feelings for each other, they are forced to run away…

This was based on a script that was written for Truffaut in the 70s which he never filmed. Sounds like a period piece, which is cool. Sounds like a decent story, which is better. And I trust Donzelli (though it’s too bad she isn’t in it, since I like her as an actress), so I have hopes for this one.

  • Chronic – Michel Franco

“A home care nurse works with terminally ill patients.” So saith IMDb.

Tim Roth stars, which could be good. The intriguingly named Bitsie Tulloch co-stars (she was in The Artist, apparently). I’ve vaguely heard of Franco’s After Lucia, but otherwise, this is pretty much an unknown quantity to me.

  • Il Racconto dei Racconti (Tale of Tales) – Matteo Garrone

This, of course, was profiled by me in my most recent Trailer Salad. It looks gorgeous, it looks interesting, it has a good cast, it’s by a director with a good reputation (he did the Mafia film Gomorrah, which I still need to see)…I’m just going to wait and see what the reviews are like, and hope they’re incredible, so I can look forward to this. Because I really want this to be awesome.

  • Carol – Todd Haynes

This, of course, is the lesbian drama starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara (who’s been kind of AWOL lately). This is already being mooted as an Oscar contender, given that it boasts a well-liked director, is adapted from a novel by a renowned author (Patricia Highsmith), is a period piece, and has a good cast (Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson are also in it). This could be this year’s Foxcatcher. I’d like to see a trailer before I really start forming any opinions, but I certainly hope it turns out well.

  • Nie Yin Niang (The Assassin) – Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Kung Fu Cinema says “based on an 8th-century legend of a girl who is kidnapped by nuns and as an adult woman uses illusion and martial arts skills to challenge the male world.” So far, so good.

To be fair, I’ve never seen any of Hou’s films, but he has a pretty strong reputation. I doubt this will win big (Best Director isn’t out of the question, but the Palme probably is), but it could be solidly worthwhile.

  • Shan He Gu Ren (Mountains May Depart) – Jia Zhang-Ke

For the director alone, I’m very excited. Zhang-Ke’s last film, A Touch of Sin, was my #3 film of 2013, won my Original Screenplay award (as it did at Cannes that year), and got Zhang-Ke a Best Director nomination. It was a brilliant film in every respect.

So now we’ve got his new film, described thus:

Mountains will span 30 years and take viewers from rural Shanxi province in the late 90s to a future Australia in 2025. It’s the coming of age story of a young girl, Tao’er, and follows her relationship with her son over the years as he emigrates to Australia with her ex-husband and acclimates to a different culture.

Another take:

Starring wife and muse Zhao Tao, it begins in the 1990s, the movie follows Tao and Dong, a young couple in love. Tao later leaves Dao to marry a wealthy mine owner. On his deathbed Dong meets Tao again; she is divorced and her son is exiled in Australia. The story jumps to Tao’s son in Australia in the year 2025. The only word of Chinese he still remembers is his mother’s name.

Okay, this sounds fucking great. Tao was incredible in Sin, and better still, it was apparently better received by the government censors than that film, which might just open the door for a submission to the Oscars. Assuming I get to see it this year, it could be a major contender for my awards.

  • Umimachi Diary (Our Little Sister) – Hirokazu Kore-eda

This is based on a manga, and is “the story of three sisters in their twenties who get to know their 14-year-old half-sister after meeting her for the first time at their father’s funeral.” Kore-eda is a relatively reputable director; After Life is apparently great, and his most recent film, Like Father, Like Son is apparently going to be remade by Spielberg. Not a bad pedigree. This looks decent enough. Probably not going to be a major contender, but we’ll see.

  • Macbeth – Justin Kurzel

It’s Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. It’s been a while since we’ve had a really major Shakespeare adaptation (maybe Coriolanus?), so I’m fairly excited, especially given the cast. Whether or not it justifies the effort remains to be seen, and it could end up being what I’ll call English-Class Shakespeare (I’m also not all that familiar with Kurzel or his work), but we’ll find out soon enough. If it goes over, we could be a looking at a solid Oscar contender.

  • The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos

I already discussed this in my first Most Anticipated Films list. To reiterate: “The Lobster is set in a dystopian near future where lonely people are obliged to find a matching mate within a 45-day period in a hotel. If they fail, they are transformed into animals and sent off into the woods. In that setting, one man escapes and finds love, despite the rules of the City.” And to reiterate the cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Ashley Jensen, Olivia Colman, and Ariane Labed.

So yeah, this ought to be awesome. I’ll be legitimately disappointed if it’s a letdown. I’d like to see a trailer, but otherwise I’m content to wait for this to hit theaters (and I’d be shocked if it didn’t, based on the cast alone).

  • Mon Roi – Maïwenn

Maïwenn won the Jury Prize in 2011 with Polisse (which I haven’t seen), so we’re in decent hands. All I’ve found about the story is “over the course of several years, the passionate and intricate love story of a couple with a child“. It stars Vincent Cassel, whom I generally like. It’s also the longest film in competition, at 130 minutes–this may be the shortest group of contenders ever, which is interesting since we’re coming off two consecutive lengthy Palme winners.

