Cannes Competition Snubs U.K. Directors

Cannes La TĂȘte Haute - H 2015

Cannes La Tête Haute - H 2015

A U.K. film by a Greek director did, however, make the competition, while a Brit-directed Amy Winehouse doc will get a special screening.

Despite Cannes favorites Ken Loach and Mike Leigh having screened their latest projects at the 2014 festival, there was hope for a decent U.K. presence at this year’s trip to the Croisette, with a handful of hotly-anticipated films looking likely to make the grade.

But when the lineup announcement came on Thursday, just one title listed as representing the U.K. found its way into the festival's core competition and Un Certain Regard sections. Its director? Greek.

Yorgos LanthimosThe Lobster – an intriguing dystopian drama about singletons who must find a mate or else transform into animals, and actually a U.K./Irish/French/Greek/Dutch co-production – was among the early hopefuls to stake out a festival spot. And its all-star ensemble of Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Lea Seydoux and John C. Reilly will certainly be welcome red carpet additions.

But many pundits had thought Icon, the potentially headline-spinning Lance Armstrong biopic from former Cannes jury president Stephen Frears, would have been on the list, while Ben Wheatley’s Tom Hiddleston-starring High-Rise had also been hotly tipped to make the Cannes cut, a further chance to underline the director's growing status as one of the U.K.'s hottest talents. 

The only British director mentioned Thursday was Asif Kapadia, whose Amy Winehouse documentary Amy will get a spot in Cannes' Midnight Screenings.

Festival head Thierry Fremaux said Thursday that a few more titles would be added later, including in the competition, which could provide a chance for British fare.

While festival goers may have to get the lowdown on High-Rise another time, Film4, the film arm of the U.K.’s Channel 4 that financially backed the project, celebrated a record four films in the selection. Alongside The Lobster, it saw Carol, Macbeth and Youth pulled out of the hat. David Kosse, the former Universal Pictures international chief who took charge of Film4 in November, described it as a "very special year" for the company.

But despite Film4’s backing and some heavy British talent involved, due the vagaries of Cannes' classification system, the Michael Fassbender-led Macbeth – produced by the U.K. outfit behind The King's Speech, SeeSaw – is down as an Australian film via its director Justin Kurzel, while Todd HaynesCarol is stated as U.S. and Paolo Sorrentino's Youth, of course, represents Italy.

“No, I don’t see that many British films in selection,” agreed Fremaux at the lineup press conference. “But they’re good films.”

Having revealed that there were a couple more titles yet to be announced, perhaps this use of the plural was Fremaux' way of hinting that The Lobster will not be the U.K.'s solitary flagbearer, and that there may be a chance yet for a British director to battle for the Palme d'Or. Or maybe not.