The most prestigious international film festival is upon us. From May 17-28, the French Riviera will host some of the greatest film talent working today. Here is an inside look at some of the most anticipated world premieres of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, from the directors and actors whose past work promise more greatness.
With the premiere of “Happy End,” his first feature in five years, Michael Haneke has a chance to make history as the first director to win the coveted Palme D’Or three times. Haneke has previously won for “Amour” in 2012 and “The White Ribbon” in 2009, making him one among an exclusive group of nine filmmakers who have won the top prize twice. “Happy End” stars his regular collaborator Isabelle Huppert, France’s crown jewel of actresses. It circles the refugee crisis in Europe; however, like most of his films, it focuses on the white middle class’s willed alienation from history and the wider consequences of their privilege and (in)actions.
Meanwhile, the daughter of iconic filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola has made a distinct name for herself as an acutely observant and stylishly understated writer-director. “The Beguiled” is a remake of the Clint Eastwood 1971 film, but this time with a woman behind the camera and a likely more feminized and ethereal approach—Coppola’s signatures. The cast is topnotch, with Nicole Kidman leading the way alongside Coppola regular Kirsten Dunst (who has been exceptional over the last decade, particularly in TV’s “Fargo” and von Trier’s epic “Melancholia”) and Elle Fanning, another Coppola regular with tremendous talent. Adding to the great promise of the cast is Colin Farrell, as the man who is punished for disrupting this female-dominated domestic bubble and is heard screaming out in the trailer: “You vengeful bitches!”
Switching gears, the Safdie brothers are known for their quietly gorgeous indie fare but with “Good Time,” they finally, deservedly, step into the brighter spotlight of an international film festival. Brothers Benny and Josh are this time working with established actors: the two beautiful weirdoes Robert Pattison and Jennifer Jason Leigh. They are joined by Barkhad Abdi, who made an astonishing debut in “Captain Phillips.” Both Pattison and Leigh started young in more mainstream roles but have proven their remarkable skills in smaller, wonderfully bizarre films. Another promising sign: it is being distributed by A24, known for “Moonlight,” “The Witch,” and other gems.
Meanwhile, Yorgos Lanthimos has been on the festival radar now for several years, always with surprising, striking films. His English debut, last year’s “The Lobster,” was hysterical and moving, thrilling and somber. It brought out the best of its lead Colin Farrell, who is back in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” this time with the consistently brilliant Nicole Kidman (most recently astounding in HBO’s “Big Little Lies”). “Clueless” star Alicia Silverstone will also appear in what could be a surprising comeback role. Expect biting dark humor and oddly tantalizing discomfort.
The great Boon Joon-ho made his English debut with “Snowpiercer” and is back with the New York-set action picture “Okja.” Tilda Swinton returns, this time joined by the talented Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano. While the cast is largely white, its lead will be Ahn Seo-hyun, a thirteen-year-old South Korean actress who has impressively already acted in a past Cannes selection “The Housemaid.” The film will follow her character’s efforts to protect the title animal—a giant CGI creature and her best friend—from the dangerous grip of a monstrous corporation. “Okja” was produced by Plan B, the Brad Pitt-owned company responsible for three recent Oscar winners, and Netflix, which will stream the film starting in June.
Finally, in 2015, director Sean Baker gave us the wonderful, hysterical “Tangerine,” which boldly proved that shooting a feature entirely on an iPhone was no barrier to making one of the year’s best films. If he could make that marvel with an iPhone, imagine the possibilities of his eye behind a 35mm camera. Baker will again work mostly with first-time actors, one of whom he found on social media, but has also cast a well-known name: the great Willem Dafoe.
Other promising films include veteran Claire Denis’s “Un beau soleil intérieur,” with Juliette Binoche and Gérard Depardieu. “Force Majeure” director Ruben Östlund is premiering “The Square,” starring Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West. Winner of the Cinéfondation prize at Cannes for Best Student Film, Iran-born Anahita Ghazvinizadeh is showing her feature debut “They.” Also premiering is her once-teacher, the master Abbas Kiarostami’s last film “24 Frames,” a collection of shorts.
Photo Credit: Les Films du Losange