Cannes: The Buzz Films That Won't Be at the Festival

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Still 1 - Publicity - H 2019
Andrew Cooper

There will likely be no Quentin Tarantino on the Croisette, even though the festival says his latest film could still make the cut if the director finishes it soon, with high-profile omissions from the lineup including Ari Aster's 'Midsommar,' Benh Zeitlin's 'Wendy' and Hirokazu Kore-eda's 'The Truth.'

Cannes, once the undisputed heavyweight champion of international film festivals, has been on the ropes of late. 

Last year's lineup included some impressive titles — Palme d'Or winner Shoplifters and Alice Rohrwacher's Happy as Lazzaro were two standouts — but the buzz and awards attention were elsewhere, thanks in part to the festival's ongoing spat with Netflix, which sent Alfonso Cuaron's Roma to Venice for its world premiere.

Netflix is skipping Cannes again this year, so the French festival will have to do without such potential awards contenders as Martin Scorsese's mob epic The Irishman, Meryl Streep-starrer The Laundromat from director Steven Soderbergh, and Noah Baumbach’s period drama The King, starring Timothee Chalamet. 

But Netflix's absence was expected. More surprising were the high-profile omissions from the 2019 lineup that many had predicted were sure things for the Croisette this year. 

Top of the list is Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, which looked like a lock for the 72nd edition of the Cannes festival. But the feature — which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Timothy Olyphant — wasn't ready in time, the festival said Thursday. Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux said the postproduction on the film, which Tarantino shot in traditional 35 mm, has been particularly time-consuming and he was “in a sprint” to finish it in time for its scheduled release this summer. Fremaux did hold out a smidgen of hope that the movie could still be a late addition to Cannes, should it be ready before the festival kicks off on May 14.

Another surprising absence this year is The Truth, Hirokazu Kore-eda's follow-up to Shoplifters, which won Cannes' Palme d'Or just last year. Sources near the Japanese filmmaker said Kore-eda had been angling for a Cannes opening- night slot — the film is his first feature shot outside Japan and features French stars Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. Cannes said the movie was not ready in time. The Truth will now likely premiere in Venice instead.

One Cannes regular who won't be making the trip this year is James Gray, whose Ad Astra was not among the 19 competition titles announced Thursday. The American auteur has bowed four of his past five films in Cannes and, with Fox setting a May 24 release date for his new sci-fi picture starring Brad Pitt and Ruth Negga, most expected Ad Astra to touch down on the Croisette. It was not to be.

Ad Astra was just one of several hotly-anticipated U.S. features that were tipped for Cannes, but will be missing the fest. Midsommar, Ari Aster's follow-up to Hereditary, will not be scaring folks on the French Rivera this year. Fans of Benh Zeitlin's Beasts of the Southern Wild will have to wait a bit longer for his second feature, Wendy, about two children from different worlds stranded on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued. And First Cow, indie film heroine Kelly Reichardt's adaptation of Jonathan Raymond’s The Half-Life: A Novel, a period drama set in the 1820s Pacific Northwest, will also not be making the trek to Cannes.

Fans of Justin Kurzel — many of whom discovered him in Cannes, where he premiered both The Snowtown Murders and Macbeth — hoped the Australian director would return to the festival with The True History of the Kelly Gang, an adaptation of the Peter Carey book starring Russell Crowe, Nicholas Hoult and Charlie Hunnam. But the film didn't make the 2019 cut. Perhaps the movie is a bit too mainstream for Cannes' liking. Or maybe the festival is still recovering from Kurzel's video-game adaptation Assassin Creed.

On a more serious note, Zhang Yimou's One Second will also not screen in Cannes. The drama was slated to premiere at the Berlin Film Festival before being ignominiously yanked at the last minute, officially for “technical reasons.” It is widely assumed Chinese censors have blocked the movie, which is set during the politically sensitive period of China's Cultural Revolution. There had been hope that a version of the film would be available for Cannes. Now it is unclear if the movie will be seen at all.