It’s back to business as usual for the main competition contenders at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, with programmer Thierry Fremaux re-inviting a number of auteurs who have appeared in the line-up of years past. While we see the shifting of some past competitors into the sidebars (Polanski and Desplechin at the Lumiere but out of competition, Michel Franco and Bruno Dumont booted to the UCR and Quinzaine, etc.), only five new names make their first entry into the competition, two of these belonging to Netflix, which has caused quite a ripple of discord within France, (even causing a new rule to be engaged by Cannes).
As of 2018, all films competing must also play theatrically in France, which sparked rumors of uncertainty about Bong Joon-ho’s Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories potentially being pulled from the program (which the festival quickly shot down with an official press release). Joon-ho last appeared in UCR with 2009’s Mother, so this distinction is overdue for the South Korean auteur. Joining them for the competition debuts are the Safdie Bros. with Robert Pattinson headlined Good Time and Robin Campillo with 120 BPM starring Adele Haenel. Ruben Ostlund also makes a deserved entry in the comp with his latest, the English language The Square.
The only previous winner in contention is two time victor Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, 2009; Amour, 2012), reuniting with Isabelle Huppert for the fourth time on Happy End (if either of them pick up an award for their work here, they will create a new record for Palme d’Or or Best Actress wins). Three women are included in this year’s line-up, all who have been invited in the past, Sofia Coppola with The Beguiled (she was last programmed as the UCR opener with The Bling Ring) and Naomi Kawase with Radiance (who opened UCR in 2015 with Sweet Bean). The festival also marks the return of Lynne Ramsay with You Were Never Really Here, after a six year break since 2011’s We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Russian language titles Loveless from Andrey Zvyagintsev and A Gentle Creature from Sergei Loznitsa will go head to head (the latter is a Dostoevsky adaptation last mounted by Robert Bresson), and Fatih Akin returns with In the Fade, a rare German language entry and his second comp entry following 2007’s The Edge of Heaven (after much anguish following 2014’s The Cut being locked out).
Francois Ozon is on hand with new erotic thriller Double Lover (he last competed in 2013 with Young and Beautiful, and usually premieres in Venice), while Michel Hazanavicius (invited back after 2014’s dismal The Search) with Redoubtable. Jacques Doillon (who last competed in Cannes over thirty years ago with 1984’s La Pirate) wins a surprise entry with Rodin as one of the prestigious French language slots.
Hungary’s Kornel Mundruczo, who picked up the UCR prize in 2014 for White God, is back for his third time in competition with Jupiter’s Moon, and South Korea’s Hong Sang-soo is back for his second Cannes competitor The Day After (his Isabelle Huppert starrer Claire’s Camera is screening out of competition as well). And rounding out the list are two intriguing English language titles from Todd Haynes (Wonderstruck) and Yorgos Lanthimos (The Killing of a Sacred Deer), who were both on the Croisette in 2015 with Carol and The Lobster respectively.
Here’s a look at our top 5 most anticipated items from the 2017 competition:
5. The Square – Dir. Ruben Ostlund
Sweden’s Ruben Ostlund breaks into the main comp with The Square, which stars Elisabeth Moss and concerns the titular city space where people gather and apparently have free reign to do whatever they want in a sort of no rule zone. In line with Ostlund’s filmography of challenging and examining generally accepted social norms, he returns to the fest after premiering 2014’s Force Majeure in Un Certain Regard.
4. You Were Never Really Here – Dir. Lynne Ramsay
Scottish auteur Lynne Ramsay breaks a six year hiatus with You Were Never Really Here based on the Jonathan Ames novel about a war veteran who tries to save a young woman from a sex trafficking ring. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, this sounds reminiscent of Paul Schrader’s seminal Hardcore (1979).
3. The Day After – Dir. Hong Sang-soo
2017 is something of a watershed year for South Korea’s Hong Sang-soo. Having competed in Berlin with On the Beach at Night Alone (which won Best Actress for Kim Min-hee), Sang-soo debuts two more films in the Cannes program, notably making a second entrance into the main comp (where he landed in 2012 with In Another Country) with The Day After, a black and white drama about a wife confronting the wrong woman she believes to be her husband’s lover after discovering an amorous note.
2. Loveless – Dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev
With his fifth film Loveless, Russian auteur Andrey Zyvagintsev will mark his third time in competition (2007’s The Banishment picked up Best Actor, 2014’s Leviathan won Best Screenplay, and 2011’s Elena won the Special Jury Prize out of Un Certain Regard). His latest returns to the realm of the domestic sphere as it focuses on a couple going through a divorce forced to search for their son who disappeared following a dramatic dispute.
1. Happy End – Dir. Michael Haneke
Two time Palme d’Or winner Michael Haneke may have his naysayers, but there’s no arguing his merits as one of cinema’s greatest contemporary auteurs. A master of the austere, he returns to the competition for the seventh time with Happy End, reuniting him with Huppert in a drama concerned with as privileged family framed by the ongoing European refugee crisis. With the exception of 1997’s volatile Funny Games, Haneke has not left the Croisette empty-handed.