The Conversation: Nicholas Bell’s Top Ten Most Anticipated Titles of Cannes 2019
It’s that time of year again, and the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival is about to begin. If last year’s main competition was a valiant gamble on new voices brought to the fold, this year seems an attempt to return to high-profile, auteur-led alums. Two two-time past Palme winners (the Dardenne Bros., Ken Loach) are joined by other previous winners (Malick, Kechiche, Tarantino) and a coterie of familiar competitors (Almodovar, Dolan, Sulieman, Joon-ho, Bellocchio, Jarmusch, Desplechin). Notably, four women directors (Sciamma, Triet, Diop, Hausner) were invited to the competition, all making their first bid for the Palme d’Or—though one hopes the stringent gender disparity of Cannes will, one day in the not-too-distant future, result in the dissolution of this distinction for directors lumped into gendered percentages as part of their narrative. Here’s a look at ten of our most anticipated titles across the official program.
#10. Jeanne – Dir. Bruno Dumont (France) – Un Certain Regard
No stranger to the festival (and part of its contemporary contentious tabloid lore), Bruno Dumont’s 2017 title Jeannette, the Childhood of Joan of Arc premiered out of the Directors’ Fortnight and ended up being one of that year’s most celebrated offerings. Dumont continues his Joan of Arc fascination with this follow-up (which leaves behind the distinctive heavy-metal musical sensibilities of the previous film).
#9. Liberté – Dir. Albert Serra (Spain) – Un Certain Regard
Director Albert Serra also migrates from the Director’s Fortnight to Un Certain Regard with Liberté, for a return to the French Revolution era, following his 2016 The Death of Louis XIV (which was an out-of-competition screening). Helmut Berger stars in a film about a trio of French libertines attempting to popularize their sentiments in 1774 Germany.
#8. The Wild Goose Lake – Dir. Diao Yi’nan (China) – Main Competition
China’s Diao Yi’nan returns with The Wild Goose Lake, his first project since winning the Golden Bear in Berlin for Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014). His latest is also a genre tinged drama, concerning a gangster on the run.
#7. The Lighthouse – Dir. Robert Eggers (US) – Director’s Fortnight
After delivering a remarkable debut with 2015’s The Witch, director Robert Eggers nabbed Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe for his follow-up, The Lighthouse, a black and white horror/fantasy/drama about an aging lighthouse keeper in 20th century Maine.
#6. Lux Æterna – Dir. Gaspar Noe (France) – Midnight
Noe delivered one of the best films of Cannes 2018 with his Directors’ Fortnight entry Climax. He’s back with a surprise project, Lux Æterna, a fifty-minute film featuring Beatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg on a film set discussing witchcraft and hysteria (considering both women give two of cinema’s most memorable assays on hysterical madness, Betty Blue and Antichrist, respectively, one can only wonder what Noe has in store).
#5. Little Joe – Dir. Jessica Hausner (UK/Austria) – Main Competition
Austria’s Jessica Hausner delivers an English language debut for her Cannes comp entry, Little Joe, which on paper sounds like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers as existential comedy.
#4. Beanpole – Dir. Kantemir Balagov (Russia) – Un Certain Regard
Russian director Kantemir Balagov unveiled an impressive debut in Un Certain Regard at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival with Closeness. Balagov goes back to 1945 Leningrad for this drama about two young women struggling to rebuild their lives in the post-WWII wreckage.
#3. Zombi Child – Dir. Bertrand Bonello (France) – Director’s Fortnight
After the travesty which befell the release and premiere of his 2016 title Nocturama, Bertrand Bonello has returned with a fantasy horror film, Zombi Child, which begins in a hellish sugar cane field of 1962 Haiti when a man is brought back from the dead to work the land, and fast –forwards fifty-five years when two young women are affected by this dark familial secret.
#2. Bacurau – Dir. Kleber Mendonca Filho & Juliano Dornelles (Brazil) – Main Competition
Brazil’s Kleber Mendonca Filho co-directs Bacurau with Juliano Dornelles for his latest, a horror/sci-fi film about a documentary filmmaker who travels to the interior of Brazil for his latest project, only to discover the locals harbor some disturbing secretes. Filho reunites with his Aquarius (2016) star Sonia Braga and brings Udo Kier along for the ride.
#1. Frankie – Dir. Ira Sachs (US) – Main Competition
Cannes luminary Isabelle Huppert headlines the English language Frankie from Ira Sachs, a family drama set in Portugal. While this is Sachs’ first time in the competition (many of his previous titles premiered out of Sundance, including sterling titles such as Forty Shades of Blue, Keep the Lights On, Love is Strange and Little Men), Huppert is a perennial fixture on the Croisette (and puts her in contention, once again, for winning a third Best Actress award).
Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.