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With the Cannes Film Festival back on the calendar after last year’s pandemic-enforced hiatus, what competition titles shouldn’t be missed?
Here is a look at some potential highlights in a main lineup stacked with art house A-listers.
Director Leos Carax
Nine years after Holy Motors, his crazy, darkly comic kaleidoscope of an actor’s existence, France’s punk poet of love both ecstatic and doomed returns with an English-language debut that takes him into the most romantic of genres, the movie musical. Adam Driver plays a stand-up comic married to Marion Cotillard’s famed opera singer in a story that revolves around their surprisingly gifted daughter. The original screenplay, music and songs are by brothers Ron and Russell Mael of the art-pop band Sparks, recently celebrated in Edgar Wright’s comprehensive documentary.
Director Paul Verhoeven
The Dutch provocateur has shaken off the creative shackles of his Hollywood years with a reinvigorating return to European stories and settings in the 2000s, first with World War II thriller Black Book and then rape revenge psycho-drama Elle, which handed Isabelle Huppert one of the most memorable roles of her career. The director has always been known for his frank treatment of sexuality, and this latest, starring Virginie Efira and Charlotte Rampling, explores the life of a lesbian nun in Renaissance Italy.
Director Mia Hansen-Løve
The director of another superlative showcase for Isabelle Huppert, Things to Come, this time casts Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps as a filmmaker couple seeking inspiration during a summer retreat to the Swedish island that served that function for Ingmar Bergman. But their pilgrimage causes lines to blur between reality and fiction in a drama that also stars Mia Wasikowska.
Compartment No. 6
Director Juho Kuosmanen
The Finnish director’s idiosyncratic 2016 black-and-white boxing drama, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, was among that year’s most bracingly original debuts, earning the top prize in Un Certain Regard. He graduates to the main competition with this adaptation of Rosa Liksom’s 2011 novel about a woman traveling by train to Moscow in the dying days of the Soviet Union, and the eruption into her solitude of a Russian former soldier whose lurid stories throw open a whole world beyond her experience.
Everything Went Fine
Director François Ozon
The prolific longtime Cannes regular reunites with writer Emmanuèle Bernheim, his collaborator on Swimming Pool and 5×2, for this drama about an 85-year-old man who summons his daughter to his bedside after being left semi-paralyzed by a major stroke, asking her to help end his life. Sophie Marceau, André Dussollier, Charlotte Rampling and Hanna Schygulla star.
The French Dispatch
Director Wes Anderson
Back on the Croisette almost a decade after Moonrise Kingdom, American film’s most elegant artisan assembles a heavyweight ensemble — Timothée Chalamet, Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Saoirse Ronan and Bill Murray among them — in a comedy-drama spinning three stories published out of the French foreign bureau (in the whimsically named town of Ennui-sur-Blasé) of a fictional Kansas newspaper preparing its final issue.
Director Asghar Farhadi
The Oscar-winning Iranian director behind A Separation, The Salesman and The Past received a more muted reception than usual for his 2019 foray into international mystery, Everybody Knows. Plot details of his new Farsi-language film are being kept under wraps, though the suspenseful narrative does appear to be a return to the home turf of the exquisitely intimate domestic dramas of internal family conflict that put him on the map.
Director Apitchatpong Weerasethakul
The contemplative cinema maestro who won the Palme d’Or in 2010 for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives takes on his first English-language project. The ever-adventurous Tilda Swinton plays a woman traveling in Colombia investigating the origins of a strange sound that startles her in a mood piece that promises to continue the director’s fascination with dreams and nature.
Director Justin Kurzel
The Australian director follows his iconoclastic punk outlaw Western, True History of the Kelly Gang, with what promises to be a raw account of the worst mass shooting in the country’s history. Caleb Landry Jones, Anthony LaPaglia, Essie Davis and Judy Davis star in this examination of events leading to the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre in Tasmania, which caused 35 deaths and prompted an immediate tightening of national gun-control laws.
Director Sean Baker
The distinctive indie director who scored breakout attention with his scrappy underclass odysseys Tangerine and The Florida Project has used the porn industry as a narrative backdrop before, in his 2012 drama Starlet. His latest work is described as a darkly funny but humane portrait of a uniquely American hustler, starring Simon Rex as a washed-up adult film star returning to a small Texas hometown that barely tolerates him.
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