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Cannes 2008: Main Competition Predictions

It’s that time of year again.

The most prestigious of film festivals is getting set for the final set list for the 61st edition. With an added one week delay, the announcement will now be made on the 23rd, I have a feeling that producers and studios are having a successful time at pleading their cases for a spot among the 24 or so selected pictures to be featured in the main competition category. As unfinished film reels and frantic filmmakers are pleading their cases and making last ditch efforts to Gilles Jacob, Catherine Démier and Thierry Frémaux, I’m commencing my anticipation for what might be among my daily grind for the 12 days I’ll be at the fest. 

Many of my predictions have been highlighted/mentioned in the trades (both Screen Daily and The Hollywood Reporter have been taking stabs at the potential line-up throwing credible names into the hat) . One thing is for sure: there will be lots of Spanish-speaking fair in the 61st edition and I imagine the French-speaking film grouping will populate the Un Certain Regard section. Before I start discussing the 24 possible selections, I’ll check mark the films that are assured a presence as out-of-competition selections and make a shortlist for the midnight screenings.

After being gobbled up by parent co. WB and before they put up the closed for business sign, New Line will bid farewell with Sex and the City: The
Movie
. The worst kept secret is the showcasing of Spielberg’s Indiana
Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
. The third film could be a doc with controversial Religulous or Agnes Varda ‘s Les Plages d’Agnes might get a special showcase. My far-fetch choice would be 20th Century showing up with the shrouded in secrecy The X-Files 2.

The Midnight section usually consists of a trio of films – and I’ve outlined a half dozen that might take the conveted three spots. Cannes fav Wong Kar-wai could use the mini section to re-introduce his re-worked Ashes of Time
Redux
and a pair of Asian films in Tran Anh Hung’s I Come with the
Rain
, with Josh Harnett playing a detective in a foreign country or Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata could steal a spot. Michael Winterbottom might make the trip again this year with his ghost tale set in Italy (Genova) but perhaps the best bet for the category is South Korea’s Kim Jee-woon picture: The Good, the
Bad, and the Weird
.

Without much further ado, here are the films we should see in the main competition.

The Argentine and Guerrilla (Steven Soderbergh)
Jeffrey Wells over at
Hollywood-Elsewhere has got the complete lowdown on the chances of
seeing either/or both pictures on the Croisette (read here).
Winner of the Palme d’or in 89′ for Sex, Lies…. Soderbergh is in his best position yet to get top creds for this film. With del Toro at the top of his game , this might be the cream of the crop of the influx of Latin
American projects in this year’s comp line-up.

Aruitemo
aruitemo (Even If You Walk and Walk)
(Hirokazu Kore-eda)
He had his 2001 feature Distance at Cannes and the delicately tragic Nobody Knows took a spot in the comp in 2004. His newest feature tackles once again the difficult life of the unemployed – here, Hiroshi Abe stars as a jobless person living with his
bride-to-be and their child. 

Blindness (Fernando Meirelles).
It looks as if Miramax films is in full preparation mode with an early teaser campaign for Meirelles’ take on the 1995 novel by Portuguese Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago, is a philosophical thriller about an epidemic of blindness that sweeps through an unnamed contemporary city and pushes society to the brink of breakdown.

Burn After Reading (Joel & Ethan Coen)
What would a Cannes film festival be without a Coens bros. offering? The festival will want to bring them down especially with the star powered cast of Clooney, Swinton, Pitt and a French-speaking John Malkovich. Loosely based on the novel, the contemporary East Coast caper is about a CIA agent who is writing a book and he loses the disc.

Changeling (Clint Eastwood)
Eastwood is popular among the French cinephiles and so was his Mystic River. Jolie is a favorite among croisette photographers. Based on actual events,
Christine Collins’ (Jolie) prayers are met when her kidnapped son is returned.
But amidst the frenzy of the photo-op reunion, she realizes this child is not
hers. Facing corrupt police and a skeptical public, she desperately hunts for
answers, only to be confronted by a truth that will change her forever. 

The Curious
Case of Benjamin Button
(David Fincher)
David Fincher was given a slot for Zodiac last year, and this year he should be coming with a ‘fresher’ picture that the critic’s haven’t yet seen. Again, high profile actors in Pitt and Blanchett give this picture the allure of an invite. The film chronicles an old man who physically ages backward. At age 50, he falls in love with a 30-year-old woman and then must come to terms with the relationship as they literally grow in opposite directions.

Daydreams (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
The Turkish film director has been a mainstay at Cannes and a multiple prize winner – he won the Grand Prize of the Jury for Distant (Uzak) in 2002 and the FIPRESCI Prize for Climates in 2006. Using the same city scapes that are notorious in his design, this is about a detective story involving four characters, a woman and three men,
and takes place in little known areas of Istanbul.

Dream (Bi-mong) (Kim Ki-duk)
Last year’s first time main comp Kim Ki-duk’s picture Breath got mostly negative press, so perhaps the selection committee might be weary about placing this among the heavyweights. Perhaps a Un Certain Regard choice is more probable for the story of a man who dreams he caused a car crash —
then discovers a real hit-and-run accident.

Gomorra (Matteo Garrone)
What would a festival be without a little bit of controversy. Media buzz will be larger than life for this explosive, fact-based, non-fiction novel by Roberto Saviano, – a contemporary look at the Neapolitan mob and an expose of Italy’s criminal underbelly by.

Il Divo (Paolo Sorrentino)
Sorrentino makes his trip to Cannes every two years: 2004 with The Consequences of Love, 2006 with The
Family Friend (L’Amico di famiglia)
and 08′ we should see this story of Italian Prime Minister Giulio
Andreotti, who has been elected to Parliament seven times since is was
established in 1946. 

