After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, the Cannes Film Festival returns to its traditional venue for a 75th anniversary edition packed with celebrated authors and Hollywood stars, including Tom Cruise. Opening on Tuesday, May 17, in the shadow of the war in Ukraine, the French Riviera event promises to balance nostalgic odes to icons of cinema’s past with pressing questions about our troubled times.
The main cinematographic showcase in the world hopes to return to normal after the pandemic forced it not to attend in 2020 and to reduce the July edition of the following year. Inevitably, the war raging in Ukraine will weigh heavily on the proceedings, framing the conversation just as it influenced the movie schedule.
This year there will be no mandatory masks, health passes, or restrictions on the party. However, the continent’s biggest armed conflict since World War II will likely see cinema’s most lavish showcase opt for unusually sober celebrations, even as it celebrates its diamond jubilee.
For the host country, Cannes is a respite in an intensely politicized year, sandwiched between presidential and parliamentary elections, themselves overshadowed by the Russian invasion. But there will be no shortage of political material on the big screen, with war, migration, feminist struggles and the climate emergency high on the filmmakers’ agenda.
And thank goodness, because the president of this year’s jury, Vincent Lindon, a French actor known for his politically charged roles, has already stated his preference for “films that tell us something about the world in which they are made”.
in the shadow of war
In a sign of how much the war in Ukraine will weigh on the festival, French director Michel Hazanavicius has agreed to change the name of his inaugural film – a zombie festival initially titled ‘Z’ in French, now called ‘Coupez! ‘ – to avoid any association with the Russian military.
As elsewhere, Cannes organizers have banned Russians linked to Vladimir Putin’s government from entering the festival. But they have resisted calls for a blanket boycott of Russian artists, hosting prominent Kremlin dissident Kirill Serebrennikov for the third time in the competition.
After being absent twice due to travel bans imposed by Moscow, the director, now in exile, will finally step on the red carpet on Wednesday, May 18, with his latest feature film, ‘Tchaikovsky’s Woman’.
Ukraine will be represented by Cannes stalwart Sergei Losnitza, whose latest documentary explores the destruction of German cities during World War II. In the new talent-focused ‘Un Certain Regard’ section, Maksim Nakonechnyi’s timely ‘Butterfly Vision’ will examine the ordeal of a Ukrainian soldier dealing with her experiences as a prisoner of Russian-backed rebels in the region of the Donbass.
Veterans, Rookies and Tom Cruise
The Cannes Festival, a bastion of auteur cinema and the most glamorous in the world, always has to find a balance between the cult of authors, the power of Hollywood stars, and between devotion to the past and the turn towards the future. This year he bet on having many stars on the red carpet and an intriguing mix of veterans and rookies.
In the Palme d’Or, four of the winners in the past return to the Riviera in search of more prizes: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Ruben Ostlund, Cristian Mungiu and the Dardenne brothers, two-time winners. Other regulars include Park Chan-wook and David Cronenberg, both Grand Jury Prize winners, along with James Gray, Arnaud Desplechin and 84-year-old veteran Jerzy Skolimowski, who first competed at Cannes in 1972.
Last year, France’s Julia Ducournau became the second woman to win a Palme d’Or with her daring ‘Titane’, starring Lindon. This year, there are five films directed by women in the competition for the Palme, a record for Cannes, but still a low percentage compared to other international festivals.
Among them is a trio of French directors led by the iconoclastic Claire Denis, who has just won the award for best director in Berlin (Germany). American director Kelly Reichardt will finally get her first shot at the Palme, reuniting with her favorite muse, Michelle Williams, in a self-reflective look at a small-town artist trying to overcome distractions.
Beyond the Palme d’Or, Cannes will host more Hollywood stars than in previous years, starting with the sequel to Joseph Kosinski’s ‘Top Gun’, which has been delayed due to the pandemic and stars Tom Cruise in the role given to him. launched to global stardom 36 years ago. Cruise will step onto the carpet for the first time in three decades and sit down to be interviewed about his career.
Baz Luhrmann brings his splendid biopic of ‘Elvis’, starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks, while George Miller, present for the last time at Cannes with ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, premieres a fantastic epic starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton .
Ethan Coen will release his first film without his brother Joel, a documentary about the legend of Rock And Roll Jerry Lee Lewis. And actor and director Ethan Hawke adds to the nostalgic atmosphere of the fortnight with a series about Hollywood’s golden couple, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.
The much-heralded return of the big stars of ‘Tinseltown’ is great news for Cannes, as the world’s leading film festival is as much about glamor as it is about movies. It’s also an economic boost for this coastal city of 74,000, which triples its population for two weeks each May.
In addition to the usual spectators, the festival will attract some 35,000 accredited professionals to the Riviera, almost twice as many as last year, but still below pre-Covid-19 levels, as concerns about the pandemic prevented some delegates from assist. “Asia has not traveled again,” festival director Thierry Frémaux said, pointing to travel restrictions in China and other countries.
However, there will be a significant contingent from India, which is this year’s guest of honor at the Cannes Film Market, which runs in parallel to the festival. The Middle East and Arab countries will also feature prominently, including in the race for the Palme d’Or, with Tarek Ali’s latest Cairo-set thriller as well as Iranian dramas from Saeed Roustayi and Ali Abbasi, whose thrilling ‘Border ‘ won the ‘Un Certain Regard’ section four years ago.
With “only” four films nominated, the French contingent in the race for the Palme d’Or has been halved compared to last year, when eight of the 24 films in competition came from France. However, the country of origin represents just under a quarter of the global selection, with films by Olivier Assayas, Quentin Dupieux and Rachid Bouchareb showing their latest works out of competition.
French directors will kick off Tuesday, kicking off with a rare screening of Jean Eustache’s iconic love triangle “The Mother and the Whore,” half a century after it sparked a storm on the Croisette. Hazanavicius’ homage to B-series horror movies will open the curtain, in an echo of Jim Jarmusch’s zombie festival that opened the last “normal” edition of the festival in 2019, in the pre-Covid era.
*Adapted from its original French version
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