Until I have a better of what this is about, I can’t say much, but at least that first image is kind of cool.

  • Mia Madre – Nanni Moretti

Margherita, a director in the middle of an existential crisis, has to deal with the inevitable and still unacceptable loss of her mother.

Might cut a little close to the bone for me.

I’ve never seen anything by Moretti, and for a Cannes mainstay (and Palme winner), his body of work seems fairly forgettable (except maybe for Il Divo), so it’s hard for me to be too excited about this. John Turturro is in it, which is cool, but otherwise…I’ll hold off on caring.

  • Saul Fia (Son of Saul) – Lázsló Nemes

First time director!

In the horror of 1944 Auschwitz, a prisoner forced to burn the corpses of his own people finds moral survival upon trying to salvage from the flames the body of a boy he takes for his son.

So it’s a Holocaust drama.

I get the importance of continuing to make films about the Holocaust (especially as anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe), but on a cinematic level, it’s hard for me to be terribly excited about this. It is a somewhat novel premise (possibly taking the little girl in the red coat from Schindler’s List as an inspiration), but I’m definitely going to wait for reviews on this one.

  • Valley of Love – Guillaume Nicloux

It tells the story of two famous actors who used to be a couple and had a son 25 years ago. They reunite after the son’s death, and receive a letter asking them to visit five places at Death Valley, which will make the son reappear.

With Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert.

Nicloux is coming off an interesting-sounding film, The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, which made John Water’s Top 10 list last year. This could be compelling, or it could be pretentious as hell–I really don’t know. Depardieu’s presence could be a good sign (I really want to see Welcome to New York), or it could not be (he’s not exactly at the height of his career). Huppert’s doing fine, though.

Really don’t know what to expect from this. I’m intrigued, no doubt, but I’m not going to be shocked if it falls flat.

  • Youth – Paolo Sorrentino

Like I said in my last Trailer Salad, I didn’t really love The Great Beauty (it just…didn’t say much of anything to me), but this might be a step up. It certainly has a solid cast, and Sorrentino has a pretty damn good reputation. Honestly, this might have an outside shot at the Palme. I’m really not sure what will win, actually. There’s nothing that jumps out as the frontrunner.

Here’s the premise:

Fred and Mick, two old friends, are on vacation in an elegant hotel at the foot of the Alps. Fred, a composer and conductor, is now retired. Mick, a film director, is still working. They look with curiosity and tenderness on their children’s confused lives, Mick(‘)s enthusiastic young writers, and the other hotel guests. While Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred has no intention of resuming his musical career. But someone wants at all costs to hear him conduct again.

All right, then.

  • Louder Than Bombs – Joachim Trier (Lars’ cousin)

Trier previously made Oslo, August 31st, which a lot of people thought highly of. I thought it was solid, but (possibly by design) too detached to really grip me. And now he’s making his Anglophone debut, which…European directors making Anglophone films can work brilliantly (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) or disastrously (It’s All About Love). The premise:

The film tells the story of a famous war photographer (Huppert) who is killed in a car accident, leaving behind her husband (Byrne) and two sons, one a teenager. Three years after her death, the eldest son (Eisenberg) comes home for an exhibition of her photography, and that is when they discover an unsettling secret from her past.

It’s got a good cast: Isabelle Huppert (maybe she’ll win Actress this year?), Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne, Amy Ryan, and David Strathairn. Not too crazy about the premise (though it’s apparently a passion project), but as always, we shall see.

  • Sea of Trees – Gus Van Sant

A story about an American man who travels to the “Suicide Forest” (Aokigahara forest) to kill himself at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, the site of numerous suicides. There he encounters a Japanese man, who wants to kill himself as well and then both men begin a journey of self-reflection and survival.

Van Sant is kind of a hit and miss director, and this could really go either way. If it focuses on the inherent darkness of the situation, it could be pretty powerful. If it tries too hard to be “inspirational”…it could be pretty awful. Now, it does star Matthew McConaughey (who I’ve come to like) and Ken Watanabe (who’s just awesome) and Naomi Watts (doesn’t always choose the best material, but she’s usually good), and that gets my hopes up somewhat, but I’m hedging my bets here.

  • Sicario – Denis Villeneuve

To refresh your memory, here are Villeneuve’s last two films: Prisoners (one of my favorite films of 2013) and Enemy (which was incredible). So I’m already on board with this.

A young female FBI agent joins a secret CIA operation to take down a Mexican cartel boss, a job that ends up pushing her ethical and moral values to the limit.

Not the most original premise in the world, but at this point, I trust Villeneuve. And the cast has Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, and Jon Bernthal–yeah, I’m pretty fucking excited for this. Oh, and Roger Deakins is the cinematographer. In case this wasn’t already headed for my 5th film awards with a vengeance.

So what’s gonna win the Palme? I really have no idea. I’m going to officially guess Mountains May Depart, but until the reviews start coming in, it’s pretty much up in the air. Hell, I remember when a friend was convinced Jimmy’s Hall would win it. And…ever heard of Jimmy’s Hall? Exactly.

I’ll update this soon with the Un Certain Regard and other screenings.

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