In the Electric
Mist
(Bertrand Tavernier)
Winner for best director at Cannes back in the day for Un dimanche à la campagne, the veteran French director makes his English-language picture debut based on an adaptation of James Lee Burke’s novel. This centers on Cajun detective Dave Robicheaux who is trying to link the murder of a local hooker to New Orleans mobster.

Let it Rain
(Parlez-moi de la pluie)
(Agnes Jaoui)
The last time Jaoui and Bacri showed up at Cannes, the pair brought back the Best Screenplay award for Look at Me (Comme
une Image)
. This film sees Jaoui in the role of the protag who returns to her family home, in the South of France, to help her sister, Florence, to set their deceased mother’s affairs in order. In that house, Florence lives with her husband and their children, but also with Mimouna, the housekeeper who came to France with Villanova family when they left Algeria, in the moment of independence. 

Linha de Passe (Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas)
Among the directors to present in the Chacun son cinema colection, Salles should be in the final stages of prepping this story about four brothers from a poor family who
need to fight to follow their dreams as they criss-cross Sao Paulo.

Lion’s Den (Pablo Trapero)
The director of Born and Bred  gives us a tale of a beautiful college student Julia kills her cousin and tries to kill his boyfriend
in her apartment, after suffering from their complicated three-some
relationship. She gives birth to a son in prison in a few months who gradually
makes Julia want to get out of the prison. But the reality won;t give in to her
that easily.

The Palermo
Shooting
(Wim Wenders)
Wenders got his members only jacket in the early 80’s and will be bringing it with him comig this May. Question is: Is this the sort of film that will open the film festival or does it have the strength to be in the main comp? This is about a successful photographer Finn who is experiencing an existential crisis. Finn’s quest for an answer to the meaning of life sends him on a journey from Duesseldorf to Palermo – and along the way he finds a new love.

Rudo y Cursi (Carlos Cuaron)
Brother of Alfonso Cuarón, after several short film projects and writing screenplays – Cuaron makes his debut. It has an outside chance to make it to the main in it’s first yer, but  this appears to be a Latin American kind of year for the festival. This tells the tale of love and hate between professional soccer-playing brothers played by Luna and Garcia Bernal.

Opium War – (Siddaq Barmak)
Barmak’s last film (Osama) only won him three awards at Cannes in 2003., so we can expect for the filmmaker to graduate into the main comp category with this dramedy that centers around two American soldiers wounded in the Afghanistan desert stumble across a Russian tank which has a group of Afghanis living inside. 

The
Silence of Lorna (Le Silence de Lorna)
(Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)
A spot  will be saved for the Dardenne’s latest – actually they pretty much have an RSVO for every single film they make until the end of their careers. This brings us back into the lives that we don’t see in full view – it centers on an arranged marriage of an illegal immigrant from Albania to a drug addict.

Synecdoche, New
York
– (Charlie Kaufman)
There won’t be too many directorial debuts in this year’s main comp – but we should see a place for the brilliant mind of Mr.Kaufman. With a slew of top notch actors, the film centers on an anguished playwright and several women in his life. Synecdoche is “a figure of speech in which the word for part of something is used to mean the whole”. Hoffman will play a theater director who ambitiously attempts to put on a play by creating a life-size replica of New York inside a warehouse.

24 City (Jia Zhang-Ke)
I’m not sure what the status is with
Jia’s latest (post-prod phase and going to Venice or completed and
ready for Cannes) – but project sounds alluring. It takes place in
Chengdu in Sichuan province, and focuses on three female workers of
three distinct generations – 1960s, 1980s and the present day – each of
whom were seen as the “factory flower”, the most attractive female
worker in the factory in their time. Update: this title is not even close to being ready for Cannes.

Two Lovers (James Gray)
Gray is an enfant cheri of Cannes – The Yards and last year’s We Own the Night got premium placement. Expect the same with this romantic drama. This sees a Brooklyn man is torn between a family friend his parents wish he would marry and the beautiful but volatile new neighbor with whom he falls passionately in love. 

Un conte de Noël (Arnaud Desplechin)
There is very little info on this project – it contains an impressive cast of French actors (many who have played in Desplechin’s Kings and Queen).

Vicky Cristina
Barcelona
(Woody Allen)
The festival might not have been willing to offer Allen the premiere spots for his past couple of pictures, but the Spanish-set picture will have plenty interested. This see two young Americans spend a summer in Spain and meet a flamboyant artist (Bardem) and his beautiful but insane ex-wife (Cruz). Vicky (Hall) is straight-laced and about to be married. Cristina (Johansson) is a sexually adventurous free spirit.

***********************

Our own Yama Rahimi  (whose made several trips to the croisette) shared his predictions with me the other day and I asked him to point to a particular foursome that I had not considered. Here are his inclusions with comments.

The Duchess (Saul Dibb) With a first rate cast in Ralph Fiennes, Keira Knightley and Cannes darling Charlotte Rampling in the line-up: this could be a contender.

The International (Tom Tykwer) Tykwer has proven to be a talented, yet uneven filmmaker and if this film  is strong enough then it could find itself in an out-of-comp slot. 

Revolutionary
Road
(Sam Mendes) Mendes has already moved onto a new film project – so if this is already prepped then the festival could be a great launching pad to create buzz like No Country and Diving Bell did.

The Young
Victoria
(Jean-Marc Vallée) A hot French Canadian filmmaker, an alluring cast, written by Julian Fellows and backed/produced by Marty Scorsese, Graham king and Duchess of York. This is almost a shoe-in.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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