Cannes: Strong U.S. Presence With Few Big Titles (Analysis)

Inside Out 2 H 2015
Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

Inside Out 2 H 2015

Warner Bros.' 'Mad Max: Fury Road and Pixar's 'Inside Out' are the only studio films in this year's lineup.

U.S. film, at least the art-house variety favored by the Cannes Festival, has returned in force for the 68th edition. The four U.S. titles in competition: Todd Haynes' Carol, Denis Villenueuve's Sicario, Joachim Trier's Louder Than Bombs and Gus van Sant's The Sea of Trees, mean the U.S. runs alongside host France, the best-represented nation in the 2015 race for the Palme d'Or. 

With U.S. directors Joel and Ethan Coen heading this year's competition jury, the abundant U.S. presence could be an auspicious sign for the American contingent. The last U.S. film to win the Palme d'Or was Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life back in 2011. It should be noted, however, that only two of America's four competition entries were directed by an American. Trier is Norwegian and Villenueuve is French Canadian.

Studio films rarely make the cut for Cannes competition but two big titles: Pixar's Inside Out from directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen and Warner Bros' apocalyptic actioner Mad Max: Fury Road will both enjoy out of competition world premieres on the Croisette. And Woody Allen will be making what seems like his annual trip to Cannes with Irrational Man, also screening out of competition.

There are a handful of titles that had been rumored to be Cannes-bound that didn't wind up on the final list. Those include F. Gary Gray's NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton and Brad Bird'Tomorrowland, though the films' studios, Universal and Disney respectively, apparently never intended to use Cannes as their launch pad. Warner Bros.' Midnight Special, the latest from Cannes regular Jeff Nichols (MudTake Shelter) and starring Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst and Adam Driver was heavily tipped for the 68th Cannes festival, as was Beasts of No Nation, a Netflix release directed by True Detective helmer Cary Fukunaga and starring Idris Elba. Expect both to show up in Venice or Toronto later this year.

There had been speculation that Warners’ Black Mass, which stars one-time France resident Johnny Depp as Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, and Relativity’s Jane Got a Gun (starring current France resident Natalie Portman) would also make the trek to the Croisette. Neither were likely contenders, however. Black Mass is still in post-production and doesn't open stateside until September. And even without Jane Got a Gun, Cannes will still get its Portman fix. The Oscar-winner will present her feature debut as a director, A Tale of Love and Darkness, in a special screening. The drama is based on the memoir of Israeli writer and journalist Amos Oz.  

The 2015 U.S. contingent is on par with similar showings of the past few years, with around half a dozen American titles, give or take, typically making the official cut both in and out of competition. A strong U.S. presence has become de rigueur in Cannes. It's a reflection both of the continued dominance of the American film industry worldwide — both studio and indie — and an acknowledgement of the drawing power of Hollywood stars.

The latter will be out in force on the festival's legendary red carpet, from Rooney Mara and (Australian-born) Cate Blanchett, who play two women who fall in love in 1950’s New York in Carol; to Matthew McConaughey as a suicidal American in Sea of Trees; to Louder Than Bombs stars Jesse Eisenberg and Rachel Brosnahan. The American A-listers expected at Cannes this year also include Sicario stars Emily Blunt and Josh BrolinInside Out voice talent Amy Poehler and Diane Lane; and Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, stars of Allen's Irrational Man.

There is also plenty of U.S. talent among the ostensibly international titles in Cannes this year. Jane Fonda, Paul Dano and Harvey Keitel have supporting roles in The Early Years, an English-language feature from Italian Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty). Animated feature The Little Prince is officially French but is helmed by Kung Fu Panda director Mark Osborne and features the voice talents of James Franco, Rachel McAdams and Jeff Bridges.